Archive for December, 2012

Evolution of a Mistake

I’m not the sharpest tack in the box first thing in the morning and before coffee and it shows on occasion.  In this case I had totally forgotten that I reset the white balance on my camera to take pictures indoor the night before, so when standing on the river front under the bright sun taking a picture of the Cargill plant with the thought of maybe converting it to HDR I failed to notice that my photos were totally blue.

cargill in blue


I was pretty upset with myself when I got home and saw this.  But I don’t give up easy.  I decided to desaturate all 3 photos and just convert the black and white to HDR and hope for the best.  It turns out this wasn’t a bad idea at all.

cargill b&w


After a couple of days I decided to go back and see if there wasn’t more I could do with the image.   Manipulating the HDR itself didn’t give any interesting results so I went back and played with the brightness and contrast in the source files and finally got the result I was looking for.

cargill redo 2


Not bad for a screw up, eh?

School’s Out Forever

I am an impatient person and while normally I would continue posting photo trips in order last Sunday’s trip keeps begging me to let it cut in line.

Tabula Rasa and I were on our way to Gary when we saw a skyline/landscape shot we both really wanted to take, after over 20 minutes of fruitlessly driving around trying to figure out how to get to where we wanted to be and utterly losing the light and clouds we wanted we gave up and started back towards Gary.  Only we didn’t take the expressway like we normally would.  We went a totally different route.

We saw this.

edison exterior


We had another one of those pull over and park, throw all plans out the window we’re checking this place out NOW moments.  An abandoned school, fer-cryin’-out-loud!

While I have spent the last couple of months poking around factories, power stations, stores and homes  we have never had the chance to wander a school.  It was a surreal and amazing experience.   There wasn’t a ton of a graffiti, oh it had been hit a few times, but for the most part it was untouched.  Many of classroom doors were still locked and windows were mostly intact.  When they closed the place the down they cleared it out, oh there were shelves of supplies in the basement and heaps of books everywhere, but most class rooms looked like this.

empty classroom


Footsteps and voices echoed and at one point there was a something (raccoon I think) in the ceiling scraping and scuffling about that scared the beejezus out of me.  There were also pigeons, one of the most dangerous animals to come across when urban exploring.  More on that in a later post.

The science lab had the most left in it, fitting as it was one of my favorite classes back in those dimly remembered days of old, when I was young and attended a public school very much like this one.

edison sci lab

However this room filled me the most emotion.  I’m not sure what it was used for but it has the most amazing light owing the all sky-light ceiling, and the most amazing floor owing to the same.  Alone and forgotten down a small hall that only had one other room attached it once would have been a photo of a patriotic vision of American public schools, now though?   Perhaps this is what I see our public education as these days.

edison room

Inside Gary Grain

Some may wonder why I call myself The Idiot Photographer, I suspect this post may clarify things a little for those people.  I mean, I’m not a brilliant photographer, but I’m also not a terrible photographer.  I am a photographer that sometimes does things people may consider idiotic for the sake of adventure.  Like entering a building such as this one.

gary 12 2 2012 424_5_6_tonemapped


How could I not go into this?  I mean, it has 2.25 walls, the roof is collapsing and obviously ready to cave in totally and the footing is nothing but loose bricks until you’re fully inside.  ADVENTURE! I say.

roof support


While I got a lot of little detail shots, I’m just going to share the one of the remaining control panel.  I found it a little funny since this literally the only room left to the building, the rest of it is laying in crumbled heaps of wooden beams and bricks.  There were at least 4 other much larger rooms that have nothing left rubble.  In one spot there is actually a bit of 2 walls left, but that is it.

mill controls



So was this trip worth it?  You bet.  For standing gloriously intact in the middle of the room was this great slumbering beast.

gary grain mill machine

Gary Grain

So there we were, wandering around Gary and minding our own business when suddenly we see this:


All stop and park in front of the no parking sign folks, we must check this out!  Of course, Tabula Rasa and BioLum wouldn’t get out of my shot, so I incorporated them into it.

Being that it was a dull, grey flat light sort of day (like almost all of them have been recently) I just had to take an HDR shot.  Once the boys had cleared out of my way I settled in and got something, acceptable.  Not so sure about the composition on this one and the sky leaves a little (lot) to be desired but perhaps next time we wander by I’ll do better.  I hope.  I’d like to think that I am getting better at this photography thing but, well, that is for the viewer to decide.

gary declining

You may wonder if we dared the collapsing roof and actually went inside of this derelict 3 walled wonder.  The answer is yes,  and now you know what my next post will be.


The Lovell building, formerly a barber school and before that I don’t know.  Judging from the decor it was abandoned sometime in the 1990’s.

gary barber school

I had to take this one. A little voice told me to.

gary barber school couch

The basement had the worst mold I have ever encountered, and I was sick with a respiratory infection for a week after our visit.  Lesson learned, I’ve got a respirator for next time we go someplace like this.  While wandering around the basement we found this.

in the basement

It was very cold in the basement, and rather warm and humid outside, so when we left my lens fogged without me realizing it.  Sadly I was unable to get this shot with the random passing truck in a non-foggy manner.


Doctor, Doctor!


gary hospital

Way back in the unilluminated age of segregation in the United States to our great shame we did not afford all people the same rights to basic services such as health care; this was based solely on the color of one’s skin.  Certain regions of Indiana (as in most of it) failed to provide hospitals for people of African decent and turned them away from the doors of public, “whites only” hospitals.  Gary Indiana was no exception to this despite the fairly large black population and so Dr. Frederick McMitchell took it upon himself to open the McMitchell Hospital to serve this under served portion of the populace in 1929.  The following year the two neighboring hospitals relented in their segregation policy, but McMitchell stayed open for another 30 years during which time it became St. John’s Hospital.

Sadly this historic and lovely building is quite possibly beyond rescuing at this point; there is so much damage that the interior is quite unsafe and we did not stay long.   I wasn’t even going to try walking down this hallway, the section of floor I was standing on was already a good 2 inches lower than the entry way, and this hall another 3 inches lower than that.

gary hospital hall


You can just barely glimpse the second floor through the gap in the wall here, it appears there used to be a door somewhere in this mess but only half of it is above floor level now.

gary hospital second floor

If I could save any one building in Gary Indiana, it would be this one.

Domestic Discontent (Part the Blue)

The memory of blue.




Melted blue.

blue siding


Blue in the darkness.

shaded windows


The sky has fallen.

blue room

On Christmas

While I rarely ever “like” anything on anyone else’s blogs I do look quite a bit.  I don’t use the “like” button very often because to me it still means something; I’m the same way on FaceBook, the home of the “like” button.  In my recent reading of blogs I follow and blogs that have liked one of my posts I’ve noticed a very sharp increase in the Christmas theme for everyone.  It suddenly occurs to me that perhaps some may wonder why I am declining to join the postings of holiday themed photos.

Not to say that I haven’t taken a few holiday themed photos in my life, I have.  Usually though they are personal and revolve around capturing memories of my nieces as little children or fun times with dear friends.  In short they are not the type of photos to be posted in a blog about photography.  Also, I don’t care about Christmas.

Yes, that is right, I said it.  I don’t care about Christmas.  I won’t go so far as to say I hate or dislike it, I just don’t care.  If the holiday suddenly ceased to be I would not miss it in the least.  I’m one of THOSE people.   Perhaps it has something to with having driven horse carriages in a Chicago for 6 Christmas seasons.  You’re really exposed to the worst side of humanity when you work in a service field around he holidays, not the evil and cruel bestial side of people, but the apathetic self-serving cold indifference side of humanity.  I’ve given rides to families that just dropped several thousand dollars on American Girl Store, entertained their kids for an hour and even let them “drive the horsie” (meaning I let them hold the end of the lines behind my hands and taught them the commands) and after dropping 60 or 70 dollars on the ride see fit to not tip me.  Even though the doorman mentioned we work for tips.  Even though *I* mentioned I work for tips.

Couple that with the fact that I have no religious affiliation with which to tie myself into a a celebration of the re-birth of the sun or the birth of a god and I’m pretty much done.

The lights are pretty, the shiny baubles are shiny, and I’m just a little too jaded to care.  I only see it as s season of consumerist greed and annoying songs.  Well, I’ll relent a little here and admit I like one Christmas song.  Not that I really like the holiday.  To me it is a time to get together with friends, exchange a few small gifts and have dinner and drinks.  We do that randomly through the year anyhow.  As my family is all of the moderately to seriously religious bent they celebrate with that in mind plus the gift giving, but it always makes me feel little like an outsider.

Now that I’ve explained why I don’t care about the winter solstice, Saturnalia, Christmas, or whatever you’d like to call it I suppose I should put in some suitable winter themed photo as this is, after all, my photoblog.  One of my personal favorites is here but I suppose it isn’t festive enough for this portion of the month.   How about the church in Gary, with a gentle dusting of snow?

snow church ip

With that I bid you all a very merry whatever holiday you celebrate and a fantastic new year.

Domestic Discontent (part the portal)


We decided that it was high time we headed back to Gary Indiana  since we had not been there since this spring and had located a few new to us places to go sticking our noses into.  I’ll be getting to those sometime in the next few weeks, I assure you.

We found it in ourselves to stop in on a couple of former homes, since we are nosy and the doors were standing wide open.  It never ceases to amaze me to see how many empty houses are in this city, and how much people leave behind them when they vacate.  While many times they are cleared of all belongs you still find a good number of them that are basically fully furnished.  Not that you would want the furnishings at this point.


I offer you, juxtaposition:

new hydrant old house

View through a window.  This house was once a fine, large, beautiful home.  Obviously well loved and cared for, once upon a time.

window view

It actually has a little coach house behind it which at some point became a separate piece of property.  The fence separating the two has long since fallen down and they are at last reunited in their dotage.

gary 12 2 2012 201

Power Wheels

Not the little kiddie kind of Power Wheels either.

dixmoor power row of wheelsip



A closer view

dixmoor power ingersoll rand engineip


While we’re at it, this is the main floor.

dixmoor power mainfloorip

More Power

Mysterious equipment.

dixmoor power plant d2 14


Made in Chicago.

dixmoor power plant d2 8


Row of somethings.

dixmoor power plant 4


Do not climb.

dixmoor power control wheel ip


One of the locations for my “In the Dark” series is an old power plant that, from what I can tell, has been shut down since 1977 or so.

dixmoor power exteriorip

The insulation (asbestos?) has come free from the piping, whole sections of grate flooring are missing on the upper levels and the place rattles and booms on the wind.  It is like christmas came a month early for us!

dixmoor power room ip

There are mysterious bits and pieces, as well as whole machines left to rust in place.   A playground for adults.

I wonder what this did. . .

dixmoor power plant 3

Sometimes I get a little spooked while walking among the machines, in this place that once was loud and incessantly busy but now is quiet except for the call of a train horn in the distance, the howl of wind, the clattering of loose metal meeting brick.

dixmoor power plant 2

I also wonder who Gilroy was.

dixmoor power plant d2 12

Bryce Canyon HDR

While on vacation I took a few bracketed shots to convert to HDR, then sort of forgot about them.  Now that I’ve finally gotten an HDR program and have processed them, I’m kicking myself for not taking more.

I give you Bryce Canyon:

bryce canyon

bryce canyon2


Granary Roundup

The last of the granary photos for a bit.  We are planning to go back, in the snow, because that isn’t dangerous at all.

View north from the fourth floor, minus wall.


One day the support for these storage bins will crumble.  I kinda hope I get to watch it happen.


Forest and building, living in harmony.

outside inside

Inside the machine, flashlight magic.

inside the machine 2

Oh hey, look at the bins!

getting the photo

Try as I might it is near impossible to capture the decaying splendor of the buildings we explore.  Back in the granary I made some attempts at HDR, I’m pretty sure I could do better but I’m still learning at this point so bear with me please.

I give you gradual collapse.



Pipes go here, pipes go there, pipes go everywhere!

feed factory tonemapped small


There was once a staircase in this corner, now there is a gaping hole in the floor, in the ceiling, in the wall.



Meanwhile the grain bins cling to the side of the building, waiting for the day that gravity overcomes rust.

exterior bins


Across the way a fragile catwalk hangs like a tattered cobweb made of rust.bridge


The Nameless


dixmoor power plant d2 1

This is one of those locations that just leaves you wondering.  Why is this here?  What was it?  How long has it been abandoned?

There is no road leading to it, you have to park and walk up the tracks to get there.  While it looks like it is standing on hill in reality soil was bulldozed up to bury the ground floor.

Even the companion building is partly buried, and equally as mysterious.


nameless place2Getting up to the buildings you have work your way through some heavy burrs (put there deliberately?) and then watch your footing closely as the erosion of soil into the first floor of the buildings has left some gaping and not so gaping holes in the ground around it.

The minimalist view from inside.  I just cannot fathom what purpose those “windows” had.  There are no machines, no scraps of trim, no facade.  Just concrete walls with re-bar showing in places, like bones poking through a carcass.dixmoor power plant d2 2

My fellow photog, Tabula Rasa, pauses to consider his next composition.


In the end, the nameless buildings have nothing to explore, you can only access one floor and there is nothing there but empty rooms.  The castle like building doesn’t even have that, there is no way to try to get above the gaping cavern of the mostly buried first floor, and many of floors above appear to be missing.  It is home to birds, and possibly bats, and above all a haunting mystery.




Riverdale Granary

So quite a bit of what I have shared lately has been from the Riverdale Granary, a former chicken feed factory that was built in 1918 and shut down in 1952(ish).  It isn’t a particularly safe building (people have met their end there while exploring or saving explorers) but it is a compelling building to visit.  If only for the machines.

Big thing to remember in this location, watch where you put your feet, there are built in holes everywhere.

profusion of pipes

This is because the connecting pipes are missing.

I am always amazed at how much machinery gets left behind in places like these.


off kilter

Broken, misaligned and turned to rust.

machine 3

They have

In the Dark (Part the Escape)

Eventually it is time to return the light and free air, to escape.

scary ladder

Exits freely available.


They do not always go where you hope they will.