Archive for April, 2013

Thanks for the Memories

There’s many levels of enjoyment in what we do. The satisfaction of getting the right shot, one that captures the sense of place, is probably foremost. There is also the exhilaration of finding a new site and simply being there; many of these places feel like a different planet, though they’re rarely more than an hour away. What is rarer, however, is finding a palpable sense of history. Sure, most places we visit are old, but in many cases signs of the people who lived or worked there have been wiped away by decay and/or vandalism. So imagine our delight when BentBottle and I found this school’s attic:




It had been used as the de facto living yearbook of the school for upwards of eighty years. Kids had been going in here and signing their name and class year with the implicit consent of the school, which could’ve painted over this any time they wanted.




The oldest one we found was ’23, the picture of which sadly did not come out well. This was a great “easter egg” find in a building that had quite a lot to offer as is. Pictures of the lower floors to come…

What is on the Outside

In reviewing my photo collections from the past 5 years I realized that while I take a lot of photos inside of a building, I rarely ever take photos from outside.

As I mentioned in my previous post I am working on a project, and it means I need exterior photos of all the places I go to, full documentation.  *sigh*  Still, it is good practice and who knows, I may be able to learn something in this exercise.


Methodist Church, exterior 3

The City United Methodist church is an imposing building, and if I had bothered to take photos from the outside in previous visits you would know what is so shocking about this view.


Methodist Curch, exterior 2

Not that long ago, maybe even less than a month, this lot was a grove of trees.  There was one giant, probably 80 or 90 years old, that sheltered the walk up.  It was surrounded by several younger trees that were probably ranging from about 40 and younger.  They are all gone.  I’m pretty pissed off about the giant tree in particular, and the grove in general.  Why are all the trees gone?  Because some 401(c)3 has decided that “god’s house” should be restored.  In a city brimming with “god’s houses”.

I can understand if this building was salvageable, but it isn’t.  The amount of money that it would take to rescue it from the decades of fire, neglect and vandals boggles my mind.  It isn’t even a particularity historic building, just an impressive church that is a tile in the mosaic of Gary history.

But no, they’re going to come in, clear out all the trees and, do what?  Shore up the building so it collapses a little slower?  Crazy glue the facade back together?  Chase all the vandals away?  I don’t know and I cannot find any information online regarding any one’s plans for it.  I seriously doubt the building will be closed to urban explorers as we are a persistent lot.  While my little group has a policy of no breaking and entering, if someone else broke in and left a door or window open, we’re not adverse to taking advantage of that.  In the case of  this building, the doors are all wide open or gone and there are even holes in the walls (in more than one place) for people to creep through should they feel so inclined.


Methodist Church, Exterior 1


In the end we do not know what this mystery group has planned for the most iconic urban exploring location in Gary, we’re just going to have to wait and see.  Our group visits at least once yearly just to see how things have changed and while we’ve already done a visit this year we are going to keep an eye on the place to see what transpires.  In the meantime here are some photos from  the years past.  I’ll miss be able use the trees as a backdrop for drag queens.


Gary Drag 2 11








I plan things.  Most of the time I am willing to just along with whatever, but when I get an idea or have a mission, I plan things.

I had Sunday all mapped out, we were going to be hitting several locations and I wanted to explore a building or two that looked promising on Google Maps.  I changed my mind, changed it again, and settled into an idea of what my day was going to be.  Then, opportunity arose.

My day ended up going nothing like planned, and we never made it to the building I wanted to see.  I couldn’t be happier.  I still managed to get almost all the photos I needed for my project, and then some.

St John Hospital 2

I have so many photos I’m not even sure where to start, planning fail.

St John Hospital Triple Arch

I have a little project going on the side which I will be telling all of you about soon, but for now I’ll just say that there was a reason I needed to see St. John’s Hospital from more than one angle.  St. John Hospital

Tree Swallows on the River

Before Illinois was hit with the spring monsoon that put every waterway into the highest flood stages seen in a very long time, Tabula Rasa and I found ourselves sitting on the banks of the Fox River, mesmerized by the flock of tree swallows dancing over the surface.

It wasn’t a great day for attempting to take photos of very small, fast moving, twitchy birds.  The heavy rain clouds over head only dropped a little drizzle on us, but it sure did take away the light.

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These birds are fast, and it took me a few minutes to get used to their pattern of flight.  In the end I think I walked away with a couple of decent shots, considering I only had my wide angle zoom lens with me.  I had not anticipated attempting a bird photo shoot on this trip.



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fly away


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I think the geese got a little jealous of all the attention the swallows were getting, and had to show them up by proving they could walk on water.    takeoff


It would seem that spring is indeed actually here, the crocus do not lie.



Already we’ve spotted a few brave mallards who have returned to claim the best nesting spots in the area.



In some cases, they are still looking for their lady loves, so band together in little bachelor groups.

3 drakes


The geese never leave, they are shocked, shocked I say! At the new arrivals.




goose charge


Something we don’t get to see often in Chicago is the little shop downtown that has been around forever, and carved out a niche (sometimes literally) among the giant office buildings. So it was a bit jarring to see these two shops which look like their heyday was during the Nixon administration still open and thriving(?) in their respective city centers. I just wish I was in the market for either a haircut or a guitar at the time I came across them; it would’ve felt good to support them with a couple bucks.

Tooley's Barber Shop, Peoria, IL

Tooley’s Barber Shop, Peoria, IL

Ziegler Music, Aurora, IL

Ziegler Music, Aurora, IL

Eye of the Beholder

Though I realize that most of my shots fall into the rather well-worn niche of “urban decay” (“ruinporn” if you’re inclined to be less genteel), I still feel I have to justify myself at times, especially to friends and acquaintances. There is a perception among some that what we do is misguided at best, dangerous and juvenile at worst. Don’t fear, this is not the preamble to some righteous rant. Rather, I present the following and ask the reader to decide whether there is beauty there, regardless of subject matter.



In Living Color

In Living Color

In Living Color II

In Living Color II

Gears and Gangways

Gears and Gangways

The Silence of the Power Plant


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door 1

In Silence II

I’m stealing from and adding onto the Idiot Photographer’s previous post, as it captures in words what I think we look for on film (so to speak).





Some say prayers, I say mine.

In Silence


We never explore alone, but we find our best moments in the silence and contemplation of our environment.



boiler room