One of my favorite things about the woods is finding the unexpected. Around here conservation land usually has a past, meaning it hasn’t always been conservation land. A lot of it has been logged, farmed, lived on, mined and used for lots of other things, often yielding up its secrets decades later. This bridge isn’t necessarily one of them, but the nearby stone loading bay full of trash from before the days of plastic is. Passing by on the road you’d never know either was there unless you looked.
And what would a trek through the woods on old roads be without an abandoned car?
The roads leading to this site haven’t been passable in decades, but enough of them remain so you can imagine a little of what it was like. I love finding stuff like this even though I’m a nature girl at heart. Maybe it’s because of the way nature reclaims its ground. How it weathers, ages and reduces in grandeur the works of man. Except for those glass bottles. Those will probably last forever.
Winter is a great time for showing us things we might ordinarily not see at all. I have no idea how many times I’ve passed this house, but I’m sure it’s dozens. Finally the other day I noticed it. I had to laugh though because it’s about 50 feet from the edge of a pretty busy road. I’ve even gone past it in winter and not seen it. Funny.
Even though the light was less than ideal, I just had to stop. It’s a funny mix of things, this little house. It looks as if it were originally built as one big room and had some additions tacked on. The windows have different latches and there is a mix of shake and clapboard siding.
Next door there is an occupied house whose resident had snow-blown a path over to this ramshackle pile and I don’t know if it was my imagination, but I felt watched the whole time I shot. I fully expected someone to come talk to me (like when I shot the abandoned Texaco station in 2009) and question what I was doing (duh…can’t you see I’m baking pies???), but no one did.
I am always respectful though. I don’t attempt to get inside unless it’s very easy to do so and with this little cabin, it wasn’t. Just above this doorknob is a padlock. Severely rusted and probably no longer really useful, but I respected its intent. Too bad it was in a patch of sunlight and too harshly lit to make for a good image. Same with the interior, which had some lovely plaster work and moldings. In softer light it would have worked, but as it was I didn’t get any usable images. I do like this shot of the underpinnings though.
It looks like the heat source was one stove originally, expanding to two of them with the addition to the left. Also it looks like it was never wired for electricity. Sometime recently, but not very recently, it was used as a storage shed for someone who did a lot of crafts (buckets of pine cones, starting to disintegrate) and maybe had a roadside nursery (lots of plastic plant pots – hundreds of them, stacked inside and a garden hose).
I wish places like this could talk. For example, I’d love to know what was leaning against the far right wall by the chimney. It looked like the frame of a wagon or sleigh, but without the chassis it was hard to tell. Ah, life’s little mysteries.
It’s been a “rough” four days. Rough only in a strict first world sort of way. I was without the internet at home for four days.
Yeah, we had a wicked noreaster come through and dump a foot or two of snow on us. Some got more, some got less, but a few million of us lost electricity and cable. If it happened a month later it wouldn’t have been so bad because more leaves would have dropped. Since so may were still on trees (especially oaks) we had tons of tree and branch damage to power lines. Lots of impassable roads and spoiled nature preserves. Bummer, but no injuries and no deaths except a few by carbon monoxide build up in homes from generator use. The people I heard about were using them correctly (outdoors, away from the house), but didn’t realize a window in the basement was open. That stuff is so deadly.
Anyway…I do have a generator wired to the house so I got to watch plenty of movies (all 3 Lord of the Rings which was a treat, I tell you), run the microwave, take hot showers and keep my toes toasty. Better than most I know, but the no internet thing was killing me at first. Then I got into a new routine and it wasn’t so bad. Still, I did miss it.
So here I am with a belated Halloween post for you. When we left Woodford Reserve in Versailles KY (the pronounce it Ver-sales, btw…oh my the French would be so appalled…it is SO American to do stuff like this…embarrassing, but that’s off topic). Anyway, when we left the distillery we took some back roads. We LOVE back roads. This is why –
I tell you I couldn’t stop and get out of the car fast enough. A train!!! Stuff like this just doesn’t exist in New England outside of barricaded train yards. OMG. I went right past the notices telling me I had to have a railway agent accompany me to the train and not to approach it at all. Bah. Who could keep away? Certainly not the locals who were wicked creative and put a haunted train together.
Not all the cars were dressed up this way, but a few were and we saw lights strung up and even a fog machine. Oh how I’d have liked to seen it at night.
Oh it was fun. And yeah, I had to get up into a couple of the cars. Obviously others had done so before me and didn’t die…or did they?
It pretty much always happens about now. Especially if we’ve had snow since December. At first it’s magical and a joy to be out in, but after a while. After it snows a dozen times. After there’s 3 feet of it with 5 foot drifts and 6 foot snowbanks. When it’s too deep for snowshoes. When you don’t feel like skiing anymore. The snow isn’t so magical. Now it’s in the way.
Between the uncooperative light and the need to see some color I’ve been adrift, photography-wise. Sure, I’ve been out, but I’ve hardly shot anything. Pretty much the only things have been abandoned stuff by the side of the road.
The naked trees reveal them, but also obscure them. The accumulated snow, well, I’ve dealt with it as best I can. Using it to further isolate the crumbling structures.
Some of them I hope to visit again, come spring. If I remember. This one above is on the list. It’s big enough to have been a hunting cabin or something. Some are small though, like this next one. It’s child-sized. Or maybe just sheltered machinery once upon a time. But why the window? It’s regular sized, so that makes the door tiny. Strange.
I’ve always been fascinated by these strange structures. Here’s one from this past summer. Isn’t it great?
That little turret part had a sink, and maybe a toilet if I remember correctly. Running water in a tiny house like this. Also a bed and an easy chair inside. Solidly built with real construction techniques. I have no idea if it was a glorified play house or if someone actually lived in it. It’s like a free-standing bedsitter. Or maybe a mother-in-law suite.
Anyone else intrigued by little buildings like this? Am I the only one who gets on the brakes to stop to shoot them?
Anyway, I hope all you other northern photographers are making it through the ragged end of winter. Hail spring!
This time an old quarry up in the White Mountains in North Conway. It was collectively known as the Redstone Quarry and had several faces and cutting operations. The area is huge and I needed many more hours to shoot there to get all of it. Up until the late 1940s it was an active business with hundreds of skilled workers and its own boarding house not far away. Now both the quarry and the boarding house are abandoned and falling to pieces.
Here are some of the rough columns it produced along with one of my photographer buddies –
The stones were turned on enormous steam-powered lathes like this one –
Here’s a detail of one that was outside of the falling-down house (I LOVE the snow) –
And the rock face itself all frozen over –
In the upper left you can see some of the guide wires that made up the derrick used to hoist the blocks off the face. It was powered by a huge steam-engine in a building next to the quarry. Here’s the top of the building – now collapsed –
The sunset was pretty good from the top of an enormous slag pile –
If you’ve been reading this blog or following my flickr or Smugmug feeds you’ll have noticed my penchant for abandoned places (and my love for heavy metal – spot the references if you can). Especially between seasons if you know what I mean. Sure, you can shoot derelict stuff anytime, but after the leaves fall and before the snow flies seems an especially good time. Not just because everything is in a profound state of ugly, but because those bare trees can really add to the mood of a place.
One of the reasons I shoot abandoned locations is to document what was there before they become something else. Here in the eastern part of the country, space is at a premium compared to say, Montana. In the west old structures are often left to molder away on their own because there is no real need to tear them down. It’s one of the reasons I love the west so much. Here in the east we often bulldoze perfectly benign things because we need the real estate.
A case in point is this old (well now it’s old) miniature golf park / driving range –
I can’t claim any nostalgia over the place other than in general. I only went there once in high school even though it existed all through my childhood and only became defunct a few years ago (I think the year on the day planner in the office was 2006). Even though I wasn’t a customer, I was used to seeing the place if you know what I mean. It was the kind of thing you’d use to give someone directions – go through the light at the mini-golf place.
As you can see, vandals have gotten a head start on the destruction. I seem to recall this trap was a little New England scene with a barn or a water wheel mill or something. Cutesy, but typical of the old-style mini-golf set up. For some reason we also had a tribute to Gilligan’s Island –
No one bothered me while I shot although I’m sure folks in the passing cars wondered what the hell I was doing out in the wind and cold. Eventually I made my way over to the former office. Had to wait until some hunters played through though. After I heard a couple of very close rifle shots, I looked over my shoulder a few minutes later and noticed a hunter standing in the walkway between the driving range and the office. It was a little weird, but he didn’t say anything and I didn’t see him again. The destruction inside the office was near total. Only more sturdy structures like walls, the counter and the ice cream treat freezer remain intact. It made for some interesting still lifes –
I like these two photos because the objects in them were found as they are, but not where they are. I moved them to better locations and shot. The light was pretty damn great for both and having the camera on a tripod helped. All of these were shot with a tripod, something I don’t do often enough, but felt that I should since it wasn’t like I would be walking miles. The additional range of options it gave me really helped. I wasn’t cornered into using a high ISO or wide open apertures. You can find the rest of the set here on flickr.
Although the light isn’t the best in the outdoor shots, I like enough of what I got to feel satisfied with the shoot and what I was able to document. The site is due for a date with the bulldozer in the spring. Like the world needs another supermarket, right? But that’s what’s going in there. It makes me a little sad. People complain that families and friends don’t do anything together anymore. That we’ve become a society of passive watchers only instead of active doers. As long as we keep tearing down miniature golf parks to put up supermarkets is there any wonder why?
Outdoors photographers are at the mercy of the sun and clouds. We can’t make our own perfect light and so when it comes along we have to recognize it and get out there. My favorite kind of light is hazy clouds with breaks of blue sky. Not quite overcast, but not quite full sun either. It usually happens ahead of a storm – way ahead. I love it when I find it as I did with the Abandoned House shoot and on this one I decided to do when I saw what kind of day it was shaping up to be. Well, day would be stretching it. I probably had an hour or two of this perfect, soft, lovely light that still had shadows in it. So it being stick season I went to shoot more mills. I’ve kind of got an obsession going with them.
Just look at that light though. Look what it does to the clouds. The trees. The buildings. It’s wonderful. There’s definition there without overpowering or being too contrasty. There’s softness there, but without being flat. It reminds me of ‘the golden hour’ light, but a bit cooler in temperature. Even in shade and in monochrome it works.
While I shot these first few from that walkway up there, someone in a nearby building was wailing on a guitar. It sounded great and I was disappointed when it stopped. I don’t think he could hear my applause.
Not all of the mills or factories in the Nashua millyard are occupied, though many are. Some are abandoned and I bravely trespassed. Well, there wasn’t a sign saying I couldn’t be there, but I always half expect someone to confront me even though it’s never happened. The light was starting to go, but it was still pretty damn good.
Old, abandoned factories make me so sad. Once we had thriving manufacturing. We did stuff. We built stuff. Now we just want it cheap, but we still pay. When I walk between the buildings I think of the hive of activity it must have been. Trains. Trucks. Pallets of finished merchandise or raw materials. People coming and going. Time clocks. Whistles. Shift changes. All gone now. But that light…it lures me out to document what’s left.
I can never resist an abandoned building.
This house is in the next town over and on a road I hardly ever take, so when I did and saw it I knew I’d have to go back and shoot it. When I did I had an intense feeling of loss and sorrow. Judging by the garden out back with all its little markers and organization, and that aqua blue paint, I imagine this was once someone’s pride and joy. A refuge, now becoming a ruin. The dead bird really kicked things up a notch. What a death.
Here are a couple of sample images, but to get the full effect hit the Slideshow on SmugMug.
Hopefully I remember to get back there in summer when everything is blooming…what a lovely contrast that will be.