Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for the 'Abandoned' Category

Roadside America, Lanam Ridge, North Tower Loop

Monday, December 18th, 2006

I found this cool Web site, http://www.roadsideamerica.com/. It claims to be “Your Online Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions,” and has listings for each state of weird places you can visit. I definitely want to visit the Cursed Pyramid Ruins near Bedford. You see, Bedford is the Limstone Capital of the World. Somehow, they managed to get a grant to build a 1/5 scale limestone replica of the Great Pyramid of Cheops and a 650-foot version of the Great Wall of China (yes, also in limestone).

However, funding for this great Limestone Tourist Park was pulled partway through the project, and the work was never completed. Some ruins are there to this day, according to the site, along with some rusted-out vehicles. This sounds like an absolutely perfect location for a photo shoot — the first chance we get, Sarah and I are going to check it out.

There are plenty of other attractions on the site. Here’s the listing for Indiana. Sadly, many attractions have been closed due to people being jailed or dying, fires, acts of God, etc.

On a side note, today, I passed the burnt log cabin Sarah and I photographed recently. It had been razed to the ground! I sure am glad we didn’t wait around to take photos, because it simply isn’t there anymore.

I did a road ride with Dave on Saturday. We were planning on going to Valley Branch Retreat to try the trails there; we had heard they were in better shape (or at least, less muddy) than those at Brown County, where we usually ride. However, his foot hurt from an injury he got last weekend, so we did a road ride instead.

This map links to a much bigger alternate version that also includes an elevation profile.
We rode basically the same route as before, starting at Dave’s house and riding along State Road 45 a bit, then turning onto Lanam Ridge Road. We followed that for a while, then went down a gravel road. We took a slightly gravel road down than before — last time, we took Plum Creek Road down, whereas this time we took Salmeron. Salmeron was actually a bit cooler, I thought, it’s just a one-lane gravel road that feels really remote and even has a small creek crossing. I’m not sure I would even want to drive my car down it; you could make it, but it would make me a bit nervous.

On the map above, where it looks like we rode across Lake Lemon, that’s actually right. There’s a causeway going across the lake. It’s a lot of fun to ride on. Later, as we passed under a train trestle, Dave told me how you could get up on it. I think Sarah and I may have to go back and do that sometime to take some photos. Dave said that his sons walked all the way across it once, and he was mad when he found out. They asked him if he had done it himself when he was younger, and he said yes, but that he did it so they wouldn’t have to. Nice one!
On our way back up Dave’s street, there’s a huge hill (you can see it at the end in the elevation profile on the bigger map). During that climb, my front derailleur stuck, and I got stuck in my middle chain ring for 80% of it. By the time I made it to the granny gear, the grade had gotten easier, although I stayed there just in case it got steeper again (it didn’t). All in all, we rode almost exactly 15 miles.

I felt pretty shitty last night, with a big headache and an upset stomach, so we went to bed early. I woke up today still feeling shitty, so we slept a while longer. By late afternoon, I felt much better. I debated going for a ride at Brown County, and almost decided against it because it was getting too late, but decided to go anyway. I took my flashlights, just in case.

I had a pretty uneventful lap around the North Tower Loop. I rode the connector to the Aynes Loop and debated whether I should ride that as well. I decided against it; I wanted to get home in time to spend some good time with Sarah, and it was going to be dark soon. I’ve ridden it in the dark before, but it’s been a while since I rode at all. Besides, riding in the dark just isn’t as much fun.

On my way back to the parking lot, I passed a woman who was running the other way — I had passed her as I was starting out on the North Tower Loop. She stopped me — she told me where she parked and I told her she was going the wrong way to get back to her car. I hope she made it back safely.

Food, fiddlin’, and fun … plus caskets

Monday, December 11th, 2006

Sarah and I had quite a day of photography again yesterday. It ended up being sunnier than expected, and it was warm, so it was a good day for it. Sarah made breakfast after we got up — bacon, eggs, and toast with apple butter. It was delicious. I drank some coffee even though I have to be careful about that before shooting, since being jittery makes photography damn near impossible. I’m going to talk about the whole day in sequence, if you want to skip to the food, fiddlin’, fun, and caskets, go down to the Crazy Joe’s Trading Post heading below.

We had no real plan, and I suggested that we go past the lake and past the school buses we photographed before. This was what we intended to do yesterday before we got sidetracked on a smaller road. We drove for a while, and spotted the roofless remains of a building, with some other run-down buildings nearby, and stopped.

The stuff we found there wasn’t the greatest, being basically a brick/cinder block building, but it did kind of look like some sort of ruins. There was also a small shed nearby. Check out my Flickr page for some photos.

There was a barn nearby that looked great, but it was too close to a home/business and we didn’t feel like trying to get permission to shoot there, so we kept going. We drove around for a while, basically scoping out a few places before choosing which one to shoot. Most were too close to inhabited homes and/or had prominent no trespassing signs, which was discouraging. We ended up going back to a house. It was across the street from some inhabited houses, one of which had some guys in front of it with chain saws and whatnot, cutting down some trees.

Abandoned house — I used my circular polarizer on this shot, you can kind of tell by the unevenness of the sky.

Photographing the house was cool — much creepier than most of the other places we’ve shot, probably in part because someone used to live there. Of course, the chain saws across the street and nearby gunshots from hunters didn’t help.

But probably the spookiest thing about it was that on the front door, there was a sheer curtain, but it was only attached at one upper corner, so it kept flapping in the breeze. The sun also reflected off of it in a weird way. All of this had a very ghostly effect, as you can see.

Sheer curtain that was waving in the breeze. Chilling.

There was also a really old chair that was falling apart in weird ways, with small pieces of fabric either already on the floor or peeling off of it.

The disintegrating chair; you can also see the front room and the yellow bedroom from here.

We both got a lot of cool shots; I am not going into more detail about them here — check out my photos (start at the end and work backwards) and Sarah’s photos.

Crazy Joe’s Trading Post

After we finished photographing the house, we decided to stop at Crazy Joe’s Trading Post, which we had passed earlier and seen signs for, advertising “food, fiddlin’, and fun!” I told Sarah that those were all good things, and we should stop. Actually, the real reason we stopped was to get some soda and use the bathroom. Sarah would later describe the place as “horror movie friendly,” and you’ll see why.

We parked and got out of the car to find a big dog checking us out. He seemed friendly, and I like dogs, but I’m inherently wary of dogs I don’t know, especially when their owner is nowhere to be found. We walked to the door of Crazy Joe’s, trying to decide if it was open, and the dog just sat down in front of the door, obviously waiting for us to let him in.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to assume that the dog was allowed inside, but I also couldn’t get the dog to budge with attempted diversions. I wasn’t about to try pulling him away from the door, thinking he might freak out. Some dogs are fine until you try to move them. Sarah somehow managed to slip inside without letting the dog in, but I couldn’t seem to duplicate her success. A man said through the door that it was OK to let the dog in, so I did. Not surprisingly, it was Crazy Joe.

Sarah and I got some bottled drinks and went to the register to pay. Crazy Joe offered us samples of his new donut recipe. We tried them, and they were pretty good, although he explained that they were better fresh out of the frier. A woman who worked there, who I later learned is Crazy Joe’s sister, gave the donuts a glowing recommendation, saying “They’re almost as good as the ones from Indianapolis,” referencing some specific bakery there whose name I can’t remember. That Indianapolis bakery must make some mighty fine donuts. Why the fuck was I at Crazy Joe’s?

Crazy Joe talked to us a bit while ringing up our drinks, a bit too much, really. He asked if we were going to church, which of course we weren’t. It seemed to me to be a bit late in the day for that, since it was 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I said we were going for a drive, he asked where we were from, and I said Bloomington. Thankfully, Sarah didn’t tell him we live “close to the mall,” like she did Bob Jones. These guys already think we’re city slickers, telling them we live by the mall isn’t going to help our case. Anyway, Crazy Joe asked some question, and Sarah said that she had to use the bathroom. He responded, “I didn’t ask about that!” and told her where the restroom was.

What do men do while women use the restroom? Talk business, of course! Crazy Joe launched into a description of all the cool stuff that goes on there, live music several nights a week including bluegrass, country, rock, etc. He started handing me flyers left and right as he was talking, to the extent that he had to look at the flyers he’d given me to make sure he didn’t give me two copies of the same one.

He showed me the dining area, talking about how they had dinner and dancing, then walked over to where some instruments were and asked if I played anything. I denied any musical knowledge, afraid he might try to get me to play. He said “You don’t play anything? Piana maybe?” No. “Guitar?” No. “Washboard?” No, but maybe I could learn to play that one.

Next, Crazy Joe turned to me and said, “Now let me show you our caskets!” He walked over a little bit — still in the dining area — and pointed at two caskets, one on either side of the fireplace. “You can tell one’s for a man and one is for a woman,” he said, “because one is taller.” Only $850!

I had no idea what to do at this point. Crazy Joe insisted on showing me the inside of one of the coffins, including the wood chip lining in the bottom. Crazy Joe explained that these coffins were made by Amish people in Michigan and shipped here, and that you get your choice of “wood chips or genuine Amish horse shit!” for the lining. “We chose wood chips,” he reassured me. At this point, his sister came by and exclaimed, “Our daddy is buried in one of those!”

Sarah came out of the bathroom, and Crazy Joe showed her the piano and washboard, and then the coffins. He gave her the same line about the horse shit. Then he asked if we wanted to buy a coffin, and Sarah said we didn’t have room in the car for it. I was just going to say “No thanks,” which would’ve worked better, because Crazy Joe kindly offered to tie a coffin to the roof of our car. He got that we didn’t want one, though, and gave up on that sale.

We went to leave, and were almost out the door when Crazy Joe stopped us and said, “Wait a minute … come back here.” Reluctantly, we did, and he showed us a photo of a tower, asking if we’d been there. We hadn’t. He proceeded to tell us where this fire tower was, not terribly far from there. Finally, we left without incident.

Crazy Joe
Crazy Joe (not my photo)

Crazy Joe’s photo above was taken from his profile on the Monroe County Democratic Party Web site — Crazy Joe ran for Polk Township Trustee/Assessor. He lost. According to his brief bio on that page, Crazy Joe “traveled the Western United States looking for gold. [He] searched the Superstition Mountains of Arizona but did not find any.”

Believe it or not, after all that, we decided to go to the fire tower. That turned out to be a good decision, because the fire tower was cool as hell. Crazy Joe had mentioned that it was about 8 miles down a side road, but he neglected to say that that was a gravel road. I don’t mind gravel roads too much, but 8 miles is pretty far to go on one.

Hickory Ridge Fire Tower. Notice the “NO ALCOHOL” sign at the bottom.

As it turned out, the tower was near the Hickory Ridge trails, which you can ride on a bicycle, although I haven’t done so. We decided to go up in it, and at first were unsure if we’d made a wise move — the second flight of stairs was pretty rickety, prompting Sarah to tell me to “stop doing that!” thinking I was shaking the stairs, when they were really just swaying a little bit on their own.

Once we got past that second flight, though, the rest were more solid. It was really tall and there’s a great view from up there. Well worth the trip!

View from Hickory Ridge Fire Tower

Love Shack; Honey Jones Trading Post

Sunday, December 10th, 2006

I started writing a detailed entry about the Love Shack and Honey Jones Trading Post experiences we had today, but Sarah has already written about those and covered them pretty well; instead, I’m going to talk about some photography topics. You can find all the photos posted today here.

I continued to use my new lens today, and I think I’m getting a better feel for it. It’s fantastic for shooting in lower light, which is tremendously useful for things that are inside abandoned buildings, under overhangs, etc. A lot of the shots I took today wouldn’t have worked with another lens, because there just wouldn’t have been enough light.

Another advantage to my new lens is its short depth of field. That link will give you some definitions of depth of field, but basically, it’s how much of a subject is out of focus. The blurry parts are called bokeh. Consider this image:

Sewing machine found at the Honey Jones Trading Post.

The “Width” knob is in sharp focus, but the other one, even though it’s just a few inches away, is blurry. You can achieve this effect to some extent with almost any lens, but the large (f/1.8) aperture on my new lens allows me to really blur the other knob, which is just inches away. The bokeh with this lens is not as smooth as it could be, containing a few doubled-up lines (which you can really only see on the large or original size versions on Flickr), but for about $100, it’s pretty good.

This photo of some books illustrates the short depth of field of the f/1.8 lens.

I set the depth of field too small on this one; “SINGER” is out of focus. On the other hand, the background might have been too distracting if it were more in focus.

I’m not really sure what this is, it says “Westinghouse” and appears to be some sort of cooking appliance.

I also had some fun with some more abstract/minimal photos, like this one:

Open Spaces
Despite its strong composition, this photo is all about subtletly.

Left to its own devices
Shadows, texture, decay — but no subject in the traditional sense.

Bibble, RAW processing software which I tried in a demo and purchased yesterday, is working out great. What I love about it is that its workflow is so slick. I go through a directory of NEF files (Nikon’s RAW format), applying the changes I want to each photo, and at the end, batch convert to JPEG.

The tools for adjusting exposure, color, contrast, etc., are powerful, yet easy to use. The default settings are overall pretty sane. Even some of the automatic settings work great. The time I spend doing RAW processing has already become a fraction of what it was, and I still need to learn more about Bibble.

Bibble’s “Perfectly Clear” image optimization tends to be pretty heavy-handed, resulting in images that are too bright and very high in contrast, but sometimes it works well. The highlight recovery works great, as does the “fill light,” which helps to recover shadow detail. In some of my photos, this effectively allows me to increase the dynamic range, bringing out details that were captured by the camera, but were previously invisible.

So far, I’m pretty happy with my lens and Bibble. I bought a circular polarizer today, which I haven’t had a chance to test yet. Maybe tomorrow. This should help me get some higher-contrast shots with more stunning colors. I can’t wait to try it!

Image of music
Just for kicks: another turntable we found today.

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