Friday, February 03, 2012

Moss house, central South Carolina

I can't remember if I've posted this photo before and I'm too tired to scroll through the entire blog. But I felt like seeing this one NOW and figured I might as well put it up here, just in case I hadn't shown it before.

My favorite old house ever, out in the sticks southeast of Columbia SC. When I had to wrap up my novel a few years ago and couldn't do so at home, I took my Olivetti manual typewriter, set it up on an old electric line spool as a desk, and wrote the last few chapters of the book under the back porch of this house. The house is a major character in the second half of the book, so it made sense.

The heat, the insects, the general atmosphere of decay: all there in the book. But that moss is the best part. I generally don't leave trash behind when I camp (I was there for two or three days) but I put my empty bottle of Old Everholt rye whiskey in a closet in the house when I left. My addition to the general decrepitude of the joint.

Crossroads and train depot, Clarksville TN

Took these two photos within 30 minutes of each other when I was a junior in college at Austin Peay State University, fall of 1993. Pentax K-1000. Sweet little camera, a real workhorse that got me through four years of college and my first newspaper job in Winchester, Tennessee. Rudy was her name. She got heavily dented and rendered unusable in a motorcycle accident in 1998, which means I got 7 good years out of her. After that, Rudy was replaced by her twin, whose name I never caught.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Perfect little farm

(Refer to the previous post for info about where this is and why it matters.)

Perfect mini-farm on the side of a mountain about 40 miles north of the NC/VA border. Beautiful curvy roads getting up (or down) the mountain to it. No visible access to it from the road. A few cows, a little house/cabin in need of loving restoration, and a couple of outbuildings. I'm in love.

This is what you see when you are heading down the mountains between Tazewell and Marion VA, on Hwy. 16, looking toward Clinch Mountain. There are so many hills and mountains there that without decent topographic maps and an eye for detail, I couldn't tell you exactly what you're seeing in this photo.

But the landscape is lovely. As I told my lady friend (wife Jessica), if she could quit her job, I'd move there in a heartbeat. Just give away the house, take the books, the motorcycle, the baby and a few other essentials, and go build a cabin that would eventually become my coffin. Seriously, I'd live there forever, or die feeling that at least I'd lived in a place I loved with the things and people I loved. If we ever move there, I may or may not learn to play the banjo. Maybe I should master the bass or harmonica first.

Taken on my this Spring trip through my mountains, in psychological preparation for moving to central Texas -- where the landscape looks NOTHING like this.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Impromptu Cemetery

These two crosses, apparently marking graves, stand in the woods behind a burned-out house near Columbia SC. The house itself is hidden from the road by a stand of trees and tall grass. When I found it this spring, it looked like the house had burned within a few months. What I could not tell was whether the graves predated the fire. Maybe it doesn't matter.

Shot with late 1920s Zeiss Ikon 6x9cm folding camera. Ilford Delta 400 film.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rocking Horse, Central SC

Went for a short ride northwest from Columbia a few weeks ago and saw about eight or ten rocking horses set up in the front yard of a little house, most of them straddling the rail fence. Interesting and a little odd.

Man who lives there came out with his walker. Older dude, big old nose and ears. Name's John, I believe. He just had his leg amputated a couple months earlier, after having an I-beam dropped on it at a work site. It went untreated for too long, got infected, and had to be removed just above the knee. No more construction jobs for him. He was a welder for over 40 years.

The rocking horses are his wife's, he said. She can't help but buy them whenever she sees them, or she finds them on the side of the road.

Contax IIa, Sonnar f/1.5 50mm lens, Ilford Delta 400 film.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Outhouse, Mouth of Wilson, VA

Okay. This is the outhouse behind the house where the bear(s) live(s). Made me nervous being there. This was shot from the back porch of this tiny house, which was maybe 300 square feet. Mamiya C220, Ilford FP-4 Plus film, 135mm lens. I have no idea what the four-foot lengths of PVC pipe in the ground are for. Never seen that one before.

I recently read a book called "Our Southern Highlanders," about so-called hillbillies around the turn of the century (19th to 20th, not 20th to 21st). Author, who lived in southern Virginia, said something like 60-70 percent of the land in his area was at a 45 degree angle or more, and suggested that it be settled by the Swiss, who were accustomed to farming in the mountains, instead of the Scots-Irish, who weren't. Seeing this little town and other places like it on this trip, I know what he meant. Cows and attempts at row-cropping have caused serious erosion, where stepping the land and raising goats instead of cows could have preserved the soil. And he wrote the book in something like 1910.

I didn't get too close to the outhouse. It was on the other side of a barbed-wire fence. I typically don't cross fences. If I put up a fence, I wouldn't want somebody crossing it. Good way to get shot. I've never been shot, and prefer to keep it that way.

I have been shot AT, once when I was about 16 and got too close to somebody's moonshine still or marijuana patch while walking around the bottom of Elder Mountain, just west of Chattanooga TN. There are some roads you don't go too far up, when you're growing up in southeastern Tennessee. I figured out later that the guy probably wasn't shooting at me, as such, just getting close enough to make me go away. The first shot hit about 15 feet in front of me. The second, a few long seconds later, about three feet. I didn't stick around for a third shot. Very important lesson in private property rights, taught by a master.

Recent trip photos - Mouth of Wilson, VA

This spring I finally got to go on another motorcycle trip. Only four days, but I made it from central SC through North Carolina, into western Virginia, west into Kentucky, down through Tennessee to north Georgia, then back home. As I told my wife, I needed to see my mountains again before we head to Austin, Texas. We'll move as soon as we sell our house here in Columbia SC.

Both of these photos were taken in a tiny little place called Mouth of Wilson, just north of the North Carolina-Virginia line. About two miles from the state line. Wasn't much to the town, just an antiques/junk store (where I bought yet another cast iron skillet) and a few houses.

The metal-sided building is an abandoned business across the street from the antique store. I have no idea what the tower up on the hill to the right is. I have another negative exactly like this one, except without the truck. I decided I like the truck better. Gives an idea that the place is occupied. Shot with a 1920s Zeiss Ikon collapsible 6x9 camera that was my great-grandfather's. Ilford Delta 400 film.

The other building is an old mill house. The town is called Mouth of Wilson because it is at the mouth of the Wilson River, and the river was harnessed (loosely) to run a mill. The mill is no longer operational or even present (no wheel), and the house has been vacant for many years. Shot with my Mamiya C220 on Ilford FP-4 Plus film.

Right down the hill from these two buildings there was an old house, also abandoned. I was warned, however, that it was occupied by at least one bear. I went down to it and looked in. Saw where the bears slept, and smelled their distinctive musty aroma, but decided not to hang around and take pictures. I did get a shot of the outhouse, though. May post it later.

Cool Beans! coffeeshop portraits

The owner of the coffee shop where I used to work recently hired me to do some promotional photos of the shop. It's in an old house here in downtown Columbia SC, something like a century old. Cool old building, easy to get good stuff, if you know what you're doing. That, and having worked there, I knew the angles (literally).

Two for today, then more later.

The first is of a double shot of espresso being pulled. I started the espresso shot, then did the photo shot. Both are beautiful processes. And as anyone who knows me will attest, the J. Daniel loves a good process.

The second photo is of an antique teapot/coffeepot/pitcher that sits on a mantelpiece in the shop. It's not currently in use except as decoration, but I couldn't pass it up.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Columbia Church and Tree

Been a while since I posted anything new. This photo was one of the first I took with my Contax IIa camera when I got it in the spring of 2006. Church in downtown Columbia SC. Currently undergoing renovation. Contax IIa with 50 1.5 Sonnar lens. Ilford Delta 400 film.

Back when I was new to Columbia and could still see it through a visitor's eyes.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Roadside in Arizona, 2006

Two "new" photos from my trip west in 2006. Both of these were taken within 50 feet of the roadside in Arizona. Just going through some of my old photos, trying to find things to play with. Think I found some.

Both were taken with the Nikon D70s, with a 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens that has since gone to heaven or wherever good lenses go when they die. Poor baby, he got dropped on his face and hasn't been the same since.

The lesson: Don't let other people hold your camera. Not if you love it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ginger Mint Julep

Shot in New Orleans last summer (that being the summer of 2008, somewhere around June 30). Mamiya C220 with a 105mm lens.

Not much more to say here. Great city, great sign. Don't know if it's a great drink. Haven't had one.

Jessica and Django

Shot in Richmond, VA, right after we got our puppy, Django. He's now a big dog (as beagles go) and just had his third birthday, so this must've been in the summer of 2006, or thereabouts.

Contax IIa, 50mm 1.5 lens. Lovely little camera.

My woman is in Baltimore visiting her family right now, and the beagle is raising hell in the dining room, waiting for me to get off the computer. I miss my wife, hence the reminiscent photo. Love it: Pretty girl, beagle puppy, railroad tracks and a bridge. There's a Tom Waits song in there somewhere.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Orleans shotgun houses

These photos were taken in late June or early July 2008. Jessica and I went down to New Orleans for a few days, then to Mobile, Alabama, for July 4. Pleased to report that most of NO is looking just as it always did. Lots of Katrina damage, still, but in much of the city it's hard to tell what buildings were damaged by the storm and which ones were just due to fall down. We spent one day driving around the city and just looking.

Our time in NO and Mobile was spent much the way we live life here in South Carolina: going to used book stores and record stores, wandering around looking at old houses, and taking pictures. I concentrated on buildings, while Jessica started a collection of photos of "New Orleans Kitties".

No cats here. This is MY blog, after all.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Baltimore pics

These were taken in Baltimore the day after Thanksgiving, 2007. I rode my bicycle something like 35 or 40 miles round-trip into the city while Jessica went shopping with her parents. 27 degrees F. when I left the house. Damn cold. Coffee and pastry at a little patisserie, which had a bicycle mural on the side. Patisserie Poupon.

Shot on the Mamiya C-220. The shot of the door, I was standing in the street. My lens was too long to get the shot I needed from the sidewalk. You do what you must.

Kudzu, Walnut Mississippi

I love kudzu, I really do.

One of the stories in the book I recently finished writing (and which I am currently seeking to publish) deals tangentially with kudzu. Here's a couple of lengthy quotes from the story:

--I began noticing kudzu when I was twelve years old. I had seen it before, I’m sure, a fact borne out by the shameful existence of an old photograph. In it, six-year-old me can be seen gleefully sliding down an ivy-cloaked hillside, a ripped-open cardboard box serving as a sled. This southern summer version of the northern winter’s tobogganing was my father’s idea. He was a product of central Indiana and had romantic ideas concerning the aforementioned Yankee sport--despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that there are no hills near his childhood home.

--“Lightning, you’ve grown like a weed in the last three days,” my dad said. He called me Lightning for years, later explaining that he did so because I was consistently slow moving.

Then, as always, I sought specificity. I asked him what kind of weed. Not that I cared. I simply needed the information.

“Kudzu. You’re growing like kudzu. You know, it can grow up to a foot a day in the summer,” he said.

“What’s kudzu?”

My brother chimed in, saying, “Kudzu’s that green vine you were talking about back there.” Then he wheeled his bicycle onto the carport and began stripping off the tent, sleeping bag and other accoutrements.

My dad didn’t share my brother’s reticence, especially when he was presented with an opportunity to resume his former avocation. He had been a college professor--of astronomy and geology, to be specific-- before turning his attention to engineering and was always quick to jump on any chance to inform “those unfortunates who have previously been deprived of my valuable knowledge.”

And so it was that I learned about kudzu--how it had been brought over from Japan to control erosion in the southern states, how it had few other uses, how it grew more quickly and was harder to kill than just about anything else that grows.

This particular weed, my dad opined, was Japan’s revenge for having two cities destroyed by atomic bombs at the end of World War II. The American government may have bombed the Japs, he said, but since the war America has been paid back in full as a Japanese weed steadily smothers the South in this blanket of green. He left the issue open as to which attack he deemed more reprehensible.

“Those trees you described, the dead ones in the middle of the kudzu fields, you know how they died?” he asked. “They were smothered by the vines. Eventually, there won’t be anything left growing in this part of the country, except for kudzu. The only thing to do would be to dig it all out and burn it.”

--At dinnertime my father still concluded his prayer of thanks for the food by saying, “Forgive us where we fail,” as if he truly expected God to hear and listen to the prayer, as if he expected never to be pulled from God’s personal garden.


I grew like a weed.

And I still think the lively green of kudzu is more beautiful than the brown of bare earth.

----Thus endeth the story and the book. It's called "And the meek shall inherit". Jessica (the wife) says it's fitting that the book title and the last words of the book should go together to say "and the meek shall inherit the earth," more or less.

But then, as Sting said in one of his more pedantic songs, "What good is a used-up world, and how could it be worth having?"

And so it goes.

Goldmine Baptist Church

Shot near Highlands, NC, on a trip I took with my wife two years ago in the fall. Don't know if the old lady is heading to the church or not. Doesn't really matter, I guess.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sea oats and blue sky, Pensacola Beach, Fla.

Roswell, NM, 110 degrees F

Red Door, New Mexico, July 2006

Aspens, Northwestern New Mexico


Bridesmaid Jessica

Nate and Katie

Katie Belding Christensen