Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Flatside

Recently, I wanted to take some pictures so I decided to pay another visit to Flatside Pinnacle. Flatside is one of the prettiest views in Arkansas, and luckily its only about an hours drive from Little Rock. I was there just when all of the trees had gotten their new Spring leaves, in that short but magical time when the green on the trees is a deep and saturated green.

I was reminded how out of shape I am right now (three months of doing nothing but holding a baby and watching TV will do that to you) when I made the short but steep hike up to the top of the mountain. The view is amazing, with miles and miles of wilderness spread out below. There are very few traces of development spoiling the view, just tree covered hills.

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As it got closer to sunset, the sun dropped low enough to bathe the hills in a bright golden light.

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But it clouded up right before sunset, and the light fizzled out. So here is a view as it began to get dark. Ominous looking clouds began to drift over the view, carried by strong winds that were tossing the trees around. I took a few more pictures before making the hike down the mountain and back to the car.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Back To The Delta

While I still have some time off from work, I've been trying to squeeze in some photography time when I can. So recently I headed back out to the Delta to try to get a few more photos for a project that I've been working on. I headed southeast, driving through Pine Bluff along Hwy. 65. The first stop was this abandoned home, which overlooked the road and some train tracks.

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There were dark clouds hanging overhead, threatening to storm at any moment. Although they looked ominous, it never actually rained.

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I headed north on Hwy. 1 when I hit Dumas and eventually drove through the small town of Watson. My grandmother was born in Watson, and she lived here until the Mississippi River flood in 1927 forced the family to move to North Little Rock. Watson is a small town, now with a population of about 200 people. One of the landmarks in Watson used to be Bonnie's Cafe, which was one of those great local little restaurants that I wish I had been able to eat at. But apparently Bonnie wanted to retire, and the place closed. Looking through the windows, the building is still set up like it just closed a few minutes earlier. Salt and pepper shakers are still on the tables. You wouldn't ever guess that it was closed, except for the dead houseplants that long ago turned brown sitting by the window.

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A store used to be in the old building next door, although it has long since been closed and abandoned. A few weeds were growing tall along the steps in front of it.

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From Watson, I headed onto a dirt road that drove up and over the Arkansas River levee and through some thick forests to the old Yancopin Bridge. The rail bridge was built in 1903, and was abandoned in 1992. The bridge is going to be part of the planned Delta Heritage Trail, which will be run by the Arkansas State Park system. I searched the area around the base of the bridge for a good clean view of it, but never saw anything I liked (I have since seen some good pictures of it, so I guess I need to return and look again). This old sign is still attached to one of the bridge supports, warning against trespassing.

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Most of the clouds had moved on, and the sun was beginning to break through.

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I headed north, passing by Arkansas Post and driving deeper into the flat fields of the Delta.

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I pulled over to get a few pictures of what I think might be an old pump. It was surrounded by a sea of yellow wildflowers.

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In Gillett, I stopped at this abandoned gas station for a few pictures. The paint on the gas pumps are cracking and fading, and some sort of plant has grown up and around the gas nozzle.

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Along the side of the store were these old fuel tanks, surrounded by overgrown weeds.

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Driving further north I passed by this farm building, which was completely surrounded by tiny yellow flowers.

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The Delta is defined by agriculture, and towns are dominated by elevators and storage buildings for rice, soybeans and cotton.

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I headed down a dirt road and passed this old abandoned house and got a few shots while the massive cloud of dust that was kicked up from driving down the road slowly settled on my car.

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The last stop for the day was the small town of Tichnor. In the middle of town is the Tichnor Ricer Dryer and Storage Building, which was built in 1955. At four stories tall, it is the center of the small town and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I took a few pictures as it got dark, and then drove back home.

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You can't see it in this picture, but there was a hammock strung up there. Which is something I'm going to definitely suggest that we add to the office when I head back to work in a few weeks.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Delta

I'm currently working on a little photo project, which involves getting some more photos of the Arkansas Delta. So a few weeks back, I headed out on a cool and rainy afternoon and drove around hoping to find something to take pictures of. I headed east out of Little Rock, driving first through the small town of Scott. There are many pecan trees around Scott, and just south of town is the Pecan Alley. This neat spot is where old and tall pecan trees line the road, stretching for a few miles. It had rained heavily earlier that day, so puddles of water had formed on the road. This is a view of the road, taken with the camera resting on the concrete (I looked both ways before walking onto the road).

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Next I headed over to the small town of Keo, and got a few pictures of this abandoned building. The curtains in the window have faded and begun to disintegrate over time. I wonder what was in this building before?

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From there I headed south, and drove through the small town of Tucker. There is a collection of old buildings in Tucker, including the shell of an old store. It was built in 1913, and also served as a plantation office, post office and a bank. All that remains of the building now are the walls.

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Just down the road is a maximum security jail, so there are several signs around Tucker warning against picking up hitchhikers.

I headed further south and drove into the city of Pine Bluff. There is a lot of history in Pine Bluff, it was incorporated way back in 1839. But it has had some struggles in the past few decades. Many of the buildings downtown are empty and abandoned. I was there on a Wednesday afternoon and the streets were eerily quiet.

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Train tracks run right through the heart of downtown Pine Bluff. The trains are both a blessing and a curse. Rail service helped to open up Pine Bluff's industry and also helped to make it one of the state's most prominent cities in the 1800s. But the constant vibrations and rumblings from the passing trains are now thought to be a major contributor to the collapse of several buildings in downtown Pine Bluff. Currently several blocks of Main Street are blocked off while debris from the collapsed buildings is cleaned up.

The old train station in Pine Bluff was constructed in 1906. The station was converted into a museum, but trains still storm by several times a day. This is a freight train moving past, taken from the station platform that still maintains the look of the olden days of rail travel.

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From there I headed a bit further south, to the small town of Mitchelville. Only around 360 people live in the small town, which is dominated by a large elevator for Riceland Foods, which judging by the company name I can safely assume holds rice. The elevator is several stories tall, and it towers over the flat landscape.

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A storm was approaching, and I decided to do something that in hindsight seems a little foolish. I set up the camera by the elevator in Mitchelville, wanting to get a picture of it as it got dark. Since it was about to storm, I secretly hoped that I could capture some lightning in the sky above the elevator. Which yes, it was not the wisest place to be in a storm (tall buildings and lightning aren't a good combination, and it probably isn't a good idea to be standing next to one during a storm with a metal tripod). I did try to take a few pictures, until it started to pour down rain. I hurried back to the car after getting drenched, and then attempted to dry off the poor camera. It had gotten wet, and wasn't working quite right. So when I got home I stuck the camera in a bag of rice (which is kinda funny considering I was standing next to a rice elevator when it got soaked). It worked fine the next day, although it did have a lingering smell of jasmine rice after that.

So this is one of the shots I took before the storm got bad and started pouring down rain. I was glad that I got a decent shot since I risked the camera to be there!

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Crystal Bridges

Over Easter weekend, we took Jonah on his very first road-trip. We drove up to Northwest Arkansas to visit some family, and included a stop at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The museum in Bentonville has now been open nearly five years, and it is a great place to visit. There was even a photography show going on: "The Open Road," which has pictures from 19 photographers that were taken on road trips across the US from the 1950s to today. I assume that they didn't have time to notice any of my shots from our road trip to Arizona last year, and that's why none of them were included (sorry about that, guys!). Crystal Bridges has also recently acquired and reconstructed a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but all of the tour times were already booked for that day so we couldn't see it.

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It was Jonah's first visit to an art museum, although he slept through most of it.

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This next shot actually shows a sculpture, and just wasn't me being creepy and taking pictures of an old man on a bench. The piece is actually called "Man on Bench," and was made in 1977 by Duane Hanson.

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This next shot is of a piece of art that I admit that I don't really get (granted, I'm not a huge fan of most "conceptual" art). This is Untitled, by Felix Gonzalez-Torres. It is about 50 pounds of cellophane wrapped green candy, laid out on the floor of the gallery. Crystal Bridges purchased this for the cool price of $7.6 million dollars.

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The story behind the piece, according to Crystal Bridges, is that the artist sought to "address critical issues in the United States during the 1980s and ‘90s, such as the AIDS crisis, individual social responsibility, and the divide between the public and private spheres. The artist asked the public to take responsibility, to become a part of the work: this is art you can touch, take, and taste. Like many of Gonzalez-Torres’s works, its open-endedness incorporates the viewer’s interaction, both physical and conceptual, to make meaning. In its spirit of generosity, this acquisition particularly dovetails with Crystal Bridges’ mission to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit. And, because “Untitled” (L.A.) is a major work by one of the most important and influential Latino artists of the 20th century, it helps us tell an expanded story of American art."

I'm sure the reason for the purchase may have been more about getting a comical and whimsical addition to the museum, something that people will talk about and share with friends. Which has mostly worked, although most of the reactions I've seen are just people saying "can you believe they spent $7 million on a pile of candy?" I'm not one to tell people how to spend their money, but those funds could have been spent purchasing many more pieces of art from all sorts of artists. Or at least, maybe get some Reese's Peanut Butter Cups instead.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Nimrod

From the Hawks Schoolhouse, I headed back over to the small but amusingly named town of Nimrod. On the edge of town, tucked under some tall trees, is an old church (or school?). I haven't been able to find anything online about its history or when it was built. I'm assuming that its a church because it sits right next to a cemetery.

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The old building has recently been painted and cleaned up, and it looks really good. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to get rid of the old paint that had been peeling and chipping off. It's nice and reassuring to see that people are maintaining and preserving historic old buildings like this.

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I had wanted to get a star trail picture here, but it was not an ideal night for star viewing. There was a full moon, which was so bright that it obscured many of the stars. But I went ahead and tried, mostly because I didn't want to wait much longer. The old building is flanked by two large trees, and I wanted to get a shot before the trees got their new leaves. Plus I wasn't sure when I'd be able to drive back out there, so I set up the camera even if things weren't perfect.

The camera was set to continuously take 30 second exposures, which is enough to capture some movement in the stars (after two hours, it took about 220 shots). But when I got home, I looked through the shots and saw that some smoke from a nearby fire had sneakily made its way into many of the pictures. The smoke messed up about half of the shots, so this is the star trails made from the pictures that were taken before the smoke appeared.

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I took one last picture of the full moon shining high above the old building, and then packed up the car and made the drive back to Little Rock.

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