This is the third photo of the same abandoned farmstead I have posted recently. And having posted this today, I am abandoning the abandoned farm theme. At least for a while.
This is a closer view of one of the two buildings pictured yesterday. This photo was taken right around sunrise and it occurs to me that this old building has lived to see a lot more sunrises than I have.
I asked my first year photography students recently to tell me what they thought a photographer was and Bjorn, a person whom I think has great promise, suggested that a photographer is a person who engages in time travel – that photographers have the power to take those who view their photos to a particular place in time. It was an astounding and unexpected answer. And of course, Bjorn’s answer has me thinking. . . .
I realize, for example, that while my photos allow me to do my own kind of time travel in that they help me remember things that I have seen and experienced, they also have the power to do the same for the viewer. You may have never been to this particular place, but it may remind you of similar places.
Photos like this may have another emotive power, too. It’s not hard to see the ghosts of those who lived at this farmstead. I look at this scene and can see the farmer’s wife stepping through the door to check for fresh eggs, I can see the children playing in the tall, prairie grass and I can see the farmer working the distant field with his simple tractor.
To me, this way of life exists in my imagination as I am a “city boy.” But to many South Dakotans, this life still exists. It is as real and predictable as the the South Dakota sunrise.
Canon 1DII 1/6s f/9.0 ISO100 17mm
I took this photo on September 5, 2004, and it’s been in a virtual shoebox ever since. As my regular readers perhaps know, I am a photo packrat and from time to time I go digging for stuff I did a long time ago. You will also know that I return to the same places again and again. And this old farmstead is a good example.
What I like about this particular photo is the sense of loneliness it conveys. The black and white treatment and the odd, dull sky help with this. And speaking of the sky, the real reason I converted to black and white is that the interesting bands that seem to emanate from the right hand side, were not really visible in the original color version. These buildings still stand after all these years, though I suspect that someday they will be torn down.
“Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.” Kansas – “Dust In the Wind”
Canon 1DII 1/2s f/11.0 ISO200 29mm
What you see in this photo is a pile of debris in the middle of a cornfield. But what I see is much more, for this pile is all that remains of a farmstead north of Watertown, South Dakota, that had become for me a place of photographic pilgrimage.
This farmstead had an old house, a fairly large barn and two other out buildings that were part of the farming operation years ago. The buildings were subjects hundreds of photos I have taken. It was also what I called “the north studio,” because I took many of my senior portrait subjects to this location due to its wealth of good locations for pictures. More recently, I took some of my LATI photo students there to share this great location. The photos they took are likely the last photos that were taken of this South Dakota relic.
The group Kansas was right when they sang that “Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.” And so I suppose it was inevitable that an abandoned farm would be bulldozed and turned into crop land. But I feel like I’ve lost a friend. This place had an important place in my personal history and it had a soul that had become part of my soul.
But at least I have the photos. . . .
I’m on an HDR in the country kick. I have also gotten caught up in Nik Efex and OnOne filters. So you’ll have to forgive me for slightly surreal images lately.
This image is of a farm house a few miles north of Watertown. It is a fascinating remnant and I’d love to know more about this farm. I’m particularly interested in the evergreen trees that once graced the house. All but one have surrounded to the forces of time. The others, echoing the house, are skeletons.
Here’s another photo from what I am now calling my “Rural Decay” series. It’s the little Metro van pictured yesterday. If you missed yesterday’s post, check it out here.
I’ve been doing a little research and have learned that the Metro was produced by International Harvester from 1938 to 1975, which is a pretty long run for a vehicle. It is a “step” van, and was designed for delivery of things like milk and bread. The milkman who used to deliver milk to our neighborhood drove a little van and I’m wondering if it wasn’t an IH Metro. I have fond memories of doorstep delivery of fresh milk and the man named Bob who delivered it.
This blue and white metro has a license plate that dates back to the 70s, though I’m guessing the van was manufactured a decade or so before that. This little van represents an interesting piece of history and I wonder how it ended up on a farm north of Watertown? Was it “put out to pasture,” so to speak? Did it have a function on this farm? Or was it simply abandoned here by some city dweller who no longer wanted it?
You can invent your own story. . .
Here are a few of my favorite people in one of my favorite places. The place: the old Redlin farmstead 15 miles north of Watertown. The people: Kendra, Sara, Ashley, McKenzie, Kelly, Holly and Alli (sitting). These are 6 of my second year Photo/Media students at LATI and one of my first year students (Alli). The occasion was an on-location portrait shoot.
When I was doing senior portraits, I used to bring my subjects out to this old farm all the time. I liked the many looks that the buildings could give a portrait but I also liked how I could find spots with good light that were also protected from the wind. Wind is rarely an outdoor portrait artist’s friend, especially with females. And in South Dakota, windy days are more common than calm ones.
I had a good time on the day I took this photo but I think most of my students got better results than I did, which is what I would hope for.
Ansel Adams is to Yosemite as Shephard is to The Old Farm. I’m no Ansel Adams, of course, but like Adams, I keep returning to the same subject over and over again trying to get the perfect photo. And I’m still looking for it. . .
Here are some previous attempts:
This farm has been pictured several times in this blog. Today, I went there before sunrise thinking that maybe I would get something different. I had it in my head that I would try doing something with High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography.
Thus, I set up my camera on a tripod and exposed first for the sky and then for the farm and foreground. When I got back home, I used the HDR function in Photoshop CS5 to merge the two photos together. And this is what I got.
It is certainly altered (or enhanced) reality. I’m not sure I like it because I am a fan of photos that are “real.” But I also like to experiment and play.