I can’t help but marvel at the beauty I often find in simple, close-up compositions of various photographic subjects I find in nature. God’s handiwork for sure. My point is that when you go about with your camera in hand or pocket, whether it be your mobile phone or a traditional model, look for compositions that others might overlook in their haste to move along or to find some spectacular view of a majestic landscape or the warm feelings conveyed by a setting or rising sun. Be different! There are many, many possible images just waiting for someone like you to record them for posterity — or your Facebook page. Here are some examples I made recently.
I love trains, especially those that thrived throughout the United States during the early-mid 20th Century. Rail lines went just about everywhere it seemed, connecting towns and cities large and small. Most train depots had a similar look. Long, single-storied brick and wooden structures that lay parallel to the train tracks. There was always a long wooden deck or concrete loading and unloading platform which felt the pulse of thousands of travelers for decades. Today, in locations such as Bassett Virginia, these iconic stations still exist, albeit in some decay, but are still being used for purposes other than train traffic, which has ceased. When I visited the Bassett train depot recently I was looking for something different to photograph, but with an objective to portray the aging and rustic nature of the facility. The town of Bassett now uses this building for a city market, where local goods are sold on weekends. It is also used for special community gatherings. While trains no longer pass by, people like me often do.
I enjoy wandering our relatively small and somewhat struggling city center of Martinsville, VA adjacent to where we live, and making photos of items in store windows and store fronts. It’s interesting to note that Martinsville was, until the late 1980s, a primary “economic engine” for the Commonwealth of Virginia. With the demise of American manufacturing over the years, especially textiles and furniture, given that cheaper goods are available from off-shore resources, cities like ours have struggled. Many, like here, are seeking ways to make their business districts more vibrant and that brings out ingenuity of store owners to attract customers. But, economics and government policies are not my focus here, photos are. The main challenge faced when making photos through store window glass is the angle of the sun and reflections, much less dirty glass. So, picking the right time of day is important. Anyway, as I walk along, my eyes are always roving to see what I can find. Colors, shapes, interesting items, etc. Here are some examples I made recently.
In far eastern Siberia in Russia a natural harbor located off the northern Bering Sea lies the City of Provideniya. During the Soviet Union era, this city and the area across the bay was home to a large military base, accessible only by water and air. The deep water port was established in 1938 and is only 200 air miles from Nome, Alaska. The Soviets were concerned with the possible threat posed to their northern territory by the United States and constructed a large number of block military-style buildings, a landing strip and harbor facilities all with supporting infrastructure to house almost 50,000 people. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the base was essentially abandoned, with now only a few thousand hearty people struggling to make a living in the City of Provideniya. In 2007, my wife and I were very fortunate to visit the city and surrounding area, as part of a two-week cruise of Alaska and the Bering Sea, aboard the 100-passenger cruise ship the Spirit of Oceanus.
As we cruised into bay, we saw the city in the far distance with a Russian maritime tug boat headed in our direction with a pilot on board. As we neared the city, we noted that a large painting of our ship had been located on the side of a building, as welcome to the ONLY visiting annual cruise ship landing there at the time. We were told that the year prior to our visit in July, the bay was ice jammed making entry impossible. These visits ceased a few years after ours, as the cruise line stopped operating due to economic challenges. Thus, we were one of the last to visit this extremely remote location. Most of the remaining buildings were in disrepair and abandoned, especially in the military base portion across the bay from the city.
There were indications in the harbor where we docked signifying the seafaring history of the area, and early one morning we were hailed by a passing Russian boat loaded with fishermen off to destinations unknown. I was interested in several “unique” sights we saw such as the Bus Stop sign along a very rugged, rocky unpaved city road, a “Fine Art Studio” sign on a multistory, freshly painted building used to house residents, with numerous electrical device antennas on the roof. Also interesting was the city cemetery on the outskirts of the residential area. We were told that Stalin had forbidden the use of any sort of religious crosses on grave sites, so what you see here was typical. Many graves had discarded household items around their perimeter. Bed frames for example.
The people we saw and met were exceptionally friendly and we were treated to an hour-long cultural musical and dancing presentation with traditional Russian and native songs. In summary, we saw and photographed sights that only a few outsiders have experienced. We were indeed fortunate. I wonder what the city looks like today seven years after our visit.
A definite highlight of our 2007 two-week exploration cruise to Alaska, the Bering Sea and Far Eastern Siberia in Russia was having an opportunity to interact with many people living a hardy life on remote islands and mainland areas in the region. We were given many native cultural presentations, noting that the people here have ancestors which date back over 2000 years. Many villages depend year-by-year on subsistence fishing and as such they are concerned with climate change in the region, not that I am taking a position either way on this subject. The basic fact is, when you depend on four large whales taken during the annual fishing season to feed the village, and you only get two for whatever reasons, life becomes much more difficult. I hope you enjoy the colorful and generally happy faces I was able to photograph while we were there. Especially the young people!
I suppose when many people think of Dutch Harbor it’s because of it being famous for being the hub for King Crab fishing, as seen on the popular TV show, “Deadliest Catch.” Actually, it is located on Unalaska/Amaknak Island which are a part of the western portion of the Aleutian Island chain. For us sailing on a small cruise ship in 2007, it was the last place we stopped before heading into the center of the Bering Sea, and northward to Eastern Siberia. The Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor during World War Two and it later became a military base for U.S. forces. Today it has become the number one fishing port in the United States measured in pounds of fish processed and the total dollar value delivered.
Early morning as we approached Dutch Harbor, my spirits sunk because the location was pretty much fogged in, a common occurrence. However, the closer we came to docking, the weather improved considerably, making it possible for me to make a number of interesting photos, some of which are shown below. My favorite series of images relate to the old Russian Orthodox Church with its onion-shaped spires, the oldest such style church in North America. Near the church I wandered along a steep bright green hillside containing many Russian Orthodox grave sites with their unique crosses. The fields were full of various wild flowers, which became subjects for my camera. It was a grand day, and one we will never forget. Oh yes, our incredible “photographic weather” which followed us throughout our two-week exploration cruise was wonderful when we needed it, but as soon as we left Dutch Harbor, the fog rolled back in. The hands of God were on us travelers for sure.
Here’s a nice contrast between two images I made while on a 2007 cruise to Alaska and the Bering Sea. As we cruised along the Aleutian Island chain toward the Bering Sea, we were expecting rough waters based on what we’d seen on TV, and very wet weather. Not so this day! I liked the small duck who floated by our ship, with nice patterns on the smooth water’s surface. Plus, while I never did capture a Humpback Whale fully out of the water, I did get a very nice image of the tail portion of a large one with water splashing down. It takes a lot of practice to time your shot just right. So, when we saw evidence of whales in the area, there were lots of shutter “clicks” being heard by the many digital camera photographers on board.