Photo Journalism

I’ve been blessed with professional opportunities in my life that were, on the whole, very satisfying. After almost thirty years doing one thing, I took on a second professional career for twenty more, but in an entirely different direction. It wasn’t long after when I realized I had certain creative skills up until then dormant. Skills such as desktop publishing, photography, graphic design, and lastly researching and writing original articles. It was the latter task I enjoyed the most, because I found it both challenging and fun to “tell a story” mainly through the use of photographs. Now that I’m fully retired, with time on my hands, I enjoy going back to those photo journalism days, using this Photoblog versus a printed magazine to share my work.

MEMORIES INSIDE

DSCF5534

On a whim one day, just to see what might be along a single-lane, winding road near Stuart, Virginia, I drove along looking for photo opportunities. I was quickly rewarded by finding these old farm buildings and pulled off the road to take a closer look. As luck would have it I saw a person loading items from inside one of the buildings into a truck. He saw me too and at first I thought he was going to tell me to stay away, but he didn’t. He walked toward me, spotted my camera and smiled, telling me to make as many photos as I wanted, since he was a relative of the people who once lived there. He added he was getting rid of lots of accumulated junk from inside the buildings and instructed me not to go inside or get too close because the structures weren’t safe. Being busy he didn’t say much more other than to briefly recall his joyful days as a young boy when he’d enjoyed visiting the farm, given there was a very nice swimming and fishing lake directly across the road near where I’d parked my car.

DSCF5535

P1050969

Whenever I find places such as this, I can’t help but think of all the memories involved, hidden except to those who experienced them. I wish the man had not been so busy because I had a lot of questions. Such as how old the place was, how many had lived there, what sort of farming was performed and for how many years, and lastly when did people move away for good, and why. But the main thing on which my mind focused after the man drove away in his fully loaded truck, was an inviting open door on one part of the house. It was dark and rather mysterious inside from what I could see from where I was standing.

P1050981

I had an urge to go inside to find out more, but being the sort of person who follows instructions, and mainly fearing the moment I’d do that, the man I’d just met would suddenly return and toss me off his property for trespassing.

P1050979

There was a better solution. Since I had a telephoto lens on my camera I was able to get a closer look. The inside walls appeared to be paneled, and the ceiling had been painted green. There was an upholstered chair near the door at the left, and on the right what looked like a portion of a toilet basin. Maybe both had been temporarily stored there to be hauled away later, but it was the condition of the walls and ceiling that made me think it hadn’t been that long since it had been occupied. The metal roof supported that conclusion. I could have lingered with my camera, recording various other aspects of the buildings in front of me, but decided instead to go across the road to walk around the lake a bit … wondering as I did how many fish had been caught there over the years.

While driving home I realized how much “history” is around us in the form of structures such as this old farmstead. It might take a drive down some strange road, or a hike into the backwoods to find them, but they are there. Just waiting. With memories inside.

Addendum:

Sadly in my opinion, a question many in the publishing business today ask is whether or not photo journalism as we once knew it is still relevant. Once, popular publications such as Life Magazine and Look Magazine demonstrated the powerful effect of photos to a story. Life Magazine’s coverage of World War Two, for example, was highly regarded. In a February, 2017 article in the New York Times, Donald R. Winslow, editor of the National Press Photographers Association’s News Photographer magazine and website writes about the status of the profession today. “Photo journalism used to be incredibly prestigious and a much sought-after profession. The overall devaluation of photography that started years ago [film to digital] ran concurrent with the gradual demise of newspapers, which ran concurrent with the rise of the internet, which ran concurrent with the use of video, and it was a long, slow, critical illness for photo journalism. In history there have been professions that basically disappeared. There’s still a few chimney sweeps around, but not like there once was. The question is, what will photo journalism evolve into, and can someone earn a living doing it? Or is everybody now a photographer [using their iPhone], and like everyone thinks they are Ernest Hemingway just because they have Microsoft Word?”

 

 

A Dogwood Morning

The Dogwood trees in our yard are nearing peak. Nightly freezes have had some effect on the edges of the blooms, with burned spots. Nothing to take away their beauty however. As the sun was rising the light was good so I grabbed my camera and made these images. It’s definitely Spring, but the temperatures here in SW Virginia don’t always give evidence in that regard.

Finding and photographing our past

EC405F28-D39B-4731-87CF-EBF9402DF49A

I made this photo last summer. It’s a favorite, and had I not taken a dirt road I’d not have found it. Exploring can be rewarding. For a couple of reasons, I’ve been side-lined from my usual road trips seeking such photo treasures. Winter weather in April being one. So, I decided to publish some from 2017.  This cabin held many secrets, all based only on my imagination. Who lived here? When? Why is there a fireplace hearth outside on the chimney? There was evidence of a rock foundation near and perhaps it served as an enclosed cooking area. It’s fun to imagine. Here’s another example.

B175F566-D09C-4CA1-9685-34744C97ED1E

This old structure appeared to have served several roles. A home and I suspect a small store based on the drive-through front. From all the junk around the place, I think it was most recently a location selling antiques. It was as you can see a dreary day and the house fit that mood perfectly. The rusty metal roof added to that. Why the cut logs? More questions remain unanswered.

I’m fortunate to live in SW Virginia where many photo opportunities such as these two are plentiful.  I just need to get out and about and find them. Summer 2018 approaches.

 

Yard Flowers and a Tree

Grass in our yard is thick and green (thanks to those who maintain it, I sold my John Deere years ago). Mowing has yet to begin. As a result I’m seeing a few pretty wild flowers pop up in places. I guess some experts would just write them off as undesired weeds to be eradicated. Not me. I like them. Out back of the house is another blessing for me at this time of year. Our Weeping Pussy Willow Tree.

The fuzzy looking buds will soon fall off to be replaced by leaves and then the hanging branches will begin to lengthen over the summer creating a nice addition outside our back porch. I planted the tree a few years ago and it’s been enjoyable watching it grow taller. But, it has to be maintained though careful pruning. All this is the sort of light yard work I still do. And look forward to. Another mission.

Not to be denied…

Our recent snow in SW Virginia, melting fast, did not deter these little Pansies who “sought the sun.” Glad I saw this photo opportunity before it was lost. Advantage iPhone camera which is always in my pocket.

The Weather

Maybe it’s because I’m fully retired, with idle time on my hands, that I focus so much on the weather forecast. February and March have been rough months for us here in SW Virginia this year: below normal temperatures, lots of rain and some snow, and too many cloudy, dreary days that affected my attitude. Numerous smartphone weather Apps overload me with information. Long range forecasts depress me when they point to a continuation of bad weather. Today I’m in that predicament. The first day of Spring just passed and cold and snowy weather is predicted. This photo sums up my mood in that regard.

DSCF4677

I know better than to let this sort of thing affect me, but it does anyway. There’s a saying, “One can make their own weather … even if it’s in the mind.” I can’t control the weather but I can control how I react to it. The weather conditions and environment in the following photo is what I choose to focus on this week. How can I be any happier remembering that moment when I captured the image in Alaska last August.

IMG_0957

While in Alaska for a week, the weather was absolutely top-of-the-line. Mostly clear blue skies, long range views, warm temperatures, little if any rain, and total bliss as far as the incredible scenery was concerned. It was easy to be pleased with the weather then. What I have to do right now, dreary as it is outside, is to have the same level of joy I had in Alaska. Make my own weather.