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A chair at the dog track

A chair at the black canyon dog track

(Click to see the photo larger, almost like you’re sitting in that chair)

I don’t know when the last time was that I posted an image from the dog track visit we did in the final week of December, but believe it or not, I still have a few shots left to show eventually! If you’ve missed any of the series or would like to look back, click here for the “dog track” tag.

This chair of course was just sitting there waiting to be photographed. I’m sure at some point it was moved out to this spot to either be sat on or to be a prop for someone else’s photography. I think it’s way interesting at a place like this to wonder a bit about why things are where they are. One of my buddies with me on this trip kept pointing out objects that were different from the time he was there before. In fact, a giant ticket booth was sitting in the middle of the main building, definitely a new thing. Who dragged that booth into here? The owner looking to dump stuff? A photographer wanting something interesting for a backdrop?

Anyways, I”ll always remember back fondly on the three hours or so we were here. A great experience.

Tonight a bunch of us are descending upon Tempe for a little photowalking action, so I’m looking forward to that! Haven’t been down there for awhile and while the forecast calls for the opposite, I’m praying for clouds over the lake to help us with some great sunset photos. If you are interested in going, let me know!

Have a nice weekend!

(exif: canon rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/5)

 

Eights

(image is bigger and looks better with a dark background if you click on it)

Wow, today is starting off weird. Have you ever had an image that you poured over, processed for hours, uploaded to your blog, published it and then actually LOOKED at it and realized it had major flaws? Halos? Dust spots?

How did you miss that?  How is it possible you looked over that whole image for hours and it took this new eye of viewing it on your blog that made you REALLY see it?

Well, I’m honest enough about this stuff…happened to me today. Even after previewing it before publishing I didn’t notice what I noticed later. So I took it down.  Paranoia. I don’t like sub-par stuff from myself.

Think it all goes back to taking your time. A lesson I need to learn. Sometimes I rush through processing just to get it up on the website and I end up missing things. That’s not what happened today. This was just a lack of really paying attention at the time of processing. Also dust spots are a HUGE thing that I miss and I see others missing. You just don’t notice it well enough. I have to usually make myself stop and search them out.

NOW…this image is from the abandoned dog track north of Phoenix. I took a lot of shots while I there that one day and I still might have a few left in the tank to show at some point. What’s funny about this image and some others who have shot there recently is that some of sections of chairs don’t really look too old when framed in a certain way.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 50mm 1.4, f/2.0, iso 100)

 

Shards

(View a little larger, a little better by clicking on image for a lightbox)

I keep finding images from our dog track visit back in December that I haven’t processed, so I took a bit of time this week to blaze through a few.

I love this place. The scene above was so indicative of the current deterioration of the structure. It was also interesting how all these foreground seats were places on the outside of the facility and now it’s almost like the entire place is “outside.”

The first thing we talked about when we got near the windows was that we should all steer clear of them…because those shards aren’t just small bits of glass, but huge pieces that I would assume could take your head off if they dropped directly on you.

I automatically had a desire to stand next to and look through these windows, so I had to make sure I kept reminding myself to keep away.

This scene has a very post-apocalyptic feel to it for me. Chairs falling in disrepair, vegetation growing all over, the fact that everything just feels out in the open now. At one point in my life (and it may still happen), I had planned on writing a book that would take place in a future where people hadn’t really lived on the planet for a couple hundred years.

Things would likely be way worse than this, but it might be a scene I’d use to describe the way things were.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5, iso 100)

Swingers

There were two ways I could have gone with this image. One was the “or die” you see on the wall…but the other seemed to click the moment I saw this scene and thus it’s this week’s Movie Title Wednesday.

Swingers is my number one…yes, numero uno, all-time favorite movie. It’s hard to explain why, but to me this is one of the best guy movies ever made. First off you have Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn and Ron Livingston, all young before anyone knew who they were. Second you have Las Vegas, you have cool cars, awesome big band music, gangster references to Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Wayne Gretsky bleeding, guns, bears with claws and “This place is dead anyways.”

I can’t even mention all the lines I love in the movie.

“Mikey’s the big winner, Mikey wins!”

“Vegas baby…Vegas.”

“You’re so money.”

“Is he cute Mikey? Is he brown?”

“Hey! What’re you kicking me for? You want me to ask? All right, I’ll ask! Ma’am, where do the high school girls hang out in this town?”

And the one that inspired me to use the flick for this image in the first place:

“You always doubledown on eleven.”

This photo is another one from the dog track north of Phoenix. You can clearly see two number “11” seats in the picture. So not only do you always doubledown on eleven, but this photo has TWO elevens! And to top it off, all the chairs kind of “swing” up and down right?

It’s total kismet. I mean…yeah, I could have saved the movie title for an awesome picture of Las Vegas that I will undoubtedly get this spring when I find myself up there a lot, but I had to use it now. I dug how the row of chairs had dead weeds around it and broken seats laying everywhere.

Oh and I still have quite a few shots left from the dog track that I haven’t even processed yet. Ugh!

Swingers is wonderfully written, completely hilarious and ultimately a cult classic. It’s about your buddies, girlfriend problems and Martin Scorsese. It played at the Valley Art Theater in Tempe for about a year straight because every week, people still came out to see it. I beg you, if you haven’t experienced it, go rent it this weekend, sit back with a beer and try not to cringe at the voice mail scene.

Sitting pretty

Dog Track Black Canyon City Arizona

We go back to the dog track from our December trip up to Black Canyon City (you can see all photos in the series here).

Again…one of my favorite things about the time we spent at this amazing, decayed and lost building…was the afternoon light. They aren’t solid, or in your face, but you can kind of see the shadows streaking from right to th left across the old, broken floor. In the foreground you can make out some square tiles that still remain intact, but most of them have fallen apart. In fact, you could hear cracking as you walked across the room where tiles broke solely from our footsteps.

I shot the image from a good 40-50 feet away I believe, using the 50mm to focus right on the chair off in the distance. I don’t think it takes much explanation to figure out why I loved this scene. Isolation is a key element in my compositions, be it urbex or storm chasing. Not always of course, but there is something beautiful about a singular object that is either different or somehow stands out from its surroundings.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 50mm 1.4, f/2.2, iso100)

The Notebook

Chair and Notebook from the Dog Track

I could have gone with another movie here guys, but I didn’t think anything else worked as well as The Notebook. Sure…Shattered Glass starring Hayden Christiansen is probably more manly…but truthfully? I think Christiansen is actually a bit more girly than a girly movie.

I’ve been married for almost 13 years. My wife is from a family of criers. Before we ever got hitched, I remember sitting in a theater watching one of the biggest sob fests of all-time, My Life (Michael Keaton, Nicole Kidman) with my wife, her parents, her sister and her sister’s husband. I looked down the aisle during the movie and they all had tears down their faces. I was like…really?

Flash forward to now and I’m officially part of the family because I get choked up at everything. Having a daughter has even made it worse. Too many father/daughter moments in TV/movies just totally ruin me now.

The Notebook was a great film and an amazing story…one that hits close to home with  my now deceased grandfather who suffered from Alzheimer’s. I wasn’t super close to him, but I remember always reminding him of my name when I saw him those final years. And I’m sure my grandma went through more than anyone knows.

With no real way to segue from that, the movie title is also a main subject of the photo above, one of my favorites from the dog track. This photo was kind of like The Notebook for me…it almost made me cry. Ha! Okay, not really, but when I took it, I showed it to buddies Rick and Scott and told them “This is probably the best photo I’ll take the entire time we’re here.” And I meant it. And I still feel that way.

As photographers, we can take a picture, look at it and feel like we totally nailed it. Best.Photo.I.Have.Ever.Taken. But I’ve had a number of occasions where a photo of mine that I felt was my best work just didn’t get received the way I thought it would. We have all probably dealt with that because it’s hard to be  completely objective when it comes to our own stuff.

I love this scene from top to bottom. The chair amidst shattered glass with a notebook sitting on it. An open doorway letting in an intense amount of light from the setting sun. Rich shadows. This was one of the first shots I processed from the dog track but it took me this long to post it to the blog. I was almost fearful of putting it out there and getting hit with the stark reality that it’s just not as good as I think it is.

But that’s photography really isn’t it? I mean, not all of it…but we want our photos to be seen by people and when you do that, you are welcoming in all comments and critiques…good, bad, indifferent. And that’s just part of being what we are. And the truth is…the more I shoot, the less I care about what people think because this is WHO I am…this is my style…and I’m confident in it and proud of it.

Now excuse me, I’m sure my buddy Bob Lussier is going to ask me for my man card at any moment, but the joke’s on him…I gave that thing away a looooong time ago.

Inside Out

Dog Track Black Canyon City Chairs

After wandering around the dog track for an hour or so, I ended up coming back to the rows of seats with a new perspective and a new lens on my camera. As I’m prone to do, I started with the 17-35mm because I wanted to capture the vastness and enormity of the place. But later I realized I was missing out on the subtle nuances everywhere you looked.

One of them was the weirdness of standing inside a building but still feeling like you were outside. All the giant windows were broken, bushes were growing inside and occasionally a breeze would float through. The panes of glass would wobble from the wind…a few ropes hanging from the ceiling would swing…you get the idea.

My goal here was to use the 50mm 1.4 to focus on a small area of the row of chairs, but still capture the way the windows beyond led right to the desert outside. Probably my favorite element of this shot is the low angle of the sun and the way it highlights the top portion of the chairs. Now I know I haven’t explored tons of these urbex locations, but I can’t stress enough the importance of natural light in places like this.

I think this is one of my favorite images from the trip. And while I don’t tend to talk about the processing as much these days, I just want to point out how great HDR is for situations like this. You get to see the clouds in the distance despite maintaining the light and shadows on the chairs. It wouldn’t be as easy to get all of this in a single shot without possibly a few filters and even then you may do exposure blending in Photoshop.

And despite some of my urbex shots where I take liberty with the processing and stylizing…this one has to be as close to how I remember it in person as any HDR shot I’ve done.

The Birds

Sometimes when you look at a photograph quickly, you may not notice the subtle nuances about it. My buddy Mark Garbowski recently posted a shot called The Bowl on the Cobblestone Street…because the shot was so wide, so expansive, you might have missed a curious little bowl sitting in the middle of the road, which for me, kind of made the image unique.

Well, today is Movie Title Wednesday and I dubbed this photo The Birds, just in case you missed them on first glance. I left the image clickable to a larger size so you can see them better.

Alfred Hitchcock was a genius when it came to thrillers and scary movies, and The Birds was no exception. Terrifying, creepy…it’s probably up there with Jaws in how a couple of films caused an entire generation of people to freak out whenever they see a large gathering of ravens or a fin in the ocean (although, a fin in the ocean is good cause to freak out).

I saw that movie as a kid and the scene that always stands out is the end when all the birds are just sitting and watching them leave the house. It’s awesomely eerie.

So this is yet another image from the dog track, taken about 20 minutes or so before the amazing sunset we ended up with once we walked back inside. We had already explored the interiors of the place, then circled around outside. The overhang is what used to be the entrance to the place.

These freaking birds kept flying around randomly, and they looked so awesome against the clouds that I just waited until they appeared again to fire off some shots.

As I continue to go through these dog track shots, I can’t tell you how much fun I had being there that day with Rick and Scott. But what’s cool is that I get to keep processing images weeks after it happened…and so it’s kind of like getting to go back over and over.

The Lobby

This is the lobby of the dog track in Black Canyon City, part of the series I’ve been posting for the last few weeks. Broken glass, debris, dust, discarded items and this cushion litter the floor in every direction. The surface is made up of tiles, but they are warped, fragile and almost every step seems to result in loud, cracking noises. For this young urban explorer, it was the only time in my entire life I can remember being in a place as degraded as the dog track.

And it was awesome…of course.

Never having been on a shoot of a place like this before, I was kind of just wandering and shooting randomly when I started…almost like a kid in a candy store who has no idea what he wants. I felt like the longer I was there, the better my composition and framing became. I relaxed, started “seeing” better and was much more happy with the stuff I ended up with later in the tour.

The goal with this shot should be pretty obvious. Focus on something up close in the foreground, but use the wide angle to give an idea of the vastness of the space. I loved all the minute details of the floor and I kind of just scoured it for awhile before settling on this cushion to be my main element.

More to come…oh boy…lots more to come from the dog track *grin*

(exif: canon xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, ISO 100, F5)

The Ruins

I loved the movie A Simple Plan, which was made from a book of the same name by Scott B. Smith, so when I heard he was writing a scary horror novel, I was pumped.  I think the first day The Ruins hit bookstore shelves, I bought it.

Now, this is Movie Title Wednesday and here I am talking about a friggin’ book! Well, of course The Ruins was made into a movie, and while it was a lot of fun to see it for those of us who are huge fans of the book, the film was just so-so. But if you aren’t into reading and just like a good popcorn horror flick, then check it out. The concept is fun, a little different than the norm.

However, if you love books, it’s a great read. If you don’t know this about me, I’m a huge book fan. I gobble them up. One year I discovered Dean Koontz and probably read 30 of his books in 12 months. I love that supernatural/sci-fi genre of storytelling.

This image has a bit of that feel to it for me. I think if you were walking up to this place by yourself, as the sun was going down…you’d probably get some chills, perhaps a few goosebumps, and likely turn around. Although I know a few of my urban explorer buddies would just whip out a couple of cannons and blaze ahead.

The building above is from my abandoned dog track series. My cohort Rick pointed out the actual track itself earlier in our outing, so I made sure to walk out there and see what I could see. Basically dirt and some cement borders that disappeared into overgrowth in a lot of spots. But looking back towards the building from the track was an awesome angle. You guys probably know how much I love roads and paths disappearing into the horizon, so this was kind of my money shot. Long, lost road, desert, broken glass windows…and of course, clouds in the sky.

Because for me, this shot would have been about 40% less exciting without the sky looking the way it did.

Lots more to come from the dog track…being there for around three hours was a perfect amount of time to just walk around slowly, see angles, explore and then even go back over it all one more time.