The mountain behind our house has a passive repeater on it. It’s one of those things that looks like a blank billboard. I wrote about it back in 2011 in this blog post (link). Since that time my eye has been tuned to these various bits of communications infrastructure (especially outdated ones) and when I find ones that are interesting I make a picture of them. I have loosely grouped them as a collection called Repeaters, Towers and Power.
Beautiful spring weather always inspires me to go out to look and see my environment and photograph what I find interesting. This day in March of 2017 it was communications equipment. As I was coming down from the pass that connects Cache Valley to the Wasatch Front here in Northern Utah I spotted a familiar group of cell towers, but today a maintenance crew was working on one. The normal collection of strait metal poles was disrupted by an orange slash of some sort of lift bucket being used by the workers. A cluster of cell towers had never been that interesting to me but that little bit of orange drew me in. The old utility pole that looks like a cross on the hill also sparked my attention. That I was seeing quite literally the new mode of communication replacing an older one. I remembered a time many years ago, in Ohio, when cell phones were just getting popular. All of a sudden these giant towers started showing up in fields and hill tops. It was disturbing because it was something new on that hill where it was only trees before. Us older folks are used to seeing them now and the younger kids have always known them. That is life. I cant imagine what the technology will be 50 years from now. Will these things be around or will we have moved on to something better? Think of houses with giant TV antennas or those huge satellite dishes. Who knows, maybe this seemingly mundane image will be of interest to a future generation who no longer lives in a landscape with these structures.
A few blocks away I found a transceiver pointed to a nearby passive repeater. To my eyes it looks both old and futuristic. Like it should be in a Saturday afternoon movie. I imagine it being installed and it being the talk of the town. The big dish does certainly make a statement.
17 years ago, as a recent graduate of the Fine Art Photography at the University of Akron I had a problem. With degree in hand I had no more class critiques to work toward. Senior projects all wrapped up. Working at Dodd Camera in Cleveland and then later as a photo assistant in the area. Though I was working in my profession I had to get out and photograph for myself. Personal work as it would be called by career coaches. Except my personal work was truly personal, not just spec work made to get the attention of agencies. I continued to work like a student and make a dozen images every other week. Quickly a pattern emerged, weekends with good wether, old commercial areas of towns and cities, and midday light because I had to travel in the morning to the areas I photographed. In 2011, as a new resident of northern Utah and with only part time work I continued this pursuit with fresh eyes placed on towns I had not seen before. A collection of these images are on display at Gallery East in Price, Utah through December 8th 2017. The gallery is in the new Fine Arts Center at USU Eastern, a regional campus of Utah State University. Since many if not all of the viewers of this blog will not be able to see the show in person, I’ll share some images here on the blog.
Above: Idaho Falls, Idaho 2014. The post card image for the show and one of the best images to some up the show title. I went to Idaho Falls specifically to wander around it’s old commercial district and see what I could find and the above image I like to think of as a gift from the photo gods. A perfectly clean ally sets up a single point perspective with many hard lines and a beautiful shadow. The order and tension is broke by the twisted power pole and its diagonal shadows in the center and the minimal intrusion of leafless trees and pitiful clouds. The image modulates between looking deep due to leading lines and flat due to limited tonality.
Above: Malad, Idaho 2014. The documentarian photographer works like a hunter gatherer, with a list of suitable subjects in their head and ideas as to how they would like to order them. In the case above the image was shot for a collection I call Silo Survey. Recently I have started to merge parts of that collection into my Towns Less Occupied series. Like the image from Idaho Falls, this image revels in detail and the play of order and disorder. Mostly vertical lines with a few horizontals, mostly tin with a few wood planks. Unusual for me is the time of day but in this case the warm summer light adds to the overall success. I’ll continue showing images from this show in the next few posts. Not all of them are as hard lined as these two I have talked about today.
Photographers are always curious about what you used to make the picture. Both of the images in this post were captured with a 24mm perspective controlled lens on a Nikon body. The image from Idaho Falls I was using a tripod at normal eye height and the Malad image above I was using a giant tripod and standing on a small ladder. Both images were processed in Capture One Pro with the major adjustments being lessening contrast and shifting the blue sky to a slightly pail tone.
Over the past few years I stopped publishing this blog. Just let it go. Not because I did not enjoy building it up but because it got to a point where it seemed like what is the purpose? Most other photography blogs I was exposed to were thinly veiled attempts to sell workshops or gear review and training sites. It felt as if photography as it exists on the web was only about selling gizmos. I could not find good content from photographers that interested me. That made me reconsider why I was doing it myself. In that confusion it became easier to just switch to Instagram and stop trying to write blog entries. After all it is more fun and interesting to just go out on adventures and take photos than to sit at a computer and write. After years and stops and starts on that platform I feel like it’s becoming just a huge space for advertising and self promotional content, plus the photos are too small. The end result is after I have liked about a 50 things I don’t feel any connection to what I just saw nor have I learned anything new. Maybe it’s time to get back to blogging. With a huge backload of images from adventures over the last few years I’m planing on restarting the blog and posting with some consistency. The photo above is from earlier this year (2017) from a trip I made to Dinosaur National Monument, a place where I have had the great opportunity to work the last 2 summers as part of a team of researchers. I’ll get to what we were doing later but lets just say this is my happy place. The photo has all the elements of my adventures, interesting and rugged landscape, remote and rugged road and an epic view. Speaking of the view the river in the distance is the mighty Green River and it has just come out of Split Mountain located just to the right. In the distance are the Unitas, one of the few East-West trending ranges in North America and also the northern border of the Colorado Plateau.
Last Chance Canal Bridge over the Bear River, Gem Valley, Idaho 2014
Western mural, Pocatello Idaho 2013
As a new westerner and a photographer interested both the fantastic natural landscape and the urban setting, I am drawn to the work of a certain mural artist who was prolific in some of the areas I have visited. Initially I saw some humor in the real tree being contained and the mural, an imagined landscape, being available. Years later I noticed that the newer mural stops where the fence is and an older mural exists on the back part of the building. I photograph urban setting generally on Sundays when most business are closed. This helps me obtain a clean, clear view. As does picking pleasant weather. This spring I need to visit Pocatello again and will be sure to include a day when this bar is open so I can check out the older mural and maybe find out who the artist is.
Western Mural, Bancroft, Idaho 2014
In my travels north of Logan, Utah I come across the work of mural painters who had a good business of painting fantastic western landscape murals on various commercial buildings in Southern Idaho. Along the way I have started collecting them when I find them.
Commercial building, Bancroft, Idaho 2014
Intersting commercial building that has seen many years and various uses. Looks as if at one time it was an auto parts store with it’s interior walls painted in a yellow and blue scheme (NAPA?) and a Monroe shocks sold here sign. Currently looks to be someone’s workshop. Buildings like this are part of the reason I enjoy photographing small western towns. If you know anything about this or other building in Bancroft please leave a comment. Below is a detail of the doors and window.
Old rail station and silo. Preston, Idaho 2013
Snow covered Twin Peaks (8584 ft. elevation) located in the far NW corner of Utah about 15 miles from the UT-NV-ID boundry monument.
Driving the Historic Transcontinental Rail Road Grade in Utah’s Great Salt Lake Desert, December 2016. This view looking West near Bovine with the Pilot Range 20 miles in front of us. Blowing snow in the middle distance is from a vehicle convoy.