Photo of a Photo

How Photography Has Evolved in Recent Years

I was wary to trespassing so didn’t try to get closer of a different angle

The original picture above is one I took many years ago in Okanogan County, Washington, using a twin-lens reflex camera. It was big and bulky, required roll film, and hung from my neck on a broad strap. At the time, it wasn’t a pain in the neck, but no doubt would be now.  For a while, I was in love with that camera. Took it everywhere. I was also in love with black and white film.

This photo is from the Pixabay stock agency. I don’t remember the brand of my twin-lens reflex.

For a while, I toyed with the idea of a career in photography. I could spend hours in the darkroom, developing and processing the film and making prints. Watching prints in a developer bath as an image appeared on what had once been white paper was like magic. 

The warm brown color is a result, not of the aging of the photograph, but from a sepia toner bath. Sepia ink comes from cuttlefish. Centuries ago the ink was used for writing and for drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, and other Old Masters.

Sadly, the twin-lens reflex camera was stolen during a break-and-enter at my old house.

My little Canon digital camera took the photo of my original print. I love this camera, too. It’s great not to have to buy roll film or try to figure out “F” stops and exposure time. The camera does it all. But that can also create problems, such as over or underexposure. No pain in the neck if I wear the camera around my neck on a slender strap, instead of carrying it in my pocket or purse. I love that I can upload photos in mere seconds. That’s like magic, too.

It’s easy to spend hours messing with the uploaded photos, too–improving sharpness and color, cropping, and rotating. Adding sepia, and other tones can be done with my photo program filters instead of in a messy bath. If I don’t like the results, I can remove the color tones. Instead of bending over a print and using a tiny brush making eensy dots to fill unwanted spots, I can do it in a second with the click of a mouse.

Although I love taking and sharing pictures, making a living as a photographer was never practical for me. My original intent in enrolling in a photography classes was to illustrate articles I wrote, maybe even published a book of photographs and essays or poetry. That, too, fell by the wayside. I’m primarily a fiction writer. Now I provide pictures for my blog, my social media platforms, and for the enjoyment of the hobby, recording magnificent beauty and also the loveliness of small, ordinary things that people tend to pay little attention to. With my camera I can say, look at this–see how remarkable it is?

Just a dandelion? I couldn’t resist taking its picture, one of the little, overlooked marvels I like to highlight with my camera. What a sunny little face! It’s an intricate little flower with many parts: ray florets, with bilobed stigma, anthers, and individuals bracts. They’re an edible plant, rich in vitamin C. They originated in Europe and brought to the New World by early settlers so they’d have a winter source of greens to prevent scurvy.

Fading Tulip: Portraits

Today I felt as faded as the tulip in my vase.

Creativity can be a real pain. Editing my manuscript was going pretty well, until I discovered that Google Drive saves documents not just to the docs file, but also to the Drive file. Something I’d never known before. I only found out when I was editing my story and came across a sentence that I’d already deleted. What’s going on? Two copies of the same document, one with edits, one without. That wouldn’t have been so bad, if I hadn’t been editing the wrong document. Searching Drive by the title of the document apparently resulted in the wrong document popping up at random. Since I didn’t know about the two copies, I wasn’t paying attention to what it said at the top of the toolbar, which would have told me which copy I was editing. Curses on Google!

That’s why it’s good to have more than one creative outlet. When one fails you, you can turn to the other. When I got fed up with editing, I picked up my camera. Justifiably, or not, I’m sometimes in love with my own photography.

When we take a picture, what we’re photographing is light. Not just the light reflected by the subject, but also the ambient light.
This is the same tulip photographed in a different room with different light. The wall is actually white, but the ambient light comes from electric bulbs, so the camera captures that golden light and turns the wall yellow. If I’d waiting until daytime, my camera would have captured bluish daylight. think this tulip is beautiful even as it fades away. The petals look like silk, a woman’s skirt blowing in the wind.
The artificial light makes the tulip look more golden than it actually is, but I like the way it looks against the wall.
Since I haven’t learned to paint yet, I have to pretend I’m Georgia O’Keeffe with a camera.
By the light of fluorescent lamps seeping in from the kitchen. I tired a flash, but all I got was a white blob.

Windows 10 is also a pain. It stores my stuff in three different places. All too often, I can’t find what I’m looking for and have to go through a bunch of files to find the one I want. I have to admit, I’m not a terribly organized person, so that doesn’t help.

Did I mention Word Press? Yet another pain. Lately it hasn’t been able to fine the preview page, so I have to publish my posts without previewing them.

Despite all the hassles. taking these photos, editing, and posting them, writing the essay have been enjoyable. Mostly.

Abandoned Washington

Forlorn Places and Things in Eastern Washington

Photos by Robert Ruth, (used with permission)

This is what the “Wild West” looked like in reality–people’s homes. In previous centuries, it was known as the Far West.

This photo by Robert Ruth enchants me. I love the limited color palette, the delicate pastels in the sky. The huge moon. And how soft the foliage looks; how it seems to be embracing and protecting the buildings.

Today I’m featuring the photographs of my friend, Robert Ruth. He and his wife, Joanne Perry Ruth, also a talented photographer, travel all over Washington taking amazing photos, many of which are of abandoned places and things in our state.

Robert’s photos captivated me because of the magic he does with light. He knows how to use it to bring inanimate objects to vivid life and give them personality. His work piques my imagination and prompts questions. 

Where did the people who left these places and objects behind go? Why did they abandon their homes and their dreams? Poor harvests? Illness or disability? The death of the main provider? Or did they move on to bigger and better things?

I’ve included Robert’s comments about his images. My comments are in italics.

On the last full moon, I photographed this old homestead in Grant County. I was truly surprised to see this meteor when I processed the image at home. Most of the time it is airplanes or satellites, nothing cool like an actual meteor. I try really hard to photograph abandoned places in unique and interesting ways…. a meteor is certainly an added bonus.

I’ve never before seen a house built into a hill. What do you suppose that pile of rocks is? A collapsed fireplace? I love the colors and texture of these old boards. The foliage seems to embrace and protect the house. I wonder what it was like living here?

This building was built into the hill behind it with a rock wall and had a rock partition along the side. A drone image from Grant County.

What a handsome old house. I love the bay window. It seems like it would have been a great place to live. The varigated colors of the board are beautiful, as are the soft colors of the grass.

All the best places Joanne and I find, we name. For example, we call this the Bay House. We have the Nut House, the Deer House, the Sage House and so many more. When I am talking to Joanne about a particular house and call it by its name she knows exactly what place I am talking about without me having to explain the trip and the location. Crazy I know but it works for us. The Bay House was photographed with a drone in Grant County.

If the people don’t want this house, we’ll move in.”

I had a pleasant surprise trying to photograph this eloquent old house. It was situated near a field of yellow, my plan was to capture the two together. As I focused the shot, two pigeons landed, one on the door.

I included this photo because I’ve been here, but not up on the flume. And because it shows the beauty of the landscape. I recognized it immediately from Robert’s photo, even though it’s ages since I’ve been there. I love Okanogan County and would gladly visit it again.

If you ever drive east from Loomis to Tonasket and look up at the southern ridge you’ll see this old water flume built in the early 1900s. Curious, I flew the drone up from the valley below. I can’t imagine what it took to build this irrigation system with picks, shovels, and dynamite. In doing research, I found a recounting by Harry A Sherling who actually worked on this very flume in 1916 at the age of 16.

“The Whitestone irrigation project had been started before 1916, as there was quite a long piece of weathered flume from Toats Coulee creek which we hooked onto. Entering Loomis from the east you see this flume winding its way around the rock cliff. Here is a feat I think is worthy of mention, the blasting out of a footing for this flume. Three men stood on a plank suspended about 8 or 10 feet from the rim of the cliff. On this narrow footing, they drilled (two striking and one turning the drill) and blasted out the footing for the flume. Though it was quite a drop into the sharp rocks below, they used no safety ropes, but insisted that I do so, as I worked behind them, boring out the loose rock after blasts.”

Robert says this is the base of an old stove. It might once have heated a house like one of the ones in the above photos. Is it any wonder so many people love antiques? Who can find this kind of craftsmanship today? And if you can, it’s rare and expensive. I even love the rust on this metal work. I can almost feel the texture of the floorboards.
Looks at what age and oxidation can do to an old car and its door handle. It takes and artist’s eye to recognize the beauty in something that’s seemingly worthless.

Car door handle: Rather than photographing the whole abandoned vehicle, sometimes individual parts can tell more of a story.

The photographer and his “awesome wife.” She’s a lucky woman and he’s pretty lucky too. I use quote not because she’s not awesome, but because I’m quoting Robert/