Vacation #2: Windsor Ruins, B&W

This is slightly expired Fuji Neopan shot in my wide angle Vivi Ultra W&S knock-off. I shot this combo for the first time last spring and loved it, and this is a good subject for a wide angle lens anyway.

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

This is the last batch of vacation photos, but 2016 is already shaping up to be a busy travel year. I’ve got Krewe of Muses (already booked my Airbnb accommodation for that) and the Little Rock pen show in February; back to Lynchburg for the Monacan powwow in either April or May (they won’t commit to exact dates until it’s a bit closer); and at some point during the year I hope to spend some more time on Dauphin Island. I’ll probably do the Dallas pen show again, too.

My hopefuls for 2017 are FINALLY going to Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri, and visiting my brother in Chicago (during the Chicago pen show), if he’s still there and if his crazy boyfriend will simmer down long enough.

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Vacation #2: The Windsor Ruins, photographed with the Smena 8M

Okay yes, I’ve taken dozens of photos of these columns. But never with this particular camera! I just think they’re really pretty, and they’re really close to Natchez so whenever I go there it’s like, why wouldn’t I?

Alas, I had that boring, uniformly overcast, grayish-white sky AGAIN. Except for the first visit, it’s been overcast every time I go there, and never in an interesting way. Oh well, I shot some black and white too, maybe it will look less flat.

Windsor Ruins

Windsor Ruins

Windsor Ruins

Windsor Ruins

Windsor Ruins

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Port Gibson, Mississippi: “Too beautiful to burn”

I’ve been trying to post these photos for over a week, but I’ve been insanely busy during the day—I’ve been staying late at work and I came in for a few hours on Sunday—and almost as much so when I get home. I need a real vacation, not just a day off here and there. I’m taking 2 days off Thanksgiving week, which with the weekend and the holiday will give me 6 days in a row, but I’m going to spend them driving to Virginia and back so I don’t know how relaxing that will really be. I’ll have a few days off at Christmas, but I don’t know when I’ll be able to take anything like a real break. Maybe after the holidays I can borrow the ‘rents condo for a few days and veg out—I like the beach in winter.

Anyway, these are the photos I shot the day after Halloween in Port Gibson, a town that Grant allegedly said was “Too beautiful to burn” when it was part of the Siege of Vicksburg. Funny how all these small southern towns adopt slogans uttered by Union soldiers; the fort on Dauphin Island is forever reminding visitors that the Battle of Mobile Bay was where Admiral Faragut said the famous words “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”.

Gemiluth Chassed Synagogue

Wintergreen Cemetery

Presbyterian steeple

hollow building

chimney & bird

old building

Westside Theater

And of course I couldn’t be that close to the Windsor Ruins without stopping by.

11/01/14

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Forgotten in a desk drawer film roll #2

This was shot during my Mississippi road trip last spring–and I’m going back at the end of the month, so that’s appropriate. I’m taking Halloween off, because I needed to schedule 7 days off during the last 3 months of the year, and all the good days around Christmas were taken but not Halloween and it’s a Friday. I’m really, really hoping I can get back to Rodney, which I had to skip last trip because it had rained so much–getting there entails driving a few miles on a completely unpaved road. (I’m also hoping Mom will let me borrow her truck.)

Most of the roll is of the Windsor Ruins; a lot of the shots are underexposed because of how overcast it was all weekend. Still, I kind of like that, because they look how it felt. It was very oppressive.

Double Eagle Coffee

Windsor Ruins

Windsor Ruins

Windsor Ruins

Water Wheel

Old Mill with Kudzu

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The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins, as I’m sure I explained last year, are all that’s left of one of the largest plantation houses in the state. It survived the Civil War but burned in 1890, supposedly when a guest left a cigar burning on a porch. Wow, that would be an awkward thank you card to write. “I had a lovely weekend. Sorry I burned your ancestral manse to the ground.”

I was here last year in March and it was still pretty wintry, so I wanted to come back later in the spring to take photos when the trees had leaves and things were in bloom. Not that I disliked the wintry look, it went very well with the subject matter, but I wanted to contrast. It didn’t really work out though, on account of it was so overcast that I wound up with yucky white skies. I tried using some effects on a few of the photos, just to make them a little less dull.

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

The Windsor Ruins

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Port Gibson, Mississippi: “Too beautiful to burn”

(Supposedly that’s what US Grant said about it.)

I wasn’t planning on visiting this town, but my GPS took me through it when it was navigating back towards Natchez from the more untamed parts of Claiborne County. It looked pretty interesting, but I was starting to get hungry and it was an hour back to Natchez (and I really wanted to eat lunch at Fat Mama’s Tamales.) I’ll have to try to get back next time I’m in Mississippi, Church Street alone would make it worth the diversion. There are 7 churches on the street and some of them are pretty weird. One of them—the Presbyterian church, I think—has a giant gilded hand atop the steeple, index finger pointing into the sky. And the oldest synagogue in the state is also in Port Gibson; although it no longer has an active congregation, a non-Jewish couple bought the building, which is in a Moorish Revival style, to ensure its preservation.

Claiborne County Courthouse, Port Gibson, Mississippi

Photographing a white building against a sky so overcast that it is also white presents something of a challenge.

Claiborne County Courthouse, Port Gibson, Mississippi

CSA Monument, Port Gibson, MS

I wasn’t exaggerating the town’s demographics, by the way: it is literally 80% African-American, out of a population of about 1,500. And they have to look at this CSA monument every time they drive or walk down the main drag. However, I thought it was interesting that the soldier looks so young. Like, maybe it’s really a monument to all the boys they made fight that stupid war. Especially towards the end, when they were running out of able-bodied males.

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Grand Gulf Military State Park, Claiborne County, Mississippi

I found this park when I was researching ghost towns in Claiborne County. There are a lot of them in western Mississippi, where the river remained the only reason to found a lot of towns well into the 20th century. But the Mississippi is an old river and it wanders, so a lot of them eventually wound up miles away from the only reason they existed. Add to that the cream of the male population getting wiped out in the Civil War, boll weevil infestations that destroyed cotton crops, the Great Depression, and the general urge of young people to just go “fuck this small town shit”, and there are a lot of emptied-out towns littering the banks of the Mississippi. A lot of them just have 1 or 2 buildings left; Trish and I went to one last year that’s still pretty intact, Rodney. I wanted to go back there, but the last few miles are over dirt roads that lead down the old river bluff, and with all the rain in the preceding week I thought it was wiser not to attempt it.

Grand Gulf used to be an actual town and is now a park, the buildings are a mix of original buildings and reproductions. It’s a large park, but the roads get pretty sketchy the further you wander from the main area, so I didn’t try to go too far.

Confederate Chapel

This building actually used to be in Rodney, it was Sacred Heart Catholic Church. The park installed it in the 1980s as the “Confederate Chapel”. A plaque on the outside says it’s dedicated to “men who died for a cause”. A REALLY BAD ONE.

Dog Trot House

Confederate Cemetery

Water Wheel

Water Wheel

Old Church, Grand Gulf, Mississippi

This is one of two original, unrestored buildings that I came across, I’m assuming it was a church.

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Mississippi is weird. And coming from a resident of Louisiana, that means something.

I spent the weekend in Natchez, a town I had lunch in/drove through last year on my way to elsewhere in Mississippi and have been meaning to get back to. It was sort of a last hurrah of the season for my photography meetup group, because starting the last Saturday in June until the last one in either August or September, it’s going to be too hot for outdoor shooting. I don’t suspend the group or anything, we do indoor shoots, but somehow they never seem as interesting. It was pretty heavily overcast all weekend, which is annoying because it makes for blank, boring white skies in photographs. But it only actually rained for about a ½ hour on Saturday. I’m trying to get the 125 digital photos I took uploaded to Flickr and edited, but of course the HORRIBLE editing software Yahoo forced on us when they bought Flickr is making that slow going. I’ve allowed my paid account to lapse and told them I won’t be giving them any more money until they fix that fucking program. I shot film too, but those might suck because I stupidly loaded the camera with Ektar, which is a slow speed film. Lots of the shots are probably going to be underexposed. HI, I AM A PERFESSIONAL PHOTO-TAKING PERSON! (I am though, I sold two more prints last night.)

Anyway, I got up about 6:30 on Saturday morning (whyyyyy) and drove up. It’s not as long of a drive as I remember, just under 3 hours, which is only a little longer than it takes to drive to New Orleans. I think it seems longer in my memory because I drove up and back the same day, so it was hours in the car. Hope (who spent Friday night at a B&B in town) and I had lunch at Mammy’s Cupboard, which is in the least politically correct building ever erected (seriously, Google it) but which has great pie. I will put up with a lot for good pie.

The first place we went was to the City Cemetery, which is acres and acres of graves. They have 2 separate Jewish sections in it; there’s also a Jewish temple in Natchez, Temple B’Nai Israel. It hasn’t had an active congregation in years, though. Lots of small-ish towns and cities throughout Mississippi had Jewish communities until the mid-20th century, but after WWII most of the younger people all moved to larger urban centers like Atlanta or Houston (or left the south altogether).

At that point it was looking pretty definitely like rain, and I remembered a co-worker had told me about an interesting plantation in Natchez called Longwood that was never finished. I prefer plantations that have something different going on, otherwise it’s just an endless series of grandiose white Greek Revival mansions. That’s one reason why Laura in Vacherie is my favorite, because that’s a real Creole plantation home—the du Parc family never “Anglicized”. The largest octagonal residence in America and halfway built at that sounded promising. It looks finished from the outside, and the basement level WAS finished, but then the Civil War started and the workers, who were from Philadelphia, didn’t want to get stuck in a blockade, so they all left. Interestingly, the owner of the house voted against secession, as did all of Adams County, MS. He made a deal with the Union Army that he would treat their soldiers (he was a licensed physician), if in return they would leave his property and his cotton crop alone. So instead the Confederate Army burned his cotton crop, which was worth something like $2 million dollars—in 1860s money, not 2010s money. So they could never afford to finish the house, but 3 generations went right on living in the basement. Which is nicer than it sounds, it was broken up into rooms and had wooden floors and brick/plaster walls; plus the top third of the level was aboveground so it’s not like they never got sunlight. The top floors are still full of things like finial molds and the tubs they mixed the mortar in.

Hope had to go back to Baton Rouge after that because she had a birthday party to go to on Saturday night, so I stayed on by my merry self. I wandered around the historic section and photographed some buildings, walked along the top of the river bluff, went into a few antique stores, got a lime snoball. (St. Mary Basilica has signs above all the candle stands informing people that security cameras are in use. So basically they are telling everyone who comes in “We assume you are a petty thief and we’re watching you”. How Christian!)

By then it was about 5:00, so I checked into my hotel, took a cool shower—it actually wasn’t that hot during the weekend, but it was VERY humid—rested for about an hour, then went down the street to the Pig Out Inn for BBQ. Right away I knew it was a quality joint, because they give you your own plastic squeeze bottle of warm BBQ sauce, which is how it should be done. They only serve pork BBQ, hence the name, and I got the sausage links. You can have your ribs and your pulled pork and whatnot, sausage links are my favorite meat to drown in BBQ sauce. It’s funny, I have roots all over the south—Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia—and yet the best BBQ I’ve ever eaten is the BBQ I grew up eating in California, Flint’s BBQ in Oakland. This wasn’t quite as good—their sauce wasn’t as hot or as dark and thick, more vinegar and less molasses—but it was a close second. They even had slices of white bread and mini sweet potato pies like Flint’s did.

I stopped off at Fat Mama’s Tamales for a “Knock You Naked” margarita. I managed to keep my clothes on, and fell asleep in my hotel room watching episodes of this really hilarious CNBC show called American Greed, in which Stacey Keach narrates tales of guys that look like John Goodman who marry 20-year-old strippers with giant fake bazombas and start ridiculous Ponzi schemes to keep them from bouncing to the next sugar daddy.

Saturday I got up around 8:00, ate my complimentary breakfast and checked out, gassed up the car, and drove north to Claiborne County. I wanted to see the Windsor Ruins again, and since I couldn’t get back to Rodney—the last few miles are over dirt roads, which after all the rain earlier in the week were probably mud—I decided to go to Grand Gulf Military State Park. Most of the buildings there are reproductions of the Civil War era buildings, but a few of them are leftovers from when Grand Gulf was an actual ghost town. And the Confederate Chapel used to be in Rodney, it was the Catholic church. There are a lot of ghost towns like Rodney and Grand Gulf in western Mississippi, because small towns would form along the river in the 18th and 19th centuries, which would eventually wander away, leaving the town miles away from the thing that was its only reason to exist. That happened in Louisiana too, but for some reason the residents stayed put more often than not. I don’t know if that’s because Louisianans are more stubborn or less sensible than Mississippians. Possibly both.

I also saw a lot of weird shit entirely without looking for it, most of it involving old buildings getting devoured by kudzu. Kudzu in Mississippi is something else, man. I mean we have it in Louisiana, but the kudzu in Mississippi must be on steroids or something. And on the way home my GPS took me through Port Gibson, which I really wish I’d had more time to see. I’ll have to go back next time I’m in the state, the only things I had time to photograph was the courthouse and the CSA monument. That town is like 80% African-American, by the way. I guess black people in the Deep South are just resigned to a certain regrettable nostalgia from some white people, otherwise they would go out there with ropes some night and pull the damn things down. Too, most of those monuments were erected soon after Reconstruction ended, so they’ve been there longer than anyone, white or black, currently living in those towns have been alive.

Then I drove back to Natchez, had tamales at Fat Mama’s, and headed home. I’m already planning my next trip. I really, really want to go back to Rodney, I know there’s stuff—including the cemetery—that Trish and I didn’t have time to see last year. Fall is usually the driest season in these parts, and I’d already asked for Halloween, which is a Friday, off. I could drive up early Friday and spend Saturday night in Natchez. Halloween in a ghost town? Who’s with me?!

Lomographers of Acadiana: Mini Mississippi Road Trip

These are just a few digital shots; I also shot most of a roll of Fuji Neopan, Kodak Ektar, and medium format Velvia, but I didn’t finish any of the rolls. Hopefully I can do that this weekend and send them off to Dwayne’s on Monday.

Oh, and I shot a pack of Silver Shade in my SX-70 that looks GORGEOUS. I complain about The Impossible Project–although they’ve made some improvements to the Color Shade, it still has exposure problems and needs a half hour to develop. Although I appreciate that they are working on improving it, rather than just resting on their laurels because enough hipsters were willing to shell out money for the original sub-par film. Apparently they were scanning it and making corrections with PhotoChop, which, what? Do you not understand what INSTANT film is supposed to be?? But the Silver Shade I have no problems with, I love every photo I’ve ever taken with it. My oldest ones are about 18 months old now, and I haven’t noticed any fading, discoloration, or crystallization.

Yesterday my friend Trish and I roadtripped into the Natchez area of western Mississippi; Trish is self-employed as a massage therapist and has to work most Saturdays, so she doesn’t come to many of the regular meetups. I wish we saw each other more often, because she’s probably the only other childfree atheist in Louisiana.


PICT0654, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

We had lunch at Mammy’s Cupboard just outside of Natchez, on US 61. This… is not progressive, I admit it. But they have really good pie, so I made myself enjoy it as kitsch.

Our first stop was the “ghost” town of Rodney in Jefferson County, although there are still a few people living there, and we actually saw a UPS truck deliver a package, which kind of blew my mind. To get there you have to drive through the campus of Alcorn State University (the first land grant college in the US, built during Reconstruction to educate freed former slaves, which makes it an interesting place in its own right), then take this narrow unpaved road that’s kind of tacked onto the end of a parking lot. You go down for a couple of miles–and I mean DOWN, like the road was blasted through low hills. It’s really weird. Then turn right, go a couple more miles, and suddenly you come out into the town.

I didn’t take many digital photos here, just a few pictures of the 2 churches.


PICT0655, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

The inside of this church is pretty much gutted; the pews are still in there but they’re all knocked onto their sides, and the walls have been stripped down to the lathing. And I wouldn’t recommend going inside during summer, because I saw like a hundred wasp’s nests stuck to the rafters.


PICT0657, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This Presbyterian church is on the National Register of Historic Places and there’s been a little restoration on the inside.


PICT0656, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

It was fired on by a Federal gunboat during the Civil War and there’s still a cannonball sticking out of the front. The story is that some Federal soldiers tried to attend services (the preacher was said to be a Union sympathizer), Confederate soldiers arrested them, and the USS Rattler started blasting away.

Then we went to the Windsor Ruins, which are only about 15 minutes away. They’re the remains of the largest antebellum Greek Revival plantation in the state. The plantation grew cotton and was so large that part of it was in Louisiana. It survived the war, only to burn down in 1890. The only thing left is the columns, plastered brick with metal finials and a few scraps of wrought iron balcony railing connecting some of them. It was wonderfully eerie to come upon them suddenly, standing all alone, propping up thin air.


PICT0661, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0662, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0660, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

PICT0668, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Here’s a couple of the Silver Shade Polaroids.

It was a lot of hours in the car yesterday–3.5 hours to get to Natchez and almost another hour to Rodney (although Trish did all the driving and we left my car at the restaurant)–but so worth it. And Natchez itself looked really interesting, I plan on going back there some day.

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