Ghost town on Halloween

So as previously mentioned, I took Halloween off because I had some PTO I needed to use up by the end of 2014, it was a Friday, and no one else in my department had taken it. I like Halloween but normally don’t do anything with it other than watch a scary movie and eat candy, but I decided this Halloween was the perfect time to re-visit the ghost town of Rodney, Mississippi. I went there about a year and a half ago with my friend Trish, but we didn’t have much time because we’d met for lunch, wanted to shoot the Windsor Ruins after Rodney, and were going home the same day. So I’ve always meant to go back, and this trip I didn’t schedule anything else that day and got a hotel room in Natchez, so if could get there around noon I’d have 3 or 4 hours. And I brought lunch with me, too.

Rodney was quite an important town for most of the 19th century and was just a few votes shy of being the capital of Mississippi Territory. Quite a lot of important people in the Natchez area were originally from Rodney, including the Nutt family, one of the sons of whom built Longwood, the famous unfinished plantation in Natchez that I toured earlier this year on a previous visit. But after the Civil War the river changed course, then there was a cotton weevil blight during the 1930s, and it was pretty empty by the end of WWII. There are still a handful of people living there today, a few new-ish houses surrounded by a town of decayed old buildings. I live in a pretty rural area and understand the appeal of peace and quiet, but this is like a whole other level. None of the roads leading into/out of the town are paved, and it’s miles from anything. Just to get a tank of gas or a carton of milk would take more than an hour.

Trish and I managed to find it last year, but I always felt like that was luck more than skill and I didn’t want to leave anything up to chance this time. The Presbyterian church is on the National Register of Historic Places in Jefferson County, MS on account of it was fired on by a Union gunboat during the war–there’s an old cannonball embedded in the front. I was able to find the GPS coordinates for it and plugged them into my Garmin. It took a more circuitous route than I remembered, I think because it was sticking to mapped/named roads–I remember looking at Trish’s Garmin (we have the same model) last time and seeing the car just kind of floating in the middle of a blank whiteness, which was a little eerie. Anyway, it got me there in the end. It looked more overgrown than I remembered, but maybe that’s just because it was the first week of March when we went last year and still pretty wintery.

Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Presbyterian Church

Presbyterian Church

house parts

second floor

I shot some film too, but I haven’t gotten it back yet.

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photo book: “abandoned”

I got another coupon from Adorama a couple weeks ago, $3 (plus $7 shipping) for a 14-page, 8×8″ photo book. Normally the price is $28 plus shipping, and I’ve been wanting to put something together from the abandoned photo series I’ve been working on. It arrived while I was in California, and I’m really pleased with how it came out.

Front cover.

abandoned cover

That stripe in the background could have been virtually any color, but I chose to use gray on all the pages so as not to distract.

abandoned laurel valley

The only thing I didn’t like about the layout that I picked (there’s a fairly wide variety) is that not every page had a text box, so I couldn’t label all the places I shot.

abandoned windsor ruins

abandoned st marys

abandoned holy rosary

This is the centerfold.

abandoned trailer park

abandoned labeau

abandoned rodney

Back cover.

abandoned back cover

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Yashica MG-1: Fuji Neopan

I’ve been re-discovering my love of black & white over the past year. Like most people who learned photography pre-digital, I was taught on black & white and didn’t start shooting color until I was in my mid-20s. Fuji Neopan is my favorite 35mm black & white; I also really like Lomography’s black & white 110 film, Orca.

Some of these were taken in Mississippi at Rodney and the Windsor Ruins, and I finished the roll at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette.


003, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

010, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

002, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

LOL WUT


018, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

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015, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

021, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

032, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

035, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

029, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

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mini Mississippi road trip: Kodak Ektar in the LC-A+


690526-R1-35-00A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Baptist Church in Rodney.


690526-R1-29-5A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Inside the church.


690526-R1-20-15A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Methodist church in Rodney. If you look to the left of the wrought iron tip, you can make out the cannon ball embedded in the wall.


690526-R1-16-19A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Inside the Methodist church.


690526-R1-09-26A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

The Windsor Ruins.


690526-R1-11-24A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

Bases of pillars at the Ruins.

I’d like to go back to the Windsor Ruins in high spring, like maybe a couple of months from now, when all those trees are blooming.

I didn’t finish the roll in Mississippi, so a few days ago I went to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette. Of all the churches I’ve seen in Louisiana, that’s still my favorite, even more than St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. I haven’t been there since before I moved to Louisiana, and I’ve only ever taken digital shots with it, not film.


690526-R1-00-36A, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

This is a photo I took to compare and contrast with one of my favorite digital shots I’ve ever taken. The most obvious difference is depth of field, with film I couldn’t get both the angel and the church in focus, and I chose the angel.

The digital photo is visually cleaner, I cropped it extensively–something I’m reluctant to do with film, unless it just really needs it, like if someone’s arm is sticking into the photo or something–and I also crouched down so the granite surface of the tomb was level with the horizon of the photo. You don’t see any of the cemetery behind the angel, just the church.

And yet I’m hard-pressed to say which photo I like better. The digital shot is probably “better”; but the film shot has a certain texture that’s more pleasing to me, a contrast and a sense of what that particular moment in time was actually like. It’s not as “pretty” but it seems more “real”.

I guess which photograph you like more depends on what you, the viewer, are looking to get out of it.

In other photography news, I’ve discovered a couple of Etsy shops that specialize in vintage Soviet goods, and soon I will be the proud owner of a (film-tested) Smena 8M, manufactured by the LOMO factory in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg again) around the time that I was begging my parents to be allowed to stay up late enough to watch this edgy new cop show called Miami Vice. The Smena is a weird mix of cheap plastic housing, confusing manual controls, and a surprisingly good quality leaf shutter (like my beloved Arguses) and triple-element coated lens. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

The lens cap has a hammer & sickle bas-relief! It’s weird to feel nostalgic over something that you spent your childhood fearing, but I guess the key word is “childhood”. Besides, I was never one of those Gen X kids who worried about nuclear war. I always figured I’d die instantly, living so close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, so what’s the point? I had more important things on my mind, like mastering Ms. Pac-Man and finding just the right shade of florescent blue jelly shoes.

They also have Leicas that were released in honor of Lenin’s 90th birthday that look BAD ASS, but those are currently a wee bit out of my range. I’m keeping them bookmarked, though.

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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.

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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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