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.


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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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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?!

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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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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