Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Abandonment: Cal City House - California City, California

Abandoned In California - California City, California
I got a new camera. I'm replacing my Nikon D3300 DSLR with a Sony RX100 II. It's smaller and lighter and has similar image quality. I'll get into all of that, plus have a full review, in the coming weeks. 

One of the very first things that I did with the Sony RX100 II camera is visit an abandoned house. I've known about this place for awhile, but never had the opportunity (or made it a priority) to visit. The new camera was an excellent excuse.

The house sits on the outskirts of California City in the middle of the Mojave Desert, right off of California Highway 14. Actually, there are four abandoned structures. Cars and trucks zoom by every day and probably don't even notice the place.
Rusty Door Catch - California City, California
The main house, which isn't all that old, is a three bedroom and one bath place. It was probably built in the 1960's (it actually might not even be that old) with stucco and a spanish-tile-roof. It looks like the house was in the middle of a remodel when it was abandoned.

There's a small structure near the house that was a bathroom. There was a toilet and shower in there. I'm not sure why they had a separate bathroom from the main house--it seems quite unusual.

A large garage and workshop are also on the property. This may have been the owner's work--he may have been a mechanic. It looks more like a professional workspace than a living or hobby space.
Shower Shelf - California City, California
The final structure was a small one-room place that might have been a storage shed. There's some evidence that it might have been lived in at some point (maybe used as a small guest house), but it doesn't have any plumbing. This building looks like the oldest of the four.

They left some things behind (although not a lot) that provide clues to what this place was like before abandonment. I don't think it's been abandoned all that long--perhaps 10 years--but it seems like nobody has lived in the place for a long time. It was being restored prior to abandonment.

The Sony RX100 II did a good job. These were some of the very first images captured with the camera (Fireplace Arch was exposure #8), so I was still figuring things out, both with the camera and with post-processing. It was good to use the camera in-the-field and, overall, it worked pretty well. It was a good experience.
Disowned In The Desert - California City, California
Fireplace Arch - California City, California
Sinister Smile - California City, California
Diamond Sneaker - California City, California
Happiness Is Marrying Your Best Friend - California City, California
No Preservatives - California City, California
An Old Knob - California City, California
Crooked Window Joshua Tree - California City, California

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why It's Been Quiet

On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
If you've been following this blog, you might be wondering why it has been so quiet lately. At the beginning of this year I was publishing 4-5 articles each week. That's diminished to 1-2 per week.

One reason is that I just don't have the time. Besides a full-time (non-photography) job, I have a busy family (including three young kids) and balancing that with photography means something's gotta give, and lately that has been this blog.

I also have my original photography blog, and I've concentrated more on that lately. My photography has focused more on landscapes over the last six months or so--mostly because I've done more traveling this year than years past. Because of that, my images are a better fit for that blog than this one.

In addition to that I'm moving to Utah next year, and that creates all sorts of time-consuming issues. Getting everything in order can be a pain.

All of this is to say that this blog will probably be quiet for awhile, with only a handful of posts each month. Eventually it will return to its previous form, but it will take some time. Thank you for coming by and visiting during this slow period. I appreciate your patience.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Book: Lost America - The Abandoned Roadside West by Troy Paiva

Restaurant Cafe - Tehachapi, California
When I was a kid my grandparents took me on a short road trip to Tehachapi, California. One thing that I remember is eating at this restaurant that my grandpa recalled was one of his favorites from his truck driving days. Several decades later I find myself living in Tehachapi and grabbing breakfast or lunch at this same spot.

Last Sunday my family and I visited that restaurant, Kelcy's Cafe, for lunch. They have some great fried chicken and their biscuits and gravy are hard to beat. It's a good place, but you have to know what to order. My kids love it because you can see the train tracks from the booth next to the front door.

My 19-month-old son was having a hard time sitting still while waiting for our food to come so my wife took him and my six-year-old son next door to the model train store to keep them occupied, while I stayed in the restaurant with my seven-year-old daughter.

When they returned my wife told me that there's a Lionel train that I need to go see--it has a sound system that even includes train dispatcher radio calls. Something that you probably don't know about me is that I was once a train dispatcher for the Union Pacific Railroad. She thought it might be nice running around our Christmas Tree this year.

After lunch I headed next door to the model train store to check out the Lionel train set. While I was there I looked through their small book section, and I found something really cool. Sitting among publications dedicated to all things railroad was Lost America - The Abandoned Roadside West by Troy Paiva. It was such an odd place to find the book, so I knew I had to grab it. Interestingly enough, the train store owner didn't remember even ordering the book!
Lost America & Coffee
I was already familiar with Troy's great work. I follow him on Flickr (he follows me, as well). I've had short conversations with him via the web. He's got a nice website. If you're a urban explorer in the southwestern United States you've likely already heard of Troy Paiva.

Sometimes I have trouble finding the courage to go inside abandoned buildings. They're creepy and dangerous. Troy goes to the next level and photographs these places at night. He "light paints" abandoned things (buildings, cars, refrigerators, airplanes--most anything sitting out alone in the desert) using long exposures after the sun has gone down. Talk about guts! And his images are spectacular and ethereal.

Troy's photographs in the Lost America book are vibrant and interesting. They're accompanied by interesting stories and introspective words. It's one of those books that you want to take your time with, ensuring that you've experienced it fully. This book should be on every urban explorer's coffee table. To say that it's impressive is an understatement!

Lost America can be purchased on Amazon. You may be able to find it at your local bookstore. Troy has also authored two other books that I'll have to purchase soon. Be sure to check them out!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Photograph Every Day

Do Not Disturb - Mojave, California
I recently watched a documentary called Monk With A Camera. It's about Nicholas Vreeland, who had it all and gave it away to become a Buddhist monk in Tibet. He also gave up a promising photography career, but continued to photograph non-professionally even as a monk.

The documentary was alright. Not the best or worst film I've seen. However, something in it stood out, and I thought it was a good takeaway: you should photograph every day.

I wish I had written down the exact quote (so forgive me for paraphrasing), but Nicholas Vreeland said something to the effect of, "Photography is like playing piano--you have to practice your scales every day."
Keep Out The Sun - Tehachapi, California
Each day you need to get out with your camera if you want to improve your skills. You have to practice your metaphoric scales. You must use your gear constantly. You've got to practice, practice, practice!

If you are not improving you are regressing. If you are not regularly actively using your gear then your photography skills are receding. You are either moving forwards or backwards.

It's easy to make excuses. It's easy to let life get in the way. But you can't let obstacles get in your way. Vreeland didn't let them get in his way. You've got to move past the obstacles. You've got to set aside time every day to photograph.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Top 10 Favorite Photographs of Abandoned Military Bases

I've actually only explored and photographed two abandoned military bases: George Air Force Base (which is only partially abandoned) and Boron Air Force Station. They both rank high on my favorite places explored list. These are incredibly fascinating places! I've been to each of them twice.

I've captured many great images at George Air Force Base and Boron Air Force Station. Below you'll find my top 10 favorite photographs from these locations, in no particular order. A whole bunch of different cameras were used, including a Nikon D3300 and Sigma DP2 Merrill, but your gear doesn't matter, vision does.
The Old Boron Housing - Boron, California
Window Shadow - Victorville, California
Razor Fence - Boron, California
The Turned Table - Boron, California
Cinder Blocks - Victorville, California
Old Yield Sign - Boron, California
Old Life, New Life - Victorville, California
Old Dormitories - Boron, California
Oh, Well - Boron, California
Sunset Through The Broken Glass - Victorville, California