Haunting

November 26, 2019

 

BW photograph of the greenhouses and main building of an abandoned nursery.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

There is a haunting quality that accompanies abandoned buildings.

BW photograph of the main building of an abandoned nursery.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Part of that comes from the physical aging of the structures.  Wood dries out, bakes in the sun, and turns grey.

BW photograph of the greenhouses, which are part of an abandoned nursery.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Translucent materials become fogged and weathered.  Doors flap and creak in the wind.

BW photograph of the main building of an abandoned nursery.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Mostly though, that feeling comes from the loss of purpose and energy provided by a living presence.  In this case, one can easily imagine the rows of flowers or herbs or vegetables that once could have been grown and sold here.  The interaction of customers and the vendor(s) as goods were exchanged for payment.  The pleasure derived from fresh produce.

The flip side of that, though, is the struggle to make a small business work in an era of industrial farming, long-distance trucking, and chain stores.  (This is, of course, speculation as I do not know the reason for the ending of this establishment.)  Owners tire, become physically or financially unable to continue, or develop other interests, other needs.

Imagining what once was is part of the draw to creating images of that left behind.

Take care.

 

Stillness

September 14, 2019

BW photograph of a wooden bench with fall debris underneath.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was a damp, cool, day-one that was good for a walk.  While doing so, I came upon this bench, which seemed to beckon for a moment or two of stilled contemplation.  However, once the photograph was made, I continued on.  The thought, though, of sitting and letting the rest of the morning’s traffic pass by lingered.

Take care.

Choices

August 25, 2019

BW photograph of Devil's Den on a clear morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The other night’s thunderstorm cleared the humidity and knocked down the temperatures-nice conditions to be outside.  The above photograph is of Devil’s Den, which is on the Gettysburg battlefield.  This was the composition I had in mind on the drive there-the rock formations appear as giant stepping stones leading from the lower left to the upper right, which pulls the eye across the frame.  The lichen on the rocks contrasts nicely with the middle tones of the rock and the darkness of the sky (which was created by using the red filter in the Acros film simulation and a polarizer), and serve as a leading line that also crosses the frame.  The morning sun was high enough to showcase the textures, but not direct enough to wash them away.  Absolutely perfect conditions for this photo-that is one reason to pay attention to weather forecasts and climatic conditions.  This scene would look very different with a uniformly overcast, grayish, sky.  Most importantly, it would not have yielded the desired image.

BW photograph looking down a bridge span on a foggy morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Aside from the obvious difference in subject matter in these two photos, the ambient conditions are also quite different.  This photograph was made the morning after the one above, and was created prior to the sun clearing the trees.  It was cool and foggy, so the light was quite soft-the relative absence of clearly defined shadows is indicative of this, as is the whitish sky in the distance.  The converging lines are what pulls the eye through this photo and conveys a sense of distance.  This is a fairly pedestrian (meaning that this is a common angle) image, but one that I like nonetheless.

BW photograph of a section of bridge highlighting the rivet work.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A detail image of the same bridge highlighting the rail and diagonal span.  In one sense, the diagonal movement is the opposite of that of the eye when reading English-that is, it leads the eye from the right to the left and so introduces just a bit of tension to the image.  It is also possible, though, to view that same line as moving on a downward diagonal from the left to the right-this restores a sense of balance.  It is important to note that some cultures read right to left, which reverses the points being made here.  Adding in the flat railing introduces another dimension.  When making the photograph, I saw the flat railing as leading the eye from left to right (that “reading” point again) across the bottom of the frame, with the span then making a sharp upward movement back to the left and out of the frame.  This, too, can be reversed.  The downward diagonal to the right, then flat across the frame to the left.  In any case, the vertical tension wires close the frame at the left, essentially creating a triangle.  A third option is to view both the diagonal and the horizontal as meeting at a point to the lower right.  It can be interesting to pay attention to the initial response created by the mind’s eye when viewing a photograph.  Should the image lend itself, it is worth forcing the brain to take a different look.  From a compositional standpoint, the photographer does well to consider the manner by which to engage the viewer-is there to be a focus (literally and figuratively) on one point in a photograph, or is the viewer encouraged to roam through the entirety of the scene?  Both have their applications-the photographer has to decide.

Finally, there are no people in these photographs.  That, too, was by design.  In fact, I had to wait in the making of the lead photo for some visitors to clear the area.  Frequent readers (thank you very much!) will have taken notice that the images presented are most often characterized by that lack of personage.  This is one reason for arising early and getting to where I want to go-folks tend to sleep later.  I like the emotional impact of that absence-it can be possible to interject feelings as disparate as loneliness or solitude depending on the current disposition of the viewer.  Again, what is included or excluded is up to the photographer.

Choices must be made.  This is part of what separates photographs from snapshots-not that there is anything wrong with the latter.

Take care.

Stormy Weather

May 28, 2019

BW photograph of a hat outside of a destroyed house in New Orleans post Katrina.

Copyright 2008 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

With all due respect to the song by the same title, this post is about weather.  The lyrics of the song, though, are entirely appropriate as they reflect the bone-weariness of loss.  Rain is often a metaphor for feelings of sadness, depression, and grief-climate change induced weather patterns featuring inundations of water and scouring winds leave such emotions in their wake.

We are on the cusp of the 2019 hurricane season, which begins June 1, and the National Hurricane Center has posted its prediction.  Come December 2019, we will be able to assess its accuracy.  In between now and then, many will have to deal with the reality, not the prediction.

Meanwhile, with the official start of the hurricane season just a bit ahead of us, the Midwest has already been hammered by significantly violent tornadoes .  A couple of days ago, El Reno, OK was hit again.  Significantly, that area is also dealing with flooding from excessive rainfall that has caused waterways to exceed their banks. (As I am writing this, a weather update on the radio just advised that the Washington D.C. area could have thunderstorms accompanied by wind gusts of “up to 22 mph” this afternoon.  That hardly seems worth mentioning in this context.)

Given that climate change is one of the central themes of this blog, my teaching, and certainly my personal reading, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the severity and scope of the problem.  After having read David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, I realized that I did not.  Truthfully, that statement may not be entirely accurate, but the reports and statistics presented in the pages that follow certainly support the book’s opening sentence:  “It is worse, much worse, than you think” (pg. 3).  Indeed.  As the Guardian review linked above reports, and the book itself clearly documents, it is the speed by which the environment has been altered that is most shocking.  And it is not nearly finished as CO2 and methane emissions continue to rise, not fall.

If there is an upside to this, it is that, as Wallace-Wells describes, the human race has the ability to make in-roads so as to minimize the more extreme of the outcomes of our behaviour.  Having said that, he also very clearly states that millions around the world, including in the U.S., are already dealing with the catastrophes that accompany the rise in the planet’s temperature.  Those in the Midwest mentioned above, for example, have had yet another look into the maw.

Take care.

Photographer’s Note:  The above photograph was made outside of a destroyed house in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans.

Comfort

May 5, 2019

BW photograph looking up at a streetlamp in Baltimore, MD.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Comfort takes many forms.

Yesterday was a damp, chilly morning.  Rain was in the forecast, but had not as yet arrived.  As such, it was a good day to get up early and take a walk around the Charles Village part of Baltimore, MD.  As is the norm, my eyes ranged from the ground to the sky.  The streetlights near Johns Hopkins contain scrolling reminiscent of those seen in Detroit.

BW photograph of chairs with blankets outside of a coffee shop on a chilly morning.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I think I mentioned it was a bit chilly.  Hot coffee is one of the best companions on such walkabouts.  This particular shop, Karma’s Cafe, provided an additional courtesy for those who wanted to sit outside for a bit.

The rains came later and hard…

Take care.

Transition

April 17, 2019

BW photograph of a burger restaurant transitioning to the Veggie Grill.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The results are clear:  transitioning from a meat/dairy-based diet is not only good for the individual, but for the planet as a whole.  Methane is a major issue-and there are many cows out there.

BW photograph of the upcoming Veggie Grill from across the street.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Please do read the articles linked above as they contain much useful information about the interaction between human behaviour and methane levels.  It is important to note that, as the second article points out, methane is also a by-product of decaying vegetation; however, by far the majority of methane released into the atmo is due to human activity-not natural biological processes.  While methane can be stored in the earth’s permafrost, a problematic feedback loop has been created:  human activity (a meat/dairy-based diet in this case) has increased the amount of methane (and other greenhouse gases) released, resulting in the rise of global temperatures.  As the planet warms, the permafrost melts, which then releases more of the stored methane.  That, in turn, exacerbates climate change.

Just as there is a clear and present need to transition to renewable energy resources, so, too, is there a need to transition to less-impactful eating habits.  Carnivores, though, do like eating meat. (Truth in disclosure:  I have been a vegetarian for decades now-the original decision was based on the manner by which the industrial beef/poultry/pork conglomerates raised and produced their products.  For me, the info about the impact on climate change came later and just reinforced the decision.  Still, the smell of bacon remains a trigger…)  Given that we do live in a bio-genetic age, this is one solution to the dilemma for one who likes the taste of beef but is concerned about the environmental impact.  This article reports on a variety of responses to that product.

There is a much older, less biotech solution as well:  eating insects.

The idea of eating lab-created meat or insects may well trigger other reactions.  Indeed, socialization and social learning theory form the basis for what is culturally acceptable to consume.  Given widespread availability (this will be an issue for those living in food deserts) and enough time, such alternatives may well become norms.  For example, when visiting a grocery store, check and see how many soy-based “meat” products there are…these have been mainstream for quite a while.

Take care.

Relationship

March 28, 2019

BW photograph of the sunrise on the solstice.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

“Air Force Needs Almost $5 Billion To Recover Bases from Hurricane, Flood Damage”

“40 Years After A Partial Nuclear Meltdown, A New Push To Keep Three Mile Island Open” 

There is a direct relationship between these two reports.  The economic consequences of climate change-charged storms continue to rise.  Sea-level rise is a clear and present danger to coastal populations and infrastructure. (It is not just the Air Force needing to adapt to the effects of climate change-the Navy has issues, too.)  Expanding the use of renewable energy and non-fossil fuel options is seen as one of the main means by which to adapt to a volatile environment.  As such, attention has re-focused on nuclear energy-hence the report about keeping Three Mile Island in operation.

Interestingly, I was on my way back to college when the accident at Three Mile Island occurred.  I distinctly remember looking across and wondering why the highway lanes heading in the opposite direction were so unusually crowded-I was remarkably unaware of the problem.  As per the NPR report above, about 80,000 people evacuated in the days following the incident-some of whom did not return.  The fear of contamination drove people away from the immediate area.   It was also a point of alarm regarding the dangers of this form of energy production.

As per the report, Three Mile Island had its partial meltdown on March 28, 1979.  A few years later (April 26, 1986), the Chernobyl reactor exploded.  Later still (March 11, 2011), the Fukushima reactor had a meltdown following a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.  Those two links present information about the damage to the reactors as well as the current status of those geographic areas.  These incidents further exacerbated pre-existing concerns over the reliance on nuclear energy as a primary source of power-a history of which is presented by the Clean Energy Wire.  Countries around the world abandoned nuclear energy as a viable resource.

Climate change has necessitated a new look at the cost/benefit ratio provided by nuclear resources.  Would that be the case if more had been done with wind and solar energy in the years past instead of continuing drill and refine and burn?

BW photograph looking west down Thames Street before sunrise.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

What if we in the developed world had placed greater emphasis on reducing our power consumptions and throw-away lifestyles?

BW photograph of a plastic water bottle laying amid some plants along a hiking trail.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

What if we had done both?

Of course, it is less than useful to have a one way view looking back because doing so does not change the present.  However, examining the past does explain how we came to be where we are, so there is value in analyzing previous mistakes so as to avoid them in the present and future.  While we must also be open to exploring alternatives, critical thinking with an eye toward the future in the evaluation of the possibilities is critical.  There are alternatives-nuclear energy is one, geoengineering approaches are being explored by others.

We are in a position where extraordinary amounts of money are required for mitigation and adaptation to the current problems related to climate change-these costs are going to increase.  As such, long-term solutions do need to be found.  They, too, will require investment.  We have lived our way into an incredibly complex problem, which will require multiple solutions.  We must evaluate these options with due diligence and choose wisely, which puts me in agreement with the conclusions drawn in the Vox article linked above.  Some mistakes are, after all, more consequential than others.

Take care.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography.  All rights reserved.