The West is East of Here

 

Here are images from my recent trip east, where I roamed around the West.

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Confused? Well… Washington is geographically in the western United States, but only parts of the state look like our idea of the “West.”  The Cascade Mountain Range divides the state in two: western/coastal Washington and central/eastern Washington. The western side of the mountains, where I live, has a wet, temperate climate. Industry and technology drive the economy, especially in and around Seattle. On the eastern side the weather is much drier, the population more sparse, and agriculture takes precedence over technology or industry.  That’s where I expect to find remnants of America’s “Wild West”  – but I have to travel east to get there.

 

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The Govan Schoolhouse. Photo taken with a film camera and processed in Silver Efex.

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The shingles are loose, the floor is rotten, and birds scatter and cry foul if you get too close.

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The schoolhouse roof has seen better days.

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More old buildings in Govan that seem to embody a life of hard work and practical values.

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A deserted home welcomes plants more than people these days. Photo taken with a film camera, processed in Silver Efex.

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The town of Curlew still has a false-fronted saloon and a general store, but miners no longer come looking for moonshine.  Around the corner…

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An old Seagrave fire truck from about 1949 gathers dust and dirt. 

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The Curlew bridge. It hasn’t been altered since it was built in 1908, and still features a wooden roadbed. Center your wheels!

 

 

Sadly, Riverside’s Detro’s Western Store is going out of business after 71 years. Western boots are on sale, along with saddles, hats, and rodeo equipment.

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Down the street from Detro’s Western store, a weathered building has an aura of neglect.

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Another anonymous building in Riverside.

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The stretch of small town shadows and summer afternoons is mighty long.

 

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A bike in front of the store has been left out a little too long, but it sure adds to the charm.

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A cigar store  Indian stands guard at the grocery store in Riverside.

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A life-size, sculpted Indian on horseback gazes into the distance. He’s part of an extensive Wild West collection at the Black Bear Motel in Davenport.

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In Metaline Falls, architectural details recall a more prosperous past.

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There’s plenty of room to spread out, here among the rolling hills.

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It seems that everywhere I look, whether at an old storefront in town or a grassy field outside of town, colors are subtly weathered, from the harshness of the elements.

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An unidentified wildflower, past bloom but still beautiful, graces a vacant lot.

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A barbed wire fence, a bullet-ridden old can, and utter quiet in Lincoln County.

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This pretty Mariposa lily hosts an insect convention.

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One lone tree stands vigil amid grasses and wildflowers.

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Glacial erratics are scattered over the earth in Douglas County. A National Natural Landmark, the area was on the edge of an ice sheet several million years ago; these giants were left behind.

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The empty road reminds me of all the people who have come west, looking for freedom and a new life.

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Why do we take photographs when we travel? To remember. In the emotional rush that is the excitement of new places, there often isn’t much consideration given to the best angle, the best settings, or how to compose a picture that tells the story – we aren’t even sure what the story is sometimes. We just want to record, and sometimes that means less than optimal images. But each time we travel we get a little better at remembering to work the image, to make it more than a snapshot. There’s another factor that motivates me – I’m looking for patterns. Not just patterns within a particular frame, but patterns across time that are connections to other images from other places.

This post is presented as a visual narrative of a particular trip, but also carries forward ideas I have about beauty and loss, the intrigue of form and shadow, and maybe, an expression of the fullness of spirit that sometimes finds me, in the best moments of forgetting.

 

 

***

 


75 comments

  1. Love the title of this post and your capture of the shingles which in one shot evokes decay, loss, geometry, and that certain “Wild West” feeling you were searching for in Washington.

    • Thank you for these remarks – the title stems from the continuing disorientation of being a US East coast native, who always thought of the West as being west, which it was, until I mover even further west! 🙂 I’m pleased that the shingles image brings so much home for you, thanks again!

  2. This deserves the “Love” button, Lynn! Your eye for detail and visual storytelling is so exceptional. I loved every image, full of texture, shape, sometimes unexpected color. This series was beautiful and a bit melancholy- thank you for sharing these moments through your vision.

    • Your sensitive take on this is great to read, Lynn. There IS a bit of melancholy, and maybe on another trip, at another time, I’d have a different take. I’m so glad this post communicated that well.

  3. The first series of images takes me back to a time when my late husband restored an old one room school house in Fairfield, Utah that looked pretty much like the one you encountered. Thanks for some great nostalgic memories. Actually, all of your images brought back the flavor of the wild west in the high desert country.

    Four more days!!!!! 😀

    • Good! The steeple on the schoolhouse only went down a year or two ago – the net is full of wonderful photos of it with the steeple intact, more or less. With all the history that place must embody, it’s too bad someone like your guy hasn’t come along to save it. So Friday is the big move? I mean Big Move?

    • That old fire truck was such a great surprise, but like the schoolhouse, it isn’t being cared for – the inside was full of trash. Sad. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, and it’s great to hear from you!

    • Thanks Evelyn – I was most pleased with the one of the old home surrounded by trees and bushes – and it was taken with a small, instant film camera someone gave me. I was playing around – something you would appreciate. I think I’ll get another roll and look for other shots that might work well with that camera. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  4. Wonderful post, Lynn. And certainly a visual narrative – you have a real eye for picking out things. And I simply LOVE “an expression of the fullness of spirit that sometimes finds me, in the best moments of forgetting.”. Wonderfully put. There are too many good shots to mention individually but I do (of course!) love the Silver Efex – and what film camera and film were you using? And as a piece of pure art I must mention the image entitled “The shingles are loose, the floor is rotten …”. A 🙂

    • I love picking “things” out along the way. You can imagine how my eyes dart around! 😉 I’m glad you got that last bit – I may not talk about it often, but those ideas are important to me. Glad you liked the shingles photo – the light was very difficult. It would be nice to return in better light but it’s an overnight trip.
      Re the film camera — I don’t think you know Al at https://burntembers.com/. He’s a Canadian archaeologist who photographs with digital & film cameras, and collects old film cameras, sometimes from thrift shops. He’s very generous and was kind enough to send me one. It’s a very simple instant camera – Olympus Infinity Jr. – with no controls. I shot one roll of color, got the negatives & a CD from my local camera store, and found a few decent images to work with. I really liked what happened with “A Deserted home” above, the textures, the overall quality. I’ll shoot another roll soon. Thanks for your support!

      • Lynn, thanks for the link to Burntembers, striking photography, I’m following it for awhile. Yes, I very often like, and feel kinship with, your thoughts and words. Using film again is a good move, tho not one I intend following – I look forward to more images. A 🙂

  5. Some great images …you’ve an eye for visual storytelling. The old schoolhouse, the fire truck and the open road spoke to me….

  6. Your ongoing conversation about beauty and loss are definitely communicated clearly in your photographs. The pops of color stood out to me in this one: the bridge, the lily. But the picture of the store going out of business as well as the one of the building in Metaline Falls are pretty compelling in the story they tell. Thanks for taking us along on your explorations!

    • I love how you enter the story and find things that interest you particularly, which is what you do in the city, too. I always enjoy hearing from you, thanks for being here!

    • 🙂 Sure, add anything you like, Ken! You’re absolutely right about that big motivator for travel photography. Another thing I’ve thought about a lot is the difference between traveling alone, where you don’t share your experience (until later) and traveling with someone, where sharing becomes a big part of it all. Both modes have their upsides but with photographs, I think it’s always better to share – at least the good ones!

    • Your writer’s take on this is appreciated, Sheri, thank you! As I mentioned in a reply above, I may not talk about it often, but the ideas are very important to me. It’s been fun to take these road trips – we did a few in the Ellensburg area too, and the wildflowers were incredible over there, both in the fields west of Ellensburg and up in the forests near the passes. I’m lucky I’ve had time to take it all in this year.

      • It’s great you’ve been getting out there. I’ve spent much more time in my interior worlds writing and less time outside. I guess everything has its season, and I’m working on noticing my environment again.

    • “Abandoned” is a word I use when I keyword my photos, so i can find them later. It seems to come up regularly. 😉 Most of those finds are discovered on the fly, but the schoolhouse was something I found about online before the trip. There are many really nice photos of that schoolhouse online. Thank you very much for stopping by and commenting – I appreciate it!

  7. There are so many good photos here Lynn! The one that really jumped off the screen at me is the field of glacial erratics. That is a spot that could make some spectacular black and white shots. I very much like your film shots too, they have a distinct feel to them.

    • Thanks to you for making the film shots possible…that field of boulders photo is heavily cropped. We were on our way somewhere and didn’t stop – I just took a few photos out the window. Later I really wished I’d stopped. It’s someplace I will try to get back to. In the meantime I’ll see what i can do with what I’ve got, black&white-wise. Thanks!

    • Except that there are parts of our world over here that probably do look a little more like yours – but that would be on this side of the mountains, where we have plenty of rain and more even temperatures. For gardening, for example, I think we tend to grow almost the same plants you do, but that would be very challenging in the eastern part of the state, where it’s dry, and summers are hot, winters cold.

  8. You travel with such a steady and well-honed eye Lyn with beauty delivered so graciously, so many delightful pauses to stop, enjoy and really take in. Adore the B&W old Govan buildings embodying the hard work and practical values while that mass of faded wildflower in the vacant lot has such a sumptuousness to it. Love your West over in the east!

    • Steady eye! God, it seems anything but much of the time. I get carried away and forget to pay attention to the finer points. Good thing I have great image stabilization. 😉 Govan is a lonely place – I’d love to go back and photograph there in less harsh light, but it’s at least an overnight trip. That wildflower is dry as can be, crisp and brittle. What beauty we find in vacant lots, right Patti?

  9. What a beautiful schoolhouse. I’m glad you caught it up close and from far enough away to show its isolation. I like how your storefronts are nicely composed to show off all the rectangles. . . . Oh, those rolling hills and rolling clouds. Nice. And that gash of blue in the next photo, beautifully placed! Great narrative, as always, Lynn.

    • As I think I said in another comment, the schoolhouse photos disappointed me – the light was so harsh. So I did what I could with what I have. I’ve come to see that when the subject is one that catches people’s attention, the photo can be a bit less perfect. Sounds terrible maybe, but I think it’s true. I have a few others that show the isolation, and I loved seeing that, but they just don’t work. You would have such a good time with all the weathered surfaces in these little towns.

      • I agree about some photos holding interest even if they aren’t perfect. I think that’s especially true in street photography of people—you just have to click when you can, and your setting and focus may not be perfect, but the moment is there. And certainly your schoolhouse photos hold our interest. I for one never thought, “Oh, the light was too harsh.” . . . Yes, I’m sure I’d have had a great time there; thanks for your thought.

  10. Thanks Lynn for sharing beauty and knowledge always enjoy your visual narratives….also the Silver Efex…looks beautiful…I know another photographer that uses this…I appreciate you sharing 🤓😀☀️ smiles from Alberta ~ hedy ps. You might like the terrain here too…maybe you’ve been here already 🤓

    • I’m glad you enjoy the ride, that’s the intention. You know, Silver efex is free, and very easy to use, and so much fun. You can simply click on a filter and use it as is, or you can make as many or as few changes to it as you like. The downside is that when operating systems are upgraded in the future, it won’t be upgraded to work with them, so from what I’m hearing, it has a limited shelf life. I hope someone comes out with something as good before that happens. Meanwhile there’s On1, but it’s not free and it’s not as easy, and I don’t think it’s as good.

  11. Wonderful post! I love the B&W images that have a vintage look … especially the little house and big tree. My favorite of all is lone tree … the black bark against the isolated background and diagonal all combine to make an exceptional composition.

    • Thanks to Silver efex… 🙂 The tree/house photo you mention started as a film shot (a color roll processed at a local camera shop into negatives and a CD) I started with the image from the CD, then processed it in Silver efex with one of their vintage-y filters. I would not have gotten that effect though if I started with a digital camera image. I’d like to figure out just what situations are similar to that one, i.e. which times should I get out that simple little film camera? Trial and error I guess! The lone tree was with my regular digital camera, and I’m glad you like it, many thanks!

  12. I wish we had shingling like that over here in the UK -it always seems so photogenic. I like the phrase: ‘a visual narrative of a particular trip, but also carries forward ideas’. Every image is a learning tool, and every trip we are telling stories through our images. And every time we go out we improve and learn new ways of seeing. What I enjoy about your galleries is the breadth of your Eye to see the things that so many of us would miss . Great work, Lynn.

    • I don’t know what kind of wood it was, but the paint has weathered beautifully over the years. Thank you for picking up on that phrase – I’m never sure whether people read the text, though I know some do, sometimes. And thanks for the philosophical thoughts, too. Always learning! 🙂

  13. I couldn’t agree with Andy more. In your galleries there is always such a breadth of ‘seeing’. Old trucks, old wooden churches, old bicycles hidden in bushes. A gorgeous post as always Lynn. Yes, Great work indeed! 🙂

    • OK, it’s time to blush. But many of those subjects are pretty common ones…I guess it’s when I mix them with the less common ones that things get more interesting. There’s no question that I am always looking at my environment with an aesthetic point of view, and to use a little academic jargon, I hope not to privilege one object or scene over another.

    • Otto, that makes my day – I love the idea getting lost in artwork or a post, or any sensual experience, because that type of getting lost is something I value. The rebellious child and sixties radical in me wouldn’t stand for just shooting what other people say I should, or the subjects that are generally approved. And it seems to me that a particular place is characterized by so many details, and that interests me.

  14. I don’t know how you felt about it, but I very much appreciated the way you interspersed text and images here. Somehow, it allowed me to slow down, and take in more of each image, even as I was able to see the post as a whole rather than as disconnected images. I think the story came through more effectively.

    Your new posts always are a little bittersweet for me — the photographs are so good, I end up thinking I’ll never, ever be able to do anything so good, and that’s a little depressing. But, since I don’t like being depressed, I shake all that off, appreciate the images again, and move on to my next little project.

    At least I have my camera back now, so I really can move on again!

    • No, no, no…! It isn’t being depressed, at all. I woke up about an hour ago with a real insight into why your photos affect me as they do, and why I feel so frustrated when I see them. It was so obvious it made me laugh out loud. So disregard that second paragraph. That bittersweet feeling does exist, but it’s rooted differently than I realized, and now that I’ve pinpointed the reason for it, it’s gone. Poof! Most of the time my thoughts are scattered, like your glacial erratics (what a great name!) but when they come together in a little eureka! moment, it’s great: like your photos. I’ll add a bit more via email.

      • OK, email inbox next! But I have to say, I have felt a great deal of admiration for many of your photos, more and more lately in fact. Although I appreciate a compliment, I think we all are prone to envy the skill or ideas of someone else now and then – until we come back to our senses, right?
        Your off line comments about how best to mix text and image were really helpful, and I’m glad this way worked for you. As soon as I need more text, I’ll have to figure out another way, but for this post, it worked to run it along with the images. Part of me – the botany nerd part maybe? – wants to offer more sometimes, but maybe I can use an asterisk if that’s the case, and put additional info at the end.
        p.s. So funny you mentioned scattered thoughts, that’s the theme – well scattering is – of the post I’m working on now! I love the synchronicity.
        p.p.s. I read that technically those particular boulders aren’t glacial erratics because they’re made of the same rock they sit on. A true glacial erratic is out of place because a glacier left it, after bringing it from elsewhere, where the rock is different. These were wrenched off existing rock by a glacier, and left in place, I believe – I don’t remember exactly. I may go back there, I really loved the look and only got a few photos as we sped by in the car.

  15. I’d say your photographs in this post live up to your aspiration as expressed in the final paragraph of your narrative.

    Coincidentally, this is the second blog reference to eastern Washington that I’ve encountered today. The first was to the Scablands in particular. Now I have even more reasons to want to visit the eastern part of the state.

    • Steve, thanks for commenting, and such a good thing to hear. I can’t help but wonder about the other blog you saw – always interested in others’ interpretations, observations, etc.
      You’re from Texas so you know what long distances are like – eastern WA does have that, and that makes it tough to cover much territory without spending time. We returned feeling we’d done too much driving – we covered from central Puget Sound, a mountain stop, to northeastern corner, then Spokane, and back across, with another mountain stop…in five or six days. It was a lot. Central Oregon is great too.

  16. One good indication that you have an uncanny ability to engage people with your photographs and stories, Lynn, is the rich collection of thoughtful comments you stimulate. I like reading every one.

  17. One of the comments above refers to your “visual storytelling”, and I think that just captures the spirit of these adventures so well! I haven’t been anywhere remotely near this part of the world, but can almost feel the warmth of the sun and the variety of textures. Lovely!

    And of course I’m very interested to see your film shots here – it’s a different process of image making, isn’t it? Hope to see more in future…

    • Again, thanks for commenting Tim. This is good to hear! One never knows until someone comments. How I long to see your part of the world. Such a long trip. Maybe someday.

      Yes, film is so different. I have another roll in the little camera. I don’t think in film terms typically, so it will be slow getting finished with it. Thanks for the interest, that encourages me to lean that way a bit more.

      • I know you have plenty of experience shooting western subjects like the old schoolhouse, so I’m pleased you think I did it any justice – mid day mid summer lighting and damn it was hot! That unidentified wildflower is sort of like a tumbleweed, isn’t it, but – it isn’t. Sure was pretty in the vacant lot.

  18. Of course all awesome shots. The bicycles is my favorite – a whole story /poem in there. 🙂

    Grew up in San Diego, but my grandparents were all in Richland (Tri-Cities), having been brought there by Hanford Nuclear Plant. Later on, in high school, I ended up in Seattle (now in Bellingham — and am grateful I’m on this side of the Cascades. Always interesting crossing Stevens Pass, watching the environment change green to brown, brown to green.

    • Not of course at all, thank you very much though. Hanford! Interesting. We’re thinking of moving to B’ham this year. I thought about living on the other side, but no, best to live on this side and go over the mountains from time to time, I think. Thanks so much for commenting.

      • B’ham has most of the same cultural offerings, but not as much traffic, lots of green space – city and county are eco-minded (although it is growing, it has changed some since I went to college here back in the early ’90s)


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