ROADSIDE ATTRACTION

To me, anyway.

The first time I spotted this old chicken barn outside Duvall, Washington (a rural town 25 miles east of Seattle), I was drawn to the severe lines and faded, mustard-colored siding. It backs into its site nicely. It hasn’t changed in the three years I’ve watched it – the grass is mowed every now and then and the barn remains unused. Ignoring the No Parking signs, I park on the side, step back, and compose shots around that sweet trapezoidal shape. I creep up close to shoot rusty nails in the siding, or a stray wildflower hidden among the grass in front.

This is the kind of prosaic building that might come down any minute. My breath probably settles the tiniest bit each time I round the corner and see it’s still there.

Lumix G3 with Panasonic 20 mm f/1.7 lens; f/4.5 1600 sec. ISO 160

NOT WHAT I PLANNED

Last weekend I drove north to Deception Pass, a spectacular (and popular) state park with steep cliffs, rushing tides, islands…lots of dramatic scenery. But crowds were thick and the tide wasn’t allowing me to get around a cliff and past all the people enjoying the beach. I strolled the woods high above the narrow waterway, collecting myself and thinking about where else to go. Along the path were stands of the tiny, daintily nodding Twinflower (Linnaea borealis), a special find, with it’s interesting connection to Carl Linnaeus. Such a little beauty, I almost missed it.

I decided to drive to the quaint but touristy town of La Conner; someone recommended a museum there. I got out a map – for me, a paper map is the best way to get the overview, then GPS gets me there.  There were two good routes: a scenic route through beautiful Skagit County agricultural land, or a shorter route, cutting through the Swinomish Indian Reservation.

I knew the reservation might be depressing but I decided to take the shorter route anyway. And I was rewarded, yes I was. Gas was cheaper than off the reservation. Maybe my money was better spent there, too. Driving down Reservation Road near La Conner I noticed a gravel side road running downhill towards the Swinomish Channel. The channel, an active waterway, divides tribal land from La Conner and the mainland. Something about the road looked promising, so I pulled over and looked around. It opened out to a logging business, apparently where logs are floated down the channel, loaded onto trucks and transported elsewhere, probably for pulp or lumber (I have to learn more about the logging business).

Piles of logs were scattered around, and more were corralled in the shallow water just off shore. A Great Blue Heron’s squawk broke the silence. It floated down from the trees high overhead and slowly glided across the channel. Another followed, and another. Maybe there’s a heron rookery here, I thought.  Mount Baker rose like a white marble pyramid in the distance, behind mounds of blue foothills. Blackberries, daisies and thistles flourished, slowly overtaking an old orange logging truck and piles of gigantic tires.  It was a quietly forlorn site, and beautiful, too.

P1110898-Edit

I decided to skip La Conner. I was getting hungry and thought I could do better in the nearby town of Mt. Vernon, with its huge Skagit Valley Food Co op, chock full of local produce and meals cooked on site. The way to Mt. Vernon passed though glorious fields of ripe wheat. The stalks were golden and full, and bent with seed. I had to pull over!

 

P1110959-Edit

Just down the road was a weathered gray barn, one of many that can be seen along country roads in Washington. Always picturesque, they are hard to resist, and I find the No Trespassing signs easy to ignore. This is what’s best about traveling alone – you can stop over and over again, as the muse whispers.  Don’t get me wrong – I love sharing the road, but I get frustrated when we speed past sites that beg exploration.

As you can imagine, by the time I finished taking pictures of the barn, I was starved. I headed to the co op for a sandwich and iced espresso. I couldn’t resist bringing a few slices of German Chocolate cake home, too. It was a good day after all, despite missing the possibility of photographing Deception Pass. It’s all about keeping options open, not to mention the eyes!

***

COLOR!

A color challenge/photo challenge…so many colors…so many approaches…let’s just see what happens…

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

Color is

a Sol Lewitt piece at the 59th St. Columbus Circle subway station in New York, and

it’s an urban industrial sunset on Staten Island.

Color marches up a sculpture by John Fleming and soars

against bluest heaven.

Color is graffiti in Seattle, too – and the intricate thread-work

on an ancient Silk Road Ikat coat, tacked to a museum wall.

Color grows organically on a rusty old truck

behind a nursery in the Skagit Valley (where soon miles of tulips and daffodils

will set the evening aglow).

It plays games

in a midtown New York City store window.

Color is isolated

by a rubber glove dropped in a Seattle alley;

and color

dances

when sunbeams illuminate a torn leaf

in my red cabinet.

Color sweetens the deal in pink and

purple stripes: red osier dogwood twigs blended, in camera.

It reflects late day sunlight  – 

silver and gold: a banner night. It 

swirls

in choppy waves across Chihuly glass

in Tacoma. 

Mid-day summer-sun sets color down

flat

on tabletops set out on Seattle sidewalks.

Color ricochets through glasses in an old ship’s galley,

mushes together as it lays exposed

to the elements,

stuck

on a car door,

abandoned in a field,

somewhere.

***

Photographs taken with a Samsung camera phone & a Sony NEX digital camera, in NYC, Seattle, and other locations in the Pacific northwest.

Find more colorful Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenges here.

What a Difference a Year Can Make

This week I will celebrate my first 365 days in the Pacific Northwest. These images, photographs of places I frequented in my old home town and places I’m been exploring here on my new home ground, bookend the year.

Last week I drove up Cougar Mountain, outside Seattle, to the so-called “Million Dollar View”.  We had been stuck in a weather inversion that produced nothing but thick fog day and night. It’s easy to rise above it though – a thousand or so feet up and I was out of the mist. Foggy cloud banks rested gracefully across the valleys and Douglas firs cast soft lavender blue reflections on the lake below. Over a hundred miles north of where I stood, sunlight graced the flanks of Mount Baker, one of the snowiest places in the world and the site of extensive volcanic research.

Exactly a year before that day I met old friends for coffee at Think Coffee near New York University. Walking past an alley in Soho later that afternoon I came across this softly lit and surprisingly quiet scene:

A few days later I took a break from packing to spend an hour in one of my favorite places – the Conservatory at Snug Harbor Botanical Garden. A Bird of Paradise flower provided all the scrumptious candy color I craved on that cold, dark New York winter afternoon.

Exactly a year later I was looking for a diversion from winter’s dreariness again. This time a  handsome horse named Diamond trotted over to see what I was up to as I walked beside a fenced field where she boards. Realizing I had no treats for her, she turned and broke into a wild gallop in the mud with another horse. She’s clearly well cared for, and what nice digs she has in the foothills of the Cascades. (How do I know her name? Because a guy on a four wheeler zoomed over to tell me I shouldn’t be trespassing. Before walking back to the road I asked about the horse, who he said was Diamond,  “a real show-off.”)

The next day, I was watching the sun set along a back road that follows a meandering river ten miles east of my house.  I had spotted a Great Blue Heron in a wet field a mile down the road, but here the only sign of life was a lone, out of season frog calling from its hiding spot in the tangle of grass. I wondered how old that barn is, and what they grow here, and I was glad for the small farms that somehow manage to survive so close to my new home.

Just a year ago I was on the water in New York Harbor, taking this photograph of the MOL Endurance, a container ship making its way towards port. The Verrazano Narrows Bridge, connecting the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island, spanned sparkling blue harbor waters that morning. On a good day the light and spaciousness of New York Harbor trigger ideas and possibilities in my mind – where did that ship come from, what’s in those containers, and what adventure awaits me in a few minutes, when I walk off the ferry to Manhattan?

Two late January sunsets complete my coastal seesaw – one taken a year ago from my old apartment above New York Harbor, looking over snowy rooftops to the soft glow of lights at a container terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey. The other sunset is over the Snoqualmie River, just outside the little town of Duvall, Washington:

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Themes seem to repeat on both sides of the country: landscapes seen through the filigree of tangled grasses or branches, colors and textures that make me want to reach out and touch, and foregrounds giving way to distant views. A lot has changed in a year, but my central concerns in photography – the love of nature and of ordinary, everyday life – have just shifted their expression a few thousand miles to the west.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Architecture

Jake from Manila is challenging bloggers to submit photographs of architecture this week. He has some interesting points to make about architecture, saying that architecture is to building as literature is to the printed word…that architectural structures are culturally significant and have aesthetic meaning:  architecture as social art.

Once more I can’t leave well enough alone, so I will color outside the lines a bit as I interpret the challenge.

First, an architectural gem that most anyone would agree has significance, whether they appreciate it aesthetically or not (I love it). Gehry’s IAC Building, with its subtle curves and softly banded exterior, as seen from the High Line in Manhattan:

Another Gehry building, the Experience Music Project is in Jimi Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle. Its voluptuous, undulating curves below are, according to arcspace.com, inspired in part by the image of a shattered Fender Stratocaster. And the colors are real eye candy.

More curves, this time gracefully Italianate, are on a small building whose arched windows perfectly echo curves in the landscape around it.

The Lemon House at the Tuscan Garden, Snug Harbor, Staten Island, NYC:

Another New York City Botanical Garden building, in the Bronx (New York City) is the gorgeous Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, America’s largest glass house, 110 years old this year. As beautiful outside as it is inside.

_______________________________________________________________________________

But what about vernacular architecture? I love that just as much.

On a roadside in northwestern Arkansas, a deceptively simple looking stone house begs shade from a hot day with a corrugated metal awning, whose angle reflects the building’s roof line.

_______________________________________________________________________________

On St. Helena Island near Beaufort, South Carolina, Spanish moss lends atmosphere to a ruin built of tabby called the Chapel of Ease. Tabby is a mixture of oyster shells, sand and lime and was used extensively in the area. Built around 1740, the chapel served plantation owners who could not always get to church in Beaufort, on the mainland. It was deserted after 1861, when residents fled from Civil War strife, and later it was used by northerners to educate freedmen. In 1886 it burned in a forest fire but much of the building still stands today. Some history of this fascinating area can be found here:

Click to access MPS033.pdf

_______________________________________________________________________________

A barn in Adna, Washington, sports a series of angles that are dumbfounding. Why? Maybe no reason, I don’t know!

But when you view it from different sides you can appreciate the way it settles into the landscape and, I assume, fulfills its function.

and…(yes, it’s the same barn!)…

Another weathered example of vernacular architecture sits abandoned along a rural road in Wayne County, North Carolina, about halfway between Raleigh-Durham and the coast.

I think it still has a very graceful roof line.

Here’s a link to the Vernacular Architecture Forum: site http://www.vernaculararchitectureforum.org/about/index.html

And examples of vernacular architecture are here: http://www.archdaily.com/155224/vernacular-architecture-and-the-21st-century/

Going further out on an architectural limb, sometimes temporary structures also show a strong aesthetic impulse:

On Whidbey Island in Washington, someone has built a shelter from driftwood and logs that washed up on the beach.

You can’t do much better at blending with the landscape.  And look at the view from the inside:

Another beach structure, on Camano Island in Washington’s Puget Sound, really works the angles and pays close attention to surface decoration:

Angles are featured in these buildings, too, but in a context that’s a little…shinier, shall we say?

This was taken last week, on another island, on another coast.

On the left is One World Trade Center, slowly rising up near the empty square beds of the World Trade Center Towers that were destroyed on 9/11 and now mark the memorial site.  I stood next to the building on the right, across the street from the building site, so it looks taller – but it’s not.

The antenna for One World Trade Center will rise 1776 feet. Needless to say, the structure is designed around strength and durability as much as aesthetics. It’s also said to be the most environmentally sustainable project of its size in the world, with LEED Gold Certification and energy performance that exceeds code requirements by 20%. I bet the beach structures exceed local codes too.

_______________________________________________________________________________

So there you are, from a humble beach lean on a quiet island to a Manhattan skyscraper, with a few stops in between.

More entries are at:

http://jakesprinters.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/sunday-post-architecture/