Sunday, November 25, 2012

Colourful Carriers: Vintage Working Trucks Part 1

Eastern Washington is farm country and during planting or harvest, you may find yourself dodging some old seed or grain truck on the two-lane roads. They soldier on for decades, until the day something important breaks, or they just won't start anymore. Then they're towed by tractor off to the side of the farm with the rest of the junk implements. In many cases, after the farm is abandoned, the trucks are left behind.

I've noticed in my travels that the brand I'm most likely to find left behind is International Harvester. I don't want to try to read anything into that but I do know that it is sometimes hard to get parts for certain brands of machinery. The "Big Three" brands have always been popular with enthusiasts so they may have been eager to take those trucks for parts or for restoration.

Some 50-year-old or older trucks are still serving as grain trucks, junk haulers, or as crane trucks. I think these days the farmer is more likely to call up the guy from St. John Hardware to bring out the fully-equipped, modern service truck than to rumble out there in his 1949 GMC with the home-built crane on the back.

In recent years someone in the town of Sprague, Washington has been collecting old farm trucks from here, there, and everywhere and placing them on a lot in the center of town. They make a great photographic workshop. I asked a woman in the antique store about the owner and what he thought about photographers on the lot. She said he didn't mind as long as they didn't hurt themselves on the broken glass and rusty metal.

I have been to the lot many times but still prefer to find them in "the wild" where I can try to work them into a composition showing their place on the farm...or perhaps where they're still chugging along, performing their designated tasks. I will share photos of trucks still working the harvest when that season approaches, next summer.

All shots taken in Washington.

This is one of my earliest finds, and one of the oldest trucks, a 1937 Chevrolet. It was parked next to the road across from the farm, so no one was going to mess with it. Reardan.

The Great Pumpkin. Five Mile.

The city of Waterville has a museum and some of the displays are out in the open around the town. Not sure if these trucks are part of it.

One of the trucks in Sprague.



Found next to a windmill, east of Lamont.


This truck had burned. Sprague.




Mt. Hope.

Seen with others, original and restored, at a vintage equipment wheat harvest. The grain was offloaded into restored vintage grain trucks and driven to a nearby elevator. Davenport.

From hauler to holder, parked at an events center in the country. Seen holding wedding gifts, Rockford.

An amazing find, note that the grille and the driver's side headlight are still intact. No bullet holes, how did this one survive? I found it by chance when I happened to look back from the top of a hill. The truck was parked behind a small abandoned farm down a dead-end road. There were also three old cars in the area, what a find! I had great light on it as the sun was getting low and the light was being filtered by high clouds. Sprague.
More to come...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Last Years of the Rockford Barn: 2004-2011

This is a study of a barn which sat on a hill along Highway 27, just south of Rockford, Washington. You wouldn't notice it when southbound but when coming northbound it let you know you were almost home. Its location made access difficult. Aside from the driveway there was only one other place where you could park safely along the highway. The driveway was on the inside of a blind curve, so getting out was always tricky; you had to roll down your windows and listen for on coming cars. The problem with shooting close to the barn is that you had to look up at it from main shooting angles. That left you standing on the side of the highway for a better shooting angle. There are no shoulders on the road so you have to position yourself on the slopes of the ditches and wait for traffic to pass..

I didn't usually stop at the barn as a destination, but tried to capture it in whatever light I had when I was passing through. The barn was always a bit of a leaner, but in the past couple of years, the shift had become more obvious. It finally lost its battle with gravity in late 2011. The barn hadn't been used for much in it's dilapidated state. In its last years it was used to house small implements from time to time, most likely just to hide them from the eyes of people passing by.

I seem to recall seeing No Trespassing signs on it a long time ago. Sometimes farmers give that up when a remote barn such as this is too far gone to be of use to them.

South side, you can see what I mean by saying you have to look up to the barn.

Just a threat of a storm, not much to it...or the roof!

West side, you can see the northward slant.

North side, upper doors hanging open because this wall is tilted toward the camera.

The view up the driveway.

The north side and freshly-cut hay.

The southwest corner, you can see the south wall now falling inward.

I wanted to try some star trail shots on this full-moon night, but needed a barn that I could access, which would allow me to shoot toward the north star. Lesson learned: I need less moon and longer exposures...and I don't have enough patience for the latter.


The sun came out from a cloud deck and soon disappeared below the horizon.

Same sunset, in colour.

Another sunset, shot with the point & shoot, from the trees seen in the next shot. The barn looks pretty "porous" now.

I hiked up the neighboring hill on the crunchy snow for this view of the barn's surroundings. Looking north toward Mica Peak.

The barn takes one more northward shift, before finally giving in to gravity.

It settled down pretty much as you see it, leaving only the southern point of the roof above the pile of old lumber.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Snow Seasons: 1968-69 vs. 2008-09

The first two snowstorms of the season have passed through and dropped several inches of snow on their way by. I thought I'd combine the theme of my two blogs and show a little photo project I made with some estate photos taken during the landmark winter of 1968-69. I was not in this area for that one, but I have read that it was brutal. I was here for the highest snowfall season on record, the winter of  2008-09.

I looked at the setting of the old photos and thought it looked like the Shadle area of Spokane. I could see the distinctive bluff on the west end of town, in the background. I used online aerial imagery to look for the house and managed to find it, near the intersection of Northwest Blvd and Ft. George Wright Drive. A little creepy, don't you think? Well...maybe not as creepy as hitting the ground to try to duplicate the angles shown in the originals.

The amounts of snow look similar, but the snow in the old shots came in on a bitter cold wind. The snows of '08-'09 seemed fluffy and gentle, in comparison. The total for the '68-'69 season was 77.5 inches and the depth of the '08-'09 season was 93.6 inches, barely getting over the previous highest total of 93.5 inches, set during the winter of '49-'50. Hmm...I wonder what the margin of error is in this? I was here for the first, third, and fifth snowiest winters.

Funny thing, after setting the record for the snowiest winter, the following winter of '09-'10 almost went down as the least snowiest.

Yes, it's not Great Falls, Fargo, Marquette, or Buffalo...but it's enough for Spokane!

Both series of shots taken after the New Year.

If you didn't know any better you might think the shots are the same vintage, with that 1974-ish Mercury land yacht there. The neighborhoods up that way haven't changed much since 1968.

This is a shot from the winter of 1992-93, Spokane's fifth-snowiest winter, taken at Fairchild AFB. There was a parallel to '08-'09 in that after this winter, there wasn't much snow in the following winter. I drove a 1965 Ford pickup through this winter and then bought a brand new 1994 Toyota 4X4 the following fall, and then it barely snowed. 

A shot from the biggest storm of '08-'09, which dropped almost two feet on us. Only three of us bothered to try to make it to work, in two SUV's and the Jeep. You can see that the Xterra had a bow wave going in the snow in our parking lot.

Side streets were rutted and mostly impassable to low-clearance cars. Even if you did make it down the street, you then had to clear the berm at the arterial. This is East 24th Avenue and if I remember correctly, city crews were just getting to it as I finished my shooting.
This winter's long-range forecast? Warmer and wetter, which is how this last snowstorm ended.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Road, Part 1

The road is what gets you to where you want to go, but it is also as much a part of the landscape as a mountain peak or a rustic barn. It's the ultimate "leading line" since as a driver, you have to keep your eye on it or trouble will ensue. It's also a good idea to look up and down the road to make sure you don't get run over when you stop to shoot something!

Roads have their own unique character, due to their construction and how they were laid out through the landscape. The more you travel them, the more you get to know them. You learn whether or not it's a good idea to travel them under given conditions, you learn where you should slow down before a tight curve, or where you can accelerate through one for fun. There can be a rhythm to the road, like a little dance you do with the steering wheel, brakes, and accelerator.

Gravel roads make fun dance partners because you can play the slide and make your drive more interesting. I'm not talking about swinging the rear end out...been there, done that...I'm just talking about a little bit of drift. When you run on uneven asphalt you have to constantly make corrections because your tires are grabbing every irregularity in the surface. On gravel, the stones make a cushion that takes the edge off of it. They're usually graded on a regular basis to they are mostly nice and flat.

I feel at home with the rumble of gravel under the tires. The more you know your road, the more fun you can have with it! When it comes time to stop for a photo-op, you can look up and down the road to see if it might make a nice shot. Sometimes that's all I see that's worth shooting, especially out in the open country.

An old shot, taken somewhere out in the Palouse. It looks like it could be the back side of the big hill just south of Rosalia, Washington.

Rangeland, which had been stripped of soil by ancient floods. I couldn't tell you the name of this road, but I keep stumbling back onto it every few years. Southwest of Cheney, Washington. The elevation of my vantage point and the hills in the distance show the former depth of the soil here.

To rework a phrase from an episode of Seinfeld: "Yes, it is real, and it is spectacular." Highway 21 between Wilbur and Odessa, Washington.

Stopped to take a shot of fall colours at Banks Lake, Washington.

Old US195, south of Plaza, Washington

I had stopped to check out a farmhouse, just off of old US195, south of Plaza, Washington

I came to the end of a summer road, looked up the main road and saw this. East of Fairfield, Washington 

It might be  good idea to wait a few minutes... Surface winds on the edge of a storm stir up the dust south of Wilbur, Washington.

Any more impact and this one would have knocked me over. South of Creston, Washington.

A runoff-rutted summer road east of Steptoe Butte. You'd better know your roads before you travel the summer roads. They can have some unforgiving mudholes in the low spots!

More impact, wast of Ritzville, Washington. Ah, the gravel road, running off to the horizon...pick up the pace but pay attention to the feel in the seat of your'll feel it when you're running "on top" of the gravel, if you know your road...and better back off a bit!

Back to asphalt, the road to Williams Lake, east of Sprague, Washington, nothing to block your view!

I had stopped to look at the light on some hills but didn't see a shot. Then I caught this view of the sun reflecting off of the tar on the road. It reminded me of a shot I saw in National Geographic, from Texas. This one is one of my personal favorites.

A shower and a remote road in the scablands near Lamont, Washington.

A schoolhouse west of Lamont, Washington, where the road goes from nowhere, to deeper nowhere, in the rangelands of Adams County.
More to come!