Old Fort Dallas Post Office – May 11, 2014
The second night of the Noel Kerns Night Photography workshop brought us to Old Fort Dallas, an abandoned small-scale theme park that hosted a Lollapalooza festival in 1996. It was rebranded Old Fort Dallas at Shadow Creek Ranch before closing for good around 2000. Time has taken its toll on this place over the years, along with vandals and copper thieves; six buildings were destroyed by fire in 2010. The post office is still standing, but its sign is half covered by creeping ivy. A red-gelled strobe provided lighting in the interior spaces while the near-full moon supplied most of the exterior lighting from above, as evidenced by the shadow of the pergola at bottom left of the photo.
John Deere Covered Wagon – July 11, 2014
Before starting my current job in late 2013, I traveled to Abilene to visit a friend. While there, I stopped by Fort Phantom Hill, a deserted Army outpost dating back to the mid-to-late 1800s, and snapped some pictures. Those pictures turned out okay at best, and it was then that I decided I needed to take a class to help me improve. One of my first stops after learning night photography was a return to Fort Phantom Hill. After framing this shot, I decided to get crazy with my light painting and see if I could make this old wagon appear to have a John Deere color scheme. It actually turned out okay and remains one of my early favorites.
Uncovered Wagon – July 11, 2014
If you didn’t notice, this is the exact same composition as the prior picture, John Deere Covered Wagon. I titled it Uncovered Wagon for two reasons: (1) Because the bows for the canvas covering are still present but the covering itself is long gone, and (2) Because I used a natural light to illuminate the wagon rather than “covering” it with green and yellow light! I’m looking into the moon on this shot, which explains why the top right of the photo is much brighter than the top left. Since the subject was backlit, it required me to light the entire scene with a flashlight from behind the camera.
Four Pumps – May 2, 2015
At the end of 2014, I upgraded from the Nikon D3100 to the Nikon D7100, and even though the craftsman never blames his tools, I immediately noticed an improvement in the quality of my images. In May of 2015, I spent a long day traveling about three hours west from Dallas to Foard and Hardeman counties. After scouting out multiple locations in the daylight, I spent about four hours after dark taking pictures of the Foard City grain silo and scale house and a few interesting places in and around Chillicothe before returning to Dallas by 4:00 in the morning! But the highlight of the evening came when I visited Medicine Mound, a deserted town that saw many of its businesses close in the 1950s including the gin and post office. The pumps in front of this deserted filling station are in relatively solid shape and the number of them may indicate how populated this area once was. I was real happy how the red-gelled flashlight helped accentuate the rusted shells of the gas pumps.
Nauset Lighthouse – July 16, 2016
On one of my frequent trips to Maine, I opted to head to Cape Cod in Massachusetts on my last night to attend Tim Little’s (Cape Night Photography) night photography workshop. It was a great night and most of the group stayed out until 1 in the morning! Getting up the next morning to make my flight back to Dallas was not nearly as great. The lighthouse was originally built in Chatham in 1877, and later moved, in 1923, to Eastham to replace the Three Sisters. It was moved yet again to its present location in 1997 as erosion caused the cliff’s edge to creep within 50 feet of the lighthouse. If you think you might recognize this iconic landmark, that’s because it serves as the logo for the Cape Cod Potato Chip Company. Most of the lighting came from the moon with a surprise assist from the current residents of the keeper’s house who conveniently turned on the upstairs lights.
Forgotten Fill-Ups – November 12, 2016
On Veteran’s Day weekend 2016, I spent a few nights in Shamrock, Texas exploring some of the stops on Route 66. This shot was my prize for the trip. The shack appears to be a vintage cottage-style Phillips 66 filling station (Phillips/Fill-Ups, get it?). It is located in Texola, Oklahoma, the last stop before entering Texas from the east. Lighting was supplied by the moon from the right, a streetlight from behind me, and my trusty Protomachine, a programmable multi-color LED flashlight, from the left and inside the shack.
Rockwall Harbor Lighthouse – January 10, 2017
The Harbor Rockwall is a neat shopping and dining district on the shores of Lake Ray Hubbard in Rockwall, Texas. And what would a harbor be without a lighthouse built at the end of a jetty. I love the way this image ended up. I blocked the lens with my hand every time the beacon came around and this inadvertently resulted in the pink hue in the photo which gives the illusion of a sunset.
Dallas Green – February 8, 2017
This shot was taken atop the hill at Pioneer Plaza in downtown Dallas. The cattle drive depicted in the plaza consists of 49 steer and three cowboy sculptures made of bronze. The sculptures commemorate early cattle drives along the Shawnee Trail, also known as the Texas Road, which passed through Dallas. Much of the Shawnee Trail eventually became the right-of-way for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad. The sculpture is lit green from the front using the Protomachine and purple from the back by the Omni Hotel. The Bank of America building shines in the background.
Two Teepees – May 6, 2017
In May 2017, I took a week off from work for a road trip to Joshua Tree National Park. I planned to spend three nights along the way shooting relics along Route 66, and the Mother Road didn’t let me down; I shot what I consider to be some of the best images that I have yet to capture in my three years of practicing night photography. The Meteor City Trading Post just west of Winslow, Arizona is a fairly recent abandonment, having closed in 2012, and there is a report that a couple from Indiana has purchased the property with plans to restore and reopen it. It was featured in the 1984 movie, Starman. This shot was lit by the near-full moon with some help from the Protomachine inside the two teepees.
His and Hers – May 7, 2017
Two Guns, Arizona was once an expansive roadside attraction along Route 66. It exists now as stone ruins visible from I-40 between Winslow and Flagstaff and is easily visited and explored. Many different alignments of Route 66 and its predecessor, the National Old Trails Road, can be seen at this site. Of all the structures still standing here, I opted to shoot the outhouse-style restrooms, because they get the least amount of attention from photographers and it really is a neat little building. The two rooms were once separated by a wall of boards and you can still see the slot on the bench where the wall was located. The floor is rotted away but the bench with the four cutouts helps keep the purpose of this building quite clear.
Campground Pool – May 7, 2017
A newer endeavor sits next door to the site of the abandoned Two Guns roadside attraction, but the KOA Campground is equally as forgotten as its older neighbor. The remains of the campground consist of a couple of buildings open to the elements, at least 30 electrical hookups marking each campsite, and this totally dry swimming pool. This is a well-visited place these days, and many passers-by feel the need to leave their mark. I assisted the moon in lighting this shot with the Protomachine set to green in the pool and red in what might have been the shower/changing area.
Ryan Ranch – May 10, 2017
The intent of my road trip to Joshua Tree National Park in May 2017 was to spend a couple of nights shooting the abandoned homesteads, mining camps and other relics left behind in the park. Upon my arrival, I discovered that exploring after dark is discouraged, so I chose to heed the signs at the different sites reminding visitors that these sites should be enjoyed from dawn to dusk. Except at Ryan Ranch which is next door to a camping area and a short walk from the park road. I needed to take pictures of something and this site seemed to offer the least resistance. This night was significant in that it marked the third anniversary of night photography for me; May 10, 2014 was night one of the Noel Kerns workshop that I attended. This shot is my favorite of the night, although I don’t consider it one of my best. It does, however, remind me that for every night I capture one or two great shots, there is a night where I may not be as successful. It’s what keeps me coming out when I should be sleeping, aiming to improve!
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