Sunday, July 26, 2015

10,000 hours

Last weekend I made some wet plate images at the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington.  It was a hot weekend! Saturday was in the upper 90's with a heat index of 110. Sunday was a bit cooler, in the 80's with a heat index in the 90's. It was a challenging day, but I was able to make quite a few nice images despite the heat and humidity. Luckily I was able to tap into my "wet plate knowledge bank" to correct for a few errors here and there, and keep the process moving along both days.

Author Malcom Gladwell wrote in his 2008 book titled "Outliers: The Story of Success" that one needs 10,000 hours in order to be successful. This "10,000 Hour-Rule" describes practicing a craft until you have mastered the task.

One place where I have had my practice time is in wet plate collodion photography. It has been a fantastic journey of learning chemical compounds, the art of pouring plates and also making adjustments on the fly for variables in the process.

The back of my dark box I made in 2007. A big wind storm picked it up and flipped it over a few years back and I lost all the chemistry (including the silver bath all over the place, hence the stains). A lot of plates have come out of this dark box over the years.

I've taken wet plate images in 100+ degree heat and in below zero temperatures. At living history events, on the side of road, in a few cemeteries and inside historic homes. Even with all this experience the process can go from stable and perfect to out of control and crazy at the drop of a hat. Sometimes multiple issues happen at once and shooting needs to stop while diagnosing the issues.

I'm not writing this to talk about how fantastic I am, I am writing this for those out there that are in the beginning or middle of your own 10,000 hour journey. Maybe you are just starting in a new career, or learning a new skill set at work. Of course this may seem daunting at first; just keep working at it and learning a little bit at a time. After a while some of it will stick, the newer stuff will make sense, and you will become an expert in your area.

Photos of Alex Timmerman taken about 20 minutes apart in Bloomington. He moved slightly in the first image so we took another 1/6 plate in the same location. A 2 second exposure in semi overcast open sun and 14 second developing.

I look back on the plates I made 12 years ago and the images I am making today. The learning curve has been steep at times, but so rewarding now that I can make wet plate photographs the way I always wanted to. Stick with it! It will be o.k. Make mistakes, learn lessons, try something new. We are only on this planet once, why not go after those things you always wanted to do and try them out!! 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Day 9 Home at last

We woke up early in St. Louis to get our last two sites in before heading home. We also woke up early because of all the hotels we stayed at -this one was simply the grungiest, scariest most awful place in the three years we have been traveling for family vacations. I could write a lot more about it but I will not let it overshadow the great time we had in St. Louis.

Our first stop was the St. Louis Zoo. We got a tip from the hotel clerk (see silver lining) to park on the street to avoid the parking fee. We found a spot about two blocks from the entrance and made our way through the gate and into the park.

We made it early enough to feed and pet the sting rays. It was a fantastic experience! The rays are in a shallow pool and you can gently pet their backs or feed them shrimp, fish or squid. The kids had the chance to feed them and it was great watching their faces when the rays took the food from their  hands. The outside of a stingray feels like slippery leather as they pass gently under your hand.

We walked the zoo and visited the insect house (of course Kalli's favorite) the Herpitarium (snakes and reptiles Logan's favorite) and other indoor and outdoor exhibits. I had the chance to see my favorite animal, the okapi in the Red Rock exhibit. 

We had lunch at the zoo and then drove over to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (The St. Louis Arch). We purchased tickets online the night before and this guaranteed we would have a spot. This was through the recommendation of my friend Doug Harding who is a park ranger at the Arch. I had a chance to chat with Doug as we waited in line to go to the top.

We took the north tram up to the top. Four of us in a round pod straight out of the 60's with swivel plastic chairs and a clear door to view the superstructure as we made the four minute journey to the top. Cool to me, a bit disconcerting to Kalli and Logan. 

The top was crowded, but we had a chance to take some photos from the apex 630 feet up. We made a selfie and transmitted it through Facebook while at the top. The technology we have is amazing btw, to capture images and trainsmit instantly. We returned on the south tram on a three minute trip to the bottom. 

We walked to Arch visitor center which is also the Old Courthouse. A beautiful building which started construction in 1816 and was completed in 1864. Can you imagine what this building would say if it could talk after viewing all the change in downtown St. Louis?

The Courthouse was decorated in bunting and 33 star flags in the rotunda and it was an amazing site to see. A perfect ending to our family vacation.

We were so close to the 4000 mile mark we drove a bit past our house to get the even number on the odometer. The car pulled in the driveway with 4000.1 miles. We visited eight different states  from the plains to the mountains, arid desert and back to the Midwest. Hiked three national parks (Arches, Canyonland and The Grand Canyon). Visited three National sites - Petroglyph National Monument, The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and the Oklahoma City Memorial. Changed and replaced one tire in Utah. Rode some original parts of Route 66. Visited Mark Twain's home. Ate  picnic lunches in amazing places and overall had moments together that will last a lifetime. It was a fantastic family vacation. I am sad to see it end......

Friday, July 10, 2015

Day 8 St. Louis Missouri

We started out day in Edmund outside of Oklahoma City with a hearty breakfast at Waffle House. We haven't been to a Waffle House since our 2013 trip when we had our first Waffle House experience in Virginia. It was fantastic and a great way to start the day.

I had a chance to meet up with Mark Zimmerman who lives in the Oklahoma City area. In 2007 Mark and I traveled to New York together to visit John Coffer for the annual wet plate jamboree. It was nice to meet up with Mark again after all these years.

Mark led us on a trip down Oklahoma State Route 66 which follows the old Route 66 roadway. The newer road is wider and closely follows or overlaps the the original road, with pieces of the original road still driveable. We traveled a short stretch of original road outside of Arcadia. We also found pieces to drive on along the way as we meandered the state road from Oklahoma City to Tulsa while avoiding the 4 lane interstate.

Abandoned Route 66 roadway next to present day Oklahoma Route 66.

I am big on living history, and it was interesting to drive on the actual original roadway. It is narrow and wanders tighter curves than our modern roads. The concrete where visible is lined with white concrete on either side of the road. I have nostalgia for these pieces of roadway but can clearly see how this narrow wandering road needed to be upgraded for large vehicles and interstate travel. 

In Tulsa we were snapped back into reality. Bumper to bumper traffic with trucks and congestion as we crawled through town. The trip was diverted to state roads due to an accident on I-44. We hit Missouri and had multiple delays with five different accidents on the highway. Two were really bad, with one parking us on the highway for an hour. The worst traffic of the trip was today- go figure. 

We traveled through the heart of Missouri and made one last stop at the Uranus Fudge Factory in Uranus Missouri.  Fudge packed in Uranus! Talk about a great business!! After a day of stressful driving it was a welcome diversion. They just opened their business a few weeks ago on the historic Route 66 roadway and will fit in nicely with the past and present attractions along the road.

Tonight is our last night of vacation. We are staying in St. Louis and will be visiting the Arch and St. Louis Zoo tomorrow. Mileage should be over 4,000 miles for the trip. It is sad to be almost done but it will be nice to sleep in our own beds tomorrow!

Day 7 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

We woke up in Albuquerque, NM to a beautiful sunshine day. We packed up the car and headed to Petroglyph National Monument. The visitor center is the anchor for three different locations of petroglyphs in the surrounding residential area. They provide a map to find the parking areas tucked away between houses and gas stations and fence lines.

We visited two of the three Petroglyph canyons: Piedras Marcadas and Boca Negra. The petroglyphs are chiseled into the sides of volcanic rock that is left over from a lava flow 200,000 years ago. The images are thought to be as old as 2-3000 years ago by early native people. Others are younger (4-700 years ago)  and made by newer native people, Hispanic explorers in the 1600's and explorers in the 1800's.

There are some 20,000 images created on the lava flow rocks in these three areas. Some are easy to see while others are harder to find. 

After visiting the Petroglyphs we headed out of Albuquerque. The city sits in a bowl and is visible from
The highway east and west and from the surrounding hillside. It was typical city traffic and I was glad to get back on the highway away from big cities.

New Mexico looks like a blend of Arizona and Utah. Some cliffs and red soil, cactus and scrub trees. As we traveled east the grasses started to take over the rocks and cactus. We crossed the top of Texas and the landscape changed again. It suddenly became very flat and trees started to enter the landscape. Next came crops like wheat and corn and livestock grazing.

Texas turned into Oklahoma and we felt most at home so far. Oklahoma looks like a Midwest state. It could be Illinois or Iowa if you didn't know it.

We stopped at the Oklahoma City Memorial downtown before heading to the hotel for the evening. It is an amazing memorial, dedicated to the victims, survivors and rescuers of the Alfred P. Murrah bombing on April 19, 1995. It is dramatic especially at night. 

A busy driving day, but a fantastic journey. We are at about 3,200 miles for the trip and have seen so much. Sadly the Route 66 gas stations and attractions that dried up when the two lane through town shifted to a four lane road dot the landscape. We wondered what Rt 66 must have been like to travel in  it's heyday. The I-40 eastbound rest stop in Clarendon, TX was not only the cleanest rest stop I have been to, but an amazingly well done tribute to Route 66.