Saturday, April 22, 2006

Drive-by shootings.

To understand my day, and maybe (for good or ill) a lot about how my life works, picture this scene: me, at the wheel of my trusty car, speeding into Columbus for a swift shearing, then dawdling my way back to Gambier, camera in hand, snapping haphazard images of rural quirks and decays that I wish I could frame better but can't, for lack of shoulders (and thus opportunities for stopping for a better look) anywhere on US-62. And yet all the while I'm rejoicing at the calves and the birds and the barns and the sun (so much sun!), things that one might think would encourage me toward quiet musing and reflection and austere serenity, I'm blaring the New Pornographers, my music find of the week. I'm not sure how I missed them all these years, but I'm missing them no longer. (If you want a starting point, I'd suggest Twin Cinema [2005].)

I just can't imagine that it's a very good idea for me to continue trying to shoot and drive at the same time, but I'm not sure how else to get the pictures I want. I'm going to let the back of my head work on this problem over the next few weeks, as I finish out my semester. Meanwhile, when I got home today and moved all of my pictures over to the computer so that I could get a better look at them, I cracked myself up with my crooked horizons and my missed barns. The missed barns are the funniest: I have no idea, when I'm shooting over my left arm, whether I'm aiming at the right thing, whether I'll even get the purported object of my image into the image at all. And so my barns tend to be to one side or another of the frame, or motion-blurred. And sometimes they're crooked as well, to particularly good effect when the barns themselves are already in the process of falling down in some way or another.

By the time I was halfway home from Columbus, I'd decided that I wanted to revisit a part of Knox County where I (silly) had driven last weekend without my camera. I made a quick but fruitful stop in Mount Vernon, the next town over from where I live, where I discovered a staggeringly named organization's headquarters:

As the Beastie Boys might say, "Don't ask me 'cause I just don't know." The only appropriate response seemed to be to buy a David Malouf novel and head out into the hills northeast of Gambier, where aesthetic intent seemed to be more under my control, given that I was actually able to park my car at the side of the road and deliberately aim my camera at things I wanted to capture.

Things got even more interesting when I took a short but adventurous road trip with one of my excellent friends, out to a colleague's house in the countryside. Because I wasn't driving, I was able to shoot everything as we moved. By the time all was said and done today, I had about 200 pictures--and a far richer visual impression of my home landscape. One of the day's pleasures was seeing so many young animals--calves and lambs--doing their best childish impersonations of loping along, or feeding. And the great thing about cows is that they'll actually notice when you drive by, if they're at all close to the road. I suddenly have a plethora of cow stories to tell you--including the one about the time my fourth grade teacher brought a cow's eye to class (they're not so hard to come by in a farming area), or the time twenty-eight cows ambled over to a fence where I was standing and watching them from afar, and lined up side by side, three feet away from me, staring and snuffling and elbowing each other in the ribs and rolling their eyes and chewing. But I can't tell those stories now, in part because it's time for you to look at some pictures of cows. Note the ones staring at us as we drive by, in the second shot.

We also did some high quality gravel road travel today.

Overall, if you were to ask me what I learned today, I'd have to respond "Green, and hills, and feeding calves." Not to mention Dorothea's wisdom: "What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?"

Things were looking good in Gambier, as well.

And look, look. I admit that every time he vanishes, my heart aches a little. So far, though, he keeps turning up again. Does he not look pleased with himself, there beside the new hosta?

Lightning is flashing every once in a long while now, thunder following the light only after I've lost count of the seconds: storms are still far away but are clearly drawing nearer, a sure sign--as if my eyelid-dropping fatigue weren't enough--that it's time to read myself down for the night with Dorothea's impetuously generous heroics. If only I could stay awake long enough to read Middlemarch's climactic thunderstorm tonight, during our own storm--the rain for which is picking up, now that the rumble comes only three seconds after the flash.


Blogger four inches of ego said...

I wonder if the Institute of Divine Metaphysical Research is associated with the School of Metaphysics just down the street from Drake in DSM? Is there some strange relationship between universities and the up-cropping of metaphysics centers? Also, I adore the fabulously crooked barn photo; it is perfect as is.


10:01 AM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

I am a little worried about the whole Snapping While Driving situation, though the results are indeed remarkable. Even though the results are hard to argue with.

10:27 AM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Dr. S said...

The rules by which I've been living so far: 1) do not shoot when someone is behind you or traffic is approaching, because then you must keep doing your best defensive driving and stay at or above the speed limit, and shooting at 60 mph is bad; 2) slow down as much as is feasible (which yesterday meant going 45 instead of 60 in the 55 zones, when I could); 3) keep the camera out and in your lap at all times so that you don't need to take your eyes off the road to get an image--just push the on button, and push the shutter release; 4) don't look--just shoot; 5) stay vigilant for deer and other road-crossing animals (including people wandering across the highway to check their mail); 6) when no longer behind the wheel of the car, work on finding a better way to pursue this project.

my verification word is perfect: lstner.

10:36 AM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Poking-Stick Man said...

I agree with Nick -- all this photography undertaken while driving (even when you've also taken the sensible precautions you describe) is worrisome. Recent studies have found that multitasking while driving TRIPLES one's likelihood of having an accident. Perhaps you could simply pull over to the side of the road when you saw a scene you wanted to capture?

I realize that this post makes me sound like the resident wet blanket -- the one that was placed in the cabinet before it had dried and hence disfigured and warped the wood. But a disfigured and warped cabinet of distractions would be far better than none at all.

(I should note that my verification word sums up this post very nicely: aouhk! auohk!)

12:48 PM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger ttractor said...

waaaaaaaaaay back in art school I fashioned a door mount for my camera, just kept the shutter release in my lap. It did mean that I had to drive around with the windows rolled down but it was most excellent for snapping the people next to me at a stop light.

dxlgmci. An off-shoot of the Medici family, I am sure.

12:51 PM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Dr. S said...

As I've said at least three times, I can't pull over most places and take pictures because there's absolutely no shoulder on these roads--just straight off into the ditch, with maybe 2' to spare. Hence the *problem* of not knowing how to stop and take pictures. Perhaps a door mount is the ticket.

And yes, as a former NY resident and current talking-on-cell-while-driving hater, I do know about the multiplication of possibilities for accidents while doing other things at the same time as driving. Also hence the problem of figuring out how to get these pictures without killing myself and others. I think I may have hit it yesterday though: persuade someone else to go along and do the driving. Though that cuts out the solitude aspect of things, which is also important. Cycling on any of these roads is not the answer, and walking to them (or along them) is probably 1000% more dangerous than what I'm already doing. Perhaps it's the case that I will not be able to come up with a good solution, and that will be part of this story.

appropriately, for defensive frustration: kgmgifdh

1:14 PM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Nick Davis said...

Listen, I regularly nap in the bathtub (not always unintentionally), so I'm saying nothing to you that I don't deserve myself. I'm sure you're finding or will find the best possible balance—and why Ohio can't provide shoulders along their roadsides is yet another political mystery of the state.

We only worry because we love.

Hzmqdg: "We only worry because we love" in Arabic.

(And btw, your haiku over at StinkyLulu's is dreamy.)

3:33 PM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Dr. S said...

I know, and I do appreciate the love. (I didn't mean to snap at you, P-SM, not even for old times' sake. It's just that there really are no shoulders, either for pulling over or walking, and because Ohio doesn't have a no-cell-phone law, I know I'd get run over by a Hummer if I were foraging for views along highways. Back roads are probably going to be my answer, since I can probably find a place to ditch my car, and probably no one's going to steal it--and if they do in the summer, they'll be so horrified that the a/c doesn't work that they'll leave it behind in short order.)

6:24 PM, April 23, 2006  

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