Thursday, July 31, 2014

Abandonment: Junk House - Mojave, California

Junk House - Mojave, California
I found an abandoned house in the desert in Mojave, California. This little place was full of junk. Tons and tons of old VHS tapes, cassette tapes and magazines and other unwanted stuff littered the inside and, to a lesser extend, the outside.

Like a lot of these abandoned places, there was no indoor plumbing. No bathroom, no kitchen. Yet it is obvious that someone called this place home. The house may have been last used as storage.
Private Roads Owners Only - Mojave, California
It's hard to know when this house was built. If I had to guess, I'd say sometime in the 1950's, but that's just a guess. I don't know when or why it was abandoned. There is a wind farm very close by, and perhaps the abandonment is tied to that. Just guessing, I'd say the place has been unoccupied for at least a couple of decades.

One curious thing about this house is what was left behind. There were thousands of old VHS tapes. The majority of them were unmarked. What's on them? Why did someone have so many unmarked VHS tapes? There were also a lot of unmarked cassette tapes. It seems so strange.
Riunite - Mojave, California
Places like this house leave more questions than answers. One can try to imagine what life was like inside of it, but sometimes the lack of information or (in this case) confusing information make it difficult to grasp. It is just peculiar.

I used a Sigma DP2 Merrill camera to capture these images. I post-processed them using Alien Skin Exposure 6 software.
The Comfortable Chair - Mojave, California
Old Broken Television - Mojave, California
Unwanted VHS Tapes - Mojave, California
Locked - Mojave, California

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why I Don't Watermark My Photographs

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that a photograph of mine was stolen. The image was used in an advertisement in a local newspaper. Just yesterday that issue was settled, and I received restitution.

Several friends and family members asked why I don't watermark my photographs to help prevent things like this from happening. Even they guy who stole my photograph said that a watermark might have prevented him from using it without permission (actually, he was trying to say that it was my fault that he stole my picture).
Red Field, Green Field - Tehachapi, California
This photograph was used in an advertisement without my permission.
So why don't I watermark my photographs?

1) Watermarks are a distraction to the photograph. Can you imagine a great painting with "Copyright 2014" written in bold letters across it? Or a great song with the words "This song cannot be used without permission" spoken right in the middle? That would be silly.

My photographs are my art. Watermarks take your attention away from that art. I want you to see my art and not be distracted by a copyright notice. Watermarks ruin the experience for the viewer.

2) Watermarks don't stop anyone from illegally using your photographs. Unless it is plastered in big letters right across the center, watermarks are easily cropped out or clone-stamped out. It is not all that difficult to remove watermarks from photographs, and there is free software that can help one do it. If someone is going to steal a photograph, they're going to do it whether or watermark is on it or not.

3) Watermarks make no difference to the law. The law does not change with the addition of a watermark. I own the copyright to my photographs simply because I created them. It matters not if I place a copyright notice on the image or not. It is illegal to use my photographs without my permission, period.

4) Bottom-feeders don't pay attention to the law. They don't care if they are breaking the law or not. They could care less about copyrights. They don't give one thought to the creator. They think about themselves only. Watermarks mean nothing to them.
The Beach After Sunset - San Diego, California
A company contacted me for permission to use this photograph and paid me money.
 5) Most people and businesses do indeed care about copyrights and the law, and will go about things the right way. The majority of businesses are honest and ethical, and if they want to use my photographs they'll contact me and get permission first. Watermarks do not make any difference to them, because they're already following the law and doing things the right way.

6) Watermarking photographs takes time. I already spend too much time post-processing my images, and I don't want to spend any more time in front of a computer than I have to. I'd much rather spend that time with my family or out photographing.

7) If I were to watermark my photographs, I would have to create two versions of each image: one with the watermark and one without. Doubling the digital storage necessary for my photography costs real money and complicates the filing system.

To put this simply, watermarking photographs takes time and money, accomplishes nothing, and makes one's photographs look worse. That's why I don't watermark my images.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Abandonment: Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark (Lake Dolores) - Newberry Springs, California

Waterpark - Newberry Springs, California
The Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark (which also operated under the names Lake Dolores, Lake Dolores Waterpark and Discovery Waterpark) opened in 1962 in the Mojave Desert just east of Barstow in the tiny town of Newberry Springs. The origins of the park can be traced back to the 1950's when a man named Bob Myers made a small lake from natural springs for his family to enjoy. Before long he opened a campground on the lake, and then began adding attractions.

Some credit this waterpark as the first modern waterpark in America. I couldn't find anything to corroborate that, but it certainly was one of the first. 
Mems Poe - Newberry Springs, California
In 1999 an employee used one of the water slides after the park had closed, but the catch pool didn't have enough water in it. The employee became a paraplegic, and was awarded a large settlement. That was the beginning of the end of this park.

Rock-A-Hoola closed in 2000. It reopened under new ownership in 2002, but closed for good in 2004. The park has been sitting empty in the desert ever since. It has been sold piecemeal to other waterparks, with about half of the slides going to a waterpark in Canada.
The Future Is Blight - Newberry Springs, California
This abandoned waterpark is incredibly interesting. The buildings look both retro and modern at the same time. This is due to the different themes the park had over the decades that it was open. Some structures are in good condition, others are beginning to fall apart. Vandals have found their way through most of the park, but a few places seem basically untouched.

In 2013, Trustocorp, "a New York based guerrilla art group dedicated to highlighting the hypocrisy and hilarity of human behavior," made their mark on Rock-A-Hoola. Lots of other "artists" have spray painted on the buildings, as well.
Rock-A-Hoola - Newberry Springs, California
The waterpark is haunting and fascinating at the same time. It is easy to imagine what the place was like in its heyday. It is easy to envision all sorts of activity and life. That imagination stands in stark contrast to what is left behind, decaying in the harsh desert.

I trekked across the desert about two weeks ago to photograph Rock-A-Hoola. The place is fenced off and there are some no-trespassing signs, but access is easy and nobody was there to chase me off. I captured the photographs you see here using a Sigma DP2 Merrill camera.
Fear - Newberry Springs, California
Andrea's Room - Newberry Springs, California
Broken Souls - Newberry Springs, California
In Need of Maintenance - Newberry Springs, California
The Kitchen Sink - Newberry Springs, California
Peerless - Newberry Springs, California
VIP - Newberry Springs, California
Tubes In A Row - Newberry Springs, California
Raco Outlets - Newberry Springs, California
The Maintenance Building - Newberry Springs, California
In Thru The Out Door - Newberry Springs, California
Delicious - Newberry Springs, California
Broken Old Sign - Newberry Springs, California
KCIS - Newberry Springs, California
Shoot Me - Newberry Springs, California
Hall Loves You - Newberry Springs, California
Are - Newberry Springs, California
Kid Slide - Newberry Springs, California
Orange Slide - Newberry Springs, California
Lazy River - Newberry Springs, California
Chair For Relaxing - Newberry Springs, California
Stairs To Slide Out of Service - Newberry Springs, California
Open Door Palm - Newberry Springs, California
Lazy River Bend - Newberry Springs, California
Update:
I found this promotional video for Rock-A-Hoola on YouTube that shows what the park was like at its pinnacle. The contrast between the then and now is stark.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Day In Bakersfield (Or, It Doesn't Matter What Camera You Have)

No Parking - Bakersfield, California
About a week-and-a-half ago I found myself in Bakersfield, California with some time to kill and a camera in my hand. I actually had two cameras: a Sigma DP2 Merrill and my cell phone, a Nokia Lumia 1020.

It was a hot, humid, overcast day. Summer monsoon weather. It was a terrible day to be outdoors, yet the lighting was interesting for photography.  
Tree On A Grass Hill
I captured the images you see here with the two cameras that I had. I won't mention until the very bottom which photographs are from which camera. Does it matter? Not really. But I bet you cannot tell just by looking at them.

The difference is that one camera cost me $100 and the other over $700. Oh, and the $100 camera doubles as a smart phone. The point is this: do not worry about what camera you do or do not own, just use to the best of your ability the one that you have with you.
Summer Butterfly - Bakersfield, California
Stadium Seating - Bakersfield, California
Wishing Fountain - Bakersfield, California
Dry River & Sky Full of Promise - Bakersfield, California
Handicap Seating - Bakersfield, California
Bee In A White Rose - Bakersfield, California
California Weed - Bakersfield, California
Industrial Reflection - Bakersfield, California
A Little Birdie Said To Keep It Simple - Bakersfield, California
A triple exposure. I captured this inside a Target store.
5K Adventure - Bakersfield, California
So which photographs do you think came from the Lumia 1020 and which do you think came from the DP2 Merrill? No Parking, Summer Butterfly, Bee In A White Rose and A Little Birdie Said To Keep It Simple were all captured using my cell phone. The other photographs were captured with the Sigma camera.

Are the photographs better that were captured using the $700 camera? No, they're all about the same. Did you find it difficult to tell which images came from which cameras? Well, that is because photographic vision matters most in photography. Cameras are not all that important.

The photographer determines the outcome of an image, not the camera. That is why I can use any number of different cameras and lenses and even film and digital, and in the end my photographs look like they were all captured by me.

Take Your Camera With You - Moessner Farms Fruit Stand Visit

Beets - Tehachapi, California
In the countryside around Tehachapi, California one can find little places that sell fresh fruit and vegetables. Some of these places are nothing more than a table with strawberries. Some of them are small structures with some variety. Other places are "you-pick" fields and orchards.

I recently visited one such stand, owned by Moessner Farms, and I brought my Sigma DP2 Merrill camera with me. You should always carry a camera around with you because you just don't know when a photographic opportunity will arise.
Mango - Stallion Springs, California
We purchased some fresh produce. At the same time I captured some images. The photographs you see here are the results. 

If you find yourself in the mountain countryside near the small central California town of Tehachapi, be sure to visit one or more of these fruit stands. Also make sure that you bring a camera along, too.
Wall Art - Tehachapi, California
Fruit Stand Flag - Tehachapi, California