Saturday, August 31, 2019

Mid-state Mississippi Road Trip Part 1: Raleigh, Mize, Magee, Mendenhall, and Florence


Central Mississippi is out of my usual exploration area. I suppose I do not get out enough. Therefore, in conjunction with driving my wife to the airport, I have made an effort in the last couple of years to explore south of Interstate 20 and south of Jackson. This is an area of gentle rolling hills, farmland, forest, and small towns. We will take a gentle swing heading south from Jackson, then west, and then back to Vicksburg. There is a wealth of photographic subject matter. I will break up this impromptu tour into three blog articles. Also, the tour is a conglomerate of two years exploring, so it is not exactly one big circle route.


3011 Hwy 49, Florence, (April 14, 2019, Panatomic-X film, Fuji GW690II camera, 90mm lens, ½ sec ƒ/11)
In 2019, I drove south on Hwy 49. Usually, I just rush through Florence in a hurry en route to Hattiesburg or somewhere else. Seen from 49, it consists of fast food shops and gas stations - totally dull and horrifying in an American strip-mall way. Ah ha, an interesting shop. A gent was cleaning and we chatted. He said it was once a mechanic shop, but it now sells antiques. (Click the photograph to see detail at 2400 pixels wide).


Unused cottage, Brandon, Mississippi (Leica M2, 50mm Summicron-DR lens, green filter, Kodak BW400CN film)
On my 2018 trip, I drove south on Rte 18 from Brandon, which is now largely a suburb of Jackson. Heading south on Rte 18, I saw an abandoned cottage in the woods. Otherwise, not much caught my eye.


Gasoline pumps, Raleigh Food Center, Hwy 35, Raleigh
Raleigh is at the south end of the Bienville National Forest. I assume the town was once heavily involved with forest products. I did not see much that was photogenic.


Faithway MB Church, Maple Street, Mize (50mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron-DR, green filter)
Mize is a pretty little town with a couple of handsome churches. The railroad went right through town, as it did for almost all small towns in the early 1900s.


1st Ave. NE, Magee (50mm, polarizer)
Hotel site, Hwy 49 north of Magee (50mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron-DR, green filter)
Magee looked reasonably prosperous, and several blocks of turn of the century commercial buildings attest to its being an important commercial center decades (or a century) ago. Somewhere between Magee and D'Lo, I found an old drive-in theater almost engulfed by the woods. Unfortunately, there was no way to photograph the screen, and I think the projection booth hut was gone. A trucking company may have owned the land.


Big Smitty's, Hwy 149, Mendenhall
Main Street, Mendenhall (Leica M2, 50mm Summicron-DR lens, polarizing filter to emphasize sky) 
Mendenhall tracks, view west from Main Street crossing (50mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron-DR, polarizer) 

Mendenhall Grocary & grain, Main Street, Mendenhall
Maain Street, Mendenhall (50mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron-DR, polarizer)
Mendenhall, about 25 miles south of Jackson, is the seat of Simpson County. The handsome courthouse dates from 1908 and occupies a prominent spot on a hill at the top of Main Street. It is a nice little town, but the stores on Main Street are now largely empty.

Many years ago, the Mendenhall Hotel was famous for its southern cuisine served via lazy Susan turntables. It was featured in the 1977 edition of Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern. We had the book and meant to try out the Mendenhall Hotel but never passed through the area at the right time of day.
Star Theater, Main Street, Mendenhall in 1990 (no longer extant). (Kodachrome slide, 35mm ƒ/2.8 Olympus Zuiko Shift lens.)
I was lucky to photograph the Star Theater (opened in 1938) on Main Street in 1990. But when I looked for it on my 2019 trip, it was gone. According to Wikipdia:
"During the late 1960s, the Star Theatre had problems with vandalism and growing racial tensions among its young patrons who objected to maintaining segregation. Under Jim Crow customs, black customers were required to sit in the segregated balcony and wanted this changed after national legislation to end such practices.
In October 1979, a newly remodeled and fully integrated Star Theatre reopened under the ownership of Danny Collins, a young local entrepreneur. Its first movie was the Chuck Norris film A Force of One. The theatre enjoyed revived popularity until competition from video arcades and cable TV forced Collins to close some three years later. 
The theatre was repainted when used as a location for the film My Dog Skip. Heavy rains caused the roof to collapse in April 2008. The theatre burned down in 2016."
This ends Part 1 of our informal tour of mid-Mississippi. In the next installment, we will proceed west to Pinola and other small towns.

For the Florence photograph of the old store, I used Panatomic-X film in my Fuji GW690II, the "Texas Leica."  Some good news: I bought 6 more rolls of the 120-size film from the same eBay seller who sold me my present stock in 2003. In effect, I have paid him to store the film in his freezer for a decade and a half. Fortunately, slow speed black and white film, when kept cold, is usable decades after its official expiration date. But color films do not last as well, as my experience with expired Ektar 25 demonstrated.

The other photographs are from Kodak BW400CN film taken with my Leica M2 camera with 50mm and 35mm Summicron lenses.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Another visit to the Farmers' Market in Vrahati, Greece (with Ektar 100 film)

Whenever I travel anywhere, I try to check out local markets. My brother-in-law took me to the farmers' market in Vrahati, near Corinth, in the Peloponnese region of Greece. We have been here before, but this time I had a film camera (my little Yashica Electro 35CC) and, of course, I could not resist. The light was glarey and unforgiving, but the automatic exposure system in the little Yashica handled the conditions well.
Map from ESRI ArcGIS software
The market is set up on streets in town. I am not sure if the stands are here every day of the week or if the vendors need to take their umbrellas and tables away on certain days. Parking is a real mess - typical Greek village.
Most shoppers buy vegetables and fruit. I did not see as many vendors this time with inexpensive plastic goods, utensils, and clothing as I did in 2008. Then, I saw more Roma and Albanians selling miscellaneous inexpensive goods, but maybe they have moved on.
 The fish looked good. Some is locally caught, some comes in frozen from the Atlantic Ocean.
The tomatoes are locally grown in the rich soil of the Peloponnese. All the vegetables here taste like they are supposed to.

I have written before about other markets. If you are interested, type "market" in the search box, or try the words Athens, Kathmandu, or Rangoon.

I took all these photographs with Kodak Ektar 100 film in my little Yashica Electro 35CC camera with its fixed 35mm f/1.8 lens. The color balance tended towards red because of the many orange umbrella covers. Better color balance is one big advantage of digital capture, but I still derive more reward from film.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Catty in Cali (Parque El Gato De Tejada) - Travels in Colombia 01

El Gato Rio by Hernando Tejeda with the lovely Vivian checking out the photographer, Cali, Colombia
Well, Cali is not catty at all, it is actually very nice. Cali is the capital of the Valle del Cauca department of Colombia. It is a major city with over 2,300,000 residents. The Cali River runs through downtown and features a unique sculpture display, the creative felines of the famous Cat Park, or Parque El Gato De Tejada. According to trpifreakz, "The park got its name, Parque del Gato, from the creator of a giant bronze cat sculpture, Hernando Tejada. The giant sculpture, called El Gato Rio – the River Cat, was erected on the banks of Cali River in 1996. El Gato Rio was created in Bogota and transferred to Cali, which already sounds like an impossible feat – the giant cat is 3.5 meters tall and weighs 3 tons. In Cali, the sculpture became the centerpiece of the newly renovated park by the river."

No urban decay this time! These cheerful felines were too good to resist. One morning, when the tour group was organizing at the hotel, I walked down to the Rio Cali by myself and took a series of digital images. Sorry these are just from a mobile phone. These little (big?) guys were a bit difficult to record because of background distractions. At the site, each has a descriptive sign. Later pictures from Colombia will be from film.
Colombia is a great tourist destination. As of early 2019, the towns in the south central part of the country looked prosperous, and the people were friendly and cheerful. Construction and improvement was ongoing in both rural areas and large towns. Traffic is heavy, stores are well-stocked with goods, restaurants are very good. The country appears to be thriving.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Corner Restaurant, Bailey Avenue, Jackson, Mississippi

An old-fashioned commercial building/strip mall at the corner of Bailey Avenue and Fortification Street has interested me over the years. I do not know the vintage of the building, but I guess pre-World War II. As of 2004, at least one unit in the building was still occupied, but I think all are closed as of 2019.
On the Avenue, 2004, Kodachrome slide, Nikon F3, 200mm AF-Nikkor ED lens
In 2004, On the Avenue restaurant was open for business when I took this Kodachrome from across the street. Prices were great! (But I did not have lunch there.)

In 2018, I had some Panatomic-X film in my Hasselblad and drove to Bailey Avenue to look around. The building appeared to be totally unused.
Note the decorative elements, sort of art deco. I am impressed that builders decades ago made an effort to add some aesthetic elements to commercial buildings. Compare with today's boring steel quick-construction commercial buildings.  
Bailey Avenue is rather depressing, with many unused buildings and empty lots. But there is a lot of traffic - where are these people all going? 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Baobab Trees and Elephants, Tanzania

Tarangire National Park, Tanzania (Panasonic G3 digital file, reprocessed with DXO Filmpack 5)
My wife and I recently watched the Netflix nature program, Our Planet. It features some spectacular photography from harsh environments, including animals seldom photographed (such as the Siberian Tiger).  Episode 5, "From Deserts to Grasslands," described how baobab trees have incredibly deep roots that can tap water while the surface is in severe drought. I remembered being amazed by the huge baobabs in Tanzania and decided to revisit some 2015 files.
Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
Baobab trees are found in arid parts of Madagascar, Africa, Arabia, and Australia. The trunks can be meters in diameter and contain a large amount of water. In drought, elephants chew on the trunks to extract moisture. Sometimes, the trunk has hollowed out and provides habitat for bats, birds, termites, and other critters. The trees can be 2000 years old.
Tarangire National Park, Tanzania (polarizing filter)
Tarangire National Park, Tanzania (polarizing filter)
My friend Ed and I took a 4-day safari after our Kilimanjaro climb. Tarangire National Park is about 4 bumpy hours west of Arusha. It was quite arid when we visited in October. From the viewpoint over the river, we could see lions, elephants, and antelope. The air temperature was comfortable, and there were no mosquitoes.
Tarangire National Park, Tanzania
The pond was especially interesting because baboons, antelope, and other animals came to drink. We had to stay in the Toyota Land Cruiser, but as long as we were inside, the animals seemed to not notice us (or at least not be concerned). I think the tree in the foreground was a variety of Acacia (genus Acacia).
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
Yellow-billed storks (Mycteria ibis), Ngorongoro Conservation Area
The Ngorongoro Crater is an astonishing geological terrain, a volcanic caldera that is 600m deep and 20km across. It is unbroken, meaning no rivers flow out of the caldera. It is considered an active volcano. I did not see any baobab trees, but the caldera does include grassland, swamp, forest, and  a soda lake. Once again, another place to visit with more time on the ground to observe and photograph - with real film.

Note: the Yellow-billed Stork is sometimes called a Wood Ibis, but it is confusingly named because it is a stork, not an ibis.
Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania
This big lady came up to the Land Cruiser. We stayed very still, but she and her family were pretty mellow, snuffled around, and headed back into the forest.
Time for diesel and a broken key, Mto Wa Mbu village, Tanzania
All good things must end. We had to drive back to Arusha. It is a 3-hour drive over bumpy roads, rough going. Some tourists fly in on small planes to an airstrip somewhere in the area. That would be the smart way to maximize your time in the nature area and avoid endless potholes. But Arusha is reasonably interesting; older articles are at this link and this link.

I took these images with a Panasonic G3 digital camera with the Panasonic Lumix 12-32mm lens and a polarizing filter for scenes with sky. To convert to black and white, I opened the RAW files in Adobe Photoshop Elements (using ACR 7.3), then opened DxO FilmPack 5 to use the Tri-X black and white film emulation. It is OK but not the real thing. I need to return to Tanzania with real cameras with film.