Thursday, October 13, 2011

That Warm Blanket Feeling (Part 1)

Setting an alarm the night prior wasn't even necessary.

My eyes opened with motivated intent to a dark room, the only semblance of light coming into focus being a street light bleeding through jostling blinds and casting uneven shadows on me and the wall. Squinting, opening wide, squinting again, I forced my vision into clarity on the digital clock a few feet away. 5:30am, on a clock that was ritualistically 15 minutes fast. Through the slats of the blinds there wasn't even a hint of twilight in the sky. A smile sneaked its way onto my disheveled morning face.

Quietly, with the stealth technique employed by a child on Christmas morning, I slipped off the couch on which I slept, careful not to conjure a ruckus that might disturb my partner still asleep on the opposite end of that same couch. I'd showered the night prior, so a quick splash of cold water served as my only morning jolt before completion of all the other standard niceties of grooming. Clothes selection would be the most important choice of the day: long pants against which to defend against insect tag alongs and little cuts and scrapes, a long sleeve thermal shirt for warmth in the chilly morning and again to protect against those little scrapes, thick palmed gloves good for climbing, heavy, weather resistant boots for trudging through less than kind terrain... the essentials. Camera gearing choices were easy: the E-P3 equipped with the 14mm f/2.5 pancake prime, my primary workhorse equipments, and the XZ-1 for quick snaps, references and anything better handled in a focal length deeper than a 28mm perspective. No bags, no spare lenses... no need. Just a pocket rocket, a pancake equipped artist's tool and a sling bag to hang onto a sturdy, versatile tripod. If any photographer were to tell me I was ill-equipped for my intended outing I would've had difficulty fighting back the appropriate bellow of insulting laughter.

Loaded up and armed with a working man's Dunkin' Donut breakfast and coffee, I made my way to a local Park & Ride rendezvous with a fellow photographer with similar taste in subject matter. I'd followed his work for the better part of a year, and was finally set to collaborate with an eye which held my utmost respect, and working with him would certainly be no disappointment. Once I arrived and parked my vehicle, we made quick introductions that felt less like first impressions and more like reconnoitering with a friend who hadn't been seen in some time. But there was no time for lengthy chat in a parking lot, the sun was still barely readying for its rise, and a soft blue hue was sneaking into the sky from the East. We had places to go, at least one destination in mind specifically. With businesslike purpose and intent, we loaded up into his vehicle and sped off on the highways again, ready to exercise the creative engine driving us both.

The drive to our intended locale wasn't a short one, offering us ample time to make with the small talk traditional of first time encounters. Strangely, we only seemed to uncover commonalities. It was already apparent that our preferences in camera gear and photographic subjects were incredibly similar, a simple review of our online galleries and a look at the cameras in our hands would have told that story to a complete stranger. While on the drive North, however, the music playing over his car's speakers caught my attention, the telling, genre-defining sounds of post-rock invading my ears. Still a relatively "underground" style of music to date, though certainly accruing more and more market attention with its unique tone. It was an immediate ice breaker, upon which the conversation blossomed into shared experiences and stages of life where only more parallels were drawn. The resultant sense of ease, the warmth of company typically reserved for close family, the immediate brotherhood... suddenly the entire morning felt like a long awakening accompanied by butterfly warmth teasing the belly. A very good morning.

Past the foggy flat spans of farmland, past the bases of rolling hills and gorgeous morning mountain views, we arrived at our destination... sort of. Parked in a quaint little neighborhood, a burrow shoehorned into the sides of steep hills bleeding into the mountain range just miles away, we collected our gear and set forth, through thick brush and onto the disused steel tracks that would serve as our makeshift guide. The sun was still working up the muster to completely rise, peeking curiously over the horizon and bathing the retreating fog in a rich golden light. That sight, the slow and staggered process of the sun rising, would be the backdrop by which we conducted the remains of our journey, the awesome spectacle unable to slow us in our focused trek. We had a building to photograph. A history to record. Something forgotten to remember. We would see a thousand glorious sunrises before our lifetimes were spent. Our determination demanded we seek out a subject far more fickle and transient. And just over the hill, with a view over the sprawling flat land to the East, we met our fickle friend.

Inside the building we both entered the trance-like state iconic of the diligent worker, the focused photographer, attention impossible to divert. Words went unspoken, sound passe, we invested all of our senses into the act of photography. Softly stepping about the quiet, still space, we soaked in the atmosphere, the chipped paint and rusted hinges, stained doorknobs and splintered floor. We took time to recognize the relics left behind, scattered mail carpeting the floor and lost literature discarded, lost and forgotten. Hours were lost in that building, time spent to piece together a mental image of its better days. Crutches, rotary phones, cushioned chairs and sewing machines, all items that could've told wonderful stories of their own if imbued with the power of speech.

It was a wonderful place. A wonderful time.

With the same clandestine nature employed in our approach, we made our departure once the inspiration of the place was exhausted. Stopping only momentarily for the farewell courtesy of a few snaps of the building's exterior, we made our way through miserably dense woods and back to our steel tracked guide. The sun had finally managed to achieve a full presence in the sky, pleasantly bathing us in the chill of the shade. It shared the satisfaction of a job well done, of accomplishment. Once again at the car, unpacked and relaxed in the seats, we took a mutual deep breath, engulfing fresher air like some life giving mist. The clock barely read shy of noon, and already our parallel minds erupted with the same idea.

Where to now?