Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Another PA Exploration

On Sunday, a small group of us met up early in the morning to head up to PA. We were going back to a coal breaker which I had previously visited in the winter but with only a couple of hours to take photos before the daylight disappeared.

We had most of the day this time and with temperatures at the other end of the scale along with humidity but at least this time, I could operate the camera.

We all broke up to explore individually and occasionally bumped into each other as we meandered throughout the vast building climbing broken stairs and over massive machinery. It didn't seem so sinister this time without the cold winds and lurking shadows.

Because I wasn't frozen to the core, I was more adventurous this time and almost happily scaled up ladders and across grate flooring showing the floors below, even clambering over some of the machinery if it meant a better photo.

I managed to come across a few places that I'd missed last time and found the offices with old jars, tins and paperwork scattered around.

This is a photo that Joel took of me and Kasia. I can't believe she sat in that chair but everybody was filthy anyway from our exploring and she does look jolly comfy sitting there.
I was happy with our day's photographing and felt my shots were a lot better than last time's. I had even managed to replicate the ones I'd been disappointed with last time.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bald Eagle Release

Today, I went with a group of friends to Mason Neck State Park in Lorton to watch 3 bald eagles being released into the wild. The Wildlife Center of Virginia provides health care to wild animals and at midday was releasing 3 immature eagles that were born this year but had been found injured and needing help before they could fend for themselves. I spent an hour before the release with a warden who lent binoculars and helped us identify the eagles in the wild. We saw an adult and several immatures, as the young eagles are called. They don't get their white head and tail feathers until they are 5 years old.
Ed Clark Jr. in these photos is a co-founder of the organization and formed the wildlife center in 1982.

This was the first eagle to be released and the crowd were ecstatic as he flew to freedom. Ed told the crowd that only 1 in 4 immature eagles reach maturity so the chances of all 3 of today's birds surviving were unfortunately slim. But they would be closely monitored after their release by the park's and foundation's staff.

Jim Moran, a member of Congress, arrived for the release of the second bird, giving a short speech beforehand on the merits of the wildlife center and praising their efforts.

It was wonderful to see these beautiful birds so close up. Note the size of the talons, the same size as Ed's hand. He holds them firmly by their legs as these are the strongest parts of the eagle's body.

Everyone smiled at the majestic bird as she passed.

Another release. Only one of the birds actually flew over the trees out of sight while the other two made for the branches of nearby trees to sit and digest their new surroundings.

This short video shows the 3rd release. It was an exhilarating yet humbling moment to watch these releases. After hearing from Ed how these birds had been nursed back to health from their injuries, it made me realize how wonderful this organization is and how much our environment relies on their actions to help keep our wildlife safe. Just this year so far, they have released 33 bald eagles back into the wild including our 3 today.
This link shows the page on their website explaining the history of the 3 birds released today, and other pages show just how far this organization goes to help all wildlife.
The bald eagle became the national emblem in 1782 but if Benjamin Franklin had got his way, the turkey would be on the backs of coins and on state seals. He said, "I wish that the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country, he is a bird of bad moral character, he does not get his living honestly, you may have seen him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him.... Besides he is a rank coward; the little kingbird, not bigger than a sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district. He is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest. . . of America.. . . For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on." Hmmm.

Abandoned Screens and a Kitten

On Sunday, Emily and I went back to an old abandoned hospital which we've visited previous times, but only found out on Saturday that one of the buildings used to be a screen print shop. Since I work in the screen printing business I was eager to find the workshop.

We wondered through some of the buildings looking for the equipment and in one we heard a cry from a small animal. Searching through the dim light we found a tiny kitten mewing but after further searching we were unable to find the mother or other kittens. Concerned that the mother could return, we left her where we found her deciding to check on her after our photographing.

We found the screen print shop and I was amazed at the amount of abandoned screens in the rooms. All had been either exposed or used for printing and there were none that had been cleaned and were ready to use again.

The manual press was covered in cobwebs and plaster dust with a couple of screens still in place. Since they had been positioned incorrectly, I knew the press had been staged for a photo, so I corrected their placement so our photos would look more authentic.

Ink had been left on many of the screens which had been used to print t-shirts for festivals, school sports teams, fire stations and local events.

The flash unit and gas dryer were still in place and old buckets on ink had been left on wooden shelves. I couldn't find any squeegees used for pushing the ink through the screens and wondered why they had been removed.

All the screens were wooden with mesh falling out some of the frames and acetate film had been trodden into the dusty floor.

We found one test pellon; these are square pieces of fabric used to test the print before the shirts are printed.

This old poster showed that proceeds went to RAP which is Regional Addiction Prevention, a nonprofit organization that offers residential substance abuse treatment. There was no date on the poster.

In the basement we found old hospital beds and the image above is the base of one of those beds.

We walked past a recreation area and headed back to the building where we'd left the kitten. We'd been gone over 3.5 hours and when we entered the building, the kitten was still where we'd left her. We decided to take her home and stopped on the way to buy KMR baby milk. Once home, I continued to feed and groom her. She was keen to take the milk but I noticed that even though plenty went in, nothing was coming out the other end, despite me gently stimulating her. By 9:30, I was concerned and looked online for a local 24 hour vet which was located in Manassas. I drove down there and approaching the area, I slowed down to look for the building. An oncoming car swerved across in front of me to take the turning to my right and we collided. Everybody was OK including the kitten, but my car was totalled. I was shaking and very upset that Colin the Cavalier had not survived. (The insurance company later confirmed the fault was the other driver's and not mine.) My friend Jim arrived to pick me up and took me straight to the vets where through sobs, I explained the kitten's predicament. The staff were fabulous and promised that they would look after her and not put her to sleep. She was only 3 weeks old.

I called the vets 3 days later and was told that the kitten was going home with her carer each night and doing well. That evening I raised a glass of red to a lost car that had saved 2 lives.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

On the Way to Baltimore

On our way up to Baltimore on Saturday, we stopped at a naval college training town to check out the abandoned buildings of what is left of the old college which closed in 1976, having served the U.S. for 34 years. Much of the college has been razed to the ground to eventually make way for further campuses and housing but some buildings remained.

This was on one of the walls and made some interesting reading.

Pipes and wheels in the boiler room.

Many of the buildings housed workshops where the trainees would learn trades such as woodwork, electrical, plastering and as in the above photo, cementing.

I loved the light through this broken glass.

All the buildings were in an advanced state of decay with paint peeling off walls and doors in huge curling lumps. I found it strange that in one of the buildings the doors had been previously red but were then painted light grey as though a solemn and sombre mood needed to be established.

There were small mosaic tiles once neatly laid on this rooftop and which now were lifting and scattered around.
After lunch, we drove to Baltimore, parked up on a side street and walked to Artscape which is the largest free public arts festival in the country. On the way, we passed an alley from which a strong smelled of cellulose wafted out. Intrigued we entered the alley, finding a riot of color emblazoned on the walls and a small group of youths spraying designs and slogans on the walls.

This is known locally as Graffiti Alley, on Howard Street, with the walls covered in spray paint as far up as arms could reach or climb to. Their excitement was infectious and once they realized we only wanted to take photos for 'art's sake', they loosened up and continued spraying their cans, while we circled them, encouraging them with praise and our shutters snapping furiously.
How they endured the fumes was beyond me and after 15 minutes or so, we left to continue towards Artscape.

Cake were playing when we arrived, with people crowding the arena area, spilling onto the streets and climbing up anything they could to get a better view. Artscape features 150+ artists, fashion designers and craftspeople; visual art exhibits on and off site, including exhibitions, outdoor sculpture, art cars, photography, incredible live concerts on three outdoor stages; a full schedule of performing arts including dance, opera, theater, fashion, film, experimental music and performances by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; family events such as hands-on projects, demonstrations, competitions, children’s entertainers and multiple street theater locations. The atmosphere was electric and overwhelming. There were so many people it was difficult to move in some areas.

It was a great place to just sit and 'people watch' if you could find a space to do so. Arriving late, we sampled only a very small piece of the action and I resolved to allocate a whole day next year.
We spent a few hours walking around, watching peoples' eccentricities and sitting drinking beer on the grass before we headed for home along with thousands of others wanting to travel the same route.

This van pulled in front of us; the whole outside was covered in cameras or parts of cameras. It must've taken hours to decorate. Note the license plate!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Abandoned Reform School for Boys, MD

On Saturday, a small group of us went to Maryland to see a reform school which had closed down in 2005, having served as either a detention center or as a committed facility. It was situated in beautiful countryside and we bumped into this little chap as we walked up the track. He ignored my gift of a juicy raspberry and refused to pose for a portrait.

The raspberries were in abundance. I had never seen raspberries growing wild before and we paused for a while to gorge on the plentiful fruit. A delicious few minutes were spent munching the best raspberries I had ever tasted.

We reached the top of the hill to see the main building and were instantly unnerved to see landscape workers driving around and to hear air conditioning units humming from windows in the buildings. Was this place abandoned? The workers looked at us but didn't stop their vehicles so we continued skirting the buildings.

We managed to get inside this church as the door was unlocked but were worried again when we found that the upper floors looked as though they were still being used. We hurriedly left and walked over to some other buildings that looked more neglected. Again, the doors were open and as we crept into the cool entrance hall, we breathed sighs of relief as we looked around rooms that had not been occupied for some time.

Some of the buildings have been unused since 1999 yet despite the decay, it seemed that few people have found this place as we saw no graffiti anywhere.

Personal possessions had been left by bedsides including trinkets and clothing.

I wonder if this youth reached his yearly goal. There were photos scattered in some rooms and paperwork left on desk tops and floors.

These were probably regulation sandals worn by the detainees but we saw plenty of other shoes as well.

Some of the rooms had these metal bunks in and one locked room had 3 of these bunk bed frames pushed up against the walls.

This paper dated 1999 was probably scoured for jobs that would be applied for.

Notice boards and photo collages were still up on walls but I've blurred the names of the counsellors.

We quietly went through a couple of the buildings taking photos yet disturbing nothing but we were nervous at being here with people still driving around the site. We saw some vans parked up along with work trucks and a few private cars, so rather than trying to push our luck too far, we decided to leave, content that we had explored a relatively fresh site that hadn't been discovered yet by vandals and scrappers. But we did find time to stop at the raspberry bushes again.