Detroit

www.jon-herrera.com

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Detroit is a city that has seen better days. There are miles, and I mean MILES, of abandoned houses and businesses. These falling down structures are inter-spaced with overgrown vacant lots. The roads are often in shockingly good shape, many of them appear brand new. Of course, the fact that about 25 percent of the city’s population has left for greener pastures means the roads don’t get as much wear and tear as they once did.

Driving in Detroit is a shocking contrast to driving in say, Chicago or New Jersey. Those cities are filled with insane people who drive like complete idiots. But what if everyone had a lane to themselves? It makes a huge difference. Driving in Detroit is like having the freeway to yourself. There are still people in Detroit, it isn’t really a post apocalyptic wasteland, but there just aren’t enough people here to fill all seven lanes that many of the freeways have. I never go out at rush hour, but whenever I do go out, the roads are smooth sailing.

I like graveyards. There is an amazing contrast between the historic cemeteries such as Elmwood, Mt Elliot, and Woodlawn and the surrounding areas. Urban decay is raging all around these fine old cemeteries, but they are well cared for. The grass was freshly mowed, there was no trash laying undisturbed at every curb, no graffiti covered every flat surface, no cars with flat tires sat at random spots. The world outside the gates, and in fact, right across the street, did have that post apocalyptic feel to it.

Unlike New Orleans or Atlanta, Detroit didn’t frighten me, it just depressed me. The many people I saw walking the streets of Detroit didn’t look like would-be muggers, they just looked like people walking because they didn’t have a car. When I stopped to take photos of the McGregor Public Library, I had two people ask me when I thought they were going to restore it. It looks more like it’s waiting for the wrecking ball than the restorer.

There are just way too many falling down buildings and way too much graffiti to stop and take photos of them all. There is more to Detroit than urban decay, but the urban decay is so omnipresent that you tend to forget everything else. Someone should buy the entire city and turn it into a Max Mad Theme Park.

These images were taken with my Olympus E-1. Many are HDR and processed in Photomatix and Lightroom.

Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House

Frank Lloyd Wright designed a lot of very cool buildings. Like every other architect, he’s had his ups and downs. Many of his buildings have been torn down and The Robie House in Chicago was twice threatened with demolition itself. Many of Wright’s clients were rich when he worked for them, but then ran into hard times soon after. Mr Robie lived in the Robie house for all of 15 months.

The Robie House was only used as a private home for a few years. Then it was used as office space and a dining hall for college kids. But at least it was used, which is more than can be said for many Wright houses that sat vacant and abandoned for years. It’s now part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.

Wright liked to make each of his buildings unique, so that each one had a distinctive set of patterns. Chairs and wallpaper and carpets and lead glass art windows each had patterns that were only used once. Some of these patterns are clearly inspired by nature and some are pure geometric designs. Our Guide at the Robie House said no one knows what the pattern used in the Robie House might represent. Having looked at the pattern for a few minutes, I have an idea as to what it might be.Robie House by Jon Herrera 9

I think it’s a well. The top has elements of a roof. The center colored element looks like a bucket with a line leading to the roof. The colored bar under the bucket looks like a well shaft.

The images here were captured with my Olympus E-1 and processed in Lightroom and Photomatix 5.

Washington, DC

Washington, DC is a great place to take photos. All kinds of great sights. Smithsonian museums, national monuments, all kinds of government buildings, and the Supreme Court. My Washington, DC pictures are mostly HDR images processed in Photomatix and tweaked with Lightroom. My main memories of my time in the city have to do with a lot of walking. Everything appears close to each other, but over the course of the day, you end up walking a few miles.

I had the good fortune to be able to spend several days wandering around the Capitol and these are a few the many images I captured. Washington, DC has too much to see in one day, too many museums with too many items on display. This means you can see something different on each visit and that you can never see everything.

My first couple of trips I found free parking near the Jefferson Monument and my last visit I ended up parking at Union Station and paying about twenty dollars. Parking at Union Station made it easy to take photos of the station, such as the arches above, and it was close to the Supreme Court and the Capitol.

We had lunch at District Taco, a wonderful place that was always crowded and the seats are way too close together, but the food was great. The District Taco where we ate is housed in a very cool art Deco building. And they have really great sodas in their fountain, Boylan’s cane sugar sodas in a variety was fun favors.

There are still a few places I might like to visit if I get back to DC, but for now, I think I’ve done all the walking I care to do.

Cemetery in New Jersey

 

I tend to like old tombstones.  The way the zig and zag over time.  Lean to one side or the other.  Gather molds and lichens.  And they have so much more personality than the modern need for conformity and ease of maintenance with the tiny ground flush stones found in most modern grave yards.

These stones are mostly from a small cemetery in New Jersey.  Except for the first image, which is from the wonderful Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in New York, where I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time as I would have liked.

All images were captured using my trusty Olympus E-1 and processed in Lightroom.

Enola Gay

The Enola Gay is a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, named for Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of the pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets, who selected the aircraft while it was still on the assembly line. On 6 August 1945, during the final stages of World War II, it became the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb.  -Wikipedia

The Enola Gay can be seen at The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center/ Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum near Washington DC.  This is a ‘free’ museum that charges $15 dollars for parking.  Still not a bad deal  But I do have few gripes about the layout of the place.

The museum is basically a couple of very large rooms with as much random crap as possible stuffed into them.  Without the extensive use of Photoshop, it would be impossible to get most of the aircraft in insolation.  Add to this the fact that a lot of the aircraft on display have little or no historical value and there were dozens of planes that didn’t even appear to be of any interest at all.

There were planes that were interesting to me, the Blackbird, the Space Shuttle, and the Enola Gay.  The Blackbird and the Space Shuttle were given prominent placement, while the Enola Gay is surrounded on all sides by other aircraft.    I realize that the Enola Gay has been the center of controversy due to the fact that most people now living in America want to pretend Americans have never done anything bad and many still view the dropping of the atomic bomb as a necessary action.   Revisionism aside, this plane was part of a huge historical event and deserved better than being one more random hunk of junk in an overcrowded room.

Then there was something on the slightly silly side-the Mother Ship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind was on display in the same room as the Space Shuttle.  What.  The.  Hell!!!??  Purists threw a hissy fit when the Enterprise from Star Trek was hung in the Air and Space Museum not too far from the Wright Flyer and the Spirit of St Louis.  So how the hell does the Mother Ship from Close Encounters rank a place of honor in this museum?

And if this is ok, then why is the Enterprise still buried in a back corner of the basement of the damned Smithsonian gift shop?  Put it on display here as well.

Ok, rant over.  The Museum was nice, but it was a little cluttered for my taste.

These images of the Enola Gay were taken with my Olympus E-1 digital camera and processed to HDR using Dynamic Photo HDR and then further tweaked in Lightroom.

Kansas City Union Cemetery


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I’ve always liked old cemeteries. The tombstones of a hundred years ago are so much more artistic than the flat slabs favored by the grounds keepers of today. Union Cemetery is a nice hilly place with a lot of trees and a lot of old monuments. While not as large or lavish as some places, it is a pleasant place to visit.

I like the look of black and white with these kinds of images. These were taken with my trusty Olympus E-1 and processed in Lightroom.

A bit of Chicago


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My travels have only taken me to Chicago twice, and both times left me little opportunity for sight seeing. I was either pressed to travel on, or so tired that I could only invest a few hours wandering around the streets in the general area of Millennium Park. That was the last trip, not too long ago.

Chicago is a city of tall buildings and vast hordes of people. It is a sprawling place and I got lost more than once. Still, I found my way to Millennium Park and the great chrome jelly bean. I had plans on meeting one of my Twitter buddies, but our paths didn’t quite match up that day. So I wandered aimlessly and captured these images.

All images were captured with my Olympus E-1 and tweaked in Lightroom.

Tyler Roses

Tyler, Texas has a great Rose Garden.  It sprawls across 14 acres and contains every variety of rose imaginable.  Some as large as a softball and other as tiny as a button.  I tend to favor the ones that have thick, velvety petals and wild color combinations.  I guess that some of these roses are the result of gene splicing, since they look like a handful of mixed color confetti thrown into the air.

The roses are beautiful and many of my them have that strong heady aroma, but many others have no scent at all.  When the whole place is in bloom, of course, it is a wonderful bit of sensual overload.  So many colors and smells and shapes and sizes.

These images were all captured with my trusty old Olympus E-1 digital camera.  All hand held.  All shot with a 50mm lens often set at f/1.4.    This has become a favorite lens of mine.  The images have an artsy quality right out of the camera.  Of course, I can’t help but tweak them a bit.  All the images here were given a little or a lot of post processing in Lightroom.

Arizona Cactus

 

Saguaro National Park is on the East and West sides of Tucson, Arizona.  It’s filled with countless cactus and lots of open space.  Like all such attractions, the first few are cool and amazing and the more you see, the less amazing they become.  Saguaros are still very interesting plants.  An adult saguaro is  about 125 years of age.  It may weigh 6 tons and be as tall as 50 feet. The one without arms is called a crested saguaro.   Saguaro can also be found all around Phoenix and they can be a bit of an odd sight in an urban environment.

These are digital images that were all tweaked in Photoshop and Lightroom.

 

 

 

 

Frank Lloyd Wright in Arizona

 

 

Frank Lloyd Wright went through several phases in his architectural styles, from the sharp straight lines of his Prairie Style homes to the rough and random cement and natural rocks of his Taliesin West works.   Phoenix, Arizona has several Frank Lloyd Wright designed structures-but I only had time to visit two of them-Taliesin West and the First Christan Church.

Taliesin West is a working architecture school where fifteen or twenty students at a time study the methods of Frank Lloyd Wright.  It cost $35 to spend an hour and half listening to some random guide prattle on about stuff that you may or may not find interesting.  I would have been happy if they had some tour where I could just wander around and take photos, but there didn’t seem to be one like that.  It was still an interesting place to visit, but I was not overly fond of all the cement and stone which made up the bulk of the walls.  Whereas something like the Martin House in Buffalo or Falling Water in Pittsburgh left me feeling in awe, Taliesin West left me feeling like I could have made the place myself.   There was a very rough and unfinished feel to Taliesin West and it was a good deal smaller than I was expecting.

The First Christan Church of Phoenix is a whole different experience from the Don’t Touch and Don’t Photograph without permission world of Taliesin West.  It’s a church and you can park and wander around for free.   The Church is made with the same cement and flat faced stone slabs found at Taliesin West.  The Wife said it looks like a Cardassian Church and I have to think that the art designers of Star Trek Deep Space Nine must have helped themselves to a few of Wright’s drawings.    The First Christan Church does look a little bit sci fi.

These images were all taken with my trusty Olympus E-1 and they were tweaked in Photoshop and Lightroom.