Greater Minnesota #3: Interstate State Park

Welcome to the Jungle

We took a weekend camping trip to the nearby Interstate state park, located just outside of Taylor’s Falls, MN. It is relatively close to the Twin Cities, has nice facilities, access to the St. Croix River, and some fun hiking. And as a bonus, it has some pretty cool glacial potholes to explore. The park is pretty urban, however; there was traffic noise from the highway as a pretty steady background noise throughout the weekend. The river also has regular cruises going, and the megaphone on deck explaining to the passengers what they are looking at also echoes if you are right on the river. On the bright side, we were in a great campsite, with access to everything.

Once again, these shots were all taken with my phone. I haven’t gotten around to looking through the shots I took with my “real” camera yet. Settle in for a line of pictures, with no text breaks in between!

Enjoy,

T

Tenting

Meg

Wings

Light

#6

#7

Hobitat

Tall Tales

Greater Minnesota #2: Red Wing

Red Wing, MN

*Note: I will say at the outset that these are all photographs from my phone; I use my favorite app, called Hipstamatic. The app allows you to program a ‚Äúlens‚ÄĚ and a ‚Äúfilm‚ÄĚ before you take the shot, but once it has been captured, it cannot be altered. The low resolution was a product of a new setting which I did not realize until after the trip, and the differing lenses and films used were because I used the ‚Äúshake to randomize‚ÄĚ setting, which I don‚Äôt normally use. I especially avoid this setting when I aim to tell a story of something, as the visual narrative is interrupted by the constant changes.*

The second of our summer day trips was to the town of Red Wing, Minnesota. Red Wing is just over an hour south of Saint Paul, and we arrived in town on the back of our trip to New Ulm, which you can read about in my previous post. The biggest thing in town is by far the Red Wing Shoe Co., which has been around since 1905.

Indoor/Outdoor

We arrived from New Ulm and spent the evening in the pool at the hotel. Inclement weather (which ultimately did not end up happening) kept us from camping, which had been the original plan. Oddly enough, Max didn’t complain.

Floatation

Father/Son

The next morning, we packed up and headed into town. We stopped at the Red Wing store and museum in town, which told the (rather interesting) story of the company, with a small exhibit upstairs. It also holds the world’s largest boot (size 638.5, since you’re wondering). The story of the company and its growth was very interesting; in many ways, it mirrors the growth of 20th-century America.

Size

Volume

We walked through town, which was pleasant. Certainly more people were around than in New Ulm, and the shops all seemed to be open for business during the week. We checked out a number of shops in the center of town, including the confectionary, where we acquired a few tasty treats to keep us going through the day.

Candy Wrapper

Main Street

Selfie

After working up an appetite in town, we grabbed lunch at a lovely little cafe called “Bev’s Cafe”, which had a good assortment of food and homemade pie, along with plenty of retro-cafe vibe. It was busy, and seemingly popular with both locals and tourists. If you’re in Red Wing I would recommend checking it out for a decent lunch that is priced well.

Just don’t forget to save room for dessert!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Disruption

Finally, we hiked up Barn Bluff, which overlooks the city. Our walk out to the bluff was a bit of an eye-opener, as we walked through what must have been the rough part of town, as things took a turn from the gentrified city center we had spent the day in. In many ways, what I saw strikingly similar to what I saw in Anchorage, Alaska. The hike to the overlook was pleasant enough, despite the constant sound of trucks below. At the overlooks, we found a flag and a vantage point to see the city below, and the river.

Barn Bluff

Summit

Tired

Red Wing was enjoyable on the whole, and after our hike up and down Barn Bluff, we climbed back in the car and headed north to Saint Paul.

I’ve decided that this will be an ongoing project to visit and blog about the small towns across the state that I can visit. Some of the ones I’ve already been to–Grand Marais, Tofte, Pipestone, Moorhead, Alexandria, etc–may get a blog post at some point if I have time to go back through my¬†archives and post them. Either way, I’m going to plan on more trips in the future to see more of the great state I call home.

Industry

Shadow Days

 

Greater Minnesota #1: New Ulm

“The Most German Town in America”

We took two day trips to small towns in southern Minnesota this week; this post will talk about the first of them. The town is New Ulm, and is located in the southwestern part of the state. It is mostly farmland along the roughly two-hour drive from the Twin Cities–frankly, it’s not much to look at. Honestly, that’s the case with most of the southern part of the state.

Billed as “the most German town in America”, New Ulm is proud of its heritage. It was founded by German immigrants before Minnesota was even recognized as a state, and has clung to its roots. My son has been attending the German immersion school in St. Paul since pre-school, and is interested in German culture and language. That was one reason we chose New Ulm as a destination for summer vacation.

*Note: I will say at the outset that these are all photographs from my phone; I use my favorite app, called Hipstamatic. The app allows you to program a “lens” and a “film” before you take the shot, but once it has been captured, it cannot be altered. The low resolution was a product of a new setting which I did not realize until after the trip, and the differing lenses and films used were because I used the “shake to randomize” setting, which I don’t normally use. I especially avoid this setting when I aim to tell a story of something, as the visual narrative is interrupted by the constant changes.*

Cultural Exchange

After we arrived, we decided to park and head to the tourist office. The tourism center offers free coffee and cookies, and is staffed by the friendliest collection of ladies I can remember meeting. They didn’t stop smiling the entire time and seemed really enthused about New Ulm. In hindsight, they probably were at least partially responsible for setting the bar a bit too high for the town; more on that later.

We ambled through town to see the sights, among them the Heritage Tree. The heritage tree is essentially a tree-looking tower which has various models that represent parts of the heritage of the town on each level (I realize now that the picture I took of it doesn’t really explain much about what it is).

Heritage Tree

Sightseeing

Bustling Downtown

We also saw a lot of local businesses–a fair number of them were closed, but some were not. Most of them had German-sounding names, but little to do with anything actually from Germany. Most of the heritage seems to be bastardized and turned into a kitschy bit of cultural nostalgerotica for those into these types of things. That needn’t sound negative; I suppose a small town like this has to use what it has to attract tourists.

Local Offerings

Weekday Hours

The town seems to have a disproportionate amount of both banks and barber shops, of which I found multiple of each within the span of a few short blocks. Apparently New Ulm is both the banking and hairstyling capitol of the local area. We even found some shops that were open during the week, and we enjoyed perusing their wares.

Variety is the Spice of Life

We had lunch in “the most German restaurant in town”, which, as you can imagine, had my blood pumping pretty hard. We indulged in a lunch that was, shall we say, “German-inspired”. The decor was straight out of the old country, even if the menu wasn’t entirely.

The Old Country

If you’re visiting New Ulm–or in the event you’ve already been there–you have certainly heard of Hermann the German. This teutonic titan managed to unite the Germanic tribes in the year 9 AD and defeat the Romans at some battle I could google for you, but am to lazy to. Let’s just say he was the talk of the town. He has a 102-foot statue near the Martin Luther College campus, and we went to climb it and get a greater appreciation for Hermann’s feats, while also getting a bird’s-eye view of the city.

Respect for History

Hermann’s Casts a Shadow

Overlooking New Ulm

We saw the local cathedral, which was nice, and offered some reprieve from the heat of the afternoon sun. We also took in the thrice-daily Glockenspiel (which, if I lived or worked in the town, and was subjected to constantly, I could envision becoming less charming), ate some baked goods at the German bakery, saw the German-Bohemian Immigrant Monument, and visited German Park (astute readers may notice a pattern developing).

Cathedral

As we headed back to the car to depart after a long day, I noticed what looked like a minor league baseball stadium, and took a slight detour to check it out. Johnson Park, as it is called, was empty and locked up, but two of the groundskeepers noticed me looking in and offered to let me in to see it. Thankfully, I took them up on the offer; I’m sure glad that I did. Turns out it was the home of the New Ulm Brewers, who play in the East Tomahawk League of the MN Baseball League.

What really made it cool is the fact that the stadium was a WPA project from 1939, which a plaque at the base of the stand near the entrance indicates. Much of it seems to have not been upgraded since then, which lends it a sense of history and charm. This, for me, was the highlight of the day.

Johnson Park

Third Base

There is an accompanying football field, called Johnson Field, right next door. While I didn’t get inside, it looked to be about the same vintage. Following this, we got back in the car and headed off to our next destination. New Ulm ended up being a bit underwhelming–this coming from the guy who has been to Wigan, and has season tickets to the Timberwolves–but perhaps that is part of its charm? It’s a small town in southern Minnesota, which draws on its heritage to attract tourists; personally, I felt the “German heritage” bit was oversold.

Still, all in all, a nice day out.

German Street

New Year, New Challenge: The Black and White Year

Shadow – Minneapolis, MN

A while back I blogged about the challenge I set for myself in 2012. To recap, it had been simply to shoot a roll of film each week with the goal of shooting more film again, since I had slowly but surely gotten away from analog photography over the past few years. In that, it was a success. For the full recap, click the link and read the post.

Moving ahead, I want a fresh challenge. After considering some ideas (thanks to all of those who emailed or commented me with suggestions!) I have decided to undertake a challenge (with a few key differences, but building off the same essential idea that less is more) that I read about from a blogger in Switzerland. I have never met him, nor do I know him any more than superficially, but I enjoyed his blog and his journey. Since he got his idea from another blogger, and since the idea is nothing new, I don’t feel bad about copying his idea and moving ahead with it in my own way. ¬†He is simply the last straw that convinced me to simplify in order to move ahead (NOTE: he has since finished his challenge and removed his blog). There is a dedicated flickr group for this concept, and many have drawn inspiration from this post for this idea.

This is 2014, with my trusty rangefinder. This is my black and white year.

Since 2012’s challenge suffered due to a lack of rules and guidelines to keep it going and focused, I intend to ensure that this year’s effort does not suffer from a similar loss of inertia by installing firm rules. You might have guessed the rules based on the title of the challenge, but I think it is valuable to spell them out all the same and hold myself accountable. I have outlined a set of rules, and a set of goals, for this challenge. ¬†Read on for the details.

Snow – Minneapolis, MN

Here are the rules:
  1. The entire challenge will be shot: A) with a single camera; B) with the lenses I currently own (28/1.9, 40/1.4, 50/1.5); C) on black and white film (Kodak 400TX/Arista Premium 400, Fuji Acros 100 and Neopan 400, and other films; I want to experiment with some different emulsions that I have not had the chance to try yet); and D) will last one calendar year (2014).
  2. For this year, the focus is improving my photography, which is another thing I want to improve.  My street shots range wildly in quality, and I want to address this. In part, this is due to editing; it is also because I need to learn to compose images better, and learn patience in shooting the out in the streets.
  3. I will shoot no less than¬†2 rolls of film per week. I may shoot more, but this is the minimum each week. I will continue to use my phone as a digital camera for snapshots of things, during those times that I can’t have a film camera with me, and will post some to the blog from time to time.
  4. I will send the film out each month¬†(more regularly than I usually do, which is every 2-4 months) to get quicker results. At this point, I would like to do so every 2 weeks. I have decided not to process the film on my own, due in part to the fact that I will not have a dedicated space available and I simply can’t take on that task when I am gone from home. So, for consistency’s sake, and for the sake of not overwhelming myself with¬†constraints and more work, I will send it out to be processed for me.
  5. I will create sets on flickr to upload each roll in its entirety (this will serve as my contact sheet), and choose 3 images from each roll as the best. This will help keep the project transparent and
  6. From the edited images, I will, at the end of the year, choose 20-30 images which I will put into a book (via Blurb). This will also allow others to see the final set of images in book form. The final selections will also be published into a set on my personal website.
  7. I will not be buying any new photographic equipment for the duration of 2014. I want to renew my focus on my photography and get away from the incessant temptation to acquire new/better/different gear.

Wind – NYC

Here are the goals:
  1. To stop focusing on the acquisition of new photographic gear, which can be fun and interesting, but also presents pitfalls. Firstly, the constant financial output of constantly adding more gear, which while not out of control, can easily get to be so. Second, I’d like to familiarize myself with a single piece of equipment so that it becomes an extension of my hand, and of my artistic vision.
  2. I want my photography to improve, and I want to have a solid portfolio of images at the end. To date I have too much of varying quality, and I hope that this project will help me to find the motivation to get out and shoot the streets more often, as well as help me to focus on a particular genre of shooting and improve the overall quality of my images. Perhaps I will even begin to develop a personal style of shooting, which I have not yet found.
  3. By forcing myself to shoot regularly and often, I will make sure the project has a chance to show improvement in my work. There is a minimum of 2 rolls a week, but I may shoot more certain weeks (while traveling, if the weather is nice, etc), while understanding that certain weeks (bad weather, work/school/family commitments, etc) may not leave me as much time. By ensuring that I have to shoot at least 2 rolls, I always get out to shoot. This will hopefully help me to stay in the rhythm of it, and force me to think creatively.
  4. Timely results help to reinforce how things are going and keep me on track.
  5. Having to choose 3 shots from each roll means I will really have to edit carefully–I’d say that I generally get 6-10 “keepers” on a roll now, so that means that only the very best shots get picked as finalists.
  6. Creating a book and publishing the images will allow me to have a printed, bound, edited collection of images I can keep to remember this year of growth.
  7. I want my work to improve, and so this is an attempt to harness creativity by stifling options. When forced to do more with less, I’m hoping that I will respond with a new way of seeing things and a fresh drive to get me where I want to go.

This is the challenge that I have laid out for myself. I imagine there will be some challenges, but that is part of the fun. ¬†Overcoming and adapting to them is part of the fun, and what will–I envision–help me develop photographically and artistically.

Morrill Hall – East Lansing, MI

Though this is surely going to be littered with challenges, I think I’m ready. I want to get better with my photography and really devote serious time and attention to doing what I love; perhaps with the right push I can even get to the point that I begin to show things in public. Maybe I’ll take the leap and attempt this professionally. On the other hand, maybe I’ll hate it so much that this will drive me toward a new hobby! ¬†Seriously though, I think this will be fun and the blog will help me to remain consistent and hold me accountable for the project that I have laid out. That means I’m counting on you all to keep me honest!

The thought of doing this for a whole year is exciting, but also intimidating. What if I can’t keep up with my own rules? What if I quit? On a more pragmatic level, what happens if my camera breaks, or is stolen? The hurdles seem innumerable, but like I said, that’s part of the fun in the challenge. What good is a challenge if it doesn’t actually challenge you? Although my own sense of self-doubt is already greater than it should be, particularly when it comes to my photography, this is something that I can conquer. And, in doing so, perhaps I can get over some of my own doubts about my work.

I’ll need a lot of help from my readers to keep me going. I foresee dark days ahead, so keep me honest and help me to carry on when the going gets tough and life weighs me down. I’m not going to quit this.

A black and white year. I’m ready.

It’s on.

Angles – London

Screen Shot

London – January, 2013

Standing in the cold at Craven Cottage in January, taking a photograph of a guy taking a photograph of the match we’ve both paid to attend. Since I don’t have a lot of meaningful images that are new, I have to dig through the archives to find things to blog.

I haven’t had time to shoot lately, and I hate it. Commute, work, gym, commute again, eat, sleep, and repeat. Day after day. The grind can start to wear you down.

Life has taken away my time to make images, and soon it will be winter. With winter comes darkness. I’m dreading the onset of winter for this very reason; with even less light than we have now, there will be fewer and fewer opportunities to make photographs. Times like this make me want to take a trip. Traveling not only lets me discover new things, but allows me to have time to devote to making photographs that I don’t always have in real life. Time that I can’t seem to find right now.

My sentences are fragmented, like my thoughts. No time to shoot, to time to think. Only time to make it to tomorrow. Seems like I’m treading water, and can’t always see land.

Website!

20120621-001158.jpg

I’m happy to announce that my website is officially open for business!

www.trevorsaylor.com

Please add it to your bookmarks, and tell your friends! It will continue to be tweaked (endlessly, I’m sure) but it’s basically up and running and good to go. It won’t change by leaps and bounds, but you will see additions as new projects are realized and finalized. Additionally, there is another photo book in progress that should be finished some time next month.

The shot above is from my latest project, titled “Summer Job”, which chronicles my experience being on military orders for the summer and beyond. At some point–when the project is closer to completion–I will sit down and write up an artist’s statement about the project and the idea that inspired it. I am hoping to get some thoughts on the website when you all have a chance to check it out.

Thanks for all the support for those of you who continue to check the blog daily. The blog will continue to be updated regularly, and you can link back to this blog from my website if you want as well.

-Trevor