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Wintertime Photowalking

 

Statistically, winters in Flagstaff average fifty inches of snow, and in practice we’re used to that meaning that some winters we really get dumped on, and other winters see rather little snow. The first winter we spent here brought us only a few storms, but since then we’ve had some pretty good seasons, including the whopper of a winter of 2010, when a four-day span dropped five feet of snow on us. That winter I was lucky enough to buy one of the last unsold snowblowers in town and just barely keep up with the storm.

This year we had the longest winter-time dry spell on record, ever: Over thirty days without so much as a whiff of precipitation. So the whole town was buzzing over the prospect of the storm that came through late this week and into the weekend. Reports are that it brought a couple of feet to the San Francisco Peaks, and we got wonderful rain here in town, where it stayed just too warm for it to fall as snow except for a brief period overnight.

I got out around town for an hour or so between storms, looking for good puddles, stormy light, and view of some of my favorite downtown scenes, as well as some new alleyway nooks and crannies.

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The view toward the Monte Vista from the south side is one of the iconic pictures of this town, and it’s easy to see why. I can’t resist checking it out nearly every time I walk that direction. This night, the late sun poked through the clouds at just about the right time.

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Downtown has a lot of streets at odd angles to one another, old gravel lots, and a mix of new and old construction — churches next door to motels next door to restaurants, and almost everywhere a view of the train tracks or buildings that once housed businesses related to the trains. The neighborhoods are home to small, old homes in different stages of repair, depending on how long they have served as rental housing for NAU students. I enjoy the mix of home construction, some of which shows a strong southwestern influence with Adobe and tile, while other homes are in the mountain town style of clapboard, shingles, corrugated metals. There’s one fascinating house downtown built out of converted shipping containers. Last night, there were some fun puddles to be found, shining up the late evening light.

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I made it back to the car just as the storm really opened up again, cold hands flexing in the car after holding the camera in the wind and incipient rain — turning to slush and snow as the temperature dropped in the last block that I pulled up my hood, stuffed the camera back in the bag and made for the car.

A VSCO note

My photo walk was in part inspired by the need to get out of the house, and in part by Michael Laroque’s “Addicted” — VSCO Film 05 writeup. I really love Michael’s photography, and his discussion of Film 05 (I have Film 04 and Film 02, already) prompted me to pick it up after hedging for a few days — do I really need it?, I wondered. Michael knows that the point of these preset collections isn’t to make every photo look the same, but to find some inspiration in the looks they offer:

But it does mean I get to play with a new toolbox and with each and every release, some of the new emulations have triggered ideas, or found their way into my workflow in some shape or form. In many ways it’s like buying a great photography book… It inspires and shakes the status quo even if you don’t end up copying everything you’ve seen.

So, no, I don’t need it, and as a hobbyist I’m not going to make any money or anything. But I like them, and as I’ve mentioned previously, the film packs don’t take me back to my golden days of shooting film (though they do make me think about how long I spent shooting 35mm film in an automatic camera without thinking a moment about it); they help me find moods or textures or ideas that I might not have otherwise. So as someone who just enjoys this, it’s easily worth the price.