I took a road trip with my son Efram, he had a task to do in the northeast corner of Tennessee, outside of Johnson City. We drove up from Florida which takes forever to get out of, through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, to Tennessee. In Georgia we stopped in Savannah.
Savannah was pretty, having a waterfront and a long line of adjacent parks. It was quite beautiful and touristy but not in a Saint Augustine sort of way, Savannah is more authentic.
After Savannah we drove up to Asheville through South Carolina, we stayed basically on the main highways.
In Asheville we got something to eat, outdoors. Asheville was interesting , but due to the weather quite dreary, although has this fantastic reputation of being an Avant-garde city. We did not really go exploring and then we drove up through North Carolina.
One knows when one is in North Carolina as the scenery changes , more mountainous and and we did stop at a scenic viewpoint along the highway with was very pretty in North Carolina. South Carolina, the part we were in (Charleston is the next trip) was not nearly as pretty but did have more of a rural personality.
We then hit Tennessee on the way we stopped at a welcome center, still very pretty in the mountains.
That night we slept in Johnson City and Efram went to his appointment. I stayed in the hotel, an Embassy Suites something like that. I just walked around and visited the local liquor store, which there are many in Tennessee. I bought a bottle of Kentucky bourbon in Tennessee, and as an aside, it is cheaper at Total Wine here in Miami.
Now –story within a story – or a segue – then a revert to the trip.
On the way up, in South Carolina, we saw as we were driving (obviously North) and on the of West side of the road in rolling hills, a Valley. There was a deserted cabin and these mounds around it smack dab in the middle this Dell. It was a good time in the afternoon, with the sun descending, there was a softer, directional light, with the cabin in the center, and these small mounds of grass, with the light reflecting off. We made a U-turn.
Up until now, I was just going out with the Leica camera SL2, just shooting things at random. It is a fantastic camera, the in-body stabilization is incredible. I, mean for me I can shoot at 1/15th of a second. I don’t usually intend to, but I do default to an aperture priority and they come out textbook sharp. Now as this was a real photo opportunity, we decided that let’s take out the tech camera. We popped open the back of the car, took out the tripod checked the cameras. As I started walking, there was this terrible underbrush, it was exceptionally low, I would say not more than between 6 inches and maybe foot and a half to two feet. Just to give this real meaning, we are talking like from your ankles to your knees and this is especially important because, they were the sharpest thorns of everything I’ve ever experienced, I mean it was just like walking through , a field of razors blades. Of course, I was wearing shorts, and not high socks. I had lots of cuts on my legs, you need to remember to pack Neosporin.
It was nice getting reacquainted with tech camera, and the 32mm lens, a 20mm in 35-millimeter terms. It has such a fantastic dynamic range, otherwise I might have had to use a Graduated Neutral Density filter for the Sky.
We moved the tripod to different angles, to get different perspectives, and framing, trying to best capture what I was seeing, the cabin, in the center of the small valley with light, coming in from the side also secondarily, the mounds, to the right and front reflecting the light and having a real nice shadow. Both sides framed by shadow, and an intricate soft sky that was not overpowering and not plain. I also shot the Leica, with zoom at different focal lengths. Looking through a viewfinder, especially a zoom, is a great aid in seeing the print.
An example of this is when looking through the 24- 90, it became much more apparent, that there were these two converging lines in the front, aiming at the at the cabin, and there was light on either side of the front mound in this patch of vegetation. This was nice. I did not pick it up on the with the 32 on the tech. I also decided at the time – this shot with Leica would be converted into B&W.
Repeating the image above, to compare to the B&W. I think I have two different images, both of which I like.
The story within a story is over – Back to the trip
Efram came back to the hotel, he had accomplished what he came for. With no further obligations other than to go home, we decided that we would take the back roads.
In this case a two-lane blacktop highway, through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. We started driving south, Tennessee is beautiful in that part of the state. We had a nice conversation with a local guy, when we stopped to take a couple of shots. Comes to your attention very quickly that there lots of churches, it would be an understatement, that most of the buildings that are not houses, are churches. and then of course as you go further south into South Carolina, Georgia I think they are now competing with Dollar General.
Oh – While I was out of the car to take the previous image, Efram was parked in this Church Parking lot.
As were driving out Tennessee, we drove along the Nolichucky River and we stopped now and again, to get some shots, using only 35mm cameras.
The drive through Tennessee into South Carolina, is extremely rural, nothing jumped out at me as really photogenic because I wasn’t looking at this as it was a documentary, although if I make the trip again, I would probably take some pictures of what I was saw. It was all very rural homes, no commercial anything and no grocery stores or no gas stations other than the image below. Occasionally you would see a house and it would have a lot of automobiles there, it was either a used car lot, a mechanic shop or, a roadhouse, otherwise in we saw nothing else. We were on the Old Asheville Highway.
Other than that, it was just houses, and a lot of these houses are very rural, they are not vacation homes, people are living there, some large double wide trailers now on cinderblocks, some of them had chimneys, brick chimneys that they have added on to the side. I spoke to a friend of mine is from that area, I brought this up to him, he told me that many of the people who lived there, worked in the textile industry in the 70s -80s, that three to four women would carpool, three or more hours to the factory, alas the textile industry is long gone. They just did that, their way of life. The only other I could think of, possible people are pensioned, could be veterans from the Armed Forces.
We continued, and stopped and took these images, entering Georgia.
The Hartwell Dam is on the Savannah River at the border of South Carolina with Georgia, creating Lake Hartwell. The dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1955 and 1962 for the purposes of flood control (Wikipedia).
Efram made this trip several times, and he would tell me about this church in Georgia that was built in 1888 by freed slaves, this is where were headed.
We took Highway 78, the landscape looked like this.
Also, while it is not something you expect, along the way there was a memorial to a battle in the American War of Independence, The “Battle of Kettle Creek” February 14th, 1779. This was not fought against the “Red Coats” but between future Americans, colonists against colonists, ones loyal to the Crown, ones in favor of independence.
Along the way as we moved to State road 22, we stop for a break. Took these shots.
Sure, enough we got to this church, wood frame church sitting on cinderblocks and it is called the Antioch Baptist Church. We stopped and looked at it, took a walk around it to get a feel of where we were. The graveyard off to the side, then walked up the four steps maybe five and walked in, it was empty, completely empty. It was not in disarray it was just like everybody went home for lunch. More so because, as we went to up to the altar, there was a table in front of it with a plate and there was money in it that people had left; apparently as a donation to the church, so they felt secure. Bible was open on the pulpit to Psalms 22:17. After our walk around, got out the tech camera of course, so now I am walking around with the tech camera and getting it from different angles and trying to you know, get it interesting angles, that are not calendar shots. Trying different lenses on the tech camera I was incredibly happy, took a couple shots with the Leica and couple of shots with the M10M.
I think Rev Dardem was the Reverend of the church before he died. It is the oldest legible tombstone there
The inscription on the bottom says
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith
2 Timothy 4:7-9 King James Version (KJV) 7
It was really moving; as you get lost in the technical aspect of what you’re doing, but you know you step back, a second you look at what you’re doing and you imagine what it was like for the people that founded this church in 1888. I know a little about history and I know that life was precarious, sometimes more so than others, and think this is one of those times it probably more so than others, yet they found churches particularly important to them – to have a community church of their own. That the church is still standing today, they do a few services there on occasion, so you had that feeling.
So, you certainly wanted to do justice to this, just was not going to be an abstract idea, this is going to be where you took at your images, and you hoped that you did a good enough job. You want people to look at what they are seeing and realize that they are looking at something that is alive but it’s very it’s old. Yes, these are okay.
From there we drove to another small wood frame Church. The Powelton Methodist Church, circa 1830, Hancock County, Ga We did spend as much time; we did not take out the tech camera. We did not go inside as it was locked. we took a couple shots of the outside and some of the gravestones.
We went on to the former capital of Georgia, Milledgeville. As I said, Efram had done this trip several times, and he has a penchant for exploring and is a is a very very good photographer, in addition to excellent scientific work categorizing and doing macro shots of wasp but I digress.
Milledgeville had the largest Mental Hospital in the world founded, in 1842, with 13,000 patients at its peak in 1959, and still today there are about 200 patients, who knows what was going on in Russia at the time, they generally had a tendency to do things on large-scale, but this was the largest insane asylum prison complex in the world. I mean it was just overwhelming. It is all abandoned, we were in the car, driving over its grounds, that it was just took your breath away. Is interesting, because the buildings are built at different times and I do not mean times looking at your watch, I mean like times like looking at quarter centuries.
So, there is many different styles of architecture many are 5 and 6 stories and built in classical styles, mainly brick building, and very nicely done, like university buildings. I was just overwhelmed; I could not conceive what I was looking at it. All the buildings had no trespassing signs, there were no people there at all, saw no human beings, several trips ago Efram went into a couple of buildings, crawling in thru a broken door, and did get some shots, but we did not do this time as it was getting late, we did go into the old boiler building, which was totally in disarray. We also weighted up our options, two white boys from Florida with expensive camera gear. So, in the interest of being more prudent than you were say, when you were you know 19, 20 years old driving around with your buddy, and you just had a couple sixpacks in the backseat, we pass on B&E. But not completely, we went into the old boiler building.
We walked and drove around; it was like we were in Rod Serling movie. The Twilight Zone, used to have a reoccurring theme that; somebody after a war they would slide through into a different dimension or something like that they’d be in one of any town USA, it would look like a Sunday morning at Easter — time no people. This what this is what it was like, we did not see any security, we did not see any people and it just went on and on and there were houses there for the groundskeepers there we saw a couple people walking about. My problem is just absorbing all this, not even being prepared for what Efram explained. My problem was that I could not see the forest for the trees I mean everywhere I looked I saw this and that, this is hard to get your arms around the whole thing what you are seeing but I got it. I have a plan for next time.
Have some ideas of how to shoot there, when I go back. I am looking forward to it very much.
That night we slept in Macon we got some carryout from a famous hamburger place and went back to the hotel and next morning got up and we drove to Savannah. Macon is a quite nice little town, the only thing I knew about Macon was one time it was Lester Maddox that made Macon famous, infamous might be the correct word. In Macon they do have Little Richard Boulevard
I got say that all the people ran into even when we made a couple of stops, on the side of the road. In some of the real small places we stopped, and nobody was wearing a mask, but we were wearing masks, nobody said anything derogatory or anything, so it was okay, I mean with Florida plates on the car you it was pretty easy-going, so we got to Savannah the next morning and walked around now we stayed there a couple of three hours.
It was just a lot of driving, but it was genuinely nice, and we had a great adventure. Covid truthfully for us, was just of an inconvenience, we didn’t eat in restaurants, we were always outside or had carryout. Hotel rooms we stayed were basically mid- tier from the Marriott chain. All hotel rooms took precautions a couple of them even had seals on the doors that they were sanitized. Everybody was nice and conversational again, it was was a great trip next time we will go to Charleston, I certainly want to go around Georgia. I really do like North Georgia and would love to spend a couple of three days to driving about. Got some plans, and hope they come to fruition. Finished