Sunday, February 21, 2010

Just Call Her Mary Poppins

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

The back of Joann’s car is always loaded with a “just in case” bag. It is filled with extra clothes and her rain gear. She is well prepared for whatever weather we encounter in our backroads travels.

On our trip to Ohio in April of 2009, we started with sun -- way too much sun and no character in the sky, and we wished for better conditions for photographing. Well, our wishes came true and, for most of the rest of the trip, as Joann photographed, it had just rained, was threatening to rain, or was raining. And she was happy.

Abandoned Farm, Brown County, Ohio

Joann is well prepared for the rain. She has her purple rain suit, and there are always several umbrellas in the car. She likes the even lighting when there is a light rain, so she will don her rain suit (in a porta-potty, under the back hatch of the car on a country road, or in a gas station restroom if we are lucky enough to be near one) and we continue to photograph. I’m usually in the car waiting unless I’m needed to hold the umbrella for some reason.

Ohio Bicentennial Barn, Morgan County, Ohio

Often, she opens the umbrella and props it over the door as she gets out her camera equipment. Then when she has everything she will need, she takes the handle of the umbrella and says “Just call me Mary Poppins” and then laughs as she closes the door to go take the pictures.

On one of the rainy days, it was raining too hard to photograph, so we decided to drive from one of my planned routes to another. On the way, we were passing through a town that had a Mail Pouch barn at the edge of town. The barn sits on a hill behind a McDonalds with development all around it. We hadn’t passed very many red Mail Pouch barns, and this one was in very good shape, so we pulled into the McDonalds parking lot. We found a place to park at the edge of the lot next to the dumpster, and Joann saw that she could get a pretty good angle and eliminate the development. The only problem was that we had driven into this hard-pouring rain, so Joann hadn’t put on her rain gear.

Mail Pouch Tobacco Barn, Belmont County, Ohio

We sat at the edge of the parking lot for a while trying to decide if she should try to get a picture or two or if we should go on. The problem with going on is that we try not to go back to the same place twice, so it was now or never for a picture of this barn. I watched her as she got ready to make a mad dash for the back door to get out her equipment, and then she went for it. Out the door and into the back seat, then grabbed the umbrella and put it over the door while she got her camera set up. Then she took a few pictures quickly and stored the equipment away, shook off the umbrella and laid it on the floor of the back seat.

As she slid back behind the wheel, she said “Done,” and then her back touched the seat. She was soaked through and now she could really feel it.

Cruisers Diner, Adams County, Ohio

Farther along our route, we came down a road with several Mail Pouch Barns. One sat very close to the road, and as we approached we came to a small side road with a metal bridge across a creek. We pulled over and Joann got out, propped her umbrella open, loaded up everything she needed, and carried it across the road to the old metal bridge.

Rusty Metal Truss Bridge and Gray Barn, Monroe County, Ohio

She took a lot of pictures from that location – misty pictures of the Mail Pouch barn in the distance; pictures of the rusty old metal bridge; pictures of the old gray barn down the little side road; and pictures with the road, bridge, and barn. All the while, the rain came down steadily, and Joann struggled to keep her camera equipment dry and to manage the tripod, camera settings, remote control, hand-held filters, and the umbrella, all with only two hands.

Rusty Metal Truss Bridge and Gray Barn, Monroe County, Ohio

I watched as she finished up and started to head back to the car. Then, as often happens, I watched her turn around for a few more shots. Sometimes she gets an idea on another angle and returns to capture it. She bent down and lined up some photos of the Mail Pouch barn through the openings in the bridge, and then I watched her kneel down on the wet gravel road to get a better angle.

Mail Pouch Tobacco Barn Through Metal Truss Bridge, Monroe County, Ohio

When she returned to the car, she packed away her equipment and the umbrella and got in. As we started down the road, she put her hand to her knee.

Joann: “How did I get my pants all wet?”

Ruth: “Well, you knelt down on the bridge.”

Joann: “I did?”

She is often so engrossed in capturing the scene that she doesn’t realize what position she’s taking to get the shots. As we continued on, I told her we would be passing a barn we had passed yesterday. I don’t normally direct us to drive the same road twice, but it was the quickest way to get to my next marked area. It was a barn with a WOW Chewing Tobacco ad on it, and when we had passed it the day before, the lighting had not been good and there had been a vehicle parked close enough to prevent good shots of the barn. This day, the vehicle was gone and since it had been raining, the pictures were much better.

WOW Chewing Tobacco Barn, Noble County, Ohio

Everywhere we went for the next few days of the trip, the ground was saturated with all of the rain, but the pictures were great. We stopped at a very interesting covered bridge to get some photos. The Otway Bridge is a traditional covered bridge on one end, with a metal truss bridge on the other end.

Otway Bridge on Brush Creek, Built 1874, Scioto County, Ohio

The Otway Bridge was built over Brush Creek in 1874. It is a Smith Patented Truss bridge with an original length of 200 feet. At some point it was shortened to the current 171 feet. The wetness from the rains with the bright green of early spring all around us made it a very beautiful bridge.

Metal Truss Approach Span to Otway Bridge on Brush Creek, Scioto County, Ohio

On our last day in Ohio, we ate our breakfast near an old covered bridge on a dead end road. The road was narrow and there wasn’t a good place to turn around, so we drove to the end hoping for a turnaround. What we found was a farm whose driveway went through the creek. The creek was high and muddy due to all the recent rain and the driveway was impassable.

Farm with Swinging Bridge, Brown County, Ohio

Luckily, there was a place to turn around, which is probably the place where they park their vehicles when the creek is too high. In that case, we assume they get to their farm by walking across the swinging bridge we discovered near the turnaround.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mix of rainy day photos as much as we enjoyed finding and capturing them.

Happy Shunpiking!

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