Archive for Aug 2010

For me, Lassen County – situated in the northeastern quadrant of California, along the Nevada border – represented uncharted territory pictorially. Although I had been there before, never had I gone with the intention of ferreting out suitable subjects for either my Rusted Relics or Rustic Relics collections. I had no idea what I might find, if, indeed, there was anything worthwhile to commit to the posterity of a memory card.

My wife Pat and I headed out early one morning from our weekend redoubt near Portola, California (pop. 2,037) toward the Reno airport. The three days following were mine to go exploring, as she was off on a business trip.

After doubling back north an hour or so on Hwy. 395, I had crossed the intersection of Hwy.70 and had entered what I fervently hoped would prove the promised land. Lassen – onetime mining country – did in fact pan out as a mother lode, not quantitatively but qualitatively.

I had traveled a good 45 minutes north of Hwy. 70 before I found anything that even remotely panned out as worth the time and trouble to shoot. Mostly, what I saw rushing past me in the car was flat, barren desert and sagebrush, scampering along the ground in the toasty winds of August.

Just as I was about to pronounce my foray a waste of time and gasoline, I spotted an old, multicolored truck, facing the highway and not more than 50 feet away. It cried out, “shoot me, shoot me.”

old truck photo multicolored Lassoing Photo Ops in Lassen CountyI cannot overstate how alluring it was, painted a riot of psychedelic hues – pink, yellow, blue – and in a variety of artistic patterns. Never before had I laid eyes on such a colorful piece of abandoned art (shown here).

Although tantalizingly close, it sat behind a purposeful barbed-wire fence, the kind one commonly encounters when poking about in cattle and cow country. I thanked myself for packing, as always I do, a telephoto lens that would bring my discovery close enough. Having attempted unsuccessfully in the past to get over or through barbed-wire fences (don’t ask), I decided it wasn’t worth risking torn jeans – and, possibly, torn flesh as well – to pursue close-ups. Rather, I would settle, albeit reluctantly, on through-the-fence images. What I captured was not all that I would have taken in a perfect world, but I was more than satisfied with what I did “settle” for.

I continued north on 395 to Susanville (pop. 14,044), which immediately struck me as a town perhaps best sped through. After stopping to refuel – the car and myself – I headed west on Hwy. 36, toward Lassen National Forest. During the hourlong drive, which took me to the eastern shore of Lake Almanor, I found nothing further that “spoke to me.” Rats.

Then I swung northeast on Hwy. 89, to the far side of the lake and voila, not one but two eminently photo-worthy barns, located not more than 100 yards apart, in the hamlet of Mill Creek.

As I surveyed the one shown here, looking for a good angle, I discovered that if you stood just so, the V in the collapsed roof lined up perfectly with the dip in the trees in the forest behind. This shot, for the record, is unaltered. The V’s were put there by God, not by Photoshop.

old barn photo abandoned Lassoing Photo Ops in Lassen County old barn photograph field Lassoing Photo Ops in Lassen County

Done there, I packed my gear and headed back to our cabin, hoping to arrive before dusk. Happily, I did. And as I entered the development – known as Grizzly Ranch — I noticed out of the corner of my eye an old, abandoned International Harvester dump truck sitting forlornly in the corporation yard. Fighting the setting sun, I shot if from every conceivable angle, including several elevations, captured by virtue of standing atop the stepladder I always carry with me.

Including the “detour” to the Reno airport, I had spent the entire day and a couple of hundred miles of driving in quest of suitable subjects. Find them I did, and how fitting that the final shots, of the dump truck, were in my own backyard. Sometimes, one needs to be hit between the eyes with the proverbial 2×4 in order to illuminate what sits hidden in plain sight.