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Monday, August 17, 2009

Search for the Curious at Home

Sorry for the lack of postings for the past week, but I've been busy researching and preparing for several upcoming shooting trips and haven't had time to shoot as much as I'd like. One of the interesting things about traveling to take photos (and I'll blog about this shortly) is that you spend about three days doing research for every day that you're on the road. And among the things that I tend to look for when I research a place are its oddities--the strange and twisted places that the locals know about, but that may never make it to the tour books.

The funny thing is that regardless of where we live, we all have these fascinating and curious places right in our own midst. Chances are, in fact, that you drive by a couple of them every week without ever noticing or stopping to see if there is anything fun to photograph. I live about 20 minutes away from Yale University, for example, and unless you were familiar with the campus, you'd never know that there are some incredible gargoyles and relief sculptures decorating the faces of the buildings. Once you get out and start walking around they peak over your shoulder and surprise you as if to ask, "What took you so long to notice us?"

And then, of course, there are the places that are just totally off the wall--and they are the best places in the world to find strange and unique photo ops. This past weekend, for instance, I paid a visit to a legendary local antiques store called United House Wrecking that is billed as the largest antiques and decor store in Connecticut--and it surely must be that. In addition to an interior showroom that is probably several city blocks long (you need a 20' mantel for your fireplace perhaps?), there is a huge outdoor display area that features an eccentric and eclectic (you might even say bizarre) display of yard sculptures, urns, statues and metal work. This company started out largely as a salvage company that saved and sold interesting salvage materials from homes and commercial buildings and has now become a bit of an antique-shop version of the Twilight Zone. You have to see it to believe it.

So while I've been busy this past week searching for the strange and unusual in far off places around the country, it was good for me to take a trip to this familiar haunt to remind myself that there are cool places to shoot close to home. In fact, in the two hours or so that I wandered around the outside yard, I probably shot 150 photos--and I got lots of great keepers that will surely show up in future book projects. So before you pull out the maps and tour books for your next far-off trip, pull out your local phone book and see if there aren't some great shooting venues right in your own back yard.

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