The other day, after a productive period of work in my freshman art course, I asked my high school students to put away their chalk sets and wipe down the tables. A teacher poked her head in to ask me a question while the kids went about their task of cleaning the room, so I didn’t provide my usual oversight. Still, after the bell sounded and the room was emptied of my charges, I noticed the tables were spotless and, instead of a jumbled pile of chalk sets on the back counter, someone had gone to the trouble of neatly stacking the thirty-odd sets of pastels for me.
They’re not at all like the knuckleheads in the cartoon below, which I drew to illustrate that school isn’t just about pragmatic knowledge. Yeah, I see that kind here and there, but they’re not as prevalent as you might think. After twenty three years in the classroom, I find cynicism toward our youth is generally unmerited. Sure, they’re not adults yet, and mistakes will ensue. But they’re never boring, and more often than not, they possess boundless promise!
I tend to favor black and white when I photograph the old homesteads near my town. I find infrared especially seductive. For once, though, here’s a color rendition so you can see what life in my corner of the world really looks like!
Warmth is a mirage birthed from a singularity
to shimmer on entropy’s stone,
a blip of vindication dismissed by eternity.
Cold is the hard truth of us all.
Poem and photograph © Brad Skiff
This small stand of trees is located on Dyer Hill, not too far from my home. The wind was strong, and since I use an infrared filter on my camera (as opposed to a full IR conversion), exposure times often run several seconds. The tree tops are blurry for this reason.
Taken with a Hoya IR 720 nm filter
To provide a new perspective on photography, I occasionally try to shoot images for abstract compositions. For this project, I decided to keep my images in a square format. The shapes are extracted from old mining equipment, and were taken during a trip I made last summer to the World Museum of Mining in Butte, Montana.
Rust and Shadows
Don’t take my picture, please, I’m not at my best.
The rest of my town was taken by fire, and I fear
now the awkward celebrity mired in my lines.
Leave me to the sage of Dyer Hill. Promise you’ll delete
that photo, just as age withers the lies of triumphant love,
gloved to the souls who trusted in me.
House on Dyer Hill
Taken with a Hoya infrared 720nm filter
This yellow truck is parked next to an old homestead near Pearrygin State Park (a photo of the rest of the homestead may be found in the blog post, “Unsettled”). The first time I photographed this vehicle, it was dilapidated in a manner consistent with its age. Today, visitors have clubbed the light fixtures and front panels horribly.
I took this image with a Hoya 720 nm infrared filter.
Many of the students I serve, as well as a few of my colleagues, bemoan the winter and its cold, gray clutch on Eastern Washington. I sympathize with them, but personally, I very much enjoy the snow (I try to find something to love in each season–why hate a quarter of the year?). Watching cars in the parking lot growing white domes, walking home as flakes tickle my cheeks, these are quiet joys for me. And those holiday lights! (I must make an effort to take them down this year before May).
But for my friends, and anyone else who needs a reminder of the warmth that is coming, here is a photo of a July sunset, taken from North Beach at Deception Pass State Park. Dusk is my personal favorite time of day. I hope this comforts some of you, as well.
Clouds, bitter in defeat,
retreat to the margins and scheme,
while beaming sun grins at their cowardice.
The sky was really active, so I grabbed my camera and this was the result: an abandoned home in the snow with harsh sunlight taunting the clouds. Taken with a 10-stop neutral density filter.