Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Little Rock National Cemetery

The Little Rock National Cemetery is a sprawling cemetery that sits just southeast of downtown. The cemetery was established in 1866 by the federal government for the burial of Union troops. Since then it has grown to cover 30 acres and is now the final resting place of over 25,000 people.

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I always feel a bit nervous taking pictures in cemeteries, since it seems a little disrespectful to take pictures of someone's grave (I hope the people buried there don't mind). These shots were taken just before sunset, on a quiet evening - even though the cemetery is surrounded by the city, there was hardly any noise there.

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Just beyond the edge of the cemetery were a few buildings that look to be empty and abandoned.

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And a closer view of the building, where the paint has chipped and faded into this mix of orange and white.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Little Miss Kroger

On the side of an old Kroger in Little Rock is this very retro tile mosaic, showing the visage of the store mascot "Little Miss Kroger." Both the building and the mascot all probably date back to the 1950s.

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I attempted to so some research on the old mascot but wasn't able to find much information. Most of the searches just showed stories about the Kroger corporation, or revealed Kroger coupons for Swiss Miss hot chocolate. But seeing the old Kroger mascot reminded me of their ad campaign from the 1980s, which I must have watched hundreds of times as it ran in the commercial breaks between The A*Team or Alf. The ads featured women wearing costumes that looked like scissors, and they danced across the screen and occasionally used their scissor legs to cut prices (I can only imagine the amount of drugs consumed in the Mad Men-stlye ad agency that dreamed up these ads). The combo of music and costumes in the ads are so 1980s that I'm amazed one of the scissor ladies didn't make a cameo in Ready Player One.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Winging It

From Perryville, I headed west along Hwy. 60 deeper into the Ouachita Mountains. It was a warm and muggy summer day, and I had to be careful to not let the camera sit directly in the blast of cold air from the car's air conditioner so that it wouldn't fog up as soon as I got out of the car. I made a few stops, including one at this neat old house near the amusingly-named town of Nimrod.

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I wasn't able to find any information about this house online, and I'd love the chance to be able to see what the inside looks like.

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Further down the road is the small town of Plainview (with a population around 700 or so). There were a few old buildings there, including one with this mural painted on the side.

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South of Plainview is the old Ward's Crossing Bridge over the Fourche LaFave River, which was built in 1905.

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I headed further west, towards the small community of Wing. There is a neat old church here - the Wing Community Church. This church was actually the main thing I had wanted to get pictures of out here. The old church is great, but I can't really find much information on it. It was originally built sometime in the late 1800s as a Methodist church.

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I wanted to get pictures of star trails over the old church, but I had some time to kill before sunset so I continued driving further west. I went through the small town of Bluffton, which had a good number of old buildings. One of the most prominent is the old Masonic Lodge, which is boarded up and covered with faded and peeling paint.

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Nearby is what I'm guessing was an old gas station, which doesn't look like it's served customers in awhile. But there was a sign there advertising that high speed internet is available.

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And the old gas pumps at the station, which were nearly hidden behind overgrown vegetation.

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Across the street was another abandoned building, which looked like it was once a store. This is the view of the back, with the windows reflecting the golden evening light.

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The light was perfect, and I hurried to try to find some more old buildings to try to get some pictures of. I pulled over and stood in tall grass (luckily no ticks or chiggers were lurking there) and got a few shots of this old barn.

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I drove by this old house and pulled over for a few pictures. It actually looks like a new house is being built just behind it, which means that the old house will probably be torn down soon.

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There was actually a good number of old abandoned homes in this area, and I tried to stop at as many of them as I could.

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And one more, with the broken front window of the house reflecting the last light from the sunset.

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I hurried back to Wing and went to set up the camera in front of the old Community Church. I realized that star trail pictures might be a bit tricky, thanks to the combination of lights that were shining on the old church and causing some funky shadows. Also some of the lights were sodium vapor lights, which cast a bit of an odd yellow-orange tint on the trees around the church. So I did some light-painting with a flashlight on the church in the hopes it would help mask some of the harsh light and shadows hitting the church.

The camera took over 200 :30 second exposures out there. I sat in the car during that two hours, thankful that I could at least listen to the FC Dallas gave over the satellite radio (the game ended in a 1-1 tie). This is the combination of all of those shots, which revealed these star trails stretching across the sky above the old church.

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Monday, July 30, 2018

Perry County

I headed out the other weekend to get a few pictures, driving west into the Ouachita Mountains. The first stop was a few places in Perry County, including the St. Boniface Catholic Church. This is definitely one of the prettiest churches in the state. The church was built in 1906, with a steeple that is 95 feet tall (or about the size of a nine story building).

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The church was open, and I went inside to take a look. The massive altar at the front of the church actually dates back to 1901, to the first church built here. That church caught fire in 1906, but the altar was saved and was installed in the rebuilt church.

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From there I headed on west towards the small town of Perry. I've always known Perry as being a bit of a speed-trap, but it is also home to a historic old train station that was built in 1918.

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The train station was built to serve the Rock Island Railroad, which eventually ran from Memphis to Amarillo, Texas. The Rock Island ceased operations in 1980, but the rails are still used by a shortline railroad that runs between Little Rock and Danville (the Little Rock & Western Railway). The old station is used for storage, and a metal locomotive shop was built right behind the old station.

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Last year the railroad decided to construct a new machine shop, which meant demolishing the old train station. Luckily preservationists were able to make a deal, and it appears that the old station will be saved. The century-old building will be moved about 150 feet over to property owned by the city of Perry, with the eventual hope that the building will be turned into a museum. It's always great to see old buildings like this be saved.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Little Rock Lightning

A line of heavy thunderstorms recently moved across the state, bringing some much-needed rain and also a lot of lightning. I was sitting at home watching TV when the storms hit, and decided that I needed to head outside and make an attempt at catching lightning pictures (instead of sitting safely at home, like any sensible person would do). So I grabbed the camera (and the metal tripod, always a smart thing to carry in a lightning storm) and drove towards downtown Little Rock.

I headed to a parking deck that provides a pretty decent view looking west towards the downtown skyline. But when I got there, the bulk of the storm had shifted, and most of the lightning was off towards the south. So I hurried over and tried to get a few pictures pointing in that direction, which turned out to include a view of the old Albert Pike Hotel. The hotel was built in 1929, and was once one of the most luxurious hotels in the state. It was converted to apartments in the 1970s.

Getting any pictures of lightning involves huge amounts of luck. You have to be taking a picture in the exact second that the lightning strikes, and hopefully the shot won't be over-or-under exposed or be blurry. The camera just happened to be taking a picture when this bolt dropped down, sending electricity dancing in the air above the old hotel.

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And another shot, taken a few minutes later:

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