The Burn in Decay

“You carry a little pad of paper in your pocket, don’t you? I knew you did. Well, you set this down. I thought of this the other day. Let’s take decay. Now what is decay? It’s fire. It burns up wood and other things. […] This sidewalk here and this feed store, the trees down the street there—they’re all on fire. They’re burning up. Decay you see is always going on. It don’t stop. Water and paint can’t stop it.” from the book Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, 1919.

The above passage, mouth-pieced through the character Joe Welling, the “man of ideas,” always comes to mind every time I explore these areas. I know I’m getting repetitious here, but to see how much decay transpires in a mere 9 years after we have turned off our air conditioning units, stopped sweeping floors, dusting, stopped closing doors and windows, and so forth. We keep it all at bay with a few routine chores, occasional maintenance, and modern living technologies. Let it loose and it comes ripping.

Somewhat related, as I processed this photo tonight a nasty super-cell thunderstorm roiled through our area, part of the same system that has been spawning tornadoes all across the central US and has taken nearly a hundred lives over the last week. So while halfway finished with the photo,  I stopped, rounded up flashlights, and stood at the doors to of our little girls’ rooms discussing with my wife where and how we would get the kids in hallway bathroom at any minute. Two tornadoes on the ground were already reported. We were getting marble sized hail and sideways rain. The cell then shifted south somewhat and we watched and listened anxiously. Everything settled down over the next hour in good fortune. When I returned to my computer, new warnings came out on two more tornadoes, both on the ground in Hall Summit, the one mile stretch of town where the above school is located. In my mind, I imagined standing in this gym with the lightning strobing through the windows, the torrents of rain leaking through structural cracks, and the long doppler-whine of an approaching tornado.

As for processing, I followed the same path as the previous gymnasium photo, a HDR process on three bracketed photographs. This time I took down the contrast and structure in the upper-half of the photo using a series of curve masks in Photoshop and then finished it off with a low-key pass using Color Efex to smooth out the various light rays falling into the gymnasium.

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