Archive for July, 2008

Lower Fox Creek School – Flint Hills

"Keystones" photo by Alex Hawley

"Keystones" photo by Alex Hawley

No doubt, the Lower Fox Creek School is one of the most photographed places in the Kansas Flint Hills. Its very easy to get to. Just go three miles north of US 50 on K-177, near Strong City. Sitting prominently atop a hill next to the highway, it can’t be missed. The National Park service has a nice virtual tour and good directions on how to get there.

I’ve photographed there several times. “Keystones” was taken in 2004 on the 8×10 view camera and is printed as an 8×10 contact print (meaning no enlargement). For me, there’s some special meaning for school house doors. Perhaps its because I see them as doors to the future no matter how humble and plain they may be.

In fact, it was an earlier version of the Lower Fox Creek School that was a key factor in spurring me to use large format cameras. So, in part, this humble school building was a key factor in my future as a photographer.

There are many of these old school houses throughout the Flint Hills. One can’t help but find one or more whenever exploring the region. Many have been preserved to some extent or another, and several still serve useful functions in their respective communities. I’m glad they are still there.

Fine Art prints of “Keystones” may be purchased through my APUG Portfolio. These are 8×10 contact prints made on Kodak Azo silver chloride contact printing paper. Please contact me if you desire to purchase one.

All photographs copyright Alex Hawley.

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Old Stone Fort – Flint Hills

Old Stone FOrt, Wabaunsee County

Old Stone Fort, Wabaunsee County

No one that I’ve talked to knows much about the The Old Stone Fort. Located in southwestern Wabaunsee County, Kansas, this old building sits atop a small hill overlooking the old Trail Drover’s Road and a stream crossing. Privately owned, it serves as a convenient place to feed cattle who are grazing on the rich Flint Hills grass. Going west from Volland on Old K-10, find Trail Drovers Road on the right and follow it for a few miles. You should some to the Old Stone Fort.

My guess is that originally this was a Cavalry outpost for Fort Riley. There is also a stable, just to the left of where I was standing. Both buildings were not built for ranch or farm service; they don’t appear to have had the amenities for permanent occupancy of either humans or livestock. The location makes sense as a good place to station a detachment of Horse Soldiers. Trail Drover’s Road was the main cattle trail in the area for driving the herds to the railroad, some six miles away at Volland. The nearby stream crossing was probably important for the cattle drives too. And, the stream could supply water for the men and horses stationed there. All this is just my rank speculation of course.

The negative for Old Stone Fort was taken on 4×5 Polaroid Type 55 sheet film. I loved that film! One more sigh for its demise.

Prints of the Old Stone Fort are available for sale through my APUG Portfolio. Please contact me via e-mail or a Blog comment if you are interested.

All photographs copyright Alex Hawley

New Black & White Still Life

Skull #1 by Alex Hawley

Skull #1 by Alex Hawley

This may be the obligatory Polaroid Type 55 cow skull photo. Seems everyone does one but that’s not why I did it.

Both elements shown came from the backyard; the wood (which is a walkway I built years ago) from my yard, the skull is from the neighbor’s. The skull is an authentic Kansas Flint Hills cattle skull.

Those of us that used Polaroid Type 55 film have been crying our eyes out ever since Polaroid’s demise earlier this year. I bought five boxes and swore I was going to put it to good use. A final fling I suppose.

Gearhead info: 8×10 Deardorff field camera with 4×5 reducing back. Schneider 305 mm G-Claron lens, Polaroid 545 film holder, and Polaroid Type 55 positive/negative film. This scan was made from an 8×10 enlarged print on Kentmere Kentona fiber paper.

Featured Print

Feed Sign, Sharpe, Kansas

Feed Sign, Sharpe, Kansas

Feed Sign, Sharpe, Kansas has been one of my favorite prints. It was both fun and rewarding to make, and I think its fun to look at.

I had photographed it few weeks earlier from this instance but wasn’t quite satisfied with the print. When I went back, a small tree had grown up just to the right, casting shadows from its leaves across the sign. “Why not?” I thought.

The subject scene was extremely flat in contrast. The sign is a simple white plastic decal applied to the faded galvanized metal sheath covering. I developed the film for an N+1 time to pull as much contrast out of it as I could. It prints successfully at about a grade 3-1/2 paper contrast. All and all, an excellent exercise in B&W contrast control. It looks most lovely printed on Forte Polywarmtone paper, which is, sadly, no longer available.

This print is for sale through my Analog Photography User’s Group (APUG) Portfolio. If you are interested in buying a print, please click the Portfolio link or contact me directly.

All photographs copyright Alex Hawley