Third Thursday Challenge: May

Cell Block Infinity

“Would you like to get together sometime for a photo walk?” she wrote.

My introverted-self emphatically dismissed this suggestion – I couldn’t do that, meet a stranger, take photos together. Photography was what I did in solitude, inside my own head. I would be too self-conscious to do it with someone else. It would never work. My list of negative responses was extremely long.

And then, impossibly, I found myself saying yes to the very thing that scared me.

I first met Deb Tisch, author of the blog Learning as I Go, in an online photography course taught by Kat Sloma of Kat Eye Studio. We began following each other’s blogs; admiring each other’s work. We learned that we both lived in Ohio – me in Canton, she in Lima – three hours away along Rt. 30.

We agreed to meet in Mansfield, half-way between. We picked the first Saturday in May. The morning was spent at the Kingwood Center Gardens followed by a tour of the Ohio State Reformatory, a historical prison, best known as the location where The Shawshank Redemption was filmed.

I suppose you have worked out by now that these images are from the reformatory, not the gardens. Regardless of my recent rapprochement with Mother Nature, my best photos of the day involved rust, peeling paint and prison bars rather than tulips. The reformatory held its own set of challenges – the lighting conditions were extremely difficult and many of my images were soft. But with some creative post-processing – this toning is appropriately titled “Futuristic Bleak” – I was able to capture the sense of despair and hopelessness that pervades these walls.

As far as our joint photo walk experiment, I think we both discovered that conversation, the kind of face-to-face-getting-to-know-you kind, is mutually exclusive with a photo walk. It’s hard to get to know someone, to really listen to their story, when you are worried about shutter speed and ISO settings, framing and composition.

Afterward, we both agreed that out best photographic work is done in solitude. The next time we get together, we will take time off by ourselves with cameras in hand and then come together to share our experiences and converse. Most likely, food will be involved.

I am glad I said “yes”, when I wanted to say “no”.  My heartfelt thanks to my friend, Deb – meeting new people isn’t easy for me but she made it effortless with her friendliness and open personality.


So – what are you saying “yes” to this month? Share with us below. The link will be open through the end of the month so you have plenty of time to join in. You can read about the Third Thursday Challenge concept and pick up the button here. I can’t wait to be inspired by your personal challenge.

Wall of Bars
The West Cell Block


Posted on May 16, 2013, in Third Thursday Challenge and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 31 Comments.

  1. Oh! How wonderful! I love that you and Deb got together. And, oh, how I would have loved to have joined you! What a pleasure to spend time together. And, in spite of the challenges of talking and photographing – I know exactly what you mean – the outcome is quite powerful. I hope someday to meet you in Ohio…or somewhere! 🙂
    Ps. How the time has flown. I can’t believe it’s Third Thursday already! Count me in!

    • Juli – yes, it was a wonderful experience. And connecting with you would be at the top of my “meeting-people-in-person” list – I hope we are able to make that happen someday. I look forward to your challenge.

  2. You definitely captured the dark, desolate place this must have been. I’m drawn to the light in the bottom two. I wonder if seeing light gave hope to those in the these cells.

    • Cathy – it was an odd experience to be searching for beauty in such a desolate and hopeless place. You can sense the despair of being trapped behind those bars, in such tiny and cramped cells. And yet, there was the light. I don’t know if the light would have provided hope or been a reminder of all that was lost. In any event, it was an amazing photographic experience.

  3. I love your images here, the textures, lines and the light patterns are incredible. How fabulous to meet up with Deb – and well done for overcoming your fears and doing it anyway (I know how that feels!). Great third Thursday post. 🙂

    • Becs – yes, I am SO very glad that I said yes, when all parts of me were screaming a great big NO. And the prison – it had the most incredible textures that I have ever seen. Everywhere you looked, you were treated to peeling paint, weathered wall paper and oh so much rust. It was almost too much to take in. I definitely want to return.

  4. Jus’ sayin’….this reformatory looks like a garden to me. I’d love to shoot that. Way cool results here. All those lines and textures and grunge. Yum. Mixed lighting is very hard to work in. I’ve tried to embrace shooting at different hours of the day when I can’t chase light at night-I think you have to think and see in an entirely different way.
    As for meeting Deborah, I’m so glad you did. I find that when I do shoot with someone else….it’s best to do exactly as you next plan. Do your own thing, occasionally say “did you see that over there?” Switch places, snap a sneaky catch of your fellow photowalker….and then have a blast and definitely make it over food. Trust me, this is totally the best way.
    What did I say “yes” to? Hmmmmm. Have to think that one over.

    • Oh, Susan – it was definitely a photographer’s garden of many delights. You would have had a field day here. Since most of my shooting is down outdoors, this indoor lighting situation was definitely a challenge – I most certainly want to return and try out some different camera settings.

      And since I know you and Lee forged such a strong bond, I am glad to hear that Deb and I are on the right track with this joint-photo-walk experiment. I often feel that I need to apologize for my strong propensity to shoot alone – I mean, I feel uncomfortable shooting with my husband or other family members. I just find it difficult to slip into that “zone” when others are around. It helps to know that I am not necessarily alone in this.

  5. Ooooh I just love these shots, the first is among one of my favorites. Glad you found yourself saying yes when it’s so easy to say no. I need to adopt that attitude.

    • Kathryn – it is so very easy to stay here, where things are comfortable and I have my daily routine and I do my own thing. But then I look at what I would have missed photographically and the budding friendship I would have abandoned and I am so very glad I did say yes.

  6. What a fabulous place! I can feel the people who “lived” there through your image. I love that golden bit! You were brave. I have a contact here in Texas and we have yet to meet. But, if you when you visit Austin…black Jeep will travel!

    • Suzette – I can’t say enough about what a fabulous photographic opportunity this was. To think that it was sitting there, less than two hours away, and I never made the effort to visit – I have to shake my head in disbelief. But then to share it with Deb – that made it even better. I’m not sure it was bravery exactly – but, whatever the reason I said yes, I am so very, very glad I did.

      When I am headed Austin way, I will let you know.

  7. The combination of your amazing eye for geometry and the emotional energy of the space have made such a beautiful image. I love the softness in the first one- it adds to the feeling of desolation. Really nice!

    • Jen – Ha! I’m glad the camera shake blur added to the power of that image 🙂 The lighting inside the prison was definitely a challenge – especially to someone who usually shoots outdoors. At first, I was really disappointed but then I began to see the creative possibilities. I would definitely like another chance to improve the technical side of these shots but I am pleased with how they eventually turned out.

  8. Kudos to you, Brenda, for stepping out of your comfort zone once more! I’ve gone out a couple of times with other photographers, and it is such a learning experience to see their approaches to photography as we wander around. And isn’t it fun to meet a blogger friend in person? I can’t think of a nicer person for you to join up with — how great that you aren’t so far apart. Of course, the old prison would be a perfect site for your photographer’s eye. What incredible images you got!

    • Gina – Meeting Deb was such a delightful treat! What I would have missed if I had said no. And yes, shooting at the prison was an incredible experience – so many lines, so much texture, amazing (if tricky) lighting. What more could you want?

  9. Love that you and Deb got together like this. The world is a wonderfully small place – isn’t it? And – like you – the introverted me would have wanted to say no before saying yes. So glad you two found one another and did it!!

    • Marcie – I know. The whole experience was definitely an advertisement for saying yes! The next time I want to say no, I’ll re-read this and remind myself of how my world opened up by saying yes instead of no.

  10. Hi, Brenda:
    I completely identify with your introverted reaction to getting together with Deb, your saying “yes,” the difficulty of talking and photographing, the need to separate the two activities. Your solution for next time sounds perfect!
    How to photograph when I’m travelling with my spouse or sister is something I haven’t quite resolved. I need to go and do it alone, to carve out time by myself.
    I’m not enamored of photos of penitentiaries, even excellent ones like yours.

    • Anita – yes, alone time is certainly what I need to photograph well and to really enjoy the process. I am glad to know that I am not the only one for whom this is true.

      I agree that shooting at a prison elicits contradictory emotions. Attempting to find beauty in a place of such desolation and despair is difficult. But I still found the place fascinating and couldn’t resist its appeal.

  11. How did Third Thursday get here so fast???

    Your processing of these images really does capture the feel of the place and I like what you did.

    The rest of the world needs to know that it was my pleasure to be able to meet you, to find that we had so much in common, and to share such a neat experience. I look forward to when we can do this again!

    • Deb – I know! I am always amazed at how quickly each challenge Thursday arrives.

      I’m glad you liked what I did with my images. Initially, I was rather disappointed – there was that disconnect between what I thought I had captured and what I actually did. And technically I made some mistakes. But once I spent time with these images, I grew rather fond of them. I definitely would like to return and try again.

      I look forward to our next outing!

  12. Brenda, I can relate to this post in so many ways! I too am an introvert and shy besides. I have to fight with myself every time I tackle going to a new place or meeting new people. Once I get there, I’m fine, but oh, the struggle to get myself out the door!

    I too am a lone shooter. (Wait, that doesn’t sound good.) But there’s nothing quite like finding another “soloist” to share that love of photography with. Your and Deb’s plan for next time sounds ideal and as you’ve probably gathered, that’s the shape Susan and my photo walks take. Took. And will again!

    I’m so glad you allowed yourself to say YES! Your photos are powerful. I can feel that place in them. It is haunting.

    • Lee – it is heartening to know that there are others who struggle with meeting new people – as well as having a “lone shooter” personality. It feels like something I should apologize for but I am beginning to realize that it is just part of who I am, both as a person and a photographer. Having you and Susan as my mentors in this “joint-photo-walk” experiment is so very encouraging. And I am so very, very glad I said yes.

  13. I’m glad you took this trip, and shared the photos. Brilliant, as always.

    • Lisa – me, too! Very glad. The reformatory is one of those tourist sites that just never crossed my mind as a place to visit and photograph. It wasn’t until Deb and I were planning our get-together that I realized what an opportunity this would be. And I was certainly not disappointed – except in terms of all the images that I missed. I definitely see a return visit in my future.

  14. Brenda, these are really magnificent images, and what an experience!
    I DO understand what you mean about the solitude and photography.

    • Lisa – it was a wonderful experience – both the friendship forged and the opportunity of shooting at the prison. Like your recent work at the asylum, it was both sobering and beautiful.

  15. Your images are, as always, both stunning and compelling. Leading lines and geometry are center stage here…

    I’m with you–as far as I’m concerned, photography requires both patience and solitude. Patience to study the scene, to let it evolve; solitude to experiment with camera settings and lighting. I am always self-conscious when I’m with a group–will my shot be as good as this one’s or someone else’s? will I slow the group down as I fumble to find exactly the right location or setting?

    That said, there’s a lot of value in sharing the experience with someone else. What did that person see that you didn’t? How did she treat a subject that appealed to each of you?

    As you may remember, I’ve been involved with a meetup group for the last couple of years, though I’m much less active now than in the past. I did find it fun and helpful when one of our shoots involved only a few people, but when attendance was more than five or six, it was hard to concentrate or even to find an appealing vantage point because of the clutter of people, cameras, and tripods.

    • Wanda – we are certainly two peas in a pod on this issue. Patience and solitude are indeed necessary elements of the photography experience for me. And I find it encouraging to know that many feel the same way – I thought I was missing out because of my solitary and introverted nature. But now I am finding that many others require that same quiet and solitude.

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