Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Tourist Trap

After being derailed from our initial adventure, the elusive third floor ballroom frozen in time, my fellow photog Andy and myself decided to venture into a local watering hole that once served as a turn of the century hotel for the railroad. There, we were greeted by an affectionately old barkeep simply named Frank. He was standing alone behind a completely empty bar at around one 'o clock in the afternoon and told us several stories of yore that almost seemed to take us back to the 1940's while we stood there in that smoke flavored place. After we shared with Frank about our ill fated photo trip he share he had some things for us to "take pictures of if we wanted" and of course we both said. "sure"! The gray haired barkeep pointed to a pair of old saloon style swinging doors and said "through there and around the corner is an old set of stairs. Upstairs you should find some neat things to photograph". So Andy and I grab our packs and head through the pitch black darkness until we find the light switch that illuminated the narrow stairway that was strewn with old mattresses and clothes. We could barely squeeze up the steps. 
After our narrow flight up to the first floor we seemed to step through into another dimension, the Twilight Zone. Old art books, frames, paintings, paints, brushes, easels...It was pretty cool to think this had been an artists "squat-house" for a good part of at least 50 years as we could tell by old 1950's and 1960's newsprint left with dried oils and pastels. Things started to get a little nostalgic but eventually just plain creepy.
Upon entering our first room we noticed that  all that was left of most of the walls and ceiling were the ancient plaster and lathe completely covered by handmade frames, art lamps and other forgotten artist tools. You could almost smell the aroma left over from 1950 from the dusty and rusty old "Magic-Chef" and "Frigidaire" appliances still waiting for a "TV Dinner" and a "Cola"
We soon realized that this place was a little more creepy and strange as we made our way through hallways and rooms filled with old bed frames, 100 year old dressers, clothes and strange doll parts and plaster faces. This reminded me of the old Chuck Connors B-Rated horror flick "Tourist Trap". I was feeling a little uneasy with the thought not to mention I have a childhood phobia of dolls.
 A mannequin bust and a strange bottle of rum on a vintage radiator..Odd. I suppose. OK. So further down the hallway we go. "There is more light down at the front of the hall. Maybe better light" lets check it out I think as I pass several darker rooms. At the opposite end of the hall way things seem a little more cheerful. I was thrilled to find some antique bottles from the "Valley's" heyday. Colorful and sunny. Nice.
Down the hall and heading toward the light we find vintage and forgotten items, colorful art supplies and   books. Oh joy !!

I spied a wonderful vintage collection of photography books on a shelf along with numerous other books ranging from architecture, archaeology, religion, psychology and philosophy. This I though was the sign of a very well read and educated artist..Then.....another face. I must have been too busy marveling at the set of vintage photography books until I set up for my shot...and there it was, all weird and tourist trap looking.
 I grabbed my shot and yelled down the hallway to see if Andy was having luck and to check where he was located so I didn't walk into his frame again, as I have a habit of. He yelled back all was good and that he was also a little creeped out by the faces and doll parts. Having worked up some courage to go into some of the darker rooms and take a risk for the sake of the shot, I grabbed my tripod and camera and proceeded to the next room where I was reminded of something. Not sure what. something from "Oscar Madison gets drunk and enters the Twilight Zone"
When I opened the door to the next room I saw an old hospital bed with old waiting room chairs and immediately thought of someone waiting and waiting for their loved one to "snap out of it while they drank their time away"  Having been an old railroad town and then a hospital town, it did not surprise me to find remnants such as photographs of people in wheelchairs, old beds and lab specimen collection jars from the old institution up here in this strange building.

Just when I thought things in here couldn't get any creepier, I stumbled through a doorway to face my phobia head on, or rather heads off. A room with doll parts, creepy old toys and crucifix's sitting atop a dusty antique  nightstand. There in the room, on the floor and on the old bed were dozens of articles of clothing strewn here and there for the moths to feed upon. I however was eerily transfixed to the strange but eclectic scene before me. I am glad these were not the antique Victorian porcelain dolls however as I would have left this old hotel dead on the spot. I took a deep breath and set up the shot.
Andy and I hung around for about two hours feeling emotions that ranged from nostalgia to excited to just plain creeped out. We decided that even though we missed out on our intended shoot of the day, the forgotten ballroom, today's adventure turned out to be rather cool and exciting. We both were able to grab some really cool shots that told the story of the artist who once squatted in this outdated hotel and see some pretty cool and weird props. Andy, being the "I have more up my sleeve" kinda photographer and artist that he is, decided to have a little more fun with the creepy stuff. I chose to limit the number of dolls and heads that I shot today because I, well, am just too freaked out by them. This shot that Andy set up however, I could not resist.
The "cooked" head..enough said. Time to leave.
We dusted off and packed up our gear and headed back down the dark narrow staircase, through the store room and back out the the tavern. Frank was still there...alone. No patrons visited while we were there, yet at times I could have sworn I heard what sounded like a party going on downstairs. Strange. While we bid farewell to old Frank, Andy took one last shot of the old hotel sign that hung in the back of the bar as a decoration now. And although I should have probably grabbed a shot too, I was thinking of a nice cold glass of Schmidt's at this point but it was getting late. As we walked out and waved goodbye, we had noticed that none of the familiar and welcoming neon signs were burning and the closed sign was still up. Our adventure to the "Twilight Zone/Tourist Trap/Valley of the Dolls House" was over for now. 
Prints from this adventure can be purchased here at

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Love, Insanity and the Castle on the Hill

Ever since my friend Andy had got me hooked on this new HDR thing, I have been excited and thrilled to create art using my photography as well as my paint and pens. I love the fact I can capture a photo in its natural state or, using HDR and software, create a piece resembing a painting or fairytale image. I also love the fact that photography is not something that is bound only to stuffy studios or limited to portraiture or weddings or even sports. I have learned mostly this summer from several adventures, including my trip to Wyoming and Yellostone, that photography is a lasting legacy of journey's and adventures. Speaking of adventures, I have recently been introduced to the sport of urbexing. Let me tell you, it is indeed a sport. I have found myself hiking, running, ducking, crawling, tip-toeing or climbing in some of the most unfriendly and sometimes unstable environments. But, Wow, what an adreneline rush. One of my latest adventures was a trip to this abandoned castle that Andy had visited previously. He had told me stories of his shoots there in the past and described this castle as something out of a fairytale book from the brothers Grimm. He described the surreal sense of the  place as well as its tragic history and how awesome it was to actually be there and witness this place first hand. I remember thinking, "yeah...that sounds cool" and telling him I'd like to go see it sometime. Well that sometime was last week. Andy picked me up at 9 a.m. and we headed several hours East until we found the location to make our dash up the hill to the castle. I could see it through the trees at the top of a 40 yard steep hill. The first thing I saw were the turrets and the amazing stonework. When I reached the top I think my jaw hit the ground when I saw the entire castle. 
Dudas Castle
 I couldn't believe my eyes.....holy crap, wow, where am I? I felt like I had been teleported back to 1890.  This was so cool. Since Andy had been here before he knew right where to sprint to so we would not be detected. We ran around back through a large stone archway into a huge courtyard out back surrounded by at least 12' stone walls and into an open door which led to what must have been a kitchen at one time. This is where we carefully decided on our game plan.

The place smelled of the ages, but not too bad. A little musty, dusty and mold. I was in awe immediately of the tilework and woodwork I saw, including the massive carved arch doors. I was very pleased to see that vandals and taggers had not been too cruel to this truly magnificent place. I saw a only a few tags but most of the windows were broken or missing. I imagined that sitting over 100 years, the windows probably succumbed to the elements rather than vandals, but, who knows. The light coming in through the open windows made for some very cool shots however. We spent a couple hours exploring all three floors, the nooks and crannies and neat rooms. Most of the rooms had very ornate and massive stone and marble fireplaces. The spiral staircases leading to the second and third floors were very nice Italian marble still in pristine condition. Apparantly the castle was ahead of its time and was one of the first places in the area to have electricity and steam radiators. I found the electrical outlets and switches very unique and something that I have never seen before. The colors on the wall were still quite vibrant but the paint in many spots was chipping and pealing
which certainly added more character to this old grand castle which was coverted from a late 1800s lodge to the completed castle in 1924. The history of the castle is as unique as its design and structure. The castle boasts a house, a bailey, a curtain wall and a folly resembling a barbican. The Castle had 36 rooms and the ornate fireplace in the main reception room was once covered in gold leaf and is said to have been valued at $5000 in 1910. We spent much time exlploring each room, the many bathrooms, sitting rooms, bedrooms and such. Peering through the arched windows to the view outside into the courtyard
was breathtaking and I couldn't help to imagine what the view must have been like back when it must have been neatly manicured with shrubs and trees. It is now quite overgrown with vines and other weeds. We decided it was about time to leave to explore our second location. So it was back down the beautiful Italian marble spiral staircases and back outside. We had to take a few more shots of the  stunning exterior of the place. 

View from the courtyard looking at back of castle

 I want to thank my friend Andy for inspiring me and helping hone my HDR skills and for including me in such cool and inspiring adventures. This is one adventure that I will not soon forget and hope to get back sometime in the near future to get some new shots. All of these photos can be purchased in stunning metal prints at my website
 Stay tuned for further adventures !!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bison.... At the end of day

Bison at end of day by Louis Q
Bison at end of day, a photo by Louis Q on Flickr.
The week I shared in Yellowstone National Park with my good friend Gary was fantastic. Not only was I able to capture wonderful photographic images to share, but I was able to reflect on many aspects of my life... past, present and future. What started out as a collaboritive effort to create a motivational and inspirational book, ended up being a personal journey for me. Having reached several personal milestones in my life, including the most rewarding, having my two wonderful daughters and getting married to my wife, I truly feel blessed. I feel I have accomplished much as an artist, a musician and am just venturing into becoming a serious photographer. I think the main thing that comes to mind after this experience is humility and sharing. I feel all artists have a starting point, so whether you are a novice at your interest or a seasoned professional, there is always room to learn, but more importantly, to teach. I am more aware at this point of how short and fragile life can be and that life as we know it can be rocked out of control in an instant. What you leave to others in this life is your legacy. You can not take all the skills, talents, tricks, cool photo-spots, techniques, etc..... with you when you go. It is important to share your knowledge with others, especially the young interested minds. We should work together with fellow artisians. We should teach, inspire, share and praise others work at any level. We should strive to push ourselves to be the best we can be and learn from others success as an inspiration to work harder to be the best rather than to give in and quit. I am excited about working on this book project with my friend Gary, but I am more excited about being able to share it with others in the hopes they may find motivation, hope and strength to be themselves. I hope the photos in the book and what I have posted so far on facebook and my website are pleasing and enjoyable to view. I am thankful for the many artists and photographers who are willing to share their knowledge with me.