M25 Mission Camp in Atlanta

There are several entries that have been sitting in my drafts for a while that I’ve trying to get posted, and this happens to be one of them. M25 Mission Camp is a youth missional organization in Atlanta that works with the homeless in a way I’ve rarely seen over the years. It wasn’t the first youth trip for me, but it was the first one in a while, and I was amazed with every aspect of the experience, mainly because it changed perceptions and perspectives on life and serving others well. This video we produced can explain it better than I can here. For now, there are some images that shows a little of the week we spent trying to love others well.

The Cornerstone M25 Team
The team on the last day as we prepare to head back to Auburn
Playing with the Kids in Atlanta
M25 Mission Camp in Atlanta serving the kids.
Overlooking an Atlanta Freeway
Walking across the freeway in serving the homeless in Atlanta under the freeway
Playing with Kids in Atlanta
M25 Mission Camp in Atlanta serving the kids.
Visiting Apartments in Atlanta
M25 Mission Camp in Atlanta serving the kids.
Preparing Meals in Atlanta
The Mission team making lunches in preparation to serve the homeless
Prayer Before Heading Out
Our group prays with Seven Bridges before they head out to serve the homeless
Serving Under the Bridges
Seven Bridges leads the group in how to serve the homeless well under the bridges
Playing Games at the Shelter
Our team joins the shelter in loving others through conversation and games

An Auburn Alley or Two

As of late I seem to be going from one day shooting thousands of images of an event to shooting almost nothing. Shooting nothing serious for days drives me nuts. But those are the times I try to get out of my comfort zone, slow down, and tackle subjects that have no deadlines, that interest me personally, but also will advance my knowledge and experience as a photographer.

It’s quiet here in Auburn right now. The calm before the fall-sports-storm, when you can get a table at a restaurant and find a parking place. But that makes street/people subjects challenging. In my ongoing series The Streets of Auburn Project, I have added a few from the “Alleys of Auburn,” but this is just a start of that point of view, or a first initial look at the alleyways, and I didn’t make it very far that day.

Afternoon Alley Sun
The sun in the late afternoon in the alley near J&M Bookstore in Auburn

Why take images of an alleyway? (Which by the way is pretty much the question I get no matter what shot I’m taking, (1) why are you taking a photo of xyz, and (2) what do you do with all those images.) Well, photographically alley’s are great for working on composition, and often have super directional light, converging lines, shadows, and unpredictability.

It’s probably not super well known outside of the locals, but Auburn has some great alleyways, and I doubt they are the most photographed areas of the town either. Several of them were updated along with College and Magnolia on Toomer’s Corner last summer. Even though it’s been about a year I hadn’t made time to see what photo opportunities they might have until a few weeks ago. I didn’t get near the time I wanted to spend down there just about an hour was all I had, but I love the shot below of the jogger, one of my favorites so far, I just couldn’t decide which frame I like better, coming or going. At 7-FPS (frames per second) he was in and out of the alley in literally less than one second, two frames was all I was able to capture.

I’m not really counting these images towards my “street photography” project since most are void of people, but I love the alley over by J&M Bookstore. The colors and lines and uniqueness of the conveyor belt make it a fun place.

Alley Runner
A jogger running through a tight alley in Auburn
Alley Runner
A jogger running through a tight alley in Auburn
Self Portrait in the Shadows
A self portrait of me standing in the harsh sunlight of the summer in the south around 100°F

Yes, these two below aren’t in the alleyway, but the sunset on the back country roads was beautiful that night, and I had to include a shot from one of our favorite restaurants BurgerFi, especially for those who we not-so-randomly run into on Friday nights over there, you know who you are.

BugerFi Hat
Cowboy hat placing an order at BurgerFi in Opelika
Sunset on the Country Roads
Sun sets in the mirror on the empty country roads

The Rural Decay Photo Ops in the South

I have a few projects I’m kicking off on my blog and one of them is The Rural Decay Project. I’ve been interested in this topic for a while now, and have made some loose attempts at photographically capturing these images but until recently without much cohesiveness that one needs to tell a story.

One of the things about photography that took me a while to learn is you can’t always be thinking about that exotic locale that you might get to visit some day to finally make some great images. To be a photographer is more than vacation or travel, you have to photograph what is around you all the time in your daily routine of life. That can sound quite boring for some of us that don’t live in some beside resort community, but it works, and it’s unique to you.

For me, living in the rural south (or at least on the edge of both rural and “city” being outside of Auburn), what’s around me all the time are these great old structures that once contained life and vitality, but now are being consumed by the earth. This is similar to the urban decay photography that is all the rage in places like Detroit and Chicago, or even places like Chernobyl (and this Chernobyl 30 years later project, which is also amazing), but for those of us who live nowhere near great opportunities like that, you have to photograph where you are right now.

There are hundreds if not thousands of photographic opportunities like this all over the place. Some of the more well known ones are Old Cahawba, covered bridge (these are actually everywhere if you look closely), Sloss Furnace, there is even a (man-made) ghost town close by, Spectre Alabama, that I hope to someday photograph before access is impossible. On a side note; Spectre, Alabama was a custom movie set, built for Tim Burton’s fantasy film Big Fish. The set is located on an island in a river outside of Montgomery, Alabama.

For now, I’m sticking with what’s closest to where I live, and what’s probably the least known places. I love this old gas station that sits pristine on the side of Highway 80. I can imagine it once was a fine place to stop on the drive between Montgomery and Atlanta before the interstate was built. The old house at the top of this article sits at the intersection of Highway 80/51, and actually looks like it’s in pristine condition other than natural growth.

Abandon House Engulfed in Growth
This house is being consumed by the ivy and tree growth around it since being boarded up.
Abandon Gas Station
This abandon gas station sits as it did one the day it was closed. It’s well maintained on the perimeter grass making stand out among the surroundings.
Broken Windows to Darkness
The windows of an old factory in Opelika now torn down
Rusty Fence
This rusty fence overlooked a once beautiful fountain at the front of a factory
Old Factory Gate Locked
An old factory gate now torn down in Opelika
Abandon House Torn Down
An abandon house on Moore’s Mill Rd in Auburn torn down except the chimney

Toomer’s Drugs and the Streets of Auburn

This week I finally had a few spare minutes to get downtown to take some street shots. I’ve been wanting to practice up on my black and white technique and revisit street photography for a long time but just never made time to do it. Auburn is generally a fantastic place for street photography for several reasons; people are super friendly (almost overly so which also has it’s challenges in shooting), there is almost always something going on that makes for interesting subjects (especially during football season), and it’s a small condensed area so you can cover a lot of ground by foot quickly.

This time I purposely picked an afternoon when the streets were basically empty to try out some different compositional ideas without getting in someone’s way. Obviously it’s a little difficult to get some good contextual street photography action without anyone really being in town, but I felt a few images worked in this set. I am continually amazed at the intricacies of black and white photography and I love how complex it is after spending decades shooting only in color. Retraining the brain to think in black and white, learning to see in black and white; it’s all so much more than taking a color image and hitting the black and white button in Lightroom. It’s a whole other world out there as they say, and something I’m looking forward to learning in great detail over the next several years.

Toomer's Corner in Auburn
The famous Toomer’s Corner Drugstore in Auburn in the summer
College Street Phone
The crosswalk between College and Magnolia in Auburn
Walking Talking
Strolling down the sidewalk in the summer heat in Auburn
Strolling Heat
Strolling down the sidewalk in the summer heat in Auburn
Walking the Dog
Walking the dog in the summer in front of Samford Hall in Auburn
The Iconic Photo
The most photographed icon in Auburn at the Univeristy Sign in front of Samford Hall