Fine-art road-trip photography?

Most photos I take when I’m on a road trip are documentary. I take care to compose them as well as I can so they’re pleasing, but my primary goal is to show the road and its context of landscape and built environment. Once in a while on the road I find something that creates a feeling in me, and I set about trying to capture whatever it is about the scene that generated it. I guess that makes those photographs art.

Honestly, I struggle with the notion of myself as an artist. As a boy I was acquainted with a number of artists and whatever I remember them to be, I’m not. I went to engineering school, for heaven’s sake, and make software for a living – my world has long been filled with the concrete, the factual, the practical, the purposeful. Certainly, creativity overflows in these hard disciplines. As you know, I think truss bridges are beautiful. But more than that, I respect and admire how their beauty is always second to their purpose. Yet here I am, trying to make something beautiful, or something that tells a story, or something that creates a feeling, just for its own sake. And wet is dry, and left is right, and up is down.

And now, a few art photos from my recent Dixie Highway tour.

This is a door on the Fountain County Courthouse in Covington. These doors seemed so severe and imposing. I shot digital on this trip; all my black-and-white shots are that way thanks to Photoshop. That conversion made this door even more severe and imposing.

Courthouse door

I spotted a ghost sign on a building in Crawfordsville a block north of the Dixie and moved in to capture this detail. I punched up the contrast a little, which brought out some really nice textures in the image.

Whee Bal

A storefront in Waynetown had this old-style entry. I’ve seen a lot of old commercial buildings in small Indiana towns but very few entries like this one, as so many have been modernized over the years. Converted to black and white, this photo reminded me of a scene from the 1930s, save for the modern credit-card stickers on the window.


And finally, a color shot just how it came out of the camera. This is an old alignment of the Dixie west of Brownsburg. I like the relentless green framing the gray road, how the sun faintly shines onto the road through the trees, and how the window reveals the unexpectedly lurking house.

Old alignment

For a few other favorite photos, click here and here and here and here


16 responses to “Fine-art road-trip photography?”

  1. Dani Avatar

    Jim, as much as the colors which surrounds us speaks to me, something about black and white photos touch a nostalgia within me and with that, a peace and joy. Post more if you feel called.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks Dani! I just put a roll of b/w film through one of my old 35 mm SLRs — maybe there will be fodder from another post in that roll, when I get it back from the processor.

  2. Mike Avatar

    Excellent silvery tones in that door. They show up much better when I click twice to get to the black Flickr background.

    I don’t think of documentary and art as exclusive domains.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks Mike! The line between documentary and art is beginning to blur for me.

  3. ryoko861 Avatar

    Now I see those doors not as imposing but beautiful! The ornate design and the star in the middle don’t seem harsh, but I think soften it’s height. Of course, the doorway to which they lead is very imposing.

    I think the ghost sign would be also very cool in color, bringing out the different shades of the weathered brick. Either way, it would be nice matted in a weathered frame.

    I think some of the best art comes from people’s travels, whether they vacations or in your case, documentary.

    1. Jim Avatar

      You know what’s funny? The photo of the ghost sign didn’t do anything for me in color. It wasn’t until I converted it to b/w that I realized I had something interesting. The door photo is also more interesting in b/w, but in color it still has some presence..

  4. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    That door looks like it’s make out of polished silver. What an excellent result your B&W treatment gives what would be an ordinary colour shot otherwise remarkable mainly for the carvings. It elevates it to the genuinely memorable and iconic. Nicely done!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks LP! The door is actually gold and has presence even in color, but yes, when I converted it to b/w I felt like I really had something to work with. Here’s the building to which the door is attached.

      Fountain County Courthouse

  5. davidvanilla Avatar

    I like that you are exploring with your inner artist and sharing the results.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thank you sir! For some reason, I had to rescue your comment from my spam folder. You don’t have a secret double life as a spammer, do you? :-)

  6. Scott Palmer Avatar

    Wonderful photos. Even apart from the visual composition, what I like about them is that they suggest other things.

    Each panel of the doors in Covington contains a story about some real people who passed through the doors long ago: what they did, how they lived, who they loved, how they died. The wall in Crawfordsville (where I went to college) looks like it was scarred in a fierce battle over some issue of life-and-death importance. The Waynetown storefront made me think of what they sold, for how much, to whom, and where their customers got the money during the Great Depression. And the winding road made me wonder where it leads.

    Great stuff, Jim. A life isn’t what happens inside a bag of skin. It’s that plus all the other experiences and sights we can cram into it. You’ve added to mine.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Scott, thank you for saying such a nice thing about my photos. You’ve put your finger right on what caused me to take these photos: imagining the people who had been there before.

  7. Ted Kappes Avatar

    I am old enough to remember when there was still a fairly hot debate about when to use color or b&w. There do seem to be times when color is actually distracting in a subject. I have seen those doors on the courthouse in Covington many times, however they never got my attention like your photo did. I suppose that shows the power of b&w to bring out the essentials in an image.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I think that part of what made me notice those doors was that this was my first encounter with them. They had not become commonplace to me.

  8. Aaron Moman Avatar

    These are great pictures. You’ve developed quite the eye with all the pictures you’ve taken.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thank you sir!

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