I am fond of spending an afternoon wandering around the small towns of Texas. There are many small towns within easy driving distance of Austin and I have been making photo trips as I have time for a personal project of mine. My friend Andy asked if he could accompany me on one of my little adventures and we recently headed west down Hwy 29 one hot Sunday afternoon. Those who live in the area will know such an endeavor is borderline insane in the oppressive heat of our summers. Then there is the matter of trying to take pictures in the worst possible part of the day. Well, I'm not a morning person and since I'm shooting with black and white film for my little project some heat and hard light won't scare me off. Although...I do wonder at what temperature film melts now that I think about it. It was a scorcher that day!
We visited 3 towns together, the first being Liberty Hill. This little town was founded in the 1840s. It isn't much to see from the main highway. There are convenience stores, a few businesses and newer subdivisions readily visible but nothing interesting or historical looking. A little help from the Google satellite view helped us locate the old main street of town, tucked away just off of the highway. There we found a small strip of old buildings in various states of renovation or disrepair. Just what we were looking for!
I wandered around town with only a bottle of water and my Nikon F2 with a 28mm lens (yellow filter attached) loaded with Fujifilm Acros 100. Andy decided to lug around a tripod for some HDR shots with his Canon 6D. We spread out so as not to get in each others shots but we ended up shooting roughly the same things (not like there were a whole lot of choices!) One thing that surprised me was how busy the main street through town was. Apart from a small grocery store, nothing was open and few cars were stopping. It struck me how we were there to capture shots of the old architecture while folks local to the area whizzed by in their cars, not giving the all but forgotten main street area a second thought. I had to make it a point to watch out for cars when I stepped into the street to compose some shots - not something I'm usually concerned about in a small town.
It occurred to me that just about every small town I visit has a barber shop and a bank building on the main street or in the square of downtown. Liberty Hill was no exception. The barber shop looked to be renovated with a painted facade at some point. I'd rather see natural old brick or stonework. The front porch provided some relief from the sun beating down on us. I'm rather fair skinned so I seek out frequent breaks in the shade.
The old bank building was occupied by a chiropractic office and antique mall. Unfortunately the antique mall wasn't open. It would have been nice to pop in. I liked the simple arched windows and doorways of this building. I also think it's cool to see the dates prominently embedded into these old structures.
Pretty much all of the buildings on this main street were finished in simple brick or stone work. Arches were a common theme. I was curious what was behind the curtains of the place in the image above. The position of the sun in the sky placed one side of the street in shadow and the other in full sun. I think Andy made a wise choice with his decision to shoot bracketed images for HDR with his digital rig. Black and white film is a little more forgiving and I tend to like the high contrast anyway.
Some of the buildings were in shabby condition and there doesn't appear to be much active renovation underway. It's a shame to see some of these great old structures sitting there in decay. Most seem to just need a little work to be suitable for business again.
Behind the row of business buildings was a small neighborhood. The playscape consumed by an unkempt lawn caught my eye. I don't think any children have played there for quite some time.
Liberty Hill offered an interesting diversion from modern city life. I enjoyed its old main street and hope that the area will get some needed renovation and thrive again. Check out Andy's blog for some great color images of Liberty Hill.