Father time is an SOB!

| Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Newspaper Stand - Cleburne, Texas

How old does something have to be before it is considered an antique?

I always like to think of signs like this as really old and a remnant of a long-a-go past...way before my time. This one may be considered old, but I definitely have a childhood memory tied to it.

I took this photo on a trip back to my birthplace with my sister this summer. I jumped out of the car to take a photo of my dad's old store front in downtown Cleburne. My much OLDER sister (just so I don't feel so old) pointed out the newspaper sign painted on the edge of an abandoned building.

I remember going here with my dad on Sundays after church. Here he would buy the Sunday paper and each of us a candy bar. My favorite...Mounds (I never feel like a nut, so Almond Joy is never an option.) My mom liked Mounds too, but she hankered for Baby Ruths mostly and Banana Bites. Remember those? The big banana taffy squares - almost like Laffy Taffy, but much better. She'd have us buy the whole box. Back then, you probably got them for a penny--when penny candy was really a penny.

Another cool old sign. But I hate that what I think of as an antique also dates me as one. Dammit.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

Chapel in the snow


The Chapel at Chestnut Square - McKinney, Texas

McKinney, Texas experienced a real live snow, not the icy stuff, but the big white flaky stuff you see in up north. It was powdery and flakes were as big as cotton balls-and I am not exaggerating. What added to the oddity of snow, was this was in March.

I drove the few miles to the office and grabbed Karl, the videographer I work with, and we headed to the Towne Lake Park. I suggested we come back to Chestnut Square on our way back to downtown.

The historical setting of Chestnut Square was beautiful. Although the snow was melting quickly, it was still thick and powdery and no one had yet ruined the pristine setting with footprints. Originally, this was taken in color, which in itself looks fantastic. But I switched it over the grayscale, and it is closest I have come to getting a Ansel Adams-eque photo.

Like Karl said, Ray Charles couldn't have taken a bad picture out there that day, but this was definitely one of my favorites.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

More than meets the eye

| Monday, September 29, 2008

Grand Prismatic Spring - Yellowstone National Park

This and the photo at the very bottom of this blog were taken of the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone. The different colors are produced by bacterial mats. Different types and colors of bacteria grow the different temperatures of the warm water coming from the big blue spring in the middle.

It is kind of deceiving. You get walk up to one very large geyser that is overflowing warm water in the cool river below. Everything is at eye level. You walk around this huge boardwalk and come upon this sight. The steam is rising from the hot water and it is kind of hard to see. But I lifted my camera to my eye and through the polarizing filter I could see much more of the beautiful arrays of colors. I let my friends take a look through the camera and they were amazed at what the camera could see that they could not.

The panoramic photo at the bottom was stitched together using Photoshop. It took 6 photos to make up this one panoramic. I would have loved to have been on that hill overlooking the spring. If you look just to the right of center, on top of the smaller hill are two small colored dots. Those are people who made the voyage to get a perspective that few people ever get.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

What's 120 more miles?


Shadow Riders - Rawlins, Wyoming

When in Wyoming, here's a tip...Plan your day to leave as early as possible and stop around 3:00 in the afternoon to find a hotel if you don't have reservations.

Our 3600 mile trek this summer was based on living on a wing and a prayer for a hotel, never officially planning each nights stop. Just wherever the road led us. Five couples all needing rooms each night.

We left the north gate of Yellowstone early in the morning, crossing over the Beartooth Mountains, stopping for lunch in Cody. We drove all day to the next stop in the middle of Wyoming somewhere north of Lander. We were met by the hotel clerk who informed us that all the hotels within 120 miles were booked.

It was 5:30, getting dark and we would have to hop on the bikes and ride the 120 miles to next town of Rawlins. So what's an extra 2 hours and 120 miles? Five Harleys, full bore down one of the most desolate highways I had ever seen (talk about a rumble of loud pipes). Nothing to see but a long-ass strip of pavement stretched out in front. Not to mention having to be on guard for that one crazy antelope who may wish to spring across the road at any moment.

We were 5 miles from Rawlins when some of our riders couldn't take one more minute of the dropping temperatures that came with the setting of the sun. They needed to stop on the side of the highway to gear up.

I grabbed my point and shoot from my jacket pocket and snapped this photo. The sun was low and it stretched our shadows across the highway toward the storm off to our east. I like the photo. It seems to capture the mood of extra 120 miles at the end of a long day.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

Which way is up?


Grand Tetons - Jackson, Wyoming

See I told you...more water.

This is taken from the end of the dock at Leeks Marina in Grand Teton National Park. We stopped here for lunch on our way to Yellowstone this summer. Pretty damned good pizza if you are ever in the neighborhood...not the mention the view.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

It's in the water


Steamboat Geyser - Yellowstone National Park

For Linda, who insisted on seeing a larger version of the photo in the title banner.

I love water. Waterfalls, streams, rivers...if it is H2O, I love it. We go on vacation and I come back with hundreds of photos of water. I love the relaxing sound of it, the fresh smell of it, the clean feel of it.

When I look back at the photos I can remember the cool air that surrounds it, the sound it makes as it runs over the rocks. You will probably notice the more photos I post, that I am obsessed with nature photos with some element of water.

Now I gotta go pee.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

For the love of Deucey-Updated

| Friday, September 26, 2008

Deucey is our little foundling pup. She goes by many names that she has garnered from strangers and family over the years. One of our favorites is Pup Pup. We went camping last Thanksgiving and stayed at Pedernales Falls State Park. A little boy, only 18 months old couldn't wait each evening when we we take both beagles for a walk. He'd crouch down to her level, and take one stubby finger and stroke her head ever so gently and say "Pup Pup". He'd then proceed to kiss her on her head and for Deucey this was heaven on earth.

It seems wherever she goes, she finds a child who is taken with her. Her calm demeanor puts children, especially those who are scared of dogs, at ease. She only sticks around long enough to get her favorite scratch behind the ear. She never wears out her welcome, rather saving it up for the next one down the road.

She found us about 4 years ago, just months before our 15-year-old beagle, Arizona, passed away. In some ways, she is like a miracle. I would have never gone out to get another dog, especially so late in Arizona's life. However, Arizona seemed pleased to share, and Deucey was pleased to find a home.

Tonight, we had to make the hard decision to let her go. She has given us such joy and love, that all we could do was to hope to make her comfortable and repay her somehow for her generosity and unconditional love. Our hearts are broken, but we know she was ready. She had done her job, it was time to rest.

She was the most gentle and loving soul we had ever met. If you ever met her, you could always see something in her eyes. I tried many times to capture it on camera, but could never do it justice. Perhaps it was an impossible task. These photos come the closest and the one at the top was taken only a few weeks ago.

This is for all the pets in the world who are loved. And for those who haven't found a family to love, may you find your forever home like Deucey did. We love you little Deucey and you will be missed beyond belief.

Cotter Bridge

| Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cotter Bridge, built 1930: White River- Cotter, Arkansas

This bridge is on the National Register of Historic Sites. After a morning of trout fishing, our guide stopped under this bridge and cooked our fish. I just had to play with the new camera and see what all it could do. This is what I came out with.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

What's the buzz?


Bee and Bluebonnets - Denison Dam, Texas

Normally flying insects just freak me out. I go crazy when they are buzzing around my head. But for some reason, from behind the camera, I have a bravado that my friends and family would never recognize.

This poor little guy figured I had become his stalker. I followed him around as he buzzed through the wildflowers. I was only using a 28mm lens, so I kept getting ever closer. Before I knew it, I was within inches of the thing. Finally he turned at just the right angle for me to get my shot. Then I smashed him with my shoe...

Ok, not really. That was to see if you were paying attention.

Later I thought-What the hell was I doing?

A camera can feel like a suit of armor at times, a barrier from the subject. At others, you feel you are viewing the subject differently through the lens, in touch with it on a level you cannot explain.

I feel stronger and braver. I could do things that normally I wouldn't do. Like follow a little bee around, or jump from a plane (which I haven't done, but if I were to jump, you can bet there will be a camera involved!)

I have taken photos of vehicle accidents and natural disasters. Although I care for those who are suffering, I feel differently from behind the lens. It is a strange detachment, yet a connection at the same time. I don't really feel that except from behind the camera.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved.
All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

A quarter of a century


The old Bomar house - McKinney, Texas c. 1986

Taken for a college photography class, these photos lived in a negative sleeve for nearly 25 years, until I was cleaning house one day. I was showing them to my sister Tracey, who convinced me to scan the negatives and print them out for her. So I did.

I thought this was a such an interesting house. I took out in my car one day down FM 1827, just past our home. This house had been sitting just off the road and I had noticed it for years. The family still lived on the land behind it, but the home had been abandoned many years before. It had become a dumping ground and there were remnants from the past strewn all around the house.

A family member came out to greet me. She talked about the house and who had lived in it before. As she relived her memories of the old home that was now being encased by vegetation, she looked at as though she was seeing it for the first time herself. As we remarked on the beauty of weathered wood, she told me the house had never been painted in its 100 years.

The house has since been torn down, but the photos keep it alive. Who would have thought 25 years later, it would have a new life on a photoblog.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

A Sign of the Times: Montana

| Monday, September 15, 2008

Jim Bridger Motor Court - Gardiner, Montana

After a full day of exploring Yellowstone on the bike, we rode into Gardiner, Montana --better known as the Roosevelt Gate, the northern gate to Yellowstone. We checked into our Super 8, and headed down the street for dinner. As we ate, I spied this sign across the street from the restaurant. It was broad daylight, so not much interest therefor a shot, I thought.

However, we returned to the hotel and I went down to wash clothes. There was a storm coming in over the mountains, and the clouds were becoming interesting. I sat on the curb just outside the wash room, and watched as the sun began to set across the sleepy little town. I went in to get my jacket since the temperatures were beginning to drop with the setting of the sun and the storm coming in from the south. So I figured I would play with the camera.

First I took photos of the bikes, then tried the small church across the street. I looked down the street and pondered if I should just take a walk back to that kitschy motor court I saw at dinner. It didn't seem that far, so I started walking west.

I got up to the sign and marveled at the huge Indian arrows and the retro font. But the neon light wasn't on. It wasn't quite dark, but a time when I know you can get some excellent color out the sky, if you shoot fast. I went into the office. No one.

I tried a few more shots, but this was going to take having the lights on. I returned to the tiny one room office. "Gone to the Rusty Rail" was posted on the desk. OK, that has to be near. Looked around. No Rusty Rail. I went back into the office, there a lone light switch sat precariously on the outside wall. Oh, well...lets flip it and see what happens. (Hopefully it won't be a silent alarm.)

Woo! Hoo! iIt was the neon lights. I started snapping away at the lit sign and beautiful storm clouds passing over.

And for the record....I left the light on.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved.
All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

Fishing for a sign


North Fork Anglers - Cody, Wyoming

I just love the paint detail on this sign. I had to get in tight with my long lens to capture the detail. It overhangs the sidewalk next to the Harley shop in Cody. The color and detail is amazing.

Parks Fly Shop - Gardiner, Montana

Shot with a long lens from across the street, this sign seems to have been hanging around for a while. The wearing of the paint made it the most interesting to me. Since I had to take this first thing in the morning, as we were leaving Yellowstone, I am glad that it was a sign that was more about the paint, than the neon. Although, I am pretty sure it would have been a great evening shot too.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved.
All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

A Sign of the Times: New Mexico Part II

| Friday, September 12, 2008

The Rabbit Ear Cafe in Clayton, New Mexico

The first of my vintage signs taken on this summer's 3600 mile motorcycle trip. Again, the end of a hard day and we were pressing to get to Raton Pass before night. We ate here at this cafe-the food is excellent. As we were leaving the sun was low and that sign was yelling at me to take a photo. The sign looked to be in such distress, but that only added to the charm. It was beautiful to me. No time for a tripod and set up. I was the last to load up on the bike (You will notice a theme beginning), but I got my shot!

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

A Sign of the Times: New Mexico Part I


Historic Route 66, Tucumcari, NM

I love vintage signs. I love neon. I passed through Tucumcari, New Mexico three times in a year. First time was in a motorhome. After a long days drive, we just wanted to get to the RV park and rest. However, it was short stay and vowed to come back and take photos.

The next time, we were passing through on a motorcycle headed for Taos. Home to Taos was a 667 mile trek and we were determined to make it in one day. We ate a burger on the west side of town, and my husband promised if we kept going to make Taos by night fall, we could stop on the way back home and take photos.

Dammit! I broke my camera on that trip. My heart was ripping because I was in some of the most photo interesting part of the country-Taos, Santa Fe, Tucumcari, with a f-ing broken camera.

Fast-forward almost a year, and we were rolling through New Mexico on our way home for 3600 mile motorcycle ride through seven states. We were in a group of 10 riders, trying to make Amarillo by nightfall. (Not quite the George Strait song, but trying to beat the sun and a storm.)

However, fate was waiting for me. We came into Tucumcari just about dinner time and figured that was about as far as we were going to make it with a storm approaching. It was the next to the last day of our beautiful vacation. We had wonderful weather until then. So we weren't complaining.

We stopped and ate at Del's Restaurant just as it began to rain. Luckily, the motel was just next door. As I stood on the balcony of the luxurious Travel Lodge, I was able to take photos of the sun bouncing off the storm clouds to the east and of that huge steer on top of Del's neon sign.

Now patience is a virtue, I am told. The first few times I came through, I would have never gotten a shot like these. The storm and the time of day were perfect. Patience and fate pays off.


After dinner, the rain was letting up, but everything was pretty soaked, including us. We passed by some really interesting motor courts on Historic Route 66 while trying to find Del's. I had only seen the Blue Swallow Motel during the bright day light. But just knew the sign had to be cool at night, assuming it worked. As we left Del's, I glanced down Route 66 about a half mile and saw the sign was lit. My husband could see how much I wanted to go. He told me"Load up, I'll drive you down there." The bike seat was soaked, the roads were soaked, but he did it. That is why I love him.

I jumped off the bike and snapped a couple of shots. The owner came out to tell us he had one room left and it had a garage. WOW, it was like I got thrown back into 1957. He was restoring a 50-something car out front. The motel was in pristine condition. This was true Americana.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

A Day at the Beach


Cattails at Lake Ray Roberts, Pilot Point, Texas.

For my sister Susan. Thanks for hanging any photo I gave you. I love you.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

A Token What?


Shame on you...A liberal in the midst of a conservative state.

I have a really talented friend who has a hilarious view on the world. Thanks to him and my Peace Corp friend, I am being swayed to the dark side. Never completely sold on true conservatism, I can be swayed easily. I was never one of those in-your-face religious conservative nuts who just seem to hate all liberals. Hey, some of my best friends are liberals. I was even a liberal arts major.

Side note:
I have this strange dual personality. When in college, I started out as a political science major, hell-bent on becoming a lawyer. In that school, everyone kept asking "You're an art major, right?"

"No", I'd say, wondering why the hell do they think that?

Then after figuring out that I hated to do all the required reading, I decided to switch my major over to Advertising Art. And in that school, I kept getting the looks that said "You ARE an art major, right?" Crap!

As my friend Kelly told me, I was the most liberal conservative she knows. Right down the middle...the best place to be if you want to be hit by a Mack truck.

Back on subject:
I am like my mom, never completely sold on either side, never wanting to claim one as my own. My dad on the other hand...a true Roosevelt Democrat. I think my mom just enjoyed cancelling out his vote most of the time. I think there may of been times my dad went to vote and purposely didn't volunteer to take my mom, knowing she'd just not go by herself. It was that kind of relationship. But I inherited that bit of skepticism from her.

My husband is beginning to turn too. A time for change. A change you can believe in. Oh, boy...now I am spouting the message.

So if you just want to read some pretty hilarious crap and a warped view on life, you got to go read my friend's blog to the right (no pun intended here either). Token Liberal and Sporting Press are a daily must read, and he's an awesome cartoonist. His commentaries and wacky web searches make you wonder just what does he do all day.

White River Morning

| Thursday, September 11, 2008

Canadian Geese White River - Bull Shoals, Arkansas

As I stood on the shore of the White River at the base of Bull Shoals Dam in Northern Arkansas, I chatted with friends and eagerly waited to board a small johnboat to take us trout fishing. Just beyond the boat, was a beautiful scene unfolding.

I grabbed my brand new camera that my husband just bought me for our 21st wedding anniversary. I snapped off a few frames of the sun coming through the trees as the fog lifted from the cool river. By itself, that would have been enough. But just as I lowered my camera, I saw that a gaggle of geese had floated into the frame.

It was a lucky shot, and one I am extremely proud of since it is the first "in-field" photo that I took with my new E-3. Just standing on the shore, I was totally unaware of exactly how beautiful the scene would actually translate to the camera.

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

Out of Africa


When I dream of worldwide travel, I think of Italy, France, Austria. I dream of touring such places with husband on the back of a motorcycle. (Well, technically, I'd be on the back...I wouldn't make him sit in the bitch seat. Europeans may not understand that set up.) I conjure up visions of Tuscany, the Eiffel Tower or the Alps.

Why on earth would someone dream of traveling to a third world country, and planting roots there for the next two years?

Well, I have such a friend, Kelly. She dreamt of changing the world, not just exotic travels. She dreamt of Africa...and she went. The Peace Corps was lucky to get such a wonderful person. Someone with such drive, and such determination to help.

Rainbow over gorge - Malealea, Lesotho, Southern Africa

Now I find myself stalking her electronically. Trying to find out more about where she lives, what she does all day. She has posted some beautiful photos of the small African country she has moved to. Lesotho is a small mountainous kingdom, surrounded by South Africa. Not at all like the visions of lions and elephants I had. Thanks to her, I am learning a new culture, even learning a new language to some extent. Her fellow Peace Corps Volunteers have become a part of my quest. These people are amazing, to leave everything they have, pack a life into a 50 lb. backpack and move off to a country, where everything is foreign, even the food.

Luckily, they do have Doritos in Lesotho. Still, I don't think that is enough to make up for having to use a pit latrine for the next two years. But thanks to people like her, they will make a difference in this world.

Kelly's blog is "A Study in Contrasts" at www.astudyincontrasts.blogspot.com. If you want to see some amazing sunsets, cave paintings, or just another world, take a look. If you want to read some amazing things about other worlds, take a look again. She is an amazing writer, and an amazing person.

1,100 year old cave painting - Malealea, Lesotho, Southern Africa
Photos by © Kelly Ferneding

Mesa Verde Storm

| Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings - Durango, Colorado

©2009 Laura Smetak All rights reserved. All photos and stories on this blog are copyrighted and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.

To blog or not to blog


I'd like to thank my family and friends who have encouraged me to start showing some of my photos.

A friend and co-worker couldn't believe that some of my photos have lived in a negative sleeve inside a college notebook for 25 years, never seeing the light of day. It made me realize that I needed to let them breathe. Thanks, Super Dave.

After a 18 month stint as a photojournalist during college, I thought I had had enough. But the shutterbug bit me again.

Thanks to my husband and lensboy, I recently graduated to my dream camera. Thanks for the some bunny speeches over the past 21 years. I know I am slow getting it, but here it is.

Why Lipsmack? When you have grown up with a difficult last name, you think you have seen it all. The way people bastardize a name is unbelievable. Mispronunciations, misspellings...Maytag, Smeth, Semtar, Slestak, you name it (no pun intended). Thanks to a lost hotel reservation and some friends who just think outside the box, this one made me laugh. At least it is memorable, and it gave me that kick I needed to start blogging. Thanks Dan & Teresa.

To all my family and friends, again, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being you.

All photos on this blog are copyrighted (©2009 Laura Smetak), and use without the artists express permission is prohibited.