Dirt Roads in Black & White

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by Gage T. Smith, “the Picon Guy”

Gage pours a PiconI’ve always had an interest in photography and packed a camera with me just about everywhere since I was a kid. But in the days of film, not only was film expensive, the processing would severely test my meager budget.

Then came a day. I was a young teacher at a Middle School in Gardnerville when the principal approached me a week or so before school began. I was assigned to teach photography to eight graders.

Stone house in the Nevada desertI quickly enrolled in an evening class at Western Nevada Community College and was off to the races.

What I was teaching in class, I had learned the previous week. But the real benefit here was that I had access to my very own dark room and supplies — and I didn’t have to pay for it. Fun with black and white began.

With the digital age, it became easier to take a bunch of pictures and let my printer do the work. Plus, I could pick and choose what I wanted, a luxury not available during the film years.

Not too long ago, I went through what I like to call my “black and white” period. Traveling to various ghost towns and mine sites, I was able to develop an eye, of sorts, for black and white.

I was looking through the pictures that I have and found some interesting black and whites. Goldfield, one cold, blustery Spring day with a few snow flurries offered an interesting session of picture taking.

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My subject was hopes and dreams.

Goldfield Nevada

Clothesline in a Nevada ghost townGoldfield NevadaNevada is a place of hopes and dreams, some were fulfilled but more were not. It was mining that prompted some of those dreams, and mining that shattered so many of them. There are signs of it everywhere in this state.

It wasn’t just mining. The small rancher/farmers who entered this vast desert land to scratch out a living . . . very few made it.

Imagine arriving at your chosen location in the 20’s or 30’s or even the 50’s to begin the arduous prospect of building a life in agriculture in the driest state in the union. Can you imagine bringing a family out here? The words “I have nothing to do” were never uttered by anybody. A daunting task indeed.

Goldfield NevadaMost of these places were built near a water source for obvious reasons. A big old cottonwood might still mark the site along with a few ramshackle buildings besieged by sagebrush and some broken down corrals. Some buildings were made of milled lumber, and some were stone houses built into a hillside. Somebody lived there. They may not have thrived but did the best they could. There is something to be said for the frontier spirit.

I come across many of these places and try to snap a quick photo before I move on. Black and White is a favorite medium for these lonely outposts. It gives a feel for what it is like in the high deserts of Nevada.

Some of these photos were taken in Churchill county and some in Pershing County. These old homesteads literally dot the state. Look for an old windmill or a few scattered buildings as you drive the back roads. Likely you will find an imaginative photographers dream.

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