Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

“A Whole Lot of Flat”

14 miles of flat and straight

First, we’re safely back home in Webster, NY (“where life is worth living”).  The return trip was full of orange barrels, orange cones, and single lane interstate traffic, but we survived.  Even though we both had bad colds and basically just wanted to sleep.  But after about 6,700 miles (round-trip), it’s done.  I’d still like a piece of the action on making and selling those orange barrels, by the way.  Has to be one of the best businesses going these days.  I swear the state of Indiana has more orange barrels on I-70 than all of the other states along that route combined.

Not that the work isn’t needed.  As a veteran interstate traveler, I can vouch for the fact that these roads have seen better days.  As have most of the bridges.  They need fixing.  It may make travel more difficult, but roads with large holes in them also cause problems.  I can’t understand why Congress is balking at providing funds for doing much more of this.  The place (meaning “the country”) is literally coming unglued.

In my previous post, I mentioned that a number of states along our return route were not much more than “a whole lot of flat”.  And that’s no exaggeration.  Once you pass through Denver, CO it gets very flat very fast.  Eastern Colorado and western Kansas are wide open, flat stretches that can make you crazy.  The scenery doesn’t change much.  You just keep driving along (at 80 mph) and the geography stays the same.  Towns are few and far between.  When you do see a town, you wonder why people live there.  And where do they shop?  What do they do for fun?  Where do they work?

Anyway, my friend Mark Hobson (the Landscapist) asked if I was going to show any pictures of all this “flatness”.  Good question.  And it was something that I often thought about doing.  I really would have loved to stop somewhere in the middle of all those barrels and taken a picture or two.  I even thought about having my wife shoot some images through the bug covered front windshield.  I never did, though.  The poor thing at that point was not in what I’d call “good shape”.  Bottom line, then, was no pictures.  Regrettable.

So here’s an image of “straight and almost flat” from Utah.  If you recognize this picture, you’ve probably seen “Forrest Gump”.  In that movie, Forrest Gump goes on a cross – country run that captures national attention.  At this point in his journey, about 14 miles north of Monument Valley, he suddenly decides he’s had enough and wants to go home.  And he does.  So I guess you could call this an iconic image, then.

Actually, this was my second attempt at trying to capture this.  My first attempt – about 2 weeks earlier – failed because of heavy traffic.  It’s hard to stand out in the middle of the road when cars, trucks, buses, and RV’s are coming at you at 70 mph.  And you have to stand out in the middle.  The picture just doesn’t work if you’re standing by the side of the road.  I know – I’ve tried.  It just doesn’t look right.

I was only able to get this one because I used a split ND filter.  Without that filter, the background and sky were too bright.

Anyway, my apologies to Mark.  I left a lot of good pictures back there on the interstate.  In a way, the current state of our country and its economy is reflected by what you see along these routes.  You see places that are doing well and places that are dying.  And everything in between.


5 Responses to ““A Whole Lot of Flat””

  1. Paul Lester

    That is a whole lot of flat out there. It just invites you to get on through it and see exactly how fast your car can go. 🙂

    • Paul Maxim

      Yes, Paul, there’s nothing quite like driving through the desert. As the old cliche goes, there are places where you could literally tie down the steering wheel and hit the gas. And go like hell. Nothing like that (that I know of) here in the east.

  2. John

    Used to seeing this shot in evening color – I like the b&w change-up. I grew up in a state that, as you say, is a whole lot of flat, I can assure you we never seemed at a loss for “things to do”. And some of the best photography I’ve seen comes from “flat” states. Take a look at Jorn Olsen’s site: for some examples.


    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, John. And thanks for the reference to Jorn Olsen. He’s done some beautiful work. I’m sure I’ll find the same thing when I have more time to look at your site.

      I hope you don’t think I was being offensive with my “flat” remarks. Heck, I take more of those kinds of potshots at my own hometown than at anyone else’s. I will say, however, that I’ve been honestly perplexed by some of those small towns. I’m not talking about the larger ones – I’m referring to the towns that appear to have a few houses scattered about and not much else. Clearly, people live there, but where do they work? It just seems like a strange place to build a few houses. And I do agree with you on the photographic opportunities. There were places in western Kansas I would have loved to stop at for a while. Old, abandoned farms with those old windmills to pump water. You don’t find much of that here in NY!

      • John

        No offense taken – looking at my original post it may have come across as a bit edgy, which was not intended (I’m just glad you didn’t ask me what we had to do living in a small town in the midwest!). I still go back for family visits and such, but I’ve been in Denver for over 30 years now – mountains do have a certain appeal. At any rate, I enjoy your work and look forward to many more visits to your site!



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