Through Ace Taylor’s Eyes

DSC_0448I had the pleasure of roaming Illinois, Kentucky and a chunk of the Missouri Bootheel with Ace Taylor, the 13-year-old nephew of museum director Carla Jordan. Carla mentioned that Ace was interested in photography and was good company, so invited him to hit the road Thursday.

It’s never good to waste a perfectly good seat, so Carla’s ready-to-ramble mother, Carolyn Taylor, filled it. I have the feeling that she may become like Mother was: jingle the keys and she’s ready to go.

I tried to think of a photo-rich environment where taking good pictures would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

It turned out to happen, almost literally. When we got to the spillway at the southeast end of Horseshoe Lake, we saw hundreds of minnow-size fish frolicking in the overflow. We couldn’t tell if they were trying to fight the current to get upstream into the lake or if they were beings swept out of it. A couple of fishermen said they were baby carp. It’s worth clicking on it to make it larger. Maybe someone can tell us if the fishermen were right.

The kid has a good eye

Ace Taylor - Thebes RR bridge 03-17-2016_5951I got my first camera at 12. Ace is so far ahead of where I was at his age that there is no comparison. I didn’t point out any particular shot to him. I would give him a little background about why the location was interesting from a geologic or historical perspective, then I’d look around and Ace was already scoping out angles and getting busy.

Experimenting with framing

Ace Taylor - Thebes Courthouse 03-17-2016_5954Ace wasn’t a plain old point-and-shoot photographer. He experimented with shooting through things and with the relationships of shapes. He also had a good grasp of depth of field and the relationship between lens settings and shutter speeds. He tried using slower shutter speeds when shooting the fish photo so the water movement would show up, then he switched to higher speeds to freeze the fish. All of this without a word of advice from me.

In fact, I tried to capture the jumping fish in a video, but Ace aced me hands-down with his still shot.

Not afraid to get in the middle of it

Ace Taylor 03-17-2016 Cairo_6098I told him that photographers have a responsibility to document the world around them for future generations. He took a dramatic photo of a machine eating one of my favorite old buildings in Cairo.

“You realize,” I told him, “that you have taken the last photograph of that building that anyone will ever see. If you come back tomorrow, it’ll be gone, and the opportunity to document it will never be there again.”

[Note to Ace’s Mom: he was very cautious. He was careful to step in areas clear of nails and glass, and I always made sure he wasn’t any place where he was in danger.]

A deliberate shooter

Ace Taylor - Horsehoe Lake 03-17-2016_5989The kid wasn’t a pray and spray shooter. After he took a photo, he would study it to see if he had captured what he was looking for or if he should take another crack at it.

A quiet kid

Ace Taylor - Horsehoe Lake 03-17-2016_5987I don’t know that I’ve ever met any boy that age who was so quiet and soft-spoken. When he DID talk, he had something to say. I liked that.

The next day, he was helping Carla at the History Center in Jackson, so we didn’t roam around. I stopped by the center to give him a polarizing filter that I discovered had a small scratch. It probably won’t make any difference, but I’m persnickety about that kind of thing.

We talked gear and techniques, then I watched him wander around the room checking out how the filter would eliminate reflections. I give him credit for understanding when you DON’T want to use it.

“I WANTED the reflections in the water in the picture of the cypress trees, so I wouldn’t use it there, would I?” he asked.

You nailed it, kid.

If he continues at the pace he’s on, he won’t have to talk: he can let his camera and photos speak for him.

Ace Taylor’s work

Here’s a selection of what Ace photographed in roughly six hours (including 150 miles of driving). Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.

Keep in mind while you are looking at these pictures that Ace Taylor is 13 years old.


12 Replies to “Through Ace Taylor’s Eyes”

  1. What at artist at such a young age. He certainly has an eye for stories and angles! Keep it up Ace!

  2. Great work Ace! I know your Mom, Dad, Nana and Aunt Carla are very proud of the artist you are becoming and of the young man that you are. And thank you Mr. Steinhoff for mentoring him while he was visiting his Aunt Carla. Not many people take the time to show young kids the ropes now days.

  3. Thank you, Ken. Ace had a day he will remember forever. Mom also had a wonderful day. She said she wished she could live in one of those little Sears and Roebuck houses. I treasure your friendship. I hope Ace can show you his world in Southeast Kansas someday.

  4. Thanks for sharing Ace’s stunning photos. It’s sad to see the demise of Cairo, my birthplace. I especially love the photo of the Cairo bridge. My mother cut the ribbon for the grand opening of the bridge.

  5. I was drawn to your architectural photos. Number 24 and 26 remind me of what Edward Hooper might choose for one of his paintings. You have a rather mature eye for one your age.

    1. Ace and I both shot the old truck stop diner. I’m going to post my version of it soon. I hadn’t flashed on Edward Hopper until you mentioned him, but the photos will be in that style.

  6. Great job Ace! You had a lot of really great shots. I am blown away by the lines in the shots where the heavy equipment is tearing down the building.

    My other faves are the first under the bridge shot, your cypress shots, and the square patches of color on the building where there had been displays. Oh, and the stairways!

    You know, I first got to know Ken because I made a comment on some pics he took in Cairo, basically saying I saw such stuff that I wanted to photograph whenever I drove through (and a bridge was closed at the time, routing me through there more often that I had been used to) but I was scared because I had heard bad things about Cairo. Ken basically told me not to be silly.

    I eventually braved up and went there with a friend and our cameras and got some good shots. And met some neat people all because of that photo comment. (Your aunt was one of those in a roundabout way!)

    Great job and good luck!

    1. Not only did Ace get some nice pictures in Cairo, but we had a super lunch at Shemwell’s BBQ. The catfish dinners were super.

      We had one disappointment: there was a gate blocking Ft. Defiance, so I wasn’t able to go down to let them do a dual dip in two of the continents mightiest rivers. There was a lock and chain on the gate, but it was only secured at one end with bailing wire. I thought about opening the gate, but decided I didn’t want to get caught transporting a minor across state lines for immortal purposes.

      I’m glad you overcame your fear of Cairo.

  7. Wonderful young photographer! Wonderful Story! Thanks for taking him out and sharing with us! Yes he can line up a photo great – he has a natural eye to look at something some might say is mundane and see the architectural wonder in a certain angle. Thank you for encouraging him and allowing us to say to him; Don’t stop just keep feeding that camera through your eyes Ace Taylor! Love that you love the abandoned and neglected to see the beauty and history of it Taylor!!!

  8. It is a grand story and picks up the mood of the particular photo – some so sad. Others make me wonder the back story i.e The words FAMOUS -would that be BARR? Or another Famous ?

    On another note, I am not getting your post unless I hunt for them – I can’t find a way to re-subscribe. Can you help? I miss them too much.

    1. You were on the email notification subscriber list, but you were marked “inactive.” I deleted your address and added it back in. Let me know if you don’t get something in the next day or so.

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