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.


Track Meet Taping

Track meet c 1965This was one of those technically challenging situations where I didn’t quite measure up to the challenge. The subject is leaning over with his face in the shadows, and the background is full of confusion and clutter.

It’s a nice moment, but I could have done a better job of capturing it. (If I was in one of my Fine Arts classes, I would have tried bluffing: “I made his face dark because I wanted to show him alone with his thoughts.”)

Still, I’m pretty sure it won at least an honorable mention in a photo contest, probably because it was different than most sports action shots.

Spring athletes got shorted

I’ve written before that the students who participated in spring athletics got the short end of the stick. By that time, everybody is focused on getting out of school, and the yearbook has already gone to press, so they won’t get recognition until the following year.

Here are some earlier track and field posts:

The Achievement Edition

1967 Achievement - Cape Wishy-Washy 50The Missourian’s big annual extravaganza was the Achievement Edition, published after the first of the year and looking back at the previous year’s accomplishments. We started working on the copy and photos well before Christmas.

Back in the old days before computers, we didn’t have filenames to keep track of stories, headlines and layouts. We used “slugs,” a line of lead type with a descriptive title. If the reporter was sending the story in several “takes” or pieces, then he or she would create a slug that might say, “murder1, murder2.” Since the composing room would occasionally miss taking the slug out, it was a good idea not to use titles that could be embarrassing (like labeling the religion news “god junk”).

Because the Achievement Edition copy was done so far in advance, it was given an additional slug “Atomic” so it wouldn’t get crammed into the daily paper. Or, at least that’s the way I remember it.

One Christmas break when I came home from Ohio University – it was probably 1967 – Editor jBlue asked if I would have time to roam all over the region shooting buildings like The Wishy-Washy Laundr-O-Mat. The 1968 City Directory says it was at 1526 Independence and that Homer R. Dickmann was the manager. At five bucks a shot, plus mileage, I jumped at the opportunity.

Start at the outside and work in

1967 Achievement - Cape Ricardos 47In those days, The Missourian was a regional paper. My negative sleeves said I went north as far as St. Genevieve, as far south as East Prairie and as far west as Lutesville. jBlue, always cost-conscious, instructed me to start at the far ends of the region and work inward toward Cape “so I don’t have to pay you to drive the same roads more than once.”

I was told to shoot any commercial buildings that looked new or remodeled and a representative sampling of any new homes that looked “expensive,” defined as costing more than $25,000. By the time I got done with the project, I could have qualified as a tax assessor.

I must have thought Ricardo’s Italian Swiss Chalet Ristorante looked recently spiffed up. The City Directory says it was also known as Rich House Inc. and was located at 731 Broadway. It was flanked on the left by Sisco’s Professional Barber Salon (Wm. D. Sisco), and optometrists Joe L. Mosley and James A. Drace on the right.

Sterling replaced the St. Charles Hotel

1967 Achievement - Cape Sterling 16The Sterling store replaced the historic St. Charles Hotel at the corner of Main and Themis. I photographed it being torn down.

Personal Finance Loans

1967 Achievement - Cape Personal Finance Co 13John H. Jarrett was listed as manager of Personal Finance Loans, 31 Main Street. The other buildings include Zickfield’s Jewelers, Tony’s Jewelry and Gift Shop and the Sweet Shoppe.


1967 Achievement - Cape Skinners Barber Shop 39Skinner’s Barber Shop must have had a short life. It doesn’t show up in the 1969 City Directory, and there is a sign in the window that says “For Lease, Inquire at Eggimann’s.”

Eggiman’s Authorized Dealer of Maytag and Admiral Appliances (Richard L. Eggiman, mgr) was at 225 South Plaza Way. That’s my old 1959 Buick LaSabre station wagon parked in front of Eggiman’s.

Swann & Son Garage

1967 Achievement - Cape Swan - Sons 07From the off-kilter angle of this photo, I wonder if I might have just changed rolls of film and this was a shot where I was advancing the new roll of film to get past the leader. Swann & Son Garage (C. Elwood Swann) was located at 430 William Street.

Missourian Litho and Printing

1967 Achievement - Cape Missourian Litho and Printing 06Missourian Litho and Printing Co. (John Beaudean) was at 500 William.

Cape Chiropractic Clinic

1967 Achievement - Cape Cape Chiropractic Clinic 7Cape Chiropractic Clinic, 726 Independence, was occupied by Drs. Wm. D. and R.M. Edwards.

Dr. M. Allen Brock

1967 Achievement - Cape Dr M Allen Brock 27The building on the right has a sign large enough to read that says “Dr. M. Allen Brock – Chiropractor.” The City Directory has Dr. Brock’s address as 148 S. Ellis, but this doesn’t look like Ellis to me. I can’t read the sign on the building on the left. If I had to guess, I’d say this is Independence.

Ford’s Meat Company

1967 Achievement - Cape Fords Meat Co 33Ford’s was located almost directly across from the Steinhoff, Kirkwood and Joiner Construction Co. on Hwy 61 near Sprigg Street. Managers were Bessie N and Lloyd N. Ford.

Power substation

1967 Achievement - Cape 35I think this might be the power substation located on the east side of old Hwy 61 that leads to the Diversion Channel boat ramps. It has been expanded in recent years and is protected from flooding by a huge dike around it.

Photo gallery of Cape and St. Genvieve buildings

Some of the negatives were in sleeves that said “Cape;” a few, though, said “Cape – St. Gen.” I’m going to assume that the ones with snow in them were Cape. I didn’t bother to try to identify the residential buildings because The Missourian’s microfiche in Google was missing the dates when the Achievement Edition ran. You’ll have to give me your best guess if you see something that looks familiar. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the sides to move through the gallery.

If there is interest, I’ll scan buildings from East Cape, Scott City, Illmo, Charleston, Bertrand, Lutesville, Marble Hill, Chaffee, East Prairie, St. Mary, Perryville, Old Appleton, Oak Ridge, Fruitland, Brewer, Thebes, Olive Branch, Tamms, Delta, Bloomfield, Aquilla, Diehlstadt, Oran, Morley, Benton, Kelso, Delta, Advance, Patton and Brownwood. Oh, and I just found another sleeve of Cape buildings. As you can see, there isn’t much of Southeast Missouri I haven’t prowled. Unfortunately, I won’t have any IDs on the buildings. I’ll be lucky to get the town right.

Pine Cone Magic

Fireplace 11-20-2013It’s been a warm October and November, but we’ve had about a dozen days so far that called for a fire in the fireplace. Tonight, possibly the last night I’ll be in Cape until the spring, is one of those nights. Weatherbug reports it is 25, headed to an overnight low of 18. I didn’t bother to look at the windchill numbers. When your nose hairs freeze, windchill is a non-factor.

I noticed that Brother Mark had a box of pine cones dipped in wax in a box near the fireplace, so I tried one of them as a fire starter. It burned like a champ. (Click on the photos to make them larger. They might make you feel warmer if you live up north. Plus, they’re kinda pretty.)

I’m cheap and lazy

Fireplace 11-20-2013I knew the wax would enhance the burn quality of the cones, but I didn’t want to go to the trouble and expense of buying, melting and spilling the wax, so I thought I’d see how well plain ones would work.

Mother and I cruised around until we saw some pine cones sitting on the ground under a tree in a park in Jackson.

They followed us home.

It was amazing at how easily they caught fire. (Something that you might want to think about if you have pine trees that have dropped a bunch of cones around your house.)

Just the touch of a match

Fireplace 11-20-2013All it took was the touch of a match to get the cones to burst into flame.

A thing of beauty

Fireplace 11-20-2013I was watching one just as the flames were dying down and the cone was a mass of glowing red. I dashed across the room for my camera, but it was one of those things that was perfect just for an instant.

That’s when I threw some of these cones into the fireplace trying to duplicate what I had seen seconds before. Didn’t work: the magic had all leaked out. Some of these are nice, but not close to what that first one looked like.

How to start a fire

  • Fireplace 11-20-2013I found the fastest way to start a fire with these was to wrap half a dozen in a couple of sheets of loosely twisted newspaper. (See, newspapers ARE still good for something.)
  • Put a few sticks or other light kindling on top of the newspaper.
  • Light and run away (That last part is for fireworks; you don’t have to run away.)
  • If you feel lucky, you could go ahead an put a log on top of the kindling when you light it, but I usually like to see that it’s going to take off first.

 Oh, my aching back

Fireplace 11-20-2013I got smart before we went on our next pine cone mission: I stopped at a local hardware store and picked up something similar to this aluminum reacher and grabber gizmo. (Buy it from this link and I’ll make a couple of pennies. Or, go to just about any hardware store and get it for about the same price.) It’s not a high precision piece of equipment and it’s not going to last forever if you pick up heavy stuff (or give it to your grandkid to play with), but Wife Lila and Mother have found it useful.

It does an excellent job of snagging pine cones.

Photo geekery

I was going to give you all kinds of information about exposures, but they were all over the place. The only constant was that I underexposed them by two stops from what the camera said was normal.

The camera looked at all the dark areas in the photo (most of which I cropped out) and said, “I want to make those areas lighter.”

I wanted the shadows to go dark, which also brought out the rich colors in the flames, so I told the camera to give it much less light than it thought it should in the theoretical world. Is there a scientific way to calculate the right exposure for something like this? Probably, but I just guessed, looked at the image, liked it, and kept shooting.

It’s a shame about the magic leaking out, though. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that first cone was the prettiest.