Welcome to one way I share my photography hobby. With a nod to Margaret Wolfe Hungerford who said, Beauty is in the Eye of The Beholder, my goal is to take pictures that have feeling. My hope is that the viewer will perhaps connect with a photo or two on some level. Click on the image to view it in a larger size on a separate page.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Union Depot and a revisit to The Piano

The Union Depot in Saint Paul has been reopened since closing in 1971.  They began building the Union Depot in 1917, and finished it in 1923 after some delays in construction due to World War 1. Even though trains aren't running here yet, I have wanted to see the Great Hall again to revisit some memories of the last time I was there, back when I was about 6 or 7.  I remember going there when my Grandpa and Grandma took the train to vacation in Fort Myers Florida.  Despite my young age, I distinctly remember going to the Union Depot, probably because I cried the entire time, thinking they were leaving forever and that I would never see my Grandpa or Grandma again.  Fortunately, I was mistaken, and when they returned they gave me a really cool rubber alligator toy souvenir!

My first photo is actually a light rail stop on Cedar St.  I'm including it here because... well, just because.

Okay, back to the Union Depot.  Here is a pic of the west side of the building.

This is an air intake vent from back when function and form mattered.  Mmmm... Symmetry.

I'm a sucker for cool doors.  Imagine the people who have passed through this door over the years...  The blur you see at the bottom of the photo is a little boy, about 6 or 7 years old, running through my picture, with an apologetic Dad in hot pursuit.  The little boy apparently was not nearly as traumatized as I was during my first visit to the Union Depot.

Another cool door.  Back in the day, the sign above these doors listed track numbers instead of gates.

The Great Hall sans the locomotive that used to be displayed here too.  According to my Dad, my great uncle walked through the Great Hall when he came back from fighting in WWII.  Since 1923, a lot of history has walked through this hall.

What used to be a very popular pillar, I'm sure, what with people looking up at it hundreds of times a day, checking the time.

Whoops!  Busted.  Rough crowd here.  I should have known better than to mess with a guy wearing his Stormy Kromer cap backwards!

After my trip down memory lane at the Union Depot, I thought I would wander around downtown a bit.  I've been wondering about The Piano.  Would it still be there?  You might remember The Piano from my December 2012 photo blog.  I found The Piano while exploring Saint Paul alleys in September.
  Here's the pic showing how I found The Piano then:
I had many comments on this pic from that blog, and since then I have wondered what the story was behind The Piano in the alley.  

So, I just had to see -  was it still there?  

Yep, the sad little piano is still there, though it has not been treated with much respect.

It was sad to see The Piano reduced to this. Toppled over onto it's back, The Piano lay there, covered in snow and tagged with graffiti. In it's prime, who had played this piano?  School children?  A family playing Christmas music?  As I stood there, taking pictures and considering the history of The Piano, a voice from behind me said, "It's been there quite awhile."  I turned on my heels to find...


Meet Dave, a man with a firm handshake and bright blue eyes who prefers to be called "Dutch".  He tells me he is 52 and currently without a place to call home, unless you call the street "home." Dutch has been living on the street since the summer of 2011.  He is a vet - served our country in the Navy during some issues with Iran in the late 70's.  Not actual combat mind you, but he proudly served our country after he joined the Navy voluntarily when he was 17.  After getting to know each other a bit, I think both of us were comfortable that neither had any intention of hurting the other.  I asked him if he minded if I took some pictures of him, and though he never asked, I offered him some compensation for his "modeling".  He was quite agreeable, and he chatted away with me and my friend Steve as I paused periodically to take pictures.

Dutch is a friendly guy, one I found easy to talk to.  He has a keen awareness of the weather - which way the wind was blowing, what weather was coming our way, and where he needed to be to get out of the weather.  Somewhere out there, he has a tent and a means to stay reasonably warm.  He has a friend who gets him odd jobs doing sheet rocking from time to time. 

He talked a bit about his life.  He mentioned his ex-wife and the life he used to have.  He didn't volunteer much about how he became homeless, and it really isn't any of my business so I didn't press him for details.  He said it happened right after he was hospitalized for something.  He said he has a bad knee, and I noticed he has a very simple wooden cane he probably found somewhere.  

We talked about his safety.  He said he leaves other people alone, and they pretty much leave him alone.  He said he feels safe on the streets, but I felt a sadness about him.

I asked him what brought him to this alley with The Piano.  He said he was just getting in out of the wind and enjoying a beer.  He asked me if he should stand or sit a certain way for the photos.  I told him I just wanted to photograph him naturally.   "Natural huh? Well then," he said as he dug into his camo backpack, pulling out a fresh can of beer. "I'd better have another!"  

After spending a little time with Dutch, we shook hands and parted ways.  I couldn't help but wonder where he ended up that night.  Hopefully, wherever he is, he's warm and safe.  God bless, Dutch.  And thank you for your service.

Thanks for looking at my photo blog.  I hope you enjoyed the pics.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Day with The Eagan Fire Department

On September 11th, 2012, I had the opportunity to watch as some members of the Eagan Fire Department participated in a training exercise.  Faced with such a great opportunity, there's no way I couldn't bring my camera.  The irony of the date was not lost on me, and as I snapped away I couldn't help but think about the 300+ firefighters who died on this date in 2001.

The men and women who make up EFD are mostly volunteers living in the community, people with full time jobs and daily demands on their time, just like many of us.  Still, they give their time because they have a desire to be a helping part of the community, and I could tell there was a feeling of pride and camaraderie among them during this training.

Here, firefighters listen and absorb information and last minute instructions to train hard and be safe.

Providing the instructions and always monitoring safety.  These folks take their training very seriously.

Gearing up.

While everyone gears up, there's a crew on the other side of the training building stoking the fire to keep it real.  Real hot, that is.

Back here, these firefighters keep it hot, all in the name of training.

You can't get water to the fire without a hose.  Everyone pulls their weight here.

And you can't get water to the hoses without the engineer.  Today's fire trucks are incredibly sophisticated machines...

...with really cool looking, and REALLY LOUD sirens!

Thermal sensing devices help firefighters see through smoke.

When the exercise is over, it's time to roll up the hoses and pack up the equipment.  Everybody works as a team.

Thank you, Eagan Fire Department, for giving me and my camera the opportunity to spend a few hours watching you train.  And a heartfelt Thank You for what you do!