Oklahoma & the Texas Panhandle, Oct. 31, 2012

November 9th, 2012 | Posted by Steve in Buildings | Forts | Memorials | Oklahoma | Texas

On the 30 th I told Jonathan we were driving to Lawton, OK where we would stay the night.  He was appalled and told me not to go there.  He had spent 3 or 4 agonizing months there while doing his army Officers Training Course.  He didn’t like the place then and still doesn’t now.

Last year I spent a week there in August.  That week the humidity was oppressive, but the town really wasn’t too bad. Lawton is a farm town and a military town isolated on the prairie.  You travel 60 miles before you get anywhere else so Lawton does not have all the amenities associated with a larger urban area.  The homes are pretty basic, but way out on the west side of town there are a few really large ones.  Most of the people are right down to earth, and that is probably how it should be.  There are nicer places to stay and there are cheaper ones.  The same with restaurants.  We found a Springhill Inn & Suites & settled in for the night.

The next morning we were up a bit early to get ready to roll.  As we walked to the free breakfast I saw this outside.  I ran to get my camera & recorded the dawn.  It may be an industrial subject, it may not be a great photo, but it is a nice photo.  The moon was just that way, I didn’t lay it in.  The luminance of the setting full moon in the sky matched well with the overall luminance of the scene & I was pleased with the colors.  This is f/16 aperture on the 24-105mm f/4 lens at the full 105mm focal length.  It is 1/250th of a second, ISO 640.  I had to lighten the foreground a bit.

By 8:30 am we had passed through security and were on the Ft. Sill Military Reservation looking for Geronimo’s grave.  I had visited it on my last visit and wanted to come back for photos.  Geronimo is buried in one of the Apache POW graveyards.

Geronimo is known for fighting Mexicans then Americans encroaching on traditional Apache lands.  He was active from 1858 when Mexican soldiers killed his wife and 3 children, until his surrender to U.S. authorities in 1886.  Years ago Fran and I visited the Geronimo Surrender Memorial near Skeleton Canyon, Arizona.

When the Apache Guerrillas in rebellion against the United States were finally run to the ground.  They, along with their families, and some Apache Indians friendly to the U.S. were shipped wholesale first to Texas, Florida, Alabama, and finally to Ft. Sill, OK.  The brick wall surrounding the old military reservation is Apache built.  Many Apache children of those incarcerated went on to have successful careers with the U.S. Army.

Geronimo died in 1909 just a few months shy of his 80th birthday.  During his incarceration he gained what we might call today “rockstar” status.  He appeared prominently at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and later rode in President Roosevelt’s 1905 Inauguration Parade.

There is some controversy as to whether the complete skeleton of Geronimo is interred in the grave.  Supposedly some members of Skull and Bones, a Yale group, stole parts of the skeleton while they were posted in the army at Ft. Sill.  There have been lawsuits on and off about this over the years.

In 1913 amnesty was granted to the survivors.  About 30% of them stayed.  The rest went back to Arizona & New Mexico.

The gravesite is popular, but secluded.  It is hard to find without a map.  The historic and very scenic administration area of the military reservation has directional signs to the grave if you look closely for them.  The cemetery is well within the boundaries of Ft. Sill and lies near an artillery range.  It is not far from I-35, but there is no off ramp nearby.  The only access is via one of the Ft. Sill security gates some 3 or 4 miles away from the cemetery.

While we visited the cemetery artillery was going off nearby.  It was so close and so loud that we could feel the concussion of each round as it was fired.  Fran lived through a nighttime artillery barrage in northern Israel once.  She said these rounds in Oklahoma were much closer.  She was very uncomfortable.  Despite the closeness of the discharges I felt there was no cause to worry because the cemetery is both a sacred site and it shows no evidence of any damage.  Fran was still worried so I shot my photos & we moved on.

This is Geronimo’s grave.  I took a lot of photos of it, many with flash.  In this first one the early morning light was such that a break in the trees lit his name while keeping the surrounding area in shadow, an effect I was happy to take advantage of.  The next photo shows a more scenic view of the area with a fill flash.

I have been to lots and lots of places where the history of the West has been made.  Tombstone, AZ, the California gold country, Santa Fe, NM, and the Alamo jump immediately to mind.  I’ve been to so many places I don’t think I could list all of them even if I wanted to.  Then last year I visited this cemetery.  This one place rose above all the others in my mind and made the history of the West come alive for me.  I had to come back for photos.  It is La-Zi-Yah’s gravestone next to & behind the grave of Geronimo (hidden in the photo just above).  The stone says “Apache Warrior with Geronimo”.


Leaving Ft. Sill we got on Highway 62 and headed west.  Our plan was to cover parts of southwestern Oklahoma and pick up I-40 in Amarillo in the Texas panhandle.  We headed west about an hour to Altus, OK where we made a right heading north on Oklahoma Highway 6.

While in Altus I shot a few photos to make a panorama.  Here is the panorama & a closer shot of the statue in front of the City Hall.

About 10 miles north of Altus is Blair, OK.  I shot a lot of photos here.  First, 2 roughly similar pictures of the town.  Both are record shots and neither is art, but I couldn’t decide which I liked best.

Behind me on one of the corners was a brick building that was very well decorated by old advertising signs.  I was happy to make a few shots.  The first one immediately brought to mind Dan, Darwin, Jerry, Too-Tall and some other guys I work with.  Too-Tall once told me there are only 2 kinds of motorcycle riders:  The ones who have been down, and the ones who don’t know it yet, but will be going down.  Serious stuff if you get hurt or worse.


Continuing to drive north we came to Granite, OK.  Granite is an interesting little town.  It reminded Fran & I a lot of Vaughn, NM, except Granite is in better condition.  The last time Fran & I were in Vaughn was May, 2002 so it may have improved since.

Fran and I drove around a bit looking for interesting photos.  Finding none we headed west onto Oklahoma Highway 9.   Somewhere between Granite and the junction of U.S. Route 283 I caught this shot.  A photo from the middle of the highway may have been more interesting, but I had to wait for traffic to disappear before shooting.  Fortunately, the white warning line draws the eye into the frame very nicely.

Heading north on U.S. 283 we made a brief stop in Willow, OK to look around.  Photographically, all I got was this basic portrait of the U.S. Post Office.

There is actually an old Atlas Missile site nearby.  Presumably it has been out of service and empty for over 40 years.  It wasn’t marked on the maps we were using so we drove right by it without realizing it was there.

Continuing north we crossed under I-40 and went into Sayre, OK.  It was now about noon.  A few blocks above the interstate is the city hall.  It is in a picturesque old bank building built in 1905.

A few blocks to the east is the Beckham County Courthouse.

In front of the courthouse are a couple of monuments.

The Bison statue is named “Spirit of the West”.  It was placed in 2007 by the Shortgrass Country Museum and The American Legion Post #146.  The artist is Bill Cothran.

About a block north of the county courthouse is a railroad crossing.  From a distance the loading silo caught my attention.  We drove there and parked.  I got these 4 shots.

The silo and surrounding buildings are, I think, part of Sayre Grain & Farm Supply.  From a photo point of view I found them quite attractive.

In case you are wondering, the sky was this blue.  Unlike urban areas there was nothing in the sky like dust, fog, smog, haze, or clouds that would diffuse the light or change the deep blue of the sky.  Of course their 1800 feet of elevation helps deepen the sky also.  From morning to dusk all that day we had direct, unfiltered sunlight.

I think all 4 of these are reasonably good.  I like the locomotives best probably followed by the stand alone silo.  I think the stand alone silo would look good in black & white, but that will be for another time.

The railroad is FMRC for Farmrail Corporation.  It is a short line covering less than 200 miles of track in western Oklahoma.  It is an employee owned company operating under license from the Oklahoma Dept. of Transportation.  It is affiliated with Farmrail System, Inc. that operates some additional track.  I have a feeling the track is owned by the state and the railroads operate it under the state’s watchful eye.  The list of railroads operating in Oklahoma that I found doesn’t have many nationally known names on it so Oklahoma may have a lot of short lines.

Photos of Locomotives operating for FMRC are found at http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/locolist.aspx?id=FMRC.  Interestingly they show a photo of #4202 shot on September 1.  That photo clearly shows the tanks painted black.  My photo above of #4202, #4204 & #4203 is shot 2 months later and shows the tanks badly scuffed or otherwise despoiled.

After a quick lunch Fran and I continued heading north out of town.  Somewhere near Cheyenne, OK I caught this scenic of the surrounding country.

It was not a windy day.  The windmills were stationary or moving in a languid fashion.  We travelled near this one.  Over a few days of travel in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico & Arizona I spotted hundreds this size, maybe more.

Even standing nearby as we were it is hard to imagine how huge this thing really is!  And it is part of a wind farm of many identical machines.  If you’ve driven near Palm Springs, CA you’ve seen thousands of wind mills, but none of them are this large.

From the ground I estimated the pod to contain anywhere from a 1000 to 2500 horsepower generator.  Each blade seemed to be about 100 feet long.  I guessed it was a G.E.  Nothing on the outside hinted at G.E. except for the shape of the pod behind the blades.

Later when I got computer access I found G.E. has thousands of their 1.5 MW units installed worldwide.  The blades on their 1.5 size are about 37 meters or 121 feet long!  G.E. also has a 2.5 MW model.  This windmill could be big enough for that, but there is no way telling without talking to someone who actually knows.

For you light duty techies like me, a megawatt is a million watts or enough for ten thousand 100 watt lightbulbs.  To compute the amount of electricity generated time is a factor as is the average RPM.  The maximum rating of the machine may be the average production expected over 1 year, but I can’t tell you for sure, I’m too long removed from that business now.

Back in the mid 1980s when I was involved with the emerging wind energy business an average windmill had a 25 or 50 horsepower generator in it.  Later some of them grew to hold 100 horsepower.  A few 25 or 50 hp motors could fit in the back of a small stake bed truck.  These pods (no blades) are shipped 1 to a tractor & single drop trailer!  Each blade, if shipped complete, takes a tractor & a single extended trailer.  The larger blades take multiple trailers.  Back then the towers might be 50-75 feet tall.  These things are a whole lot larger now.  Currently, the U.S. has about 50 gigawatts capacity of wind energy machines installed.

If I recall correctly the generator will have a maximum RPM and perhaps a governor.  The governor is necessary because with the longer blades you don’t want the tips going faster than the speed of sound.  This is particularly important with the largest machines which are usually offshore.  These are 4 MW behemoths or greater and are up to 600 feet tall.  If the blade tip speed passes the sound barrier then the stresses on the blades and perhaps the bearings in the generator become too great and the machine will start to tear itself apart.


Later that afternoon we bade Oklahoma goodbye and crossed into the Texas panhandle where Oklahoma 33 turns into Texas 33.  I shot a photo of coming into Texas, then walked across the highway to get the Oklahoma sign.

A few miles into the panhandle we started seeing small oil storage tanks every few hundred yards.  Energy recovery is a big business there.  We also saw this abandoned farm.  I immediately thought of my friend Tony who has issued some calendars featuring abandoned farms in the Dakotas.  My apologies to Tony because we drove right by only pausing for a few photos from the road.  I didn’t even think of driving up to the buildings and getting some close ups.  That’s probably why Tony is a pro and I’m happy being an amateur.

This place marked my last group of shots for the day.  We started the day in Lawton, Oklahoma.  We ended the day in Tucumcari, New Mexico well after dark.  Our indirect route covered about 400 miles and had lots of photos.


Now I’m going to have a little fun with those of you who are still with me.  This next part of the post is photo experimentation.

This is the basic digital starting file of the abandoned house on Texas 33 for the photos below.  I am using the 105mm setting of my 24-105mm lens with an f/22 aperture at 1/400th of a second exposure.  The camera is at ISO 640.  I crop the file to make the subject look larger in the remaining frame.  The original file out of the camera showed up as 30.6 MB raw on the computer.  After cropping it was still over 14 MB raw.  Once saved in Photoshop PSD format the file is still 44.2 MB.  All of the black & whites below use this as the basic digital starting point.

Now I turn it into black & white and add some effects.

This one is made into B&W within Photoshop entirely.  Under Image/Adjustments/Channel Mixer I click the Monochrome box.  Still in the same place I change the Source Channels.  Red gets a +150 value.  Green gets a +140 value.  Blue gets a -190 value.  The total is 100 as it should be.  I learned this from a book where the author called it the “Ansel Adams Effect”.  Sometimes it is useful, but most often it is not.  The effect here is very dramatic, but very harsh, especially in the grass in the foreground.

All the rest of the photos below are converted to B&W using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 operating from within Photoshop. Remember, all of this is done digitally!  After opening the file in Silver Efex Pro 2 a graduated neutral density filter effect rated -1 stop is added over the file then a red filter effect is also added.  It makes for a nice dramatic shot that seems to me to be better balanced than the one above.


This next one uses the Film Noir effect with a red filter overlay.  The overall photo is still dramatic.  The foreground is not as harshly washed out as the first example and the vignette seems to enhance the subject.


This one uses the Antique 1 effect with a red filter overlay.  In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I like dramatic skies.


This is the last one.  It has a Graduated Neutral Density -2 effect with a yellow color filter on it.  I chose yellow instead of red because it makes for a slightly lighter, but still dramatic sky.  Next I bring the file back into Photoshop to archive the changes.  Finally the file goes back into Silver Efex Pro 2 and their Yellowed II effect is added.

I could go on with more changes, but I won’t.  I didn’t like the Sepia tones I got on this computer screen so that killed a few experiments.  As to which one you like best, that is up to you.  I tend to like this last one best, but I still like them all. If I ever get enough time at home I’ll see what this last file looks like as a print.


The next posts will be from New Mexico shot on Nov 1.  A few will be déjà vu photos, a few will be landscapes.

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