Days three and four
I woke up around 10 a.m. checked out of the hotel and contemplated driving back home. “I’m not sure what’s wrong with my car, and I don’t want to get stuck out here. It’s also cold and if I leave now assuming the car holds out I can be back by dinner and still have 4 full days off until I have to be back at work on Monday. On the other hand I came out to make a timelapse video of eastern Kentucky, I’ve wanted to do this for a couple years and these 14 shots aren’t enough to do much with, plus I spent about $1000 on extra gear for this trip.” These were my thoughts when starting the day off. After doing another visual check under the car and everything looking to be in order I decided to carry on with my original intent for the trip.
A few months earlier I came out to Lynch Kentucky with my girlfriend to check out the Kentucky Coal Museum and Portal 31(a tour of a former underground coal mine). I knew the coal tipple at Portal 31 would make for an interesting timelapse so off to Lynch Kentucky I headed. On the 27 mile drive to Lynch the car again started making the clicking sound when it got over 45mph constantly making me second guess not to turning back, but at least it was daylight outside and finding help probably wouldn’t be too difficult if the transmission had a catastrophic failure. I arrived in Lynch and parked across from Portal 31 and shot in the surrounding area for four hours. Nothing much out of the ordinary happened. I grabbed 4 shots of the old coal facilities then saw a boarded up school in town that was the “colored school”. I found this very interesting, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything outside of museums or in old photos hinting to this era in history and to just find it out in the open was so odd that I had to record it. Unfortunately my camera started messing up telling me that the lens wasn’t attached even though it clearly was so I ended that hyperlapse early out of frustration. Looking back I assume the contacts on the lens were dirty since it’s worked fine since then.
I planned on ending Wednesday back at Kingdom Come State Park doing another day to night but this time I would capture Cumberland Kentucky from the same location where I ended the day yesterday during the star timelapse. This ended up being another of favorite timelapses on the trip. The camera is on a slider and starts out slowly moving left and all that’s really happening is the trees seem to be moving some which by itself is pretty boring. As the sun sets, the street lights power up in the valley turning the trees into silhouettes and the warm glow of Cumberland is seen below. This was the longest manned timelapse of the trip taking 3 hours and the camera firing off a photo every 1.5 minutes. The only downside to having a large time interval between shots is that it makes matching the exposure jumps very difficult. If you watch the final video the jumps aren’t perfect, but the reveal of the city below is still pretty cool. Feeling exhausted and not really wanting to spend another night sleeping in my car I searched for lodging in my GPS. Nothing close came up. This wasn’t much of a concern as my maps were outdated by four years. I headed into Cumberland stopped at a Dollar General and asked for directions to a hotel. After searching for half an hour and not finding this phantom hotel I gave up. It was already 10 p.m. I could drive 45 minutes back to Whitesburg and hope there was still a room; find a parking lot in town and sleep; or get another star timelapse. I didn’t find any parking lots I felt comfortable with in town so I went back up to Kingdom Come Park and set up a timelapse of the stars again. I wanted this one to cover more time than the previous star timelapse and knowing the battery would run out if the camera used its internal battery I decided to run on AC power, the only problem with AC power is finding an outlet nearby. The campsite didn’t have electricity, to overcome this I carry a 140 watt hour battery that has cigarette lighter adapters attached that I can plug an inverter into. This is a pretty good solution to run a camera a few hours or to recharge the internal camera batteries if you don’t want to keep your car running when you are stopped. The camera clicked away for 5 hours while I kind of slept in my car. That night it got down to 19 degrees, I kept my shoes on and stuffed extra clothes in the sleeping bag to try and stay warm. While asleep I thought I was secure in my car since I had the doors locked, but when I got up at 3a.m. I realized the driver door to my car was shut but not latched so looking the car was really of no use. I threw the gear in the trunk as quickly as possible and tried to get some sleep.
My alarm was set for 6:30am so I could capture the shadows disappearing from the hills below but when the alarm went off I didn’t feel up for shooting and considered just skipping the idea and going somewhere else. Thirty minutes passed and I decided that I probably won’t be back again so I would try to salvage what I had left of the sunrise. Luckily the daylight had just barely hit the top of the hills. There wasn’t enough time to set up a motorized timelapse so I grabbed an intervalometer and tripod and had the camera fire away. I would sit in my car with the heater running and check on the camera every 5 or so minutes to make sure everything was still working properly. It seems I should have been checking it more often because the battery ran out. It was replaced as quickly as possible but there’s a little jump in the disappearing shadows towards the end of this shot…it’s subtle but there.
Hardees was the only fast food place in Cumberland serving breakfast. Unfortunately they didn’t have wifi to help me scout new locations but that was alright since the town of wheelwright was cached in my Ipod from the night before. Thanks to coalcampusa.com I found other interesting looking cities and it seemed that close to Cumberland there was an old coal town named Wheelwright. Wheelwright was established in 1916 by the Elk Horn Coal Company so I was sure to find some old company buildings. I spent 2 hours getting 3 hyperlapses in the town. The former company houses were between two hills all lined up along the road through town. It’s kind of depressing to realize that the sun sets before it really should in the area. Since some of these towns are built in a valley when the sun dips below the top of the hills or mountains it gets dark before the sun goes below the horizon.
The next stop was an abandoned coal tipple in Price Kentucky also found on coalcampusa.com. I figured finding this would be pretty difficult and would have to turn down many wrong roads. Surprisingly it was right next to the main road and I just pulled off and parked next to the processing building. It’s amazing that these structures are still standing. The processing building was made out of brick as if it was designed to last for hundreds of years, even though it was only in use till 1991 and built in 1951. I set up for a vertical movement next to a small bridge over a creek. The creek would have been perfect and if I lived there I would have spent many hours playing in it during the summer if it weren’t for one thing…lots of trash. From the road most of eastern Kentucky looks gorgeous but when you get out and walk around you notice just how much litter is around. I guess when you live in one place long enough the magic wears off and everything seems normal so why bother to keep an area looking nice. Another disappointment was drifting my way as well. While looking up the creek bed I noticed this fog rolling through, it seemed odd that fog would be appearing around 2pm, but I’m not from the area so I guess it’s possible. As the fog hit me I realized it was smoke and the particles falling from the sky were cinders from trash being burned somewhere. I can only imagine how pretty this place was a couple hundred years ago.
Heading on to the last location of the day I figured there would again be a lot of searching to find the next abandoned coal tipple near McDowell. Fortunately like the previous location this was easily seen from the main road and was only five miles away. Nothing interesting happened here, the camera did a push in on the coal tipple with railroad tracks as the foreground element and it took about 30 minutes to complete. Feeling worn out from from the night before, I decided to call it a day and headed to Pikeville. This was the biggest city I saw with a population of 6900 since leaving Louisville four days earlier. It was amazing to see familiar chain stores all over the place, it gave a feeling of being less isolated and alone. Arriving before 6 p.m. I figured finding a hotel room wouldn’t be much of a problem. I pulled into what might have been a Days Inn at once and the only room left was a smoking room, I wasn’t looking forward to smelling like smoke, but I was beat and didn’t want to do anything else. Even with the slight smell of cigarette smoke the room was amazing. There was a bed, heat and most importantly a shower. The cable TV and internet were also luxuries to be thankful for.