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1880 TOWN RECREATING THE PAST

Because the printed photograph is such a rarity these days, sometimes shooting without a real purpose can feel like my work just disappears into oblivion. Finding a project, where I can create a set of images, is a much more enduring approach.

About a hundred miles outside of Rapid City in South Dakota is a replica of a town from the end of the nineteenth century. 1880 Town, as it is known, has more than 30 authentically furnished buildings from this era. As I passed it along the highway one day, I knew I had found the perfect subject for my project.

I arrived early in the morning, which is key to a place like this. By early afternoon there can be hundreds of tourists milling about with no regard for what I’m shooting. Luckily for me, I was alone at that time and had free reign of the place.

This subject matter is perfect for black and white because, of course, it was the medium of the day.

I usually shoot in RAW format and then do my black and white conversions later but this time I decided to use a black and white camera preset. I modified it to have more contrast but the exercise definitely made me more conscious of what I was shooting. I didn’t want to have to fix anything in post.

Overall I was quite pleased with the result. There was a lot of contrast because I was mostly shooting in full sunlight. Some of the shadows got completely lost because of my high contrast setting but I kinda like it anyway.

I did shoot RAW as a backup so if I really wanted to coax some of the shadows out or recover some of the blown highlights, I could. Sometimes, though, I prefer to leave the technical imperfections alone if it means preserving a particular mood. “Fixing” things can sometimes strip a photograph of what drew me to the scene in the first place.

I plan to do some more of these kinds of projects where I can produce a unified set. It’s an interesting challenge and keeps my creative juices flowing.

If you would like to keep up with my meanderings, click here to subscribe to my blog. Peace.

Created By
Steven Dempsey
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