The star pupil at an abandoned schoolhouse peeks his head outside for a look at the visitors.
AUGUST 2019 | Bear Butte Area | South Dakota, United States
I’ve gotten to know quite a few other photographers over the years, both locally and across the world. And we TALK, I tell ya! We share our photos and chat about our exposure and equipment, and when we’re really feeling the comradery we’ll share the locations of our favorite hidden spots.
Not that you can always find them, even with directions!
One local friend had told me about this amazing abandoned old schoolhouse they’d found in a field full of horses, somewhere by Bear Butte. Now I had already been allllll over the Bear Butte area (see the “Crap, Which Road Was It?” story on page 80 in my book), and I had never seen an old schoolhouse. Or horses for that matter! Still, I looked again. And still, no schoolhouse.
When another photographer friend came to visit from Boston, I thought we could keep an eye out for the schoolhouse together while I showed him my favorite shooting spots in the Black Hills. Heck, why not explore some new roads? Who knows what we might find!
I truly had a blast showing my friend around the Bear Butte area. Being a big city boy, he’d never seen such wide-open spaces before, especially with such unusual features as Bear Butte sticking up out of the terrain. He was simply going “bananas” (his words) and his enthusiasm was contagious. It was like getting to see my home through a fresh pair of eyes, and I appreciated the refreshing viewpoint.
Those of us who live in the Black Hills area likely often hear that we “take it for granted,” and that’s usually true for anyone living in a scenic area. When you see it every day, you get less and less excited about it. But seeing my big city friend get so amped up over my home was a great reminder of how lucky I was to live here.
And to make the day even more exciting, we found the schoolhouse!!! Don’t ask me where though, I’m still not sure which road it’s on and I’d have to wander to find it again!
When we found the cool rustic building, we were lucky with the light as well. It was bright enough to shoot and there were enough clouds to soften the light. The schoolhouse was partially on private land, so we worked the scene and did our best to photograph without trespassing. As I worked my way to the front of the building, I thought about the horses my local friend had mentioned. I was bummed they weren’t around – my Boston friend would have gotten a big kick out of that!
I was snapping a few straight-on shots when the “blanket” I saw hanging inside the doorway went ~swish~...
Wait, what??? Did that just move? What did I just see?
Next thing I knew a horse’s butt appeared in the door, followed by a tail. I barely held in a squeal and struggled to keep myself from jumping up and down. I did the not-so-subtle whisper-yell thing to my friend, waving him over and saying, “Hurry up, get over here!”
Then the magic happened. The horse awkwardly turned around... and stood with his head sticking right out of the doorway. He stood like that for quite some time! It was so comical and beautiful.
Eventually he exited, followed by TWO other horse buddies that were hidden inside the schoolhouse. Well, that’s it I thought… school’s out.