Warden in focus: FD Area Camera Club shows its darker side

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Charlene Ferguson, of Otho, helps arrange and hang the Fort Dodge Area Camera Club's show at Shiny Top Brewery in downtown Fort Dodge recently. The show features images the club members took at the Warden Plaza during several photo safari and will be on display through May.

Like so many cave explorers, members of the Fort Dodge Area Camera Club have made several spelunking safaris into the deep, dark corners of the once majestic Warden Plaza in downtown Fort Dodge.

The best of the best of those images can now be seen hanging on the wall of Shiny Top Brewing, 520 Central Ave., through the end of May.

Four of the 55 images in the show were made by Charlene Ferguson, of Otho.

She was quite taken with what she saw in the building.

“The most impressive was the basement,” she said. “It’s very dark, I’ve never been down there. I had to find my way with a flashlight.”

She found an interesting image.

“I sat on the basement floor to take a picture of a chair that was facing a brick wall,” she said.

To get that image, she used a technique called “light painting” in which the shutter of the camera is left open on a tripod as the photographer illuminates the scene with a flashlight.

She went on two of the safaris. She enjoyed the company of her fellow camera club members and the friendly joking about the somewhat creepy old building.

“Roger said if we were bad he’d hide our bodies in the building.” she said. “I did find some animal bones though.”

That “Roger” is Roger Feldhans, of Pomeroy, the club’s vice president.

He helped organize the photo safaris and led the club members during their visits. He was inspired by wanting to see the building through the eyes of other photographers.

“You can see the same thing repeated,” he said. “Like the piano in the basement. Everybody has their own interpretation, they used different light, some focused on the details, some shot the keys and some shot the whole thing.”

There are several images of the old moldering piano in the show, One, by Jason Liska, of Fort Dodge, is a light painted image taken on a digital camera. Another, which just shows some of the keys, was taken with an iPhone.

Feldhans has several prints in the show including an image taken on black and white film, then scanned.

“It was more of a challenge,” he said. “A lot more. You have to be selective about what you’re shooting. I try to get the image in my head before I click the shutter.”

Other images by Feldhans are in color. He doesn’t limit himself to either color or black and white. He lets the subject, his own reaction to it and his mood, dictate how it ends up.

“Not everything looks good in black and white,” he said.

Feldhans was impressed with how the club’s photographers found signs of life in the building to photograph.

“Some of them did exceptionally well at it,” he said, citing a photograph of an old chair, “You can see the wear, you can tell somebody was here.”

He noted the same thing on the piano keys in the basement.

“You can tell they were played a lot,” he said. “That’s why I did this. Now I can see it printed.”

Aaron Rider, of Fort Dodge, is the club’s president.

He’s impressed with the results on the wall at Shiny Top.

“I’m blown away,” he said. “It’s phenomenal. Overall this has to be one of the best shows we’ve had.”

He too found the Warden Plaza an interesting place to take photos.

“It’s so degraded,” he said. “But it’s got something beautiful even in that.”

He also noted how each photographer brought their own vision to the same subject.

“If you put 20 people in the same building you’ll get 20 different images,” he said.

Many of the prints in the show are for sale. Rider said they range in price from $20 to $75.

“You can own a bit of history,” he said.

Shiny Top co-owner Todd McCubbin is also impressed with the show. He looked over the collection of work and believes the club members captured the spirit of the Warden Plaza well.

“You can see where there was once something grand and majestic,” he said.