Commissioned: Hometown Visions / by chris miele

Top of the foothill.  Hannastown, PA.

It took a few years, but the time had come to revisit my hometown soil and interpret the once familiar scenes with my camera.  The better part of the past decade has seen me only returning for short family visits, usually camera-less.  While it was always a nice break from being behind the lens, a recent commissioned project had me excited to revisit the neon green forests and rolling farm hills that shaped my childhood.  Admittedly, it's only been in the last 9-12 months that I'd even felt inspired to shoot my home zip-code.  With the assignment notes in hand and locations marked, I headed out from Detroit to shoot the first of several project installments. 

Oregon or Pennsylvania?  This old growth forest had me questioning where I truly was.  Harrison City, PA.

Pennsylvania is known for its thick deciduous forests (I mean the name translates to "Penn's Woods) so naturally I placed the local forests high atop my shoot list.  The challenge (and joy) of this project was having to rediscover the familiar places that I'd written off years ago.  Forests next to friend's houses, old school bus routes flanked by woods, and trails far from any wilderness zones were all fair game for this project.  In other words, all places that held no comparison to monster sequoias, twisted live oaks, or salt kissed cypresses.  Challenge accepted.

Linn Run State Park.  Rector, PA.

Harrison City, PA.

Much like any other project I've worked on, the weather always hold the key to turn the average into the spectacular.  With only four days to shoot the first installment, I had to be precise.  Pennsylvania has its own brand of beauty, but it frankly isn't very diverse.  That meant any rushing water, thick fog, color filled sunrises, or hints of atmospheric magic couldn't be overlooked.  That mental preparation was the corner stone for the first round of images.  When a 5AM wake up greets you thick fog, you abandon sunrise hopes in favor of forests and fields blanketed by the most magical of diffused cloud veils. 

Linn Run State Park.  Rector, PA.

Back roads, spring mornings.  Greensburg, PA.

Subtleties in light and nuanced shadows where challenges in almost every scene.  Harsh daylight had to be harnessed and sculpted in new ways for this project.  The fluorescent greens that permeated every scene required extra care in balancing and handling.  Scaling back certain techniques and embracing new methods proved to crucial in creating these images.  This was a project that certainly tested many and multiple areas of my craft...which is exactly how it should be. 

Rural SW Pennsylvania life.  Hannastown, PA.

Light's nuances.  Linn Run State Park.  Rector, PA.

A touch of modern woven into the historical town fabric.  Westmoreland Museum Of American Art.  Greensburg, PA. 

The county seat.  Greensburg, PA.

Over the four days spent driving past old hang-outs, pulling over next to familiar fields, and doing my best to collect a sufficient amount of files, I began to feel accomplished.  Naturally this is always something I strive for, but this time the feeling arrived early and welcomed.  It's easy to lust for those distant and high caliber destinations, but learning to redevelop excitement for forgotten places is much more difficult.  It's that thought that has me thoroughly excited, motivated, and inspired to continue creating for this project over the next year.