Published photographer: Amazing and Unusual USA

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Since I started writing for Urban Tulsa Weekly, I've had a few photos and graphics published in the paper -- Lady Belvedere, the Statehood Centennial parade in Guthrie, PLANiTULSA workshops, along with some I took to illustrate one of my columns.

But today for the first time I got to see one of my photos in a hardbound book. It's a picture of Monkey Island at Ralph Mitchell Zoo in Independence, Kansas, and it's in a brand new coffee table book called Amazing and Unusual USA by Jeff Bahr. Bahr is co-author of Weird Virginia and a contributor to several other books in the Weird series.

I took the picture in 2007. My youngest son, then about 18 months old, and I stopped in Independence on the way north to Lawrence for my uncle's 50th birthday party. I have happy memories of the park and zoo from my childhood, and I thought my little one would enjoy looking around at the animals and the playground. We might even get to ride the train.

My wife and older two weren't able to come along, and they had the nice camera, so I took a bunch of pictures with a Kodak DX7440 which had an automatic lens cover that needed an occasional nudge with a fingernail to open all the way. Most of the pictures were of my son at various nursery-rhyme-themes spots in Kiddy Land, but I took a few documentary-type shots, too, of the park and vintage playground equipment. Nothing too artistic (although this one was quite nice, I thought) but well-framed with context.

I posted the photos as a set on Flickr, and duly added descriptions, tags, and geocoding.

A little over a year later, last September, I received an e-mail from Publications International asking for permission to use the Monkey Island photo.

Today we got a box in the mail, and it was my contributor's copy of the book! I understand that it will be available to the public next month.

Amazing and Unusual USA is 320 pages, attractively laid out with large images next to informative and often humorous text, organized by region. It features many of the "World's Largest" statues from around the country. Oklahoma is represented with four photos: Ed Galloway's World's Largest Concrete Totem Pole in Foyil, Tulsa's Golden Driller, Hugh Davis's Blue Whale in Catoosa, and a couple of guys wrestling an enormous catfish at the Okie Catfish Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valley. I have a number of books about weird Americana and roadside attractions on my shelf, but I've only heard of perhaps a third of the odd attractions in the book. The kids enjoyed paging through the book and had to be shooed away when it was time for bed.

The fact that my photo is in this book is not a tribute to my photographic skills but to the power of Web 2.0. Because I had uploaded the photo and tagged it in several meaningful ways, it could be found by someone looking for just the right image of the Birthplace of Miss Able.

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David V Author Profile Page said:

Congradulations! You never know when you might have "just the right photo" for a specific purpose.

My son just released an album CD this winter and even though he's a professional photographer by day, he decided to enhance a photo he found on that a canadian guy took, while in europe.

Even though the raw photo was unimpressive, it was suitable for the enhancements Jono added, to create the cover of his CD packaging.

Jono contacted the photo owner and it just happened to be an employee of . The guy was thrilled to be selected and only asked for a free copy of the CD, as compensation.

Jono's last EP artwork was acquired in a simular manner, from a guy in Netherlands.

(You can view the art at my website)

Chuck Stern said:

Don't sell your skills short.

In any case, reading about odd roadside attractions brought to mind the novel American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which is a worthwhile and entertaining novel; a bit graphic in certain regards, so not for the under-18 set, but still loopy and wondrous.

Hope you're doing well.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Good job, Michael. The Fun-full picture is great. I had a few of my photos from flickr picked by - of all things - a Major text-book company. That didn't work out (long story). But its amazing how flikr has exploded.

Natasha said:

Michael, congrats! Keep us posted on where we can find the book when it comes out.

Have you seen the Tasha Does Tulsa flickr page? It's at I've tried geocoding a few of the photos I've submitted, but the way I'm doing it (looking up locations on Google Maps) is a little arduous. I need to steal Aaron's GPS, I guess. =) Anyway, check it out and submit some photos!

Thanks, everyone, for the kind words. Natasha, if you'll use the Organize menu and the "Your Map" option, you can drag and drop photos onto an interactive map. You can switch from street view to satellite view. (It's Yahoo maps, which seems to have better satellite imagery than Google in rural areas.) You can filter the photos you're working with based on set, date uploaded, or other criteria.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 23, 2009 10:05 PM.

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