The Shift

So. There are roughly 6 weeks until the group show. Welp.

A couple things.

This semester has gone by so fast, it makes no sense. Where did the time go? I’ve run into a few walls these past few weeks, a lot of personal challenges and then mother nature and I are currently on non-speaking terms. I’ve been trying to get to Washington County or just other counties in PA  to just shoot around and meet people but the roads have been so BAD it’s been too dangerous to drive out that way specifically on the weekends. Last Monday after classes I was able to go out there for a short time just to scope out the area.  I just started driving towards Washington, PA without any set destination. Washington County is the second most active drilling county in Pennsylvania. According to StateImpact Pennsylvania, there are 1,014 wells in WC. Compared to other counties such as Butler that has 277 wells. I somehow made it into this place called Cecil Township just past Canonsburg. I saw a few signs posted on light posts about leasing land and a few signs in peoples’ yards that said something like “We Support Safe Drilling”. I got one of those feelings driving into that place that I knew I needed to talk to the people that lived there. I plan to go back as soon as I’m able to. This weekend I’m getting together all the work I have so far, and I’m gonna start sequencing for my book. I think this sequencing will help with this constant lost feeling I’m having. I knew this would happen at least all the time when I started this project. It’s such a complex subject that it’s nearly impossible to wrap your brain completely around it. I have no background in geology or engineering or earth science. I have my camera and a passion to understand what impact this has had and is having on our country. That’s what I have and I’m just hoping I can start a different type of dialogue.

I’ve been doing some research on natural gas pipelines and the amount of pipelines that run all across the country. The fact that there is this working network of moving natural gas beneath my feet is unfathomable. Much like the process of hydraulic fracturing. When I tell people what my project is on, they always ask me “Are you for it, or against it?” Ya know when I first heard about fracking, I would’ve told you I was 100% against it. I remember when the Power Shift March happened in Pittsburgh. I was walking to class and saw this gathering happening by the river. I stayed awhile to check things out. Then I read one of the signs that said “Don’t Frack with Our Water” and I thought “Oh my gosh this is on fracking. Why did I not know about this!” Or something along those lines. I started out by shooting the protest, then it turned into marching along with them. The energy this group had harvested was unreal. You couldn’t help but join in on the chanting, the marching, the fight. Even though you didn’t know all the things you were fighting for, it felt good to be a part of something. I hate to admit I was still very ignorant on the subject, but the feeling of being a part of something much larger than myself was the main driver. This was proof that more voices were greater than one. When I took a step back, I realized the foundation of my opinion was based on one source. Although something as empowering as a protest is the result of this, I think it’s so easy to hear something and run with it without any further research. Through the course of a year and a half I place myself in the middle. Through the stories I’ve heard and the research i’ve done, I see that fracking has brought a lot of good things to a lot of good people, and it’s also brought a lot of bad things to a lot of good people. The list of things to consider are endless.

“Don’t Frack With Our Water” Pittsburgh Power Shift, 2013

My next goal. Before Spring Break — By next Sunday. I will have contacted more of my sources, did some follow-ups and transcribed all the interviews I’ve had up to date.


The Hildebrand Farm

Today I met with Jon and Ellen Hildebrand. They live a little over an hour south of Pittsburgh, on a farm they’ve lived on for 28 years. They’ve had 5 natural gas wells drilled on their property, and plan to drill 3 more. They are 1 of 3 farms in the area with a well pad on their land.

I’ve never met a couple that loved their land more than these too. They shared with me the story of how they came to find their land and the different challenges they’ve faced over the years. Ellen was deemed the title “Sheperdess” back when they used to raise sheep. While Jon was at work, she would heard the sheep on the farm. She had the Shepard hook and everything.  We all cracked up when they told this story. They eventually had to get rid of their sheep though because too many coyotes and wild dogs would get them. Sheep are cute, but not the quickest of animals. They moved on to raising cattlefor meat, and that is what they continue to do today.

I had with me a large format, medium format and my 35mm. Then a H4N zoom recorder and my digital just in case something malfunctioned with my other cameras. I’d like to only shoot film with this project, but depending on the situation it may alternate.  Gosh, today was the first time in over a year I shot using large format. This morning I slightly panicked because I had a moment where I couldn’t remember how to load the film into the holders. Yikes..So luckily, youtube users saved the day. Thank goodness for Youtube? I should’ve. Yeah, should’ve. Tested everything out the night before. But i’ll learn for next time! Maybe. Anyways I just cant get over large format cameras. It makes you slow down and focus. Sometimes Becca needs that in her life. There’s nothing else like it. Today I also had my friend Dominique with me. Jon and Ellen are her aunt and uncle. Having another person their helped out more than I anticipated. With that being said, I think it’s incredibly beneficial to have another person there to help, whether that’s hosting a second recorder, or recording audio while you shoot or whatever. It makes a difference. I’m also glad she got to spend time with family she hasn’t seen in awhile. So today worked out in more ways than one.

I left the farm feeling both exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. I love learning about new people, and definitely learned a lot from the Hildebrands.


Lets see what the rest of this month has to offer. I’m calling this week production week…gonna hopefully reach out to my other ledes and see where things go from there.

Now it’s time to write an essay for World Lit II…keep forgetting these obligations exist too.

No music this time. Though I’ve been on a Radiohead kick the past week. Not to be typical or state the obvious, but Creep is one of the greatest songs ever composed.

Alright second week of February, lets go!