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Windows and Lichen at the Old Salmon Cannery on the Salish Sea

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

During a long series of rainy afternoons, we photograph the colorful lichen on the north side of the old cannery building .

The north-facing, broken, and boarded-up windows of the old cannery are covered in lichen and character. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

In the northwest corner of the United States, on the border with Canada, sits the town of Blaine, Washington. The town, founded in the mid-1800's, straddles a shallow body of water called Drayton Harbor which empties into the Salish Sea. .

Drayton Harbor is nearly closed off on the west by a narrow spit of land that also constricts the tidal flows in and out of the shallow bay. Poised on the northern tip of the spit is an old cannery.

Built in the late 1800's, it was, for a while, the largest salmon cannery in the world. In the 1950's a million cases of salmon were canned in a single season. With the decline of the salmon runs, the cannery was eventually sold and later abandoned. Now, it sits adjacent to a resort and serves as a minor tourist attraction.

The north side of the old wooden building has a thick growth of lichen and moss—especially at the base of the building and on the boarded-up windows. After a series of dreary days, the cannery seemed like an attractive location for photographing patterns and abstractions. Here are a few of the resulting images from that outing.

Yellow lichen and green moss grow best in the more exposed lower parts of the building. The boards are not straight and the remaining windows are askew. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

When photographing architecture, we attempt to replicate the rectilinearity of buildings by keeping vertical elements vertical and horizontal elements horizontal. But with old construction and the decades of weathering seen here, that goal is very elusive, if not impossible. Photo © Donald J. Rommes

A boarded-up window is framed by an algae-covered bannister below and rusted flashing above, Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

A wooden railing and rectangular mesh guard the north side of the building and suffer the same colonization by lichen and moss. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes

A window frame is almost unrecognizable as such and a heavy growth of algae coats the window sill as nature inexorably reclaims the old cannery building. Photo: © Donald J. Rommes



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