During the Great Depression of the 1930's, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corp to help keep many of the men who were jobless employed. One group of these men were charged with building needed structures at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge located in southwestern Oklahoma.
After years of wandering this area I have explored some of these structures which include the former Ranger Headquarters, an outlying ranger station, the lake dams, and other structures evident throughtout the refuge. One of these is the Jed Johnson Observation Tower. I have been told that at one time the tower was used as a fire lookout then latter became a 'viewing' tower to give visitors an overlook of the lake and surrounding landscape. The tower, like most of the CCC structures, is constructed of rounded granite cobblestones which today is considered a lost art in building technique. However, almost all of the structures built in this style are still standing or at least their walls remain. The tower was closed in the early 1990's due to structural issues but I can remember seeing it with its roof intact in 1992. Sadly this part of the tower is gone now and the windows and doors have been sealed against trespass. It is still a prominent landmark at Jed Johnson Lake and though the hike to it is considered moderately difficult due to the elevation change and uneven terrain, it is worth the time and effort to visit this historic structure.
EVENING of July 28, 2014 - It is still hot and I am sweating profusely after the long hike to this place. I find a spot of shade on the East side of this structure, remove my pack and drink half a quart of water. After a few minutes of rest, I get up and wander around the tower looking at the architectural and construction details of this iconic landmark. I see no signs of the masonry cracking between the cobblestones which is a true testament to the skills of the CCC workers who built this place over 85 years ago. The windows have been mortared over and the metal door sealed against intruders.
The light begins to warm a bit, so I begin wandering around with camera and wide angle lens in search of compositions. I make a few handheld preliminary images for reference after going downslope from the tower. I have settled on a few possibles and take a break to have a snack and some water while I wait for the light. I don't have long to wait, so I get in position for the first composition and begin working. I climb back up to the top of the ridge and set up for my final composition. This image is one that puts me on the trail for the hike back and I like the perspective looking up at the structure. I make a few exposures, adjust my composition, and load up. Unfortunately, the rangers close the access gate to this site at sunset, so I have to be back by then and the hike takes 30 minutes. I have another image in mind down by the lake I want to make right at sunset, so I end up leaving earlier than I would have liked. With several images on the card, I am extremely satisfied with what I have created on this evening.
Nikon D700 / Tokina AT-X Pro 17-35/4 SD Aspherical @ 17 mm @ f/11 @ 1/80 second @ ISO 400. Processed in Lightroom 5, Topaz Black & White Effects 2, and Topaz Detail 3.