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Author of Lost America
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Photo Safari: 4,360 Miles in Five Days by Troy Paiva
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Troy Paiva
Troy Paiva
is a commercial artist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. For his entire adult life he has been an abandonment explorer and back-roads wanderer, especially at night. Sneaking around in junkyards and dead roadside towns in the middle of the night, he was doing urban exploration years before the term even existed. Troy is the author of the critically-acclaimed Lost America which features over 145 color and black-and-white photographs. On April 27th, 2007, Troy launched a new version of his Lost America Web site with hundreds of evocative photos from around the west.

Day Four - Texas Hot

The next morning is bright and hot. I arise late, missing out on the free "continental breakfast" of stale convenience-store donuts and coffee. The last tenant to leave the motel, I head south once more, back toward Texas.

Zig-zagging through the endless oilfields, I eventually find my way to Odessa and Midland, Siamese-twin cities ringed with bypass expressways. Their sprawl goes on, mile after mile. It seems I haven't seen anything taller than a 50-foot hill for several days. It's 105º and cloudy and I begin to understand the expression "Texas hot." Thousands of oil derricks sprout from the ground, stretching to the horizon in every direction. Their steel grasshopper heads bob slowly, hypnotic in the shimmering heat-haze. Exploring the road towns along Interstate 20, I find classic abandoned scenes to shoot. The high clouds burn off as the giant red sun sets into the sullen clouds over socked-in New Mexico to the west.

The night's photography in Penwell and Monahans goes smoothly. Abandoned buildings and machines saturate with my flash and the moonlight, predictably absorbing the light. A few clouds move through, smearing across the frame. Trying some different lighting looks and exposures, I get lost in the flow of my work, forgetting how far away from home I am.

Penwell, TX
Troy Paiva
Abandoned building in Penwell, Texas

I sleep a few hours in the car on the outskirts of Penwell. Since it is still over 70 degrees well after midnight, I sleep with the rear hatch wide open, my bare feet sticking out into the dry air. Thinking they were abandoned, I parked close to the train tracks on the edge of town. A few incredibly loud freight trains, containers stacked on flatcars, thunder by in the middle of the night making my car shudder. At 3 A.M., a van slowly rolls by and makes a U-turn right behind me, shining his lights right into the Subie's open rear door, surprising the hell out of me. But it's just some road-weary clown looking for a place to park it for the night before he sticks his Astro in a ditch. He ends up a mile down the road. I make sure to roll by him at the crack of dawn, whacking him with a 100-decibel heavy-metal wake-up call.

Day Five - A Third Wind>

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