It's difficult to imagine that the fax machine's creative potential is anything more than its usual workload of producing illegible characters on curly, high-glare, non-recyclable paper.
Michael Starke, however, has expanded the possibilities of this office fixture far beyond the copier room.
Starke, of A.K.A. Photographers in Ellicott City, used a fax machine to create "Yosemite Valley -- Afternoon Storm," which has been accepted into the Yosemite Renaissance VII, an annual international juried competition established to promote public awareness of the importance of preserving state and national parks. A $1,500 prize will be awarded to the best artwork of the show and $1,000 will go to the bestin each of three categories.
According to the brochure, the competition is designed to promote "diverse artistic interpretations of Yosemite. Its goals are to bring together the works of contemporary artists that do not simply duplicate traditional representations."
Well, using a fax machine should fit right in.
Fellow photographer Judy Herrmann said that the fax machine is only the second step in this particular process designed at A.K.A. After the print is made, it is sent through the fax machine. Later, in the darkroom, the image is altered further through printing and processing of the film. According to Hermann, the fax machine makes the photograph look more like an etching. Subsequent processing steps manipulate black and white contrasts by either bringing out more detail in highlights or losing it inshadows.
The winners will be announced the weekend of Nov. 15-16.
ILLUSTRATION: A FAX MACHINE CREATED SCENE A.K.A. PHOTOGRAPHERS -- MICHAEL STARKE
CAPTION: "Yosemite Valley -- Afternoon Storm" was created by Michael Starke and entered into the Yosemite Renaissance VII art competition.
SCARIEST RIDE OF YOUR LIFE
Ascar-faced madman lurchesout of the dark before taking off with a screaming bystander. Moments later, a lost hitchhiker is buried alive as another unlucky victim swings by the neck, kicking and squirming inthe night.
Scenes from a mall?
Actually, they're scenes from a"Haunted Hayride" at Nixon's Farm, where more laughs than blood are spilled as visitors observe car wrecks, an occasional beheading and asevered head singing, "I ain't got no body."
Designed to frightenand amuse anyone who braves the nightly 45-minute-long trek around the farm, the ride is part of a national franchise and one of three offered in the state.
Each, including those in Harford County and Bowie, offer 22 "haunts" -- 10 more than last year when the attraction first opened in Bowie.
"It's a trick to get it to work effectivelywith our limitations, being outdoors and on a hayride," said Kevin Connor, owner of the Maryland franchise. "It's more dif
ficult thanwhen you're indoors where everything is confined."
Nor do the rides try to compete with hip horror flicks like "Friday the 13th" or "Halloween."
"We do not attempt to challenge what is offered by movies," Connor said. "We try to use a different approach to scare people, drawing people's attention to one side and then scaring them from the other.
"Timing is involved in getting everything just right."
The Howard County site, though, is considered to be "more of an entertaining show than frightening," he said. "Some people don't want tobe scared. They said they would rather not go on."
The script is liberally sprinkled with puns and black humor, and customized to suiteach locale. "Things are done with a different twist in each area," Connor said. "If there is local folklore, we try to work it in at each individual location."
The haunts are also localized. At the Harford County site, for example, live bats are drawn out of
the trees, and in Howard County, guides take credit for the eerie fog that hasrecently enveloped the area.
The rides, which have been running since mid-October and will continue through Saturday, begin when customers are advised to hand admission tickets over to the "gatekeeper" and ends with "Death" leading participants through a walk in the woods.
All sites feature a Magical Mystical Tent. At Nixon's Farm, the lighthearted 15-minute magic show includes death-defying acts by thatfun-loving fire-eater and razor blade-swallower, Alain Ngoyen.
Scaring people out of their socks doesn't come cheap. "The costs run well over $100,000 apiece in expenses," Connor said.
The hayride costs $10.95 for adults and $8.75 for children ages 5 to 12. Children under 5 with an adult are admitted free.
Depending on the crowds, about 30 hayrides run per night. Managers project that by Satur
day,more than 15,000 hayriders will have passed through Nixon's Farm.
Connor bought the franchise from Ron Brooks of Syracuse, N.Y., who developed the attraction more than six years ago.
New haunts are devised each year at the annual Haunted Hayrides convention in AtlanticCity.
DOG TAKES BITE OUT OF CRIME