In the previous post I mentioned how revisiting familiar places often will bring new discoveries. I found a few more during my latest visit to the Hopewell Furnace Historic Site.
I couldn’t tell you how many times I have walked past this doorway to the company store. But I never experienced what I did that morning.
As I peered into the room, the early morning sunlight was streaming through the old window. It may have been the time of day, or the time of the year, but the aged wood was aglow with golden light.
Ambient light from the window was the sole light source in this photograph.
Ever had these thoughts rolling through your mind?
When revisiting a familiar location or even one that has become a favorite, there are several things I like to do to keep it fresh. And to avoid falling into the been there, done that trap.
Sometimes I will limit myself to using only one lens. Or if using a zoom, I will restrict myself to one focal length. Another method is to use my tripod only at a low height. This can get hard on the knees, but a fresh perspective almost always reveals something new. These aren’t hard and fast rules I follow, but guidelines I use to get the creative juices flowing.
One of my favorite places to revisit is the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in southeastern Pennsylvania. It is an old iron making furnace that was in operation from 1771 until 1883. And was one of 20 or so furnaces in operation in Pennsylvania during the 1700’s and 1800’s.
I have been there many times, in good weather and in bad. But I always hope each visit will bring a new discovery. Because I understand the light and weather will most likely be different from my last visit.
On this particular spring morning, it was sunny and the temperatures were cool. So I spent a good part of the shoot outside photographing the buildings and old equipment used in the iron making business.
As the morning progressed, the temperatures quickly rose to what felt like summertime. I soon realized I was way over-dressed for the occasion. Knowing it always feels cooler inside the old restored buildings, that’s where I headed.
This is part of the old blast furnace. While I have been inside this building many times, I never witnessed the sunlight pouring down the chimney as it was on that morning. This photo was taken only with the available light in order to capture the golden color. Because of the long exposure needed to capture the light in this situation, the use of a tripod was an absolute necessity.
shutter 1/4 second
Older homes inspired by a traditional colonial style is one of my favorite types of architecture. The houses have character, functionality, and individuality as compared to the cookie-cutter houses we see more often than not today.
While on a pre-scouting excursion, I was able to capture a series of images featuring a colonial styled house, rather than the garden I will be shooting later in the season. I do have some overall photos of the home, but I feel that this small portion of the front of the house tells a more informal story. Since the sun was directly behind me, I had to stand off to the side a bit and crouch down, so not to cast a shadow on the wall.
To me, the warm colors of the locally-quarried stone for the foundations and walls is cozy, inviting, and fits the wooded landscape. Functional wooden shutters add to the authenticity. As do the true multiple light windows. The window aprons and trim work from the older buildings have a distinctive appearance and level of craftsmanship not always seen in modern construction. A small detail, but one I feel is important to the overall aesthetics of a dwelling. The walls in older homes are typically thicker and have deep window sills. And as you can see in this photo, a rather large jardiniere is placed confidently in the window. They sure don’t make windows sills that wide in a typical new home!
This house was built in the early 1940‘s, and it illustrates many of the traits I find attractive. Although there is still work to be done, the present owners have done a wonderful job restoring and maintaining the home.
I had driven past this old shed for many years and often wondered what it may have been used for. It sat out in the middle of a farmers field with nothing else around it, braving the elements of all the seasons. Each year it would lean over a little bit more and the paint would become more weathered. I never saw any human activity there or even any machinery stored inside. It was just there.
Late one winter afternoon, I was driving by the old farm and shed, the wind was blowing fiercely. Snow was drifting and covering the roads that were clean and dry a few hours before. It was the pre-curser to a storm that followed later that night. I had my camera with me and wanted to capture the stormy weather and the shed standing up to the impending storm.
Sadly, last spring the old shed was torn down and a community of new homes took it’s place.
I am glad I was able to take this photograph before this old shed vanished. It was the inspiration for me wanting to capture and preserve the images of older buildings and structures in the area I live. They may not be there tomorrow.
This post was written by my lovely wife who is my editor-in-chief. She felt that my version of this topic may just offend a few too many people. I have to admit…she was right. And to quote my editor, “I would not consider the home in this image to be either ugly or attractive…let’s just say, it has personality.”
My husband and I became aware of a reoccurring phenomenon a number of years ago when we were looking to purchase our first house. It became more apparent as we drove around the area we lived and where we wanted to live. We even noticed it when we were on vacation.
We kept seeing these houses that can only be politely described as “unique”. Houses with a multitude of exterior building materials, accent colors that could make your straight hair curl, and quirky additions protruding from front porches. We started identifying these oddities as “Ugly Houses”.
My husband does admit to having an aversion to one house that showcased stucco, stone, vinyl siding, cedar shakes and brick on its exterior…plus three other materials he could not identify. And I do admit to rolling my eyes at a house displaying a Barbie-on-Steroids-Pink front door with matching shutters.
Being obsessed with our discovery, we decided we needed to go Public. We would create a coffee table book with full page photographs and kitchy captions. We would call it “Ugly Houses of America”. We would select a house to receive the yearly “UHOA” award and feature it on the back cover.
Until we came to the conclusion that we would probably get sued. Or depending on what part of the country the house was located: get shot. Upon greater reflection, we realized our opinion was based on what we perceived to be beautiful. Or not.
And who are we to judge? We don’t live there. We just drive by it. Maybe a couple of times a day or maybe just once in a lifetime.
Curb appeal has its place if that is what is important to you. If your motivation is to make sure you please everyone, including yourself, then by all means…knock yourself out. Follow the current trends or maintain a classic style. It is your choice.
But if you want to step outside the norm…think outside the box…be the purple cow in a field of black and white cows…feel free to create your own vision.
And if we think it is ugly, who cares? You should not. And we should get over it.
Architecture by itself can be inspirational to photograph. Yet when classic architecture is combined with a classic setting, the image can take on a different flavor.
This traditionally-styled farmhouse was built in the late 1700’s. It is nestled into the hillside, surrounded by fallow fields and a generations-old apple orchard. Believe it or not, this view is of the side of the house not the front, so you can get a sense of the size of the structure.
When I came across this location, I liked how the red springhouse on the left, the red doors of the barn in the background, and a glimpse of the red front porch roof added a touch of color to the scene. The old sycamore trees provide shade during the summer months and hint at the age of the property.
Overall, the view is one of a peaceful country setting. Which is exactly what I was hoping to capture.
Our old friend Webster defines architecture as the art or science of building; specifically: the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones.
I like to keep this bit of information in the back of my mind as I am scouting for local buildings to shoot for my next project. But every now and again, I come across a structure that pushes the limits of this definition. Especially the “habitable” part.
This old railroad shack is a classic example. It captured my attention from the moment I saw it. The bright rusty hinges add a spark of color against the weathered wooden boards. I like the way the door was built with the boards assembled in a herringbone pattern, as if someone wanted to add a bit of style to a utilitarian shed. Even the iron bars propped against the sides appear to be positioned as if to help hold up the shed.
Architecture comes in many shapes, sizes and styles in my neck of the woods. And sometimes, coming across a structure that pushes the limit can turn out to be just the shot I was hoping to discover.
Always on the lookout for vignettes and details within architecture, no matter what the style or age, I was pleased to come across the main entrance to this historic church. A number of things about this scene caught my eye.
I liked the color contrast of the stone around the entranceway against the walls surrounding it, and the patina of the flat red paint on the doors. The symmetry of the brownstone over the arch drew my eye to the center where an old lantern still hangs. The mossy green growth on the steps hints at the age of the building. And the stark blue of the wrought iron hand railing adds a surprisingly contemporary color choice to a more traditional stone facade.
I have to wonder what is on the other side of these doors? What visual treasures would I find there?
Regional historical venues are often overlooked when they are in our own neighborhoods. Where I live, the working museums, restored mills and iron furnaces provide a wide range of photographic opportunities close to home.
For example, we live near a Historic National Park. When folks from out of town come for a visit, they often want to go to the park. We tend to forget what the area has to offer because it is so much a part of our daily lives. We used to travel past or through it on a regular basis. I remember it as a place I used to ride my bike when I was a kid. My wife used to eat her lunch there when she worked in the area.
There is a wealth of material right at your doorstep. Find those hidden treasures where you live. You don’t have to wait until a relative comes for a visit.
Every region’s structures have their own sense of style based upon the available building materials specific to that area. Where I live there are a lot of colonial-aged structures. Some of the materials used in building were field stone, brick and tile made from local clay, and timbers from the forests. Many of these places are historical living, working museums where volunteers carry on the traditional crafts and lifestyles of the period.
There are a variety of shapes, textures and patterns creating visuals just waiting to be discovered. And learning and watching how things were done in the past can not only be interesting, but can lead to other photographic opportunities.
I enjoy exploring the hidden treasures in my local area. Often when I think I have exhausted all the possibilities, magically another one appears on my radar.