Sunrise Through Hawksbill Mountain Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Shenandoah National Park Sunrise

Why wake up at 4am to hike up a mountain?

One of the things I love about being a photographer, and a hiker, is the challenge to find unique places to experience nature at its best. In Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park that meant hiking up a mountain in the dark before the sun came up.

On a beautiful afternoon my wife and I hiked up Hawksbill Mountain, the highest mountain in Shenandoah National Park, and loved the view. We were doing a whirlwind tour of summit hikes that day with Hawksbill being the favorite of the day. The rocky outcropping and the panoramic views on top of that mountain seemed like the perfect place to photograph the sunrise.

In early July, the sun rises at about 5:45am in Virginia. The easiest trail to the top of Hawksbill Mountain is only about a mile, but relatively steep, gaining about 750 feet in elevation in that short distance.

At 4:00am the next morning, I slipped out of our hotel room with the hope of being on top of Hawksbill Mountain by 5:15am. After our hike the day before we had seen a Black Bear with her cub a short distance form the trail head which was a little disconcerting. The last place I wanted to be was between a black bear cub and its mother in the dark. They are black bears after all. Hiking with a headlamp on would be important to not just see where I was going but also to let any bears know that I was coming. Just to be safe, I played an audio book out loud on my phone on the way up the trail. If they didn’t see me, hopefully they would hear me.

When I left the hotel, I could see that the sky was partly cloudy–a good sign for a great sunrise. One can never be sure what will happen when you get to a location. I’ve hiked miles in the dark only to see a mediocre sunrise or to have it completely obscured by clouds. When I made it to the summit of Hawksbill Mountain, it was very windy and first light was breaking. I could see that something special was going to happen. From the moment I got there until the beautiful dawn colors started to fade, I was treated to a show that was full of jaw dropping beauty.

The following photographs show that beautiful Shenandoah sunrise on top of Hawksbill Mountain. Note the times of each photograph was made in the caption.

First Light on Hawksbill Mountain Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

First Light on Hawksbill Mountain by Richard Lewis 2016 @ 5:09am

First Light in the Shenandoah Valley Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewi

First Light in the Shenandoah Valley by Richard Lewis 2016 @ 5:19am

Sunrise on Hawksbill Mountain Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Breaking Dawn on Hawksbill Mountain by Richard Lewis 2016 @5:39am

Breaking Dawn in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Early Dawn in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis 2016 @5:46am

Sunrise in Shenandoah National Park on Hawksbill Mountain by Richard Lewis

Dawn’s Colors in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis 2016 @5:50am

Sunrise Through Hawksbill Mountain Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Sunrise Through Hawksbill Mountain by Richard Lewis 2016 @5:54am

Dawn's Aftermath in Shenandoah National Park Hawksbill Mountain by Richard Lewis

Dawn’s Aftermath by Richard Lewis 2016 @5:57am

We spent an amazing week in Shenandoah National Park. There are more photographs to share. Stay tuned.

Enjoy

Riley's Room in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

Yellow Dog Village

If this post doesn’t make you cry I’m not doing my job

Yellow Dog Village is an odd name for a town, but it is sort of an odd town. In the early 20th century when miners and mine owners battled each other over wages and working conditions, this town was a place of harmony between workers and management.

Yellow Dog Village came into being because of an agreement between the owners of a limestone mine in western Pennsylvania and its employees. The company agreed to build a town for its workers if the workers agreed not to unionize. This is known as a “Yellow Dog” contract, hence the name of the town. In addition to just building the town, the company went farther by increasing salaries and providing living standards that allowed their workers to live a pretty good life by mining standards.

This relationship worked well until the mine ran out of limestone and closed. The town remained and while some families stayed, the population of Yellow Dog Village dwindled until the final blow happened. Plumbing and sewage problems along with the housing market collapse in 2008 forced the remaining  residents to abandon these now worthless homes and leave behind many of their possessions.

These possessions remain in many of the homes telling a sad tale of economically dispossessed families. Although there are worse situations in the world, the abandoned houses of Yellow Dog Village and their contents tell a story of modern day economic refugees.

What attracted my attentions immediately was the remnants of the children. Scattered toys, children’s clothes and their personalized bedrooms are the saddest remains of the families who made a life here.

The Houses

The simple early 20th century architecture of Yellow Dog Village is common all over this part of Pennsylvania. Driving through small towns in the area, I saw the identical houses, except that these homes are abandoned, neglected and vandalized.

View from Number 28 Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

View from Number 28 by Richard Lewis 2016

Yellow Dog Village Streetscape 1 by Richard Lewis

Yellow Dog Village Streetscape 1 by Richard Lewis 2016

Yellow Dog Village Streetscape 2 by Richard Lewis

Yellow Dog Village Streetscape 2 by Richard Lewis 2016

The Side Door in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

The Side Door by Richard Lewis 2016

The Yellow Dog Village House by Richard Lewis

The Yellow House by Richard Lewis 2016

View From The Porch in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

View From The Porch by Richard Lewis 2016

Look Out Any Window in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

Look Out Any Window by Richard Lewis 2016

The Interiors

The individually decorated houses are now deteriorating as moisture and weather cause uniquely painted and wall papered rooms to peel and crumble

The Purple Room in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewi

The Purple Room by Richard Lewis 2016

Home Comforts in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

Home Comforts by Richard Lewis 2016

The Stuff They Leave Behind in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

The Stuff They Leave Behind by Richard Lewis 2016

The Kitchen in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

The Kitchen by Richard Lewis 2016

A Messy Attic in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

A Messy Attic by Richard Lewis 2016

Once A Nice Room in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

Once A Nice Room by Richard Lewis 2016

The Kids

Children are the saddest victims of any disaster, natural, man-made or economic. The remains of Yellow Dog Village tell the story of the kids whoses families called this place home. The scattered toys, and personalized rooms were tough to look at as I was framing these photographs. Note: This is the crying part. 

Riley's Room in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

Riley’s Room by Richard Lewis 2016

Instructions for Keeping Your Room Clean in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

Instructions for Keeping Your Room Clean by Richard Lewis 2016

A Young Girl's Room in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

A Young Girl’s Room by Richard Lewis 2016

My Favorite Jeans Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

My Favorite Jeans by Richard Lewis 2016

The Pink Dresser in Yellow Dog Village by Richard Lewis

The Pink Dresser by Richard Lewis 2016

A New Life for Yellow Dog Village?

Several years ago, a retired history teacher was enchanted by this town and decided to buy it. He has a vision for Yellow Dog Village to be reborn as Limestone Village and populated by artisans who will restore these homes to live in and teach their craft during weekend and week- long programs. It’s a lofty goal, but the beginnings of this vision is starting to take shape. I hope to return to Yellow Dog Village some day soon to find a different place.

Enjoy!

 

Reflecting The Afterglow in Batsto by Richard Lewis

An Evening in Batsto Village

Batsto Village is a preserved historic iron works in the middle of the New Jersey Pinelands. In the 18th and early 19th centuries it was a major industry and even played an important roll in the American Revolution.

I wanted to photograph a moonrise at Batsto Village, but right after arriving it became obvious that it wasn’t going to work out. There were just too many trees and no place to get a good composition. So I decided to scout out a place suitable for other photographs. I’ve recently spent time studying composition and have just finished a workshop on advanced color theory. Why not put some of this new knowledge to use?

While wandering around the village, I realized that my definition of landscape photography has changed over the last few years. Landscapes don’t need to be all natural, back country places. I found my landscape sensibilities come into play no matter what my camera is pointed at.

The Benches

Hanging on a wall in my home is a still life with a simple, weathered, wooden bench. It is a beautiful painting by a Bucks County artist named Gene McInnerney.  This was my inspiration for the next photo. The color of the red bricks were toned down in order to let the bench be the main subject. There is also a nice leading line above the bench that allows the eye to wander over to it from the textured wall on the left.

Batsto Bench by Richard Lewis

Batsto Bench by Richard Lewis 2016

Benches must have caught my eye that evening because here are some more. While focusing on the bench in the foreground, I realized that the porch actually framed a nice little scene in the distance. Plus, the green tree provided a nice color contrast. I moved the camera in order to close up the spaces between the porch posts thereby creating the right side of the frame.

Batsto Porch Frame by Richard Lewis

Porch Frame by Richard Lewis 2016

The Blue Door

Next I found this nice weathered blue door. Using Photoshop, I brought out the color saturation on this door just a little bit. I like this scene because it has a distinct “English Cottage” feel to it. The original inhabitants of Batsto Village came from England.

The Blue Door at Batsto by Richard Lewis

The Blue Door by Richard Lewis 2016

If You Can’t Have a Moon, Go for the Sunset

I have about 50 photographs of the changing skies as the sun set. There is a nice lake on this site that would have been an excellent place to frame the beautiful sky, but I thought the subdued colors of this old Post Office worked well with the bright colors in the sky.

Batsto at Sunset by Richard Lewis

Batsto At Sunset by Richard Lewis 2016

I noticed how beautifully disruptive the sunset reflecting in the two windows of this old sawmill looked. It wasn’t easy to turn the camera from a colorful sky in order to capture this, but I’m glad I did.

Reflecting The Afterglow in Batsto by Richard Lewis

Reflecting The Afterglow by Richard Lewis 2016

The Moon

While walking back to the car, I noticed the moon peeking through the trees. It was almost too dark to get a good photograph, but hey, I came to to photograph the moon so why not.

Batsto Full Moon In The Trees by Richard Lewis

Full Moon In The Trees by Richard Lewis 2016

On any nice weekend, you will find that Batsto is crawling with visitors who hike, bike, paddle or just wander around and immerse themselves in some Pinelands history. On a quiet Monday evening, I pretty much had the place to myself. There is much more to share here so I’ll be heading back soon.

Enjoy

View Towards The Kitchen by Richard Lewis

Old House Devastation

There is a historical marker outside of this house indicating that it was once a school. There is no evidence of a classroom inside, but there are the remains of a playground. After spending time photographing abandoned homes I can say that this one is pretty sad and a bit scary. The house is completely overgrown and almost required a machete to get to one of the doors.

Abandoned House On A Frosted Morning by Richard Lewis 2016

Abandoned House On A Frosted Morning by Richard Lewis 2016

Abandoned Playground by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Playground by Richard Lewis 2016

Inside was pretty scary because the partially collapsed walls and rotted floors required a great deal of situational awareness. The fact that this simple 19th century farm house is still standing is a testament to how well it was built.

Remains Of A Parlor by Richard Lewis

Remains Of A Parlor by Richard Lewis 2016

View Towards The Kitchen by Richard Lewis

View Towards The Kitchen by Richard Lewis 2016

Unintended Open Air Kitchen by Richard Lewis

Unintended Open Air Kitchen by Richard Lewis 2016

What is interesting in the photograph below are the caulk and spackle on the  counter. This house is probably a little past the need for these things.

Abandoned Dining Room by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Dining Room by Richard Lewis 2016

Old Front Porch by Richard Lewis

Old Front Porch by Richard Lewis 2016

Abandoned buildings are history’s discards bearing witness to changing times and fortunes. Abandoned homes are always the saddest because they were places where people and families lived. Every square inch of this place has a memory created by the occupants of a home that is over 100 years old. Those memories will simply fade as this house succumbs to time and neglect.

Enjoy

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Rural Pennsylvania

Fun at the Berks County Photographic Conference

I just returned home from my first time presenting at the Berks County Photographic Conference in Kutztown, Pennsylvania which was an awesome experience on many levels. It is always great to be able to share one’s knowledge and experience with like-minded individuals. My presentations were on photographing abandoned buildings and iPhoneography.

Also rewarding was getting to hear the other presenters and meeting so many interesting people, several of whom I can now count as new friends. The icing on the cake, however, was being in a very special and beautiful place armed with a camera and new knowledge.

In the Shadow of the Pinnacle

My original plan on this particular evening was to photograph the sunset from one of the overlooks at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. However, as I was driving, the rolling landscape just overwhelmed me. Then I saw the Pinnacle. The Pinnacle is the mountain in the upper left hand side of this photograph. The overlook on top of this mountain is one of my favorite places to hike to. I’ve photographed this scene many times from that overlook. It was  a neat experience to be able to look at it from the other direction, providing a new perspective.

Rural Pennsylvania Sunset by Richard Lewis

Rural Pennsylvania Sunset by Richard Lewis 2016

Lessons in Composition

Next I found this old barn. I’ve always had a hard time photographing simple subjects like this, so I decided it was a chance to utilize some of my new skills. A big lesson learned at this conference was not to look at simple scenes too simplistically. There is a lot involved in composing an image like this and it was fun to figure it out using such a beautiful structure.

Old Barn Near Kutztown Pennsylvania by Richard Lewis

Old Barn Near Kutztown Pennsylvania by Richard Lewis 2016

Some thoughts on the composition of this photograph. 

  1. Simple scenes should have simple color schemes, in this case the main colors are limited to Red, Blue and Green.
  2. To accent those 3 main colors, the stone wall was lightened slightly while the painted wood and foliage was darkened just a little bit in Photoshop.
  3. Odd numbers of elements make good compositions and this photograph has 3 wooden elements, 3 main colors and even 3 vines creeping up the stone wall.
  4. Balance in an image is important. Here the right side of the stone wall might knock the image slightly off balance but the clump of plants and the 3 vines tend compensate for that.

For me photography is a lone pursuit. I love being by myself while getting lost in the subject my lens is pointed at. As a result, my instincts are to shy away from large groups of photographers. However, learning is important, so it is good to be able to learn, network and have some fun with other photographers once in a while.

Enjoy

If you want to see more of my work, click here to visit my website

 

Franklin Parker Preserve Evening Light in the Pinelands by Richard Lewis

A Seductive Light

Hiking the New Jersey Pinelands for Therapy and Art

I had a knee injury from a bicycle accident a few months ago and have been walking as part of a physical therapy program. On a recent Saturday afternoon, I decided to do some therapy by hiking in the Franklin Parker Preserve, one of my favorite New Jersey Pinelands spots. It ended up being more of a spiritual therapy session than a physical one.

I intended to hike without my camera to save weight in my pack and stress on my knee, but it just didn’t feel right. That camera has been with me on hikes everywhere from Alaska to right down the road. It felt to me like leaving a friend behind, so I ended up taking it.

The Franklin Parker Preserve features a series of old cranberry bogs with an open landscape and expansive views of the sky. Right after I began hiking, a storm front started moving in. That sky began changing from bright to dark.  During the transition, the light became so magical I had to stop and set up my camera. An hour later, I was abruptly knocked out of that creative zone we artists love to be in when the realization hit that this storm was moving in rather quickly. I high-tailed it back to the car and arrived just as the first rain drops started falling.

More photographs of that seductive Light

Edge of the Bogs in the Franklin Parker Preserve by Richard Lewis

Edge of the Bogs by Richard Lewis 2016

Storm Light in the Pinelands by Richard Lewis

Storm Light in the Pinelands by Richard Lewis 2016

That 5 mile hike only ended up being 2, but it was worth the sacrifice of physical therapy to get a little soul therapy. Hey, I can exercise anytime, right?

Enjoy. 

Click Here to see more photographs of the New Jersey Pinelands.

 

McNeal Mansion Total Devastation by Richard Lewis

McNeal Mansion – Total Devastation Reprised

Visually Preserving an Un-preservable Local Treasure 

I had posted photographs from this mansion earlier and was going to make it a series with several parts, Instead, I’m creating a new post with more information and photography. 

The McNeal mansion was built around 1894 in Burlington, New Jersey as the dream house of a local industrialist named Andrew McNeal. It sits along the Delaware River next to his successful cast iron pipe foundry. At the time, his home was one of New Jersey’s crown jewels.

A few years later in 1899, that jewel lost some of its luster when McNeal sold his company and the mansion became the corporate offices of the new owners, the US Pipe Corporation. Over the years the company added three wings to the building. The mansion started looking less like a home and more like an office building with some really nice architectural features.

As market conditions and economies changed, US Pipe shifted its home base and manufacturing facilities around. The McNeal Mansion was relegated to the role of a regional sales office and then ultimately abandoned in 1975 as the company scaled back its New Jersey operations.

In the ensuing years, fire, vandalism and neglect has caused the ill-fated McNeal mansion to fall into a terrible state of disrepair. Even though it is listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places, it may be beyond restoration. At the moment, the only good thing going for it is a fence around the property with a main gate located in the parking lot of a police station.

When I entered the mansion for the first time, I was greeted by a state of total devastation like I have never seen before. It looked like the aftermath of a battle. Nothing seemed salvageable. The fine architectural details are ruined, rotted or broken. The walls, ceilings and floors are crumbling, and even the graffiti is worn and faded.

The McNeal mansion is extremely well built with solid walls and a steel frame. “Good Bones” is what the architects call it. However the price tag to restore the mansion is estimated at about $5,000,000, so redevelopment of the property will probably mean the mansion will be demolished.

I thought it was important to create a photographic record of the interior to show how elegance can fade to a state that is almost beyond recognition. You can take the photographic tour below.

The McNeal Mansion’s Rooms

An interesting thing about the rooms in the McNeal Mansion is that they are large and no two seem to be alike. Each room has a unique fireplace made with different kinds of tile and woodwork.

McNeal Mansion Parlor by Richard Lewis

McNeal Mansion Parlor by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Rounded Room by Richard Lewis

McNeal Mansion Room with Rounded Walls by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Room With A Small Fireplace by Richard Lewis

Room With A Small Fireplace by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Don't Jump by Richard Lewis

Don’t Jump by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Attic Room by Richard Lewis

McNeal Mansion Attic Room by Richard Lewis 2016

The Grand Staircase

Fire and decay have ruined this once spectacular, three story wooden grand staircase.

McNeal Mansion Total Devastation by Richard Lewis

Total Devastation by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Hallway View by Richard Lewis

McNeal Mansion Hallway View by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Grans Staircase by Richard Lewis

McNeal Mansion Grand Staircase by Richard Lewis 2016

Windows and Doors

Through out the McNeal mansion there are many different styles of windows and doors that provide unique views of the overgrown grounds and the sorry state of the mansion’s decay.

McNeal Mansion View Towards The Delaware River by Richard Lewis

View Towards The Delaware River by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Doorway To Devastation by Richard Lewis

Doorway To Devastation by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Window On Devastation by Richard Lewis

Window On Devastation by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Interior Hallway by Richard Lewis

McNeal Mansion Interior Hallway by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Window View by Richard Lewis

McNeal Mansion Window View by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Burned Out Room by Richard Lewis

McNeal Mansion Burned Out Room by Richard Lewis 2016

US Pipe’s Offices

When I first scouted the mansion I was perplexed by several very large rooms that did not seem like living space. Later I discovered that the mansion spent most of its life as an office building and these rooms were added as office space by US Pipe in the 1930’s.

McNeal Mansion Office Area by Richard Lewis

McNeal Mansion Office Area by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Office Area by Richard Lewis

Abandoned Office by Richard Lewis 2016

McNeal Mansion Elevator by Richard Lewis

Out Of Order by Richard Lewis 2016

Hope and Failure

In the 1990’s there were big plans for the McNeal Mansion to be reborn as a restaurant, conference center and hotel. An outdoor restaurant opened on a massive deck as restoration began on the building. Just as things were looking good for the old place, the partners split up, the restaurant closed and the mansion was again boarded up and abandoned. A fire in 2001 added further devastation making restoration just about hopeless.

Big Plans by Richard Lewis

Big Plans by Richard Lewis 2016

Riverside Restaurant At The McNeal Mansion by Richard Lewis

Riverside Restaurant At The McNeal Mansion by Richard Lewis 2016

How long it will be before the cranes show up with their wrecking balls to demolish the McNeal Mansion? Friends in city government tell me that several developers want to build on the site and there is even talk of restoring the mansion. With the huge price tag involved, one has to wonder if that is wishful thinking, but let’s hope not.

These photographs may be the last ones recording the final sad chapter in the history of the historic McNeal Mansion.

Click here for more photographs of the McNeal Mansion on my website