Collapsed Cabin Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis

Remembering Cejwin Camps

A Remnant of Personal History

We recently visited what is left of Cejwin Camps in Port Jervis, New York. The camp was founded in 1918 to provide a summer in nature and fresh air for New York City’s Jewish children. The camp, like all summer camps, provided an opportunity for kids to bond, have fun, and maybe learn something they could take into adulthood that would be useful. Its location in rural New York, just 90 minutes from Manhattan, allowed Cejwin to thrive and open seven camps to serve around 1000 kids.

Until recent generations, parents thought it was important for their kids to spend time outdoors in the natural world. That has changed along with what people choose to do with their summers. Cejwin fell victim to those changes and closed its doors in the 1990’s. After Cejwin, a Christian group took over and established a camp there for a few years. Now most of the camp property is being developed into housing. When we were there, only one of the boys camps, Aviv, was accessible.

This photo shoot was very personal. My wife spent 10 years at Cejwin Camps as a kid and has many happy memories. I’ve seen old black and white photos of her as a goofy, giggly teenager fooling around with her bunk mates. These somewhat out of focus antics of a bunch of 14 year-olds document experiences that helped shape the mature and intelligent person my wife is today. This place is so much a part of her past that being at Cejwin and photographing what remains of it was quite a powerful experience for both of us.

The Cabins

These simple structures were full of children being children. My wife has many fond memories of what camp professionals would call “Cabin Life.” She remembers activities at camp, but really remembers what happened in these little buildings where, as she has said, she could just be herself.

Cabin By The Lake at Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis

Cabin By The Lake by Richard Lewis 2016

Remains of Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis

Remains of Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis 2016

Collapsed Cabin Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis

Collapsed Cabin by Richard Lewis 2016

Cabin Interior by Richard Lewis

Cabin Interior by Richard Lewis 2016

Staff Cabin At Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis

Staff Cabin At Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis 2016

Camp Activities

The goal of Cejwin Camps was to expose Jewish children to nature, healthy activities and each other. What remains at the Aviv sub-camp are the wood shop, the basketball courts and the waterfront which was a haven on hot days. The camp offered a lot of other activities too, but none of that is evident anymore.

Social Hall at Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis

Wood Shop Interior by Richard Lewis 2016

Cejwin Waterfront by Ricard Lewis

Cejwin Waterfront by Richard Lewis 2016

Basketball Courts at Cejwin Camps by Ricard Lewis

Basketball Courts at Cejwin Camps by Richard Lewis 2016

What Happened After Cejwin Camps

After Cejwin Camps closed in the 1990’s a Christian organization took over and ran a camp there for a few years. Some of the religious decorations remain on the buildings although most of the camp is run down and full of debris where buildings have been torn down. There is another section where the cabins were fairly well maintained that was fenced off, so we did not photograph there.

Christian Camp at Cejwin by Richard Lewis

Christian Camp by Richard Lewis 2016

Cejwin Camp Panorama by Richard Lewis

Cejwin Camps Panorama by Richard Lewis 2016

Social Hall at Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis

Aviv-Aviva-Chavurah Wood Shop at Cejwin Camps by Richard Lewis 2016

Collapsed Cabin Interior at Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis

Collapsed Cabin Interior by Richard Lewis 2016

Remnants of Cejwin

Not much is left that distinguishes Cejwin Camps’ Jewish identity. Hebrew letters on the side of a building that may have been a canteen, some pre-1990 graffiti inside some of the buildings, and a worktable marked Aviv Shop.

Cejwin Camp Remanent by Richard Lewis

Cejwin Camps Remnant by Richard Lewis 2016

Aviv Shop Table at Cejwin Camp by Richard Lewis

Aviv Shop Table by Richard Lewis 2016

These may very well be the last photographs made of Cejwin before it is totally gone. The rustic cabins and buildings are far from architectural gems and are probably not worth preserving. But it’s not the buildings that are important, it is what happened inside of them that matters. These photographs hopefully will help preserve experiences that are cherished by many of the campers who spent time here.

I know this post is being shared among Cejwin Camps’ alumni group. If you attended this camp, please leave a comment below with thoughts and memories of your time at camp. Help us show what these dilapidated buildings meant when they were structurally sound and full of children.

Click here for more photographs of Cejwin Camps on my website.

Enjoy

 

Misty Forest in the Delware Water Gap by Richard Lewis

One Morning In The Delaware Water Gap

An aimless pursuit of beauty.

What do you do when a day of scouting for photography locations doesn’t yield anything? That happened recently on a trip to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. We spent the afternoon hiking the Cliff and other trails to check out overlooks and waterfalls. My plan was to find the best ones and spend the next few mornings photographing them.

Nine miles of hiking didn’t yield much. The overlooks weren’t what I expected and the recent lack of rain had the waterfalls running at a trickle. With nothing to plan for, I did something I hadn’t done in a long time. At 5:30am I started driving around to find a photograph, somewhere. It didn’t take long to realize why I don’t do this anymore. Not knowing where to go or what you are looking for can be quite frustrating. Here I am in the beautiful Delaware Water Gap and nothing beautiful is making itself known.

Then I saw the mist. It was coming from a small lake. Then I saw the kayak. Some guy was enjoying the morning fishing and could not have been more cooperative if I had radio communication and told him where to go and how to pose.

Misty Morning in the Delaware Water Gap by Richard Lewis

Misty Morning in the Delaware Water Gap by Richard Lewis 2016

Shortly after leaving the lake, a glimpse of light caught my eye deep in a dense pine forest. I wandered over to find beautiful opening in the forest with a light mist providing a glow to everything.

Misty Forest in the Delware Water Gap by Richard Lewis

Misty Forest 1 by Richard Lewis 2016

Reclaiming The Trees in the Delaware Water Gap by Richard Lewis

Reclaiming The Trees by Richard Lewis 2016

Forest Carpet in the Delaware Water Gap by Richard Lewis

Forest Carpet by Richard Lewis 2016

Misty Forest 2 in the Delaware Water Gap by Richard Lewis

Misty Forest 2 by Richard Lewis 2016

As if this wasn’t enough, while heading back to the hotel I turned down a gravel road just to see what was there. A break in the forest framed by two well placed trees made for another photo opportunity.

Quiet Forest Road in the Delaware Water Gap by Richard Lewis

Quiet Forest Road in the Delaware Water Gap by Richard Lewis 2016

I normally like to plan out a shoot to maximize the time when the light is at its best. However, sometimes a little randomness and serendipity can lead to special new places.

Enjoy

Burning Mist in the Pinelands by Richard Lewis

Sunrise In The New Jersey Pinelands

Lessons from the Shenandoah National Park

I recently posted about hiking to the top Hawksbill Mountain in Shenandoah National Park to photograph what turned out to be a beautiful sunrise from the summit. Being on the top of that mountain taught me to experience sunrises and sunsets in a different way. I’ve always looked for that decisive moment when the light is at it’s peak. Now I realize that a sunrise is a story that starts at first light and ends when the dawn colors fade. Sunsets are the same, just in the opposite direction.

This realization really came home recently when I went to photograph the sunrise in the New Jersey Pinelands. This sunrise was a story of light and weather that I was able to witness as the sun rose just before a storm front moved in.

When you go out to photograph a sunrise, it is usually impossible to predict what will happen. It’s something I fret over before heading out, especially on a warm muggy morning. After hiking to a location then standing around swatting mosquitos while pointing a camera at the brightening sky, you hope to get something out of it.

Early Twilight

On this morning there was no disappointment. I saw a predicted storm front coming in from the north and hoped to get a window of nice light before the clouds covered the sky completely. The photograph below was made with the camera facing north, away from where the sun was going to rise.

Storm Light Before The Dawn by Richard Lewis 2016

Approaching Storm Before Dawn by Richard Lewis 2016 @5:51am

Fortunately, the front moved in slowly which allowed for some beautiful light as the sun rose over the Franklin Parker Preserve, one of the gems, in the New Jersey Pinelands. The following is the progression of light from just before sunrise to the point where the clouds finally started to overtake the rising sun. The time each photograph was made has been added to the caption.

Before The Dawn inthe Pinelands by Richard Lewis

Just Before Sunrise by Richard Lewis 2016 @6:01am

Sunrise In The Franklin Parker Preserve by Richard Lewis

Sunrise In The Franklin Parker Preserve by Richard Lewis 2016 @6:04am

What really caught my eye during the sunrise were the colors and how the mist on the lake glowed bright red for a brief time.

Burning Mist in the Pinelands by Richard Lewis

Burning Mist by Richard Lewis 2016 @6:14am

Just Another Jersey Sunrise in the Pinelands by Richard Lewis

Just Another Jersey Sunrise by Richard Lewis 2016 @6:17am

As you can see in this last photograph, the storm clouds caught up with the sun making a complete change in the color of the light. This only lasted the briefest of time before the gray clouds completely covered the sun and the rain started.

Storm Front After Dawn in the Pine Barrens by Richard Lewis

Storm Front At Dawn by Richard Lewis 2016 @6:29am

Dawn is a mystical time when night transitions into day. This one was just a brief window where an impending storm left room for a spectacular sunrise. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Enjoy

The Hallway at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis

Pennhurst Hospital Revisited

I’m not sure why I went back to the old Pennhurst Hospital which is often referred to as the “Shame of Pennsylvania.” The hospital for “feeble-minded children” (from its original name) was built in 1908 and had a long history of being overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed which lead to abuse and neglect of the young residents until it was closed in the 1980’s.

On my first trip to Pennhurst I was searching for the ghosts, remnants of those who were forced to live here. Walking through and recording a place with such a tragic history proved to be a very emotional experience for me. The current owners of the property are capitalizing on its history by staging “Haunted Asylum” events. While this doesn’t do much to dignify the many souls who were unfortunate enough to inhabit this place, it does provide a way to generate much needed income to preserve the buildings. Maybe because of this, I decided to look at Pennhurst as a vehicle to create art as a small way to honor those who were here as patients.

Whether it is a beautiful landscape or the inside of a dilapidated building, the quality of the light is extremely important. It can have more impact on the finished images and the resulting story those images tell than anything else.

The Hallway by Richard Lewis

The Fan by Richard Lewis 2016

The Chair at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis

The Chair by Richard Lewis 2016

The Wheelchair at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis

The Wheelchair by Richard Lewis 2016

Looking Out From A Dark Room at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis

Looking Out From A Dark Place by Richard Lewis 2016

Pennhurst Partitions by Richard Lewis

Partitions by Richard Lewis 2016

Pennhurst's Playground by Richard Lewis

Pennhurst Playground by Richard Lewis 2016

The Hospital at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis

The Remains of the Hospital Building at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis 2016

Stacks of Televisions at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis

Stacks of Televisions by Richard Lewis 2016

Dark Corner at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis

Dark Corner at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis 2016

An Old Barn at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis

An Old Barn at Pennhurst by Richard Lewis 2016

Maybe coming back here to look at these solemn buildings with an artistic eye may do a little bit to heal what happened here. Maybe it will give some recognition to the children and adults who lived here as patients. These people at Pennhurst were victims of a system that didn’t have the time, money or inclination to properly care for them. It’s hard not to feel the sadness that pervades this place.

Enjoy

 

Shenandoah National Park Sunset by Richard Lewis

Shenandoah National Park

Happy 100th Anniversary to the National Parks

The US National Park system may be the best thing our government has ever done. Preserving some of our best American landscapes has been going on for a hundred years.  In spite of some parks being overcrowded with visitors, having an overworked National Park Service staff, and many other challenges, the beautiful landscapes remain relatively unchanged since they have become parks.

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia is not as grand as parks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, but still matches them in beauty. Those Virginia mountains are lush and full of history. One of the trails we hiked was originally a road that Stonewall Jackson, a famous confederate general, used to march his troops into battle during the American Civil War. It was an incredible feeling to be on a trail that was over 200 years old and full of history.

The main reason I love Shenandoah National Park is that it makes you work for its beauty. In many of the big western parks, the best views and features are only a short distance from a parking lot. Times with the best light will find crowds of photographers lining up to shoot the same photograph. Not in Shenandoah. While there are overlooks on the Skyline Drive that yield some great views, the true beauty of this National Park only reveals itself to those who are willing to hike to the tops of its mountains or down into its deep valleys and hollows.

Being able to venture into the back country allows a photographer to uniquely experience and understand nature. Plus, it gives you access to the places fewer people go, with even fewer photographing them. When I photographed a stunning sunrise from the top of Hawksbill Mountain, it was a special experience that was mine alone because I was the only person on top of that 4050 foot high mountain.

Shenandoah Mountain Views

Dawn in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Dawn in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis 2016

An Evening View in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

An Evening View by Richard Lewis 2016

Wild Flowers on a Summit in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewi

Wild Flowers on a Summit by Richard Lewis 2016

Dawn in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Breaking Dawn in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis 2016

Big Meadows

This is one of those beautiful areas of Shenandoah National Park where a short walk will yield a lot. However, a longer walk yields even more. Big Meadows is exactly what it says it is, a large open meadow on the top of a mountain. It is an unusual break in the forest landscape where deer, bears and other critters come to dine and play.

Big Meadows in Shenandoah National ParkOn A Windy Morning by Richard Lewis

Big Meadows On A Windy Morning by Richard Lewis 2016

Quiet Dawn in Big Meadows Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis'

Quiet Dawn and Grazing Deer in Big Meadows by Richard Lewis 2016

Big Meadows Morning Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Big Meadows Morning by Richard Lewis 2016

Shenandoah Valleys and Waterfalls

One literally cool thing about Shenandoah National Park are the valleys and hollows with waterfalls of all kinds. It’s a great place to go to get out of the summer heat. One big trade off in hiking down into a valley is that you have to hike back up again.

Dark Hollow Falls Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Dark Hollow Falls Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Near Dark Hollow Falls Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Near Dark Hollow Falls by Richard Lewis 2016

Doyles River Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Doyles River Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Doyles River Falls Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Doyles River Falls by Richard Lewis 2016

Shenandoah Light

The beautiful light in Shenandoah National Park may not be the result of it’s landscape, but it does provides some stunning scenery to experience that light.

Daybreak in the Shenandoah Valley by Richard Lewis

Daybreak in the Shenandoah Valley by Richard Lewis 2016

Pastel Sunrise in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Pastel Sunrise in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis 2016

Shenandoah National Park Sunset by Richard Lewis

Shenandoah Sunset by Richard Lewis 2016

Soft Evening Palette in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Soft Evening Palette by Richard Lewis 2016

Morning Light on Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewi

Morning Light on Old Rag Mountain by Richard Lewis 2016

The beauty and diversity of our American landscape never ceases to amaze me. It is good to know that our National Park Service is still going strong preserving and providing access to some of the most amazing places. Happy 100th NPS!

Enjoy

Click here to see more landscape photographs from National Parks and other places. 

 

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

Dawn in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis

Dawn in Shenandoah National Park by Richard Lewis 2016

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!