The Scranton Lace Company

Photographing the Past While Remembering Mine

Scranton Lace Company Loom by Richard Lewis

Scranton Lace Company Loom by Richard Lewis 2015

I recently attended a workshop led by one of the master photographers of abandoned places, Matthew Christopher, at the old Scranton Lace Company in Pennsylvania. The Scranton Lace Company was established in the 1890’s and remained in business until 2003. It is a massive, once thriving, complex of factory buildings that are now in various states of decay.

When we walked into the old buildings, I was thrown back into my own past. My father owned a machine shop in a complex of old industrial buildings. My Dad’s company only used a small portion of the property and my brothers and I would explore the vast array of empty buildings. They were big and made strange noises from wind and deterioration. There was also a lot of strange looking old machinery strewn about. All of this added up to one scary and fascinating place for a kid to hang out. Those old memories, fears, and curiosities came flooding back to me when we walked into the Scranton Lace Company.

Reflections

This seemed to be a popular place for our group to photograph because of the reflections from the pooling water on the floor. I was trying to put my own spin on it when I noticed the ripples from the water dripping through the ceiling. Those ripples show this place continues to deteriorate.

Reflection On The Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis

Reflection On The Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis 2015

Angles and Lines

While exploring the Scranton Lace Company buildings, I was very drawn to the challenge of finding interesting angles and lines in mostly large, rectangular spaces. The light from a bright sunny day coming through the windows also made for an interesting juxtaposition of bright light and dark shadows.

Foreman's Office Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis

Foreman’s Office 2015 by Richard Lewis

Looking Out At The Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis

Looking Out At The Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis 2015

Once Thriving View by Richard Lewis Scranton Lace Company

Once Thriving View by Richard Lewis 2015

Abandonment In Angles by Richard Lewis

Abandonment In Angles by Richard Lewis 2015

The Rhythm of Debris

In some of the rooms there were different kinds of debris from the business of making lace. I found the patterns and lines they formed to be fascinating and wanted to preserve, in an artistic way, the piles of junk that were once useful items.

The Remains of Production by Richard Lewis Scranton Lace Comapny

The Remains of Production by Richard Lewis 2015

Ruined Loom Parts by Richard Lewis Scranton Lace Company

Ruined Loom Parts by Richard Lewis 2015

Storage Room at the Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis

Storage Room at the Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis 2015

The Loom

This large loom is the last one of 12 used to make the lace. The loom was made in England and might be the last of its type in the United States.

Loom Room Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis

Loom Room Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis 2015

Interior Spaces

This complex is nothing but a series of large open rooms. Some were quite unique in their deterioration.

Natural Reclamation Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis

Natural Reclamation Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis 2015

Off Limits by Richard Lewis

Off Limits by Richard Lewis 2015

The Power Plant

This power plant is at the far end of the Scranton Lace Company complex. I always find it interesting how nature eventually reclaims what humans build.

Power Plant at the Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis

Power Plant at the Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis 2015

The Corporate Office

When walking around the corporate offices I wanted to make a statement about the decline of a business. I found some old reports from the 1960’s and 70’s and placed them in the photograph. These reports represented a different time for this office. So what happened to turn a thriving enterprise into a ruin?

Paperwork From A Better Past by Richard Lewis Scranton Lace Company

Paperwork From A Better Past by Richard Lewis 2015

Scranton Lace Company by iPhone

I explored this place with an iPhone as well as my big camera. There were some things that just seemed better photographed with the phone.

Broken Window at the Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis

Broken Window at the Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis 2015

Bowling Shoes at the Scranton Lace Company Bowling Alley by Richard Lewis

Bowling Shoes at the Scranton Lace Company Bowling Alley by Richard Lewis 2015

Wooden Shelving at the Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis

Wooden Shelving at the Scranton Lace Company by Richard Lewis 2015

The Scranton Lace Company was the first industrial site I have photographed since I started seeking out old and abandoned places as subjects. It was amazing how my own industrial past came back to me in these similar old spaces.

Enjoy

Postscript: We were told at the beginning of the workshop that this will be one of the last workshops held here because most of the buildings are slated to be torn down in the Fall of this year. Time marches on.

Taking The Hard Edges Off Of Photograhy

Adventures with the Lensbaby Velvet 56

Most lens manufacturers work hard to make sharper and sharper lenses. There is one company that has chosen to go in the exact opposite direction. Lensbaby started making strange lenses years ago that actually would make the majority of the image out-of-focus with only a pinpoint of sharpness. They gained a following especially among wedding and portrait photographers. Many other photographers who were looking for something different also added one in their kit.

I had the original Lensbaby which looked like an accordion with a lens attached. To focus you would squeeze the accordion part and angle the lens to move the point of focus around. It was a challenging lens to use and I was rarely happy with the results.  This little lens ended up being relegated to the bottom of my camera bag and eventually ended up in a drawer somewhere.

Lensbaby is an innovative company and continually improves their lenses. I followed this growth, but wasn’t tempted to buy another one until their latest innovation, The Lensbaby Velvet 56. This lens seeks to recapture the days when photographers would buy cheap, off-brand lenses to create surreal effects on film.

Today, with precision computer controlled manufacturing, even the off-brand lenses are pretty sharp. The folks at Lensbaby decided there was a need to be filled and filled it with the Lensbaby Velvet 56. The lens has an uncanny ability to make things look soft and velvety (hence the name Velvet), but still have a large degree of sharpness.

When I saw the first photographs being created by this lens, I was mesmerized and bought one right away. What a refreshing and fun lens to use. I found myself photographing things like flowers which is something I tend to shy away from.

Floral Abstract 1 by Richard Lewis

Floral Abstract 1 by Richard Lewis 2015

Flower Buds 2 by Richard Lewis

Flower Buds 2 by Richard Lewis 2015

15_Tiger-Lilly-3-WEB850

Tiger Lilly 3 by Richard Lewis 2015

Front Porch by Richard Lewis

Front Porch by Richard Lewis 2015

Smithville Garden by Richard Lewis

Smithville Garden by Richard Lewis 2015

Lovers' Garden by Richard Lewis

Lovers’ Garden by Richard Lewis 2015

By the Beach by Richard Lewis

By the Beach by Richard Lewis 2015

Curious Cat by Richard Lewis

Curious Cat by Richard Lewis 2015

The Lensbaby Velvet 56 is a great little lens that will offer opportunities for photographers to create.

Enjoy

Eastern State Penitentiary

Visiting an Historic Jail in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

I may be the only photographer in my area not to have photographed the historic Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In an effort to express my own photographic voice, I tend to shy away from the more popular places for photographers… and this is a very popular place. However, when my friend and amazing photographer, Pat Worley, invited me to join her for a twilight photoshoot event at the old prison, I quickly decided to go. Why not accept the challenge to make images from this place my own? To do this,  I brought along a variety of equipment, including my regular camera, an iPhone, and the new Lensbaby Velvet lens.

Eastern State Penitentiary was built in the 19th century and is currently in a state of duality, an odd state of being restored and left in ruin simultaneously. This must be perplexing for the organization that runs the site because they must find a balance between the income they receive from the photographers that flock there to photograph the ruins and the need to stabilize and restore it as a historic piece of Philadelphia history.

The Barber Chair

This is probably the most photographed artifact in Eastern State Penitentiary. While it is quite a stunning object, the environment it is located in was even more fascinating. I decided to photograph the famous red barber chair with a very wide angle 17mm lens to take it all in. During post processing I toned down the color of the environment  in order to show how this red chair stands out from the room that it is in.

The Barber Chair at Eastern State Penitentiary by Richard Lewis

The Barber Chair by Richard Lewis 2015

The Lensbaby Velvet

I’ll be writing more about my experiences with this innovative new lens soon. Eastern State Penitentiary seems to really suit the dreamy image quality that this lens is designed to create.

Eastern State Penitentiary Cell Block by Richard Lewis

Eastern State Penitentiary Cell Block by Richard Lewis 2015

This Lensbaby Velvet image was additionally processed using Topaz’s Impression software.

The Guard House Eastern State Penitentiary by Richard Lewis

The Guard House by Richard Lewis 2015

iPhoneography

The textures and color of Eastern State Penitentiary is a great environment for iPhoneography or art created with a smart phone. This will be explored further on future visits.

Prisoner's Cell Eastern State Penitentiary by Richard Lewis

Prisoner’s Cell by Richard Lewis 2015

Other Images from the Shoot

Most of the derelict spaces in Eastern State Penitentiary are confined. After all, it is a prison and prison cells are usually not that that big. It was nice to stumble on a large interior ruin.

Collapsed Roof at Eastern State Penitentiary  by Richard Lewis

Collapsed Roof at Eastern State Penitentiary by Richard Lewis 2015

I’m not sure what purpose this room served, or why there is old pottery in there. I kind of liked all the angles caused by the light and walls.

Cell with Pottery Eastern State Penitentiary by Richard Lewis

Cell with Pottery by Richard Lewis 2015

It was an interesting experience to photograph inside of the historic Eastern State Penitentiary. In spite of its popularity, I plan to head back there a few more times to really see what is there.

Enjoy

 

 

The New Jersey Pinelands

Finding peace in a place known as the Pine Barrens

Summer Sunrise by Richard Lewis

Summer Sunrise by Richard Lewis 2015

3 Cedars in the Early Evening by Richard Lewis

3 Cedars in the Early Evening by Richard Lewis 2015

Life has kept me from this blog recently. The one overwhelming event was passing of my Mother-In-Law. She was 92 and in poor health so it was not unexpected. Still, it is always a sad thing to lose a loved one. There were moments during all of this when I felt the need to get away. Fortunately I live in the New Jersey Pinelands so a quick escape into the woods is always near by.

Although anytime is a good time to be out in nature, I find that around sunrise or sunset is by far the most magical. Not just for photography, but to experience that quiet transition from night to day and day to night. These two photographs are from visits to some favorite places when the day cooperated to provide some wonderful light when I needed to be reminded of the beauty all around us.

When people that are big parts of your life and family age and pass away, it is nice to know that nature and our own New Jersey wilderness is here when we need a place to find some solace.

Enjoy

Serving the Cause of History

More from the 2015 New Jersey History Fair. 

It’s been a while since my last post. More on that in the near future. Until then here are some more portraits of re-enactors from various periods of times that played their roles at the New Jersey History Fair in the spring. These folks are from various wars throughout our American history.

The Aid Station by Richard Lewis 2015

The Aid Station by Richard Lewis 2015

A Very Long Day by Richard Lewis

A Very Long Day by Richard Lewis

At Ease In Camp by Richard Lewis

At Ease In Camp by Richard Lewis 2015

Canon Master by Richard Lewis

Canon Master by Richard Lewis 2015

This group of re-enactors played the role of American colonists who remained loyal to the British and took up arms against the revolution.

Loyal to the Crown by Richard Lewis

Loyal to the Crown by Richard Lewis 2015

The Loyalist Fighter by Richard Lewis

2015The Loyalist Fighter by Richard Lewis

The Young Tory by Richard Lewis

The Young Tory by Richard Lewis 2015

Enjoy

Serving the Cause of History, Again

New Jersey History Fair 1863 or 2015?

I attended the New Jersey History Fair as a professional photographer and got great access to historical re-enactors who spend their spare time dressing up in period outfits and Serving the Cause of History. While doing this personal photographic project, I have seen once again, that they are an amazing group with a wealth of knowledge about the time periods they are re-enacting.

Just about all periods of American history were represented at the New Jersey History Fair. Unlike my last experience with re-enactors (I followed them around as they re-staged a battle), this time the re-enactors were set up around the Visitors Center of New Jersey’s Monmouth Battlefield Park. I had to struggle with distracting modern buildings, cars and other “non-period” things in the background.

However, this turned out to be more of a opportunity than a challenge because it forced me to focus on portraits instead of events. I’ve only recently re-kindled my interest in photographing people. That inspiration came from Phil Kneen, an English portrait photographer. He shoots only with available light using simple compositions which reveals his subjects in a raw, but delicate and intimate way.

Because of the large body of work I managed to get that day, I’ll be posting these images in small groups. Because these photographs are so individual, posting this way does justice to those who agreed to be photographed.

The American Civil War

For the blog followers who are not U.S citizens, the American Civil War took place between 1861 and 1865 when the southern states declared their independence from the United States. This prompted a very bloody armed conflict. While some of our published history may state that this was a war to end slavery in the US, in reality, that was a just and fortunate by-product of the war. The main reason for this war was to establish who had the most power in governing. The Confederacy, or southern states claimed the individual states had more power. The Union, which represented the northern states, claimed the federal government did. Of course, as history always goes, there is a lot more to this story. We are very fortunate to have these re-enactors around to tell it.

The Recruit by Richard Lewis

The Recruit by Richard Lewis 2015

General Ulysses Grant by Richard Lewis

General Ulysses S. Grant by Richard Lewis 2015

Artillery Man 1 by Richard Lewis

Artillery Man 1 by Richard Lewis 2015

Artillery Man 3 by Richard Lewis

Artillery Man 3 by Richard Lewis 2015

Artillery Man 4 by Richard Lewis

Artillery Man 4 by Richard Lewis by Richard Lewis 2015

If you knew the things I've seen by Richard Lewis

If You Knew the Things I’ve Seen by Richard Lewis 2015

Again, I have to thank these wonderful people who dress up in old clothing and go out in just about any weather to relive, share and serve the cause of history.

Enjoy

 

Finding Florida

Discovering the Beauty of Amelia and Big Talbot Islands

Although I’ve never been a big fan of Florida, I am there frequently due to business commitments. Maybe it’s the climate, but this state just doesn’t resonate for me visually. Sometimes I wouldn’t even even bring a camera to Florida. Why bring one if there is nothing interesting to photograph, right? This is contrary to my opinion that there is a photograph everywhere you choose to see one, so on a recent trip I decided to find the photographs in Florida.

Big Talbot Island

I spent a lot of time on Big Talbot Island during the early morning hours, sometimes battling sand fleas and mosquitoes, but usually discovering the sense of beauty in this place. Big Talbot Island is slowly eroding into the ocean. In places the beach is littered with dead trees that have fallen down and are now partially buried in the sand. Not far from here is Jekyll Island in Georgia which has a very similar landscape and is very popular with photographers. I had this island to myself in the morning.

Sunrise on Big Talbot Island by Richard Lewis

Sunrise on Big Talbot Island by Richard Lewis 2015

Big Talbot Island in the Twilight by Richard Lewis

Big Talbot Island in the Twilight by Richard Lewis 2015

Florida Trees

When you open your eyes, the photographs start to jump out at you. These three happened on the short walk back to my car from the beach. It is amazing how the light interacts with the thick and lush tropical forest landscape. I don’t know enough about these trees to identify them. Feel free to leave a comment if you know what any of them are.

Shoreline Forest by Richard Lewis

Shoreline Forest by Richard Lewis 2015

Intimate Florida Forest by Richard Lewis

Intimate Florida Forest by Richard Lewis 2015

Old Tree by Richard Lewis

Old Tree by Richard Lewis 2015

Amelia Island

Amelia Island is a tourist destination which is similar to our our New Jersey shore. Just like the Jersey shore, I was attracted to the salt marshes. This photograph practically screamed at me as I was driving by it on the way to a bay side beach to watch the sunset.

Evening on Amelia Island by Richard Lewis

Evening on Amelia Island by Richard Lewis 2015

Finding Florida was a really interesting experience in seeing. I’m looking forward to heading down there again in the Fall.

Enjoy