Monday, September 20, 2010

Brooklyn 1776-2010 Cortelyou House Brooklyn

The Cortelyou House or the “Old Stone House” is part of my photo-documentation of revolutionary war sites in the New York City area. I originally planned to use the photographs as a starting point for creating paintings. I envisioned starting with a contemporary photograph that I would print & attach to a wood panel. Next I would paint over top. The over painting would indicate the original or 1776 time period view of the same location. In other words how I would imagine the view would have looked back then. However I have not come up with a convincing process to do the painting. In the mean time I am quite content creating a photographic record of various sites that were important in the battles of 1776.
For this project I used my trusty Holga panorama pinhole camera. The day was quite sunny so my exposure was about 10 seconds. I did have a mishap with this roll. About half way through, I had a hard time advancing the film. I had to crank way too hard for a plastic camera, but I felt something give way and it advanced normally for the rest of the roll. When I opened the camera I found that the small piece of foam that is suppose to maintain tension on the film spool had come off. The foam ended up getting wound up with the film. Some how the foam must have become stuck to the film I forced it to rip off and get wound up in the roll! The roll was fogged near the end but I managed to get some interesting shots.
The Old Stone House has a long history. During the Battle of Brooklyn (or the Battle of Long Island) it was the spot of the heroic stand by the Maryland troops under the command of William Smallwood. The troops attacked the house six times losing 200 in the process. This delaying action enabled the rest of Washington’s army to fall back across the Gowanus Canal ; regroup in prepared defenses guarding Brooklyn Heights. More importantly it discouraged General Howe from continuing his attack for time being. His delay in attacking later enabled General Washington to retreat to Manhattan and escape. Thus insuring that the revolution would continue.

This web site has just updated take a look-

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Appomattox Visit

McLean house

This year’s annual battlefield stomp was a success. My friends Jerry, Richard & and I logged in over 1000 miles, most of it touring Virginia. We decided a back door route. Down highway 81from Harrisburg Pa. through the Shenandoah Valley,  east to Appomattox. Day two we would push due east following the route of Lee's armys retreat. That way we could return via I95 catching whatever battlefields we had time for.

Stops included-

Day 1- Williamsport, Maryland, Falling water, West Virginia, Appomattox, Virginia.

Day 2- Appomattox, Sailors Creek, Petersburg Virginia.

Day 3- Richmond, Fredericksburg- Home

This blog entry deals with the part of our visit to Appomattox. As usual the NPS is doing a great job of conservation & education. Keeping our national heritage alive for us 21-century neophytes. All the park rangers that we met and spoke with were fantastic & eager to share knowledge with us. I was shooting with my Holga pinhole & a Holga N120. The weather was humid. The sun was braking in & out of heavy drizzly clouds. So my average exposure times for the pinhole camera was about 10 seconds +. For bright sun I find that about 9 seconds is the norm. I shot mostly Tri-X & T-Max 400 speed film.
When it came time to develop my Holga N120 film, I found the negatives way over exposed. I went through my darkroom  processes and found my pinhole negatives looked normal. Then a day later I was thinking about it & noticed that some over exposed images showed signs of camera movement. With this clue in mind I checked the camera, and sure enough it was still set on bulb. The shutter was staying open as long as I held it down. I must have forgot to reset it after shooting the Ebenezer project. So much for the pre-shoot check list.
All in all we were quite impressed with Appomattox. The McLean house and parlor were just as I've pictured it.  But I found the most meaningful area along the Richmond- Lynchburg stage road. It was along this road that one of the finial acts of the American Civil War was played out.
As usual our old friend Joshua Chamberlain was not only present, but presided over the surrender of arms. He put into words the historic moment.

“On they come, with the old swinging route step and swaying battle flags. In the van, the proud Confederate ensign. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood; men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death… could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, walking memories that bound us together as no other bond; was not such man-hood to be welcomed back into the Union so tested and assured? On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word, nor whisper or vain glorying nor motion of man… but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!”

View of the back of the Court House. This image was taken with a Holga Pin Hole Panorama camera. Kodak T-Max 400 with about 10+ seconds exposure.
McLean house photographed with a Holga pin hole panorama camera. 10+ second exposure.
The yard of the Peer's house. Holga N120 image. One of the last artillery positions of the war. The Richmond Howitzers.
View looking west along the Richmond-Lynchburg stage couch road. It was along this fence line that Lees's army lay down there arms.
View looking east along the Richmond-Lynchburg stage couch road. It was along this fence line that Lee's army lay down there arms. In the distace along modern route 24 is Lee's head quarters site.
In the center is the place where under an apple tree Lee & Grant meet after signing the terms of surrender.   


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pin Hole Panorma Views of Battle Pass Brooklyn

Path leading to the right flank of the American position next to the Flatbush Road.

View from above the pass looking east from the American line.
View of the Left flank above the pass.
View looking West from below the right American flank

Saturday September 3, I was able to take advantage of perfect weather and take some pinhole photographs of Battle Pass in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It was the sight of a short battle between American troops under the command of Major Gen. Sullivan on August 27, 1776. Sullivan's troops were posted across the top of this ridge. The goal was to block the movement of British & Hessian troops towards the ferry landings in Brooklyn. Up the center of the ridge ran the Flatbush Road a major roadway that connected Brooklyn with the outlying settlements of Flatbush. Sullivan, thinking he could hold his own in this strong position was ultimately out flanked on his left. English troops advancing down the Jamaica Road, in a great flanking maneuver, surprised the American holding the pass. Once the English troops got in behind them, the American defense crumbled and the troops fled down hill toward the Gowanus Canal.
The film was 400 speed T-Max, developed in D-76 1-1. My average exposure time was about 9 to 14 sec. However I usually hold it open a bit more when I was in the woods. Even though the park was quite crowed with joggers & bikers,  the long exposure time made the people go away. The clouds came and went so I had to wait for moments of full sun. I thought that it might give me more contrast. For my vertical images, I have mounted a small spirit level so I can keep the shots lined up. I also noticed that I tend to crease the film when I load the reels. I am pinching it too hard trying to get it to wind up on the reel. I like the feel of the T-Max. It loads easily. Enjoy.

View looking down the pass

View looking up the pass
Monument marking the site of the Dongan Oak at the base of the pass.

Battle Pass- Prospect Park Brooklyn Photo Assingment

Saturday September 4 was a perfect day. I started painting in the studio but decided to go out to the book store to clear my head. As I got outside and walked I noticed how great the weather was. Bright sun with fat clouds and gusty winds. I thought what a nice day to get some pinhole panorama shots. The moving trees would create a nice soft focus effect. This is the perfect chance to get some shots of Battle Pass in Prospect Park. This is part of a larger contemporary photo project about sites around New York city involving the Battle of Brooklyn.
 I ditched the bookstore idea & headed back for film & cameras. I loaded the Holga panorama pinhole camera with some T-Max 400 B&W. I took along the Holga 120N loaded with T-Max 100 B&W. This time I made sure that this camera was not still set on bulb! More about this later.  Thinking my main camera would be the pin hole camera, I thought that this would be a good chance to experiment with the Holga N120. So I did not completely tape up the top and bottom of the camera body just to see how bad any light leaks would be. Of course I taped the side clips. I also removed the masking box on the inside. Just to see what the vignette would look like.

View looking up the wooded heights on the left side of Battle Pass or Flatbush Road. (The American right flank). The American troops under General John Sullivan defended these heights against Hessian troops commanded by General Leopold Philip De Heister

This first group of pictures are taken with the Holga N120 with T-max 100, developed in D-76 1-1. The first image looks a little like a stereo photo. Because I had removed the inner masking piece I forgot to compensate by advancing the film far enough to get separate pictures. I also thought I might have moved to much snapping the shutter so I took a steadier one resulting in the double image.
View from heights of the American right flank looking in the direction of the attack.

The above image shows the woods looking east towards Flatbush. I was lucky that no one was around & had both sides of the pass to myself. Previous trips to this area have been thwarted because of all sorts of activity happening in these woods. Judging by the amount debris littering the ground, used condoms, drug perihelia, etc. I was lucky to seal a few moments for myself.

 Dongan Oak Monument by Frederick W. Ruckstull 

Researching this monument I have discovered that this is the third eagle. F.W. Ruckstull sculpted the first one. It was stolen in the 1970’s, as was its replacement. Making this the third eagle. On this site at the base of the pass a large oak tree that marked the Flatbush road was fell by American troops to slow up the British & Hessian advance.

Over all I was pleased with my experiments with the old 120N. I discovered that I did get a number of light leaks along the top.  I'm not sure if this was because the camera was bouncing around on my neck or what. But it was bad enough to ruin a number of frames. Next time I will mask all the way around the camera back with black tape. More experiments will have to be made to figure out how far I need to advance the film in order to get separate pictures.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Walt Whitman Poems

During my battlefield tours this summer I picked up a copy of
"Walt Whitman Civil War Poetry & Prose"
I found two poems that kind of compliment my art work.
  This dust was once the man, 
by Walt Whitman

THIS dust was once the man, Gentle, plain, just and resolute, under whose cautious hand, Against the foulest crime in history known in any land or age, Was saved the Union of these States.

by Walt Whitman

Ashes of soldiers South or North, As I muse retrospective murmuring a chant in thought, The war resumes, again to my sense your shapes, And again the advance of the armies. Noiseless as mists and vapors, From their graves in the trenches ascending, From cemeteries all through Virginia and Tennessee, From every point of the compass out of the countless graves, In wafted clouds, in myriads large, or squads of twos or threes or single ones they come, And silently gather round me. Now sound no note O trumpeters, Not at the head of my cavalry parading on spirited horses, With sabres drawn and glistening, and carbines by their thighs, (ah my brave horsemen! My handsome tan-faced horsemen! what life, what joy and pride, With all the perils were yours.) Nor you drummers, neither at reveille at dawn, Nor the long roll alarming the camp, nor even the muffled beat for a burial, Nothing from you this time O drummers bearing my warlike drums. But aside from these and the marts of wealth and the crowded promenade, Admitting around me comrades close unseen by the rest and voiceless, The slain elate and alive again, the dust and debris alive, I chant this chant of my silent soul in the name of all dead soldiers. Faces so pale with wondrous eyes, very dear, gather closer yet, Draw close, but speak not. Phantoms of countless lost, Invisible to the rest henceforth become my companions, Follow me ever -- desert me not while I live. Sweet are the blooming cheeks of the living -- sweet are the musical voices sounding, But sweet, ah sweet, are the dead with their silent eyes. Dearest comrades, all is over and long gone, But love is not over -- and what love, O comrades! Perfume from battle-fields rising, up from the foetor arising. Perfume therefore my chant, O love, immortal love, Give me to bathe the memories of all dead soldiers, Shroud them, embalm them, cover them all over with tender pride. Perfume all -- make all wholesome. Make these ashes to nourish and blossom, O love, solve all, fructify all with the last chemistry. Give me exhaustless, make me a fountain, That I exhale love from me wherever I go like a moist perennial dew, For the ashes of all dead soldiers South or North.