Friday, September 23, 2011

Fort Jay- Governors Island

This negative looks like it's on a broken glass plate. I'm not sure how that happened except it's at the end of the film roll.
This is a continuation of a recent blog post about Governors Island and Fort Jay. The previous post dealt with what I call the "Brooklyn Gun" discovery. This post is about documenting the Fort walls and the flag pole. I have always liked the way the American flag looks, flapping in the wind, with a long exposure. The square blue field is always easily identifiable because it is fixed near the pole, while the red and white bars blur into infinity with the sky.
 The area that I photographed is the Rodman Guns that face lower Manhattan on the North side of the fort. I photographed here twice. The first time I was able to walk onto the ramparts. The second time it was fenced off. Probably because it was Civil War weekend and the cannon demonstration was held close by. For safety reasons They didn't want anyone getting to close.
The moat area on the East side.

I tried to get the guns and the flagpole in the same shot. It looks like I could have moved a little closer because the guns are to far away and small.

Holga 120N shot. I had to hold the camera around the fence.

One can see from this angle the way the fort is designed to be hard to hit with a 19th century period cannon. The grass and earth are sloped up to deflect cannon balls upward, over the top and away from the forts walls. Holga 120N on Fuji 100

In the moat
.Another view from inside the moat
Here is an map showing the original shape of Governors Island. On the bottom right you can see what is called the South Battery. The next photo below is taken from that point. It is interesting to me because it over looks Brooklyn and my home. In the lower left you can see how the island was added onto. All the landfill that doubled the size of the island came from the excavation of the NewYork City subway system.

View east toward my loft in the center between the street sign and the cranes. The stone wall is part of the South Battery. A small stone fort that covered the approach to the Buttermilk channel. The channel separates Brooklyn from Governors Island.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Visit to Mommoth Battlefield

I made a quick visit to the Mommoth Battlefield back in August.  The weather was hazy, hot and humid, typical for August in central New Jersey. I knew before hand that it would be hard to intrepid the battlefield without a guide. So I scheduled my trip around a battlefield walk hosted by a local historian. Thought there are some subtle landmarks and areas of note, Combs Hill artillery position for one. The landscape is not that dramatic. The main battlefield is a large ridge/hill that has a fence line and orchard across its peak.
View of orchard

 This area saw heavy fighting. English troops tried to out flank the American troops on theother side of the road moving from right to left along the area of the tree line. Holga 120N.

I took along my trio of cameras. My two Holga's, the 120N and the WPC pinhole. I also brought the larger wooden 4x5 pinhole. On the whole, this was not a very successful documentation trip. I had some exposure issues with the Holga 120N. I mixed up the bulb switch and could not tell if it was in the right position. I should know by know right? A number of shots turned out way over exposed. But maybe it added an interesting quality to the otherwise mundane tree line landscapes.
Holga 120N shots

Combs Hill is the grass slope in the center.

The view from Combs Hill is perhaps the most impressive on the field. It was from this location that American Artillery was able to provide enfilading cannon fire into the ranks of English soldiers. It has been said that one cannon ball was able to knock the muskets out of the hands of a whole English platoon.

View from down range of Combs Hill.
View down Combs Hill from the visitor center. The Fields in the distance is where the main battle was fought.

Another view down Combs Hill from the visitor center.I moved to the right of the above image. Both these shots are 4x5 Pinhole images.
 Not far from the battlefield is the Old Tennent Church. The structure was used as a hospital after the battle. There are a number of old period grave stones in the church yard.
A holga 120N capture of the Tennent Church.

A 4x5 pinhole capture.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fort Stirling and Fort Half Moon- The Forts of Brooklyn Heights

This has been a long over do project. It has all the scenic elements that amateur photographers could want. Iconic vistas, recognizable skylines, a promenade, tourists from all over the world take photos from this location. I came here with the goal of seeing the view in reference to the fortifications that occupied these heights in the 18th century. Today there are scant references to the past. However there is a small fenced in area with a sign marking the location of Fort Stirling Park, at Clark Street and Columbia Heights. A black iron fence encloses the small, wooded plot. It is not open to the public. As with most “Battle of Long Island” sites, some imagination is required to view the sites. Here is more information about the history of the parks development. 
Intersection of Columbia Heights and Clark Street. Buildings frame the small fenced in park.
Holga 120N. The fence.
Because I live nearby, I can easily walk to the location. The photographs were taken over two different visits this summer. The last visit coincided with the Great East Coast Earthquake of 2011. Unfortunately,  I was walking to the heights and didn’t feel it. It would have been neat if I was making an long pinhole exposure when the earthquake struck. For cameras, I took along my 4x5 pinhole, my Holga 120N and the wide angle Holga pinhole cameras. I wanted to document the present day park, as well as the commanding view the forts had over the harbor and East River.
A Holga 120N Photo-shopped panorama depicting the field of view from the Forts of Brooklyn Heights.
View looking up the heights to the location of Fort Sterling Park in the center of the image. A 4x5 Pinhole capture.
4X5 Pinhole capture.
 Further History of the area. 
Fort Sterling: March 1776, Kings County, Brooklyn. The first American fort built in Brooklyn; it was located on a bluff at the very edge of the Brooklyn Heights. The site today is Columbia Street between Clark and Orange Streets. Also known as Fort Half-Moon because of its open back. The fort was designed to command the East River. Taken by the British in August 1776 it was continuously garrisoned until their evacuation in 1783. This site was not used again. Another fort referred to as a grand citadel to be called The Congress was to have been constructed to the rear on higher ground at Henry and Pierrepont Streets but was not started, but was where the British later built Fort Brooklyn.
Taken from New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History web site.
And the later Fort Brooklyn
View of the harbor from the "fort." A pinhole capture.

A view of the park taken from the Brooklyn Historical Society. Circa 1934.

I found this drawing of Brooklyn Heights. I think this must be the area around Montague Street.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Green-wood Cemetery

View of New York Harbor from Green-wood Cemetery. Note the sweeping vista that can be scene with out trees. I imagine the view was similar in 1776. During the battle American troops stood on this hill fighting the English troops approaching from the left.  In the harbor below they would have seen English Navy ships.
Modern view shot with a 5X7 pinhole. Note the original image was taken from the roadway. The bottom of this image. I chose a higher vantage point on the hill over the roadway.
 I was able to get over to Green-wood Cemetery a day or two before hurricane Irene struck. The timing of the hurricane couldn't have been worse. It totally disrupted all the "Battle of Long Island" anniversary events that were planned for that weekend. This Cemetery hosts numbers events connected to the battle that took place on its grounds.This year I had made plans to attend for the first time. The hurricane further reinforces my belief that every time I make elaborate plans to visit battlefields, it will rain. So, sorry everyone. Just blame me.
Holga wide angle pinhole.

My goals for this visit was to find a location of a wet collodion photo, the top image, that is part of the Brooklyn Museum's collection that they have been posting on line. Anyone with interest in early photographs of Brooklyn should check out the Museums Flicker page. Its a gorgeous image showing the view from Mount Green-wood, with boats in the not too distant harbor, circa 1870's. Seeing the view, I had a general idea of were the photograph was taken from. I hoped the two mausoleums in the foreground were still there. I could use them to help frame the shot, matching up with the original. Sure enough approaching battle hill from the road below, I could see a row of mausoleums dug into the hill side above. I parked and set off to find the mausoleum with the prominent keystone in the arched facade. It didn't take long to find a match. The problem was I couldn't see my computer screen well enough in the bright sun light. So I could not make an precise match up. Another factor is  a large tree that has grown up within the last hundred plus years. Viewed from the original angle, it blocks a direct view of the harbor. Moving to the right I was able to see clear through to the water. I then moved much farther to the right for a wider view. In comparing the two views, I can see sailing ships and small boats in the original. A hundred years ago, New York harbor was the I-95 of its day. Today the same view is of oil barges, tankers, and container ships from China.
Holga 120N Fuji 100ASA with red filter. Maybe the strap got in the way?

Holga 120N Fuji 100ASA with red filter.

New York Harbor view, Green wood cemetery.

View of lower Manhattan. Holga 120N with red filter.

Later, I got some shot's of the view from the summit of "Battle Hill". 
Thanks to Brooklyn Museum and Green-wood Cemetery.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9-11 Based Artwork

Charcoal, White oil paint on paper 35" x17" 2011
Detail from above image

Oil Stick, White oil Charcoal on paper 35" x17" 2011
Detail from above image
Detail from above
Oil Stick. Oil paint on Paper 35" x17" 2011

Detail from above

Oil Paint, Oil stick, Charcoal on paper 35" x17" 2011
Oil Paint on paper 35" x17" 2011

Acrylic Paint, Oil paint, charcoal on paper 35" x17" 2011
I don't have much to say about these. I did not think it was possible then, and I don't think I can discuss the events now through art. But I can approach this now historical event from my direct experience of it.