Winter mornings can be harsh, and a chilly one in November is no exception. I am not a fan of the cold air and grey skies that winter brings. I don't know if I suffer from "seasonal affective disorder" (SAD). I am less enthusiastic about nearly everything during the winter months. But for those who appreciate the beauty of nature, the crisp air and the changing of the trees make for some of the most scenic moments of the year.
I woke up early on a cold November morning. It was about -4ºC outside. Inspired by John Grey's Down the Road blog, I decided to photograph the length of Mountain View Road, a tiny stretch of road in my home town of Montgomery Township. The road snakes between County Route 518 (CR 518) (a.k.a. George Franklin Turnpike) to the north and Cherry Valley Road on the southern border with Princeton Township. Mountain View Road road is one of my favourites. The landscape along the oae is peaceful and it's natural beauty make it a perfect spot to escape the hustle of daily life. The road bisects Beden Brook, a small stream that flows through the area. The brook is lined with tall trees and is a popular spot for hiking, photography, and picnicking.
I loaded a Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow 35mm film cartridge into my Pentax P3n1, attached my SMC Pentax-A 50mm F2 lens, and grabbed my Fuji X-T3 and Minolta MD Rokkor-X F1.7 lens and headed out the door.
I entered Mountain View Road from the intersection with _five eighteen_2. The eastern sun was beginning to rise, and the cloudless sky was painted with hues of pink and orange. The farm fields were blanketed with a layer of frost. I parked Bhavna's car on Lake View at the entrance to a small neighbourhood of homes. I pulled the P3n and X-T3 from the camera bag.
I've never used lens filters, but with actual black-and-white film, you can use coloured lens filters to manipulate the shades of grey. Since there are no colours, the film interprets colours between black and white. Using different filters, you can change how the black and white film stock interprets the colour and what grey you get. I cannot use coloured lens filters on my Fuji X-T3 X-Trans camera to achieve this same effect, so Fujifilm has given me three "filter" options for ACROS: +Y, which simulates the use of a yellow filter, +R, which simulates the use of a red filter, and +G, which simulates the use of a green filter. Fuji calls these filters Film Simulations. I like the +R filter; reds are rendered as lighter shades of grey, and the blues are slightly darker. While these different "filter" Acros options simulate the look of using filters, the actual results aren't a 100% match. The manipulation of grey is not nearly as pronounced as using coloured filters on black and white film.
The X-T3 was set to use the in-camera ACROS+R Film Simulation. I also composed and exposed the same scene with the P3n and SMC Pentax-A 50mm F2 and Kosmo Foto Agent Shadow.
I was filled with the morning's peacefulness as I crossed the road and approached the fence line to the farm field. The only sounds were the crunching of my boots on the frost-covered grass, the distant clucking of chickens, and the dim hum from traffic on County Road 518. I made a few exposures with my Minolta MD Rokkor-X adapted Fuji X-T3. The fields were covered in a blanket of frost, giving the impression that the land was sparkling under a blanket of diamonds.
The farmer has parked his farm truck outside the wire fence and shed where the chickens were kept. The chickens clucked excitedly as they gathered to feed. The farmer grabbed a large bag of feed from the truck's bed and began scattering it over the ground. The chickens eagerly pecked at the feed, their feathers rustling in the morning light. I took a moment to watch the chickens enjoying their breakfast. My hands were growing cold. I returned to the still-running car to warm up and go further down the road.
I stopped just around the corner from the bridge that passes over Beden Brook, a small stream tributary of the Millstone River known for its clear, sparkling water and lush greenery. In winter, the only thing still growing are the grasses. The brook is a hidden gem, known only to a select few who stumble upon it while wandering through the winding roads of Montgomery Township. As one travels along Mountain View Road, the soothing sound of the brook can be heard.
Winding between Bedens Brook and Cherry Run, the road's uninterrupted vistas of beautiful farmland are a magnet for walkers, cyclists and leisure drivers attracted to a landscape remarkable for its coherence and proximity to Princeton. In 2015 this landscape became preserved farmland along its entire length when Johan and Emily Firmenich, working with D&R Greenway, saved the road's last piece of developable open space.
The brook is lined with tall trees, which in the Spring, Summer and Fall, create a secluded and natural setting for visitors. It's a popular spot for hiking, photography, and picnicking. Even now, the trees stand tall and majestic, their bare branches reaching towards the winter sky. The crisp, cold air gave the landscape a serene and peaceful feel. The trees, stripped of their leaves, are a reminder of the cycle of life and death in nature. Despite the barrenness, there is still beauty to be found in the trees during the coming winter months.
The sun was now higher in the sky but still on the eastern side of Mountain View Road. I drove further south, halfway to the end of the road, entering the "Princeton ZIP code" 3 section of Montgomery Township. I stopped to take a photograph of this farmhouse. The farmhouse, built in 1881, sits on a 47.53-acre country estate and has been renovated by its most recent owners. The property includes a variety of outbuildings, including a pool house, tennis court, barn, clustered outbuildings, and an apple orchard. The farmhouse is the only part of the property easily visible from the street. Yet, it gives a glimpse of the grandeur and beauty that lies beyond.
Further down the road, the open farm field stretched out before me, a vast expanse of white and silver. The grass, blanketed in a thick layer of frost, crunches underfoot as I walk along the side of the road. The tree line in the distance, a dark silhouette against the bright winter sky, marks the edge of the field. One larger tree stands out among the trees, branches reaching up towards the sky like a creature worshipping the sky. The area is serene and peaceful, the only sounds coming from the crunch of my footsteps. The vast open space, the natural beauty of the tree line, and the larger tree made this a perfect spot for taking in the winter landscape.
As I stood taking in the scenery, a lone car came driving from Princeton. The driver, noticing me, pulled over and stopped to chat. He was friendly and talkative, eager to share his passion for his classic car with me. We chatted about the car's make and model, its history, and the work he had put into restoring it. He pointed out details of the car's design and engineering as we talked. As the conversation turned to the area's beauty, the driver spoke of how much he loved the area and how he often came to enjoy the natural landscapes. The driver's passion for his car and eagerness to share it with a stranger made the experience even more enjoyable.
Near the southern end of the road, where the road turns sharply, sits a modern farmhouse on the corner of another large estate. A large barn sits on the property near the road, its weathered exterior and peeling paint giving it a sense of history and character. A large windmill towers above, its blades slowly turning in the wind. Another barn building lies adjacent, its red roof against the grey sky.
The forest edges the property, bare branches reaching like fingers towards the farm buildings. The sight of the old farmhouse with its windmill, the barns and the leafless trees on the edge of the forest creates an eerie yet picturesque scene. The farmhouse and its surroundings have a quiet, abandoned feel. It's a place that I am sure holds many stories and memories.
Just past the windmill is another cornet in the road. As the road bends, it straightens up slightly before curving again. This section of the road is surrounded by dense forest on the eastern side. However, on the western side, the trees are sparse enough to catch a glimpse of some of the large homes. As the road approaches the final curve, one can see the long stretch of woods that leads up to Cherry Valley Road and the Princeton Township border.
Near the end of this section of the road lies open fields on either side. The open fields are a haven for wildlife, with various species making their home in the tall grasses and wildflowers. The partnership with Montgomery Friends and NJ Green Acre has enabled the implementation of conservation practices to maintain the ecosystem's health and provide a habitat for the local wildlife. This partnership has also made it possible for educational programs and events to be held in the field, providing an opportunity for community members to learn about the importance of preserving natural spaces and their role in supporting local ecosystems.
The road ends at Cherry Valley Road, and I turn east toward home. As I drove home, my experience reminded me that no matter how harsh the winter mornings may be, there is always beauty to be found.
Mountain View Road is one of those special places in my town where I can find peace and tranquillity and be reminded of the beauty of nature. However, as much as I appreciate the beauty of a cold winter morning, I am also looking forward to the warmer days of spring. But for now, I'll bundle up, take my time on the roads and enjoy the unique beauty of this chilly November morning.
- I sold the Pentax P3n and SMC Pentax-A 50mm F2 on eBay a few weeks later. I was not using it. ?
- I don't know about other states, but in New Jersey, the norm is to call out multidigit numbered roadways by their numbers only; e.g. U.S. Highway 206 is just "two Oh six". ?
- The USA ZIP code system is based on the location of the nearest central mail processing facility. A ZIP Code's address and the city name written on the same line do not necessarily mean that address is within the boundaries of that city. I live in Montgomery Township but have a Princeton ZIP code. The Princeton ZIP code is centred in the mail facility in West Windsor, New Jersey. ?