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Seen Better Days

The train car looks like it has become the favourite canvas for the spray paint of teenagers and drunken sods. There are layers and layers of paint that must be covering layers of rust.

When I saw the Lens-Artists Challenge #168 – Seen Better Days, I immediately thought of a set of photographs I captured several years ago for Frank Jansen's Tuesday Photo Challenge – Abandoned. Bhavna and I hiked through Herrontown Woods Arboretum, stopping to photograph the abandoned and dilapidated former home of mathematician Oswald Veblen and his wife.

That outing allowed me to use my relatively new Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX-II 11-16mm F2.8 with my Nikon D5100. Near the house, on another part of the property, is an abandoned barn and a red shack. But where I had the most fun was photographing the inside of the dilapidated red shed.

For the Lens-Artists Challenge #168 – Seen Better Days, I did not want to rely on what I already had in the Lightroom Catalogues. I wanted to create some new photographs. I turned to Google and Google Maps, scouting out various abandoned properties around Mercer, Hunterdon and Somerset County.

I considered exploring an abandoned Trenton hospital called Mercer Hospital , but the YouTube videos of the surrounding neighbourhood made me uncomfortable about exploring the building alone. On the Abandoned website, I read about State Street Presbyterian Church, which I could not locate on Google Maps. But then I found a link to a website describing an abandoned rail car in Lambertville. The photographs on the website caught my interest, and the location was easy to find on Google.

I am unsure if ruinenlust is the appropriate word for my feelings, but Steve Newcomb describes it this way.

There is a group of people that find abandoned buildings fascinating. The Germans call it ruinenlust, and the people that document it are referred to as urban explorers. I have discovered that I am a proud part of that group. Whether left unaltered or filters are used to enhance the abandoned look and feel of the picture, the internet is full of these images.

I'm a weekend amateur photographer. With my work schedule, I don't often get time to use my camera until the weekend. With the change of the seasons and the change in the timing of dawn and dusk, the opportunities for daytime photography are even fewer. The sunrise is just before starting work, and it's almost dark when I push away from the keyword. The sole time I had to complete the project was Sunday, after the brewer's hour at Flounder Brewing.

abandoned freight car, lamberville, new jersey
Look · Sunday 10 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 37.6 mm · 115 sec at f/8.0 · ISO 160

I parked near the [Holcombe-Jimison Farmstead Museum]. Based on what I saw as I drove along River Road, this is another property that I would like to explore with my camera. Like the day before at the Central Jersey Beer Fest, the sky was overcast, a giant software. I felt a fine mist of rain falling, and I hoped I would have time to get some photos before the weather worsened.

The air had a musty smell to it. I noticed that some of the trees had tinges of yellow, but the wood lining the D&R Canal were still mostly green. As I walked along the trail that followed the overgrown train tracks, my mind drifted to thinking about trains.

abandoned freight car, lamberville, new jersey
bines on · Sunday 10 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16 mm · 110 sec at f/8.0 · ISO 160

When Shaan and Kiran were toddlers, Bhavna and I often took rides on the New Hope Railroad. Shaan especially loved riding the train on the short trip from New Hope to Lahaska and back. A few years ago, Bhavna, Shaan, my friend Ed, and I took an autumn leaf excursion to Jim Thorpe on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway on a steam train from Port Clinton, Pennsylvania.

Wooden railroads, called wagonways, were built in what would later become the United States starting in the 1720s. I am not a railroad historian, but from what I have read, railroads played an essential role in the development of the United States, from the industrial revolution in the northeast in the early 1800s to the settlement of the West in the late 1800s.

However, railroads declined with the advent of trucks and cars and the expansion of the US highway system. Many railways operated, taking tourists from New York City and Philadelphia to New Jersey's shore towns, including Asbury Park, Sea Side Heights, and Atlantic City. With the decline of the railways, many of these towns declined.

abandoned freight car, lamberville, new jersey
Look · Sunday 10 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16 mm · 125 sec at f/8.0 · ISO 160

The rail lines connected workers in the smaller towns in the more westward counties of Morris, Mercer, Hunterdon and Somerset to more metropolitan cities such as Jersey City, Hoboken, Philadelphia and New York City. Some of these rail lines still operate as part of the New Jersey Transit System, which connects to Amtrak lines the go north to New York City and Boston and south into Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the District of Columbia.

The abandoned train car lies on the decaying tracks of the BR&W Railway, which was three miles of track in the Lambertville area that was part of the Belvidere Division before Conrail took over. BR&W was a freight and heritage railroad operating between Flemington, Lambertville and Ringoes in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. The railroad operated vintage steam and diesel-powered locomotives. Freight service to Lambertville ended in 1995, with tourist operations ceasing by 1998 when the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) prohibited operations due to poor track conditions.

The train car has become the favourite canvas for the spray paint of teenagers and drunken sods. Layers and layers of paint must cover layers of rust. The words Look and Bines, probably the tags of the spay painters, are found in several places on the car.

abandoned freight car, lamberville, new jersey
Lifers · Sunday 10 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 24.2 mm · 115 sec at f/8.0 · ISO 160

I wanted to look inside the side, so I climbed up on the makeshift steps. There was more "artwork" on the inside. I thought to bring the camera inside, but I noticed that the makeshift metal stairs were rusting away. Afraid it would collapse from my weight, I climbed down and explored outside the train car.

The fine mist of rain grew to a heavy drizzle which I could hear pattering on the leaves. It was time to go home.

[Holcombe-Jimison Farmstead Museum] http://www.holcombe-jimison.org/

Flounder Brewing hosted a brewer's hour with Head Brewer Doug Duschl Jr and Flounder Brewing’s President Jeremy "Flounder" Lees this morning. It was an intimate affair with about a few dozen people. Doug answered questions about his brewing process, and we sampled two beers on their tap list, Last Train To Munich and a special nitro beer, Post Digger Porter.

Head Brewer Doug Duschl Jr · Sunday 10 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 42.7 mm · 1125 sec at f/4.0 · ISO 5000
President Jeremy Lees · Sunday 10 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm · 1105 sec at f/4.0 · ISO 6400
Sunday 10 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 16 mm · 125 sec at f/9.0 · ISO 6400
Post Digger Porter - NITRO · Sunday 10 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 51.6 mm · 1125 sec at f/4.0 · ISO 3200
Last Train To Munich | Sunday 10 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm · 1125 sec at f/2.8 · ISO 2000

Saturday 9 October 2021

As we exited the Central Jersey Beer Fest in October 2019, Bhavna and I bought VIP tickets for the following year. Then COVID postponed the event to 2021. Bhavna decided to arrange a trip to Cape May with her sisters. Yeah, right!

I had two tickets, so my friend Ed and I went together. The air was cool and damp, but the event was dry except for a short five-minute drizzle. Well, not really. It's a beer fest. Ed and I had fun sampling the ales from all over New Jersey and eating way too many BBQ meats. Ed brought some chairs with built-in tables and found a spot under some pine trees to sit and eat.

Saturday 9 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 · 1125 sec at f/11 · ISO 400
Saturday 9 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 · 1300 sec at f/8.0 · ISO 320
Saturday 9 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 · 1240 sec at f/8.0 · ISO 320
Saturday 9 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 · 1125 sec at f/8.0 · ISO 640
Saturday 9 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 · 1500 sec at f/7.1 · ISO 320
Saturday 9 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 · 1170 sec at f/8.0 · ISO 320
Saturday 9 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 · 1125 sec at f/8.0 · ISO 400

Thursday, 7 October 2021

Some reading from early in the week.

Monomania Is Illiberal and Stupefying by Jonathan Haidt.

Individual monomania is rarely a social problem. One person who is obsessed with butterflies or with a particular celebrity, or who sees everything in sexual, economic, or religious terms, is just an eccentric, although sometimes a tiresome one. The monomaniac may suffer a constricted range of emotions and experiences, but she usually imposes no costs on others (although there are cases of celebrity stalkers and lone-wolf terrorists). It is collective or group monomanias that are more worrisome for liberal societies because they create many negative externalities: They cause large numbers of people to behave in ways that are harmful and unjust to others.

Thursday 7 October, 2021 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm · 160 sec at f/4.0 · ISO 160

Oswald Veblen's Abandoned House

My plans for the day included visiting the abandoned Oswald Veblen House in Herrontown Woods. I need subject matter for one of my photography challenges. Bhavna woke up, and after a quick breakfast, she agreed to accompany me. I was happy for the company.

Neither of us had visited Herrontown Woods before. We quickly scanned the map at the trailhead and then took the red trail. At a fork, we walked through an opening in the fence. We followed what appeared to be a new “green-white” path and found the abandoned property.

An active farm, deeded to Mercer County by Princeton University mathematician Oswald Veblen and his wife Elizabeth in 1957, occupied the southeastern part of the woods, including the cottage clearing with its now-abandoned house and barn. Wood-cutting for timber sale continued through the 1920s. The Levine tract, additional land on the eastern side of the woods acquired in the early 1970s, had seen traprock quarrying around the beginning of the 20th century.[New Jersey Trail Association]

Oswald Veblen's Abandoned House | Saturday 28 January 2017 | Nikon D5100 | Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX II 11-16mm F2.8

We walked around, exploring the property. Bhavna was quite patient while I kneeled in the grass, composing one shot after another.

We walked the path over to the abandoned barn and barn house. While I tried compositions with the barn house, Bhavna explored the barn.

Saturday 28 January 2017 | Nikon D5100 | Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX II 11-16mm F2.8

Tuesday Photo Challenge - Abandoned

Along the trail were some abandoned buildings.

The Tuesday Photo Challenge is a weekly theme-based challenge for photographers of all kinds to share both new and old photography. This week's theme is abadoned.

I had been thinking about what I might do for the weekly challenge all week. Because of my workday time constraints, I do most of my photography during the weekend. Initially, I had thought to photograph an abandoned barn along Route 206 in Skillman. I have passed the dilapidated barn many times over the last sixteen years. I am always curious about it but have never stopped for a photo. I guess I am afraid of being called out for trespassing.

I woke up on Saturday morning, made breakfast, and performed my daily coffee routine. I sat down at the computer, opened Google Maps in a browser and typed in "abandoned places". Google found a handful of places "nearby" if by nearby, you mean driving one hour or more. I found an abandoned high school building forty-five minutes away in Lambertville, but further research showed that it had been demolished in 2012. Frustrated, I tried again, using the keywords "abandoned building near Princeton".

I got exactly one result for Princeton. From Google Maps entry, I could see that Herrontown Woods Arboretum had a hiking trail. Along the trail were some abandoned buildings. I found a trail map on the New Jersey Trail Association website and prepared my camera bag.

My wife, Bhavna, awoke just as I was about to leave. We chatted about our plans for the day, and she offered to go out with me; soon after, she had a quick breakfast. I was happy for the company. Herrontown Woods Arboretum is less than two miles from our home, but because of my illness, I always feel better when I have someone with me when I am out in the woods.

We took the red trail to a fork from the parking lot in the trail and walked through an opening in the fence. We followed what appeared to be a new "green-white" path and found the abandoned property quite quickly.

An active farm, deeded to Mercer County by Princeton University mathematician Oswald Veblen and his wife Elizabeth in 1957, occupied the southeastern part of the woods, including the cottage clearing with its now-abandoned house and barn. Wood-cutting for timber sales continued through the 1920s. The Levine tract, additional land on the eastern side of the woods acquired in the early 1970s, had seen traprock quarrying around the beginning of the 20th century. ~ New Jersey Trail Association

We walked around, exploring the property. Bhavna was quite patient while I kneeled in the grass, composing one shot after another. I wasn't happy with the photos I was getting. The buildings were abandoned, but my compositions were not capturing the feeling.

I also felt that the Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX-II 11-16mm f/2.8 was not the right lens. I bought the lens for landscape photography; at the time, I wanted a wide DX lens. But I now regret the purchase. I think a 16mm f/2.8 DX lens (24mm full-frame equivalent) would have been a better choice. I am starting to regret the purchase.

We walked the path over to the abandoned barn and barn house. While I tried compositions with the barn house, Bhavna explored the barn. She peeked through an opening in the door and spotted an abandoned bathtub. I took some photos from outside, with the door ajar and part of the tub visible. I planned to create an HDR. I could also see the bathtub through a small hole in the side of the barn. I took a few more shots using the hole to frame what I could see of the bathtub. Eventually, I ventured inside. Someone had placed the tub in the middle of the room with two rocks inside.

Who placed a bathtub inside a barn? Why right in the middle? Who put the rocks inside the tub? What was the purpose of the rocks? How long had the bathtub sat here? I looked around, but I saw no signs of any plumbing. All I saw were leaves and other debris. I realised I had found my "abandoned" photograph.

I captured three bracketed exposures and combined them in Photomatix. I then applied a Kodak Ektachrome 100 film emulation preset.

After a few more experimental portrait shots with my Bhavana as my model, we decided to head back to the car. Bhavana was feeling cold, some snow flurries were coming down, and we were concerned about losing the trail path if the snowfall was heavy.

With more than three miles of hiking trails, Herrontown Woods Arboretum is on the eastern end of Princeton Ridge. We got "lost" on our way back. We were on the green trail but somehow ended up on the white trail before finding the red path back to the parking area. It was like having a mini-adventure. We encountered intermittent streams that wound along our return trip to the parking lot.

I want to return to the Herrontown Woods Arboretum in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.