#NJSpots organised a sunset photography meetup at the Red Mill Museum Village in Clinton on Thursday night.
When Frank posts his challenge for the week, I don’t usually respond until the weekend. Most of the week, I am busy with work, commuting in the dark to a location filled with ugly office buildings. Photography is only possible on weeknights.
The last few weekends and during the week, the weather has often been cold, wet, and deeply overcast. This is why I have mainly processed many recent images in monochrome. When all around me feels blah and grey, I try to capture that feeling with monochrome. But this weekend we had a change in the weather.
Osiris and Isis cried, parted the skies and called out from the Earth to Ra, the king of the gods. Ra, the god of the sun, the bringer of light, soared across the sky and made his presence known. The temperatures soared to -2ºC with hints of blue all around. I took the opportunity and drove forty-five minutes to Clinton, New Jersey.
I planned to spend about 45 minutes shooting the Hunterdon Art Museum from the Red Mill Museum Village located on the west bank of the South Branch of the Raritan River. I recently bought some layered clothing to help me withstand the wintry weather better than I have in the past. Before the change in weather, I had initially thought that the water near the two museums would be partially frozen and that I would get some images of how cold it’s been. But Ra’s power was too great, and although I could see some ice on the lower branches of some of the trees, by the time I arrived — around 11:30 AM — the water was primarily free-flowing.
But the skies were clear and blue, and as is often true with outdoor photography, I made do with what was available. I walked across the Main Street Bridge, stopping a few times to capture images of the Red Mill Museum Village and the Hunterdon County Art Museum. The art museum is on the opposite bank of this section of the Raritan River.
The Hunterdon Art Museum is in the heart of the quaint nineteenth-century town of Clinton. Visitors can enjoy an afternoon of shopping in unique boutique shops, dine in restaurants that feature everything from light lunch to elegant dinners, and visit the Red Mill Museum Village, where you can learn about the industrial heritage of the region, all within a stone’s throw of the Art Museum.
I tried to focus on shooting images of the Hunterdon County Art Museum and the Main Street Bridge. I had already captured images of the [Red Mill Museum Village] on my last visit a few years ago. But, the Red Mill Museum was too colourful to resist capturing a few images.
I walked across the main street bridge. As I approached the far eastern side of the bridge, I noticed a group had gathered on the steps that led down the river bank. Some of the ducks were gathered, waiting or hoping to be fed. I had not noticed the ducks until then. I waited for the group to disperse so that I could walk down to photograph the ducks. In the meantime, I photographed the Red Mill Museum on the other bank and the Main Street Bridge.
Built before 1880 by William and Charles Cowin, the Main Street Bridge is among a small group of metal truss bridges in the USA that use cast and wrought iron. The bridge was designed by Francis C. Lowthorp. It can be challenging to shoot long-exposure images from the Main Street Bridge. The bridge vibrates whenever a vehicle rumbles across the bridge, creating slight movements that cause ghosting and blurring in long-exposure photographs. I kept a close eye for any approaching traffic and captured my images between arrivals of vehicles.
When the group moved away, so did the ducks. I walked down and waited for them to return, but they did not. I settled for capturing some images of the Main Street Bridge. At this point, I was hungry, so I walked down Main Street to the Ye Olde Sub Base, a sandwich restaurant with 4.5 stars on Yelp. I ordered the Italian sub with ham, prosciuttini, capicola, salami, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, vinegar, and olive oil. Whenever I eat a sub sandwich, regardless of where I visit, I like it like this. I walked back to the car and sat to eat.
But the thought of the ducks was calling to me. I grabbed my camera and tripod and walked back toward the art museum. I could hear the ducks. It seems the ducks only gather when they see a group of people. As I approached the end of the bridge, I called out to the group of people who had gathered. I explained what I thought was going on and asked them if they would mind waiting for me to grab a few photos. They agreed.
I got some close photos of the ducks. I carefully stepped out onto the rock, many covered in ice, to grab some close up of the ducks. They must be used to people because I got pretty close.
I captured some images of the frozen rocks and shrubs in the water. I hope this gives an idea of how cold it was.
Now that I had captured the photos I wanted, I walked back to my car to sit and eat my sandwich. I thought about my plans for the rest of the afternoon. I wanted to stop in at Conclave Brewing to try two of their new IPA. I realised what time it was and that I needed to leave.
I shot all of my images bracketed (5 exposures), so I could get a set of photos I could choose from for post-processing. However, when editing the images in Lightroom, I tried to create a natural HDR image from one scene. I applied the Classic Chrome Fujifilm Film Simulation preset to each image before processing it as HDR. I like the result. Except for the photos of the ducks, I processed the remainder of the images as HDR.
This summer I planned a photo field trip to the Red Mill Museum in Clinton with some of my photog friends. A few of us had been talking about shooting that location for quite some time. With the exception of Walt, we are all busy professionals. Walt is retired and perhaps has more free time than we do. The rest of us, Chris, Prasanna, and Ed, are balancing family and work and sometimes we just don’t take the time to get out with our cameras and pursue the hobby.
So I sent out some emails and we agreed on a date a few weeks into the future. I was excited. This was going to be a good test of my new Tokina AT-X 116 PRO DX-II 11-16mm f/2.8. I bought the lens about a month ago but I have not had many opportunities to use it. It’s a DX lens which means it was designed to be used on Nikon crop sensor — DX — camera bodies like my Nikon D5100. The lens is equivalent to approximately 16-24mm full-frame sensor lens.
It was just me and Ed. Walt, Chris, and Prasanna didn’t make it. Prasanna was concerned about the heat, Chris forgot he had other obligations and Walt simply forgot.
From the Red Mill Museum Village website
Ralph Hunt built the earliest section of this Mill to process wool sometime around 1810. His wool business failed, however, thanks to a permanent downturn in the market for domestic cloth. By 1820 Ralph confessed to the Census that “the establishment has been doing very little for two or three years past. The demand for the sale of the cloths and sattinets are very dull … a few of the farmers get their wool manufactured, but from the low prices of foreign cloths.” Things did not improve and Ralph lost all of the family’s property, more than 400 acres and mills on both sides of the river. He defaulted on his mortgage, and the Taylor family took ownership.
Ed showed up just a few minutes after I did. We set up outside the Red Mill with Ed shooting across to the Hunterdon Art Museum while I focused on getting a shot of the Red Mill. Having a wide lens really helped here. We then headed toward the metal bridge.
It took us almost 45 minutes just to cross the one-way metal bridge. Ed and I set up our tripods on the bridge to get some long exposure shots. The sun was quite bright at that time of day. We used neutral density (ND) filters to reduce the light entering the camera. This extended our exposure times to between four and eight seconds. When I am doing long exposure shots the tripods helps eliminate movement of the camera which can cause blurry captures. However, as cars slowly drove over the bridge, it would vibrate. We had to time our exposures just right.
My Tokina was wide enough to get a shot of the Red Mill Museum on the side of the damn and the Hunterdon Art Museum on the other. However, my ND filter — a 10 stop Hoya 77mm Pro ND 1000 — causes a bit of vignetting at the 11mm end. This sometimes happens with big stop ND filters and wide-angle lenses. The Tokina also exhibits some barrel distortion at the wide end. I decided to shoot the scene as a panorama.
I zoomed out to the other end of the lens range, 16mm (~24mm full-frame), and swivelled the base of the ball head. I shot four images with my Nikon mounted in portrait orientation and created the panorama in Photoshop. I'm surprised it came out as well as it did. The Tokina has some very slight barrel distortion when shooting at 16mm ( ~ 24mm full-frame ) and I was shooting of the axis of the camera body which added some additional distorting. Nothing that could not be fixed in Lightroom.
Once we crossed the bridge we set up on the view area near the courtyard of the Hunterdon Art Museum which was closed. I did not like the angle so I walked down to and under the bridge where I saw some fishermen. I used the bridge to frame a view of the shots. Bhavna didn’t like these as much as I did.
Later it started to get warm. Prasanna was justified in staying home. The heat and humidity were exhausting. I think the outdoor temperature soared to about 98ºF but with the humidity, it felt more like 104ºF. But Ed and I had persevered and got some good shots of the Red Mill Museum from multiple angles. We attempted some street photography but we succumbed to the heat and ended up at a local cafe for ice coffee and scones and conversation.
Ed remembered seeing a photo online with the sun setting in the background. We discussed the possibilities for how that could be done and realised that east was slightly off the far right side of the Red Mill and we think it’s definitely possible to do a sunset/night shoot. We both agreed that we should wait until the fall to capture some of the fall foliage in the background.
You know, I really do enjoy going out on field trips with people I know. It’s fun. Quite often I learn some new photography technique or a new tool or discover a new place to dine or visit with my family. This is one of the reasons I originally joined meetups. I enjoy the social aspect of photography.