Formerly known as the New Jersey State Village for Epileptics, The North Princeton Developmental Center was a medical facility within my township, Montgomery Township, New Jersey. The facility was home to a variety of mental health institutions throughout the years. The 246-acre property was once a bustling place, built to self-sustain up to 2,000 people in tiny homes and apartments but had been abandoned and had fallen into horrible disrepair. The dilapidated facility garnered much notoriety across the state over the past decades due to its “ghost town” appearance and mention in the popular book and periodical, “Weird N.J.
The Village School, one of the elementary schools, was located on the eastern end of Skillman Village. The township purchased the property from the state to demolish or renovate the existing structures and replace them with a large town centre, which would include health care facilities, shops, housing for senior citizens, and parks. But soon after purchase, the township realised just how dire the situation was. The buildings were filled with asbestos, raw sewage, and leftover heating oil.
Montgomery Township decided to sue the State of New Jersey, citing the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the State Environmental Rights Act. They won.
The township then sold 247 acres of the plot to Somerset County, which paid for cleanup of the site, including demolition of all the homes, removal of sewage. It took a few years, but in 2012, the property was re-opened as a county park, Skillman Park.
Today, Skillman Park is a multi-use park that the Somerset County Parks Department maintains. Somerset County put in new roads, trails, a dog park, and picnic tables. I think it’s the best use of tax money I have ever witnessed.
On March 8, 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a rule regarding the chemical phenol, isopropylated phosphate (3:1) (PIP (3:1)) (CASRN 68937-41-7) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which prohibited the processing and distribution in commerce, including sales, of the chemical and products containing the chemical. EPA also issued an enforcement policy on the same day stating that it will not enforce the ban on processing and distribution until September 5, 2021.
During an interview with Fujilove Manny Almeida, President of the Imaging Division at FUJIFILM North America Corporation said:
Film is basically organic chemistry. Digital is basically electronic engineering. We still have a fair amount of organic chemistry research that goes on, but it’s primarily because of our instant film product, not our traditional 35mm or 120 products. Why don’t we do a whole lot of research? Because it was worthwhile when we were selling billions of rolls of film. Today the market is so small it doesn’t make sense. But really, by 2000 film had been so fine tuned by every manufacturer, it was so good, our quest for fine grain, for brighter colors, for color accuracy and fidelity, basically reached a zenith. And when you look at color negative film, it is not the sole reason a print looks the way it does. FUJIFILM has continued organic chemistry research in color paper. And in fact, we’ve introduced a number of different color papers. We’ve optimized color paper for digital printing.
After dinner, Bhavna and I went to Flounder to try their new beers.
I experimented with the reflections in the glass of the large garage door.
If you share your images, someone out there may benefit from seeing them in a way you would never have anticipated, and you along with the rest of us will benefit from your engagement in the film community – not Instagram-quantifiable engagement, but interactions between real humans.
Today was a hot and humid day. I wanted to visit the farmers’ market, but I wanted to avoid the heat. Then I thought of the bread man, and I was out the door.
I came back home, lay on the couch under the ceiling fan, and followed Alphonso’s example. We watched Captain America together.
In the late afternoon, Bhavna and I made a quick trip to the Home Depot to find compost. But Home Depot does not sell compost. I used the opportunity to photograph the flowers in the garden centre. It was still hot and humid outside.
I had fun this week shooting exclusively at f/2.8 with my Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm F1.7 adapted to my Fuji X-T2. I think I’m addicted to the bokeh of the lens.
The new version of the Fuji XF 27mm ƒ/2.8 R is 22.7 mm shorter than the Nikon SE and about the same diameter. It's also considerably lighter at 84g / 3 oz.
It also sports about the tiniest lens hood ever...almost comical-looking. And yet, who wants a giant hood on a small lens?
There are a few more differences. The Nikon SE has nine elements, and the Fujinon has seven. The XF 27mm has an aperture ring, and the 28mm SE doesn't (neither did the original Fuji 27mm). The Fuji costs $399 (although, as Fujiphiles know, Fuji has periodic sales), and Nikon says the SE will cost $299 when available.
I keep reading good things about the XF27mmF2.8 R LM WR lens, which makes me smile, but then I am reminded that the lens is sold out everywhere, and the smile turns to a frown. It's good that I didn't sell my XF27mmF2.8 lens and place my order when the XF27mmF2.8 R LM WR was announced.
I watched the most recent episode of Apple's TV series, Home Before Dark. The episode is titled "Dark Rooms". During an emotional outburst, the main character, Hilde, breaks the lens on her camera and borrows her grandpa's old-school film camera. There is a great learning moment with the whole family huddled around Hilde holding the film camera. Her dad, Matt, explains that with 35mm film, you take pictures by exposing the roll of film, then when the roll is finished, you drop the film off at the drug store, and two weeks later, you get photographic prints by which time you've forgotten why you took them. Later in the episode, her dad helps her develop the images in the darkroom he set up in the basement of their home.
I have not developed a 35mm colour film since 1989. I'm inspired by nostalgia to develop a roll of 35mm film myself. I've got a kit from Film Photography Project in my shopping cart, but I'm nervous about completing the purchase.
I'm worried about failing.
Wednesday, 7 July 2021
"The discussion was 'what are we doing in the future in terms of engine', because we want to save costs, so we don't want to reinvent the wheel," [Toto] Wolff, who did not attend the summit but is protecting vested interests, told the FIA conference on Monday.
"We also want to have a relevant engine from 2025 to 2030, and we can't be old petrolheads with screaming engines when everybody expects us to be going electric.
"So these engines are still going to be fuelled [by zero-carbon fuels]. We are staying with the current V6 format, but the electric component is going to massively increase."
The FIA are increasingly aware that a sport primarily based on burning gas station amounts of fuel on a single weekend needs to adjust expectations for a world where the phrase internal combustion engine is increasingly seen in a negative light.
One of the things I love about my Fuji X-T2 is how easy manual focusing can be when using the focus peaking feature. On the Fuji, focus peaking detects the edges of the highest contrast in the scene and highlights them in bright colours (red, blue, or white).
I can adapt almost any manual focus 35mm film-era lens to my Fuji X and never worry about focusing. The ability to use decades-old 35mm film lenses on my Fuji X-T2 brought me back to 35mm film photography after a nearly thirty-year hiatus.
The digital Fujinon lenses for the Fuji X-series also have a focus ring with an instant manual focus feature. Just grab the focus ring and turn. In the viewfinder (or LCD), a manual focus indicator shows the distance to the subject (in meters or feet ), which is useful when zone-focusing. There is also a manual focus assist feature. When activated, the camera zooms in digitally, filling the viewfinder/LCD with a section of the scene for more accurate focusing. There is a digital split image focusing feature, but I have never used it. When using manual 35mm lenses at their largest aperture, I tend to use focus peaking and the "move the body forward-back" technique.
I enjoy using manual and autofocus lenses, but I prefer autofocus.
Saturday 10 July 2021
Inspired by Steve Schwartzman's horsemint portraits post, I grabbed my Fuji X-T2, FotodioX adapter, and a 1980's era manual film lens, my Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm F1.7 and headed outside to my garden.
I love this lens. It creates a beautiful buttery soft cinematic look perfect for a portrait photograph. My lens was part of a Minolta X-700 bundle I bought from a local amateur who had owned the lens and kit for over three decades.
The MD Rokkor-X 50mm F1.7 is constructed almost entirely of metal1. It feels hefty compared to my Fujinon XF27mmF2.8 lens, especially with the weight of the FotodioX MD-FX adapter, but it was a reasonably lightweight lens (165g) for its time. My X-T2 has a crop factor of 1.52, so the 50mm is roughly a 76mm full-frame equivalent when adapted to my Fuji.
Extirpation is when a plant or animal species ceases to exist in a chosen geographic area of study, though it still exists elsewhere. In densely populated areas like New Jersey, all the large native predators like the wolf, bear, wolverine, and cougar have suffered extirpation, allowing herbivores such as white-tailed deer to reproduce unchecked except by hunting. White-tailed deer are a problem in New Jersey.
Several years ago, I planted some Hosta, which I translated from my brother's garden in Stamford, Connecticut. Over the years, the Hosta have colonised a good section of the tiny garden and provided a short-lived burst of flowers in the summer. They are short-lived because deer find them tasty. This year I used Deer Out to keep the deer at bay; however, I still lost some flowers. But I had enough left over for this experiment.
The lens, camera and FotodioX adapter's overall weight make precise manual focusing extremely tough to nail at f/1.7. I was also kneeling on the concrete in the driveway. I used focus peaking to get the image to where things appeared sharp and then rocked my body back and forth to hit the right spot, but this made the kneeling even more painful. I need to invest in some garden knee pads. I gave up and went inside for my RRS L-bracket and Manfrotto tripod.
With the camera firmly placed to frame the flowers, I used the focus peaking and focus-check features on my Fuji to dial in focus. I captured three frames, one each at f/1.7, f/2.8 and f/4.
Bokeh was nice and circular at f/1.7, but highlights in the background became hexagonal once I stopped the lens down. This lens has six non-rounded blades. Here are three examples of how the bokeh looks at f/1.7, f/2.8, and f/4. I skipped f/3.32.
The flower at f/1.7 has a dreamy look that I love, but the DOF is too shallow. The bokeh of the f/4 image is less soft and feels a bit muddy, but the DOF is better. That f/2.8 is the sweet spot with pleasing bokeh and just enough DOF.
While I prefer the f/1.7, I think I'll experiment using this lens at f/2.8 for a while.
I practised using the Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm F1.7 at f/2.8. First, at the Brick Farm Tavern and Sourland Mountain Spirits.
After cocktails, we drove to East Broad Street to order takeout at Tomatello's Latin Cuisine, a clever assemble of the word tomatillo and the owner's last name, Tello. We had a large order for Bhavna, Shaan and myself. While the restaurant prepared our food, we walked around East Broad Street and Seminary Avenue.
East Broad Street is a popular location for showing off cars and motorbikes.
I love the colour of colour photography. The colour reminds me of the vibrancy of life. In the West Indies, where I grew up, colour is everywhere. People paint their homes and shops in bright reds, greens, blues, pinks, yellow etc. When I was a child, the mode of public transportation was a large diesel truck with a wood cab mounted to the flatbed with the body painted in whimsical colours of the owner's choosing. The local fishing boats were similarly painted in a multitude of colours.
Bhavna is from India, and the women of that country wear vibrantly coloured saris and kurta pyjamas. There is even a festival, Holi, that celebrates colour.
I don't often photograph in black and white. Except for winter, almost all of my photography is colour photography. Why winter? It seems that people in the United States must dislike colour. How else to explain the drab colours of the cities and suburbs? How else to explain the beige and grey cookie-cutter homes that pepper the suburbs of the North Eastern United States? When I drive around New Jersey, especially in the winter, I often wonder why so very few think to paint some colour to their homes and shops front so that we could enjoy a break from the seemingly depressing days of winter when the trees have no leaves, the ground is covered in a mixture of dirt and snow, and the skies are cloudy all day.
I have included examples of my black and white photographs from my early days as a student photographer to more recent ones photographed on my Fuji X-T2 and Minolta and Pentax 35mm film cameras. I remember back in the days shooting Ilford HP5 400, Kodak Tri-X Pan 400, and Kodak T-Max 400, but in the last two years, I have tried using film again after nearly a 30-year hiatus. The original Tri-X, T-MAX and Ilford are no longer available, but I could shoot modern versions of these films. I love Ilford HP5+ 400, but I have also exposed rolls of RPX 25 and RPX 100.
When I process digital images to black and white, I use some of the same tools Anne uses, but most often, it's a mixture of things. Sometimes, I use Silver EFX Pro, and sometimes I use in-camera film simulation recipes. Sometimes, I apply an Adobe Lightroom preset and tweak the image to my liking. I don't use one set method. I use whatever works to create the image I want. However, I get the best results when I shoot in B&W on my Fuji X-T2 using the ACROS film simulation, or I flip to B&W in Adobe Lightroom and edit the images using the Lightroom histogram exposure, shadows, highlight and whites slider.
During the pandemic, Bhavna and I talked about how when it was safe to do so, we would take some road trips to Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, perhaps with a stop in Boston to visit some of our college days favourites. I wanted to satisfy my urge to photograph lighthouses, and Bhavna wanted to experience the romance of the New England coastal towns.
Now that most of the North East are vaccinated, it seemed like the right time. It's cooler up north, so a trip to Maine would help us escape the heat and humidity of a New Jersey summer. It seems that everyone everywhere had the same idea.
New England resorts are booked through the end of October. Hotels like the Marriot have raised their rates to almost resort levels. My brother-in-law planned road trips to Tennessee. On Sunday, he mentioned that even the usually budget-friendly Holiday Inn has rates one would expect if staying in a hotel in Manhattan or Philadelphia.
But I think we really need to getaway. What to do?
I'm bored with breakfast. Every day it feels like I eat the same things. Part of it is that my mornings are busy, and I am too lazy to make something, but it's also partly because I have not returned to some of the routines I had pre-pandemic.
Pre-pandemic, I alternated between a few places to get coffee and breakfast on the days I worked from home. Sometimes I went to Bagel Barn for a bagel, egg and cheese bagel sandwich or bagel with a schmear of cream cheese. It's excellent with a coffee from Buy the Cup. Sometimes I drove into Princeton for a muffin and cappuccino from Rojo's Cafe. If time permitted, I sat outside on Palmer Square. On Friday's, if my morning calendar allowed it, I drove into Hopewell for a sit down slow breakfast of grits and collard greens.
I am wary of using the word normal, but I miss these routines. I think it's time for a reset.
Last on the Card for June
I think this is the first time I am linking to the Last on the Card challenge. According to Adobe Lightroom, the last image pulled in before July 1 is this one. The photo has not been edited or post-processed in any way. But that begs the question. Given that my Fuji X-T2 can use in-camera film recipes to apply certain effects to a JPEG before an image is recorded, can I use the straight out of camera JPEG for this challenge?
No one can amass millions of followers on a person blog in a matter of weeks. That is something that can only happen on a social platform like Instagram or TikTok. And that's why most people don't go down the personal site path. Most people are not chasing freedom of expression. They're chasing fame. Quantity over quality seems to be the law of the modern web. ~ Manuel Morale
Two years ago, I started photographing migrating Warblers in southern New Jersey. I rented a Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens and did my best. These photographs are not significant compared to other photographers, but they are precious images to me.
Kunj Tirvedi has been photographing wildlife - lions, tigers, cheetah, elephants, etc. - around the world for over two decades, mainly in Africa (Serengeti, Samburu, Kaziranga, Madagascar, Mauritius, Tanzania), America (Argentina, Antarctica, Florida), Europe (Iceland, Norway) and Asia (India, Sri Lanka). He's put together a two-volume bounded portfolio book of his bird photograph, simply entitled "Birds, My Portfolio". I am fortunate that Mr Trivedi's daughter is a good family friend, and she loaned me both books.
The book starts with a foreword that introduces the photographer and explains the purpose of the books and the care and effort put into selecting each photograph and identifying each bird. Though there is no index or table of contents, the book is broken down into sections featuring specific birds - rollers, bee-eaters. I agreed with Kunj Trivedi when he wrote in his book that the "Lilac Breasted Roller was my favourite bird...". The lilac-breasted roller is stunning. But one of my favourite photographs is one of an Indian Roller in flight. Others are the European bee-eater and Fischer's Lovebird. Their colours remind me of the wooden fishing boats of the West Indies. The photographs are stunning. The book contains over 400 photos.
One more thing about which I am thinking. When will I produce my photobook, what shall I put in it, and who will "read" it?
I've had an ongoing debate about electric vehicles (EV) with my friend Johnny over the last several months. Unfortunately, there's no economic incentive in the USA to push for bikes, e-bikes, scooters etc. A dedicated bicycle infrastructure requires almost no maintenance, vehicles are incredibly cheap to buy and run, insurance for accidents is irrelevant, and health improvements means fewer hospital visits.
In addition to providing a more affordable and more efficient form of alternative transportation for riders, e-bikes actually help improve things for everyone. While e-bike riders can directly benefit from lower transportation costs, perhaps quicker commute times, and free parking, more e-bikes on the streets mean fewer cars. And fewer cars means less traffic.
I'm writing a bit tongue in cheek, but promoting bicycling could lead to an economic recession. With very few notable exceptions, the USA government won't prioritise cycling infrastructure.
Electric bicycles certainly can't replace all car trips but e-bikes continue to outsell electric cars massively around the world. The growing number of e-bike styles and the emphasis on e-bike utility mean that an increasing number of people are trading a second car for an electric bicycle. If I worked from home regularly, Bhavna and I could get by with just her car and with me using an e-bike for trips around the area.
At first, Alphonso Mango was like, "Please, play with me".
Then ... he was a bit more forceful. "Get off the computer. Play with me now!"
This evening Bhavna and I picked up a few slices of pizza from Joe's and headed over to Flounder Brewing for a few pints of ale. While we dined, we were surprised to see Jim D. and Kath D. sitting at another with a group of their friends. They came over to say "Hello," and we ended the evening with a few pints at their table. It turns out that Jim's friends, Rob and Tammy, live in our neighbourhood at the other end of Blue Spring Road.
I let Alphonso Mango play outside on the deck. It's enclosed. Bhavna and I sat outside so we can keep an eye on him. He had so much fun sniffing around and exploring and hiding under the house plants.
Lens Artist Photo Challenge
For John's Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #155 – On the Water I had initially planned to go whale watching in Cape May with Bhavna. I rented a Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR in anticipation of excitement. But as the long weekend neared, Bhavna had heard on the local news that the shore towns were expecting large crowds for the 4th of July weekend. I reluctantly agreed to set my focus (pun intended) closer to home when the lens arrived. Bhavna even suggested a few places nearby; Carnegie Lake, the D&R Canal State Park Trail. Since the brought up the topic of the canal, I suggested we try canoeing or kayaking. Bhavna was hesitant. She remembered that our last attempt at canoeing was frustrating. We could not co-ordinate our paddling and got stuck going in circles on Lake George. If I remember correctly I paddled out and in. Despite that experience being over twenty years ago Bhavna could not be convinced to try canoeing on Carnegie Lake.
Honestly, I think I have some sort of PTSD. I am reluctant to visit many of the places I visited heavily pre-pandemic but avoided during the pandemic. I also didn't want to see either of those places with a super-telephoto.
On my way out to the Montgomery Farmers Market, I almost tripped the box at the front door. I guess correctly that it was the Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR that I rented. It arrived a day late. It was supposed to come Friday evening.
In the afternoon, Shaan suggested that I visit the tiny bit of wetland near the outer edge of Van Horne Park. She knew that I had rented the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR to photograph dragonflies and had remembered that we had previously seen dragonflies and butterflies in that location.
I parked on Princeton Avenue and crossed onto the trailhead. I immediately found several dragonflies. Several prominent black and silver specimens were darting among the cattails.
At first, I struggled with the lens. It's been over almost two years since my last birding field trip. I needed some practice. The dragonflies did not co-operate, choosing to land on the concrete wall of the man-made wetlands. The butterflies were more cooperative.
I was ready to leave when this blue and green dragonfly darted overhead and then landed on a branch of a nearby plant. He sat still long enough for me to capture him in two different poses. Then he was gone.
I drove over to Sylvan Lake in Skillman Village, hoping to duplicate my success at Van Horne Park. I saw a few butterflies, the occasional bird and bee, but my efforts were for nought. I saw no dragonflies even when I walked down the embankment and stood almost in the water.
I saw people, butterflies and a few birds, but I saw no dragonflies. But I finally had one image that I think qualifies for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #155 – On the Water.
Sylvan Lake is not really a lake. I'm not sure how or when the word lake was applied, but the "lake" is really a reservoir inside Skillman Park. Birds are attracted to various fish, including brook trout and rainbow trout that live in the reservoir. Parts of the lake are more like wetlands with many grass and wetland plants attracting frogs and various insects.
Sylvan Lake sits on the Western periphery of Skillman Park, a newish park created from the remnants of an abandoned and condemned former New Jersey Neuropsychiatric Institute. The Village Elementary (Montgomery Township) school is located on the Eastern end of the property. As the township grew, parents grew concerned about the asbestos and sewage from the old buildings. They eventually pressured the township, which pressured the county (Somerset) to clean up the property. Somerset County and put in new roads, trails, a dog park, and picnic tables. Skillman Park is a multi-use park that is maintained by the Somerset County Parks Department.
In the evening, Bhavna and I drove to Conclave Brewing for a pint. We visited Conclave only once during the pandemic, choosing to sit outside. Today it was raining, so we sat inside. We ordered food for delivery from a place called Pork Chops BBQ. The menu was an odd mix of Filipino, Spanish, and Portuguese food. I ordered a paella platter and a serving of fried plantains. Bhavna had a salad.
Today was a whirlwind of activity. We went to the Brick Farm Tavern for an outdoor BBQ. The chilli cheese dog was delicious. The experience was like being at a BBQ at a friends house. We didn't have to do any cleanup after.
In the late afternoon, Bhavna wanted to go for a hike and burn off some of the weekend "beer" calories, and I wanted to maximise my time with the rented XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. We hiked the big loop around Woosamonsa Ridge. According to the trial info I read that "groundwater seeps feed the streams and serve as critical habitat for salamanders and may contain habitat for rare dragonfly species.
We opted to walk the longer Ridge Trail. We followed the base trail at the parking lot, which gradually ascended up the ridge and then dipped down to meet with Dinah's Brook Trail.
We continued along the Ridge Trail across some shallow spots in the trail of what seemed like a marsh before crossing Dinah's Brook. I stopped here to take some photographs of what appeared to be wild grapes. But still no dragonflies.
The trail then made a fairly steep (huff-puff) ascent to reach near the highest point of a second ridge. My ankles were still sore from yesterday's run around in Skillman Park and up and down the embankment at Sylvan Lake. I asked Bhavna to slow down.
During our hike, we stopped at Dinah's Brook. Bhavna noticed two small rocks with some small plants, which says reminded her of islands. I think this image also qualified for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #155 – On the Water.
Fortunately, the next section of trail descended to join the Creekside Trail near Jacobs Creek. A short distance further, the Ridge Trail crossed Jacobs Creek. It ascended (again huff-puff) part way up another ridge which forms the north side of the Jacobs Creek valley. In the end, the Ridge Trail rejoined the Valley Trail, which we took back to the parking area.
This Ridge Trail and the Valley Trail make up the longest hiking loop. We hiked 3.8km for just over 90 minutes with an elevation gain of 79m. I didn't see any dragonflies, but I think I photographed some damselflies.
During the hike, Bhavna and I discussed me buying my own used XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. It's still expensive.
We came home, took showers and then passed out on the sofa. I think tomorrow must be a day of rest.