All week long I had been thinking about what I might do for the weekly challenge. Because of my work day 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 had 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 minuted 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 the 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 got out into the woods.
From the parking lot, we took the red trail to a fork in the trail and walked through a break in the fence. We followed what appeared to be a new “green-white” path and found the abandoned property quite easily.
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 that was 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 down in the grass composing one shot after the other. I wasn’t happy with the shots I was getting. The buildings were clearly 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 and 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 walked over and took some photos from outside, with the door ajar, and part of the tub visible. My plan was 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. The tub was placed in the middle of the room with two rocks inside.
Who placed a bathtub inside a barn? Why right in the middle? Who placed 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 realized 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, there were some snow flurries 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 the 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 trail back to the parking area. It was was like having a mini-adventure. We came upon intermittent streams which wound along our return trip to the parking lot.
I want to return to the Herrontown Woods Arboretum in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.