I am, for the most part, an outdoors, hand held, natural light photographer, whose favorite activity is exploring with a camera. The act itself is part moving meditation and part treasure hunt, as nothing beats that feeling of being in “the zone” and discovering something that I know will make a good image. Bringing my raw files to life in post is enjoyable, but I often save that part for a rainy day and let my images rest a bit in Lightroom before viewing them again with fresh eyes.
Since my photography is strongly influenced by my work as a graphic designer, I’m drawn to the light and shadows of late afternoon and, on a November afternoon in New Jersey, that means getting out and shooting before the sun starts to dip at around 3:00 pm. On this particular, sunny day, I took a trip to Fort Hancock in Sandy Hook, NJ, a former US Army fort and coastal artillery base that defended the Atlantic coast and the entrance to New York Harbor through two world wars. It was decommissioned as an active US Army installation in 1974 and is now part of the National Parks of New York Harbor under the National Park System. As such, it draws crowds of tourists, particularly during the summer.
I’d never visited the fort but had been told by those who know me that “there are a lot of old, crumbly buildings you’ll love taking pictures of,” a chuckle-worthy comment if there ever was one. I went with an open mind full of curiosity, as always. I did not expect to fall in love with this beautiful, deserted place that I had to myself that day. The fort appeared as a small ghost town, with the homes of Officer’s Row facing the bay and surrounding a large courtyard. Exploring the fort was peaceful and a bit eerie at the same time, as I could picture the army families occupying these crumbling homes that were built between 1898 and 1910.
Walking around the fort, it was easy to forget that New York City is right across the water. It was amazing to me that I had such unlimited access and could wander to my heart’s content. I loved that there was a lot of breathing room between the buildings, so that I could make the types of minimalist images that I enjoy and don’t often have the opportunity to shoot in my densely populated home state.
I made quite a few images that day, and the light was such that the best images resulted from shooting from the courtyard towards the water. As the shadows were deepening, I came around the side of one of the houses and saw this image. I’ve been told that the light is “Hopper-esque.” Although I don’t consciously emulate painters, or other photographers, I think that we are all subconsciously influenced by our knowledge of art and of those who have come before us. Out of all the various types of images I like to make, images with strong shadows are among my favorites.
If one finds this image calming and peaceful, with a bit of nostalgia for another time, then I’ve succeeded in making the image I intended, and that makes me happy.
What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!
I’m pleased with the composition – the house in deep shadow with the leaning, leafless tree and the expanse of calm water. I also enjoy an unexpected element in my images, and the lamp post in this one was a bonus.
If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?
I wouldn’t change this photo, but I did make an adjustment before making this, which is the second version of this image – I realized after taking one shot of this scene a bit too quickly that I wanted to see more of the tree, so I moved around until it looked perfect in my viewfinder.
Cynthia Gladis shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.
Equipment and Settings
Fujifilm X-T2, XF18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 at 29.3mm, 1/250 sec., f/11, ISO 200.
Lightroom to process, Photoshop to tweak.
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