This post is about a week late.
Thursday of last week, and after 2,394 miles, I made it back home. After spending two weeks living on and in the Manassas National Battlefield Park, I took a couple days driving back to Maine. I then spent a few days in the Western Maine mountains to shoot and research waterfalls and capped off the trip with a couple days at the historic Fort Knox near Bucksport, Maine.
It was an exhilarating but exhausting month, full of wonderful life experiences and tons of photographs. Without a doubt it was truly and honor and privilege to be a MNBP Artist-In-Residence.
After a week of catching up with the many tasks needing attention upon my return, and some much needed rest, I started the creative process of sorting and filtering all the images I captured along the way. Now the work on final pieces of art begins.
Once final selections are in place we'll be working on finished products ranging from fine art wall prints, a collection of salt prints and maybe even a book (or two).
We also need to select one image that will be framed and donated to the National Park Service. I completely forgot to ask what they do with the donations, but maybe they'll hang it in the visitor center and you'll be able to see it when you visit the park!
Coming to MNBP I had several objectives. One of which was to photograph the Park using "old style photography."
At the time of the Civil War, photography was still evolving. Only about 20 years earlier Daguerre had brought the Daguerreotype to the world. Photographers were able to produce incredibly beautiful images. However, they were single use pictures; a positive on a piece of tin. One picture that one person can view at a time. At the same time in England a Mr. Talbot was working on printing processes as well, eventually producing a silver print on salted paper which he called Calliotype. This at least allowed multiple prints to be produced from a single image.
By 1850 a process called collodion was created, where a negative could be created on a glass plate. The exposure times were significantly improved, from minutes to a second or so. And these crisp negatives could be used to create many finished prints.
The prints were known as albumen prints. An upgrade to the basic salt paper print.
I create salted paper prints using casein, which is milk proteins instead of egg proteins (albumen).
Below are 2 test prints I made here on the battlefield. All using analog equipment, film, and traditional techniques. And all without a darkroom!
The images were taken with a 4x5 view camera (similar to the equipment used by the Civil War photographers, 157 years ago). The negative is then sandwiched with the salted casein paper and exposed to the sun and then processed through various solutions to set the image and make it permanent.
Just after lunch on Thursday, I was behind the MNBP (Manassas National Battlefield Park) Visitor's Center working on setting up for a shot.
Yes, I know...I shouldn't be taking pictures in the middle of the day. Breaks all the rules, lol. Well, that's me, breaking rules. Actually I'm quite the stickler for following rules. But I also know that once you get to know the rules; not so much what they are but rather why they are, then breaking or bending them is just part of the creative toolkit. And breaking the rules for this shoot was justified. I was working on some infrared images and that blazing, overhead sun just makes things pop and glow.
As I turned around at one point to pick up my light meter I saw a gentleman on the walkway watching me rather intently. We exchanged pleasantries and I continued on with my work. A minute or so later I noticed he was still watching me intently so I asked if he was a photographer.
He replied, "No. No, I don't have the patience to do it like you do."
I certainly haven't considered myself all that patient. I had spent most of the day trying to get in what shooting I could as the weather was changing constantly and I didn't know when it was just going to shut me down.
And I felt had been a tad fussy as I started to set up in this location. Trying to make sure I was on the path to create the image I had visualized. Half a step this way, two steps that way, squat down, stand part way up, etc. Once I had the tripod in location then I just went in to checklist mode putting the camera together, reading the light meter, taking the lens cap off, lol, etc.
I found his comment quite interesting. Never realized my intense determination was viewed as patience.
The first full day in Manassas begins with sunrise at Battery Heights. Battery Heights is a ridge that sits to the East of the main action during the second battle of Manassas (Bull Run) and to the West of the main action in the first battle of Manassas.
It was occupied for the first two days of the 2nd
Manassas battle by the Union forces. Captain Joseph Campbell's Battery B, 4th US Artillery deployed six cannon on this rise. Their work kept the Confederate batteries mostly silenced.
On the third day Captain William Chapman's Dixie Artillery occupied the hill starting in the afternoon. Chapman's four guns combined with 32 other cannons to repulse the Union attack on Stonewall Jackson who was holding his line just North of here at the Deep Cut of the unfinished railroad. The Dixie Artillery was able to shower the flank and rear of an already wavering Union force.
This was the beginning of the end for the North as they would soon retreat back to D.C. once again.
On this particular day I witnessed fog that became a ground mist. Keeping the enemy hidden. Allowing the souls of the fallen to move to cover before the sun breached the ridge.
My first Artist-In-Residence begins on May 1st at Manassas National Battlefield in northern Virginia. Living on an unbridged island in coastal Maine means that I have a bit of a journey to reach my destination. Since it was going to take a couple of days of driving I decided I’d turn it in to four days and make some stops along the way.
The journey starts on Sunday morning with a typical ferry ride to Bass Harbor. Jennifer was on the same boat as she was heading to take care of some business in Bar Harbor. We said our goodbye’s just before the ferry docked, she headed to Bar Harbor and I headed to Acadia for a drive to see what’s what.
Nothing of great interest in Acadia National Park. Planned to buy my annual pass, but none of the places were open yet. Stopped at a few of the places that are almost impossible to visit during peak season, like Sieur de Monts Spring. Everything is still asleep. So I took a drive around Park Loop Road, making some detours to do some research for when I come back this summer.
Onward to Blue Hill Falls after my tour of Acadia, with a small stop in Ellsworth for trip supplies. The Blue Hill Falls bridge has been slated to be replaced, or at least a significant repair, in the near future. That’s an item I don’t have in the library. The goal was to capture sunset and sunrise pictures. Grabbed a few of each, though nothing spectacular as too many clouds decided to mute the colors. Interesting place, and maybe I’ll get back before construction begins. I did however find this sunrise gem on my ride to the bridge before sunrise.
After departing Blue Hill on Monday my next stop is Bath, Maine. It was nice, relaxing drive down US 1. Again, weather made for poor image making. But my trip is going well. These are all bonus opportunities anyway. Being a landscape photographer involves a large amount of research. Even when picturesque situations don’t arise there is always note taking in progress for future visits.
Tuesday was the day of the “big drive” as I left New England for the South. Rain accompanied me from Bath down to Boston. It was just a typical day of driving the Interstates between Maine and Pennsylvania. Stopped in Hummelstown, PA for the night at a B&B I had visited many years ago. It’s half horse farm and half B&B. Very beautiful property, gorgeous house, and sweet people. Took a walk, grabbed some dinner, and went to bed early.
Wednesday, the big day, May 1st. I made a late start and took my time, 968 miles later I arrived in Manassas around 1 PM. The Ranger met me about an hour later to check me in to the on site quarters where I’ll be living for 2 weeks. Very nice place. Built probably about 100 years ago, with some updates through the years. Living on the Park grounds is phenomenal! Absolutely beautiful.
The adventure begins!
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Dale & Jennifer