Monthly Archives: October 2011

Spooky Fort Delaware

Fort Delaware, located on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River, is a notoriously haunted area so when it was announced that my daughter’s fifth grade class was going there on a field trip (in the daytime, of course), I was the first one to sign up to chaperone.

This fortress, built in the early 1800’s, was designed by French military engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who was also responsible for much of the design of Washington D.C., the US capital city. Because it is situated in the northern part of the Delaware River it was an ideal spot for defending Philadelphia, PA.During the American Civil War, Fort Delaware was used to house Confederate prisoners of war and convicts. Most of the prisoners that were captured at the Battle of Gettysburg were imprisoned here. By the end of the war there were 33,000 prisoners held at the fort, 2,400 of who died during their stay.

Confederate re-enactor and his weapon

 Today Pea Patch Island and the fort are part of the Delaware State Parks system. The only way to get there is by taking a short ferry ride to a wooden pier. From there, a jitney takes you to the fort proper.

No prisoners were actually housed inside the walls of the fort (they were held in barracks located elsewhere on the island). You can find living quarters and offices, a kitchen and a mess hall. A large part of the fort is dedicated to the storage of munitions.

 Officer’s Bedroom

Re-enacting school life at the fort

Officer’s Kitchen

Of the many structures that were built to support life on the fort (at one point there were prison barracks, a hospital, school and even a couple of hotels to accommodate visiting family members) very few survive. The star-shaped fort, built first of wood and then of brick and stone, is surrounded by a moat. You won’t find any crocodiles here, instead the moat served as a sewage system as human waste was dumped into it. The bathroom in the fort has simple wooden holes on a bench that go directly to the moat, as in, there’s nothing between your butt and the water but air.

How would you like to get up in the middle of a cold winter’s night and have to sit on this?

Now, to the fun stuff! There are many ghost stories associated with Fort Delaware; in fact the popular US show “Ghost Hunters” filmed an investigation there a few years back. Local ghost hunters conduct paranormal investigations that are open to the public each fall and they’re often sold out long before the weather changes.

In preparation for their field trip the kids were told some of the ghost stories and were excited at the prospect of finding unusual things, as were most of the parents, who had either seen the “Ghost Hunters” show or heard the stories themselves.

One of the most haunted areas is the kitchen, where there is purportedly a very cold area by the kitchen stove, which is said to be the spirit of a slave woman who served as a cook. The staff who work at the fort tell stories of kitchen utensils and other tools in the area being moved around. During our trip the area was roped off but I got a long-exposure picture that doesn’t show much.

Haunted Kitchen

The mess hall is also said to be haunted and in it hangs an officer’s portrait, which the kids told me turned into a skull if you stared at it long enough. This was one of the first things that most of the children wanted to see. Given the high contrast of the blacks and whites and the shape of the man’s face, I can see why your eyes may play tricks on you and make it seem as though you’re seeing a skull, but we didn’t see anything unusual.

Mess Hall

The Infamous Skull Portrait

It is rumored that through out the parade grounds confederate spirits roam, still trying to escape from the fort. One of the most popular stories is of the attempted escape of a 9 year-old Confederate drummer boy. Legend has it he tried to fake his own death in order to be transported back across the river in a coffin. Waiting for him on the other side of the river were either sympathetic Union troops or fellow inmates, who were supposed to free him from the coffin. Unfortunately, a shift change swapped personnel and instead of being freed, the boy was buried alive (www.thecabinet.com). This story doesn’t appear to be rooted in historical facts, but it was one of the stories we were told by our tour guide.

Confederate Brigadier General James Archer’s spirit, a bearded man dressed in a gray uniform, is seen moving around the powder magazine and dungeon area. He was taken prisoner and arrived at Ft. Delaware very sick. He was thrown in the dungeon area as punishment for organizing a prisoner uprising (www.thecabinet.com). Archer died a few months later from the effects of his illness and imprisonment, after being freed in a prisoner exchange.

Confederate re-enactor teaching the kids to march

Some of the great stone staircases are said to have spirits that touch your arms and back and make noises, including footsteps and yelling. The Delaware Area Paranormal society, a local ghost-hunting group, took a picture of a sinister black shadow on the staircase (check it out at http://dapsdelaware.webs.com/fortdelaware.htm). A second picture, taken a second later, showed nothing (and for the record, they use digital cameras).

On top of the wall surrounding the fort

We only had a short period of time to explore on our own so we didn’t get to roam all over the fort (plus we had a couple of scardey-cats in our group) but I got some nice pictures with my Diana, including some of the re-enactors, who were very informative.

Information taken from:

http://dapsdelaware.webs.com/fortdelaware.htm

http://delawareghosthunters.com/investigations/delaware/

http://thecabinet.com/darkdestinations/location.php?sub_id=dark_destinations&letter=f&location_id=fort_delaware_state_park

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Delaware

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How Does a Vintage Photo Booth Work?

The boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach is home to not one but TWO vintage old-school photo booths. In an arcade very close to Playland you’ll find them side-by-side near the change machine. One is for black and white and the other is for color pictures and I’m happy to say they get lots of use, especially in the summer.

A couple of weeks ago, while walking by the arcade I noticed the color machine was out of service and the guts of it were completely exposed. I only had my iPhone with me and got some not-so-great pictures of the inside.

Pretty cool, huh? I started thinking about how the old school photo booth actually works and after searching the Internet I found a very detailed description at the website for Classic Photo Booth, a company that rents digital and classic photo booths for parties and weddings. When the front panel of the machine is removed you will see a little mini darkroom (if you’ve ever used an old photo booth you probably already knew that to be the case as your pictures usually come out still damp and reeking of darkroom chemicals). This is a really nice picture from the Classic Photo Booth page:

The film sits near the top of the machine on a large roll. After capturing your crazy expressions, the film travels down the Spider and is developed.  I assume it is in here that the image is printed onto the paper because once it leaves the Spider your photo travels through a series of dunk tanks (nine to be exact).

First, your photo hits the green tanks, which contain developer. After a quick rinse in water (the white tanks) it travels to the red tank, which holds bleach. Another quick rinse with water and then it’s on to the yellow tanks for a dip in fixer. Finally, in the last white tank labeled ‘9’ you’ll find toner. That’s the final stop before the picture hits your hot little hands. In the Classic Photo Booth picture, you’ll notice a white hair dryer on the lower left part of the picture, near the green tank, which dries the paper for ten seconds before it pops out. I’m not sure if that’s part of all photo booths, but judging from the amount of time it takes for my pictures to dry completely, I don’t think it’s a part of my local photo booth’s inner workings.

It’s amazing that someone came up with this contraption at all and even MORE amazing that they don’t fall apart with more regularity. This is the first time I can remember seeing either of the two photo booths in my area out of service.  I really hope the next time someone throws a great, big party for a monumental birthday (like mine, coming up next year on 12-12-12) there will be a classic photo booth there to capture all the memories!


Happy World Toy Camera Day!

October 15, 2011: Today is the day. Break out your coolest plastic-lensed DIY creation, dust off your Diana and load up your Holga. It’s World Toy Camera Day.

(Random picture I found while searching images for “World Toy Camera Day 2011”. I just thought it was hilarious, and it’s about Baltimore, my favorite city)

I love that this day always coincides with the Lakeview Invitational Lawn Tractor Races, started by one of my best friends and her husband, that pokes fun at the local ‘culture’ here in my neck of the woods. It’s essential a very large drinking game that consists of you and a partner dressed in costume, chugging a 12 ounce beverage of your choice and doing a lap on the lawn tractor around their house. You and your partner alternate laps and chugging so that each of you is going 6 times around the house. I document this event every year with a toy camera and it is a blast. It’s a beautiful day today so I think my trusty Holga and a roll of color slide film will be my tools of choice.

We’ve been replacing the roof on our house the past week or two. I took the opportunity to take a few iPhone macro shots of a coil of roofing nails. I walked out into the garage and saw them and instantly loved the pattern, colors and textures. The first two pictures are Hipstamatic using Lucas AB2 lens and Float film.

Lucas AB2 lens, Ina’s 1969 film

Lucas AB2 lens, Ina’s 1969 film

Tejas lens, Ina’s 1969 film

Tejas lens, Ina’s 1969 film

Tejas lens, Ina’s 1969 film



Revolog Film Has Won My Heart

It’s official: I am full-on in love with Revolog’s line of hand-crafted 35mm film. A couple of weeks ago I posted a review for Revolog’s Texture film, my introduction to their line of color-washed and textured film. I’ve since ordered two varieties, Rasp and Volvox, and run them through my Olympus XA4. My pictures were everything I hoped they’d be and more.

Rasp

Volvox

Rasp film has little scratches all over it. I don’t know what sort of instrument is used to scratch the film but it must be some sort of tiny, fine-pointed, Barbie-sized steak knife. The effect is very nice and not too overwhelming.

It doesn’t appear that Rasp’s characteristic scratches are enhanced by more light, in fact, I’m not really sure what enhances them. Reviewing my pictures, it seems the scratches stand out more in a solid background. Light or dark, I’m not sure the color really matters. Then again, maybe the depth of the scratches on the film is the x-factor. I’ll have to conduct more experiments to say for sure.

Volvox’s green circles turn your photos into crazy, dotted fun. I really liked the resulting dots on my Volvox roll as the orbs were multi-sized, asymmetrical, transparent and totally unpredictable.

I love how the orb effects range from bubbly to smudgy. This is a very fun film!

Revolog’s films aren’t for everyday use, but given the right situation the scratches and dots can add a little extra pop to your analogue art. I’m thinking of using Volvox to capture all the Halloween weirdness in my house. Those green dots look a lot like ghostly orbs and the ghoulish green color will look cool and creepy!


Stereoscopic Cameras

How many times have you tried to describe something only to be limited by your ability to verbalize the shades, colors and emotions that you felt? With the invention of photography, our ability to communicate took giant leaps forward and since it’s advent, humans have been trying to improve upon capturing photos in some very interesting ways as I found out while browsing the net today. Take for example, the stereoscopic camera, which creates two images of the same event that, when viewed in a stereo viewer, creates an image that appears three-dimensional with depth and perspective no longer suggested, but right in front of your eyes, just like you’d be seeing if you had been there in person.

Stereoscopic cameras, it turns out, have been around for a long time.  According to Camerapedia, the first one was invented around 1847 and most ‘better households’ had their own stereoscopic camera that created pictures either by daguerreotype or calotype.

an early stereoscopic camera

Commercial stereo cameras became widely available at the turn of the twentieth century with the release of Jules Richard’s Verascope and Kodak’s Brownie Hawkeye Stereo cameras.

Kodak’s Stereo Brownie

During the twentieth century, two boom periods of stereoscopic photography occurred. The first period occurred, in the 1950’s with the release of the Stereo Realist and the second occurred in the mid-1980’s with Nimslo and Nashika cameras. These latter models offered lenticular printing to everyone (lenticular printing is a multi-step method of printing which produces pictures that move or wiggle when tilted from side to side).

Seton Rochwite with his invention the Stereo Realist camera, from http://www.stereoscopy.com/3dlegends/rochwite.html

Nimslo Quad Cam

My research also uncovered some interesting new innovations in the digital camera world. Adobe is developing a lens that captures all visual information into one exposure and through Photoshop the photographer can choose which elements to use in the final shot. That certainly takes the artistry and experimentation out of photography. Who am I kidding, it kind of sucks the soul out of the whole process, but it’s pretty interesting nonetheless. Check out this article and short video.

Then there’s the Nano Cam, which claims to be able to make a high-definition mega-pixel camera capable of capturing stunning images through the use of a multi-lens camera using nano technology. For now, film is all the technology I can handle. See the Nano Cam for yourself.

Finally, there appears to be a company out there making what looks like a modern, medium-format film-loaded 3-D camera.

photo from http://www.retrothing.com/2008/03/medium-format-s.html

Made by 3D-World this camera gives you six stereoscopic images on a roll of 120 film and it can be yours for the low, low price of around $1,500 USD. Where is it made? Why China, of course. Get the full specs here.

I think this DIY Kodak Disposable 3D camera is much more my speed. View directions for making one yourself on Photojojo’s website.

from http://www.photojojo.com

Clicking internet links is like looking up words in the dictionary. You go there to find one thing and end up completely side-tracked because you just have to find out the meaning of something new and crazy-sounding. Here are some images of some vintage multi-lens cameras that I was ACTUALLY searching for. Happy snapping!

Russian Panoramic Camera

1860 Dubroni Stereo Wetplate

Ernamann Heag Stereskop

Sears Soroco Stereo

American Optical Co. Stereo camera

Prototype of a 3 lens Graflex

Prototype of Nord Stereo Camera

Folmer Schwing Triple Lens Camera

Gallus Triple Lens Stereo Camera

Unless otherwise noted, all images come from the very cool Classic Camera website. Give them a visit!


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