Making Lemonade…

I take lots of photographs. Digital cameras have made that easy to do, just hold the button down and as long as there’s memory and battery power… and for the wildlife, this works just fine. When the bird’s in flight or the fox is on the move burst shooting is often the only way to get a useful photo.

But I tend not to be quite so trigger-happy on a fixed object. And that can be a problem, especially if the fixed object wasn’t quite as permanent… as I thought.

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Thus we have this, an adequate though not particularly appealing photo of St Elizabeth’s Chapel by the Sea, an 1885 Episcopal church in Ortley Beach NJ. Alas a hurricane named Sandy decided to sweep this church out to sea, so I can’t go back and get a better shot. But I might be able to make this one more dramatic.

I usually work in color – that’s the world as I see it, and I have no history of using black and white in film days (allergies kept me out of the darkroom). Thus I rarely consider the grayscale option, except in cases like this.

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Now let’s just convert the photo over to grayscale, and pull down the luminance (brightness) channel on the blue sky… and now we get a sense of foreboding.

As observed by others, this photo is a bit “soft” – that’s mostly due to the lens used; the Pentax FA J 18-35mm “kit” lens. But at the time of this photo (March 2007) it was the wide-angle lens available.


Here’s another pairing of color to black-and-white… in color:

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The old church looks seriously forlorn in this April 2005 shot. Within a year it had been torn down.

And it’s a JPEG file. My first DSLR was the Pentax *istDS and I shot in JPEG for the first several months (this is image #990 on that camera, at about 2 months’ ownership). It’s not a bad shot, but now I would handle the task a bit differently.

Back we go to the grayscale, this time using Lightroom’s “green filter” preset as part of the conversion.

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I think it’s a bit more pleasing this way.

The building is the 1832 African Wesleyan church of Springtown, NJ – this Springtown being located near Greenwich in Cumberland County. I was in the area (along with Frank Greenagel) to photograph the Bethel Othello AME church, built 1838 and located about 200 yards west of this structure (shown below, April 2005).

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At the time we were not aware of any other church in the immediate area. However consulting the FW Beers “Atlas” map of Cumberland County, published in 1862, we find that there were three churches in the area – Bethel AME, the African Wesleyan, and an African Union church off to the north. I’ve highlighted Bethel in blue and the Wesleyan church in red on the map fragment below.

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It’s always nice to know for sure.

The only beverage used in creation of this post was coffee – estate Java, to be precise.

The Farm Journal Map

A persistent area of interest for me is cartography; the science of mapmaking. I have a substantial collection of maps (both printed and digital), including a few that I’ve made. However it’s historical maps which are often of the greatest interest, for those point out features which may be worth photographing (especially churches and railroad structures).

Rutgers University has an online resource for maps at the Rutgers Cartography Lab. One of the maps in the collection is a 1913 Farm Journal map of southern New Jersey.

1913 map south jersey from Rutgers
Clicking on map takes you to image source – which you can enlarge.

One quickly notices a proliferation of small red numbers labelling every road. What are these numbers?

To understand that, we have to think about the purpose of this map. It was published by the Farm Journal of Philadelphia, as a finder’s aid to go with their Directories. A directory was published for each county in the Farm Journal’s coverage region (which in 1913 comprised most of Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland). For Gloucester County New Jersey, the corresponding directory is online in digital form at archive.org.

Once you see the directory, it becomes clear what the numbers are – they’re road numbers, similar to a modern [printed] map’s row-column index.┬áIn 1913 few roads outside of a town had names; and if they did, it was to name the endpoints (Williamstown-Glassboro Road) or a prominent feature (Alms House Road). Thus for a directory and map to be of any use, the publisher had to impose some form of organization.

To understand how this works in practice, an example is in order.

From the directory for Deptford Township, I’ve extracted this fragment, and highlighted one entry in yellow, two in light orange. In yellow, Chas Alley is a shoe cutter located near Almonesson on H19 (a road marked on the map). The orange highlights are for H33 near Blackwood.

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Looking on the map, road 19 is quite visible as a segment just northeast of Almonesson; and road 33 is the stretch between Fairview and Blackwood.

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The roads are numbered starting in the northwest corner of each township and ending in the southeast corner… or from upper-left to lower-right.