Images from the Film Archives — 1992
Early on, during the time when the emphasis was on photographing New Jersey, much of the effort was dedicated as much to exploring new areas, as it was to actual photography. So in the fall of 1992, I thought to explore Stokes State Forest in the northwest part of the state. There were plenty of roads that laced the area, so a morning of exploration was the theme of that sunny day. Traveling along a one-way road through the forest, I slowly made my way along it, looking for something to catch my eye, but nothing ever did. In the years to come, I never did find anything to photograph along this particular stretch of road as it weaved through the lowland forest. But after several miles, the road did eventually climb to a higher elevation, and it was there I discovered a narrow section, too narrow on which to park and still allow traffic to flow, that offered a fine view over the valley below.
However, I did find a small dirt patch to pull over where the road again widened, grabbed my gear, and walked back along the narrow section, all the time looking out onto the rich autumn colors of the forest below for a composition. As I did so, I noticed some very dark and angry clouds heading my way, and thought to make a hasty retreat back to the car, but I caught a glimpse of a solitary bleached snag standing among the brilliant leaves, just ahead.
Could I get there, get the camera set up and grab the shot before the pending doom? I thought the drama of what was unfolding was worth the risk of getting soaked, so now it was a race against the advancing storm front! Using a polarizer on the normal (80mm f/1.9) lens to fully saturate the colors, I waited a minute or so for the deep shadow of the clouds to completely darken a distant ridge line, while the rest of the trees remained in sunlight. I then clicked off several bracketed frames as the now black clouds got closer, and some very forceful winds began to blast away. I feared that the wind might shake the camera to blur the one-second exposures, but needed to use a small enough aperture to keep everything focus with a wider depth of field. The camera was then broken down, packed into the bag as fast as possible, and made the final click on the closure just as large drops of rain began to fall. Walking as quickly as I could, I raced all the way back to the car and fell in just a moment before the deluge hit and pounded the car. Because of the wind, holding onto the tripod as each exposure was made, must have helped since the photos turned out to be as sharp as I hoped.
I would eventually use this same stretch of road several times for early morning, but never came away with anything that matched, or even came close, to the drama of that day. But the vast expanse of Stokes State Forest itself, would provide many locations for photography in the coming years, as I became more familiar with the area and added to the growing number of NJ photographs.