Images from the Film Archives — 1999
In a previous life before retirement, my work life revolved around Amtrak as an engineer operating trains between New York and Washington, DC. A little more than 10 years before retirement, Amtrak brought out their (at the time) new high-speed trains eventually christened Acela. Before they went into revenue service, every engineer was required to attend a one-week training in Wilmington, Delaware, where classroom instruction was supplemented with simulator time on an actual mock-up of the operating cab that was to be used, with virtual reality screens of the actual railroad, including every switch and signal between the two cities! Pretty high tech stuff!!
Since we stayed in Wilmington each night for the week, and weren’t due in class before 9am, it gave me the opportunity to leave the hotel very early in the morning, and head to a couple locations in southern New Jersey for photography. It worked out well because it was mid-summer and the sun rose pretty early which gave me plenty of time to return and get some breakfast before classes resumed. It was on one of those early morning excursions to southern New Jersey that the destination was Makepeace Wildlife Management Area, a place I’d never been to before. So it was only happenstance (dumb luck) that there happened to be a few flowers in bloom alongside a marsh where I ended up that morning, providing some foreground interest using a 35mm (20mm on full frame) lens. They grew right next to an old log used as a leading line that pointed toward the distant stand of trees. It was easy to keep everything in focus using the markings on the barrel and an f/22 aperture setting the hyper-focal distance. With todays “modern lenses” there is no absolute way to do what was so easy during the pre-historic era of film. High Tech? Once I had found this foreground, it was easy to simply wait for the sun to rise above the horizon and provide some soft side-lighting to sculpt the flowers and log.
Unfortunately, there were no clouds that morning, so the horizon was placed high in the frame, but there was one saving grace: a bit of what I thought was “ground fog” in front of the distant tree line on the right. Heading back to Wilmington, I took a short detour up a dirt road that led to the “fog”, but quickly found it was actually a small, smoldering fire. I was able to put it out with what I had on hand, and was relieved because this part of New Jersey has a history of catastrophic wildfires. At least this one may have been averted.
So thank you Amtrak, for playing a part in saving the forest from a possible wildfire that day, and giving me the opportunity to pursue my photography in places that would otherwise be difficult to reach from home on a day off from work.