Throwback Thursday No. 39


Images from the Film Archives — 1993 & 1994

Autumn Blueberries — Pinelands National Reserve, NJ © jj raia

Autumn Blueberries — Pinelands National Reserve, NJ © jj raia

When it was created in 1978, the Pinelands National Reserve was the first National Reserve in the nation. It is immense. At 1.1 million acres, it occupies about 22% of New Jersey’s land area and is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond, VA and Boston, MA.

The first visit there was in 1993 after scouring maps and finding that it was interlaced with a web of secondary gravel roads. After about a two hour drive, I arrived while still mostly dark, hoping for a glorious sunrise over Lake Oswego. But the sunrise was a bust and it remained generally cloudy all day. But the overcast turned out to be a blessing since it was like a giant light box overhead, making for easy, low contrast images. What I did not know however, was that only through luck, I happened to time the visit in autumn as the understory turned into a sea of scarlet blueberry bushes! An amazing sight. I drove around on these dirt roads, stopping whenever I saw a possible composition, with nothing specific in mind. It turned out to be a great day for photography with the image above one of my favorite from that day. It was an area that had recently seen a wildfire with blackened pine trunks that sprouted some new green growth to really set off the red of the blueberry bushes. Making sure everything was in focus was a breeze since the manual focus lenses had barrel markings when using hyper-focal distances to set the focus ring. Since the singular thin trunk was pretty close to the camera, I focused on it, set my fingernail on the barrel, and rotated the ring until it lined up with f/16 or f/22, and seeing the infinity mark within the same f-stop on the opposite side, I knew everything would be sharp. The polarizing filter made a world of difference in cutting out the glare from the red leaves so the color would really pop.
It was a wonderful day spent in the quiet of the Pinelands. Until I loaded up the gear in the car to head home. Turning the key to start the engine turned over all right, but it never started; the engine just kept turning. Many tries later, it always had the same result. The car just wouldn’t start. It was getting later in the afternoon and I was far from any civilization. What to do? I put on the backpack with the camera gear, grabbed the tripod and starting hiking several miles to where I had passed the National Blueberry Research Center (which may not even exist anymore). Luckily, when I knocked on the door, someone answered, and I was able to use their telephone to get a tow truck to the Research Center, and from there directed him to where the car was located.

To make a long story short, we got the car to the Honda dealership that night and the tow truck driver dropped me off at a hotel for the overnight. The car only needed a new distributor cap for the repair, so nothing major, but for them to get to it would take most of the day. So I rented a car and continued my exploration of the Pinelands, until the car was ready. A bit more of an adventure than I had bargained for.

Blueberries and Snag - Pinelands National Reserve, NJ © jj raia

Blueberries and Snag – Pinelands National Reserve, NJ © jj raia

The following year, I revisited the Pinelands on a similarly overcast day, and found a bleached, fallen snag among the red blueberries during my on foot explorations away from the car. For this shot, I used a wide angle 35mm (20mm in full frame) and with the inherent great depth of field, didn’t have to do much to get everything within the frame in sharp focus. Maneuvering the tripod was another matter. I wanted the left side branch to be fully in the red to stand out and not creep into the jumble of trees and trunks a short distance away, so had to adjust it left and right as well as up and down. In both photos, care was taken to keep any of the distracting sky from peaking through the trees in the distance, so for the most part, the camera had to be tilted down. Any distractions from the sky were years away from removal when I got Photoshop Essentials in 2012.

Small distractions like that were never acceptable. Quite often, I would show up for a sunrise and in the near darkness, some street light or other light would be on in the frame and I would opt not to take the shot. On other occasions, I remember a few fishing floats hanging from some branches overhanging a lake, and again, opted not to take the photo. Today, it would not be a problem at all, except to remember to fix it later in Photoshop. There were many times that I had to remove cigarette butts and other small pieces of garbage to clean up the scene, up to taking off my boots and wading into a lake to remove a tire under the water that was clearly seen after the polarizer was turned. Photoshop certainly makes things easier now, and also makes possible images that were skipped in the past.

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