National Park

Facing Down the Tower by Todd Henson


Facing Down the Tower, one of 3 towers at Battery Mount Vernon.


Last week we saw an interesting perspective on one of the three batteries of Battery Mount Vernon, at Fort Hunt Park, Virginia, just off the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Today we take a look at one of three towers, each of which faces a battery.

As we learned last time, a battery is a platform to support a heavy gun. Battery Mount Vernon was home to three batteries supporting guns that faced the Potomac River, just south of Washington, D.C. The batteries are on the second floor, which is the top level of the structure, though the guns have long since been removed.

This tower rose to the second floor and faced the battery. As you can see there is a somewhat narrow opening at the top that faces the battery. The right hand side of the tower is also open, providing the light that lets us see inside the tower. The back and left side of each tower are solid, with no openings.

I don’t know exactly what these towers were used for and couldn’t find any information about them on the various displays around Fort Hunt. But I assume they had something to do with the batteries as there were three towers, each facing a battery. I wonder if perhaps they were used to raise ammunition from the ground to the level of the battery and the gun? Or were they used for the opposite purpose, quickly moving spent casings from the battery level to the ground? If anyone knows their purpose please let me know in the comments below.

An Eye to the Battery by Todd Henson

An Eye to the Battery. Fort Hunt Park, Virginia.

Walking the ruins of an old fort I was captured by the sight of an unblinking eye staring up at me, watching as I walked the walls. So I leaned through the railing, put my eye to my camera, and began photographing the eye. The image above is the result.

This is a view of one of the batteries of Battery Mount Vernon, located at Fort Hunt Park, Virginia. My father and I visited the park one morning and walked amongst the ruins. It had rained recently, and the rain water became the white of the eye in the image. The battery is the circular concrete platform that is the iris of the eye.

Battery Mount Vernon, completed in early 1898, was home to 3 heavy guns designed to protect Washington, D.C. from naval attack. Each of the guns, which could be raised to reach over the wall and lowered below the wall to protect the gun, was located atop a battery. The gun on this battery would have been facing the bottom of the image, towards the Potomac River.

In 1933 Fort Hunt became part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a national park. Now we can visit these ruins, an eye to the past, pondering how different this area is today from what it once was.

An Eye to the Battery is available for purchase as wall art or on a variety of products.

Noontime Fog Over Jordan Pond by Todd Henson

Noontime Fog over Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine

We were visiting Acadia National Park in Maine. We’d read about all the beautiful sights, the grand vistas from atop the mountains, the crystal clear ponds in the valleys, the beautiful greenery of trees and other plant life.

But sometimes what you find isn’t what you were expecting. In this case we found an overpowering white fog engulfing the entire landscape, from the highest peak to the lowest valley. This meant, at least on this day, there would be no photo of the ocean below taken from atop the mountains. There would be no photo of the twin hills at the end of the beautifully clear pond.

Though that might sound like a disappointing day, it turned out far from it. It simply meant looking elsewhere for a photograph. Looking at the scenery with a different eye. Looking more closely, to where the fog intersects with the scenery, where a little detail begins to emerge. And making the fog a part of the photograph instead of trying to avoid it.

And so I created the photograph above of noontime fog over Jordan Pond. I liked the shape and texture of the rocks jutting into the water. And I liked the trees just emerging from the fog along the far shoreline, almost forming a triangle as the fog lifted toward the right. I found a tree reaching slightly over the water I could use to help frame the image, providing a border on the far right. The water and rocks helped frame in the lower right. The left side is then left open to the water and the fog.

I chose to process the image in black and white. Really, the only color in the scene was the green of the trees. The rest was very monochromatic, so I didn’t feel the color added anything to the look or feel of the image. Black and white seemed appropriate. And I find myself increasingly drawn to monochromatic images.

The processing itself was very simple, mostly adjusting the colors within the image to create pleasing tones of grey, something that is done with any black and white or monochromatic image. Even though the final image is black and white the original raw image file from the camera contains all the color information in the scene. You can then tweak this color balance in software (I used Adobe Lightroom), even while the image is converted to black and white. You can make greens lighter or darker shades of gray. You can make a blue sky black. You have a lot of control to help you express your interpretation of the scene.

The moral of today’s story is to not give up if the scene you see isn’t what you had expected. There will still be photographic opportunities out there. You might just need to look a little closer and think a little differently. Imagine yourself putting on a new pair of glasses, a special pair that lets you see the world in a different light. And then open your eyes and explore this beautiful new world!

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