Thursday, May 29, 2014

W. A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop

The second day of the recent weekend Pittsburgh trip with Road Runner Photo Tours brought us to this preserved heritage site. Located along the river's edge, seemingly in the middle of nowhere sits this fascinating bit of history. The volunteer on duty told me it was in operation from 1900 to 1996 and most of the machinery was dated from the late 1800's. Stepping through the front door brings you right into the machine shop portion. All the typical machinery I am familiar with at the local machine shop is squeezed in a fairly small space: drill presses, lathes, band saws, pipe threaders, etc. Being from the golden age of the Industrial Revolution, all of the machinery is powered by a central drive line and driven by belts to each. Originally, everything was powered by a single, large electric motor. The electricity came from a nearby coal mine which had a power plant. When the coal mine closed, the electric motor was replaced with a retrofitted small tractor featuring a Continental flat four engine with the main drive belt off the final drive. It still runs, as smooth as you could ask for. I was unable to determine the brand of tractor it once was and the curator did not know.

The lead image is a stitched HDR panorama created from 36 images. While I took many bracketed exposures, most of these images were crafted from one exposure. The conical drill bit cabinet (seen next below)is something I would love to have in my shop.

As you pass through the Machine Shop area, you enter the Foundry area. What I think of as a blacksmith shop on steroids. Today, a machine shop orders the required steel from which to fabricate the job. It appears that back then, this facility had the ability to make castings as needed for certain jobs. Something not typically seen today except in a specialty shop.

Then there was the upstairs area that housed a pattern shop and office. Equally interesting. I didn't have time capture it as I would have liked. Perhaps on a return visit I can do it justice. I feel I only scratched the surface at this location on my first visit.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Meanwhile, Back at the Club...

...I was asked to give a presentation on sports photography last week. I suspect they were desperate. My preparation was a fun trip down memory lane, taking me back past many fond memories. Our boys all played soccer at one time or another. Kyle played for Messiah College (that is him in the lead image). That experience tuned into a four year photo project of tremendous photographic value, which I covered in my presentation. My presentation approached the topic through the lens (pun intended) of Alister Benn's Creative Cycle- Vision, Capture Technique and Processing. Valuable concepts that apply to all forms of photography. Due to the perennial success of Messiah soccer, I had the privilege every fall of being granted Media Credentials at the NCAA Div III Championships during Kyle's college career.

This was Kyle's (in the center) classmates at the soccer banquet a week after collecting their third straight National Championship. I recall how disappointed they were with the Semifinalist trophy their freshman year. As time goes by, I become more aware at just how special an accomplishment this was. I found myself along for the ride, snapping away on the sidelines, and learning a lot about photography. Following is a sampling of images that I shared during my presentation:

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Carrie Furnace

I ventured to western Pennsylvania last weekend with friends from Road Runner Photography. Saturday afternoon and evening, we were at Carrie Furnace outside of Pittsburgh. I arrived an hour early before the official start time in a pouring thunderstorm. Our start was delayed a hour due to the storms. After the rains passed, the skies remained gray and overcast adding to the grungy feeling to the old industrial site. Long exposures were the order of the day as the light faded into night. With special arrangements made to stay until 10:30pm light painting and spinning woolies (seen above) kept us busy after sunset. All of the images shown are single exposures- I continue to be amazed at the details in the D800 files. My older D300 would require blending of multiple exposures to make these images.

Carrie Furnace is said to be the last remaining example of pre-WWII steel making technology. Only a small portion of the once mighty complex remains, just blast furnaces 6 and 7. Built in the late 1800's, it was soon bought by Andrew Carnegie and added to his steel empire which later became US Steel. Carrie sits along the Monogahela River. The molten iron produced in the furnaces was shipped by special rail cars over the river to the Homestead Steel Mill. During the peak, over a 1000 tons of iron per day was produced. Shut down in 1978, it is now a National Historic Landmark. Tours are available through the Rivers of Steal organization.

Raw materials arrived by rail and were dumped into these large hoppers (above right). Then rail cars distributed the materials to the blast furnaces. The guide told us the furnaces were operated continuously to moderate the scorching temperatures from melting the furnaces.

The maze of pipes, ducts, valves, etc. I found fascinating. The rain gave the rusty metal a special glow. Huge amounts of air was ducted into the furnaces for combustion and millions of gallons of water used daily for cooling.

With so much to see, I was barely able to scratch the surface photographically. I hope to return again.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Fox Kits

During my "commute" to work the day before yesterday, I encountered unexpected "traffic" in these three fury creatures. I was checking the wheat for cereal leaf beetles (afraid we have them) when I saw a fox trot away from me. Looking closer, I saw a pair of ears moving in the grass. Soon, a young fox appeared. Then a second. And then a third! They playfully tussled with one another for several minutes before I had to continue my journey to the office, at which point they scurried back into their den to the right. I have seen the adult fox a couple of times this spring nearby. I never guessed there might be a den. I better tell Ian to double security at the hen house.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Wedding Fare

We are making plans to offer a venue for weddings at our farm. As part of the marketing efforts we needed some photos. Our talented FB Manager, Lucia, prepared a show cake and a sample plate off our menu. Donna created the settings and I did the photography this past Wednesday. I choose mom's sun porch because of the windows. A little flash through a Zumbrella and there you have it. We were on a tight time schedule and looking back I would like to have tried a couple of different angles. I have little experience with this sort of thing and it was a fun, challenging project. All in all, I think we captured some useful images for the website, so mission accomplished. And the food was delicious!


Many of the food photos I have seen use a very narrow depth of field. I rented a 85 1.4 from (highly recommended company!) to use along with my 24-105 f4. I also used my CamRanger and iPad to control the captures. It was the first time with the CamRanger- pretty cool gizmo that I'll use in the future on macro and studio type projects. Being able to control focus and seeing the results in real time is very handy.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Waterside Woolen Mill- Attic

I recently visited the Waterside Woolen Mill with a Dave Hammaker Photography tour. The mill is one of the oldest operating woolen mills in the US. In 1806 John Snider built the mill on the bank of Yellow Creek in Morrison Cove, Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

My interest in the Mill was twofold: Photography and historical manufacturing. Certainly this location will warrant another visit to pursue both. While this location is similarly tweaks my interests as the Silk Mill in Lonaconing, Maryland, it has a more "lived in" feel as much of the equipment still operates and is in use today. The mill has all the equipment, dating back to the late 1800's, needed to process raw wool into woven products. More on that in future posts as I descend from the attic in the photo journey.

After a very early departure from home I arrived at the mill before the other photographers who would have all day to explore the four story building. I was meet at the door by the current owner Dennis Wile, who took me on a brief tour of the place. Denis suggested I start in the attic as it warmed up quickly. With spring being late this year, the locals were looking forward to a pleasant day after yet another frosty start. It didn't take long to shed my jacket after starting in the attic. The early morning light was fantastic shining through a window in the far end, the side and three copulas in the roof.

The first scene that demanded attention was from the far end of the attic. The opening photo was from the right of here.

Thousands of old bobbins are stored in the attic. The wool was spun into yarn onto these bobbins which were then loaded one at a time into the loams to weave wool blankets. 

Part of the power train from the third floor intruded into the edge of the attic.

Ropes, an old production tag were among the many things left in the attic.

A smallish elevator shaft connect the floors of the mill. Presumably used to transport materials during the manufacturing process. Bulkier items were hoisted outside the end of the building using ropes and block and tackle. Access to the attic is through the door shown below. It has the earliest date found in the mill. The stairs are very narrow and steep.

Next time, I'll continue my exploration on lower floors.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Going to the Birds

A few bird grab shots from around the farm lately: About a month ago, this swan appeared. It looked to have some sort of leg injury as it hobbled around. The swan is walking well now but has hung around- either at the pond or in the wheat field. He is big, makes a Canadian Goose look almost small.

Speaking of geese, these two were in no hurry to get out of my way to work a week ago. Must have been the last pair to pack up and head out. They were rough on the wheat crop last winter, eating a couple of fields right to the ground. Good riddance. I can remember in the 70's that to hear a small flock fly over was a remarkable event. Now we have too many of them it seems.

Every now and then I just happen to have my camera when these little blue birds sit still on a fense post long enough to photograph. Twitchy little things.
The eagles still torment me, perched in the tree all most all the time but never allowing me to get even remotely close enough to photograph. Then there is the pair of hawks that moved in last year- I need to look up what kind they are again (grey to brown with a white band on the tail)- they are also rather elusive. As usual, the Red Tails are further afield now that the Osprey are back. They will be back this fall once the Osprey head back south for the winter. We are covered up in Turkeys also- what remarkable eyesight they have as well. While I don't consider myself a bird person by any stretch of the imagination, you can't miss the variety flitting around.