Return To The East Broad Top

They say you can’t go back. But, who ever said that wasn’t thinking as a photographer.

Going back to a place or subject that you have previously visited is the best way to look differently and add depth to your project.

In the initial visit, you see and interpret your subject in broad strokes, to borrow a painting term. More often than we realize, what we see is based upon our preconceived notions of what we think is there. In our mind, we have already composed and taken these shots. These pre-conceived images can be thought of as the compulsories; the obvious ones. We all take them, and probably need to in order to get them out of our system. Once we get past these obvious ones, then we can really explore the subject deeper on our own terms.

So, when Matthew Malkiewicz asked me if I would be interested in going back to the East Broad Top shop complex as part of a small photo event he was organizing, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! While I’ve been there a handful of times within the past few years, each visit allows me to see something that I previously didn’t.

For me, going back is like re-watching a favorite movie… each viewing unveils a new visual detail or dialog that I didn’t catch before. That unexpected revelation not only adds to my comprehension and enjoyment of the film, but also gives me that ‘aha’ moment….a sense of wonder and surprise. I have to be receptive to it and allow the same thing to happen when I’m photographing.

At the East Broad Top site in Rockhill Furnace, I had four hours of access to the roundhouse and shops. While the time went quickly, it was enough time for me to uncover new compositions and details that I hadn’t seen before. Totally immersed, I wasn’t ready for the session to come to an end, as I could have easily spent the entire day there. My consolation is that I know the next time I will see things differently yet again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Matthew Malkiewicz

    Eric,

    “Jaws” is my favorite all-time movie. Being an avid saltwater offshore fisherman as my other passionate hobby, I cannot get enough of the film. Every time I’m channel surfing and find it my search is complete. Down goes the remote; I watch intently. I am glued to every word, every movement, every note of music or sound effect. Sometimes I key on an actor, or an object, or the background setting. It doesn’t get old. Ever.

    The East Broad Top never gets old. Since the closure in 2011 I have now been inside the roundhouse and/or backshops on 9 separate occasions. Sometimes leading a group, or part of a tour, once by myself. Its a gold mine of photographic opportunity. The most preserved steam era facility in the country, arguable the world. The more you look the more you see. And there is so much detail and nuance to discover. Like you I have gotten the cliché shots out of my system. Now I study, digest what I’m looking at, imagine the worker who last interfaced with this artifact before me. Then I look for light and shadow, followed by composition and finally exposure.

    See you in the spring, let’s do it all again. And to set the record straight: each of the times I have put out a group invite, you have been the first to respond…

    Matthew

    1. Eric Williams

      Matthew,

      I know it’s been said many times before, but the East Broad Top is a true way-back machine. There are other places where I can close my eyes and be taken back emotionally, but only the EBT can take my imagination and body there.

      Please LMK when you head back…

      Eric

  2. Hi Eric
    I couldn’t agree with you more, I find revisiting the same location at the specific seasons & times of the year helps one begin to better understand the qualities of light that are present and how interesting each subsequent visit reveals new opportunities that were not apparent during earlier treks. I also believe as we gain more experience as photographers our interests evolve and we seldom ‘see’ the world and our subjects in the same way… which offers the added benefit of keeping us from ever getting bored! I hope you enjoy several more EBT excursions in the near future.
    Regards Todd

    1. Eric Williams

      Todd, that’s a good point on our evolution and growth as photographers. We do change and it effects what and how we see with our ‘new’ eyes!

      What are some of your favorite go-to locations?

      Eric

  3. Matthew Malkiewicz

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_-V8uxO1cNI

    I highly recommend Todd Gipstein’s “X100: 1 Mile, 1 Year, 1 Lens” YouTube video. It has inspired me to start a similar year-long project, using only my X100T. As he says in opening the video, “To really see, you must limit your vision”.
    Matthew

    His words:
    Published on Jan 28, 2014I have been lucky to travel the world as a photographer and producer working for National Geographic. In this project, I decided to challenge myself and prove that interesting photographs can be made close to home. In this case, the mile of shoreline from my home to a lighthouse down the coast in Groton, CT. I was inspired by the lovely Fuji X100 with its fixed 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens and wonderful B&W JPEGs. The camera, with its EVF that lets me see B&W as I look though it, rekindled my love of B&W after 40 years of shooting color.

    I shot 1 mile for 1 year with 1 lens. Part of this was to challenge my creativity, to liberate my vision by limiting it. I wanted to break through the blindness of familiarity of a place I have walked many times. A photo exhibit (premiered at the Fantadia festival in Asolo, Italy in 2013) and this film are the results of my year of shooting.

    All the images were shot with the Fuji X100. The multi-image show was made from the JPEGS right out of the camera with minimal tweaking. I put the show together using Stumpfl’s Wings Platinum media software.

    I did not shoot every day, just when the light or weather or mood seemed right. I have had many interesting assignments over the years, but this one was one of the most rewarding. No jets, no jet-lag, no pressure. Just walk out the front door with a single light camera, start walking and start shooting. I would recommend this sort of project to all photographers, both amateur and professional, to sharpen their vision.

    You can see more of my work at: http://www.Gipstein.com and send comments to me there or on the Fuji Forums.

  4. That is the EBT experience.
    Love the detail shots.

    1. Eric Williams

      Thanks Dennis! Hope to see more of your wonderful work soon.

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