A comparatively dark, cloudy morning yesterday was a good time to visit the old campus of the Pennsylvania Oral School for the Deaf, or P.O.S. as they often styled themselves. Luck, maybe a little technical skill, and some editing were with me, and I got what I consider some exciting images out of the trip. Come join me.

Figure 1. P.O.S. Building above terrace. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

I approached the site from a rather different angle than I normally do. Now that many trees are barren it makes sense to approach through the park-like space east of the main buildings of the school (figure 1).

Figure 2. Superintendant’s residence. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

The “park” is divided from the rest of campus by the main topographical feature of this part of Scranton, a stream heading towards the Lackawanna (figure 3). The park descends gently to the stream, where there is a bridge, and then the land rises more steeply to the built-up portion of campus to the west. On that side the land is terraced with a retaining wall (figure 1, from the park, over the stream, which can’t be seen).

Once having crossed the bridge, one climbs up an old, now leaf-covered, path toward the street which runs in front of the old Superintendant’s Residence, the intersection marked by a red fireplug (figure 2).

Figure 3. Stream channel looking south. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

Once on the west side I always visit first the stately beech tree that’s been standing guard for something like a hundred and thirty years (figure 4).

Figure 4. Old beech tree by P.O.S. Building. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

The tree looks craggier and more romantic than ever when largely denuded. A closeup of its massive trunk shows that it is weeping, so to speak, from two cavities in the bole (figure 5). The previous night’s rain collected in them and was then wicking out through the organic detritus they hold.

Figure 5. Weeping beech bole. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

The bole is home to a race of delicious-looking but doubtless poisonous mushrooms (figure 6). Gorged on rain water, they are sponged out!

Figure 6. Mushrooms thriving in stately beech. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

Spores are starting to erupt around a boss a bit higher on the bole (figure 7). We should note that these are not parasites but are actually attacking (eating) the tree, and a sign that it is in the twilight of its life.

Figure 7. Stately beech fungal infection. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

The beech tree bears as scars the graffiti of many decades’ worth of students (figure 8).

Figure 8. Stately beech with graffito. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

The tree also bears a few remaining leaves that take on that orangey-brown hue that only beeches can attain, richer than the flashy maples, aspens, and poplars (figures 9, 10, 11, 12).

Figure 9. Stately beech with P.O.S. Building. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.
Figure 10. Stately beech with P.O.S. Building window. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

The craggy beech somehow seems appropriate when shot against the rusticated stone surface of the P.O.S. building (figure 11).

Figure 11. Stately beech with P.O.S. Building. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.
Figure 12. Stately beech with P.O.S. Building. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

Once finished with the beech, I captured a heap of golden leaves at the foot of the maple that dropped them (figure 13), and these I present having been run through one of the golden hour presets of Luminar 4.

Figure 13. Fallen leaves. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

And then there is a niche of sorts between the Superintendent’s Residence and whatever that northernmost mass of the original school was (dorms? classrooms? I’ve never been inside). In this space, which I photographed when it was filled with green masses of bushes, I found an exploding mass of red berries which, with their green stems, immediately put me in mind of Christmas. The image has been put through one of the misty-glowey presets in Aurora HDR. I should be more respectful of these presets, because each represents someone’s learned efforts, but the more I experiment with them the less I like them. Too many seem to me to be animated by the same aesthetic that was behind Chris De Burgh’s Don’t Pay the Ferryman music video (1982). Here the berries are OK (I toned them down), but the rock of the walls has been splotched up in a very (ahem) mannered way.

Figure 14. Berry patch porch. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

And finally, I climbed up onto the Superintendent’s Residence porch and got a shot of a symphony of reds (including the painted trim of the buildings). If I had a better camera body I’d have focus stacked maybe three, maybe four images, but as it was, I settled for sharp trim on the porch, reasonably sharp berries just beyond the porch, slightly soft burning bush leaves beyond those, and a very soft stone wall with ivy. I took shots with each of those four elements in sharp focus, and this one is the best: somehow the sharp stonework and trim of the foreground with softer background better fits my expectation of what this picture should look like.

The moral: don’t be so damn lazy and carry my tripod with me so I can do that focus stacking with this camera body.

Figure 15. View from superintendant’s porch. Pennsylvania Oral School, Scranton, PA. Photo: author.

All of these images were captured by my Nikon D3400 with a 24-70 mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens. I edited them in a clown-circus of different editors: some on my iPad using Affinity Photo or Apple’s Photos in bed before going to sleep, some on my laptop with Affinity, Luminar, Photos, or Aurora HDR.

One issue I’ve discovered. The iPad and the laptop give bad performance when one drags the images from Apple’s photos (the catalog I use) directly into WordPress’s editor, either the app or the web-based editor. (This is not a problem, for example, with Facebook.) I found that to get fidelity to the edits I had made I had to formally export the image from Photos to the desktop of the laptop and drag that file into the WordPress editor. The ones on the iPad had to be airdropped to the laptop and then dragged as a file into WordPress (and into Photos to add that edit to the catalog). Then you have to delete the import on the desktop: needless extra steps. Sigh.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Arlington, VA

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