New Camera Day. It’s one of my favorite moments. From opening the box of my original Canon EOS Elan 35mm film camera in the summer of 1992, to upgrading to the Canon EOS A2e film camera in the mid-90’s, to my jump to digital photography in the late 2000s with my Canon EOS Rebel XSi dSLR, to the day I upgraded to a Canon EOS 70D, each purchase has been accompanied by a sense of excitement and joy. With every camera I’ve owned, I have tried my best to learn all of the features and functions, and to only stop using it when I felt I had progressed beyond the camera’s capabilities. Last week began a new chapter with my purchase of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, the most capable camera I have ever owned.
When my wife and I
hiked through Ramapo Mountain State Forest last week, it was also a shakedown cruise for my new camera. I was thrilled with the initial results, but knew there was more I wanted to learn. So, determined to put the camera through its paces, we planned a trip to the Jersey Shore, to visit some familiar sites, explore some new locations, and most importantly, see what the new camera could do. So please join me as I take you to a historic lighthouse, a familiar beach, and a Presidential resort town… all to see what kind of images the new camera can provide! The New Camera Test Drive, Part II
The purpose for this week’s adventure: an in-depth test of my new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV camera. I was most interested in evaluating the camera’s autofocusing system, so for this trip I would almost exclusively be using my Canon 100-400mm zoom lens. Great Beds Light
Our first destination: Raritan Bay Waterfront Park in South Amboy, NJ. Raritan Bay separates New York from New Jersey. The name “Raritan” comes from a Leni-Lenape tribe who lived in the area (via Wikipedia).
Less than a half hour from our door, Raritan Bay Waterfront Park offers a walking path along the bay, as well as picnic areas, several memorials, and a scenic view of the waterfront. It was our first time visiting the park.
Approximately a mile from the shore is Great Beds Light. The lighthouse is named after the oyster beds below the surface of the bay. Great Beds opened on November 15, 1880, and served as a navigation aid until 1945 (via lighthousefriends.com).
While I romanticize the idea of making a living as a lighthouse keeper, I realize that the actual work was difficult and tiresome. The isolation of the job must have been highly challenging. Indeed, the first three years of this lighthouse’s operation saw it go through three different keepers, two of whom disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Life on the 42-foot tall cast iron lighthouse, isolated in the middle of the bay, could not have been easy. That lighthouses still capture our imagination is beyond dispute: Great Beds Light, the only lighthouse in Middlesex County, is the official seal for the nearby town of South Amboy.
Several memorials dot the waterfront, including this one for Sergeant Benjamin Sebban, who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007. A true hero, Sebban intercepted a suicide bomber who was driving an explosive-laden truck toward nearly 100 of Sebban’s fellow soldiers. Although he later died from injuries sustained when the truck exploded, his actions saved the lives of his fellow soldiers (via nurunforthefallen.org).
With the view of New York City across the Bay, the park was a witness to the grim events of September 11, 2001. This memorial to victims of terrorism, installed in the park in 2003, was designed by local high school students. After strolling quietly through the memorials, my wife and I walked back to the car to head to our next destination. We fell in love with Raritan Bay Waterfront Park during our brief stop, and will definitely return in the future. Sandy Hook – Gateway National Recreation Area
Our next destination will be familiar to anyone who has read this blog in the past: Sandy Hook – Gateway National Recreation Area in Highlands, New Jersey.
As I have said several times on the blog, this view of the Atlantic Ocean – which becomes visible as you crest a bridge on Route 36 – is one of my favorite scenes from being on the road. The picture doesn’t do it justice!
On our last trip to Sandy Hook we encountered numerous people. This time, the park was like a ghost town. Between the bitingly cold temperatures (highs only in the low 30s), wind, and an impending winter storm, it seemed most visitors stayed away.
The Accord (and its owner) aren’t happy unless we can periodically see the sea. Deep down, we’re just a couple of beach bums.
As I detailed in a previous post, Sandy Hook has a long history as a military base, and was once the location of an anti-aircraft missile battery that guarded New York City. And as I joked elsewhere, “It’s the ultimate in automotive anti-theft systems…”
Many migratory birds have moved out of the area for winter. However, there were still enough gulls around that I was able to put the camera’s autofocusing system through its paces, and I immediately noticed a dramatic difference. Whereas my old camera would search for focus and struggle to lock on, the new camera immediately snapped this gull into clear view.
I know a seagull flying across a parking lot isn’t exactly National Geographic, but I was thrilled with the way the camera immediately locked on to the swooping bird.
My wife and I watched with fascination as several gulls brought mussels from the ocean and dropped them onto the parking lot to crack them open. Clever little animals. It’s probably good they don’t have opposable thumbs, or we’d all be in trouble.
From the northern end of the island, you can see the Manhattan skyline. Along the way, we passed Battery Potter, once the location of an enormous 12″ artillery gun capable of providing fire across Sandy Hook Bay (via the National Park Service).
A collection of Battery Potter’s 12″ shells lay in the foreground. It took four years to build this mammoth fortification, but it only served for thirteen years, as it took almost two minutes to reload the gun after each firing.
Once I was home, looking at some of the images in black and white allowed me to appreciate how much texture you can see in each photo.
One of these is historic. The other is… ok, I’ll admit… I’ve used that joke one too many times.
The crumbling military fortifications are fantastic photographic subjects.
For instance, these rusting metal doors made an ideal subject to test out the picture quality of the new camera – so sharp!
From an open-air observation tower on the northern end of the island, you have a clear view of Manhattan.
My wife nudged me – approximately a quarter of a mile away, this hawk was swooping across the grasses near the beach. The camera immediately focused, tack-sharp. I love this shot. After savoring the view, we headed back to the car, with one last destination on our agenda. Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park
The day’s final destination would take us a half hour south of Sandy Hook, to the seaside resort town of Long Branch, which has a long history of famous visitors.
Our first stop was the Church of the Presidents. Built in 1879 as an Episcopalian church, no fewer than seven US Presidents attended worship at this church during their summer vacations: Presidents Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Harrison, McKinley, and Wilson. Also on the property is a small building called the “Garfield Tea House.” It was built from the railroad ties that were used to bring a mortally wounded President James Garfield to Long Branch after an assassin shot him. It was thought the fresh ocean air would aid in his recovery, but a few months later he passed away. The church, and the other structures on the property, are all currently undergoing renovation, and will open to the public once the restoration is complete (via Wikipedia).
We made one last stop, to Seven Presidents Park, a few blocks away. In the late 19th century, this park was the site of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show, a traveling vaudeville performance that aimed to bring the life of the American frontier to audiences across the country. Performers in Long Branch included Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley (later lionized in the musical Annie Get Your Gun), and Chief Sitting Bull (via Wikipedia).
Although no longer the site of the traveling roadshow, Seven Presidents Park features protected dunes, a public beach, a skate park, and a universally-accessible playground (designed so that any child can enjoy it, regardless of physical ability).
We spent our time walking the length of the beach. I was mesmerized by the waves crashing against the rock jetties.
Although the dunes are a nesting area for migratory birds, I contented myself with a few photos of this seagull, who seemed pleased to pose for me. After a half hour walking beside the ocean, we got in the car and headed home.
An hour later, we were safely back home, the Accord tucked in the garage awaiting the winter storm predicted to drop more than a foot of snow on our region. Guess the quest for 200k is going to have to wait a few days until we can all dig out!
“New Camera Day” is fun, but even better is “New Camera Test Drive Day!” Overall, I was thrilled with the color reproduction, autofocusing, and detail in the images provided by my new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. Raritan Bay Waterfront Park, located in the town of South Amboy, is free to access and open from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm daily. Sandy Hook at Gateway National Recreation Area is open from 5:00 am – 8:00 pm during the winter months, and is also currently free to visit (there is an entrance fee during the summer). Finally, although the Church of the Presidents museum is currently closed during the renovation, the church is still visible, and Seven Presidents Park is free and open for visitors from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm (although there are entrance fees during the summer months, it is free to visit in the winter).
Thanks, as always, for coming along on this photographic journey down the open road ahead.
‘Til next time.