Waterside Woolen Mill

Annette and I don’t get out to shoot nearly as often as we would like.  So, we are tickled when the location at which we are shooting turns out to be a “target rich environment”.  The mill definitely was such an environment!

We joined the Camera Club for a trip to Waterside, PA to a Woolen Mill.  Yep!  That’s right! Waterside, PA.  When you saw the title, I bet you thought, “Where else would a mill be, but waterside?!”  Yes, the mill is beside water, but it is also in a small town called Waterside.

It was a gorgeous day; comfortable temperature and the sun shining brightly.  Of course, with the sun shining so brightly, any outdoor pictures would be very contrasty.  So we decided to stick to making indoor images.

Once we were officially signed in, the mill owner gave us a tour of the mill.  There were three floors plus the basement.  We worked our way up (touring) and then worked our way down (photographing).

The light in the attic was wonderful.  There were two cupolas that allowed beams of light to enter and magically light up objects.  This made the light wonderfully directional and illuminated the objects while keeping the background dark.  This allowed the object to stand out and to immediately become the point of interest and allowed the background to, as they say, fade into the background.

Let’s see if I have any pictures to illustrate this.

Woolen Mill-3091

I was walking in the center “aisle” of the attic and looked over and saw this rope.  The light was not strong, but it was enough to make the rope stand out from the darkness.  And make no mistake about it, the light was dim.  I wanted to go in there and coil the rope or otherwise make a prettier pattern, but, in the darkness, I was afraid of what I would encounter.  So, I stuck to the cleared “aisle” and took this picture.

Woolen Mill-3109

Across the aisle from the rope was the transmission that rotated a drum that wound up a rope that went over a pulley and to the ground (in the mill that Jack built!)  (Just kidding about the “Jack built” part!) The rope was used to lift supplies and raw materials to the higher floors.

I don’t think the transmission was in the original plan, but it created an interesting, metallic landscape of shapes and shadows.

As we were touring the mill, we came across a bucket of spools.  The owner said that every photographer in the group could have one. “There’s 20,000 more upstairs,” he said. I thought he was exaggerating, but he wasn’t.  There were numerous, large, burlap bags on the third floor, literally bursting with their burdens of spools.

Bursting Bags of Spools

Bursting Bags of Spools

On the second floor was some industrial, mill machinery with wonderful patterns and shapes.  The light from the windows was directional and strong enough to create shadows, but soft enough to avoid harsh contrasts.

Woolen Mill-3238

I love the octopus-like arms of this pulley and the shadows from the window to the left.

Woolen Mill-3217

This must have been a really fuzzy place when it was in operation, because today there were little collections of wool particles covering almost everything.

Woolen Mill-3170

This time the window light comes from the right to illuminate these gears and chain.

Woolen Mill-3146

The light from the window created great shadows behind this these rows of pins.  Companies took pride in their work and put their name on every row of these pins.

When I first saw the company name, I wondered if they wanted the purchaser to know that these components were made from metal and “not wood”!

Woolen Mill-3265

As I studied and made images of the machinery, I noticed that they were all well-oiled.  That oily wetness helped the wool particles to adhere.  Then I noticed that there were several oil cans sitting around, so we set up this image to take advantage of the window light.  We wanted it to look as if they left their oil cans sitting on the window sill at the end of the day.

I hope you notice what is on the wall in the lefthand side of the image.  I can only imagine that it was very important to have the entire crew working in concert while operating the huge machine that was on this floor.  There was no time for someone to wander off looking for a place to relieve himself!

We had the mill available to us from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Some of us (Annette) were so engaged with image making and the subject, that they did not take time for lunch (I brought her back a hamburger) and they had to be gently forced from the mill at quitting time.  Even then, she did not have enough time to see everything in the mill!