NSH Revisited

After nearly a year away from Northern State Hospital, I decided to make a trip yesterday.  Has it been a year?  Wow, time flies.  David and I used to go there all the time with our cameras (or, rather his cameras) while I was learning to use a DSLR.  The dilapidated buildings make great material!

Since we first started visiting, the site has become really popular – not that either of us can necessarily take credit for that. But, there’s a lot more graffiti than there used to be, and more visitors – more photographers running around with their cameras.  Yesterday, there was a group of about 20 boys running around shooting each other with rubber bullets.  

I miss how peaceful it used to be.

Anyway, I focused on a more quiet area yesterday and got a couple of shots from an old apple tree I found last year. 

Here are some links to old Northern State Hospital Posts:

I Spy

Bob for Apples Anyone?

Whistle in the Dark

Previously Unpublished

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

In the Silence They Wait…

Visit Harris Avenue Cafe

2010 was tough, but a creative gold mine.  I took thousands of photographs this past summer and fall!   I was scheduled to display my work at Harris Avenue Cafe this month, so I had to narrow it down to my 10 favorites.   This was quite the challenge.

After much debate and buying a $5 Home Depot hammer, I nailed my 10 framed choices to their walls.  So, if you happen to be up in Bellingham, Washington…and in the Fairhaven area…and if you happen to be hungry, you should visit Harris Avenue Cafe!   I personally recommend the Eggs Toulouse with smoked salmon.  

Here are the 10 I am displaying.  Which is your favorite and why?  I ask because, as a photographer, I’m always curious as to what moves people. 

8×10 Print; $50

Bellingham, Washington

8×10 Print; $50
Bellingham, Washington

11×14 Print;  $75
Whatcom County

12×18 Print;  $85
Bellingham, Washington

12×18 Print; $85
Mount Vernon, Washington

Twisted II
11×14 Print; $75
Bellingham, Washington

Vanishing Point
11×14 Print;  $75
Dublin, Ireland

8×10 Print; $50
Bellingham, Washington

Closed Door
11×14 Print; $75
Whatcom County

On Edge
11×14 Print; $75
Sedro Woolley, Washington; Northern State Hospital

You can purchase prints from my website at jolenehanson.com.   If you are interested in any of the above photos, which are already framed and matted, visit my website for contact information.   I am willing to print, frame, and mat any photo of your choice from my galleries.  Canvas prints are also an option (much less expensive if you purchase from me directly than from the website).  

I love doing this stuff!

Barbed Embrace

11 months down, 1 to go.

How do I kick off the final month of 2010?   I thought this barbed wire seemed appropriate.  Let me explain.

I had high hopes for 2010.   I was enrolled in college courses again and working towards nursing school.  I was focused.  I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.   And then a single relationship shipwrecked my plans.  

This isn’t a post to belittle the person who broke my heart, because that broken heart was a gift.    I had fooled myself into thinking I had my life together, and that my path was straight.  The truth was, I was lost at sea and whether it was that man or someone else, I was sailing into a storm.    When it passed, and pieces of me were scattered across the beach that’s my life, I found that in my rebuilding I wasn’t at all who I thought I was.  

So, 2010 was what I’d like to call a “Barbed Embrace”.   While I was supported by wonderful people, and I learned a lot both spiritually and emotionally, it still hurt.  A lot.  And while I can’t wait to leave this year behind, I can’t forget what the pain and rebuilding taught me.  

There’s beauty, even in our suffering.

Challenged and Inspired

I am thankful for the Canon 40d I’ve been using, and that is because of my friend, David Williams.  For some reason, he’s trusted me with this valuable piece of equipment, and I appreciate it probably more than he’ll ever know.  When I eventually do save my pennies and buy my own DSLR, I’ll miss the 40d a lot. 

Thanks David, for inspiring me and challenging me.  Without you, I wouldn’t understand half of what I do about shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation.  Even composition in general.  You rock, coffee buddy!

Photo Information:  This picture is of a very weathered door and was taken on the grounds of the Northern State Hospital farm. 

Whistle in the Dark

Northern State Hospital isn’t as much of a curiousity to me as it is the default photo walk place for a quick fix when I can’t think of anything else.  It’s relatively close to work, it is peaceful…

Correction, it was peaceful.  

There wasn’t a soul in site as I wandered the deserted grounds of the old mental hospital yesterday afternoon with the Canon.  It was the perfect reprieve until I crawled into the old kitchen (I’m guessing?), and a strange sense of loneliness descended upon me.  Water dripped from the moss hanging from the jagged edges of decayed wood above, and in the dark, silent expanse of an almost unidentifiable room I stood completely still except for the wrist that twisted to check the time.  

Something was wrong.  Choosing not to question what that might be, I slowly exited the structure and didn’t turn back to face it once I hit the dirt path.  

One might assume I’d just keep walking that path and leave.  I would have, but as I rounded the corner I spotted the old apple tree from my posts earlier this year and felt the urge to revisit it.  There was a moment of hesitation, but it was brief, and I walked cautiously up the hill to inspect the area. 

I dodged the thorny blackberry bushes and made my way to the basement, capturing the picture above.  As I framed the shot, I heard whistling. 


The whistling was close, but quiet like a breeze with no leaves to rustle.  It was sad with a note of malevolence.   Click, click…time to GO!

I later shared this story with David, who had a creepy story of his own.   And even though my heart didn’t race and my skin didn’t crawl at the time, my reaction was a tad different when looking at the pictures later.  I’m thinking I’ll call it quits on Northern State for a while…unless David comes with me.

This is unrelated to my story, but when I started editing the photos, I spotted these objects above the window.  Any idea what they are?

I Spy

This is how I came to find the apples in the Bob for Apples post the other day.

The door to this building barricaded by roofing debris, I could only peer through the window (from this side, impossible to enter).   After examining the wreckage, I happened to spy these apples laying on the ground.  Suddenly, I heard a “plop” and saw a small splash in the old sink.  This prompted me to find another point of entry.  There had to be some cool shot just waiting to be discovered…

I circled the building and found the culprit…which also happened to be blocking a few windows.  Still, impossible to safely enter.

But then I noticed one window, whose slimy sill destroyed my jeans for the day as I slid through.  I found a second sink and even more apples. 

Walking through the rain, breaking into old abandoned buildings, and finding treasure (albeit ordinary and worthless to anyone but me), made me feel like a kid again for a little while.  Isn’t it amazing how different life can look through a view finder?

Bob for Apples Anyone?

I’ll go to great lengths to get a photo, including sliding through a slimy window to gain access to a room whose door was blocked by a (minor) roof collapse.   Where patches of roof were missing, an old apple tree was dropping its fruit through and onto the dirt floor below. 

An old sink had been collecting water from the steady rains this past week, and some of the fallen apples bobbed in the murky water.   My ears were tuned into the supple creaks of the building as I snapped away.   Once I got what I needed, I slid back through the window and said a quick prayer against any eight legged hitchhiker who might have dropped in my hair on the way out.

Camera:  Canon 40d
Location:  Musty, dank basement in an abandoned building;  Sedro Woolley, Washington

Previously Unpublished

My published photography is often reflective of a certain mood at the time.  When I return from a photo walk and start reviewing my digital treasures, I usually get attached to a certain few.  However, when I revisit the same set of photos several weeks later a different image usually sparks my interest.   I wonder why I never saw the beauty in it before.  Or, perhaps I finally realize what it was I saw when I first framed the shot.  Here are a few of those forgotten, previously unpublished discoveries.

This was from the first day I used David’s Canon!
Camera:  Canon 40d
Location:  Northern State Hospital

This shot was taken behind a barn on my second trip the “frisbee golf course” area of Northern State Hospital
Camera:  Canon 40d

Same camera, same location.  I wonder what used to be locked away in #509?

Where do you think this was?  Northern State?  Wrong!  This was taken with my Nikon Coolpix 100 out in Port Townsend, Washington at the old lighthouse.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses…

…as we continuously trespass at Northern State Hospital.  Also forgive me for my excessive use of ellipses.   I can’t stop using them…

In the past weeks, my group of photo walk buddies has been focusing attention on the grounds of Northern State Hospital – but not the actual hospital part.  We’ve been exploring the old barns and random buildings on the east side of the property.  Technically, we are not trespassing there.  From what I understand, Starbucks funded a project to turn the “east side”  into a Frisbee golf course which weaves throughout these old decrepit buildings, beginning in a hay field.   A tad bizarre yes, but considering the history it seems to make sense.

Anyway, today I decided to walk around on the hospital grounds and take pictures over on the west side where I would actually be trespassing. My plan was to take pictures until someone asked me to leave, but this never happened.  Apparently a thirty something white woman wandering around with a camera isn’t nefarious enough to warrant an expulsion from the property.  Maybe it’s just that no one really cares.  Regardless, I think I snapped a few good shots.  Visit my gallery on Smug Mug for more photos.

Camera:  Canon 40d
Location:  Creepy Old Mental Hospital;  Sedro Woolley, Washington

In the Silence They Wait…

…At Northern State Hospital.  The infamous location was once a mental asylum for the poor, disturbed minds of Western Washington. It’s been said that many unfortunate souls met an untimely demise at the hands of doctors experimenting with lobotomies.  Locals have shared stories of staff workers digging graves on the premises and burying cremated patients in coffee cans. 

David and I did not see any old coffee cans or the spirits of any formerly aggressive psych patients wandering about, but we did discover a bunch of rusty, forgotten things that made for some great photos after work last night!

So, today I deviate from my normal Droid photo and am posting a couple of shots from the Canon 40d that David is letting me use until I save up for the Nikon D300 I want.  Aside from a short tutorial on a Nikon D80 on Sunday, I have never really used a DSLR.  That being said, I didn’t get a lot of good photos yesterday because I’m not familiar with the camera yet. 


This shot was taken in a burned out room, and the orange, rusted electrical box stands out as though it were photo shopped in to what was otherwise a black and white photo.   I did crop this, but there were no other alterations to it.


This second shot is of a door I found in an old bathroom (I have a doorknob fetish at the moment).  I like the depth of field between the door and wall.   It took a lot of playing with the aperture and ISO to get this right in the low light.