Thirty Minutes at Fort Casey


Reappearance. This 10-inch gun on a disappearing mount—so-called because the recoil of firing lowered the gun out of view of the enemy until it was reloaded—was a replacement for the scrapped original and brought from the Phillipines in 1967.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 14mm, 1/30 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

For the Whidbey Island photography workshop, we met at Camp Casey which is largely comprised of old barracks and such. Next door—on the other side of some woods—is Fort Casey, which has old fortifications and gun batteries. At some point a few fellow workshop-goers had gone over there, but for some reason I didn’t prioritize going myself.

Big mistake.

When the workshop concluded, our flights home from Seattle were the next day, so we had just a little time at the end of our last day to do something. My wife enjoys historical places, so we decided to check out Fort Casey. It was late in the day, so we only managed a half-hour to explore the site.

Totally inadequate.

As Susan wandered around reading about the history of the place, I explored with my camera and a wide-angle zoom. I wasn’t rushing around, but there were so many great things to photograph that I would have been happy for hours. I do try to be sensitive to Susan’s patience in these situations, so I left the tripod and the tilt-shift lenses behind. Unfortunately—although it isn’t obvious at blog size—several of these pictures are not very sharp. I was clearly (or unclearly, perhaps I should say) being somewhat cavalier about minding my settings and I ended up with some images exposed for as long as 1/4 second which, even with excellent image stabilization and a wide-angle lens, is dicey. I could have gotten away with it had I taken five or six replicates of each picture, since at least one would have been sharp. Failing that, I could have increased the ISO a little and things would have been fine. But as it is, I didn’t do either and also didn’t zoom in to check the results. And so I got bit a bit by relying on my standard walk-around camera settings. I wouldn’t call it a rookie mistake, but it was a careless one I shouldn’t have made.

Enough excuses.

The most prominent features of the fort are the two 10-inch disappearing guns. These particular 125-ton guns with their elaborate mounting mechanisms have an interesting history. The quick summary is that by the time World War II came the original guns were considered to be obsolete and more valuable as scrap to be melted down to make something else for the war effort. The guns currently on display were moved to Fort Casey from the Philippines where they were originally part of the Subic Bay defenses. In the image above, I composed for symmetry and to showcase the reflections on the underside of the huge gun barrel. Since we don’t usually see reflections on the underside of things, I think it is all the more striking.

Mossy Blockhouse. A raised bunker at Fort Casey provided a view over the gun emplacements from which to target enemy ships in Puget Sound, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 14mm, 1/4 sec, f/9.5, ISO 64.

The little blockhouse, above, from which the fort’s defenders formerly directed the guns was an interesting structure and all the more photogenic with the moss and the handrails. This composition also the exploits the symmetry of the railings and the outline of the blockhouse, but very non-symmetric openings in the structure itself create a nice counterpoint to that symmetry. The men keeping watch over the years probably enjoyed many beautiful sunsets through that narrow opening:

Blockhouse View. This was the view from which one of the batteries at Fort Casey was directed upon enemy ships in Puget Sound, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 14mm, f/9.5.
Two exposure HDR blend in Adobe Lightroom: 1/250 sec with ISO 64 and 1/4 sec with ISO 560.

The stairs that provide access to the blockhouse were interesting in their own right, too. One of the little things I like about this next image is the steps in the background which add a subtle echo of the main subject.

Fort Casey Stairways. Stairways and catwalks provide access between different levels of the Fort Casey fortifications, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 24mm, 1/6 sec, f/9.5, ISO 250.

Of course, I can never pass up a long-suffering door:

Slow Bombardment. The salt air has taken its toll on this heavy steel door at Fort Casey, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 18.5mm, 1/15 sec, f/6.7, ISO 560.

I am also clearly a sucker for windows, and while this next image isn’t a window, it is window-ish. My assumption is that they passed shells from a magazine inside through this tunnel-like opening to be loaded into the guns. It almost looks like the view down a well or a mine-shaft, but it is a horizontal passage, not a vertical one. There is a great sense of depth in the image as the tunnel fades into complete darkness.

Tunnel of Doom. A narrow horizontal tunnel provided passage for ammunition from the magazines to the guns at Fort Casey, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 14mm, 1/15 sec, f/6.7, ISO 560.

One thing about Fort Casey that is interesting is that, for such a stark concrete facility, they went to a lot of trouble to craft nice handrails. As is visible in some of the earlier images, the round finials at the tops of the posts give a touch of careful craftsmanship to otherwise bleak-looking structures. But the fact that they went to the trouble to fabricate the curved handrails, below, is particularly surprising:

Swooping Handrail. An unusual curved railing provides a handhold alongside weathered stairs in Fort Casey, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Nikon Z8 with Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S at 14mm, 1/15 sec, f/6.7, ISO 560.

This series of images should convey that Fort Casey blesses the photographer with lots of graphic shapes and wonderful textures. The fact that the light was soft and everything was wet made everything that much better, too.

At some point, I need to return when I have more time and a tripod. When I do, I want to also be sure to get more close-up details, something I often neglect. I don’t know that I could put together a whole book of images from Fort Casey, but it could definitely be a good chapter of a book.

I shall return.

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4 responses to “Thirty Minutes at Fort Casey”

  1. An excellent and thorough report Jim!
    Beautifully conveyed with powerful images!
    In particular hugely like the bannister image and others!
    Bravo to you Jim!

    • Thank you, Charlie! I’m glad you enjoy my images and I always appreciate your comments! (I just wish you had told me I should have gone next door to the Fort earlier in the week!)

    • I really like that one, too, Nicola! I am sure there are lots more interesting things scattered around that fort, too, which is why I need to get back there! Thank you for the comment!