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On Assignment: Castle Island

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  June 18, 2010 11:23 AM

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By Kate Passaro

For my second "On Assignment", I decided to visit Fort Independence and Castle Island in South Boston. I thought it might have a lot of potential as a good spot for photographs, and I happily discovered I was right.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages the fort, describes the structure as a “pentagonal, five-bastioned, granite fort” built between 1834 and 1851.

Along with the fort, Castle Island features a walkway along the water, a fishing pier, a playground, several monuments, and places to picnic or play catch. Like the Eleanor Cabot Bradley estate from my first assignment, this location is free and open to the public.

For photographers, there is no shortage of subjects here. During my daytime visit, I encountered two men playing bocce on one of the flat bits of grass. With their permission, I took several action shots of what appeared to be a really close game.


Within minutes, I came upon beautiful pink-flowering trees. There was a steady stream of people taking pictures of the trees – both macro close-ups of the blossoms and landscape shots. Those trees would be a great place for portraits or a bridal party.


Some of the architecture of the fort itself makes for wonderful pictures. The strong architecture and granite construction appeared eerie with the light of a gloomy day.


In contrast to that, I found several opportunities to photograph more delicate subjects like dandelions in various stages of their lifecycle and a bird's nest.


One interesting thing to note about the fort is the terrain on which it stands. The fort is high on a hill, allowing a photographer experimenting with perspective to think outside the box. Instead of straight-on landscape shots, one can go below their subject or above during the months when visitors are able to walk along the top of the fort.

Lastly, inspired by RAW, I visited in the evening to take some nighttime shots of the city and the airport. For me, it was mostly a matter of experimentation to get the correct amount of light. Using a tripod and an extended shutter time, I was able to 'create' light that wasn't there.


The Boston skyline

It's always important to be safe when taking photo-walks, considering we spend a lot of time looking through our viewfinder. However, it is especially important when taking nighttime shots to make sure you are not trespassing, that you have a cell phone, and that you go with a friend or that someone knows where you are.

That said, a visit to Castle Island is well worth it.


Interested in writing an On Assignment essay about a place that's good for photos, or a photography-related museum, class, or event? E-mail your idea to

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