Belvedere Castle is a charming little Gothic-style building in Central Park, perched on a rocky outcropping above Turtle Pond. It was built in 1869 as a landmark, without any real function. It eventually became a weather station, and now it’s a nature observatory.
I’ve always loved the Castle. What’s not to love about a castle? When I first started shooting pinhole photos, I shot it often, struggling with its squat profile, which didn’t lend itself to any foreboding or impressive castle pictures. Here’s a photo of the north side from across the pond. Because it’s built from the same Manhattan schist as it sits on, it seems to grow right out of the rock.
The castle is on the left; to the right is an open terrace and a large shelter, where I was once trapped by an unexpected thunder storm during a lackluster first date.
But I digress. Here’s a pinhole of the same view.
My first attempt was facing east from across the terrace, which made for a tough shot, with the open sky overexposing the edges of the building.
Next attempt was from the shelter. More trouble with over exposure, and do you see how stocky the castle looks? So un-castlelike.
Another shot from this side. You can see Turtle Pond to the left. But I’ve lost the tower. It looks like a lump.
Would a long shot from the terrace work? Boring, but the stones on the terrace sure look pretty. Still having problems with the bright sky.
Moving closer and further over helped a bit. Still too bright.
I’m not sure why we’re on such an angle here, but the exposure is improving.
Enough of this side, let’s try the tower side. Finally, the tower looks impressive, but the composition’s not that interesting and the mood is weak. Where’s the drama? Where’s the spooky fairy tale feel of a castle that I’m trying to capture? I know it’s in there.
I circled the castle for about a year, trying it from all sides and in all seasons. Eventually, as I began to understand the cameras and the light, I was able to figure out how to shoot more successfully. Getting closer and using the angles of the surrounding architecture made the photos more dramatic. Shooting on days with heavy cloud cover helped reduce the sky’s brightness.
My favorite part of the Castle, besides the parapets and the little flag that flutters from the turret, is the cast iron dragon over the entry door. You can’t see it here, so I’ll include a shot at the end.
And finally, my favorite castle shot, taken from the south. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair! That’s what I was looking for!
And to finish, the little dragon over the front door. Because every castle needs a dragon.