Geese gliding along the surface of Rosedale Lake. A red-winged blackbird. An allee of trees.
That’s what photographer Susan Jacobsen saw – and captured – on her walks on the Lawrence Hopewell Trail.
The geese, the bird and the trees are among the photographs on display during January at the Lawrence Branch of the Mercer County Library System. The library is located on the corner of Darrah Lane and Brunswick Pike.
The photography exhibit, titled “Trailscapes: The Beauty of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail,” is the first public exhibit of photographs of the trail. It highlights the 22-mile-long bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly trail that spans Lawrence and Hopewell townships
Jacobsen, who is a former Lawrence Township resident and who now lives in Ewing Township, has been walking on the trail with her husband and their dog for many years. She always takes along a camera.
“We go to the dog park (in Mercer Meadows). Every time I go there, it’s different. Even from one day to the next, it looks different,” Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen put together a photo album of some of the photographs that she had taken along the Lawrence Hopewell Trail over time. When she showed it to a friend, he suggested showing it to Eleanor Horne, one of the two co-presidents of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corp.
“My friend, Peter Wood, connected me with Eleanor Horne. I can’t believe that no one took photographs of the trail before, but apparently not,” Jacobsen said.
Horne and Becky Taylor, the co-presidents of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corp., were elated when they saw Jacobsen’s photographs. They were delighted when Jacobsen’s friend suggested that they could collaborate to mount an exhibit of her works.
“We jumped at the chance. We consider this to be the first of many exhibitions of photographs, paintings and drawings by artists who enjoy the multipurpose trail that connects Lawrence and Hopewell townships,” Horne said.
Jacobsen freely admits that “nature is my religion. I like to be out in nature. The light, the scenery – even from one day to the next, it looks different.”
“I like taking pictures of natural things. I am very wrapped up in trees and how they look,” she said.
Jacobsen has grown into taking “nature” photographs. She said her earlier work was mostly interior photography – portraits of people and other photographs that she set up or staged.
Jacobsen’s interest in photography was sparked when her father gave her a single-lens-reflex camera when she was 19 years old.
“It opened up a whole new world to me. It was very exciting,” she said.
Jacobsen is a self-taught photographer. She majored in rehabilitation at Penn State University, and took one course in photography. In those days, photographers used film. They used chemicals to develop the film in a darkroom and made prints.
Now, she uses a digital camera, which does not require expensive chemicals and a darkroom – just a computer and some programs.
“I don’t think you can develop an ‘eye’ for photography. As a young girl, I remember being very aware, visually, of what was around me. I just recall being very tuned in to what the environment was like around me,” Jacobsen explained.
As much as she enjoyed it, she was never able to support herself through her photography. Setting up a darkroom and buying chemicals was expensive, so she held a variety of jobs.
For several years, she worked at Demarais Studio on Lawn Park Avenue in the Eldridge Park neighborhood in Lawrence. She also worked for an optometrist at the Lawrence Shopping Center.
“Photography was a hobby,” Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen has exhibited her photographs at The Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie Mansion. Her work has been exhibited at Mercer County photography shows, as well.
Jacobsen encourages people to get out and walk on the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, even if they are not photographers. They should enjoy nature.
“Everyone is on their phones all the time. Notice stuff. Be aware,” she said.
“The Lawrence Hopewell Trail gives you a lot of opportunity to see things, and it changes all the time. It’s the best thing to happen to this part of Mercer County, and it’s available to anybody all the time,” Jacobsen said.