The Olana Historic Site, home to Hudson Valley School painter Frederic Church, just published my article about why this landscape matters so much in the American story. As readers of this blog know, I mostly write about urban landscapes here, primarily the High Line. But 120 miles north, just up the Hudson River, is another beloved landscape, one that has been a second home to me for many decades. This is the link to my article on Olana’s website, where you’ll also find — here — the addictive and marvelous “SkyCam,” a live-streaming camera placed on a stanchion outside Church’s studio by the folks who manage this glorious place.
The Skycam offers a 24/7/365 view of a particular “bend in the river” that was important to Church and also played a key and unprecedented role in the fight to stop a nuclear power plant that would have been built in Olana’s viewshed. I became somewhat obsessed with the SkyCam during the pandemic, and collected more than 400 screenshots that show the same, fixed, view in different light, times of day, seasons, and weather conditions. During those days the camera captured the essence of those first months of lockdown: the fact that we were fixed in place but everything was constantly changing around us. Olana graciously gave me permission to share some of them here. I’ve assembled them in collages to make it easy to see the dramatic shifts that occur as time goes by.