For the past few years, one of my favorite side projects is my involvement with the Preston Castle in Ione, CA. It was correctional institute for minors.
The Preston School of Industry was built in 1890 in the Romanesque Revival style. Red sandstone bricks quarried six miles from Ione and made at San Quentin and Folsom prisons make up the castle’s distinct exterior. The Preston School of Industry remained open until 1960 when new facilities for the school were completed. The building remained vacant and fading into disrepair until September 10, 2001.
I stumbled across this location years ago when I helped move my brother-in-law out of the area. The huge red castle is hard to miss as it towers over the town. I made frequent stops along the street to just to look at it. Of course I was always looking for a way to explore and photograph the castle. Finally on the last day when I was in Ione, I realized there was a sign posted for open tours. I called immediately and set up a private photo shoot with Yvonne, one of the lead docents. Needless to say The castle exceeded my expectations and is still to this day one of my favorite places to photograph. The textures and natural decay was something out of a Hollywood set, but better.
As I got to know the foundation and volunteers, I suggested they open the Castle up for photographers, which is how photographers day originated. I ended up becoming one of the photo docents and one of the organizers for the Halloween Haunt. So now three times a year we have Photographer Day. On Photographer's Day, you can roam the Castle on a self-guided tour. Visitors are allowed four hours to explore the non-restricted areas of the castle. This gives photographers the time needed to setup shots without rushing to keep up the pace of our normal informative tours.
On our last photo day I had discussions with a few photographers about how they wished they had brought lights in. My belief is that the castle provides wonderful light throughout the entire day, so at the last Photographer Day I set out to see what light was available. I started in the basement and worked my way up to the second floor, while photographing a model in various light. I was very happy with the results and found locations that I had previously ignored.
Below are some of those photos starting with the basement and working my way up to the top and finishing in the back courtyard. Special thank you to my beautiful model Nicole Williams and my makeup artist Jasmine Cardenas.
I always encourage anybody when they have a chance to visit the castle. And if you dare, “wink, wink” come out to our largest event; The Halloween Haunt. Check the website for tours, events, and more history on the Preston Castle.
All images made on June 6th 2016 with my Nikon D4 and a Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens.
I stayed at f1.4 the whole time and just adjusted the ISO depending on the light.