New England Fall Foilage

Greetings everyone, wow, its been awhile since I’ve posted a blog.  Life has certainly been…well life!  Since my wife and I took the time to enjoy each other on a well deserved vacation to New England; I thought I’d take the time to share with you the amazing scenery New Hampshire and Vermont has to offer.

Neither my New_England_Vacation_2015-102wife nor I had been to either of these states but we’d heard the fall foliage was spectacular.  Our goal was to make a road trip out of it and the plan simple – fly into Boston, rent a car, drive, sleep, and drive some more.  Where, we didn’t know, but that’s the way we wanted it!  You see, every road trip we’ve ever taken has had a timeline attached to it (A to B by this time, which mean X amount of hours per day, you get the idea).  As the scheduled departure approached we quickly realized we were planning our trip over a 3 day holiday weekend.  We did a quick search for lodging…sure enough every hotel was completely sold out.  Sleep in the car we thought…lets get the ultimate road trip experience.  Great idea, yet completely dependent upon the car the rental car agency decided to give us.  Insert plan C, bed and breakfasts.  After a fair amount of screen time we found one B&B that had an opening (due to a last minute cancellation mind you).

 

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Farm life

Windy Hill Bed and Breakfast, a working farm outside Jackson, NH.  A diamond in the rough, pun intended! There was a two night minimum, we had no choice but to call this “Home Base” and go from there.  Our wish list:  Mount Washington, waterfalls, Castle in the Clouds, covered bridges, the Kancamagus Scenic byway and of course, a place to watch the Packers on Sunday (thank you honey).  Accomplishing all things on the wish list…to be determined!

Off we went.  Landed in Boston, got the rental car (turn out they gave us a Jeep Grand Cherokee, we could have slept in the car, oh well) and immediately hit our first hurdle…the airport exit.  After a few trips around the airport property, mission accomplished!  Nothing could stop us now.  We drove up the coast, avoiding freeways if at all possible (our goal the entire trip) to Portsmouth, NH.  I could go through our entire route/vacation (shot me an email if you wish, I’d be happy to go through it) but I’ll let the pictures do the talking.  (Click on the image for a slideshow of images from the trip)  These two tiny states pack a powerful punch of topography, scenery, nature, history and of course Fall Foliage.  Enjoy and thanks for reading.

Click on the image for a slideshow.

Click on the image for a slideshow.

 

Leprechauns and Landscapes…the Finale!!

At last…we are here, I hope you have enjoyed the journey thus far, I know I’ve enjoyed having you in the back seat.  Hop in for one last ride, and unfortunately one last piece of bacon.

Ireland3-34Patrick was yet again ready for us with a nice breakfast.  As before, we poked his brain for local knowledge and advice.  His advice…drive past the sign that says “No cars beyond this point” in the Gap of Dunloe. The Gap of Dunloe, as you will recall from my previous posts, is a rather isolated mountain gap with very narrow roads (as evidenced in the pictures!). The roads are meant for locals who own property out that way (talk about prime real estate!), and in the summer during tourist season, the roads are impassable unless you rent a pony and trap or hike. Being the middle of October, Patrick said we’d be lucky to see more than a few cars.  Thus, once we reached that fateful sign, we drove on like we knew what we were doing!  Thankfully, Patrick was spot on, and we only saw a handful of cars that unsurprisingly, handled the blind curves and tight shoulders with ease and speed.  The road has a lot of areas where you can pull to the side and let traffic by with mere inches to spare.  The road has no name, its simply named the Gap of Dunloe.  It twists and winds (as you’ll see) between the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks Mountain (to the west) and Purple Mountain (to the east).  It’s about 7 miles from north to south. Within it are five lakes: Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough (north to south). These lakes are connected by the River Loe. Between the first two lakes is an old arch bridge called the ‘Wishing Bridge’ so named because it is said that wishes made while upon it are destined to come true…only wish (pun intended) I had know that while I was there.

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Once through the “Gap” the roads connects with R568 abd N71.  Just pass Lake Looscaunagh is Ladies View, a celebrated panorama of Killarney’s lakes.  The name stems from the admiration of the view given by Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting during their 1861 visit.  As one would expect, there is pub to replenish your “gas tank” and your stomach.

Muckross HouseSince my wife loves waterfalls, naturally our next stop was the Torc Waterfall.  The Owengarriff River tumbles nearly 60 feet off the base of Torc Mountain to reach its destination, Muckross Lake.  Along the lake shore sits the Muckross House.  The Muckross House is a mansion with sixty-five rooms built in 1843.  It was bought by a wealthy Californian miner as a wedding gift for his daughter and her husband and later presented to the State in 1932 in memory of said daughter – Killarney National Park thus was formed.  The house, gardens and traditional farms are all free and open to the public, with guided tours of the house’s rooms available for a small fee. The front entryway has a plethora of mounted trophy heads, including an enormous rack of antlers from the Irish Elk (extinct), found preserved in a local bog.

At this point we had some time for a few last minute shops and then we hit the road back to Dublin.  I’ll spare you the 4 hour drive and get to the good stuff – the pictures (click on the image below for the final Ireland gallery)!  Before I do that however, I’d like to thanks for joining me on this trip.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the dialog and more importantly the photos.

Cheers!

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Click image for the final Ireland gallery

Leprechauns and Landscapes! Part II

Welcome back…hope you enjoyed Part I…now we are getting to the good stuff!

Day two…

We woke early to a wonderful breakfast of eggs, bacon and more.  Let me digress a minute and tell you about the bacon.  The Irish apparently love their bacon because this wasn’t your typical slice of bacon.  It was more like a slab of pork…you’ll have to take my word for it…or just go taste for yourself.  Patrick, the wonderful owner of the B & B, helped firm up our game plan for the day: we would travel the famed Ring of Kerry.  The route covers the 111 miles (N70, N71, and R562), starting from Killarney, heading around the Iveragh Peninsula and passing through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin.

Guide books will tell you to travel the opposite direction (clockwise from Killarney) around the ring to avoid getting stuck behind all the tour buses, but since we were here during the “slow” season, we decided to travel the normal direction (counter-clockwise).  The slow season does have its perks – not much traffic and very few tour buses allowed us to stop frequently – when and where we wanted.

Ballycarberry Castle

We left around 9am with our first planned stop near Caherciveen, Ballycarberry Castle.  This was by far our favorite spot of the day.  The castle was inhabited in the 13th Century but the present construction was built in the 16th Century.   In 1652 it was attacked by cannon-fire from parliament forces. In the 18th century a house was built on the site using the barn wall and it was inhabited by the Lauder family. This house was demolished in the early 20th century which is how it remains to this day.

As directed by Patrick, our next planned stop was Valentia Island near Portmagee.  The Island was very scenic as expected; however, the skies opened once again and we were forced enjoy most of the island from the car.  There was a small break in the rain and the closest attraction on the Ipad map was St. Brandons Well.  We ended up heading down a dirt road that quickly came to an end.  We zipped up our rain jackets and went by foot.  Upon arrival, the Well…was well…rather boring, but my wife hadn’t flown across the Atlantic for nothing…she was determined to see it all. In the distance she could hear huge crashing waves, so off she went!  Begrudgingly, I followed.  Unfortunately, I had only packed one pair of shoes, and they weren’t great about keeping lots of water out (yes, I admit, not the best planning).  Thirty minutes later, we were back in the car with our shoes near the heater on the floor and our socks on the dash “defrosting.”

By now its around 2pm and we hadn’t even made it half way around the ring.  The next 30 miles or so can be summed up by one word…panorama!  You’ll see some of these in the slideshow below.  Near a town called Castlecove we noticed a point of interest on the map called Staigue Fort.  As a kid, I built forts with anything I could get my hands, so why not take a look at how they did it “back then”.   Staigue Fort is a circular ring fort of dry-stone, meaning it was created and held together without what is known today as mortar.  The road to Staigue Fort was one of the more interesting/hairy roads we had been on – a skinny roadway bordered with hedgerows of hawthorn, bog iris, willow and fuchsia.  The walls of the fort are 10-18 feet in height and 13 feet thick at the base. The diameter of the whole structure is 90 feet. Impressive to say the least.

As you can see by the rain on my lens…it was raining.

Daylight was running out as we approached Sneem, but we decided to stick with N70 to Kenmare instead of taking the shortcut (R568).  We were not disappointed!  With the sun setting we reached Kenmare.  The final leg of our day would be in the dark but just as “interesting”. I think my arm still has a bruise from my wife grabbing it, hanging on, and gasping as we came upon hairpin turns, tight quarters and passing traffic.  Nightfall was masking some amazing scenery, but we would focus our final day in this area, Killarney National Park and the Gap of Dunloe.  Some amazing photos still to come! Click on the image below for the Part II gallery.

  As always comments are welcomed!  Thanks for reading.

Leprechauns and Landscapes!

My beautiful wife!

Okay, now that the “We do’s” and “We Will’s” are over I can get back to my third love (behind my new wife and flying, in that order), photography!  I’ll begin by stating how excited I am to be making my first entry in my “International” blog.  Long overdue, but well worth the wait…my first International trip with my beautiful new bride.  Before I get started, I must give credit where credit is due.  Barbara, thank you for being so patient with me as I stopped oh so often to capture the beauty of our honeymoon.  I could not have imagined sharing it with anyone else, I love you!

I struggled for a long time about how to display all Ireland has to offer, truth be told, words and images only scratch the surface of what this country offers to its visitors.  You truly need to experience this place for yourself.  In order to share the most from our trip, I’ve decided to break it into three parts…each covering one full day of adventures and adoration for the scenery of what is and what once was.  So take a break from your hectic day/week, go back in time and enjoy Ireland through my eyes, my lens, as you ride along on our trip through southwest Ireland.  Stay tuned friends…the best is yet to come, along with my personal travel tips for Ireland!

Day one…

The other side of the road. The “fast” lane is on the left…just plain weird!

We arrived in Dublin early in the morning (6am) to typical Ireland weather; cool, dark, gloomy and rainy.  It was expected this time of year and we came prepared.  Our first expected surprise came as we unlocked our rental car.  Not only would I be driving on the wrong side of the road, I’d be on the wrong side of the car, driving a manual AND shifting with my left hand.  Off we went!  Our game plan was ambitious, but doable…Dublin to Cashel to Cork and finally Killarney.  Leaving the airport along route N7  and merging onto M8 it quickly became obvious there was more scenery than time.  If driven non stop the trip would take about 4 hours, ours took 10.

Our first stop was Cashel.  Small town city driving isn’t what you would expect.  The streets are very narrow as space is limited, making small town city driving more hectic than big city driving in my opinion.  Complete with a meat market and a friendly (and talkative) traffic officer; the quaint little town offered everything we had hoped it would.  The highlight of the town is ironically, the Rock of Cashel.  A spectacular group of Medieval buildings set on an outcrop of limestone.  We continued through Cork on N22 without stopping (regretfully) as the jet lag was beginning to set in and our bed and breakfast was still a distance away.  Hungry and thirsty, we found a local pub outside of Carrigrohane called The Angler Rest…I had to see for myself if Guinness tasted different in Ireland than it does in the States.  Now I must admit, I’m not a huge Guinness fan to start with, but it does taste differently abroad, it’s much lighter surprisingly.  We had a traditional Irish lunch complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, cabbage and ham.  With a full stomachs we pressed on and drove to the Blarney Castle.  Unfortunately the skies opened and it began to pour.  We left, adding the Blanery Castle and Stone on our “2nd trip” to do list.  The last leg of the day took us through Macaroon and finally into Killarney around 5:30pm.  The sun had set and our eyelids were not far behind.  Thankfully we had already made a reservation at The Woodlands Bed and Breakfast, situated just outside of Killarney.  We chose to base ourselves here for the entire trip because of its proximity to the destinations we wanted to see.  Buckle your seat belt and let the journey begin.

For optimum viewing press the “FS” button for full screen display, then “SL” button for a slideshow.

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Thanks for reading – see you next week with Part II of our Ireland trip!

 

New York New York…

Wow…its been awhile since I’ve updated my blog and for that I sincerely apologize. I must admit though, this whole wedding planning thing is time consuming and never ending, however the end is in sight – the wedding is next weekend!  Amid all the planning I did have the opportunity to get out and take some pictures.

September 11th, 2001 was a day that we will always remember for a multitude of reasons.  This past September I had the humbling experience of being in the heart of downtown New York where it all took place.  Excited as I was I found out the Ground Zero Memorial was closed off to only  family members, but I quickly realized I was being selfish and came to respect those who perished, their loved ones/families and gave them the space they deserve.  It was a somber scene, yet the further I walked the more I began to realize that time does heal and people are eager to move forward.  This eagerness to move forward is hard to miss…One World Trade Center is getting higher as each day passes and the New York skyline is beginning to take shape.  When finished One World Trade Center will stand 1,776 feet high, matching the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.  Seven towers, memorials and museums are all planned.  For more information about the construction of WTC click here.

While the skyline is slowly rising the festivities below were in full swing and this is were I focused my attention and camera.  I found it unique that while standing in the same spot I could capture the hustle and bustle we all know as New York, then turn around a see the resulting side affect.  The Statue of Liberty stood tall with bright blue skies and wispy clouds which made for some stunning black and white images.  Local artists had their own human rendition of the famed Lady Liberty.  Monuments clearly displayed the pain and suffering that once was while signaling the hope for the future.  From the depths of the subway to the tops Freedom tower it was an amazing experience.

Click on the image below to see a slideshow of the images from my NYC outing.

 

Thanks for reading.  As always your comments welcomed!  Look my up on Facebook and Twitter for more images and insights.

Como Zoo


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It’s been a long time since I’ve had a Saturday morning free and decided visiting the local zoo would be a great way to spend it.  What could be better? Well, for starters…I could have decided to visit the Como Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota on a nice sunny afternoon, but this Saturday had been on my schedule for quite some time.  Two months prior I had signed up for a Composition in the Field workshop through the Digital Photo Academy.  Thus, even with the clouds, I quickly became excited for the soft and even light conditions that overcast days typically produce.  I packed up my gear and headed out.  It wasn’t until I reached downtown Minneapolis that I realized I probably should have looked at the radar before I left.  The light was nice and even – this is true – however, the clouds had an ominous grey look about them.  I glanced at my smartphone, and moments later I’m wishing I had brought an umbrella and some rain gear!  Thankfully, my camera bag has a nice little pocket with its own rain cover.  I decided to press on and hope for the best.  Unfortunately, the day continued to present some other surprises.

I pulled up to the Como Zoo parking lot and was quite pleased to see a plethora of parking spots available – maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all!  I unpack my camera, attach it to my shoulder strap and walk the short distance to the entrance gate to meet the rest of the group and the instructor.  Lo and behold – the gate is locked!  That’s odd, I thought to myself until I saw the sign on the door. It’s not open for another hour!  I re-check the scheduled start time for the workshop, but I’m right on time.  On cue, fat raindrops started pounding the pavement.  None of us class participants, expecting to see animals in an open zoo and with no options for getting out of the rain, are happy campers.  Still, the group decided to make the best out of our given situation.  After 30 minutes of shooting random flowers and trying to capture rain drops in puddles, a friendly staff member let us into the entry area and out of the rain.  This presented a unique point of view as we were able to capture the feelings (wet and stuck in the rain) we had moments ago on the faces of those still waiting to get inside.

The zoo eventually opened and the group made a decision to stay indoors and photograph the Tropical Encounters exhibit.  This was fun, and I enjoyed getting some great shots, but it still didn’t capture the feeling and images I had been hoping for earlier in the morning.  I wanted to photograph those animals!  Our three hour class had already been shortened by an hour, and after 45 minutes of the Tropical Encounters, I was ready to brave the rain to get some animal portraits.  I advised the instructor of my plan (who thankfully then offered up his umbrella), and away I went for the next hour and 15 minutes.

The day definitely could have gone better, but I did enjoy playing with various camera settings and adapting to the various lighting conditions (indoor and outdoor).  Below are some of the images from my rainy day zoo adventure.  Enjoy!

Thanks for reading and as always, feel free to share your comments!


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Click the “FS” button to view in full screen mode.

Maui Moments

Jumping off cliffs, Haleakala sunrise, the back road to Hona, lava fields, sunsets…just to name a few things.  I had to ask myself on the way home if I’d actually had a “vacation”; which clearly means it was amazing.  More photos coming soon…you won’t want to miss these!

Day Two…

The objective for the day…add a gallery to my website.  When contemplating the idea of displaying multiple images on the internet, I thought it might be a good idea to look into protecting my images.  Heaven forbid, someone try to contact me if they wanted to use an image.  Suffice to say it has been interesting, and eye opening learning all the techniques and processes to protect images from the “bad guys”.  It appears, to me anyway, the toughest part is putting these protective touches into my work-flow and making it streamline.

After a long day of work I forced myself to get out of the hotel in Louisville, KY and enjoy some evening sun and the pending sunset.  My intent was to go downtown and capture the nightlife of Louisville.  The public transportation schedule had a different plan for me apparently.  Luckily the Kentucky Exposition Center was across the street.  As I approached the entrance I was informed the Miniature Rabbit Breeders Conference was in town for the Easter weekend.  Sorry no pictures of rabbits, yet anyway.  Instead, I noticed a rose garden memorial, which allowed me to practice some flower/macro photography, an empty amusement park and some nice architectural building to practice on.  After about 30 minutes of watching, the security guard finally got the courage to approach me.  A few good stories and a couple of questions later they were convinced I was not a threat to Kentucky’s security and I continued shooting.  On that note…enjoy my rendition of the Kentucky Miniature Rabbit Breeders Conference.