Ocean City, NJ – Day Two

It was a complete turnaround from the previous day. The gray skies that had brought rain were now burning off, letting the sun shine. It’s warm rays were gracing the earth and the temperature was rising. There was still a wind blowing inland, but by now it was more of a breeze over calmer waters.

Today was the perfect day to do some exploring. Today, I was headed down the coast to Cape May. There were many things I wanted to see — the Cape May Lighthouse, the WWII bunker, the S.S. Atlantus, Sunset Beach, the WWII Lookout Tower — and the list goes on.

The first place I stopped was the nature preserve. I wanted to walk the paths with my camera and see what kind of wildlife would enjoy making an appearance for a photo opportunity. Unfortunately, most of the birds, reptiles and other animals seemed to be camera shy. I only saw one turtle (who happened to be making his way across the hot asphalt of the parking lot and decided to rest in the shade produced by a car’s back bumper), several swans (who appeared elegant) and many other birds (of names I’m unsure of). I did, however, still enjoy the beauty of nature and the Cape May Lighthouse could be seen from different angles while on the paths.

WWII BunkerNext up was the remains of a WWII bunker, know as Battery 223, built in the 1940s. There was a straight path from the nature preserve to the beach where it sits. Upon seeing it, I thought about how big and strong it looked, but knew that it had changed drastically over time. I’ve seen photos of this bunker throughout the years and the changes are astounding. People used to be able to walk under it, but due to land transformation that’s become impossible. It used to sit on top of giant, strong pillars (and still might, although it’s hard to say for certain) and the ocean would rush up and surround it. Now the pillars can’t be seen and the bunker appears as if it’s sitting on top of sand. I believe there was also a time when people were able to climb a set of wooden steps, which were built after the war sometime in the 70s, to an observation deck and even walk inside. I have no proof or photos of these steps or an observation deck, only word of mouth from those who say they remember it from years ago. As for the inside, I’ve seen only a few photos and as amazing as it looks it’s unfortunately covered with graffiti. There’s a large part of me that wishes I could’ve seen the inside for myself, walked the halls and entered the rooms that so many brave souls did long ago, but today the entire structure is sealed off. People can still walk around the perimeter of the bunker and touch the concrete walls, which I did, gladly. I had a feeling of awe as my hands rubbed along the concrete. When it comes to old, historical places part of me can’t believe I’m actually seeing it while the other part can’t believe it’s still standing. And the whole time I’m playing its history in my head, as if I can see it for what it was back in its prime as well as what it is today — a wonderful piece of history.

The Cape May Lighthouse was next on my list of places to go. It was built in 1859, the Cape May Lighthouse (Black and White)same year it was first lit. In 1946 it was automated and is still operational today. As is the case with many lighthouses today, people are able to climb the stairs, like lighthouse keepers. There were 199 steps to the top of the lighthouse and I climbed every single one. My journey started at the bottom and continued in intervals, as I stopped briefly at each landing to observe the view. At the top, surrounded by bright red metal bars, what I saw was breathtaking. From one side I could see the entire beach, another side the town and from another side I thought I could see the remains of a sunken ship sticking out of the water.

SS Atlantus (Black and White)The S.S. Atlantus was launched in 1918, a month after WWI ended, but was used to bring American troops home from Europe as well as transport coal in New England. In 1920 the ship was retired and six years later (1926) the S.S. Atlantus was purchased. The plan was to use it as a ferry dock in Cape May, NJ along with two other concrete ships. So it was towed to Cape May where it was kept waiting, but when a storm hit the ship broke free and ran aground 150 feet off the coast. Any attempt to free the ship was unsuccessful. By the late 50s the S.S. Atlantus begun to break apart in its midsection. I’ve seen photos of the ship through the years, as it’s slowly broken apart and it’s striking how large it used to be verses what remains of it today. From what I can tell there’s barely anything left. Still, there’s something about seeing it in person. Maybe it’s the sight itself. Maybe it’s the history behind the ship. Maybe it’s a little of both. Whatever the reason, the S.S. Atlantus is still an amazing sight to see with a great history. Colored Stones and The Ocean

Since the remains of the S.S. Atlantus sits off the coast of Sunset Beach it was easy to see both (practically simultaneously.) While the beach is sandy there are more and more colorful rocks and pebbles closer to the water. The way the sun bounces off their surfaces makes them sparkle and shine. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

WWII Lookout Tower (Fire Control Tower No. 23)The WWII Lookout Tower (Fire Control Tower No. 23) was near Sunset Beach so it was my next, and last, stop of the day. Built in 1942 it was one of fifteen towers meant to aim batteries of coastal artillery from North Wildwood, NJ to Bethany Beach, DE. There used to be four of these towers in Cape May, but two were torn down while the other two still stand. However, the one I visited is said to be the last remaining restorable WWII tower in New Jersey. Behind the tower is a deck with an “All Veterans Memorial” and inside the tower, on the third floor, is a “Wall of Honor” which features photographs from over 100 area WWII veterans. Although, I didn’t see this wall for myself. Considering this was my last stop of the day and all the other walking and climbing I participated in, I asked my legs a very serious question — if they thought they could make it up the nearly 200 steps. Reluctantly they responded with a no. It was the day’s first disappointment for me, but definitely on my list of things to do on my next trip to Cape May.

I loved the history of Cape May along with its beauty. If you’re ever in the area and enjoy history I’d recommend checking these place out, or go for the simple beauty of the ocean.

To see more pictures please visit my website.

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A Day in Brattleboro

It was one of those last minute, spontaneous decisions. I’m not even sure how we landed on the topic, but all of a sudden everyone whipped out their phone or tablet and was asking me the name of the antique store, the name of the brewery, and before I knew it a trip was planned.

We drove to Vermont, through the mountains at one point which were covered in snow. Ice coated the sides of the mountain rocks while icicles hung from the edges. Water flowed easily in the streams, over snow capped rocks and boulders and under fallen trees. The evergreens and leafless branches of other trees were dusted with snow. The ground appeared to have a fresh coating, bringing back memories of February. It was beautiful. Once we were out of the higher points in elevation the snow lessened until the landscape gave way to grass and bare trees.

Tiger MuralThe town itself was small and quaint. (At least that’s the impression I got.) I also picked up somewhat of an artsy vibe, but that could’ve been due to the couple murals and many other art related things I saw while exploring.

Old buildings towered above the sidewalk. Some had painted images of flowers or the sun. Some places had writing and were tagged with graffiti. I found one building along a side street that had a heart drawn on the door. A little ways down, on what looked like a garage door, was a smaller heart drawn in the middle of the peeling blue paint.

The antique store was in one of these old buildings lining the street. I was blown away as Heartsoon as I walked in and knew I could easily spend hours searching for little treasures. I usually know what I’m searching for, but love spending time looking at all the other things. This place had clothes, shoes, books, tables and chairs and other furniture, dishes, typewriters, and many other things. It was three floors, with the main floor being the one you enter into, so there was also an upstairs and downstairs. The store had the same scent most antique places do. Some people might say it’s the smell of dust and old things. I say it’s the smell of age and history and little treasures. I’m not sure how long we were there, but I know I could’ve spent hours.

The brewery wasn’t really my thing. I would’ve been happy to spend another hour in the antique store and fully explore the town, but I went for the others. (After all, they went antiquing with me.) Inside the brewery smelled of hops and grains and yeast. It was small, but had a nice atmosphere. The music was good, the bartender was nice and the establishment was dog friendly. Plus there was a pinball machine in the corner. (Unfortunately I didn’t have any quarters.) They seemed to specialize in sour beers, which most of the people I was with enjoyed.

Love in The ParkNear the brewery there was a small park with benches. Over one of the benches someone had painted a red heart with a halo and wings. I’m not sure what it was about that simple piece of art, but I liked it.

Towering over the concrete wall backing the park was a church steeple. I left our group and wondered around to the other side. It seemed so close and I wanted to explore more of the town before we left. Luckily the church was directly around the corner, standing tall as it’s steeples reached toward the sky. It was built of brick with red doors and stained glass windows. I thought it was beautiful. That’s when I Old White Churchsaw another old church down the street.

I’m not sure what drew me to it, but I thought it’s white structure was bright and beautiful against the blue backdrop of the sky. This church was also complete with stained glass windows. It’s steeple stretched toward the wispy clouds and was topped with a golden weathervane.

By now the other people in our group were calling me back. I wanted to keep going, to keep exploring, but they were my ride home. All in all it was a beautiful day in a pretty cool town, but I felt like there was still so much to see. As I walked back to them, I made a mental note to return another day.

A Day in Vermont

There was no real plan. In fact, going to Vermont for the day was the extent of the plan. The rest just fell into place.

The MonumentIt was a beautiful day – one of those days that’s in-between summer and fall – and the first stop was The Bennington Battle Monument. It doesn’t look like much at first, just a tall square structure built out of stone, but I love all that history stuff so I thought I’d check it out. It’s not until you go inside that you realize there’s more too it. On the ground floor they have a brief history, which is interesting to read. For a small fee (which I never mind paying since it all goes toward the upkeep) you can buy a ticket and go to the top (well as high as they’ll let you go, which is pretty high). The only way to get there is by elevator. When the doors opened, I was met by a set of windows. The setup allowed visitors to walk around and look out in each direction. A photo/map on the opposite wall pointed out different landmarks which could be seen from each window. The view was pretty breathtaking too.

The next stop was The Old First Congregational Church, which I passed on the way to the monument. Next to the church is a cemetery. That’s where I went first (despite my dislike of them). I heard that Robert Frost was buried there and wanted to find his gravestone. (I love Robert Frost’s work so this was kinda big for me.) He’s buried pretty far back. It felt like I kept walking deeper and deeper into the cemetery, which didn’t really sit week with me. Eventually I found his gravestone. He’s burred with his wife and their children. Under his name is engraved, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” That’s brilliant and beautiful at the same time.

After I made my way back through the cemetery I went into the church. When I stepped Old First Congregational Churchinside I could feel it’s history. It’s an old church with aisles of square seats with little doors. (Since there was no heat in the church people would bring little hot boxes with hot stones in them for warmth.) Standing in the middle of the church, looking up, there’s a chandelier hanging from the ceiling and a balcony that curves around on each side. I walked up to the balcony and looked down. It was amazing and felt special being in a place with so much history.

When I finished exploring the church, it was off to The Apply Barn. Keeping with the spirit of fall, it was time for cider, apples and, my personal favorite, apple cider doughnuts. (I figured the sugar of the doughnuts would match well with the sugar of the maple cookies I had bought earlier.)

It might not sound like a lot, but I wanted to see a covered bridge too. I’ve seen pictures of them, but never saw one for myself. So the next step in the Vermont adventure was to find a covered bridge. And I did. I have to say, it was pretty cool.

The Stone HouseThe last stop of the day was Robert Frost’s house – The Stone House. It dawned on me earlier in the day that it was in Vermont, I just didn’t know where or how far. Turns out it wasn’t that far and worth the trip. The grounds could be walked on and the first floor of the house was open to visitors. For a small fee (which again I didn’t mind paying) you could gain entry to the museum. It was a self-guided tour with plenty of information and photographs. The thought of standing in the same room where Robert Frost once stood and wrote or imagined a poem alone was worth it. The inside of the house, from what I could see, was nice and the outside was quaint with beautiful surroundings.

There was no plan to this day. There was no real destination. This day in Vermont was a spontaneous adventure.

To see more pictures please visit my photo site.

2015 in Review

This pass year was very, very good to me. Of course there were highs and lows, but life has both and the lows make us stronger. The year of 2015 provided me with many great opportunities as well as led me down paths that I never though existed. It’s said that when one door closes, another one opens. Well, sometimes, if you don’t see any doors you have to climb through a window. And I couldn’t be happier that I took chances and left my comfort zone this pass year.

During the spring and summer I did some traveling. There are so many places to go and so many things to see. I went to Vermont, California,Switchfoot at the Switchfoot Bro-Am Maine and Massachusetts. In many of these places I photographed concerts – including the Switchfoot Bro-Am in California. I spent a number of days at the beach, listening to the ocean. No matter what beach I’m standing on, the ocean is always welcoming. In previous posts I’ve written about my connection and love for the ocean and, if possible, our bond became even greater this pass summer.

While in California I went surfing. Talk about leaving my comfort zone. Even though I almost broke my leg, blew out my knee and cut myself pretty bad (I have the blackish, blueish, purple scar to prove it), I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. There are few feelings that compare to being wrapped up in the salty arms of the ocean.

Kids at SunsetWhen I was visiting Maine, a place I’ve been a few times before, I realized how I’m never letdown by it’s beauty. It’s not only during the day that the ocean here shines, but at night too. The sunsets are breathtaking. On this particular trip the sky burst into flames until the cool hues of night came to slowly put it out. In the early mornings I had the entire beach to myself. I walked along the shoreline in my bare feet, feeling the cool water racing up to touch them. Most mornings I slowly made my way to the jetty, walked out on it and simply sat there, looking out at the ocean and listening to it breath.

The summer gave me a lot of life changing experiences and I’m thankful for every moment, but it was what the fall offered me that was the most unexpected and wonderful of all.

As summer faded to fall, I found a job that was never even on my radar until a friend brought it to my attention. (I’ll have to thank her one day…for more then one reason.) I wasn’t even working there for two weeks when I saw him – a handsome man with gorgeous eyes and a lovely smile, but there’s so much more to him. And now he’s my special someone. He’s that special guy in my life and I’m thankful for each moment we get to spend together, never taking any of it for granted.

As if this wasn’t enough the fall finally handed me one more big thing, Matt & Kimsomething I’ve been working toward for years. I can officially say that I’m a music photographer. I photograph at least two shows every month for a concert venue in my town. In the future, I hope to expand my reach and photograph for more venues and even, with a little more hard word, bands themselves.

I’ve heard it said that everyday is an adventure. And I’ve come to believe that it’s true. We never know what’s going to happen from one day to the next. So, big or small, the adventure is out there. And 2015 has given me some pretty amazing ones. I’m not just talking about the adventures that traveling has provided me either. I’m talking about all the little moment in-between. And I’m thankful for every single one of them.

I hope all of you had a fantastic 2015!

If you would like to see more of my photos, feel free to check out my website.

Maine: Day 2 – A Photographic Exploration

Everyday can be a photographic adventure.

And everyday I’m away someplace is indeed just that – a day to explore. Even if I’ve been to a certain place before, I believe there are always new things to see or things I missed the first time around.

So after breakfast I grabbed my camera and went for a long walk.

The sidewalk from the hotel split two ways. One way went into town (only 1 mile from the hotel) while the other wrapped around the beach and led to the unknown. I decided to take the one that led along the water’s edge.

Along the way there were a couple of bluffs looking out at the ocean. For the most part they were cleared of vegetation. There was the occasional tree or clump of bushes and, of course, grass. From the top of the bluff I could look down at the steep drop and all the rocks or out at the water and marvel at how expansive it is. I’ve seen the ocean repeatedly over the course of my young life and it never ceases to amaze me.

The sidewalk curved around, hugging the shoreline, and eventually the sand Old Housedisappeared and was replaced by rocks and pebbles. Large rocks still jutting out from the cliffs and the further I walked the more they rose up from the water.

Before reaching more of the rocky shore, I came across an old house. Or church. It’s hard to say what it was, or is, but it was gorgeous – built of stone. It had a long, gravel driveway and sat facing the ocean. On one side was a little field and I thought how diverse the landscape was here. From the field it appeared to be a mysterious old building in the middle of nowhere. It had a certain vibe to it that I can’t quite place my finger on.

Across from the ocean sat a line of houses, or condos. Most of them had balconies onThe Secret Garden the second floor and I thought about how breathtaking the view must be from up there. (Not that it wasn’t from down here.) One of the houses had a garden with a old, rusting gate. There were vines of purple flowers weaving their way through the spaces between the bars. It reminded me of The Secret Garden, only I didn’t need a key to enter.

Back on the ocean side there was a set of stairs the led to the rocky shore. I took each step carefully and walked along the rocks. The smell of the ocean blew inland and, once again, I breathed it in, relishing the moment. Seaweed and algae and little barnacles grew on and clung to the rock. The water washed onto land in small, bubbly waves. Actually, they were more like little ripples that still had to grow into waves, but lapped at the shore all the same.

Kids at SunsetI photographed into the evening, going down to the beach at sunset. The waves crashed against the backdrop of a sky exploding in color. Children ran along the beach as they searched for shells, their parents trailing behind. Others walked out on the jetty, the sun sinking lower and lower in the sky as it gave away to the day’s last light.

If you would like to see more pictures from Maine you may do so by visiting my photo page.

California Adventure: Day 5 – It’s Not Goodbye Forever

It was my last day in California and to say I didn’t want to go home would be an understatement.

I was dead set against it.

But time goes on. So eventually the inevitable would happen – I would be on a plane the following morning heading east.

My only regret is that I spent most of my last day thinking, “I wish I didn’t have to go home tomorrow.” and “I wish I could stay.” instead of enjoying my rapidly decreasing time.

If I had to pick my favorite part of that day, I would say it was the evening. Things become quieter, more serene. Everything seems to slow down.

That evening I walked down to the beach one last time. I dug my feet into the cool sand while listening to the steady breathing of the ocean. The waves barreled toward the shore as the light from the setting sun appeared to make the surface glisten. And I thought, not for the first time, that I could very easily live here.

Sunset on Moonlight Beach III turned my attention to the sky. It was on fire. Brilliant colors of gold and orange stretched out over the ocean. It was different from an East Coast sunset where the sky turns to cooler hues of orange and red, but is also blue and pink and purple. Both are magnificent in their own way.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, the ocean called to me. I longed to touch it one last time. It was cooler then I thought it would be, but still not as cold as East Coast water, so I walked in up to my knees. The waves came toward me. They were just as big as they had been the last few days, but I didn’t give it a second thought. They broke against my body, splashing up and leaving their mark on my clothes. Once again, I thought, “I could easily live here.”

I’ve heard people say that they’ve left their heart in San Francisco, but I’m pretty sure I left mine in Encinitas. I’ve always loved the ocean, so it was no surprise that I spent most of my free time in the water, or standing on the edge where land meets sea. But what I didn’t expect was to fall in love with the city itself.

I didn’t expect to meet so many kind and amazing people, some of whom I now call friends.

I didn’t expect to step outside of my comfort zone on more then one occasion.

No. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it all – the people, the music, the town. San Diego is amazing. Encinitas is beautiful.

And I will be back.

It’s not goodbye forever.

California Adventure: Day 4 (Part 1) – The Switchfoot Bro-Am (Surfing)

The day started early. 5:30am. I’m not sure if it was my excitement and anticipation of the day ahead or if I was still on East Coast time. I guess the reason isn’t important. I was down on the beach and ready for a day of surfing and music by 9am. So all was well.

Live music wasn’t scheduled to start until noon, but there was plenty of surfing to entertain me until then. I made my way through the crowd that had already started to gather and down to where the surfing events were taking place. There were a few different contest scheduled throughout the day, including the Rob Machado Junior Surf Competition. These kids put me to shame. Of course they probably have been surfing since they could walk, but still…I was impressed.

SIt was a pretty cool concept – hanging out on the beach with a bunch of people while we all watched a sport we enjoyed – surfing.

There were tons of photographers and at least one or two news crews.

This is a big even. It’s a big deal. And it’s grown over the years, the knowledge of the event even reaching different countries.

For me, as a photographer (and lover of music, surfing and the ocean), it was an extremely big deal. I had dreamed about attending this event since the first year it was held – 10 years ago. And even though I wasn’t working the event, I was still “working” it with my trusted sidekick – my camera.

So we were all watching the surfing competitions. The waves and current still looked rough and after speaking to a couple of people who had been out there my thoughts were confirmed. I enjoyed watching every minute of it. I was mesmerized by these guys. I’m S7well aware they’ve been doing this for a while and put in a lot of practice, but they made it look so simple. It seemed to come to them as easy as breathing. Natural. I was busy studying their movements every time they readied to catch a wave. That’s part of how I learn, by watching others. And when I wasn’t watching the surfers, I was roaming around the beach taking pictures. I ended up with a lot of candid shots, but those are some of the pictures I like best. The candid. The in-the-moment. I love those shots. There’s something truly special about them.

S11Later on, in the early afternoon, there was the Surf Jousting Competition. This was something that I had been waiting to see. A handful of people grab boards and this thing that resembles and giant Q-tip before heading out into the ocean. It’s all about having fun, but the point is to knock the other surfers off their boards.

There are no surf leashes on these boards, so the waves would push them to the shore. Once, Chad, Switchfoot’s drummer, had to retrieve his board. It was stopped by these two young boys. The one stayed and handed him the stick that looked like a giant Q-tip as well as the surfboard. I’m not sure how the following events came about, S15but I’m glad I was there to see it. Next thing I know he’s holding the board with one hand and the boy’s arm with the other, helping him stand on the surfboard. They waited until a small wave was coming toward the shore and Chad helped the young boy ride his first wave.

His face lit up. And I could feel myself smiling too.

It was such a great and kind thing to do.

But that’s Chad.

And I think he made that boy’s day.

If you would like to see more photos from the Switchfoot Bro-Am surfing, you can do so by going here.