As I mentioned in a previous post, once we found out that our cruise had been cancelled, we began looking for something interesting to do for a few days. We originally looked into a beach resort, but the temperature forecast – while warmer than North Carolina and a lot warmer than places farther north – did not seem to us to be warm enough for beach time. Maybe it was just a letdown from not being able to go to Cozumel? 😉
We settled on St. Petersburg for a number of reasons. We had never been there, it is on the water (Tampa Bay), has a number of interesting museums and looked to have some interesting restaurants. We found a Hampton Inn right downtown near the waterfront for a reasonable price, and headed that way after our time in Lake Wales.
We found St. Petersburg to be a youngish town, and in a lot of ways it reminds me of Fort Collins, but with water instead of mountains, sandals instead of hiking boots. There is a vibrant arts scene there, plenty of public space, a good selection of restaurants of all kinds, and a pretty open and accepting mindset toward people of all kinds, ages and preferences. We really felt welcome there.
After visiting a town, Kathy & I often wonder aloud about how it would be to live there. The downtown area has plenty of condos and apartments, and there were at least two grocery stores within easy walking distance of our motel. With the restaurants, shops, waterfront and museums, there would be plenty to keep anyone occupied. Of course we aren’t looking to relocate, but the hypothetical is still interesting. It looks like it would be pretty expensive, and one of the things we love about where we are is that it is not expensive, which allows us to do the travel we do. So we visit!
I’ll write separately about the museums, but wanted to share a few of the photos I made while wandering around the town on our various outings. We had lovely weather which helped a lot. There is nothing like a blue sky and sunshine to provide a feeling of warmth, especially when it is 25 degrees with snow on the ground as I write this!
We had driven past the entrance to Bok Tower Gardens several times, but it took us until the 4th visit to our friends Bill and Cathy to actually get there. It is quite a beautiful place!
The tower and gardens are the creation of Edward Bok, who was editor of the magazine The Ladies Home Journal. Ed gets most of the credit, although it appears that the money actually came from his wife, Mary Louise Curtis Bok. Mary Louise was the only child of newspaper and magazine magnate Cyrus H.K. Curtis, founder of, among other publications, The Ladies Home Journal (coincidence? 😉 ). With her daddy’s money Mary Louise founded the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She also did a lot of other good and charitable work, especially toward supporting talented young musicians.
The tower and gardens are on the National Register of Historic Places and the grounds were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., son of Frederick Law Olmstead, Sr., known for his work with the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, Central Park in New York City and other important landmarks.
In 1925, Bok decided build a stone water-and-bell tower. He hired architect Milton B. Medary to design “the most beautiful tower in the world”. The 60-bell carillon occupies only the top of the Singing Tower, some of the rest contained large water tanks to irrigate the gardens, with Bok’s baronial study at the base. The 15-foot-wide moat surrounding the tower’s base now serves as a koi pond.
The Gothic Revival tower was built at the highest elevation of the site, south of a reflecting pool that reflects its full image. The tower is 51 feet square at its base, changing at the height of 150 feet to an octagon, with each of the eight sides 37 feet wide. It is built of pink Etowah marble and gray Creole marble, mined in Tate, Georgia, and coquina stone from St. Augustine, Florida.
The tower’s 60-bell carillon was cast by Taylor & Company, of Loughborough, England. The bell chamber is on the eighth floor of the tower, and just below it is a playing room that houses the clavier, or keyboard, that controls the bells. The bells are stationary, only the clappers move to sound them. The sixth floor is a studio for the carillon player. Recitals are given daily. We got to hear one of the recitals, with the carillonneur easily viewed via video feed to a sitting area within view of the tower.
We were very thankful to have visited the tower and gardens on a day that was relatively cool, with low humidity. I can only imagine how warm and sticky it would get on a sunny day, especially in summer.
For anyone wishing to figure out the sundial, we visited on January 9. By following the instructions below the dial, it is pretty easy to calculate the (approximate) time. Yes, the answer can be found in my metadata (convert from GMT). 🙂
I haven’t felt especially wordy lately so I haven’t been posting much. But I did finish processing the photos from our recent visit to Florida. I have posted a gallery on Adobe Portfolio of a selection of all of my photos from this trip.
When we travel I seldom go anywhere without my camera. Even in our hotel at breakfast I sometimes manage to find some interesting things to aim my camera at. One morning on our recent cruise I walked around the ship, looking for interesting little scenes. The car I posted at Christmas was an obvious subject, but sometimes it is the not-so-obvious things that make the most interesting photographs. I’m often aware of people looking at me and wondering what I am taking a picture of. Sometimes they ask.
I know not everyone is able to share this sentiment, but from my perspective, 2021 was actually quite a fantastic year. I admit that we were quite fortunate to have not faced a lot of the trials that impacted others. Luck, circumstance, perspective and attitude make a huge difference, of course, as do flexibility and acceptance. Kathy & I are happy, positive people with a good outlook on life, a sense of adventure, and it doesn’t take a lot to make us happy.
What matters to us most are three things: (1) are we healthy?, (2) are our family and friends healthy and safe? and (3) can we pay the bills? The first two have gotten a little complicated lately, but we deal. The “New Normal?” Nah, that’s just Life. And in the words of (Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon made famous by) Mr. Sinatra, “as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks stompin’ on a dream. But I don’t let it, let it get me down ’cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around.”
This is not intended to be a political or philosophical post, but I think what gets a lot of people down is that they pay too much attention to shit that doesn’t affect them. Kathy & I remain peripherally aware of current events, just enough to know what big things are happening in the world. We spend very little time on (anti)social media, stay mindfully aware of and avoid the hysteria boobytraps that lurk there. Yes, we’re aware of all the boogeymen (and boogeywomen?) out there, but for the most part the idiot politicians, celebrities and bazillionaires (real and imagined) have very little direct impact on our life or our happiness. And hand wringing about things that are out of our control is pretty much pointless. Play on!
We’ve traveled, mindfully and – where necessary – carefully. We drove over 22,000 miles, visited 12 new states, met some new friends and caught up with some long-time friends. We even took our first cruise in nearly 2 years. And I took over 16,000 photos – not quite as much as 2000 but almost! Some of the precautions and protocols inspire a forehead slap or an eye roll. But if it needs to be done to do what we want to do? Roll with it and move on. Complaining about it just makes you look like another idiot – not the image we want to present to the world.
So anyway, I took some photos. I don’t generally feel the need for a “My Year In Review” retrospective, but it is sometimes interesting to go back and look at what I saw and aimed my camera at. I don’t try to a “Best Of” or even a “Favorites” post, because as we discussed on Joe’s Blog a few weeks ago, the selections tend to change every time we look. I’ve long contended that for most people the quality of the memory is more important than the technical quality of the photograph. Which is why you see so many cell-phone-out-of-car-window photos, selfie sticks and other various head scratchers.
I chose a group of photos that show my year. I didn’t even limit them to 21 (as in the year 2021). Some of them are pretty good technically, some of them might even be OK artistically. But mostly they say, I was here and this is what I did/saw/felt/experienced. And ultimately it doesn’t get a lot better than that.
Kathy & I send our sincerest wishes to everyone for a healthy, happy, amazing and fulfilling 2022!
Growing up in western Pennsylvania, I had actually visited New York many times prior to this most recent trip. I went to Peek’n Peek to ski, visited Buffalo, Corning, Watkins Glen, Troy and even Lake Placid. But those visits were all before I started getting serious about photography, and many of them, including Lake Placid, were Before Kathy, and I wanted to take her there. While I had some photos that would have worked – they’re our rules, after all! – we decided that another swing through the state would be the right way to do it. Plus we wanted to visit the Finger Lakes.
Departing Burlington, we swung around the south shore of Lake Champlain, crossing into New York near the town of Moriah. Moriah’s claim to fame is as the home of Johnny Podres, 1955 World Series MVP for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Your trivia for the day. 😉 The rain and fog were still with us, but as we drove north and west the skies finally began to clear.
Our first destination was Lake Placid, and we arrived there in time for a late breakfast and a few photos of the fall color on the lake. We didn’t stay long, since we had a long day ahead and didn’t want to linger at the beginning. Also, the town was in the process of some major road work in town. Main Street was torn up and loaded with piles of dirt, rocks and road equipment, rendering the normally picturesque town pretty rough looking. Another technicality is that the lake in town is actually Mirror Lake, and that Lake Placid is out of town to the north. We did stop to see the Olympic ski jumping site on our way into town, but didn’t try to take a tour.
Leaving Lake Placid and heading west through Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake, we crossed a bridge over the Raquette River near Piercefield and were greeted with a lovely park overlooking the river, complete with still water reflecting the fall color of the trees along the riverbank. The skies were clearing but still mostly cloudy, providing us with ideal conditions for photos. It made for one of those unplanned stops we were glad to have taken the time for.
Our ultimate destination was a lodge on the west shore of Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes and central to the Finger Lakes wine region. I had a chance to do a little early photography before heading out to explore the area attractions. We visited three wineries, bought souvenirs at two of them, visited a distillery and the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport. We took a boat cruise on Saranac Lake out of Watkins Glen. That was the seventh boat cruise of our trip – do you get the feeling we like boat cruises? 🙂
One of our days there was dedicated to a drive to Rochester, where we visited the George Eastman Museum and, most importantly, met up with two of our long-time photo buddies Paul Maxim and Ken Bello. We had lunch with them and Ken’s wife before driving along the shore of Lake Ontario through Webster (Where Life Is Worth Living) and ultimately returning to our lodge.
New York made for our 49th state visited. Number 50 is Hawaii, and we have plans to visit there in February. After that? We’ll have to see, but there is a lot more of this country we want to see, we have friends to visit all over, and we might want to see a little bit more of the world. 🙂
There’s no question we didn’t spend enough time in Vermont. Even if it hadn’t rained most of the time we were there, it would not have been enough. But what a beautiful state!
Our first stop after crossing the VT-NH state line was the King Arthur Baking Company in Norwich. We’re not bakers but know the name, and since it was on the way we thought we’d check it out. I guess if you are into making breads and cakes from scratch, this would be your Mecca. From what I could tell they have a little bit of everything in the store, including seemingly dozens of types of flour, pans, mixers, storage containers, you name it. Like a camera store for bakers! There is a cafe on site where they serve products that are made in-house, and there is a cooking school where you can learn to make lots of yummy things – after buying all of the proper equipment and ingredients, of course!
Next we stopped at a place called Quechee Village, and visited the Vermont Toy Museum (what a place – I’ll do a separate post) and Vermont Spirits Distilling Company. Of course we brought home souvenirs. Then it was on to Sugarbush Farm, a working maple syrup and cheese making farm near Woodstock, where we sampled and purchased some of their products. After that we visited The New England Maple Museum in Pittsford.
We spent most of our time in Burlington, which was essentially only one day since we got there late and were only staying two nights. But we crammed as much as possible into one day, visiting Ben & Jerry’s, taking a boat cruise on Lake Champlain, and exploring the town. After a nice dinner at an Irish pub, we headed back to our motel to prepare for the drive to New York.
After spending 9 days in Maine, it is easy to see why it has become a very popular destination over the last few years. I read recently that, according to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, restaurant and lodging sales reached $2.3 billion between May and August, a roughly 12% increase over 2019. It seemed like most, or at least many, of those people were in Acadia, Bar Harbor and the surrounding areas!
Our visit was based at the Asticou Inn, located in Northeast Harbor. That area is much less busy than Bar Harbor and made a fairly central place to stay without being too far away or right in the hustle and bustle. We heard about Asticou from a waitress at a restaurant in Whiteville, NC. She had waited on us in April and during our conversation told us that she worked at Asticou during the summers. When we made our travel plans we got reservations at the inn and met her there during our visit. Small world! We stayed in a group of rooms on the first floor of an 1854 “cottage” which is really a big old house. We had plenty of space, and although the floors were uneven and squeeky, it was a nice place to call home for a few days. The restaurant there was awesome, although it was closed for two of the five nights we were there. Not lacking for choices, however, we found two great alternatives the other nights!
Our first morning there entailed sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, the highest point in Acadia National Park, and the first place in the US touched by the sun each morning. Reservations are required to go to Cadillac during the day in-season, and sunrise spots are especially coveted and limited to one per person every seven days. Sunrise was about 6:25am, which required a very early alarm in order to get there with time to spare. And Kathy went with me! My funny story from that morning was at the entry gate, the ranger checked our documents, welcomed us and allowed us to go ahead. I asked if he had any tips (meaning for sunrise) and his reply was “keep it between the white lines!” It gave us a laugh. Despite the restricted entry, the parking lot filled quickly, as did the top of the mountain – people bundled up against the cold and wind with all kinds of clothing, both weather-appropriate and otherwise! It was pitch black dark when we got there, and as it got lighter we were able to see more and more people. I can only imagine the pandemonium at peak times before the restrictions!
Admission to Cadillac Mountain after 7am was by timed entry every 30 minutes. Once there you can stay as long as you want. I arbitrarily made a sunrise reservation for our first day, and a 7am reservation for our fourth day. It was good timing, as the sunrise morning was “severe clear” while the second visit was socked in with fog. A few clouds on the sunrise morning would have been preferred, but clear was better than pea soup!
After sunrise we headed back down the mountain and took the Park Loop Road, which goes past many of the top destinations, such as Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Boulder Beach and Otter Cliff. The nice light faded quickly and we stopped a lot to explore, but our main goal was to get there before the “nooners,” as we like to call the crowds of people who start showing up at popular places late morning. They were all in Bar Harbor having breakfast at 7:30 in the morning, heading into the park afterward. Case in point was when a couple days later we cruised past this area of the coast on a boat tour. That afternoon the traffic on the Loop Road was bumper to bumper, and there were dozens of people trying to get a peek at Thunder Hole. When we visited there early in the morning there were only a handful of people at each place!
That afternoon we headed toward the eastern side of Acadia to the Schoodic Peninsula. It turned out to be the least-populated part of the park and probably our ultimate favorite. It doesn’t have the views or the terrain of Acadia proper, but what it lacks in drama it makes up in quietude. It does still have its own beauty, with rocky coastline, nice views and plenty of places to explore. We didn’t have nearly enough time to really relax and enjoy Schoodic, and would make up for it be staying closer to there on a subsequent visit.
We planned a boat cruise out of Bar Harbor for the afternoon of our second day. So we got into town early so we could find a place to park, spent some time walking around town and had a late breakfast at a restaurant called Jordan’s Restaurant. Jordan’s is known for, among other things, their Wild Maine Blueberry Pancakes. Maine IS blueberry country, after all! And they were as good as you might expect, topped with real Maine maple syrup. There was a bit of a wait, but we expected it and it was well worth it. We went to the boat dock in the early afternoon and took a cruise aboard Acadian Boat Tours’ ‘Eden Star.’ We saw…more lighthouses. Also lots of wildlife – seals, dolphins, lobster fishermen and tourists. 😉 The weather was less than ideal – cold and rainy – but the water was smooth as glass, the clouds made for glare-free photographs and we saw some very interesting clouds. We returned from the boat ride ready for cocktails and dinner, and had both at Jack Russell’s Steakhouse and Brewery, a nice steakhouse right across the road. No, it’s not sacrilegious to have steak in Maine!
We devoted our third day for a drive to Quoddy Head State Park, site of the Quoddy Head Lighthouse and known as the Easternmost Point in the Continental US. That means we have now visited the two easiest points to get to – the other being the Southernmost Point in Key West. The Northernmost Point is in Middle of Nowhere (not the actual name!), Minnesota and the Westernmost Point is in Middle of Nowhere (not the actual name!) Oregon. We want to get there but it may need to wait a while! The lighthouse is quite beautiful, and from the shore we could see Canada. In fact, when we were in the parking lot our phones buzzed with the message “Welcome to Canada” and we were charged for using my phone “internationally” even though we never actually left the country! We had a nice dinner – seafood this time – at The Chart Room, a a local waterfront place we had passed earlier in the week.
We devoted our fourth and final day, after an early morning drive back to Cadillac Mountain, to exploring the western side of Mount Desert Island (pronounced ‘dessert’ even though it is spelled like ‘desert.’ It’s evidently a French thing.). We returned to the inn for a late lunch of Lobster Bisque, Lobster Roll and Lobster Popovers (an Acadian thing), knowing that we probably would not be getting lobster in New Hampshire 😉 and spent the afternoon getting ready for our departure toward New Hampshire the next morning.
As spectacular is Acadia is, I don’t know that I would rush back there. I’m glad we went, but truthfully there is so much more to see than just that area. There’s a good reason it is so popular – it is truly gorgeous – but like so many National Parks it has become almost too popular for its own good. We did really enjoy the afternoon we spent exploring the Schoodic Peninsula, and I would go back there in a heartbeat. But the entire Maine coast has some beautiful places just waiting to be explored. We barely got to see inland Maine, and we weren’t anywhere near the north woods or Katahdin. So there is plenty of unseen territory for another visit, or two or ten! Plus we have friends there, so how hard is that!
For anyone interested in seeing even more of my photos, I have posted a photo gallery on my Adobe Portfolio page for Maine, as well as the other parts of our New England trip. I hope to have the final group processed over the next week or so.
For years I have been seeing photographs of a lovely bridge, reflected in a pond and surrounded by – depending on time of the year – snow and Christmas decorations, spring flowers and fall colors. Karin Pinkham is a Maine photographer who has made several splendid photographs of this bridge. I didn’t ask for her permission to show her photos here, but several examples can be found on her website: Flag, Flowers, Fall, More Fall, Winter. Spend some time on her site – she does beautiful work.
I knew that this bridge was in Somesville, somewhere near Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park in Maine in a place called Somesville Museum and Gardens. I imagined it as this idyllic place, hidden in a quiet forest with hiking paths and benches for contemplation and rest. Actually, it is right beside a busy road!
In most of the photos I have seen, the road is cropped out or well hidden behind greenery or with a low perspective. There’s a little parking lot, enough for about 10 cars, and there is always someone pulling in or out. It’s one of those places that few people actually look for but many people recognize. We were actually driving through town on our way to somewhere else, planning to find the bridge on our way back. When I saw it I said, “that’s IT?” But of course it was, just not in the context I had expected it to be.
The lesson for me is a reminder that not everything is what you imagine it to be. The power of photography, and particularly of composition, is to make a photograph of what something is, often without reference to its surroundings. It was an interesting place to see with my own eyes. I was not there at an ideal time, condition-wise, but I did make a few photographs to illustrate my points. I’m glad we took the time to check it out!
“Three weeks ago, I found myself sitting on the banks of Hudson Bay, a stone’s throw from the Arctic circle, waiting for a polar bear to wake from his slumber. One can wait a long time for a polar bear to awaken. Several times, our group of photographers asked whether we should move on, and several times the answer was, “You don’t leave a bear to go look for a bear.””
Most followers of this blog are already familiar with David duChemin. He gets a little preachy sometimes, but more often than not his words of wisdom are quite wise. In his most recent blog post, For Stronger Photographs: More Time, he writes about the difficult but valuable need to be patient. To take the time for something to happen. To make the time to be in the right place for something to happen. Its a lesson for all of us, photographers and non-photographers alike.
I’ve said numerous times that the most valuable thing I have learned from photography is that it is nearly impossible to be in the perfect spot at the perfect time. For that to happen even once is unimaginable, but to expect it over and over again is foolish and unproductive. There is always a better sunset, a better wave, a better expression, somewhere. But we don’t know where or when, so the best we can do is be where we feel we need to be, or make the best of wherever we are.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not generally a patient person. But in waiting for a cloud to cover the sun, or for a wave to crash on a rock, or for shadow to spread evenly over a waterfall, there are times when patience is rewarded. Slow down, look around, and don’t leave a bear to go look for a bear.
When Kathy & I were planning our journey through New England, we knew we would want to spend plenty of time in Maine, and most of it along the coast. But we were pretty sure we didn’t want to spend all of our time in Acadia.
Boothbay Harbor is the current home of photographer Bob Krist and his wife Peggy. Bob frequently writes and posts photos about Boothbay and the surrounding area on Facebook and Instagram, and his descriptions of the people and places caused us to look seriously at staying there. One of his posts shared a promotional video he made for Capt. Fish, a cruise operator in Boothbay. Another profiled a long-time boat builder, another a painter. It looked like the kind of place – people, pace and atmosphere – that we enjoy visiting.
I corresponded with Bob several times before our visit, and while he was off on assignment during the time we were there, he made a number of recommendations of places to go and even places to stay. He actually suggested that we stay somewhere more centrally located than Boothbay, but his suggestion was based on the assumption that I was there to photograph all of the “iconic” landmarks such as the lighthouses and coastline. But Kathy & I enjoy the charm and character of small towns, and the more we looked and researched, the more we thought that Boothbay Harbor would be a good place to spend a few days.
As an added bonus, we arranged to meet up with our friends Joe and Katherine in Boothbay. Joe & I spent a little time photographing, and we enjoyed a nice seafood dinner at Harborside 1901, a local restaurant. It was an excellent meal, so good that we went back a second time!
One of the notable features of the harbor in Boothbay is the wooden pedestrian bridge that connects the “downtown” with the quieter side of the water, which is where we stayed, at the Boothbay Harbor Inn. The bridge is strung with lights that illuminate the way at night, and it made for a nice scene.
Boothbay Harbor turned out to be a good place to call home for a few days. We had a nice stay at the Boothbay Harbor Inn, with a waterfront room that allowed us to enjoy the harbor, located close enough to everything that we could walk to breakfast and dinner. One morning we got to see a lobsterman servicing his traps that were scattered around the bay. We took a coastal tour on Capt. Fish’s “Pink Lady” and it was a delightful way to see some lighthouses and coastal spots you wouldn’t otherwise see. We drove to a few other lighthouses, visited a few small towns and even happened upon a photo shoot for LL Bean that was happening near the Marshall Point Lighthouse. They have more assistants that either Bob or I do! The model we saw is one that we have since seen in catalogs and on the website!
It was nice to enjoy the quieter pace of that part of the Maine coast before heading off to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. It was just a bit busier there! I’m working on those photos now and hope to have some posted later this week.