Monday, October 21, 2013

Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village...

As I've said, the entire point of my making the long drive cross country was to ultimately get to the small town of Poyntelle, Pennsylvania. I'd been hired to be the photographer at Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village, a Jewish sleep-away camp. I'd never done anything like this before, and I was both eager and apprehensive. For the first time in my professional life, every dime I earned would be earned with a camera in my hand.

Poyntelle is a ridiculously small town. The population is an impressive 103 in spring, winter and fall. But when June rolls around, things change. The population can triple in size with the arrival of summer campers. It's an older town, with almost no industry save for a few dairy farms in the area. It is not, by any measure, a thriving metropolis.

After leaving my cousin's house in Pennsylvania, I drove to my Dad's to spend a couple of days there. The Director of CPLV and I decided that I my first day working would be on Thursday, June 20th. I arrived in the afternoon of June 19th. Wednesday would be my "move in" day, and I had a mountain of things in my truck which hadn't seen the light of day in the better part of a month, and I wanted to get them out of there. My move in went smoothly.

Every year, a couple hundred kids and counselors converge on the camp, and it springs to life for eight weeks between mid June and Mid August. This was going to be a challenge for me, but a welcome one. Our goal was "every kid, every day". Sometimes we hit that mark and, for a variety of reasons, other times we didn't. It was a daily goal, though, and it served us well.


The Welcome Center at CPLV. The open door leads to the office. The room to the left is the Director's office...

The "Camp Poyntelle" side of the 69 acre Lake Poyntelle...

I took this shot about 7:00am; the water was like glass...

In the past when I traveled, I would often spend time in some really nice hotels. Well, this was going to be a little different. While there was certainly nothing "swanky" about my digs at CPLV, It was nice to have a private room with a private bathroom:

Just the basics: A bed, a night stand, and an air conditioner capable of inducing arctic temperatures...

Note the presence of the all-important coffee maker...

CPLV is comprised of two sides. The Camp Poyntelle side is for younger kids, and the Lewis Village side is for the older campers, and they're separated by the lake, with only a single dirt road connecting them. As I was going to be the sole photographer, I was going to need some reliable transportation:

My sweet ride. It was the fastest cart on the entire camp. Here it is parked in front of my cabin...

Aside from one instance when my cart was stolen (I say that jokingly) and then wrecked, it served me very, very well:

This badly bent axle was swapped out on site in about an hour, which I thought was pretty damn impressive. The culprit swore up and down "But I just hit a rock!"

And, occasionally, my reliable transportation was this:

If this boat had wings, it would fly...

The camp actually has some pretty nice facilities, and I shot in all of them. Here's just a taste of what I did on my summer vacation:


This is one of the boy's bunk areas...

This is the Arts & Crafts building on the Lewis Village side of the camp...

The dining hall on the Lewis Village side. This was two days before campers showed up. It looked a little different after they got there...

The Waterfront - Each side has a waterfront. This is the one on the Lewis Village side. And the ski boat rocked...

This is the gym on the Camp Poyntelle side...

The Rec Hall on the Camp Poyntelle side. This served as a multi-function facility where they would do talent shows, meetings and parties...

The Lewis Village Ropes Course: I never made the climb. The zip line (not seen here) looked like a blast...

There were plenty of boats at the waterfront. And sometimes, they'd even empty the rainwater...

This is during something known as "Burnout". Teenagers playing with fire. What's not to like?

Everyone wanted to be photographed jumping into the water. Hey, that's why I'm here. So, I'd put the camera in burst mode and fire away. One unexpected result from that was dubbed "The Jesus Walk", and it happened often...

This was taken about four seconds after Alex, behind the wheel, drove her cart head on into mine. She's British, so she clearly didn't know which side of the dirt path to drive on...

This is Mike Wolff, the head chef at the camp. When he's not hanging out on the upper east side as the Executive Chef at Serendipity in Manhattan, he's making breakfast, lunch and dinner for 300 campers and staff. He's also got a mean swing...


During "Color War" (each team wears a different color), various competitions take place. In this competition, apparently called "How Many Screaming Teenagers Can You Fit Into Matt Russell's Toyota SUV.", it was close a contest. Second place was 24. For first place, they crammed in 28. No word on how well Matt's upholstery fared...

The waterfront on the Camp Poyntelle side of camp...

Aside from the usual camp accouterments, there were other things to see, as well. In this area of Pennsylvania, wildlife abounds. While I'd heard rumor that there was at least one bear on the grounds, I never saw it, despite the fact that there's not a section of the camp where I didn't spend time. There was also a spotted grouse, named Rufus, who would attack passersby. No, I was never able to get photos of either of those. I never saw the bear, and I was too busy fighting off Rufus. But there was other wildlife which was more readily available and, in some ways, quite accommodating:

This guy was perfectly content letting me shoot him, so long as I didn't get too close. I was about 40 feet from him when I took this shot. When I tried to step closer, he raised his head and looked as though he was going to bolt. When I stepped back, he put his left front leg down and continued foraging...
 
This guy was huge. In hindsight, I wish I would've taken a full shot of him. His head was just slightly smaller than the size of my fist. I think they named him Tom. Sadly, Tom bought the farm when he was crushed by a truck...

I don't know what kind of snake this was, and I wasn't all too interested in getting close enough to find out. It was about four feet long and, frankly, probably could've cleared the distance between us in a strike. He seemed mildly upset that I'd stopped to take his picture, so he found his way to the woods in a hurry...


One of the side benefits to working here was the surrounding area. It was very rural and, as such, offered up some unique shooting subjects. The area is replete with farms, so there was no shortage of available opportunities. I just had to go out and look for them:

This barn was about two miles from the camp. I'd driven by it a half dozen times before I decide to stop and shoot it...


I had to leave camp a few times to shoot field trips with the campers. Instead of getting on a bus with 100 screaming little maniacs, I'd opt to drive myself. This approach also afforded me the ability to stop along the way...
 
I decided to go the HDR route on this one. I know, I know... That's so unusual for me...

Rolls of hay are strewn across a field south of Poyntelle...

The Starrucca Viaduct in Lanesboro, Pennsylvania...


Now, as much as I enjoy shooting a good barn (I mean, you know, who doesn't?), there are few things which can top a cool church. I'm not talking about a Crystal Palace-type church that you see on television on Sunday mornings. No, I'm talking about those old school, fear of God-type churches:

This church was just down the road from the rolls of hay...

I honestly don't think this church is in use anymore, but what an amazingly old, character-rich space...

This church was so old that I think even God has lost track of it...

The old church contrasts with this one, with its perfectly manicured lawn...


Old churches are cool, but old cemeteries and graveyards can be even cooler. Not far from the camp, right along the road, was a graveyard which seemed to be for only one family. I couldn't really find much information on the family, at least not that I could verify. Still, this little graveyard was screaming to be photographed, so I obliged:

My guess is there's a veteran in there somewhere, but I can't be sure...

If anyone can find information about the names Slocum and Carr in the Poyntelle area of northeastern Pennsylvania, let me know. I'd be happy to hear from you!

In the time I spent at Camp Poyntelle Lewis Village, I estimate that I shot in the neighborhood of some 23,000 photos, give or take a few hundred. During those eight weeks, both of my cameras needed significant work. The front control wheel on my 40D died on me early on, and the shutter on my 5D died two days before the end of camp. Repairs were a few hundred bucks, and I had to suffer through the down time of not having those cameras as back-ups to the other. I'd wake up too early, go to bed too late, argue with my boss, miss meals, shoot in the rain, make up with my boss, shoot at night, lose sleep, lose memory cards, find memory cards and, all the while, try to take at least one photo of every camper, every single day. That proved to be a chore sometimes, but it was also a welcome challenge.

The trip of a lifetime culminated with eight weeks in one of the most unexpectedly idyllic spots I could imagine, with some of the most wonderful people a person could ever hope to meet. The drive, the problems (remember Montana and my transmission?); all of it was made worthwhile when I rolled into Poyntelle, Pennsylvania.

I'd like to think they'll ask me back, because I'd love to do it all again.

Shabbat Shalom, friends...


Sunday, October 20, 2013

On The Road...

Someone asked me about my blog; about visiting all of these places and writing about them, and whether or not I actually enjoy the process of going from "Point A" to "Point B".

Well, I really do enjoy "the drive". I love being behind the wheel, especially if I'm going somewhere I've never been before, going to see something I've never seen before. And, when I'm able to get some down time, I really do enjoy editing the photos I took and writing my blog. It's just a way for me to share what I've seen, understanding that, sadly, most people either won't, or won't be able to, take the time to see it for themselves.

For me, though, what's sometimes equally enjoyable is seeing those things that "just happen" along the road. If I'm lucky, I'll grab a shot but, more often than not, I end up not getting a shot of something I'll probably never see again.

C'est la vie, no?

Well, this installment of "Travels & Tribulations" will have no theme other than "On The Road". Contained herein are some of the more unusual, quirky, weird, nutty, silly, stupid and funny things I've seen along the road. I'm not here to justify or explain them. If anything, I'm here to make fun of them, and only because they caught my attention.

Enjoy:

I'd been behind this van for only about a quarter mile when I watched this canoe fly off the trailer. Thankfully it was tethered to the trailer, lest it be dispatched into a million fiberglass shards by a 1999 Ford Explorer Sport...

The people in the van finally got the driver's attention after about a half mile...

What?

I love the "do it yourself" touch-up blue paint job on this Caddy. Gotta' love the South...

It's a palace. And it's made of corn...

Unfortunately, I saw far more of these critters laying on the side of the road during this trip...

A cautionary tale, perhaps?

This restaurant, in Wallace, Idaho seems to have a bit of an identity crisis...

This restaurant was featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives" on the Food Network...

And it was CRAZY good... Thanks for the tip, Beth!

This is what my passenger seat looked like for the majority of my drive from Portland to Pennsylvania...

Leaving the snow behind in Montana... In June...

There's a lot to be said for going the other way...


You know those huge windfarms with those huge windmills that have huge windmill parts?
Well, here ya' go...

There really is a town named "Metropolis". It's in Illinois. And, yes, he really is there...

Enjoying a cup of coffee at The Knuckle Saloon in Sturgis, South Dakota...
 
I don't ride a motorcycle but, if I did, I'd be this guy...

This is the White Lake Mansion House on Route 17-B in Bethel, New York. I'm always amazed, and a little bit saddened, when I see something as grand as this property fall into such a profound state of disrepair. Plans are in the works to raze this house, which has stood for 165 years, and replace it with a new resort. Ahhhhh, progress...

This photo was taken somewhere in western North Carolina...

Sometimes you find things on your journey which, despite how hard you try, escape a rational explanation...

This was in the gift shop at Devil's Tower. I'm not entirely sure why...

This is one of the countless tunnels you'll find in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. I love tunnels...

When I first saw the board on the right in a thrift store, I thought it was a surfboard. That would've been unusual, seeing as Florence, Montana doesn't get much surf. But it's a 6' long skateboard. And it was $600.00...

Train ain't got no tracks... But with a little work, this would be a killer diner...



I can't look at this picture and not think of the television show "Fast & Loud"...




I passed a lot of "Welcome to..." signs on my trip cross country. Wyoming had one of the more impressive ones...

The St. Louis Arch, along the banks of the Mississippi River...

The Old Courthouse...

The only good way to see it is to go...

I love shooting old barns, and there were plenty of them to shoot in America's heartland...

A gift shop for fireworks... Awesome. Only in the south...

Somewhere in Ohio, this barn celebrates Ohio's Bicentennial...

The entrance to the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike...

I knew I'd been on the road a while, but I had no idea I'd driven that far...
 
A barn in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. I had to do almost nothing to this shot...

Hey, even cows get hot...


And, sometimes, things just kinda' sneak up on ya'...

The road can be another world sometimes. Whether you're screaming across South Dakota or taking a break in a Kansas City eatery, the things you can see can be pretty amazing. Like I always say, though, there are a lot of things to see out there. You just need to get out there and find them.

Happy trails...

Let's Talk Apps...

From time to time, I'll be talking about cell phone apps as I find good ones. Let's face it, it's almost impossible to get thro...