Monday, August 30, 2021

Back In The Saddle...

Seven years ago, I was hired by St. Augustine Social Magazine as a photographer. It was a real magazine with a shiny cover and pages and an editor and everything. But before the first issue ever went to print, I was asked if I wanted to write articles for the magazine, as well.

My first article was what became known as "Spot Check". I would check out local eateries, sample the food and photograph it.

Tough gig, right?

My product photography background was, let's say, "lacking", so photographing food helped me hone those skills.It finally got to the point where I was quite comfortable doing what I was doing, despite the fact that my role with the magazine was more on the literary side than I expected:


I then started a column call "The Music Chair", with an idea stolen from a friend of mine in California. I dragged this gawd-awful green wing-back chair all over town, and photograph local musicians sitting in it for a photo to accompany the interview I did with them. It was a blast:


I retired the chair when I sold off my 1999 Ford Explorer. The sad reality is that the chair wouldn't fit in the Nissan Altima I'd purchased. "The Musical Chair" then became just a metaphor for being photographed for the magazine. It was now more the article than the chair. This allowed for some interesting "environmental portraits" that the chair would never allow: 



Not soon after, the world was hit by Covid-19. Everything stopped. My photography business ground to a halt in a hurry. Because of when Covid hit, and the fact that I did some traveling overseas in 2019, it was almost three years before I had any work with the magazine. It definitely sucked, but it also allowed me time to focus and re-evaluate things; what I wanted to do, what I felt was important, yadayadayada. I did some traveling with my daughter and drove coast to coast, seeing and experiencing those things you can only experience from the highway. It was worrisome, to be sure, but there was also a part of it all that was a bit exciting, too.

I definitely enjoy writing, but photography is where my primary interest is. If I get to write some, that'll be great. But the photography aspect is where I want to spend the majority of my time. And, the best part is that it looks like I'll be able to do exactly that, as I've been asked to focus on photography for the magazine. Seven years ago, in 2014, I was the magazine's first employee. They didn't even have an editor yet. Naturally, I feel a strong connection to the magazine so, when the publisher asked me back as a photographer, I couldn't say "yes" quickly enough.

I'm excited to see what a post-Covid world will bring, photograph-wise. The phone is starting to ring, the e-mails are starting to come in, and it's beginning to look like we may even get back on an even keel before too long. That'll be nice, especially considering the seas in which we've been sailing the last few years...



Sunday, August 8, 2021

So, What's On Deck?

You know, I really hate unpacking. I'm just now unpacking from a weekend trip I did to New Orleans back in June. It's horrible, I know. Somewhere, I think, I may even have a yet to be unpacked bag from the cross country trip.

The upside, though, is that I've now got time to do that unpacking. See, not long after coming back from New Orleans I have two week long shoots in the time span of three weeks. It was fun and profitable, but also time consuming. I decided I would rein it in a bit in August. The only shooting I plan on doing in August is for my tattoo project.

What's that? You don't know about the tattoo project? Well, click here: The American Ink Project

That project's been going on embarrassingly too long, so I need to give it a swift kick in the ass to get it back on track. Let me know if you'd like to take part!

Travel-wise? I don't know that there's anything on the calendar just yet. I'm always up for an impromptu road trip, but as far as one of those trips which requires actual planning? Yeah, I got nothin'. In all honesty,  the next thing  I actually "gear up" for to shoot will be Biketoberfest in Daytona. There are also a few smaller regional car shows that I want to hit to generate some content for another website of mine, High Octane Photography. 

Oh, you're not familiar with that? Click here and check it out: High Octane Photography

And, of course, seeing as schools are reopening post-Covid, I'll be getting back into my college photography in September. That should carry me through the end of November and then start back up in January.

So, it's not like I won't be busy, I just won't be on the road that much (I think I did enough of that this year, anyway). It'll be nice to be able to not worry about packing a bag for a trip.

Which, of course, means I won't be unpacking, either...

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Road Trip - Epilogue...

You know, this road trip really was the journey of a lifetime.

I won't lie: I can't sit idle for too long. I have to move. I need to go. I want to travel. This road trip was the result of my daughter Jessy and I not being able to return to Europe for her birthday. We were going to go to Portugal last year, but Covid-19 simply made that impossible. We were going to go this year, and I was even going to spring for first class travel, but there were still too many travel restrictions in Europe, and Portugal in particular, to make it a viable option.

So I hit the road.

One day in February I decided I wanted to drive the longest road in America: US-20, from Newport, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts. But it would take some work to get there. An entire adventure unfolded on the road before me before I ever even got to the west coast. I use the word "epic" to describe this trip because, really, it's the only word that fits.

Suffice it to say, a trip like this doesn't come cheap. While it's still cheaper than first class airfare and accommodations to Portugal, the receipts do start to add up over a while. My total cost for fuel was just over $1,000 and, for that, I squeezed 11,126 miles out of the Malibu:


Also, food, souvenirs, and the various other sundry things you buy along the way can put your wallet on a diet real fast.

But the one cost that always seems to be the greatest when traveling is lodging. Six weeks of hotels would've been prohibitive, especially with two of us traveling from Oregon. To this end, I have to thank some folks who were beyond kind in opening their homes to me on the way west, and to both me and Jess while coming east:

Kenny & Karen Koumjian - Billerica, Massachusetts

Mike & Tamara Gladstone - Rochester, New York

Ron and Gwen Sommer - Wooster, Ohio

Chris Rausch - Missoula, Montana

Mark & Deborah Acerenza - Frederick, Maryland

I cannot overstate how much we appreciated the kind hospitality shown to us. From a place to lay our heads to filling our stomachs with amazing meals, those folks are a very big part of why I was able to tackle this type of trip, and they'll forever have my undying gratitude.

It's probably not surprising, given my "travelin' jones", that people have already started asking where I'm going next. Well, I can't really say. I'd like to say Europe, but there's just no way to know. 

I'll let you know when I get that figured out...

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

A Milestone...

Something I neglected to mention, but which was kind of a big deal for me on this trip, was the mileage covered.

I had two odometers running on the mighty Malibu. The first one would get reset every time we bought gas. The second odometer I kept running. I started it in my driveway and didn't reset it until after we returned to St. Augustine.

Somewhere between Boston, Massachusetts and Frederick, Maryland we hit a milestone:

I know, I know. It was bound to happen, but I had long wondered how far I'd be driving, and this certainly put that all in perspective for me! The total number of miles driven was 11,126!


My daughter grew up in southern California.

As such, other than in a classroom, she was never exposed to any history other than that. In San Diego, where we lived, everything was about the Spanish. I suppose that's to be expected.

But there was a whole bunch of history that I wanted her to see. I didn't want her to read about it, or look at photographs. I wanted her to experience it. That's why we spent so much time exploring Boston and the surrounding area. It's rich in a history which dates back further than our country's founding. There's really no way to describe what it was like to be standing in Paul Revere's living room, after all. You just have to do it.

So, you can imagine the smile that worked its way across my face when my daughter asked "Hey Dad, can we go to Gettysburg?"



This would mark my third visit to Gettysburg. The last visit was back in September of 2017. The visit prior to that saw me in a Boy Scout uniform; that was the mid 1970's.

Once again, we would be fortunate to be able to stay with friends while visiting. My friend Mark, along with putting us up for a couple of nights, also arranged for us to have a personal guided tour from someone who, I believe, is the world's foremost authority on the Battle of Gettysburg, Mr. Ray Matlock:


Ray Matlock near the North Carolina monument at Gettysburg...

Ray's story is as fascinating as Ray is humble. He told me he first came to Gettysburg when he was all of 11 years old (I believe Ray's in his 70's now). When he took the very first photograph he ever took, it was taken at Gettysburg. The new home he shares with his wife was built only about a mile or so away from the battlefield. Ray lives and breathes Gettysburg, and his enthusiasm for it is palpable. 

I've never met anyone who knew everything about anything like Ray Matlock knows about Gettysburg. His knowledge is encyclopedic, and he's quick with an anecdotal story about just about anything. For instance, my daughter mentioned that she lives in Seattle.

"Oh, let me tell you about a little known connection between Gettysburg and Seattle..." and away he went, as if he'd had a Seattle connection story on-deck just waiting to be told.

Ray Matlock speaking to my buddy Mark and my daughter...

Since I wrote about Gettysburg not long ago, I'm going to simply post photos from our visit, and maybe interject some witty prose here and there.

A Civil War era farm house on the grounds at Gettysburg...

The 11th Pennsylvania Infantry pays tribute to Sallie, a lifelong mascot. She is one of only two dogs featured on Gettysburg monuments, and the only one to be present during the battle...

Ray Matlock with my buddy Mark and my daughter Jessy...

The Pennsylvania Monument...

The Pennsylvania Monument. That's my daughter up top on the right...

The State of Virginia Monument, with General Robert E. Lee high atop...

Someone lives in this small house, which was built in 1863...

If you don't want to drive your own car, you can always rent one of these...

My daughter Jessy...

My buddy Mark, who set up this amazing tour...

Ray took Jessy and I from the first shot of the battle at Gettysburg to the end of the second day. Unfortunately, I guess when you're one of the heavies at a place like this, business always comes calling, and Ray had to excuse himself for a meeting, leaving us to go through day three on our own. Before he did, though, we insisted on taking him to lunch at the Appalachian Brewing Company:

Tasty suds and excellent burgers...

Remember when I talked about actually experiencing history? That whole "being where history happened" thing? Well, that's exactly what Ray did for us here at Gettysburg. I was excited enough to bring my daughter here (and at her request!) so that she could see one of the most pivotal battlefields in American military history. But to have Ray there to explain, sometimes down to the finest of details, what had happened, and with whom, it simply brought Gettysburg to life for her in a way that, I'm certain, my narration could never have done. 

If I sound like I'm laying it on a bit thick well, yeah, I probably am. It was simply awesome to see my daughter take such a genuine interest in something and have the opportunity to take that interest to the one guy on the planet who probably knows more about it than anyone alive today. Even today, some two months after the fact, I'm still in awe of the enthusiasm Ray has for this hallowed place, and how willingly and effectively he shares that enthusiasm with others.

As we drove back to Mark's house, we couldn't help but continue to talk about not only the battle and the site, but also the manner in which we got to experience it. I know that, as I turned of the bedroom light that night, that this was a road trip highlight...


I've always wanted to visit Boston.

I was here once on business several years ago, but that was brief and fleeting and, truth be told, I couldn't really enjoy it.

This trip would be different.

We left for the city pretty early, but late enough to miss rush hour traffic. And, while this had the benefit of us not getting caught up in a traffic jam, it had the added detriment of available downtown parking being scarce. My guess is that we drove around for about a half hour before we were able to get into a pay lot for some ridiculously exorbitant fee. This mattered not: We were in.

Boston has some absolute jewels when it comes to historical places. Much like Philadelphia, much of the shaping of this country happened right here, along these very streets. Sure, the building may look somewhat different now, but visiting Boston is to visit where history actually happened. No textbook or school lecture can come close to rivaling that.

The streets in Boston are pretty narrow so, if you're driving, use extra care. In many cases, restaurants will spill their seating into the street. This is especially true on the north end, which is where you'll find Boston's version of Little Italy:

Many restaurants remained closed due to Covid-19...

The busiest area in the whole north end...

Now, remember how I said visiting Boston is to visit where history happened? Well, also found in the north end is a rather nondescript gray house. Back in the 1700's this house would be considered a small mansion, but it would be nothing so grand by today's standards. Frankly, there's nothing really noteworthy about it at all, save for the plaque reading "Here Lived Paul Revere 1770-1800" and another sign saying "The Paul Revere House":

Tours of the Paul Revere House are offered for a very nominal $5.00 but, be forewarned, the tour goes by quickly. You see two rooms downstairs, and then (if memory serves) one room upstairs before being ushered into an expansive courtyard. As was very common in those days, a person's property was usually kept out sight from the street, and many had pretty grand courtyards protected by their walls:


The courtyard at the Paul Revere House. Obviously, the brick building is not original...

Another site which played a storied role in the history of our country was memorialized by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his poem which began:

"Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere."

Of course, Longfellow didn't write his poem until 1860, when America found herself on the brink not a Revolutionary War but of a civil war. As a result, over the years many have pointed out historical inaccuracies contained it the poem. Frankly, I don't understand why some people can't just enjoy it.

But back to the site in question.

Everyone has heard the words "One if by land, two if by sea." This was referencing signal lanterns lit in the steeple of the Old North Church, to signify how the British were attacking. When Paul Revere (and the much maligned, and not as well known horseman William Dawes) made that famous ride, there were two lanterns in the steeple.

Boston's Christ Church (aka The Old North Church)...

Once again, as a little boy, a place which, once upon a time, might be shown an almost mythical deference turns out to be an actual, real place. And I'll never be accused of being the most religious guy in the room, but I have to wonder what it must be like to be a parishioner there, knowing the important role the church played in the early days of developing the country. 

Now, while I was off shooting the Old North Church, Jess was off shooting other things, and I don't know that we realized how separated we'd become. Leave it to Jess, though. She not only found a bar where we could grab a cold beer after a day exploring Boston, she found it in the basement of a pastry shop (sorry, no pics):

Go to Modern Pastry, walk through the door and past the crowd and make your way to the right side of the store. Look to your right and you'll see a flight of stairs. You're welcome...


It was beginning to get a bit later in the day, and we still had one more stop to make. But, before doing that, we needed some refreshments and maybe a bite to eat. And if you're in Boston, can there be any other place to go?

Fictitious, but not...

When the producers of the television show "Cheers" were looking for a Boston bar to be owned by former Red Sox reliever Sam Malone, they didn't get much further than The Bull & Finch, right across the street from Boston's Public Garden. It was perfect for them in every way. Like the bar from the series, The Bull & Finch was a quaint, quiet local watering hole and, despite its obvious current popularity, it still has that vibe to a degree.


Had to buy a couple of these beer mugs for the bar at home...

We opted to split the "Norm's Best" combo appetizer, as dinner would be waiting for us. That proved to be a good, tasty call. Onion rings, chicken tenders, and potato skins were perfect, and they were just enough to hold us over:


Simple and quick...

A visit to Cheers is a must if you're in Boston and anywhere within driving distance of Beacon Hill.

With our appetites temporarily sated, it was time for the final stop in Boston, and it's one I've looked forward to for a very long time.

Launched on October 21, 1797, the USS Constitution is the oldest ship of any type still afloat, and it remains the oldest commissioned ship in the United States Navy.

What we thought would be an easy "park and shoot" photo op turned into anything but. We ended up finding our way into some hotel pay parking lot (ten bucks, thankyouverymuch) which allowed us access to a view from just a pier away. Night was falling, and I knew it would be a perfect time to capture the ship's lighting along with the sky's twilight.

I'm pretty happy with what I got: 


I've been asked how I was able to get those "star" shapes on the lights, the smooth water and the crisp focus on the ship. Well, it's not magic and, in fact, it's  it's pretty simple. 

First, use a good quality tripod (I use a Manfrotto). Don't bother with the ones you find at Target or Best Buy. Buck up and pay real money for a quality tripod. You'll be glad you did Shoot in Manual mode and use a remote shutter release. Then, embark on the highly scientific method of playing around with your settings to find those which give you the look you're searching for.

In the first image of the Constitution above, I used a 4 second exposure at f/14. I was using my 24-70 f/2.8, zoomed out to 24mm. My ISO was 640. The second shot used the same focal length and ISO, but I went with an 8 second exposure at f/16.

Sadly, the USS Constitution would be our last stop in Boston. Having the opportunity to photograph such a magnificent ship was awesome, and that certainly wasn't lost on us. I hope to come back again one day to photograph it some more...


Provincetown & Plymouth Rock...

Our second day in the Boston area was going to be spent, in large part, on the road.

We decided to head to Cape Cod; all the way out to Provincetown. It would be about a 2-1/2 to 3 hour drive, but all of it would be along roads we'd not yet traveled. Needless to say we were looking forward to it. Our weather wasn't the best; it sprinkled here and there during the drive but, as we got further east on the Cape, it dried up a bit.

Driving, of course (as opposed to flying or even taking a bus) affords you the opportunity to stop when you want, for as long as you want. We happened to find a small flea market (swap meet for those of you on Pacific Standard Time) along the way and decided to stop. Most of what was there was junk, but I did manage to find something I'd had as a kid. Who knows where that one is now, but this new one looks pretty good on the shelf near my desk:



This is one of those old English made ones which, these days, can command a premium price. The seller wanted ten bucks, and I didn't have it in me to negotiate, plus my Dad worked for Esso before it became Exxon, and I really wanted it.

The drive top Provincetown is an exercise in patience. It's just a two lane road, and the speed limit, if I recall, only goes up to 45mph. That said, though, the silver lining is that you get to actually look at what's around you.

Once arriving in "P-Town", we began the chore of finding a parking spot. Being a Saturday, the streets were very crowded with tourists (like us), but we finally found a spot on the north end of town. I dumped some change in the meter and we were on our way. If you visit Provincetown, be prepared to walk. It's certainly conducive to that, and the number of people on the street doesn't make navigating an car through the streets and easy endeavor.

We were only visiting for the afternoon, but if you were planning on staying overnight or a couplpe of days, there's no great shortage of bed & breakfasts and, one would presume, Airbnb's, as well. Hotels are scattered across the landscape, as well, but don't go looking for too many Holiday Inns or Marriotts. Most of the hotels here are independents:


Two examples of the most common type of lodging facility in "P-Town"...

As the drive had been a bit on the long side; the better part of three hours, we wanted to make good time so we didn't stop along the way to eat. Besides, how could we come to Cape Cod, and all the way to P-Town, and not sample the local fare? 

There are plenty of eateries in P-Town, although many of them were still being affected by Covid in terms of occupancy. The restaurant we landed in, Vorelli's Grille, seemed to be doing a robust business, although they did ask that we sign in with a name and phone number in case it was needed for contact tracing.


Our lunch at Vorelli's was ridiculously good. While Jess chose one of Vorelli's burgers, I opted for the more regional lobster roll. It quickly climbed to the upper reaches of the "best meal I've had on this trip" list:

At $19.99, it ain't cheap, but it's soooo good...


The decor of Vorelli's is as comfortable as it is welcoming. Work from local artists works hang on the wall, and stained glass subdues the daylight coming in through the windows. The staff was fun and friendly, and they're totally on-point when it comes to "checking in" with you as you dine. If I ever happen to find my way back to P-Town, that lobster roll will definitely be among the dining choices I'll make.

Following lunch, we decided to simply walk along the main drag and take it all in. Photo ops abound along the road, be it storefronts steeped in nostalgia or artwork and wares for sale from street side vendors. Every so often we'd even venture into a store to see what they had.

There's also an small mall-type set-up with numerous merchants. Many of them were closed (thank you, Covid!) but there were still enough to make a stop worthwhile:

Town Hall...

If you're looking for a place which will probably look exactly as you see it in your head, Provincetown is probably it. From the funky shops and beachside inns to the wide array of restaurants, the charm of P-Town is lost on no one.

Now, the thing about having a three hour drive to P-town is the inescapable fact that we were to have a three hour drive back to Kenny and Karen's house in Ballerica. Well, we figured if it was going to be three hours, we might as well make it four or five.

Now, I don't think it's any secret that I like shooting old churches. I love getting inside to shoot them but, when that's not an option, the outside will have to do. In this case, it was the First Congregational Parish, which was founded in 1827. It wasn't very striking from the outside, but I could tell from the second story windows that the inside would probably offer up a great photo op:

The adjoining Snow Cemetery

To be honest, this church and cemetery was a little on the creepy side. I can't really put my finger on why I felt so creeped out, but I was happy when we were finally pulling away.

We decided, pretty much at the last minute, that it would be downright criminal for us to come to Massachusetts and not visit the one place where it all began. The one place where the Pilgrims first hit the soil in the new world: Plymouth Rock.

Now, to be frank, there's a lot of skepticism as to whether or not this is not only the actual place, but also whether or not it's the actual rock. Some actually believe that the Pilgrims landed in Provincetown as much as a month earlier.

Be that as it may, though, the current location and the current rock are, in fact, considered to be accurate. 

In 1920, the rock was temporarily relocated so that old wharves could be removed and the waterfront re-landscaped. During this time, a new Roman portico was built in such a way as so, when the rock was returned to the site, it would be at water level but still protected. 

The inscription on the portico reads: ""Erected by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America to Commemorate the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the Landing of the Pilgrims."

If not for the etched date and the portico, you could easily overlook this piece of American history...

In all honesty, given its iconic status in our country's early history, I expected it to be bigger. It's estimated that the rock pictured above is approximately now only 1/3 the size of the rock that William Bradford originally stepped on in 1620.

When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is to visit those places which, for so long, occupied only a mythical place for me. Was there really a Plymouth Rock? I always figured there was, but it took almost 59 years for me to actually see it; even a photograph. This whole area of the country is richly steeped in such history, and it could take a year to see it all.

But we didn't have a year, so we had to get busy. We called it an early night after making it back to Ken and Karen's. We had plans to head into Boston early the next morning for what would likely play out to be another long, full day...

Wrapping Up Another Year...

I'm finding it a bit difficult to believe that's it's been six months since I've posted anything. It seems as though, as soo...