Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Been There, Hope To Go Elsewhere

Recently on Facebook, I saw a note entitled “Where you have been” posted by someone on my friends list. In that list of both states and countries, a letter ‘X’ marked the 11 states which she had traveled to so far.

This reminded me of the travels I have had up to this point in my life, which included eight of the lower 48 states. That actually counts traveling within my home state of Pennsylvania; the other seven states I’ve been to are New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. However, I hope to visit many more states in the future…all of them if possible.

Left: A class trip on the Staten Island Ferry, 1993.

Right: Morey's Pier at Wildwood, NJ in 2003.

Left: A trip to Baltimore Inner Harbor, 2001.

Right: One of many decorated horse statues lining Hwy 12 in the Outer Banks, this one

representing the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, June 2004.

I haven’t been to another country yet, and there are so many I hope to visit in my life. Most of the countries that I would love to visit are in Europe, and six of those are where my ancestry originates…Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, France and Germany. Other European countries of interest to me include Italy, Greece, Romania, Spain and Portugal. Going to other countries such as Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Mexico and Canada would also be on my travel list.

The note shared by my Facebook friend made me think that I should at least visit Canada sometime for starters with international travel. Although a visit to Canada isn’t possible at the moment, I decided to map out a trip that included some New England states as well as the nearest cities of Canada using Google Maps. It was just for fun really, but what I mapped out would make a great trip.

The route I mapped out followed the northeast coast up through Maine before finally crossing the border into Canada at Edmundston. Maybe from there, I could go on a scenic excursion to Halifax, Nova Scotia before heading back northwest. The cities of Quebec, Montreal and Toronto would be the next quick stops and then I’d re-enter the United States at Niagara Falls. To get home from there, I would head from Buffalo to Ithaca and southward into Pennsylvania again.

Such a trip would allow me to add a letter ‘X’ to five more states along with one country to my own list of where I have been.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Photographing History

During any trip, local or not, one subject of interest is photographing different styles of old architecture that come into view. What makes me take notice to such structures is my interest in historic travel destinations and individual sites. Some nearby areas have a great number of old buildings, making it an easy road trip of photographing architecture from the past.

As for houses in particular, some may have those historic markers and may be in the process of being restored or have been restored. Other houses, however, are abandoned relics with untold stories that always draw my attention to them. I wonder what stories they hold; stories that can be added to the history of their surrounding communities. Maybe when their stories are finally discovered, those stories will help to save these long abandoned old houses from demolition.

Of the two photos below, I believe that the one on the right is currently in use. However, the one on the left is now the only old structure standing near new homes.

Unfortunately, many other old abandoned homes seem as though they may be demolished soon because new housing has built up around or near them. So I like to photograph old buildings for the purpose of documenting them, preserving them in images to compliment their stories.

Along with whatever untold stories yet to be found in these abandoned houses, the architectural details from another time also catch my eye. Turrets, gables, widows’ walks, Greek Revival columns and intricate wrought iron work…such details in old buildings bring some extra charm to a neighborhood. The photo below is an example of historic detail found on a building at a nearby college campus.

Given my interest in old architecture as a photography subject, some of my favorite destinations include Cape May, NJ and Gettysburg, PA. However, there are quite a few old homes in my local area which I have taken photos of in recent years. Some are Victorian, others go back to the 1700s and there are also a few castle-like buildings on college campuses. The photos below are examples from two different nearby college campuses.

Whatever architectural style and whether abandoned or in use, old buildings have such great character. Unique and often mysterious standing among newer development, they keep us connected to the history of our hometowns.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Valley Forge

Valley Forge National Historical Park is located within 40 miles away from home, yet still hadn’t been explored in person until earlier this summer. The idea came to mind after hearing about tours of the park via a 90-minute trolley ride which started at the visitor center. A tour guide would tell trolley passengers about the park’s revolutionary history as well as the history of particular sites along the way.

The first stop on the tour was an encampment of re-enactors near some of the park’s well-known log cabins. Here, the trolley pulled over so that riders could walk around and get a close-up view of those donning period costumes. It was very easy to feel swept back in time as re-enactors went about their revolutionary era activities.

After 15 minutes, it was time to board the trolley again and continue on to the next points of interest.

At the National Memorial Arch, the trolley took passengers slowly along a semi-circle path to allow for some photos to be taken. Then the trolley continued toward the statue of General Anthony Wayne on horseback. For those interested in local lore, a Google search on General Anthony Wayne will quickly give way to tales associated with him.

Touring Valley Forge, passengers could take in the wide variety of terrain in the park. Thick wooded areas, gentle hills, steep tree-covered slopes, grassy fields with maybe a few lone trees were among the natural surroundings which revolutionary war soldiers were once stationed near. Cannons and log cabins stood in various places throughout the tour. They seemed to have a lonely sense about them, with only the occasional deer grazing nearby in the fields.

Varnum’s Quarters was the last stop on the trolley tour. At this point, passengers could get off of the trolley and walk down a path to take a tour inside the house. Before getting too far from the trolley, there is the statue of Major General Friedrich Wilhelm Baron von Steuben. His statue stands near a curved bench shaded from the sun and overlooks a vast field. It is a great picnic spot, and there is a designated picnic spot (Varnum’s Picnic Area) across the road behind the statue.

After learning a little bit about von Steuben’s role in the Revolutionary War, trolley passengers would then continue down the path to Varnum’s Quarters. Picture a brown and tan stone-face structure with small windows, two floors and at least one chimney. It is in a very quiet area and that only made its history feel more alive there.

Heading back to the visitor center, the trolley went past Washington Memorial chapel without making a stop there. It is definitely worth checking out on another visit to Valley Forge. The old architecture and its details make the chapel a great subject to photograph. Speaking of old architecture, just across from the visitor center is a couple of old houses not in use. So while visiting Valley Forge next time to photograph the old chapel, taking photos of the old houses will be on the agenda.

Overall, the trolley tours of Valley Forge are very much recommended to anyone who hasn’t seen the historic park set within beautiful scenery. No matter what means a visitor uses to get around and see it, Valley Forge is an American must-see. The trolley tours are a great way to ride into the past and learn about the role that Valley Forge played in America’s Revolutionary War.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

An Introductory Post

As a young girl, I grew up in a mid-sized suburban town and always looked forward to family vacations. Those times did not come around often, but just being in another place was exciting. So at an early age, my desire to travel was ignited. In some way or another, recording travel experiences was always a part of the fun. Looking back, it seems as though collecting postcards and jotting down memories was my own variation of travel journalism.

In high school, I went on a variety of trips with an outdoor adventure club and typed up stories to remember them by. Looking back, my only regret is that I had no camera on me to compliment those stories. I think that in those days, I didn’t really consider myself as being very good at taking pictures. The shaky-handed or slightly thumb-obstructed image was what came out in many instances. Yet I always wanted to take really good travel pictures because of that interest to see places and document them well.

Years went by with the occasional day trip and a couple of those one-time-use 35 mm cameras would always be handy. On a trip to Washington, D.C. for Memorial Day 2001, I took a picture of the Washington Monument from where I stood near its base. I had hoped to capture Old Glory waving in the picture as well, but wasn’t sure until the film was developed how it would turn out. I just hoped that the flag waving did not block out the top of the monument.

Ever since taking that picture, I have looked for more opportunities to go places with my camera in hand. It made me want to pay more attention to composition and get creative with photography wherever I go.

In 2004, I went on a family trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was the first time I had the chance to travel with my own decent film camera. It was a Minolta Maxxum 5, and there were many opportunities to practice keeping the hands steady along with working on the composition of pictures. I used both color and black and white film to capture images of a destination I enjoyed visiting.

These days, the camera I use is a Canon PowerShot S5IS and it also has video capabilities. For now, I stick mostly to still images and continue to work on composition. But photography is only a part of my venture into the digital world of blogging. I want to document travel in written word, complimenting that using my passion for photography and any new knowledge I gain regarding video.

In the fall of 2006, I took my first college journalism class and found out many doors that it could lead to. The natural choice for me was to take the door that linked journalism to travel and photography, as is joining the blogosphere to document my travels. Having gained some written journalism skills now, my goal with this blog is to put those skills to use with my photography to tell my travel stories.

As an adult college student in a career change, I continue to pursue an education in journalism. So the travels I write about and capture in pictures and video will be fairly local at first. Before the summer is over, there are a few excursions I plan to go on and share experiences of on here.

One final point in my introductory post is this. In recent years, I began to deal with some back problems from time to time, varying levels of stiffness or pain in the lower lumbar area. However, pursuing travel to document in a blog is in part a message of not letting something stand in the way of my goals. It shows that people can do many things, beating whatever obstacle they may face.