“Lucy & Ethel” go to the Lonaconing Silk Mill

For many years I have been hearing about, and seeing images from, an abandoned silk mill in the Western part of Maryland. I won’t tell you how I thought it was in the Eastern part up until the time I set my GPS, but that is for a completely different blog. One that is for people who have no sense of geography or direction . . . but I digress.

October 1957

Tagged

And, as you can guess from the title, it was an outing with the infamous Carla. She was organizing a trip with her camera club and just happened to slip me in on the email. (It’s good to know people in high places!) Well, I couldn’t say no, could I? If you are into abandoned buildings for any reason, this is a MUST see. The mill is a complete time capsule circa 1957 complete with broken windows, cobwebs, and dust.

Bottles in a window

Number 146

When I walk around the mill I see the images in my head that were made by Lewis Hine of child labor. At the same time the song from the musical "Working" played on a loop of these lyrics: 

"Millwork ain't easy, millwork ain't hard,
Millwork it ain't nothing
But an awful boring job.
I'm waiting for a daydream
To take me through the morning
And put me in my coffee break
Where I can have a sandwich and remember

Then it's me and my machine
For the rest of the morning
For the rest of the afternoon
And for the rest of my life . . . "

Dick Tracy and Kennedy

The story of the mill, in my opinion, is more of a tragic tale of small town losing their economic base than that of a shocking find on the trail to abandoned buildings. The mill opened in the small town of Lonaconing Maryland, population around 1,500, in April of 1907. The location was perfect as the transportation infrastructure for the small town was already in place. Local iron and coal companies had built railroads in the 1840’s in order to connect with the B&O and the Chesapeake and Ohio canal railroads.

Machines

Tags

Spools

It’s interesting to see the diversity of industries represented in this area, as at the time it seemed to be more aligned with coal than fine silk, but hey if it’s going to add some jobs then why not? Here is an excerpt from the Abandoned Online website that describes the mill:

In the early years of the mill, raw silk and Douppinni, an expensive silk that was used in the production of wedding gowns, were thrown at the mill. The throwing process involved the twisting and winding of silk into a yarn that was then used by knitters and weavers. Occasionally, the silk thread was broken due to the twisting and winding of the thread onto four-inch bobbins and the operator would tie the broken strands together with a silk knot. Other employees were involved in the steaming, dying and stretching of the silk, while others worked in the shipping department, sending the processed silk product to market.

Boxes

Cobwebs

As can be expected, the great depression had an impact on the industry and the mill went through a lot of ups and downs through those years. Unfortunately when the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor their actions directly affected the silk mill as the raw materials were shipped in from Japan and clearly that source would be cut off at the start of the war. What was left of the raw silk in the mill was used to produce parachute thread for the war effort.

In the basement

After the war, even though trade had opened up, the raw silk was still difficult to source so they switched to rayon which was a synthetic material much cheaper to produce. (Makes me a little scratchy just writing that . . . but I’ll try and keep my personal opinion out of this.)

Broken Windows

Inner Workings

And with the rayon, and I’m sure it wasn’t just because of the rayon, began the decline of the mill. Again, from Abandoned Online:

Employment had ebbed and flowed throughout the 20th century. In September 1920, Klotz employed 359 with an average payroll of $8,491.6 That had decreased to between 70 and 80 by the summer of 1941 and just 27 by August 16. It dipped to just five workers by the end of the year. 

The number of workers increased to 30 by February 15, 1942 and 94 by late March, and with it, came the power of bargaining. Workers had requested a nickel increase in wages  to bring it up to those of the nearby Celanese textile factory, and when it was denied, the employees went on strike, prompting General Textile to close the mill on June 23, 1957. 

Only six workers remained on the payroll by the end of June. On July 7, with just five employees remaining, General Textile closed the Lonaconing mill.  A skeleton crew of four employees remained on site for several years after to maintain the building and equipment.

The impact of the mill’s closure was devastating. Lonaconing, once the center of early industry in western Maryland, was in shambles. Deep underground coal mining had all but ceased and glass factories that once employed hundreds had begun to close.

Elevator

Stairwell

Now, when you enter the doors, you can see how it was left. The bins where employees left their personal items still contain things like shoes and containers of noxema skin cream. The dust and mold remains intact and just covered with additional cobwebs. There are oil drums, manufacturing machinery, as well as spool after empty spool.

Noxema & Shoes

Spools

The mill was purchased in 1978 by Herbert Crawford. He purchased it with the hope of bringing it back to life, but that never happened. It is now listed as one of Americas 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. It is described as “the only remaining silk mill in the US with its machinery, company records and workers personal effects remaining unchanged from the time that the factory ceased operations.”

Mill Operations

The Mill

Well, that last part isn’t quite true since Herb now opens it up on occasion to looky loos and photographers. And if you know photographers you know how much they like to re-arrange things for the perfect composition.

Prince Albert in a Can

Oil Cans

It is an extraordinary place. And I can’t stress enough what it’s like to stand in a time capsule like this. I hope Herb is able to get the funding he needs to repair the droopy roof because if he doesn’t get it done soon a roof collapse probably means no more entry and that would be a very sad day for many photographers. Me and Carla included.

Daylight

Creative Crushing

This morning I watched a live Facebook broadcast of producer Kelsey Padgett from Radio Lab give a talk on the “Anatomy of An Episode.” It was a wonderful talk on how they create an episode of the radio and eventual podcast. (If you don’t know the show, run do not walk to iTunes and start listening. You won’t be disappointed!)

Within the process of creating an episode there is what she calls the “Fail Flail.” Essentially, they fail a lot but they keep moving it forward. Fail, fix, fail, fix, fail . . . all the while flailing. I get it. This is my process!

Round and round and round we go . . .

At some point there is a review with the editor. That point where you show off your baby. It’s still in draft mode and very much your baby. You hand over your product expecting some applause, even if it’s polite cocktail applause, and the response is . . . crickets. Not even a resounding, “Hmmm. Not bad!” Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Zero. This is creative crushing. This is the moment you want to take your baby, your red face, and crawl under the closest desk. 

For the past year I have been interviewing photographers. Photographers who are very good at what they do. Photographers who seem, at least to me, to walk with a sense of confidence of their craft. Confidence that the image they just posted on Facebook or their Instagram account is good. Or even brilliant. People like John Barclay, Chuck Kimmerle, Howard Grill, and Louise Shoemaker. In their interviews they all stated that you have to make images for yourself and not others. Their confidence is all inward and not outward.

French Creek Triathlon

That’s where Creative Crushing comes in for me. I hang my head in shame admitting that I don’t take kindly to the “crickets”. While I don’t post something on Facebook and then sit and wait for the “likes” to come in, I admit to disappointment when I do see something I have posted sit out there like a scared baby deer in the middle of a vast empty field trying to find it’s way back to mama. Sometimes I feel like creating art brings out the child in me. Not the fun child where you are free to create, but the whining child crying for some attention and validation.

Crayons

I remember one of the first photos I took where I was so proud of my accomplishment. Visiting the Chiang Kai-shek memorial in Taipei we watched a military guard ceremony. This was a time when I was shooting with a medium format film camera. On day one, I saw the image I wanted to make and went back on day two to capture it. Weeks later, when I got into the darkroom, I had goosebumps. I got it! It was exactly as I had wanted. I was bursting with pride. When I finished the print, hours later, and pulled it from the dryer there I stood waiting for the oohs and aahhhsss…

Crickets.

The darkroom was full of people. Everyone looked over everyone’s shoulder to ooh and aah… And nothing. I got bupkis. I wanted to scream, “Don’t you understand? It’s exactly what was in my head! And I did it!”

Cheng Kai-Shek Memorial

Now in the days of social media where there is immediate feedback and gratification through likes, re-tweets, and Google analytics the creative crushing is resounding. A few years ago I did a “Photo A Day Challenge.” We were given a word for the day and needed to create an image based on that word. One day the word was “Odd.” I did a self portrait that I thought was beyond brilliant. I posted it to the group. Nothing. NOTHING! Nothing? Why, this is absolutely freaking brilliant! If this image does not depict “Odd” I don’t know what does!  On my own Facebook page there were no less than 30 comments filled with laughter and knowing nods to the brilliance of it. 

Odd

This was still creative crushing for me because the people that I needed to impress were photographers. Not my friends. My friends will like what I do because, well, they are my friends and that’s what friends do. When the jury of your peers turn their back and say “meh” . . . it’s creative crushing.

I continue the quest of interviewing photographers in hopes of finding the secret sauce. In the meantime I guess what I need to do is keep up the fail flail and practice my way to self-confidence.

Abandoned Ellis Island

 

"Lucy & Ethel" go to Amish Country

This has not been the year of the blog post. It’s been a very busy time getting oriented to our new home and new city, but it’s nice to be back and thinking about photography.

I find it very fitting that I enter into the summer season with antics from the most recent “Lucy & Ethel” outing. AKA: out shooting with the infamous Carla. For those of you who have read a few of my posts this should not be surprising.

Birch Tree

For this round, it was my turn to do the planning. And let me interject that I have a newfound respect for those people who lead, or have led, photo tours. Holy cow, what a job! Finding the right places and knowing the right time of day to get that exact light … Oy. Respect.

We decided that we were going to head to Amish Country in and around Lancaster Pennsylvania. Because this is Carla and me, and we are always plagued by poor conditions, we had multiple plans. Which essentially amounted to no plan. We got out our maps, GPS, and the attitude that we couldn’t get lost if we didn’t know where we were going in the first place. And off we went!

Center Line

Working

It was a two-day adventure. Day one gave us a flat overcast sky with a lot of glare. Not fit for shooting, but hopefully we would be able to find something in the beautiful rolling hills. We had two big challenges. The first is that the people in these areas are the most fascinating subjects to shoot, but they don’t want to be photographed. The second challenge is there are not many safe places to pull off the road and set up a tripod. So we opted to pull off, shoot quickly, and not use a tripod. (Let’s just say there are a lot art shots in post processing!)

When in doubt, make art

On day two the forecast looked grim. We got our maps, pointed the car in the opposite direction, and brought our fun with us! (Dan and John, you taught us well!) We got very lucky, however, because after a few minutes of driving the rains stopped for the most part. It would trickle on occasion but it allowed us to get out and shoot. 

Horse & Buggy 

Because our plan was to have no plan, we just drove until one of us would say, “hey, did you see that?” Sometimes we would stop, sometimes not. We are a bit lucky in that it seems we are pulled by the same types of things. And every now and then we would say things like, “Wow, Chuck would love that one!”  (And we did try to get a few of those for ourselves.)

Field

It was a beautiful area to shoot. Challenges aside I will want to get back there. Perhaps find a guide to help us do some scouting. And the autumn would be stunning with the change in color.

Weeping Willow

Barn

All in all it was good. It’s been a long time since we have had an outing and there is a reason I call it a “Lucy and Ethel” adventure. There is laughter and fun for sure. And for all of those photos we may not create we most certainly create memories and in the long run they generally turn out much better.  

Covered Bridge

Mule

 

Monkeying Around in Japan

We were fortunate during our latest trip to Japan to take a day trip to the Jigokudani Monkey Park in Yamanouchi, Shimotakai District, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. (Wow, that's a mouth full!)  While they are called "snow monkeys" for us they were more like mud monkeys because, sadly, there was no snow. 

The story, as it was told to us by our very chatty California born guide, is essentially this. Many years ago, perhaps late 1800's early 1900's, someone built a lodge up in the mountains of this area to take advantage of the beautiful Onsens. (An Onsen is a naturally occurring hot spring and these are very popular places for the Japanese to go to be rejuvenated.) Once the lodge was built, hot water from nearby hot springs was pumped in through a maze of pipes to create the idilic Onsen up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere.

People who would visit would need to be rather fit as it's quite a hike and at a bit of a steep pitch, but it is a very beautiful area so I can understand the pull. At any rate, as time went on, local tribes of Monkeys started to become attracted to the warm pipes. So during winter months would come out from the densely wooded areas to find the pipes and warm up. Slowly but surely they were able to follow the paths of the pipes to the pools near the lodge. 

In the beginning both human and monkey were rather curious about one another. Through the years they got closer and closer until finally the monkeys started to share the Onsens with the people. As word spread of this oddity, more and more people would travel to the lodge to see what in the world all of this Monkey business was about. As one can imagine, over time it started to become a bit over crowded with both human and Monkey. 

Then the cute Monkeys became a nuisance. Nobody was really sure what should be done about it. The first thing they did was to build a second Onsen further away from the lodge just for the Monkeys. It took a generation or two to get them to finally figure it out but soon the Monkeys had their watering hole and the people had another. They also began strict rules about feeding the Monkeys. (By not feeding them they stayed to themselves and were a little less combative with the humans). But over time even that became a bit much so they created the Jigokudani Monkey Park. 

The Park is not a park in the way we know them. The Monkeys, when they are in and around the pool, are protected. Park rangers put out some grains a few times a day to feed them, but that is about the extent of the human intervention. The Monkeys will come out of their own habitats in the afternoon to go have a soak and then return to their homes in the evening. During the warmer months they stay away from the springs. 

Someone around the park must be watching and keeping track because someone knows the counts and they are in the know of who the Alpha is at any given time, but most of that information is in Japanese and, well, that's not a language I am familiar with. 

Whether you are into wildlife or history of parks or not, I would recommend a side trip to see the Monkeys if you are ever in the neighborhood. It's quite extraordinary how they just do their thing and pay no mind to the looky-loos and the camera bugs. And while it is a bit on the stinky side, it is manageable for the over the top cuteness of it all (except when they fight . . . not so cute.)


You Can't Have it All . . .

Or better put, you can have it all, you just can't have it all at once. So was the hard lesson learned on a recent trip to Japan. We were very fortunate to be able to take a side trip to Hiroshima and hire English speaking tour guides to bring us to Miyajima Island and the Hiroshima Peace Park. We were all set! Andrew had notified tour guides that I would want to take photos. I had packed all of the appropriate gear. I purposely did not look at any images from either site so that I could make the images that spoke to me. I was set!!

NOT! The best of all laid plans, right? 

Here is a lesson for all of you.  If you are a photographer going to a new place that has rich and important history you have two choices. And only two. You can take photos or you can listen to the tour guide. You can't have it all. Period. End of story!

Needless to say I did not come home with what I would call the most brilliant photographs (or the greatest knowledge imparted to me by the local guides!). But what I did come home with are memories of an amazing trip, a new stamp in my passport, and a lovely Christmas with my family. 

And with that may I bid you all a safe, festive, and most Happy New Year!

Gojunoto Pagoda

Miyajima Island


Itsukushima Shrine on Itsukushima Island (More popularly known as Miyajima Island)

What Would Chuck Do?

Last week I posted about my trip to the Bethlehem Steel Stacks in which I hinted about a conversation that I had whilst shooting and that I would soon unravel the mystery.  Without any further ado, here is the gist of that conversation.

Scene: Smoke stacks walk way. Chock-a-block with tripods and photography enthusiasts. As I grab my bag and gear to re-locate I hear one of the enthusiasts, we’ll call him Herb, say:

Herb: “I wish someone would just come over and pull out all of these trees. They are getting in the way!”

Me: “Really? That’s the best part!”

Herb: “But they are in the way!”

Me: “But they tell a great story. The organic leafy things that are not only growing but also thriving amidst the man made pile of rust. It’s wonderful!”

Herb: “But I see all of this in Black and White.”

Me: “Me too!!!”

Herb: “But how are you going to make that work in Black and White?”

Me: “How do you NOT make it work in Black and White?”

As I said in my last piece I came home to look at my shots and it was as Herb foresaw—I did not make it work in Black and White. Actually, I did not make it work period. Not be deterred, I know in my heart-of-hearts that I was correct in that conversation. The fact that I did not make my current images work did not mean that it couldn’t work in the future. It certainly did not mean I wouldn’t make it work in Black and White. I did what any self-respecting photographer would do in such a situation: I called Chuck Kimmerle!

Having explained the situation to Chuck I sent him a few sample images. (Please note: I know these images are not good; I am willing to show a few duds in order to get some very good points across. Also, I am certain that even Ansel Adams tossed a few negatives into the recycle bin. Yes, I know I’m not Ansel Adams. You get the point.)

The bad example image I sent. 

Another example I sent. 

Below is a portion of my conversation with Chuck regarding the duds you see posted here:

Me: Thank you for doing this. It was such an interesting little conundrum that I had to ask what you would do in this situation. Actually, that’s wrong. You would have never gotten into this situation. Now that I’ve done it, is there any way to rectify this?

Chuck: Well I looked at the first picture you sent and looked on your blog at the other pictures where you avoided the leaves. And I’ll be honest; leaves with man-made stuff are always a bit tough because when you look at the leaves they always look so bright. But in reality their overall luminosity is probably not much brighter than the stuff around it. It’s just that the yellow color has a solution of being brighter.  If you took readings on it you would probably find that the leaves are the same color. 

Now there are two ways to do it. One is like the second way (Like you did on the photos you already posted to your blog) where you get tight enough to avoid the leaves. On one of the pictures you sent the leaves were in there as in, “I can’t avoid them so I may as well put them in a little corner down here.” And to me when confronted with these wonderful designs, and there are things that ruin the design, you can avoid it or you embrace the hell out of it. 

Me: As I was walking around I found it fascinating to have all of this organic stuff amongst the man made decay and I liked that. There is a little whimsy or a little something in there. I don’t know if it is because of the color contrast. If that is the case then how does that relay to black and white. But, to your point, if it’s a design thing and it goes to black and white it ruins the whole design focus.

Chuck: Well, the first picture I noticed really wasn’t about the design because if you look at the top there are a lot of doo-hickies that have nothing to do with the design. Same with the bottom and then there’s the leaves. Some of your tighter stuff had to do with design. And when you are confronted with this juxtaposition of this man made order and nature’s cacophony you really can’t do a lot with design unless the design is super super strong and you can juxtapose the two. But that’s all you can do anyway.  Your first picture you include it more as a scenic picture. It didn’t really work because it’s just too much you don’t’ know where to look. 

So here it is. If you want to include it you can’t just include a piece. You have to really really commit to it. Maybe the way to look at it is that your picture isn’t the man made elements your picture is the tree or the growth in nature within an artificial environment. If you look at it that way then the tree, or nature, becomes more of the subject and the man-made stuff becomes the extra or the second half of the juxtaposition. It’s really hard when your mind is dead set on “I really love this man made stuff but how do I deal with it with the stuff in the way.” All of a sudden, then, you are thinking of the natural part as being a negative entity and it’s going to influence you, and not in a good way, of how you create the picture. 

The second set of pictures [in the blog post] were all about the man made stuff, but nothing that I saw was about the growth. 

When you are dealing with that [what you need to do] is to shoot wider and put things in a greater context. You could have shot wider and shown all the great man-made stuff with this small forest or woods growing in there and turn it into mother nature taking over man sort of thing. But, again, that’s when you are really embracing the trees to the point where they almost become the focal point. 

Me: I was right in that I CAN include them, but was wrong in the way I was delivering the punch. 

Chuck: Ya, I think what you were trying to do was to still shoot the design and not ignore the tree. When people look at the pictures they think “I don’t see a design here, the tree is just in the way.” And it’s hard to know what you were trying to come up with. Make sense?

Me: Yes. I think I need to go back. . .

The conversation then turned to fundamentals in Photoshop and I’m not going to go into that here. There is this thing called the Internet full of information on that front. So, here are the critical points I got out of this conversation:

1)    It’s not about whether it’s Black and White, Color, or Cyanotype. It’s about the composition and the narrative. (And the point of view. Don’t forget your point of view.)
2)    The luminosity of the green is going to be the same as the man made parts. Even though my eye distinguishes these as two different color elements when I go to process in black and white they will be similar tones. But that’s not a bad thing! I can make choices when I start to process. (NOTE: I could make these same choices if I was Ansel Adams working in a traditional darkroom or if I were Chuck Kimmerle working in a digital darkroom.)
3)    There are many ways to look at a scene. You can look at it graphically or you can look at it scenically or you can look at it upside down if you want. Make sure you know your point of view. 
4)    Let me repeat. All roads lead back to good composition and understanding the narrative before you even click the shutter. Sometimes it pays to think first and then shoot.

Chuck left me with one last comment that I think was very telling. 

“The guy you were talking to . . . I believe his biggest problem, and I see this a lot from people, is he went in with pre-conceived expectations. Before he went in, in his mind, saw these wonderful man made structures. And then when he saw the trees he froze. Because in his mind he had already figured out what he wanted to do. What I recommend people do is to go in saying ‘I’ll get what I can get.’ That way when you are confronted with trees you aren’t going to say, ‘Damn. They are in my way.’ You’ll say, ‘How can I use those?’  If you go in with closed minds that is a big deal. “

And there it is. Thank you for joining me in photography 101 with Chuck Kimmerle! Next time we will discuss the proper positioning of Bison. [inside joke] Actually, next time I hope to be posting some Mother Nature images from Bethlehem Steel! I need to get back there soon. Any takers? Carla?

An Outing at Bethlehem Steel

A few weeks ago I was invited on an outing with the Livingston Camera Club. (Yes, as you might suspect, it was with the infamous Carla and the club of which she is a faithful member.) As it was my first experience going out with a camera club I was not sure what to expect. I shouldn't have been concerned; it was a lovely day out with some very nice people (and talented photographers to boot!) My theory when shooting in a new place is always "safety in numbers!" It makes for a much less stressful outing in parts unknown.

While this post could very easily fit into my history blog, and may still, I wanted to get some photos posted before my little website turned to desert sands. The general history of the steel mill is easily found and tells a tale of the standard rhythms of boom and bust that go with most big industry. However, I would like to find some hidden stories because a large mill like that in a small Pennsylvania town has got to have some skeletons in the proverbial closet. 

The mill was truly a remarkable place to shoot and I highly recommend any and all photographers who have a chance to check it out. There is a bit of something for everyone and I know that I will be back, time and time again, for new discoveries.

When shooting a location for the first time, especially something like the steel stacks, it can be pretty daunting. There are certainly the good wide shots of the full vista, but the nooks and crannies are the true gems. There is so much detail and texture to be found within the crumbling and rusty infrastructure that it's difficult to know where to start (and sometimes when to stop!)

While great fun, it is not without challenges. I had an interesting conversation about one such challenge that I thought I could manage very well, thank you very much. When I got home I realized I had failed miserably. Rather than fall into a screaming heap on the floor I decided to reach out to an expert for advice. Stay tuned for a future blog post where I will unravel the mystery and hopefully learn a few things. 

I consider this my exploratory outing. You know the one where you figure out how to get there when your GPS doesn't know it exists. 

The initial outing where you can discover where the walkways lead, where the restrooms are located, and how far is the nearest good eats for a large group.

Oh, and also the general feel for the environment. Sussing out best times for a return trip and light quality that best suits the subject. (But seriously, bathroom stops are just as important!) So please stay tuned! There will be more fun and frolic just around the corner. (And I am fairly certain that Carla will not be far behind.)


Outings with Carla

I'm starting to feel like Oprah and Gail with the number of posts I have that include an outing with Carla! But the outings are always memorable and require documentation of some sort. 

This outing, designed by Carla, was to the Delaware Water Gap. And even though I have lived in New Jersey for a number of years I'm not even sure I knew what she was talking about when she proposed the idea, but I was game nonetheless. There would be three stops on our trip. Some water falls, an historic village (yay!) and a red barn. 

And since I was with Carla, it would mean that mother nature would throw us some sort of zinger. She did not disappoint. This outing Mother Nature gave us harsh sunlight and gnats the size of baseballs. (Okay, maybe ping pong balls, but regardless of size I despise the pesky buggers). If we were going to have the harsh light, may as well use it!

Walkway shadows

And as far as the gnats are concerned, I'll just say they were a feature not a bug. (Wha-waaaaaaa)

Shed with Gnat Feature

This is one of those days where I had a lot of pre-conceived notions of what I wanted to shoot. Waterfalls you say? Well, then, must bring my mor-slo filter and get that beautiful dreamy looking water effect. Never happened. Every waterfall shot in the lot is a complete dud. And when I say dud I mean dud in the purest sense. (If anyone has any trouble sleeping I'll send over a few of those shots . . . yawners all). 

NOT a waterfall

This outing was a total lesson learned. And it's a lesson I am hearing over and over in my Candid Conversation interviews. Let the image come to you. Relax. Enjoy the moment. It will happen. 

Reflection

And sometimes, if it doesn't seem to happen, switch it up. I remembered I had a little plastic Diana lens in my kit that I haven't used in long time. So I did some experiments with that. Experiments are a good thing. Sometimes they are a huge failure, but I'm okay with failure. (We have failure to thank for post its!)

Church organ

View from a pew

I believe some people would have walked away from the day thinking "If only . . .  the day would have been perfect." That's not how I choose to look at it. It was a perfect day out. Learned a few things, had some laughs, a really great lunch at a fantastic deli and got a picture or two to prove I was there. Not a bad day out at all. (Thanks Carla!) 

Church organ

Church organ

Church organ

Locking up

Crate

Shadows 

Red barn

Celebrating Flag Day

Today is Flag Day! The day that we, in the land of the free and home of the brave, celebrate the “Stars and Stripes” as the official symbol of the United States of America. Congress authorized our flag on Saturday June 14, 1777. The entry for that day reads, “Resolved that the flag of the thirteen United States be Thirteen stripes alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

Washington Monument 

The tradition of “Flag Day” actually started with a young teacher in Waubeka, Wisconsin (On Wisconsin!) in 1885. As June 14th was the flags birthday, he asked his students to write an essay on what the flag meant to them and the celebration grew from there. 

Washington Monument

I love the flag. The way it waves in the wind. I like how the flag symbolizes so many things. When I see a flag flying at half-staff my first reaction is to research and quietly pay my respects to the fallen. 

Washington Monument. The flag flies at half staff for Chief Justice William Rehnquist. 

WWII Memorial Washington DC. The flag flies at half staff for Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

I love that our flag is a symbol of a country that has struggled and endured.  That shows we are grand yet fallible. 

Stained glass reflection. Dole Institute, Lawrence KS.

Civil War graveyard at Appomattox Courthouse, VA.

I love that we live in a country that the flag symbolizes hope. Hope that while we are going through the wringer we will come out good in the end. Hope that, while we are not perfect, we do strive to do the right thing.

Arlington Cemetery Washington DC

Solemn moment. USS Arizona Memorial Pearl Harbor, HI

In Memory of resident Pamela Gaff and all who lost their lives in the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Robbinsville, NJ.

Iraq War Memorial Washington, DC

I love that we live in a country where we can use our flag to symbolize triumph and protest.  Where we are not demanded to show our allegiance. We can choose to raise that flag and scream from the mountaintops “I am American!” Or we can choose to tuck our symbols away. 

Robbinsville, NJ

Robbinsville, NJ

When I was at Girl Scout camp, the highest honor you could get was to be part of the flag ceremony. Either the morning ceremony to raise the flag or the evening ceremony to retire the flag. I can’t listen to taps without getting a tear in my eye. One of my most treasured memories, and most honored moments in my life, was to be part of the flag ceremony at the American Cemetery in Normandy. At  5:00 pm every day taps plays while the two flags are taken down and folded in a solemn ceremony.  Andrew and I were honored to be able to take part when we were visiting in 2012. 

Flag Ceremony at American Cemetery Normandy, France

Flag Ceremony at American Cemetery Normandy, France

Yes, I did get choked up when hearing Taps. I always will.

Not every day is "Race Day"

Just over a year ago I became a triathlete. Not in the sense of a real athlete, more in the sense of someone who turned 50 a while back and wants the next 50 to be good ones. And that means getting out there and moving. And as a triathlete I don't get bored just doing one sport. It's important for me to mix things up.

Service flag from the USS Princeton - Princeton University Chapel

Anyway, when I am training for a race it's about building blocks. I don't go out every day and swim/bike/run the length of my events. I run one day, swim the next, bike on another. ( And when my schedule permits I'll go to the lake and row just to really screw with my head.) And when I DO get out and train I don't do the full course every day. It's about the simple act of getting out there and exercising. Building on the previous days work. Slowly but surely I'll get strong enough to put them all together and hopefully that is close to race day.

Unexpected blanket of cherry blossoms

I am beginning to add this same philosophy to my photography. A few weeks ago my friend Carla, from my "when life gives you lemons" post was in town. We thought we'd have lunch and I'd show her around the beautiful Princeton campus and we would take Pulitzer prize winning photographs. Well, it didn't happen the way we had planned. The weather did not look like it was going to cooperate (seems to be a common theme for us) so neither of us brought a tripod. I just had a single camera, no extra lenses, no additional stuff. I was going to challenge myself to making it work with no equipment support.

Princeton University Chapel

It wasn't race day. I did not bring home any medals, but I feel like I added some building blocks. And perhaps someone looking over my shoulder at my work from the day won't see the progress, but I see it. I know the building blocks are there. I know where some new strength was added and a split second of time shaved off. And that's a really great feeling. Not so much that I can do it, but that I can recognize the growth. I can see progress being made. The simple act of exercise is a very good thing.

Princeton University Lewis Library (designed by Frank Ghery)

Princeton University Lewis Library (designed by Frank Ghery)

Princeton University Lewis Library (designed by Frank Ghery)