top of page

My Blog - Inspired By My Pictures

Years ago I heard the advice, "Don't take pictures while on vacation, just focus on the experience."  This turned out to be terrible guidance for me.  In my late 30s I started taking more pictures.  This activity helps to cement memories that would otherwise be lost whether on vacation or just going somewhere on the weekend.  In this blog I share the memories and stories inspired by my pictures.  

I fell asleep

In Brown County, Indiana

On the forest floor

Amidst the mist and the daddy long legs

I woke up in St. Louis

Where my father ushered me

And my entire extended family

Into his brand new

Super Sized

Toyota Previa

While heading south out of the city

We drove under a sky filled

With hot air balloons

We made it to New Orleans around dawn

And started walking through the city

Throwing back Bloody Marys

Trying to avoid fights

Before motoring home

Finally back in Ohio

I walked my 30 pound Wheaton Terrier Poodle Mix

To the end of our road

Where she found a bone bigger than her

Then sat down and started gnawing at it

I stood there wondering what animal was that big

Until my curiosity grew bored

Then I watched the traffic go by

As a kid I remember my mom saying on more than one occasion that she wanted to get to the Northeast, especially in the fall to see the colors change. In 2010 we took a trip to Maine. It was the summer not the fall. But my wife’s a teacher and the summer was the only time of year we could take any lengthy vacation. It was the first trip I’d taken with my parents and my newly expanded immediate family. It would be me, my parents, my wife and our daughter who was roughly a year old. This was our first vacation with her and her first plane trip. It was the first trip we’d taken with my parents. First after first after first.

My wife’s peer at school was a couple years away from retirement. They’d purchased a home on Lower Patton Pond about 45 minutes away from Acadia National Park. They were renting it out for a few years until they were ready to permanently make the move. At the time, I don’t know if I’d ever heard of Acadia before. As we started planning I got really excited. A relatively unknown national park that looked like it had some beautiful views and hiking. That’s everything I want on a vacation.

The flights to Bangor went well considering that we had a one year old. We were able to keep her calm nearly the entire time. This was a feat we’d yet to accomplish at home. We met my parents at the airport and finished the last leg of our trip with a 45 minute drive to our vacation rental.

It was perfect. The house was big and clean. There was a clear view of the lake from the back windows. Woods separated us from any neighbors so there was the feeling of isolation that I think we were all hoping for. There was a small private dock on the lake and we had access to the owner’s kayaks which I planned to take advantage of. It was time to enjoy ourselves.

On our first full day we drove into Bar Harbor. Bar Harbor is the tourist center of Acadia National Park. There’s a pretty town square surrounded by restaurants and stores and one main street leading from that square down to the docks where you can book passage on whale watching cruises. Parking can be a challenge but we found a spot somewhere. We ate lunch where the big question for everyone was whether to have the Clam Chowder or the Lobster Bisque. After lunch we walked the town but had to make it quick. We were always on a relatively tight timeline. We had a kid with us that needed two naps a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. So there was just a brief window mid-day to do something if we all planned on doing it together. With only one car everyone’s schedule would be greatly dictated by the kid.

Bar Harbor held most of what you’d expect to find in a tourism center anywhere in America. Multiple stores selling random memorabilia. T-shirts and sweatshirts, book stores and art stores all allowed you to take home prints or random trinkets to remember your trip. I would call Bar Harbor a tourist trap but the façade is so pretty that it doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. We made multiple visits during the week.

While hiking is always an activity I look forward to on vacation, having an infant with you really limits what’s possible. We had a backpack which transformed the kid into a permanent piggyback rider but wow did that thing kill my back. After ¾ of a mile I needed a break just because of the pain running up and down my spine. We walked along some well manicured trails around the visitor center before travelling further into Acadia.

Our first real stop was of course Sand Beach. This is one of the few actual beaches along the Atlantic within the park. The majority of the coastline is a series of huge and jagged rocks that plunge into the sea which is much more visually dramatic than a typical beach. But when you’re at the ocean, you’ve got to visit the beach. We walked through the sand as ice cold water drifted in and out of the inlet.

After the beach we continued along the one way path that hugs the coastline as it winds through Acadia. We stopped a little further up the road to walk out onto the boulders lining the ocean. We kept a close eye on her but it still felt a little dangerous letting the kid scamper around on all fours with the ocean crashing just a couple yards away.

This trip was over a decade ago now so actual history is just a fabricated blur of haphazard memories. We travelled to the top of Cadillac Mountain via switchbacks. Mountain may be too generous a descriptor but from the peak you had an incredible view in all directions. The Atlantic seemed to surround you and Bar Harbor looked small in the distance.

Megan and I took my parents up on the gift of a day to ourselves. We hiked a trail way too adventurous to bring a child on. It turned out it was way too adventurous for us as well. It was a loop trail with the highest elevation in the middle. We chose the right way up but couldn’t make it past the crest. Iron rungs took hikers over the edge of a cliff and our collective fear of heights got the better of us.

We had a wonderful week exploring the park, the greater island and some of the surrounding coastline. Every day ended with relaxed conversation back at the house.

Along the lakeshore we could pick blueberries. My wife and mother searched through the scrub brush as I took the kayak out on the water.

The sunsets were beautiful, lighting up the lake.

It was a great trip and we’ve made the trek back to Maine two more times since this inaugural visit. There is one big change since our first trip. Acadia is much busier than it used to be. According to National Park Services statistics in 2009 there were roughly 2.2 million visitors to the park. In 2019 it was 3.4 million. That’s a 54% increase in one decade and I’m conflicted about this for Acadia and for all of our national parks. On one hand the parks are beautiful areas that should be experienced by everyone. On the other hand the beauty is greatly diminished when it’s crawling with people.

I’m glad for every trip I’ve taken to Maine and Acadia national park but I’m especially glad for this first one. While there’s a lot more of America I need to see, I do think I’ll find myself back in Maine at Acadia national park someday.

I woke early and got ready for the day; walked the dog, ate breakfast, shaved, showered and brushed my teeth. By the time I finished, it was 6. I grabbed my camera, double checked that I had a second battery and a second memory card. These are two things I’ve never needed but I’m nothing if not prepared. I exited the house through the front door opening and closing it slowly as to not wake my wife or daughter. The car was cold from sitting in the driveway and I sat waiting for it to warm up before pulling out of the driveway. While on I275 heading west the morning light started to creep above the dark horizon behind me. I merged onto 71 south towards downtown Cincinnati and as I got closer it got brighter and the world beyond the car’s headlights came into view. It would still be several minutes before the sun broke into the sky. I’d timed things well. When taking pictures, the sunrise always comes faster than expected.

I took the Reading Road exit and made my way through unfamiliar streets to Findlay Market. I parked in a paid lot a block away. It was my first visit in years but every visit started in this same lot. This visit would be different from past ones. I wasn’t there to shop, I was there to try my hand at street photography. The market wasn’t open for a couple more hours so I had time to explore. Findlay Market lays in Over the Rhine, a segment of northern downtown Cincinnati. My plan was to head towards Fountain Square and circle back to the market to end my morning excursion.

I paid for several hours in the lot and turned towards the closed market. Tables and chairs were chained together and padlocked. The occasional shopkeeper bustled around the market preparing for the day ahead. As I approached, an old man sitting in a folding chair blocked the sidewalk. He belted out opera, an old boom box providing his accompaniment. While no expert, my ears couldn’t ascertain any real talent. I crossed the street watching him out of the corner of my eye.

The sun rose and I snapped some pictures. I gained confidence in the fact that I had the streets nearly to myself. This felt similar to the comfort I find in the quiet of landscape photography. Instead of trees, hills and grass I had buildings and pavement, but the sky is ever present. There was nothing exciting about this morning’s sunrise. If I wanted to make it exciting I would have to do some post processing on the computer at home. As I continued the buildings got bigger and the sun got higher making for some wonderful reflections off the windows of structures that a couple years later would no longer stand, gentrification making its mark on the city. The toppling of the old to make way for the new.

I continued my stroll through empty streets thankful that it was too early for others to be out and about continuing my visual exploration of the cityscape. I passed through Fountain Square and found an Einstein’s Bagel open for breakfast. It seemed sacrilegious to eat there when an hour or so later I’d be at the market with culinary choices of all kinds would impact my senses in stall after stall. I’ve never been religious so I had a black coffee and a bagel at Einstein's. I asked the woman working the register for the key code to the bathroom before I started my way back north to the market.

When I arrived at Findlay Market my comfort evaporated. Where the rest of the city was empty, the market was busy. This is great for business and probably for a real street photographer but not for me personally. I’m not comfortable photographing people or even photographing around people so this would be a challenge. But this was what I was here for, to try something different with my camera.

As I entered the market I immediately saw a friend at the first stall. What a welcome site in an unfamiliar setting. I'd start the exploration of the market with a friendly face. I sat at the bar in front of her shop. We talked and I snapped a couple shots of the area and people around me, my confidence buoyed by the presence of a friend familiar with these surroundings.

I could only linger for so long before making my way through the rest of the market. I didn’t enjoy my time as I slid past crowds in the narrow aisle between shopkeepers. The camera stayed low and I took a couple more pictures as inconspicuously as possible, firing from my hip. After one run through the market, I was done. I was done with the crowded structure and with the added stress I put on myself by trying to photograph them.

I made my way back to the car thankful for my departure from the crowd. I could breathe again and my first and last attempt at street photography was complete. At home, I reviewed the results of my adventure. Several of the pictures I really liked. Based on the results I thought it’s something I should attempt again sometime. I know I prefer the open and unfettered world in which landscape photography thrives but you can’t grow without pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Maybe someday I’ll attempt Street Photography again but that someday probably won’t be soon. After all it’s been 3 years since this first attempt and I’ve not given it another go yet.

bottom of page