Shooting Journal: New England Road Trip Photo Journal

For the past several years, I've been struggling with health annoyances that pretty much put a chill on most of our usual activities. Medical visits were our social life, doctors' offices and hospitals our hangouts. Fortunately, having survived all go this, we're moving on and life is becoming more normal.

One of our first plans was a road trip to Bar Harbor, Maine to celebrate our upcoming 50th wedding anniversary this December. Winter not being the best time for this, we asked our son and daughter in law - who were married there 10 years ago - and my sister and her husband -who are celebrating 15 years together - to join us. We all drove via different routes, ending up in Bar Harbor on the same day and enjoying the food, scenery and the company of family.

Our days of driving 8 - 10 hours a day are a thing of the past.Our drive was planned to take about 5 or 6 hours of driving a day, allowing time for scenery and relaxation each day. One of my biggest fears was in picking up the camera again for some real photography. It had been a while since toting a Nikon with a heavy lens had been comfortable and my photography involved only an iPhone for much of the time... not that there's anything wring with that. However, with a little refreshing and practice, adjusting settings became more intuitive.

Our first night of the four it took us to reach Maine was spent in Jamestown, New York and was pretty much a stop along the interstate. However, the second and third nights were spent in Bennington, Vermont, home of a number of my early American ancestors. Bennington is somewhat confusing to navigate since there is also a North Bennington, both connected by a confusing ( to us ) loop of highways. We never did get really oriented. The historic downtown has shops and restaurants, the periphery three red covered bridges. We visited the Bennington Battle Monument, a huge obelisk visible from almost anywhere in the area.

This celebrates the Battle of Bennington - which was actually fought elsewhere - Hoosic,New York, I think. It was fought to keep the British in the Revolutionary War from capturing the munitions and supplies stored in Bennington and was significant in boosting the morale of the continental Army at a time when this was sorely needed. Since I wanted to shoot the monument with a sunstar, I ended up with the face of it underexposed ... but I got a great sunstar. A learning moment. Other photos there were more successful but the viewing platform, accessed by elevator, was not a great place to shoot from unless you're taller than I am.

For those of us who like scenery and hunt ancestors, the Old Bennington Cemetery and the First Congregational Church are visually wonderful. Many monuments are in the old style - angels with wine, skeletal faces, weeping willows - but appear to be almost new. We wondered whether they are in fact old or if they have been replaced with duplicates
so they are readable. The churchyard is large, part of it acquired when a nearby house lived in by Ethan Allen was razed. We searched hundreds of markers, looking for my family and found a number. Although some of them are available on FindAGrave.com, there's something special about seeing and photographing them yourself, being able to touch the stones and connect with your past. My photos here were more about documenting family but it was pleasing to find, near some of my ancestors, the grave of Robert Frost and his family.

The adjacent church itself is a lovely white New England structure with a spire reaching into the sky. Volunteers are happy to show your around, answer questions and pull out books that list where many graves are located and the early members of the congregation. The interior is simple and elegant, white with boxes to enclose each family, allowing them to bring heated bricks to warm the cold winter days. Volunteers pointed out the lack of any religious ornamentation - no crosses, statues, stained glass windows, only a high pulpit for the minister to address the congregation. I climbed to the upper level to get a better angle but my 18-270 mm lens wasn't wide angle enough to cover as much as I wanted. Even so, by moving around the upper lever, I was able to find some lovely angles. the church itself is an historic monument, calling itself an example of the right to freedom of religion. In actual fact, it seems that many who came to the new world to be free to practice their own religion didn't want to allow the same right to other religions. An irony not made know to schoolchildren who are taught about colonial times.

The Bennington Museum, next door to the church and cemetery, covers both history and art. An entire gallery is devoted to Grandma Moses, local celebrity, and her lovely primitives. The building itself has a pretty stone exterior, attractively planted and with sculpture nicely placed. Photography was allowed, except in the Grandma Moses gallery, but at the time, I was more interested in art and history than in making images. Sometimes it's good to just look.

We left Bennington the third day to drive to North Conway, New Hampshire. We stayed in a hotel on a loooong commercial strip so confusing our GPS couldn't find its location. Recalling a lovely hike we had taken years before in the White Forest National Forest, we drove to the trailhead for Diana's Baths and had a shock. Our last hike was on a weekday at a different time of year. This time, it was a late summer weekend and the parking lot - not a small one - was so crammed with cars that the park had a staff person to manage the traffic and mediate conflict over spaces. We were eventually able to park and take the hike but it was a very different experience. There were number of people who were loud, rude and crude. At the baths themselves, there were so many people in the water, getting a decent photo was really difficult. I did get some shots of the path and the cool fungi along the way but my recommendation would be to go there of an off season weekday when the madding crowd is elsewhere. the walk is an easy 1.2 miles round trip.

Finally, on the fourth day, we arrived in Bar Harbor, on Mount Desert Island. More on this later.

Diana's Baths

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Logan Pond 2018

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