Local Spots

Boys at the Beach by Leslie

One of our favorite things to do in the summer is visit our local lake and hang out on the beach. It's such an easy day and the kids are guaranteed to get along and have fun without much stress or planning. I've gotten our gear down so that the three of us can carry in everything we need. Quinn carries the bag of toys, Milo carries the pop up tent and blanket, and I carry the water, food, towels, clothes and my camera. We are also late afternoon beachgoers and usually arrive after lunch and stay until right before dinner. The lake is perfect for little guys, the water is shallow and warm and there are bathrooms and a food truck nearby. It's so fun!

What is your go-to activity with the kids on a hot summer day?

(Photo specs: 50mm compact macro lens, ISO 100, f/2.5, 1/2500 secs)

Photo Walk Fridays: Sugar Loaf, NY by Leslie

Sugar Loaf is a sweet little art and craft village just 10 minutes from where we live. It's been around for 250 years and became a thriving craft center in the 1970s. It's filled with adorable shops that are always open on the weekend, and sometimes during the week. It really makes me happy to come here, there are so many things to discover and I love to see people living thier passions. Many of the business owners not only live and work in the shops, but often make most of what they are selling. When I visit here I dream of a life of simply making and selling my art. If you are in the area, it is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.

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Photo Walk Fridays: Pennings Farm Market by Leslie

Pennings Farm Market is one of my favorite places to go in Warwick. It's just 15 minutes from our house and has everything you could ever want. Fantastic locally grown and produced food, a menu of sandwiches and salads, a place for the kids to play, animals to feed, a garden center, apple picking and seasonal delights. It's where we go to get our Xmas Tree and after we have hiked the Appalachian Trail. See the bottom of the post for some of my favorite things to buy at Pennings.

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Photo Walk Fridays: Woodstock, NY by Leslie

I'm so excited to announce a new regular feature! Photo Walk Fridays will be published every Friday and will feature 10-20 photographs from a photo walk I have been on. I will also be sharing relevant links to the area that I photographed and featuring some cool spots to check out in New York City and the Hudson Valley.

The photo walk in the rain with Tracey Clark that I did at ALT Summit really taught me something important about myself. One of my favorite ways to take pictures is to just walk around and see what I can find. It's the process of discovery and slowing down to really look at things with my camera that I love and while it's something I have done many times before, it never occurred to me to frame it as a photo walk. I always thought of photo walks as something you did as a group, but I realised that this was something I could do alone as well. It's kind of a revelation for me and I'm excited to see what this project will bring to my photography and my life. Eventually, I would love to develop this into a group event in my local area as well. If you are interested, please let me know. With all of that introductory stuff out of the way, let's get to our first location.

Woodstock, New York

You have probably heard of the 1969 music festival that was named after this town, but did you know that the festival was not actually held in Woodstock, NY? The concert was held 60 miles away in White Lake, NY, however this town has embraced the still burning ember of hippie love that peaked that summer and it's not hard to find tie dye and bearded hippies still wandering around. I've always wanted to visit Woodstock and finally one Saturday my family drove up in search of a good book store. What we found was a charming art town, with a great energy and the original 60's hippie spirit alive and well. We also found two excellent book stores, which sadly, I did not photograph. We spent our time on Tinker Street and just wandered around into shops and galleries. You can find links to the all the places that we visited and photographed at the end of the post.

Places We Visited:

Reader's Quarry Bookshop: A wonderfully curated selection of used and rare books. Do not miss this place!

The Golden Notebook: An independent book store with a fantastic selection of new books, with lots of great art and design books, comic books and a section for the kids.

Woodstock Artists Association & Museum: There was an excellent show here, called "Shakespeare & Other Subjects" featuring prints and drawings by Milton Glazer. The show is probably down now, but I'm sure there are always amazing things to see there.

Oriole 9: Continental-themed cafe serving local and organic foods from the Hudson Valley. So delicious and the kids loved it too.

Tinker Toys: We loved this toy store! You must go visit, it was amazing. There are so many wonderful things for both the young and the old to discover.

Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild: When we visited they had their 5x7 fundraiser up, or what was left of it, in which local artists donate a piece of artwork on a 5x7 canvas. There were some incredibly imaginative solutions to that challenge and the unicorn piece pictured above was one of my favorite items.

Legends: For everything tie dye and hippie, with the Blue Brothers lounging on the deck.

Next Time:

The Center for Photography at Woodstock

More Information:

Town of Woodstock Tourism

Valentine's Day Photo Walk by Leslie

I took myself on a little photo walk yesterday, bought some chocolates for my family and had brunch alone at a French cafe. It was a lovely morning and when I returned home with the kids, there were white lilies from Chris. These are my best shots from Valentine's Day.

I got a new lens and all of these pictures were taken with it. I had to send in my 28-70mm f/2.8L for a calibration and a minor cosmetic repair and since it's my only lens, I had to buy a new one. I looked at the 50mm f/1.2L, the 100mm f/2.8L Macro and the 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro. I want them all, but I got the most affordable and the smallest, the 50mm Compact Macro. Tracey Clark was raving about it at ALT and I figured for less than $300 I could test it out while my big lens is gone and if I didn't like it I could return it. 

I like it.

The tones are great and it's a sharp enough lens with great depth of field, but the best part? It's small. I was able to carry it around all day yesterday without it being too heavy or bulky. It *is* a bit noisy when I focus, it's like a little robot talking to me or something, and I will purchase that 50mm 1.2 one day, but for now the 50mm Compact Macro is lovely. (Thanks Tracey!)

What lenses are your favorites? What do you shoot with your different lenses? Is there a dream lense you have been lusting after?

Milo's First Live Band by Leslie

Over the weekend, we met some friends at the Tuscan Cafe for some live music. It was early enough that the kids could come and Milo was enthralled. He loved all the band equipment and he sat attentively for most of the set. The band, Wooden Heart, was impressive with a big sound and a funky vibe. The singer was adorable and awesome, playing guitar and ukulele and she was joined by four band mates playing guitar, drums, bass, sax and trumpet. It was such a rich, wonderful sound that grew at one point, so magically, that I got all choked up watching Milo witness his first real live show.

Meanwhile, Quinn was weaving in and out of the crowd, restless and full of energy. He had on some super earphones, that blocked out a lot of the sound, but he still grew tired of the whole thing after a little while. He is still too young, but oh my goodness, was it ever cool to go see a live band with my kids. I cannot wait to do it again. It's like taking them to the drive in, this rarely done, adult kind of thing, that just feels awesome to bring them into.

With all of Chris's experience playing in bands and performing shows, it's easy to forget that Milo had never seen it for real. Chris pretend plays "band" with the boys, where they write songs and hire a booking agent (me) and get paid (or not) and play live. The band breaks up and then gets back together. It's pretty funny. Chris knows the routine so well that he brings all of the real life parts of being in a band into their play. 

These shots were taken with my new Olympus PEN E-P3. I have been looking for the perfect camera to take with me when my Canon 5DMII is just too heavy, cumbersome or awkward to shoot with. I really love to document everything that I do, but the iPhone was just not cutting it for me and I was leaving my big camera at home rather than carry it around with me and strain my neck or bring it to restaurants and other crowded places where it might get banged around or spilled on. The Olympus is awesome, small enough to carry around my neck and not worry about it, but with a high enough quality of image that I don't feel like my images are so far below the quality I am used to.

It's a micro 4/3 camera, which means it has a larger sensor than a standard point and shoot camera, and it has removable lenses that are also larger than a standard point and shoot. This adds up to better image quality and more flexibility for shooting in lower light situations and with greater depth of field. I got it with the 17mm f/2.8 lens and the 45mm f/1.8 lens. For these shots I was shooting with the 17 mm on Auto (the camera came literally hours before we went out) but I have since learned how to make adjustments in manual mode and I have tried out the 45mm. It's an amazing lens with wonderful depth of field.

I look forward to sharing more images from this camera!

Alone at the Lake by Leslie

Way back in May, before the beach was officially open and the summer got a little crazy, I took the boys to the lake. They had been playing in the water a little bit but the park ranger came over to tell me that they were not allowed to swim because there were no lifeguards. This was the same day that I took those neat sand photos.

Some poeple might think it's particularily lonely to be at the beach when no one else is there, but for me, it's my favorite time to go. We felt like it was our own private place and the kids can wander far without me having to worry about them disappearing in the crowd.

Early season empty beaches are long gone, but soon you will be able to find late season freedom. After labor day it gets a little chillier, but plan to visit your favorite summer spot when the crowds are gone. You can have the place to yourself and extend your summer just a tiny bit longer.

Prints in the Sand by Leslie

Sand, as a metaphor, has great potential. Made up of millions of tiny grains, able to be molded into a shape with water and wind, all at once delicate and strong. It is as powerful as the sea and it's complete opposite.

These patterns and shapes, the tire tracks of tractors pushing the sand around on the beach, were so dynamic and powerful with the bright sunlight. The next day, after a busy Saturday of feet walking all over them, they were gone. 

At the Lake and a Big Pile of Sand by Leslie

Late in the afternoon last week, a friend of mine tipped me off to the fact that a large truck load of sand had just been delivered to Wawayanda, our local State park that has a beautiful lake and beach area. She told me I HAD to take the boys after I told her how much fun they had in a mud puddle the day before. There were just a few hours before Chris would be home from work and it was a 20 minute drive away, so I put the chicken pot pie in the oven and we headed out for a very last minute, no frills, hour-long trip to the beach.

It's still a bit too cold to swim and there isn't a life guard or swim area set up yet, so I told the boys we were just going to play in the sand. Of course, we couldn't resist dipping our toes into the water and even though I asked them to only go as deep as their knees, before I knew it they were completely soaked. Quinn fell in the water at one point (see the video below) and by then it was a lost cause! I thought it was super cute that they held their shorts up to try to keep them dry, even after they were totally wet.

Even though I had asked them to try to stay dry, I knew it wasn't likely to happen. They were having such fun and I so enjoyed watching them play together that I couldn't possibly be mad about them getting so wet and dirty. It's just a little water and sand after all, nothing that can't be cleaned up. It was the same with the mud puddle. Quinn was covered in mud from head to toe and I literally hosed him off, but it was worth it for the joy I could see in his face when he squished the mud in his hands and between his toes.

Anyway - it's my favorite time to go to the beach; when it isn't too hot, no one is there, and I don't have to cart a bunch of stuff for the whole afternoon. It was just a casual trip to enjoy the sand and the water. Milo and Quinn were such buddies, playing together side by side the whole time. I love being able to step back to just let them be together, summer is so wonderful for all the time we get to spend outside. It really does make everything easier, they rarely fight when we are outside, it's just all smiles and fun.