Some time ago, Steve and I were debating the eternal question – if we were ever able to buy a second home, would we want a beach house or a lake house?  Steve voted beach.  I could go either way, but I think I’d probably tilt toward lake.  I just love a good lake.  Don’t you?  Anyway, as summer is rolling in, I’ve got to thinking about all of the lakes I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy.

Most definitively, the Great Sacandaga Lake, where my parents have their camp.  This lake was a fixture of my childhood – sailing, paddling and windsurfing on its friendly waters, jumping off the dock and the boat deck with my brother and cousins, and lighting bonfires on the beach every Labor Day.

Nearby, lovely Lake George – I have more memories here as a teenager and twentysomething – strolling the village and the docks first with my friend Jessica (once we popped into a junk shop and picked up a bumper sticker that said “Honk if you love Sweden!” and her parents scratched their heads the whole way home about why so many cars were honking – duh, everyone loves Sweden) and in my twenties, with my high school BFF Jenn and our mutual pal Seth (a college classmate of mine and co-worker of Seth’s).  We’ve spent a few evenings kicked back at Seth’s lake house while he grilled up a dinner and the next door neighbors fired their pirate cannon at the tourists on the Minne-ha-ha.

Another childhood fixture – postage-stamp-sized Mirror Lake, around which the village of Lake Placid nestles.  Most of my memories are from winter – skating and sledding on the frozen lake – but I watched my rugrats splash and play in the lake’s clear waters last summer.

Five minutes from Mirror Lake, there’s gleaming Lake Placid.  Once my dad and I launched kayaks near the village and paddled all the way to the back slope of Whiteface Mountain, then popped open a bottle of sauvignon blanc and floated around with plastic wine glasses in hand.  (We should do that again.)

My mom’s childhood memories are all of Lake Minnewaska.  Her stories of visiting a lakeside resort here with her parents – a resort that burned down decades ago – are so Dirty Dancing it makes me want to tango.

Nowadays, my most frequented lake is probably Lake Burke.  We’re usually to be found on the hiking trails circumnavigating the lake, but this summer I’d like to get out on the water.

Although I like my lakes small enough to sail across in a Flying Scot, I did live in the Great Lakes region for three years, not far from the shores of mighty Lake Erie.  The views never got old.

And speaking of Great Lakes views, my habit of treating myself to sunrise runs while on business travel served me well when I watched the day roll in over Lake Michigan while in Chicago for a traditional labor law workshop.

But the greatest lake of all has to be Cayuga Lake, with its waves of blue just downhill from the greatest university in the world – obviously – Cornell.  (Honorable mention to sweet Beebe Lake, with its excellent running trails.)

And I haven’t even mentioned the lakes I’ve been lucky enough to dip a toe into on my travels – like the most famous lake of all, Scotland’s Loch Ness.  (I didn’t see Nessie.)

And postcard-perfect, unspoiled Derwentwater in – where else? – the Lake District.  Just looking at this picture is making me want to go back to Keswick.

Clearly, I love a good lake.  And this summer I’m hoping to add Lake Washington and Lake Union to my list.  Of all the things that are quintessentially summer, a clear lake tops the list, right?

Orange Things

Recently my brother and I were having one of our marathon phone conversations, during which we spend two-plus hours discussing anything and everything, mocking mutual acquaintances, plotting world domination, and debating important, hard-hitting issues like orange: good or bad?  That particular debate, which went on longer than you’d care to know, started when Dan mentioned that he hates the color orange, and I took extreme umbrage.  “It’s an angry color,” he insisted.  “Orange and red make people angry.  It’s scientific fact.”  Be that as it may, I was equally insistent – I love the color orange.  Why?, Dan wondered.  It’s simple, really – orange is the color of so many things that make me happy.

Like street lamps.  And sunsets.

Especially beach sunsets.

And flickering firelight.  I’ll take a candle or a cozy blaze in the fireplace, but the best is a campfire.  Ideally a campfire in my best friend’s backyard, while boats drift silently by on the canal just a few feet away from where we sit roasting vegan marshmallows, making s’mores, sipping summer shandy and laughing.  Bonus points if a solar-powered “fairy in a jar” is glowing nearby.

And flowers.  Mums, nasturtiums, gerbera daisies – I love ’em.  Give me orange flowers any day.  Nothing brightens up a kitchen so well.  Especially two-for-one farmers’ market bouquets.

And fall foliage.  Hills ablaze – just how I like them.  (This was about a week past peak, but you’d never know, would you?)

On the trees or on the ground.  There’s nothing like an orange leaf.

And there are the lovely orange globe pumpkins, ready for picking just before Hallowe’en.

Tigger not included.  (Tigger’s orange, too!)

I didn’t even mention to Dan the deep orange brocade shawl his wife gave me for Christmas the year before last.  But that’s another orange thing I love.  (Clearly, the lovely Danielle can appreciate the beauties of the color orange, even if my brother can’t!)

Do you love an unfairly maligned color?

Seven Days, Seven B&W Photos

Well, I’m guessing that most of my friends have encountered the latest social media challenge to make its way around Facebook and Instagram.  I’m not normally one to get into doing social media challenges; I rarely participate in Instagram month-long daily prompts and I usually roll my eyes hard at Facebook challenges.  But my friend Rebecca challenged me twice to do the B&W challenge, I figured I’d better go along with it, or she’d never stop.  😉

The rules of the challenge are: post a black and white photo every day for seven days; no pictures and no explanations.  Challenge another person.  I followed along and posted my photos noting only what day of the challenge I was on, and at the end, challenged my sister-in-law Danielle.  Now that I’m done, here’s the whole challenge in all its glory, with some more details about the photos and the processing, and at the end, a lesson I learned that surprised me a bit.

Day One

Place: Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, California
Date: August, 2017
Camera: iPhone 6s Plus
Processing: Silvertone

I was really pleased with the way this one came out.  I snapped this picture on my phone as Steve and I were hiking the bluffs on Santa Cruz Island, and I liked it, but it was sort of a grey day and the views weren’t as dramatic as they are when the sun is shining.  It didn’t occur to me to process it in black and white (that almost never occurs to me) but I really like it.

Day Two

Place: Great Falls National Park, Virginia
Date: August, 2016
Camera: iPhone 6s Plus
Processing: Clarendon (Instagram) and Noir

I much prefer this picture processed in color.  It’s actually one of my favorite photos that I have taken while hiking – not that it’s the best or most dramatic, but Great Falls is my favorite place in the world.  I don’t feel like the black and white processing does the picture any favors at all.  Perhaps if I’d taken this during the winter, when Great Falls is pretty much black and white anyway, I’d feel differently.  But I remember taking this picture, and the whole day was a riot of color, and it was our first hike back after moving home to Virginia, and my cousin Jocelyn was there.  If there’s ever a picture that should be processed in color, it’s this one.

Day Three

Place: Pamlico Sound, Frisco, North Carolina
Date: July, 2015
Camera: iPhone (older generation)
Processing: Silvertone

Longtime readers may recall that when I recapped my 2015 summer vacation to the Outer Banks, I included a post with one sunset picture from each day of our trip that I had snapped on my camera and processed/shared on Instagram.  This was one of the outtakes.  I didn’t use it because I didn’t like the big dark expanse in the foreground.  I think the black and white processing has improved this picture.  Normally I would never process a sunset picture in black and white, because what on earth would be the purpose?  But I think the Silvertone filter gave the sky a really cool look, and I like the silhouette of the windblown tree.

Day Four

Place: Hall Ranch, Lyons, Colorado
Date: November, 2015
Camera: iPhone (older generation)
Processing: Rise (Instagram) and Silvertone

This was my favorite photo of the challenge – in part because I remember this hike as one of the happiest I’ve ever done (it was in Colorado with my family, my brother and sister-in-law, and we had such a wonderful time soaking in the incredible scenery and enjoying being together) and in part because I was surprised how much I love the black and white processing on this.  I think the layered filters really made it look cool.  I almost never process my pictures in black and white, and this one is making me wonder why.  (It also doesn’t hurt that when I posted it on Facebook, one of my mom’s friends commented that it looked “Ansel Adams-like!” – picture me blushing hard.)

Day Five

Place: Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Date: September, 2008
Camera: Nikon D5100
Processing: Mono

The only picture of this set that wasn’t snapped on an iPhone, this is also fairly early in my photographic experimenting.  I’ve always liked the pictures I shot on Skye, which has to be one of the most photogenic places in the world.  What you can’t tell from this picture is that the grass was almost electric green.

Day Six

Place: Fort de Soto Park, Pinellas County, Florida
Date: September, 2017
Camera: iPhone 6s Plus
Processing: Clarendon (Instagram) and Noir

Out of the seven black and white photos I posted over the week, this one got the most love from my Facebook friends.  I can understand why – it’s certainly dramatic.  I also think it illustrates that you don’t have to have a ton of skill to shoot a cool-looking nature picture (although skill would help) if you happen to be in the right place at the right time.  I was actually closer to this egret as it took off than it appears from the picture, but I’d have loved to be closer still.  Either way, I do really like this picture – the white bird against the dark mangroves, and the reflection in the water, I think are nice effects.  I also loved this in color, but it’s more attention-grabbing in black and white.

Day Seven

Place: Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, Santa Barbara, California
Date: August, 2017
Camera: iPhone 6s Plus
Processing: Lark (Instagram) and Noir

I wanted to end with a mountain, so I saved this one for the last photo.  I love the sky effect here – in reality, it was a brilliant blue, but it looks almost stormy with this processing.  Choosing a black and white filter was tough for this one.  Silvertone looked terrible, but I was really torn between Mono and Noir.  Steve liked Mono, but I thought Noir showed off the craggy mountain a little better and gave the meadow some glimmer.

So – I had a surprising amount of fun with this.  I’m really not a big joiner, but after Rebecca prompted me twice I thought if I kept ignoring her she’d kill me, and I found myself really enjoying the process of choosing a picture each day and then selecting the best filter to give it the effects I wanted.  And by the end of the week, I was feeling really inspired to play more with black and white processing, which I suppose was the whole point.

While I love photography, and I really enjoy playing with processing and filters, I have been really resistant to black and white.  There are a couple of reasons for this – one is that I think black and white processing is almost like cheating, because it forgives so many lighting and formatting sins.  It’s hard to process a picture in black and white and have it NOT look good.  I also think that color processing, while more challenging, looks far better when it’s done well.  (I don’t always do it well, but I am learning.)  Especially when it comes to landscape and nature photography, I’d much rather look at a really well-done color photograph than a black and white one.  But after last week, I think I learned that there is a place for black and white photography in my own albums.  I’ll definitely be playing more with this in the future.

Did you get pinged to do the black and white challenge, too?

OBX Trip 2015: Seven Sunsets

The sunsets on the Outer Banks are justifiably famous.  I know there are gorgeous sunsets all over the world, but something about these makes them special.  As a treat to myself for vacation, I photographed and Instagrammed the sunset every night for the week of our getaway.  Here they are, in all their glory:

Day 1:


Day 2:


Day 3:


Day 4:


Day 5:


Day 6:


Day 7:


Ahhhhhh.  What’s the best sunset you’ve ever seen?