The Journey’s End – Saying Goodbye to Catoctin

And we’re back home! Another adventure is in the books and it is time to get back to our semi-normal lives. It has once again been an incredible experience of being able to slowly explore everything Catoctin Mountain Park has to offer. This time more that any other residency has literally been at a child’s pace the entire time, meaning we spent a lot of time contemplating the little wonders along each path. Hopefully my photos were imbued with some of that sense.

The last couple days of our stay were a little on the rainy side, so we had to pick and choose our outing around storms, but we still managed to get in a lot of fishing and photography. Below are some spots we encountered just a few hours before driving home. I was especially happy to find an unsuspecting fly fisherman trying his luck along the stream since that is what it has been especially reserved for.

And so now I enter editing mode, looking through all the shots I captured. Of course I’ll be looking for the stand out images I can turn into prints, but I’ll also be searching for a narrative thread around which I can begin to create a book about this park and my experience.

Big Hikes and Little Streams

We’ve continued our adventures in Catoctin Mountain Park with great gusto! Melissa and Flint were here for the long weekend, but after they left it was up to Jed and I to explore the rest on our own. Yesterday we did a hike up to Cat Rock, which is actually in Cunningham Falls State Park. It was a lot of up for Jed, but he powered through and made it all the way to the top for our lunch. And there we were met with a few surprises. First, lots of millipedes, probably 4 to 5 inches each. I also managed to get close to one of the skinks, which normally run away so fast that they just look like a little brown and blue blur. But most exciting of all was this guy:

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Those of you who are up on your snake species will recognize this as a Copperhead, one of the two venomous snakes in the park (the other is a pine rattler). This was a very young one, probably just 14-16 inches long, and fortunately he didn’t move the whole time we were there, which was fine with us!

Jed and I have also been spending a little time on Big Hunting Creek. Jed’s been tossing in a line and I’ve been wandering the shoreline, searching for the right photos. I really think that these quiet wetland creeks are coming to define the park for me. Sure, it has some nice hikes to high lookouts, but it seems like the core experiences of the park are nestled in these valleys. At least that is where I have found the most life and peace.

So, we’re wrapping up our trip soon. I plan on visiting a few more of my favorite spots again between rain showers (the sun decided to hide in our last few days here) and then it will be back to home. I’m including a few shots below that I’m liking right now, with some simple edits tied out on them. It probably isn’t how they’ll end up, but at least you can see some of my experimentation in process.

Rest at the Edge

Last night I got the chance to hike up to Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock by myself while Melissa watched the boys after dinner. I took the much steeper trail than what Jed and I had taken earlier to Wolf Rock, but it was more direct. It was slightly strenuous, but it was nice to be completely alone. In fact, I only saw 4 other hikers the whole time, and they were all leaving the trail just as I was starting up.

I revisited Wolf Rock, this time approaching from a different angle, getting much closer to the “wolf” itself. I can definitely see how it got its name. I think if I were in to climbing, I would have been tempted to climb it or one of the many other places along that ridge.

Then I proceeded on to Chimney Rock. It has probably the best view of the park and consists of several tall rocks protruding out on a high ridge. It was great to have time to slowly explore my way around the rocks and figure out a way to the top. I found that I had to navigate through a narrow cut through the rock in order to get to the very edge. Once there I kicked back and enjoyed a little time at the edge, looking over the whole mountain and valley. Below I shared a few photos snapped with my phone along the way.

Catoctin Excitement on the Weekend

We have been keeping busy! Jed and I have been hiking and fishing every day, slowly but surely reaching all corners of the park. And now Melissa and Flint are here for a long weekend of even more hiking, camping, art and of course, s’mores. I’ll just share a few images I’ve been making because it’s time to fix dinner and the trails are calling my name!

Experimental Directions

I’m writing this on Wednesday evening, sitting in the library and soaking in the cool after a hot day (90!). Jed and I have managed to explore a lot of the park and despite some scrapes and bruises, he’s powered through and done an awesome job (next time you see him you should tell him so). Today we even did the Wolf Rock hike. It’s not too far in terms of mileage (3 miles round trip), but there is significant elevation gain and lots of rocky, uneven terrain. I didn’t get the chance to edit any of those photos yet, but I’m sure I’ll get to post them later.

Now I’m at the point where it would be helpful to decide what type of imagery I want to focus on for the park. That will help my decision making process for what I hike to much easier. So, I’ll share with you 1 style of editing I’ve been trying out. One feature of Catoctin that has jumped out is the vibrant green everywhere. I’m not sure if it is always like that or if it’s just the time of year, but the leaves, grass and every plant in between seems to be the same shade of bright yellow-green. So much so that it’s almost overwhelming in color photos. So I’ve been experimenting with a digital process that emulates black and white infrared photography. Now, to any purists out there, it’s probably not even close to the real thing, but if I view it not as emulation but rather just one more possibility for how I process a digital image, then I’m fine with the results. So, I’ll post some samples below. Let me know what you think.

At Home Down East

After about a week of meandering around the peninsula, I’m starting to get into the rhythm of this very special place. I’ve seen some spectacular sunrises and even more colorful sunsets, as well as walked silent under the stars. 

I really can’t say enough good things about the lesser traveled, Schoodic Peninsula. I’m no expert on what Mt. Desert Island holds (though we did take a day trip to explore the main loop and we plan on heading back a couple times at least), but I am extremely content with everything I am discovering right here by our home. It’s got rocky shoreline, wave-smoothed granite rocks, dramatic cliffs and a variety of forest types. In fact, the only thing I’ve noticed it is lacking is all the people. For me, this seclusion and sense of remoteness is the perfect environment.

This morning I woke up an hour before dawn and headed over to one of the boulder beaches for sunrise photos. The sky was lit with dramatic pinks, peaches and oranges, all mixing with the early morning twilight blues. As the sun peaked over the horizon the orange glow lit the rounded stone beach and the nearby cliffs, bathing them in fiery light. It’s never fun to have my alarm go off that early, but the results are worth it.


Countdown to Acadia 2

So, I’m about a month out from heading to Acadia for a couple weeks for the artist residency. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. For so long it has been that thing that will be happening in a long time and recently I’ve been so focused on getting all my classes up and running for the start of the semester that I haven’t really had much time to think or plan. I’m sure once the semester starts I won’t have any extra time, so it’ll probably only sink in once I’ve actually started driving north.

There is one thing I’ve been mulling over a little though, and that is the question: how mobile am I going to be? Am I going to be traversing the whole park, hitting every hot spot at the golden hours? Or am I going to stay stationary as much as possible, and settle into the landscape directly around the Schoodic Institute?

I think my residency time in Ireland taught me to really appreciate a slower pace of creating. I was there for a month and didn’t have a car. All my favorite work that I created was walking distance from where I was living. The same was true in Toronto.

In Rocky Mountain I did travel more. I think I was trying find deeper wilderness areas where there were very few or no other people. I’m happy with what I was able to accomplish in my time there, but it had a very different quality than the other two. More hurried, less contemplative.

So, it’s clear which way I’m leaning right now. Staying close to home, really spending time in slow, careful observation. But at the same time, I feel compelled to go and see the most iconic sights. You know, the ones that have been shot a million times before from all different angles in every feasible lighting scenario. So yes, I want to see them, but realistically, what am I going to do that looks significantly different than the thousands of shots that already exist? 

Yes, I’ll visit those locations, but I’m not going to make it my focus. I will move slow, observe details and respond to the space that is closest to me, in order to make work that is most in tune with the park itself.

And on a final note, I am running a small pre-order of a few select items that I’ll be producing during the residency. Click here to take a look and find something you’d like to order.

Countdown to Acadia

As the summer starts to draw to a close, it is suddenly dawning on me… this residency in Acadia National Park is now rapidly approaching! When I first found out I had been selected it seemed like it was so far away, but now I’m realizing it’s time to start making real plans.

Part of this realization of course is that I also need to get everything squared away with the classes I teach for the time I’m away. I’ve begun laying out my fall semester courses, and now it’s just a matter of filling in the gaps and planning out the details of each lesson. It is going to be an exceedingly busy fall for me, so planning is of the utmost importance.

And I can feel that I’m starting to get excited…. and a little nervous. Nervous in a good way I guess. I’m simply trying to figure out my plan of attack, but at the same time, I keep being reminded that there is so much I don’t know about the park that it’s hard to plan ahead much. There are a few big items and locations I simply must visit, but that more answers the question of where I’ll be going, which is almost secondary to what I’ll be doing. 

I’ll definitely have my digital gear with me, but I’d like to bring some kind of film gear too, and some video equipment, possibly some audio stuff, and recently I’ve been dreaming about doing some printmaking (huh??). And knowing me, I’ll just bring it all and see what happens. So yes, I’m getting excited for the sights, sounds and experience of the park.

And, on a related note to getting prepared, I’ve just published a pre-order that allows anyone to pre-order some of my work from the residency. There’s several options and prices to choose from, so check it out and see if there’s anything you’ve got to have.

Park Trails – the game

I’m excited to announce that Park Trails, my National Park themed card game, is now in alpha testing! This means I’ve ordered an official copy to be printed. Once I get it in about a week, I’ll do a final review of all the cards and rules, and then the real work begins: contacting vendors.

The Cool Factors:

  • Real parks, roads and trails used from the National Parks.
  • Each card is unique, and uses the actual topographic map for that trail.

I’m not finished filling out the store front yet, but you’re welcome to take a look at where you can order it. As soon as I get a physical copy in my hand, I’ll be adding some product shots and making a short tutorial video. You can also see some images and learn a little more about it on my website,

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve got a notebook that is growing ever thicker with game ideas, so it feels good to finally complete one and get it completely production ready. On to my next design! Oh, yeah, and getting ready for the upcoming semester.