Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012!!!

Happy New Year everyone! What a spectacular firework show here in Philadelphia! I surely hope 2012 will be a promising year and that we all accomplish our resolutions. For this year, I must travel extensively and take more photos. That's my resolution to fulfill. I was glad to open the new year shooting my camera.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Passaic Falls

I consider this place as New Jersey's Niagara Falls. It is known as the Great Passaic Falls of the Passaic River located in Paterson, New Jersey. This area is generally out of the way for me, but since its recent designation as Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park in November of this year, my fascination has grown. It is a 77 ft (23m) high waterfall that has also lead to the growth of the City of Paterson through industry. It has always been an iconic New Jersey landmark and one of the best places to see in the northern section of the state. Lately it has not been as popular as it deserves to be. Few visitors frequent the area and benches nearby are usually empty. But hopefully the involvement of National Park Service will change that. The water was low when I came over, so it was more exciting to photograph the top of the falls as opposed to the base of it. I plan to hopefully come more often as it is about a hour or less away from the Delaware Water Gap, one of my all time favorite places.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Valley Forge National Historic Park

As you perhaps know I am a fan of National Parks due to their majestic natural beauty and the serenity of the great outdoors. But some are preserved due to their historic value and thus are set aside from development due to their significance in playing a key role in the nation’s historic, natural, and cultural values. A sense of national pride lies within these places that have become embraced and protected by the people; leading to legislative action to designate them as public parks. Such parks can be found in both rural and urban areas including Philadelphia, a city with so much historic value, that signs of National Park Service can be found in the heart and in the outskirts of the city. The main historic tourist attraction of the city, Independence Hall, is easily accessible by public transportation and arguably one of the most visited sites in the area. One other place located in the outskirts of the city however has so much history that it is also managed by National Park Service. Out of all the Winter encampments of American General George Washington and his army, the Valley Forge Encampment of 1777-1778 received the most fame since it resulted in more casualties, and more significant changes to the American Army. What led to this event to play a significant chapter in the American Revolutionary War?

After the American Colonies declared Independence on July 4, 1776, the newly founded nation began its long struggle to achieve and maintain the status of being an independent country. While the British gained significant progress such as in New York, the Colonists scored victories in New Jersey, which promised both sides a long war ahead. Hoping to break the stalemate of the war, British Generals proposed a campaign to invade Philadelphia, the site where independence was declared. Under the leadership of General William Howe, Philadelphia was to be invaded and Washington’s army eliminated as a threat to British efforts. In the aftermath of the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, Philadelphia fell into British Hands. It was a severe loss to the revolutionary cause and decisive symbolic victory for the British. One of the Colonists’ major cities and the cradle for independence was now at British hands and Washington was now at retreat. With the threat of winter settling along, Washington had to find a strategic location to camp as both sides sit out the cruel winter. The wet wintry weather would cause muddy terrain, heavy rain/snow and conditions not fit for fighting. Neither the British, nor the Americans preferred to fight in such poor weather and preferred to sit out the season before initiating another major campaign. While the British held Philadelphia, Washington’s Army sought refuge in a rural countryside named Valley Forge due to a nearby iron forge. It was about twenty miles northwest or about a day’s march from the city. After a final skirmish at White Marsh, Washington’s ill equipped troops marched toward the location, arriving there on December 19, 1777. Inadequately clothed, troops were forced to construct cabins themselves.  Short food supply, bad weather, and threat of disease made life miserable for the troops. The area was nevertheless easily defensible with high ground and the Schuylkill River as a barrier.

During this season of hibernation, as many as two thousand may have perished in the cruel winter. But few deserted and the army held together. Many great figures of the Revolution came about at Valley forge such as Nathaniel Greene due to his efforts to provide soldiers with basic necessities and Baron Friedrich von Steuben for priceless training and drill instructions that molded the undisciplined army into an effective fighting force. On June 18, 1778, the army left Valley Forge in pursuit of the British who fled north. Washington and his men left behind memories of suffering, but emerged otherwise determined to fight on.

The war would continue for another five years, and Washington and his troops would endure even more winter encampments such as the brutal winter at Morristown 1779-1780, but the experiences at Valley Forge remained with the soldiers as a valuable lesson that helped propel them to eventual victory. In spite of the tragedies, and lack of any decisive or strategic military accomplishments during the Valley Forge Encampment of 1777-1778, many argue that it gave birth to the American Army. Many historians agree, that out of the suffering, the army was united even more. Emboldened by perseverance, effective leadership, and unity, Washington’s Army left Valley Forge highly motivated and more willing to fight than ever before.

Well known parks intended with recreation in mind include Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. These areas managed by National Park Service are important due to their natural beauty and environmental benefits. Such sites quite naturally invite recreational usage and National Park Service accommodates such activities respectfully, although reasonable rules still apply to avoid any possible damage. Other sites on the other hand may forbid or restrict recreation such as Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Oklahoma City National Memorial, World Trade Center Site, and African Burial Ground National Monument. This is due to a solemn theme, lack of natural space or resources, location conflict, or other reasons. A site with more historic value and yet contains enough landscape such as Gettysburg National Military Park, Yorktown Battlefield, and Valley Forge National Historic Park, must carefully consider recreational usage with caution since their intended purpose is for history, yet their vast space allows such recreational opportunities to exist. These must be permitted in compliance with National Park Service’s dedication to the enjoyment of the people while protecting the natural and historic resources. Valley Forge’s scenic landscape and natural resources can be perceived as a blessing, for those who want the site to be more consistent with national parks that serve for the enjoyment of the people. In the meantime, it can also be seen as a curse for those who would stress the only value of such a site is for historical and education al purposes and that recreational usage would be either distracting or destructive. National Park Service was faced with a task to utilize Valley Forge’s resources to benefit all parties within reason and in the meantime, stay true to their word to protect and preserve for the benefit of the people.

Visitors stroll by replicated cabin's. A place meant for historic preservation has become a place for basic recreation due to the natural landscape that many parks are known for.

A replicated canon stands by ready to fend off any intrusion. Unlike its predecessors more than two hundred years ago, this canon is pointed at the highly developed Philadelphia suburban area, which has threatened the site's existence in the past.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Defiant Leaf

It's almost December and almost all trees have lost their leaves. One tree within my residence however still has plenty of leaves left. In addition, there are a few leaves in the tree that just refuse to die. They are apparently trying to hold out until the bitter end and stay green for as long as possible.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Autumn Colors

My intended trip to the Water Gap went ultimately unsuccessful. As much as I desire to visit there to capture Fall Foliage, time constraints restrict me from driving that far to visit such a marvelous place. In addition, heavy winds stripped many of the trees bare and overall landscape shots would yield a mix of trees completely bare sticking out. Nevertheless with time running out and limited day light hours each day, I made an attempt to capture the beautiful foliage of 2011 before it ends for the year.

Most of these were taken at the Rancocas Woods. As mentioned many of the trees were bare and I was perhaps too late; for if I wanted the best Fall photographs, I shouldn't have gone to the Virgin Islands just weeks before. But at least I enjoyed that trip very much.

Normally snakes such as this relatively harmless Garter would be hibernating by now. I was surprised to find him still "awake".

Friday, October 28, 2011

A tale of two (haunted) bridges

It's Halloween and I thought I might dedicate a blog on two local haunts that I have encountered in the past. What they have in common is that they are both bridges. I visited both several times without seeing anything paranormal, but each one has a story to tell about their ghostly legends.

Van Sandt Bridge: New Hope/Solebury Township, PA

Built in 1875, this covered bridge sits in a rural area in Bucks County, PA. This area is almost as haunted as much as it is historic. New Hope, PA is home to many local legends which does not surprise many. This bridge, is among them.

There are two legends that account for this bridge's reputation for ghost stories. The first story is that this bridge was used to hang horse thieves. You supposedly can hear ropes dangling when in fact there are no ropes. The second story is that a teenage mother committed suicide on this bridge along with her baby. You supposedly can hear a baby crying if you visit this bridge at a certain time. This bridge thus has a nickname "Crybaby Bridge".

The roads leading to this bridge are narrow and curvy. It is certainly hazardous driving through this bridge at night; especially if you are not familiar with the roads. One sharp turn will bring you to a head on collision with a rock embankment if you are not careful. Deer and foxes frequent the area and can suddenly appear; calling for an accident to happen. So whether visiting this bridge is a haunting experience or not, just trying to get to and out of there can scare you.

Forlklanding Road Bridge: Cinnaminson, NJ

This is a small one lane bridge that serves both ways over a creek that flows into the Delaware River. Unlike the aforementioned bridge, this one is not as well known, but with numerous issues of Weird NJ in circulation, this location may one day earn a spot.

Rumor has it that some twenty years ago on a cold winter night, one car got caught up into the creek just off the bridge with two occupants perishing. If you were to cross the bridge at midnight, a phantom car will follow you until you reach the end of the bridge.

Driving through this bridge is already a risk. Since it has only one lane, cars must yield to each other in order to cross. In days of heavy rain, the creek can easily flood and surround the bridge with water, making the road and bridge impossible for most cars. Immediately North of the bridge has two tricky sharp turns that one must navigate driving slow and with caution. The creepier part however is that the very next intersection with Rt 73 just a few hundred yards from the bridge is a known traffic death trap. Numerous car accidents have occurred there; I even witnessed one myself.

Though I have never seen anything paranormal in my life before, I know people who have. I do not want to say that these bridges are indeed haunted. These locations may or may not be haunted. The story behind them may perhaps be local legends that have spread through rumor. If you wish to investigate, do so with caution and do so professionally. I believe that many places that are supposedly haunted like these could simply perhaps be old structures that have had mishaps in the past, but due to their poor or dangerous conditions, have earned a reputation of being "haunted".

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Virgin Islands

In the midst of my busy schedule, I managed to squeeze in time for one short vacation. I was away to the Virgin Islands to attend a relative's wedding, as well as to help preserve the moment.

More photos? After all, I was on vacation......

While you are enjoying good weather, you can see the bad weather coming from afar.......

My biggest regret was neglecting the circular polarizing filter. But nevertheless, I photographed the scenery exactly the way it was.

There are so many of these creatures, that I found at least two of them in my hotel room. They might as well be called pests.

These are fewer in number compared with lizards. Nevertheless, they would be seen at least once a day. Back in the mainland US, you may mistaken one as an escaped pet.

Where I live, the most numerous "large" bird you see are vultures. Here, it's the pelican.

Only one humming bird showed up for a few seconds during my entire stay. I caught him as quick as I could. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Old Glory by the Rainbow

As the day came to a close after heavy rain, the opposite side of the sunset produced a red glow against the sky as well as a rainbow. Right where I was standing, I also saw Old Glory standing with the rainbow directly behind her. I photographed the scene, hopping the sign was a good omen as we can all use one; especially this country.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dingman Falls - Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

In the middle of big news as I post this, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake has struck the East Coast, putting an abrupt halt to everyone's daily activities including my own. Nevertheless, I am back from a weekend road trip and must continue with my post. For those who do not live within this area and want to know more, you can read news about this earthquake. As I write, my hearts and prayers continue to go to the casualties of the recent earthquakes that are far worse; especially in Japan.

The Delaware Water Gap, is one of my favorite places to visit. A water gap is an opening which flowing water carves through a mountain range. In this gap, the Delaware River begins its journey from New York State, and flows through the Appalachian Mountains dividing New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The river then continues south into the Delaware Bay. As one of the units of National Park Service, it is a quintessential representative of the beautiful majestic scenery that the United States East Coast has to offer. Since the drive was long and I was not prepared to camp, my main objective of this trip was to capture one of the waterfalls. My favorite is Dingman Falls with a drop of nearly 40 meters or about 130 feet. I will surely be back there in the Autumn season, when the foliage is at its greatest in the area. As an enthusiastic outdoors person, I should be camping, though I have not done so in a while.

I photographed this falls before on a previous trip, however, it was during a dry time with no rain. As a result water flow was limited. You can tell from these photographs below. Notice the major difference. I also had much more cloud cover on the new visit, effecting the color tones. With a water level low like this, the falls reminds me of one of those miniature fountains often purchased as stress relievers. Think of this one as one of those water animated stress relievers at a much larger scale.

Here is a video clip I took while I was there photographing. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Perhaps one of the world's best know flowers, the orchid brought beauty and awe to people around the world. While I had the season and leisure on my side, I have made a collection of orchid photos from various encounters at gardens.