A Walk In the Woods

Last weekend, a friend of mine and I took a walk in the woods to see the bluebells blooming nearby. It was fantastic to walk along the path and see the gazillions of beautiful periwinkel blue flowers as we walked along.

Don’t you just love Spring?

I sure do, with the beautiful blues of the bluebells and the brighter sky above and the greens in the leaves of the trees as they start to bloom. The birds are awake at 3:00 in the morning singing up a storm before heading down the street for coffee and giving us all a few more hours to sleep in before the day comes to a full start.

Bluebells Along The Path – S.A. Leys Photography

There was something about looking back at the bluebells along the path and then looking over at the stream and hearing the flow of the water and how soothing it all was. Videos like the one above have a nice way of calming “life”. As I started to record, I realized that I could have recorded for about 10 minutes instead of just one. But it’s nice to have the video to refer back to whenever life become stressful and you just need a minute of beautiful, soothing calmness. – Enjoy.

Bluebells – S.A. Leys Photography

About That Government Shutdown

Having lived in the Washington DC Metro Area for several years, it was not uncommon to hear reports about potential (or actual) government shutdowns. Whenever they would start, my friends (who worked with the government) would express their concerns about finances and budgeting to manage their finances if the shutdown occurred.

Then there would be additional concerns about how these shutdowns would affect everyone living in (or close to) Washington DC. You can read additional information about shutdowns here.

When the government shutdown in 2013 occurred, I didn’t think a lot about it. But as an apprentice photographer and someone who loves American History, I always wondered how a government #shutdown affected the soldiers who stood by the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. Having admired their precision and steadfastness, I always wondered “if the government shuts down, are they still there guarding the tomb of unknowns and performing the changing of the guard?”.

Information about Arlington National Cemetery and Changing of the Guard is here.

And most people who are familiar with this very celebrated service would tell you that they are always there 24/7. And yes, I am one of those people who would love to capture a Changing of the Guard ceremony at midnight or in the early morning hours, when the park is closed and it is snowing. As a photographer, it’s one of my bucket list goals that I would love to try.

So in 2013, the government had been shutdown and there had been a controversy as veterans visiting the WWII memorial as part of the Honor Flight Program had been originally denied access to the memorial because of the government shutdown. Reports of the veterans being barred from and then subsequently (finally) allowed to visit the memorial are here and here.

After hearing this news and wanting to visit (okay – maybe “check in on”) the Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, I grabbed my camera and headed out.

Sure enough, Arlington National Cemetery was open but because the government was shutdown, their staffing was limited and none of the tour buses were running so if you wanted to visit any of the sites within the cemetery, you had to go on foot – which I actually love doing because it is quiet and you can see everything at your own pace.

When I approached the Tomb of the Unknowns, I took some pictures and then watched the changing of the guard ceremony. After about an hour of taking pictures, I heard a loud engine and thought about how strange this was as none of the tour buses had been running. But as the sound of the engine became louder, sure enough, a bus full of passengers arrived along the side of the building and stopped.

When the door to the bus opened, all of the veterans who had been originally denied access to the World War II memorial the previous day were assisted off of the bus to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony.

Usually, when I had seen the Changing of the Guard previously, there were veterans and tourists and families with young children, but never the number of veterans who were escorted and assisted to the front rows on this day.

To say it was inspiring would be a massive understatement.

Those of us who had already been there for a while watched them watch the Changing of the Guard and then looked on again as the ceremony was done to perfection – as it always is. The ceremony ended at the same time the park would be closed for the evening.

Many people stayed to watch (and applaud) as the veterans returned to their bus, glad (like I was) to have been able to share this moment with them. Once their bus had left, the remaining quiet was disturbed only by the footsteps of the rest of us leaving the cemetery inspired and motivated by the service of the men and women who had joined us on this day.

New England Harbors: Damariscotta, Maine

Damariscotta, Maine / S.A.Leys Photo

This is the harbor in Damariscotta, Maine. It was one of my mom’s favorite places to sail with my dad whenever they went to Maine which was just about every other summer.

I had never been there until a few months ago. But seeing this view (above) and how great the town was with its fishing boats, restaurants, art, and antique shops and one of the best 5 & !0’s I have ever seen, I certainly I understood why they loved it as much as they did.

 Damariscotta, ME / S.A.Leys Photo

There’s something about New England harbors that takes my breath away. In this case the glistening ripples of the water and the warmth of the sun. Growing up in Rhode Island I spent a lot of time on the boat with them and would have many views just like this one in harbors from Mystic and Stonington to Kennebunkport and Nantucket.

Whenever we went on vacation, I always packed 2 – 3 books to take with me and would frequently glance up from the pages to see the beautiful views of each harbor we visited.

Once we went on shore we would spend time walking along the streets of each town looking at the shops and houses along the way. These adventures always seemed to end with ice cream before picking up fresh vegetables and seafood to have for dinner once we were back on the boat.

Then after dinner, more reading commenced before heading out the next morning to the next harbor and town.

If you ever have the chance to visit Damariscotta, go!


S.A. Leys Photography

This is one of my many photos taken in Maine last weekend. I now have a nice little cold as a result of spending too much time lying on this very wet rock without a warm enough coat or hat to protect me from the cold, rainy day that it was.

This is how I learn…

My mom was the one who first taught me about the different ways you can frame a shot. On a sunny day back in 2009, we were sitting on the lawn of the Narragansett hotel on Block Island. As she sat in one of the Adirondack chairs, she would coach me while I walked back and forth trying to figure out how to get the best shot. I remember that day like it was yesterday and lying there on the rocks this past weekend, trying to get the nicest shot brought all of these memories back full force.

(This is the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine – it’s beautiful)

The thing I have been trying to remember lately (in life and in photography) is to make sure I always have all of my perspectives covered – to get the shot in front of me (which Is the photo above), while also taking the time to remember to turn around and see if there’s a picture behind me as well.

The photo below is what was behind me. To me this is funny as when some of my parents’ friends passed away the joke was they were going to come back as seagulls (don’t ask, it’s a long story). So looking up and seeing this one was sort of treat.

S.A. Leys Photography

But as I sat there taking a picture of the one seagull who was spending a lot of time looking directly at me, this wave came along… And you know, there’s a lesson here: Life is going to throw a few cold waves your way on these dreary, rainy days. And when they do, stand firm, just like this little guy.

Newport, Rhode Island

When you grow up in Newport, Rhode Island, it’s impossible to forget how beautiful it is. This is a short black and white video of some of my favorite places to visit. Photographs are of Newport Harbor (taken from Fort Adams) and then around Ocean Drive.

Ever been to Newport? No? You should go –

Loons and Ducklings and Ducks Oh My!

S.A.Leys Photography

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to spend time frolicking with friends on Newfound Lake in New Hampshire. After a great lunch and spending time talking and reminiscing, we hopped onto their boat and went for a swim.

It was so great to be on (and in) the water on such a beautiful, summer day in New Hampshire.

Sitting in the boat while drying off, we engaged a few ducks who swam by to say hello. This was followed by several ducklings skimming above the water as they seemed to chase each other towards shore.

There was an eagle… followed by a seagull… (this is the point where I wish I could make this rhyme but.. nope, not today)… followed by a loon who was poised masterfully in the middle of the lake.

While I would like to say that this photo above is of the loon we saw, it is not because somebody (aka me) left their brand new Olympus Tough TG-5 – made exactly for moments and days just like these.. sitting in their bag back at the house.

The picture above was taken on a day when I was walking along the beach in Sarasota, FL. Not the same city, not the same duck.

So yesterday’s lesson was that sometimes you just have to look – not through the view finder but by opening your own eyes and just watching and capturing the moment in your mind. It was a beautiful, you should’ve seen it.

You can read more about “A Day In The Life of Common Loons” posted by the Loon Preservation Committee by clicking here.

And don’t forget your camera.

My Off-Key Isles of Shoals Adventure

Isle of Shoals Lighthouse
S.A.Leys Photography

This is a picture of one of the Lighthouses off of Isles of Shoals (Isles of Shoals are a group of small islands located about 6 miles off of the coast of New Hampshire). Some of the islands are considered to be a part of New Hampshire while the northern islands belong to the State of Maine.

Long, long ago, it was a stop on the way to Maine for our family during a vacation which involved cruising from Rhode Island to Maine in our sailboat. We anchored overnight at Isles of Shoals as anchoring inside the inlet of the islands allowed us the ability to stay offshore and have a smoother tack (point of sail) when we continued our sail towards Maine the next day. The last time I was there, we started our day sailing from Provincetown MA and arrived and anchored at Isles of Shoals around dinner time.

Grilled Swordfish, Sweet Corn on the Cob, and fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from Dad’s Garden. It does not get any better than this! (S.A.Leys Photo)

Mom cooked the best swordfish, sweet corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes from dad’s garden. It was an amazing dinner after a beautiful day of sailing which included seeing some whales along the way.

The next day consisted of the long sail up to Christmas Cove. So after dinner and dishes mom said “if we all go to bed, we can get a good start in the morning and arrive early.”

[In the middle of every sail to Maine with them, mom would usually flag down a lobsterman, attach a $20.00 bill with a clothespin to a quahog rake, extend it to the lobsterman’s boat and take however many lobsters he was willing to give us].

Anyhoo, we had all climbed into our bunks and had fallen asleep when just around 10:00pm, into the harbor came the tour boat with a guy singing Frank Sinatra songs very, very, very (did I say – very?) off-key. Within a few minutes I transcended from a restful, sound sleep to being fully awakened by the worst rendition of “Strangers in the Night” I have ever heard in my life. Followed by “Witchcraft”, “New York, New York” and my favorite “Emily” – which just about killed me because of how off-key he was.

And of course, mom woke up, as did dad and in a matter of minutes we were all laughing hysterically because of how bad the singing was. As it took quite awhile to get back to sleep, the next day began with a late start – (but yes, we found a lobsterman and still had lobster for dinner shortly after our arrival in Maine).

Needless to say, every time I’m near, (or hear about) Isles of Shoals, I think of that story and that time and laugh at how bad that guy was.

Earlier this summer when I had some time, I decided to head back to see Isles of Shoals. On this day, I was actually a little more awake and not so physically drained from a few days of long sails so I boarded the tour boat in Portsmouth, Hampshire and headed out on a beautiful sunny, mid-summer morning.  The Isles were beautiful and filled with tourists and sailboats like ours that were anchored in the small inlet. Luckily there was no off-key Frank Sinatra wannabe guy serenading us, but there were whale sightings along the way and a thoroughly researched lesson about the history of Isles of Shoals.

If you’re ever in the area, my recommendation is that you take the earlier tour that does not have the tacky singer. Get some lobster while you’re here and enjoy!

You can sign up for an Isles of Shoals Cruise Tour by clicking this link.

Isle of Shoals Sailing
S.A. Leys Photography

Flight Time

S.A.Leys Photography

I think this may be my favorite pelican photo. Sitting on the bench overlooking the intercoastal (no, not there now but going back in a few weeks), you can see them in flight – sometimes only just a few inches above the water as they fly by. The most excellent thing is that you can also hear the powerful sound of their wings when they fly overhead.

I remember when I lived in Germantown MD and was sitting on the front stoop of our home, we could hear the sound of the traffic on 355 and 270 as both roads were close to the neighborhood where we lived. But in Fla when at my folks, I’ve come to really love the quietude that comes with watching the pelicans in flight over the intercoastal.

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