Call them photos, captures, a portfolio, a galley, or a year’s worth of adventures and memories, I am proud of the images that I have featured on this site. Full disclosure, not every single image was my own; as I have noted on the sidebar throughout, I utilized Unsplash.com – an opensource library of photos by some of the most talented and generous photographers out there – to supplement my own photography when I lacked the perfect image for a post or idea. As the project progressed, however, I did find myself relying less on external images and instead utilizing my improving photography skills more.
I wrote extensively on photography and the approach I tried to bring to my practice of it in my July post titled “Photography, As It Sits With Me Now”, so I feel no shame in sparing words in this post. I kept a gallery of my best photos going throughout the blog, titling the page “Captures.” I encourage everyone to visit / revisit that page, but for viewing simplicity (and a little guilty pleasure), I have compiled my favorite images in this post.
Like other elements of this project, I do not intent to stop practicing photography just because I am bringing this blog to a close. In fact, I am inspired to continue (and maybe even upgrade my equipment). But for now, these photos are my best work. Thirteen selected favorites from thirteen months of working on this project. They can stand alone or they can represent the stories, memories, and ideas that I have tried to capture on this site. Or both. With each selection, I have provided a brief synopsis of where I was and what I was doing when I took the photo. I enjoyed the process of remembering these locations and moments, and I am pleased to share them.
Though I took this picture a few months before the idea for this site was conceived, I believe that it was the kernel of success that I needed to push my desire to practice photography from passive to active. The image is one of spontaneity. I arrived in Neil’s Harbor, one of the most northerly towns on Cape Breton Island, after exploring the island’s west side and its famed Skyline Trail, the crown jewel of the Highlands National Park. Caught off guard by the thirty degree temperature difference between the warm St. Lawrence Bay and the chilly Atlantic Coast, I nearly missed the dingy pulling out into the foggy harbor and out of sight. I appreciate the mystery in this image – a quality that I have tried to capture in my photos ever since.
Traveling to Norway in winter, Maddie and I found ourselves caught somewhere in between magical bliss and bitter-cold reality. It was our first big trip together, and with cold temperatures and a fresh dusting of snow every night, Nordic skiing was our priority, and photography was not. But, standing on a frozen lake somewhere in the hills north of Oslo, I did manage to capture this image, which I find appealing in its simplicity.
Ah, Craftsbury. Home to the best Nordic skiing in Vermont, and probably the Northeast. With newfound freedom in my class schedule during the Spring Semester of my senior year, I was able to make the trek to the Northeast Kingdom far more often than in previous years. After a fresh snow dump and my first foray on the Craftsbury Commons trail, I spent an hour puttering around the main trails and captured this barn image – so prototypically Vermont and perfect in every way.
My second barn photo came a few weeks later as I drove from Middlebury to Westport for what felt like the hundredth time. That number is not all that inaccurate. Counting summers, my back-and-forth between the Vermont and New York sides of Lake Champlain during my time at college easily reached triple digits, if I count each there-and-back as two drives. Everything about the drive and distance was ideal – not too short, not too long, never any traffic, and views the entire way. Plus, it connected two of my favorite places in the world. This barn was always the prettiest thing I passed on the Vermont side, so I finally took the time to stop.
Speaking of favorite places, during a quiet springtime weekend I chose to do something a little different and spent a night camping out at North Point on Camp Dudley’s property. I have always slept in my hammock when I camp, and this time was no different, but with temps reaching a low in the thirties and a direct view of the sunrise over Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Green Mountains, I found myself stirring at 4:15 AM. I stoked up the previous night’s fire, set out to make some coffee, and played around with camera settings to dial in an ideal exposure for capturing the sunrise. This image frames the entire experience; spring buds, the sun directly over Camel’s Hump, a boat drifting down the lake, reflections off the water, and an ethereal glow.
One of the greatest graduation gifts I received came as a complete surprise, when Hank Barrett asked me to be the fourth for a day of thirty-six holes at Shinnecock Hills and the National Golf Links of America, two of the country’s finest (and toughest to get on) golf courses. I have never had a better day of golf in my life, and never felt so lucky, especially when I closed out our final match of the day with a par-par-par-birdie stretch on the fifteenth through eighteenth holes at National. This is an image of National’s iconic windmill, and I love the late-afternoon lighting and the arrangement of highlights and shadows it created.
This image does not stand in for one particular moment for all of the memories I have from this location. Sunsets with my Dudley pals, games of CanJam and corn hole, rest stops on early morning training runs, walks up the hill from my grandparents’ house between dinner and dessert. I took it when I was relaxing in Westport, in limbo between graduation and launching for Germany. The school house might be the most iconic structure in my life, and I am glad I could finally capture it in its full glory.
My crazy, awe-inspiring West Coast road trip with five of my high school buddies was the best way for us to celebrate graduating college and spend time together before we all started up jobs in various cities on the East Coast. Though my photos will never compare to the memories of that trip, I do particularly like this one from the top of Upper Yosemite Falls. We had risen before dawn in attempt to beat the crowds and heat in Yosemite Valley, and it paid off in unparalleled views and one of the best ten miles on trail of my life.
This is a more somber image, taken of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, Germany. My month in Germany featured stark contrasts, inner disparities, and a roller-coaster of emotions. Perhaps I am drawn to this photo out of all of those I took during the trip because of the profound balance depicted. On the surface, everything is aligned and appealing. And yet the experience of walking through the memorial is anything but calming. Walking between the rectangular concrete columns, the looming, maze-like construction of the site quickly reveals itself. It is claustrophobic and disorienting. In some ways, I felt the same during my month leading the exchange trip. On the surface, I was leading a group of awesome kids from the best camp in the country, I had just graduated, and I have a job lined up in New York upon my return. But internally, I felt the pressure of responsibility and the anxiety of transition, and those emotions made it harder for me to relax and enjoy myself.
New York, New York. I arrived to the city exhausted and full of questions, and it took me a few weeks to settle in. I am still settling in, and I do not know if I will ever be completely comfortable here. And yet, I have found solace in my daily routines and my opportunities to step outside of those routines, if only for a detour through Central Park. The calm in this photo masks the hectic nature of the city, but in seeking spaces that remind me that nature is still out there, I have found beauty and incredible juxtapositions. I love that the lady in the red dress made an appearance in the image (fitting Matrix reference).
Pawling has served as weekend escape, and I am so grateful that I can get out of the city, be with Maddie and her family, and maintain some of my favorite outdoorsy activities that are just not possible in Manhattan. This is another photo that captures mystery; the gate is both open and chained closed, and the grass (and trees) are certainly greener on the other side of the fence (stone wall). But ultimately, it is inviting, and that is the way I feel about New York: being in this new place is an invitation to try new things and expand my parameters for how I define “adventure.”
I kicked off September and autumn with a trip home to Williamstown with Maddie to celebrate birthdays, be with family, and find more adventures. No moment from the weekend was more striking than when the sun rose over Lake George at the start of Maddie’s triathlon. With the air temperature thirty degrees cooler than the water, the fog rising off the lake was mystical. I felt lucky to be present for that moment, and I always feel lucky that mountains and lakes have been such an integral part of my life.
The foliage has been more muted this autumn, and that is okay. There is still plenty of beauty in less vibrant tones. I love the layering of greens and browns in this image, and I was thrilled to capture it when the priority of this particular morning was running a trail race, and not going out on an adventure to take photos. There is nuance in this image, which makes it a fitting one on which to end. Who would have known that my year long quest to capture moments worth savoring would end with an image of an unnamed bog somewhere in northwestern Connecticut, but I like it that way. Beautiful yet unassuming, bright yet mysterious, an ending and a beginning.
I remember a reoccurring internal struggle when I was keeping my gap-year blog over whether, after completing a noteworthy travel expedition, I should pen my thoughts as soon as possible so as not to forget any of the details, or let the experiences and memories simmer for a few days to allow for a more distanced, thoughtful reflection. Both types of writing inevitably produced successful and unsuccessful posts, so I remain undecided on which side to take.
Today, after returning from Norway fewer than twenty-four hours ago, I feel that same debate pulsing in my fingertips – both urging them to write onwards and pulling them back from the keyboard. But the decision to write, in this case, is in part made for me already. In the next two days, I will travel from New York to Pawling to Williamstown to Middlebury, I will sort out my life when I return to school, I will catch up on emails ignored while abroad, I will (most likely) ski if Sunday evening’s Nor’easter brings snow to the Green Mountains, and I will commence my final semester at Middlebury – the fifteen weeks between now and graduation that I have prefigured as the ultimate culminating experience of my college experience. The unique (and now imminent) nature of this time excites me in a way that prohibits me from allowing this Norway blogpost to linger.
Of course, I’m contradicting myself. I want to share all of my recent travels, to unload my thoughts and photographs, and to happily share my reflection with any who ask, “So how was Norway?!” And yet, I’ve spent these first paragraphs writing about a topic that has little relevance to that ski trail I discovered, that cup of coffee I sipped, that piece of fish I tasted. Perhaps it was my subconscious attempt to allow space for reflection, even if it was only half-an-hour instead of half-a-week. But now, I really must begin.
I’d never traveled to Europe in the winter, or for such a short trip. This made the trip feel very different than anything I’d previously done, but having Maddie traveling with me made the whole thing comforting and exciting. The compressed timeframe allowed us to push through jet lag, plan specific adventures each day, and not feel bad about missing out on some of the more typical touristy sights and activities.
Cross-country skiing was the priority, and we departed content and thrilled about the three mornings of skiing that we completed. It was an inspiring feeling to be dressed in full ski attire waiting for a tram in the middle of the city and not get looked at as if we had three heads. Everyone skis, and we were especially inspired by number of young kids and elder folks we saw out on the trails. They were well prepared for the cold and eager to be skiing. We found that most people were friendly, engaging, and excellent at English, but they were not at all sympathetic when we got cold. And it was quite cold. The forests surrounding the city received an inch or so of snow to refresh the trails each night, and we were often skiing through a mix of flakes and sun.
We based ourselves out of Frognerseteren on the first and third days that we skied – a train stop at the end of the metro line overlooking the city and the Oslofjord. There we found numerous trails, frozen lakes, and a handful of ski huts interspersed throughout the Nordmarka forest. We got first tracks (occasionally), got lost a few times, got passed by old women, and got to know some unique, fun terrain.
Our best day of skiing came in the middle of the trip, when we navigated an A-to-B route from Fossum to Sorkedalen west of the city. We passed through a multitude of different landscapes: dense forests, frozen lakes, open farmland, forested hillsides, mountain streams. It was both a test of navigation abilities and endurance, but we made it to our destination proud of and exhausted by our efforts.
I realized two things about traveling during the trip: first, taking photographs in cold weather is hard, and second, mustering up the energy to sightsee when it’s cold outside and we’d already skied for a good part of the day is also hard. But the city exploring that we did do was exceptional. We listened to our bodies as best we could, and in the instances that we did get out and about around Oslo, we found coffee shops at every street corner, many unique secondhand stores, and Scandinavian design shops. What impressed us the most was the city’s cleanliness and punctuality – though waiting for busses and trams in the cold was never pleasant, at least we knew that the public transport system operated on schedule, without fail.
We stayed in the hipster neighborhood of Grunerlokka with Roy, who hosted us in his apartment. (Side note, although I haven’t used Airbnb often, every experience I’ve had with it has been positive and so much more fulfilling than staying in a hotel). Roy was happy to answer questions about Norway, give his opinions on American politics, and share his space with us. We found the kitchen was a great place to experience authentic Norwegian cuisine. Though we ate out very little, we found great fun in picking up an interesting piece of fish from the local fish market and cooking it ourselves. I even tried a cod roe dish that looked like a mixture between liver and tongue. It was fantastic fried up with onions and mushrooms.
The gastronomic highlight was the coffee. Oslo’s coffee culture is perhaps the city’s most striking feature. We couldn’t walk a block without finding a coffee shop, and even the chains served drinks that were much better than your average Starbucks. Decaf was non-existent. We tried to make a point of visiting the most authentic, single location shops, and at these we were served some of the best cups of coffee that I’ve ever tasted. I particularly enjoyed Henrix Ibsen, Supreme Roastworks, Fuglen, and Java, but the best shop by far was Tim Wendelboe. This tiny but elegant shop had two seats, roasting machinery right in the middle of the room, and a menu of six different single-origin coffee beans, which would be ground and hand-brewed right in front of you. The caffeine kept us going, but the quality of the coffee was what kept us coming back for more.
A few inches of snow in the city greeted us on our final morning. Walking the city streets reminded me of my final days in Germany during my gap year, when I was forced to ask myself: when will I be back to Europe? This trip was much, much shorter, but the excitement I felt was the same. And it’s nice to know that I won’t have to wait four+ years before I again make the trip across the pond. But more on that later.
I think there’s a lot we can learn from a country like Norway, especially at this hyper-political time. America does not have a relatively small, relatively homogeneous population, and Norway isn’t void of issues, either. But it was nice to see a place that seems to run smoothly, where the kids are all happy and bundled up in their full down winter outfits, where there is cleanliness, punctuality, and quietude, where people are cheerful even in the cold, dark winter months. We left with all smiles, knowing that we’d discovered a place that aligns with so many of our passions, interests, and opinions. Perhaps we’ll return down the road and travel even further north, skiing under the northern lights or running in the midnight sun.
Tomorrow, Maddie and I will depart for a week in Norway. It is now officially our February Break, and we will soon be five time zones away. This is by far the biggest trip we’ve taken together. I’ve had my fair share of adventures during my college years, but this is my first time returning to Europe since my gap year. All of my travels have been memorable, trips I would gladly take again – Florida, Colorado, and Cape Breton Island to name a few – but there is something irreplaceable about navigating a European city, deciphering a foreign language, and experiencing a place where everything is new and exciting.
Though we probably won’t see the Northern Lights, explore the furthest reaching fjords, or backcountry ski in the remote and rugged Norwegian mountain ranges, we look forward to cold days of outdoor adventures and cozy nights with good food and world-class coffee. As we discovered when looking into a Norway trip, the country is known for two of our favorite things: cross country skiing and coffee. Perhaps no where else in the world is there such an accessible location that offers such an ideal combination of urban and rural. We’ll be in Oslo most or all of the trip (our flight is direct from NYC), and from the city center, we’ll easily be able to take a train or bus up into the hills, where there are miles upon miles of cross country skiing trails. It’s Norway’s national sport, and subsequently, all of the trails are free to access and maintained regularly. There is even night skiing if we’re feeling up for it. Daylight is scarce this time of year, so we’ll have plenty of time in the mornings and evenings to visit cafes and food destinations.
I’m still coming to terms with the idea of taking a “quick trip to Europe.” The last time I was there was for five months, and the only other time was for four weeks. This will feel very different, but it is equally exciting. Hopefully we have smooth travels, an easy adjustment to the time-change, and a week of unforgettable days. No matter what, it will be an adventure, and I look forward to posting a recap upon our return.