Happy New Year everyone. As I sit down to reflect on the past twelve months and set forth to plan for the upcoming year, I revisit my word "potential", to see if my goal to reach beyond was achieved. I think I did achieve my potential in certain areas of my life. Last year I intentionally set limits for my own self care. I set aside time for rest. A once jammed packed schedule was limited without guilt. I learned it was okay to say "no" and set boundaries. This is such a hard task for me to do without guilt of letting others down, and one I find a constant work in progress. Do you struggle with this as well? All in all, I do feel like I reached my potential in most that I did, however I am always a work in progress.
The year began with Love. Isn't that an amazing way to start a year?!! On January 1st, I shot a small intimate wedding. It was a lovely day with a little snow on the ground, and to be part of their celebration began my year on such a positive and happy note!
For the most part, January and February were slow months for my schedule. Due partly to Covid's limitations, and partly because I intentionally left weekends open to complete home projects, plan the upcoming year, do some thrifting, and just catch up on shows and the rest that is much needed after a busy holiday season. It was lovely to just slow my pace down, and regroup.
In March, I had one of my most favorite experiences of the year! I went trekking with llamas. Yes, you heard that correctly!! I had the experience to join my friends up north at Moose River Farms, in Old Forge. What an amazing experience it was.
The day was cold, but the sun was shining and our hike around the farm with our pals was one I'll never forget. I highly recommend a trip up to see them. The history of the llamas is so interesting. Did you know that these llamas were rescued from an animal reserve in the Catskills when they closed, and now live their lives out in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful areas of New York; the Adirondacks? Now that's a retirement plan!!! Did you also know that they are the descendants of llamas from Peru and were exported from Peru at one point, but now it's illegal to export them from there? Did you know that llamas are great at protecting other livestock on a farm? They have often been known to chase away coyotes, etc. Llamas are so cool! I loved learning the history of these amazing animals, and they and their other friends on the farm, were not camera shy at all!!! My kinda friends!!
A stop in town was definitely on the agenda. You cannot go into Old Forge without a trip to my favorite store in the Adirondacks, The Old Forge Hardware store. I can spend hours in the store just looking at the cool gadgets and unique items. A day at the store brings you back to the days in which a general store was your only stop into town.
In March my dear friends, Michelle and Dave renewed their wedding vows, and I was so happy to capture this moment for them. I met these two when my ex and I bought a house across the street from Dave. When he married Michelle the following year, our neighborhood began to bloom, literally. She planted flowers out front in a raised bed she built, and our neighborhood began to flourish. Many many laughs and cries have occurred over the years, and although I live a few blocks down the street now, we will always be family!! I love their love story, and I love that our lives have been intertwined since the day we met.
In April I took a trip with my son to visit Boston College where he would begin his graduate studies in the fall. The campus was spectacular. I fell in love with the school the moment I stepped foot out of the parking garage. The old buildings, the cool history, and the fact that my son would be part of this made my heart smile!
Spending a few days in the city, we got a feel for the neighborhoods so that we could determine where he should begin looking for an apartment, and of course I was able to fit in some lighthouse chasing and a ballgame at Fenway Park. It was a great trip, and I was super excited for him to be able to begin his new life chasing his dreams.
In May I finally was able to see my mother for her 99th birthday party!!! I had been waiting patiently to qualify to get my vaccine, and once I was able to get it, off I went to finally see her (and all my family and friends again) after more than two years apart!
Can I just take a moment to share how amazing this woman is?!!! My mom chose to be my mom. She and my Dad Gilliland took my brother and I in at a critical time of our lives and the love that she gave me, changed my world forever. She is my role model, my inspiration, and my peace when life gets to be tough. She is how I learned to love; unconditionally. So to be able to go hug her and tell her how much I love her on her 99th Birthday, was the highlight of my year!
My heart is always full when I go home to Flora. My days are filled with laughter. I've never met funnier folks than my family. No matter how much time is in between visits, it's as though I just was there yesterday. This is how it is with my best friend, Mandy, as well. Friends since 2nd grade, we pick up right where we left off each and every time I visit. This time she surprised me with something new though.
We always take a ride so that I can grab some photos in the country and we can catch up. This time she took me to the middle of nowhere, literally. Who knew all the years I went home there was a small lake and park right outside town. Mind blown! It was this trip I learned Illinois has many hidden surprises.
One day while online, I saw an article on MSN for the most beautiful waterfalls in America. Always looking at articles of this type, I clicked on it to see if any in NY made the list. Yes of course we did, but surprisingly so did one in Illinois. What?!! There was more than cornfields to this landscape? Yes, the waterfall they featured was St. Louis Canyon Waterfall at the Starved Rock State Park. I was shocked to say the least. So knowing I was heading north to Michigan after my trip home to Flora, I thought I would stop off and visit this particular waterfall along the way. To say I was surprised is an understatement. I found my way into an area that I never knew existed. It was a rainy day and mid week, so I didn't expect it to be busy, but I literally was the only one there once I found it. Don't want to go into details here as I do plan to blog one day about it, but just check out this video I took. It was definitely a highlight of 2021 for me! Oh, and this blog will be one you don't want to miss because there's a twist to this story that will definitely blow your mind!
In 2019 I made a trip to Michigan to spend some time with my best friend and to explore Lake Michigan's lighthouses. Only being able to visit a few on that trip, I was bound and determined to return to get the ones I missed. Knowing I had to head north on my return home from Momma's, I figured I would take a few days to visit with my friend and photograph the remaining ones I had on my bucket list. As I headed north, my first stop (after my hike into Starved Rock Canyon) was to Michigan City, Indiana to capture the Michigan City East Pierhead that lies along the southern part of the lake.
Continuing that first day north I knew I could get at least one more in before stopping and meeting up with my friend in Muskegon. So I also stopped at St. Joseph's Pier Lighthouse, known to many for many beautiful photos of it covered in ice in the winter time. (Icy photo to the left by Tom Gill)
With an overcast sky, and the sun beginning to set along the skyline, it made for some really moody spring time captures of the two lighthouses on this pierhead.
Meeting up with my friend in Muskegon, she joined me the next day as I headed back south to knock out a few more lighthouses. First stop was the South Haven Lighthouse. So glad I wasn't able to fit that one in the day before as we were able to spend some quality time there taking in the area. We were able to even fit in a stop at one really cool thrift store where we spent quite a bit of time perusing before heading on to our next light.
That day we were very busy as we also made it to Holland Harbor Lighthouse, Grand Haven Lighthouse, and finally Muskegon Lighthouse right as the sun was setting. A very long day indeed, but it was a great one and we were very successful in seeing the major ones on my list for the day.
On the final day, we headed north of Muskegon to photograph the final few lighthouses and explore a little bit more in the thrift shops. First stop was Ludington Lighthouse. Although the weather was a bit rainy and windy, it didn't hinder us. Out we trekked on the breakwater all the way to the end where we had a great conversation with the volunteers from the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association who were there for the morning. The SPLKA volunteers manage all the lighthouses I would be visiting this day, and it was so cool to have a conversation about the history of Ludington, Little Sable, Big Sable (visited in 2019) and White River Lighthouses. I asked them in all their travels, which lighthouse did they love the most out of all they've visited. Their answer would be a lighthouse I would get a chance to visit in October, and I have to say I can see why. I try not to play favorites, but of all the ones I saw this day, Ludington stuck with me the most. Not sure if it's the strange angles of it, or the history I learned about it, but it is definitely one of my favorites in Michigan.
A quick trip into town brought us to a few more vintage stores for thrifting and then off to visit the other lighthouses of the day, Little Sable Lighthouse and White River Lighthouse. Both couldn't be more different either. One sits in and amongst the sand dunes of western Michigan, while one sits on the mouth of a river that feeds into Lake Michigan. To say I was in lighthouse heaven those three days, would be an understatement (and to do so with my bestie was the cherry on top!). Each lighthouse was spectacular in it's own way. Each imprinting upon my heart. Just think...there are still more on the lake I still need to visit, as well as the upper peninsula and eastern side of the state. Guess another trip to Michigan might be in store in the near future.
At home this year I was happily surprised with the news of a new grandchild coming in October! A gender reveal party was celebrated in May and we couldn't wait for our new little boy to come!
Throughout the year, I had an opportunity to do a few family photo shoots, a senior session or two, and capture some of my favorite musicians in a promo shoot. I absolutely love doing family portraits, especially when they are a family I've worked with before. I get an opportunity to watch the families grow, and go through all their important moments in life. It's truly a gift and my favorite part of being a photographer. I also love doing new photo shoots of all kinds and this year I had a few new additions to my Flashback Photo family.
Knowing that my days with my son at home were limited, I took advantage to spend as much time with him as possible this past year before he moved. He's such a good sport to take these selfies with me (he is so not into selfies) so I can remember these moments! Can't wait to make new ones with him in his new city when I visit.
In June I took my one solo adventure of the year. It was the perfect timing too, as I often need to recharge my batteries alone. I love traveling with my friends, however there is something about a solo trip that gives me such satisfaction. It allows me to break outside my comfort zone and just regroup. These adventures usually are saved to explore and push myself to grow, and to do things for just myself. This time I went up north to the Adirondacks for a few days to paddle, hike, and just enjoy the beauty of the area. It was an area I always go, so it wasn't new, but it is one of my favorite areas in the Adirondacks and sometimes the familiar is what you need to recharge your batteries. The sounds of the loons on the lake, the wind in the trees as I hike, or just walking around a little shop with no worries is so satisfying.
Staying at The Woods Inn, I took advantage of being directly on Fourth Lake and immediately put my kayak in for a paddle. Making my way to town after my paddle, I perused the local shops, walked along the inlet, and finally had a amazing dinner at the Inn as I looked out onto the lake.
After dinner I made my way to the dock with my camera where I was able to watch the sunset on a beautiful summer day.
Waking up early, I took advantage and made my way to my favorite hiking trail (Rocky Point) to catch a sunrise. The views didn't disappoint, and as it was still early and the temperature still cool enough, I made my way to my second favorite hiking trail at Moss Pond and took a walk around the lake before heading to my favorite donut house for a breakfast sandwich. It was the perfect two days away, and something that was needed to replenish my soul.
In July my ride or die friend, Sheila, joined me on a quick mid-week camping trip to Alexandria Bay and the Thousand Islands. As we traveled north to Alex Bay, we had to stop along the way for a few more lighthouse photos of course. I have to say, my friends are the best and most patient friends...they are always ready to stop to see a lighthouse with me...thank you Sheila...you're truly the best!!
Choosing a campsite on the water of the St. Lawrence River in Alexandria Bay at Keewaydin State Park, it was the perfect location. From our campsite and a stone gazebo a few steps away, we were able to watch the large barges traveling up and down the St. Lawrence as well as the most breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. I highly recommend this state park for a camping win!
On the second day, our friend, Janie, joined us for lunch and a couple boat cruises in and around the Thousand Islands where we were able to disembark and take a tour of Singer Castle. Singer Castle is breathtaking, full of history, and one of many homes built in and on the more than a thousand islands along the St. Lawrence. Of course there was a lighthouse or two involved on this journey. Would you expect any different?
Although this vacation may only been a couple days, it definitely made for an amazing escape in the middle of the work week. Highlight of the trip? The discovery of chocolate marshmallows!!! Mind blown!!! Best s'more ever!!
The gals and I also took a trip to Cooperstown to visit the beautiful Fenimore Art Museum, where an Ansel Adams exhibit was being featured. If you have never been to Fenimore, it is a must see when in Cooperstown. The Thaw Collection of Indian Art and their collection of Folk Art are some of my all time favorite permanent exhibits. I highly recommend you visiting during the year while in Cooperstown.
Making our way directly across the street to The Farmers Museum, we stepped back in time to days of lore. Times were much harder and simpler all at the same time. The General Store, church, and school have always been a favorite of mine just imagining life back then.
After a quick lunch along the dock at the Lake Front Restaurant, we took a boat cruise around Otsego Lake on the Glimmerglass Queen. This cruise was a perfect ending to a perfect day in one of my favorite New York towns. For those who may take this cruise, you will be able to see a Kingfisher Tower, a small 60 foot castle built by Edward Clark in 1876 to beautify the lake. This privately owned castle can only be seen by vessel, and although missing it's solid oak drawbridge (what castle doesn't have one) it's still lives up to its intended use to bring beauty to Otsego Lake.
With a busy fall planned, I took advantage in July to do some maternity photos for my new grandson. It's always a highlight of my year when I get a chance to photograph my family, especially when it's capturing such important moments!
Music finally returned for me as the borders opened up and shows began to be scheduled once again. Covering shows all across the state for 315 Music, I was blessed to be able to capture my favorite artists as well as some new ones.
There is nothing like music to fill your soul. Although we were not able to have our CNY Irish Festival, we did have Syracuse Irish Festival this year and to see friends and colleagues again and be amongst the music was grand.
I once again covered our local Woods Fest, despite the location move after a tornado wiped out the original venue, the music still went on.
I would remiss if I didn't give a shout out to the Great New York State Fair. With two major stages offering tons of amazing performers (both local and national) New Yorkers were treated to music like it has never seen in the past.
My friends and I even took a trip out to Kansas City this year to see friends and celebrate the life of our friend, Steve Phillips, with his family and bandmates, The Elders, at the Kansas City Irish Festival. The return of music was good for me, and I'm so blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life because of it.
A musical highlight occurred for me in August this year as I was allowed to shoot Billy Joel on his stadium tour at the Buffalo Bills Highmark Stadium. I had never been to the Bills stadium and for the first time ever being able to stand on the field while taking photos of one of the greatest musicians of my time blew my mind. It was certainly surreal!!!
My final show in September was one that will mark a highlight in my career as a music photojournalist. Covering a Thomas Rhett concert years before, I snapped a photo of him that he saw and requested. A few months later, that photo was chosen by the national venue to be used in a Billboard Magazine ad thanking him. I was so honored first of all to be the venue photographer, then to be called out by the man himself, and then finally featured in a major music publication. This year when Cole Swindell and Thomas Rhett returned to Syracuse to play, I was able to get him to autograph my magazine featuring that photo. I felt like it was a complete circle. As a photojournalist, you hope one day your music will be featured, or that the artist will recognize your work. To have both happen and then autographed for my collection, really humbled me!!
While in Buffalo for the Billy Joel concert, the gals and I fit in a day to Niagara Falls and a trip to see the Eternal Flame. I know I've said it before, but folks New York State is one of the greatest places to live with the most amazing natural sights!! I truly love New York.
The summer and fall were filled with family fun and tears as my granddaughter turned 3, my grandson Levi arrived, and my son Zach moved to Boston. Of course a few parties were in order.
Another family excursion was with my sister. At the end of August we were finally able to take our adventure down to Charleston, SC that we had planned for 2020. Knew it was going to be a great trip when we ran into my friends at the airport at 5:30am!!! Being able to enjoy our favorite city together was so much fun, and I even got to meet my IG friend, Carla, in person and take a wander around our favorite city snapping a few photos. Can't wait to return and for more adventures together with these two!!! Especially now that my sister has just moved there!!!