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Exploring the Beauty of Ohio and Beyond...

It was hard to figure out a time to release this blog. Parts of this blog have been written since late September. After this trip (described later), I was very busy with work, both at my primary job and getting ready for and promoting the two October photography shows. I planned to publish this about the middle of October and then, as described in the previous blog, the thyroid problems caused by the immunotherapy drugs hit and this got shelved. I'm finally catching up and decided to make it part of my Thanksgiving blog.

I guess one of the reasons I decided to combine it would be that I am thankful for what I was able to do this year, like this little trip. Despite everything that has happened, I am still working both as a software developer and a photographer. I’ve had a banner year for photography shows (with three already booked for next year). Thank you Westerville Community Center (especially, for allowing me to set up late), Studios On High, Roaming Goat Coffee (for understanding life happens when I had to cancel), Groveport Town Hall, 3060 ArtWorks, and Highline Coffee. And one more shout out to the Greater Columbus Arts Council for making most of this possible this year. Your understanding and patience in re-working my grant was greatly appreciated. I am wrapping up 2019 as part of 3060 Artworks Holiday Artisan Market and am offering special pricing on the prints I have with them to celebrate. Come out to get the deals on my prints and other amazing gifts this artisan market has to offer.

I am so thankful to family and friends. From the simple “I wish you well”, thoughts, prayers, cards, encouraging words, funny cat pictures (that always seemed to come when I needed them most), to a picked-up prescription, dresses altered, and meals brought, it all made this year better. I am thankful for realizing very quickly after waking up in the hospital from the surgery, that the pride was going to have be swallowed and I would have to have help, even relying on the kindness of strangers. Speaking of that, I am so thankful that I live in Columbus with all excellency that the OSU Wexner/The James have come to mean in cancer treatment. To the doctors, nurses, technicians and staff, you have done your jobs well!

I am thankful that I have come to understand better this year that happiness and joy are two different things. For me, happiness is a state of the mind. It will fluctuate. It is OK to be sad, but it’s not OK to be hopeless. That’s where joy comes in. Joy is the state of the soul which is possible even when you are not happy. I am thankful for my faith, that deep-seated knowledge, for me, that ultimately it is OK with knowing I may never be completely OK in this life again (who of us really is?). Earlier this year my husband heard this song and it’s been a comfort for me throughout these months. 

Thanksgiving lists could go on forever (and should in our hearts and minds every day), but I’m going to switch gears and indulge in some warmer weather photos and stories that I hope will also warm your heart and soul as well.

The weekend of September 14/15 was the first “big” photography trip I’d been able to take this year. If you follow my blog you know I’ve done a few day trips, here and there, once I was starting to feel better, but I’d not gone away overnight. I found the “sea” part of this trip back around the middle of July. It was a boat excursion called “Lighthouses and Islands Tour” offered by Jet Express out of Port Clinton. It was only being offered on Sunday, 9/15. Back in July, I had no idea how I’d be feeling or what would be going on with my treatments. So I booked the hotel, knowing I could cancel it, and bookmarked the boat trip, hoping there would still be tickets when I knew for sure I could go.

Fast forward two months. I wrapped up radiation on the 9th and with the weather looking good and since I was feeling good, I called to see if there were still tickets available…and there were! The land part of the trip, Saturday, used a resource that I’d been waiting to get access to for almost two years. The new updated edition of the Ohio Coastal Atlas from ODNR. I’ve been emailing back and forth with the coordinator since finding the original version in a metro park library in the summer of 2017. Right before my surgery in March, I was able to pick up the newly published atlas at Alum Creek State Park. For the online version, go to Ohio Coastal Atlas. If you have any interest in Lake Erie photography, fishing, the Great Lakes in general, Ohio history and/or geography, I recommend checking out the website or seeing if you can still get one in print.

On Saturday morning I headed to Sandusky. The first park, Shoreline, was packed with a 5K walk getting ready to start. I moved on to what’s marked in the atlas as the Washington Street Pier. A bit industrial, I chose to make most of these in black and white. I wasn’t sure I wanted to walk all the way to end of the pier to get the Cedar Point shot, but I think the panorama was worth it. There were a couple of benches along the pier and I chatted with a fisherman while trying to catch a photo of an overly friendly gull. Just as I was walking away, the fisherman caught a huge fish. He texted his buddy to find out what it was. I think the gull was hoping to get a piece of the action as well.

After checking a few other lake access points with no success, I moved on to the “State Fishing Access Pier”. in Sandusky Bay. This past January, after finishing up at a software developer conference, I went up to Marblehead to photograph the lighthouse. I saw this pier when crossing the Sandusky Bay Bridge and figured it might be public access but with a snowstorm brewing in Columbus, I decided to save it for another trip. The atlas confirmed it is indeed public and this is my favorite shot. I could see returning for an evening shot with the setting sun illuminating the bridge.

Lunch found me at Lake Point Park in Marblehead. You can’t ask for a better view during a meal. I spotted the view from a picnic table as I was pulling in and quickly realized that the beautiful scene would be even better with sailboats, so I set up the camera. munched my picnic lunch, and pressed the shutter when I saw something I liked. I spent probably close to an hour waiting for the right amount of sailboats to cross into the scene. The horizontal version of this photo is featured at the bottom of this blog.

To my dismay, the Marblehead Lighthouse was under renovation and covered with scaffolding. I guess summer/fall photos of that one will have to wait for another trip. If you’d like to see my January photos, click here. I debated about going back to East Harbor State Park in Catawba again. I’d visited it in January as well.  I did go, and it looks like a fun place to swim, boat and other activities, but lacking in those picturesque seascapes I was looking for. Same thing with Catawba State Park.

Turning back south, my next stop was my hotel in Fremont. Just about 12 miles from the lake, it was a less expensive option and honored my travel points. I returned to Port Clinton late in the afternoon. I enjoyed a wonderful fish and chips dinner at Dock’s Beach House. At the end of the meal, I went to get up and the day’s walking and standing had definitely wore me out (radiation will do that) and stiffened up my knees. My waitress threw out a helping hand to get me standing. We chatted a bit that this was supposed to have been my “I beat cancer” trip, but had gotten disappointing news the day before. While busy, the few minutes she chatted with me were reassuring. There are still good people to be found.

After dinner, I headed down to WaterWorks park hoping for some sunset shots. Unfortunately, most of the interesting clouds had dissipated. A few photos of the Port Clinton Lightstation rounded out Saturday evening.

Sunday morning found me at Jet Express’ dock in Port Clinton. The weather was threatening rain but it only ever drizzled. The trip was a narrated tour of western Lake Erie Shores and Islands region with special emphasis on the lighthouses. I was pleasantly surprised that we sailed into Canada. It was not listed in the original itinerary. While not ideal conditions to take photos, I managed a few that I’m happy with. If you find yourself wanting to take photos on a boat trip like this, my recommendations are:

  • Skip the tripod. I had a monopod, but didn't end up using it (except at Put-In-Bay). It's too bulky for a crowded trip like this and you don't have the time. You get just a minute or so where the boat is relatively stable.
  • Use a telephoto lens. All of the photos from the boat were taken with my 55-200 (crop sensor).
  • Turn on your image stabilization if you have it and set your camera to a continuous shooting (burst) mode.
  • I stayed on the bottom deck and shot from the back of the boat. I was lucky to have a great aisle seat not far from the back. Going to a higher deck may work better for you.
  • I was also lucky to have an overcast day. Watch your exposure like a hawk (or would seagull be more appropriate here), white lighthouses will "blow out" easily in bright sunshine. I did use manual exposure, but this would be a good place to use Aperture Priority.
  • Expect to have to straighten many of the photos when you post-process. I focused more on getting the composition and didn't worry (as much as I normally do) about a straight horizon line.

Our lunch stop was at Put-In-Bay. I think it’s a common misconception that Put-In-Bay is the island, but actually it’s a town on South Bass Island. This being my first major trip this year, I was tired and walking around the island was out of the question. In hindsight, I should have rented a golf cart and gone to the nature preserve on the end of the island. But, I was also thankful that the crew had offered to keep my backpack on the boat and I could set off with just the camera and my monopod. The Keys, which was close to the dock, provided delicious shrimp tacos for lunch. I did walk to Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial museum and the view of the memorial from the back of the museum caught my attention as did its reflection in the building. The two photos, side by side, remind me of the song "Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me."

After a few hours, we returned the ship to sail back to Port Clinton, but the sightseeing was not done. To round out the trip we still had a few places to see, Green Island, and the South Bass Island Lighthouse.

During the boat trip, I found myself seated with a husband and wife from the Toledo area. They were traveling with their grown daughter and her husband. We got to know each other over the course of the day. We often offered each other steadying hands when getting our “sea legs” to walk around the boat. No longer hiding my super short hair with bandanas, cancer came up, but we also talked quite a bit about my photography and confirmed some Toledo Metro Parks I should probably be putting on my list to visit. I really appreciated they kept an eye on me and made sure I was ok during the trip. Returning to Port Clinton, I headed out of the parking lot. Pulling out my wallet to pay the parking, I realized I’d left my credit card at the restaurant in Put-In-Bay. But even though I did have my debit card with me, there was one last kindness of strangers, the parking was free that day!

The two-and-a-half (ish) hour trip back to Columbus seemed to go fairly quickly. I really enjoyed re-living the trip by writing this and picking the photos. There are more photos from the trip in my landscapes portfolio page, but I also hope I've inspired you to visit "our Great Lake" and make memories and hopefully encounter some kindness of strangers as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!


As the sea is beautiful not only in calm but also in storm,

so is happiness found not only in peace but also in strife.

Ivan Panin

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