Invited into the Light of Diwali

“When everything is lost, and all seems darkness, then comes the new life and all that is needed.” (Joseph Campbell)

Sharing the Light

It all began with the strike of a match in the midst of total darkness. People were waiting anxiously and the excitement was building for that one moment…that moment of “ahhhhhhhhh” when one could breathe out the stress of the past and open to the sheer wonder of the present…the freeing that comes with a new year.

Standing In The Glow

I was thrilled to be asked to photograph Diwali, the Hindu festival of Lights this past Thursday night. It is celebrated every year here in the northern hemisphere between late October and early November, depending upon when the 15th day of the Hindu month, Kartik falls. The festivities go on for typically 4 or 5 days with each day rooted in its own legends and myths and serving to illuminate one’s spirit with the brilliance of joy. At the center of each legend is the victory of good over evil, wisdom over ignorance, light over darkness and hope over despair.

Living With Light Through The Years

Holding Onto The Light

Aartis or devotional hymns are sung eulogizing Goddess Lakshmi with sweets and fruits offered to her. Homes and businesses are illuminated and new clothes are worn as a sign of respect and thanks to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity.

Passing the Torch from Parent to Child

Families, young and old all gathered around outside the Bharatiya Temple At 7:30, the night sky was totally lit up with brilliant colors surging high into the air, released from their pent up containers. Fireworks ignite that spirit of wonder no matter how many times we see them! According to one belief, the loud explosive sound is the way to let the gods know of the people’s thanks and joy from the earth.

Diwali Festival of Light

While the fireworks were going off overhead, people were passing around sparklers, sharing that dancing, popping light from family to family. It was all such a spirited celebration. Everyone was smiling, hugging and sending along well wishes. This was the first time I had the privilege of attending a Diwali festival and the brilliant joy that each spark gave off was totally enveloping. I loved photographing on this night, even though the exposure and color were challenging, it led to interesting blur, lighting so blown out and brilliant that I just went with it to capture the mood and the essence.

Light and Movement

As Joseph Campbell said,”…then comes the new life and all that is needed.” It is believed that, “Diwali is an opportunity to cultivate and connect with eternal bliss.” On Thursday night, I did!

The New York Times Travel Show 2017

People started to line up a bit after 9. When the New York Times Travel Show opened to the public at 10am last Saturday, a very long, snaking line entered through the gates and the world opened up. Adventure, solo, family, LBGTQ, river or Caribbean cruises, seaplane adventures, learn a language and charge your devices with a solar panel…so many aisles to explore with insights galore. The New York Times Travel Show brings together those who are definitely in the know and those who want to know everything about travel. It is the largest consumer travel and trade show in North America with over 500 exhibitors representing 150 countries and over 23 focused conferences covering the latest products, services, destination information and trends from travel industry experts and I covet my press pass!

Taste of the World

Let me begin with one of the most experienced travel professionals I know, Pauline Frommer. According to Frommer, the best websites for airfares are: Momondo.com and SkyScanner.net. The cheapest days of the week to fly are Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday. In order to receive savings, timing can be everything! Pauline gave the following advice: book on a weekend, book 57 days before travel for domestic tickets, 176 days before going off to Europe, 77 days before traveling to the Caribbean, 160 days before travel to Asia/The Pacific, book 144 days before travel to the Middle East and Asia and 90 days before travel to Central and South America. All will provide varying savings. She urged the audience to rethink loyalty and look into other airlines which are now offering discount fares such as Norwegian, WOW, XL, Thomas Cook, Eurowings and AirAsia. If you are a solo traveler, connecting with “Women Welcome Women” and Global Greeters Network which are sites where one can connect to someone who loves their city so much they have volunteered to provide a free tour will provide a “safety net” for those alone. It is a wonderful way to connect with locals. As far as cruises go, excursion savings can be found at Cruising Excursions.com, Shore Trips.com and Viator. Frommer also suggested that if one wanted to view the Northern Lights, this would be the year to do it since the lights are caused by storms on the sun and they go in 10 year cycles and this is the last year in this go round. Book now, they are breathtaking!

Indonesian Art

See Europe Virtually

In Seminar Room 3, there was not one available seat or space. People stood on both sides of the room and sat on the floor all to hear Matt Kepnes, the author of “How to Travel the World on $50. a Day.” His talk was entitled, “Easy Ways to Save Big Money When You Travel” and I have to say he did not disappoint! He cautioned people about using random ATM’s and not exchanging money at the airport and to buy in the local currency since the US dollar is surging. The sites Matt uses to search for cheap flights are: Secret Flying,, The Flight Deal, Holiday Pirates, Momondo, Skyscanner . Hostels now offer private rooms and private baths and if he isn’t staying in one, Matt will often stop by one to ask for recommendations of cheap but delicious local restaurants. Travel Massive, Bla Bla Car, are all ways to connect with the locals and get insights and recommendations off the beaten path that may be just as fun but a bit less expensive.

Indonesian Coffee Tour

Iskra Ukranian Dance Ensemble

There was a “Get Fit Zone”, a “Wellness Travel Pavilion” and “The Best of Life Stage.” You could meditate, learn bodybuilding, and hear an introduction to Ayurveda: Ancient solutions for increased energy and vitality.

Henna Painting

Being out on the road photographing for hours on end, I was thrilled with my purchase of two solar charges by Dawan Global. The Element is water resistant, shockproof, and dustproof. It is designed to take a beating in any terrain or environment. With its lightweight design the Element can be taken anywhere with ease, clipped onto a backpack, belt, or purse, and is just 7 oz. It stores enough solar energy to completely charge a cell phone 2 times. Because one is good but two is better, I also bought the Solis which can completely power a cell phone 4x, an IPad 2x, or even a small laptop on a full charge. It can completely charge a phone in just 90 minutes using the high speed output… and as I was walking away from the booth with my new finds, Bob Marley’s lyrics came to mind, “No worries, be happy!” Mark your calendars for January 2018! I am off to make my vision board!!!

Travel List

Buddhist Monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery, India

Buddhist Monks and the Mandala of Impermanence from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

The Sacred Arts Tour is traveling throughout the US this year and it was very powerful experience to take in. Buddhist Monks came to Bucks County Community College for one week to share their art and wisdom.

Chanting with bells, cymbals ringing out and the steady rhythm of the drum beat served to consecrate the space and call forth the forces of Peace and Wellbeing. A puja table was set up by the window. Puja comes from Sanskrit and means reverence and homage. Items of offerings and devotion were placed on the table in front of a picture of the Dalai Lama. Bowls of water symbolized hospitality. Flowers symbolized samsara, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Candles served to stir a desire for enlightenment while incense purified the air and symbolized that the teachings may flow out to all the world. Apples were placed on the table reminding all of our interconnectedness and the impermanence of life with the hope of cultivating gratitude throughout each day.

A blue square board was laid on the ground and the monks took out rulers, compasses and pens to design the sacred sand mandala that would occupy their total concentration over the next 5 days. This is incredibly exacting and can take up to three hours. Pots of millions of grains of brilliantly colored sand were laid out beside chakpurs which are narrow funnel tubes that when scraped together will cause sufficient vibration for the grains to trickle out. Being used together, they represent the union of wisdom and compassion.

The term mandala is an ancient sanskrit word meaning, “World in Harmony”. This ideal, multi- dimensional world where colors, lines and forms all have meaning, each is significant to fostering a heightened awareness of compassion. An intention for blessings is set as each grain is dropped into the design.

By day, monks sat crossed legged, huddled over the rasping sound of the chakpurs for hours. ( My knees and back would have been screaming out after the first 5 minutes!) White face masks prevented both breath or a stray cough from upsetting the meticulous design. Slowly, a lotus emerged in the very center of the sand mandala. Working outwards, white, yellow, red, green and blue petals took shape to represent faith, effort, memory, meditation and wisdom. Deities, walls, doorways, flames all slowly emerged throughout the week.

Just as the week began, it ended with a formal consecration session with the sounds of deep, masculine chanting. The ending was signaled by a simple ringing of a bell. Slowly, brushes began to move over the mandala. The colorful grains were swept into a mound of gray. Buddhism declares that in this world there is nothing that is fixed and permanent. Every thing is subject to change and alteration. As a photographer who tries to capture moments so they will live forever, it was so hard for me to see this beautiful work simply be destroyed knowing how much went into it. I think I have a lot to learn! They believe that suffering stems from trying to hold on to that which is impermanent and it is only through understanding and moving with impermanence that great changes can emerge. The end of life is usually accompanied by a burial, a return to the earth. The grains were placed into an urn and carried to the river. There they were poured out with the belief that the blessings placed in each grain would now flow out to the earth. So much to take away from this one moment in time. “Thanks to impermanence,everything is possible.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Awe Inspired Question Two

Rome is a city of incredible domes. The earliest masonry dome made of stone was the Pantheon and it is one of the best preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings. The Vatican dome is recognized world wide as it dominates the skyline. These religious and historical structures of amazing engineering feats, stir the metaphorical and literal response of ascension. Often, when people are in the midst of greatness, there tends to be silence while trying to take it all in. From an immovable structure, I felt a type of movement as my eye followed the flow from the arches and around the dome with seemingly no beginning or end. In the midst of enormity, there was a type of calming intimacy from being totally surrounded by and connected to beautiful artwork of heavenly visions…and again, in that silence, I wonder and question. How were these works of art ever created? Perspective, height, vision, tools, agility???? Lillian Smith said, “When you stop learning, stop listening, stop looking and asking questions, always new questions, then it is time to die.” I want to live forever!

Dome of St. Peter's, Rome Italy

Dome of St. Peter’s, Rome Italy

Dome of St. Peter's, Rome

Dome of St. Peter’s, Rome

Dome of St. Peter's

Dome of St. Peter’s

The Island of Hydra, Dome of the Greek Orthodox Church established in 1643

The Island of Hydra, Dome of the Greek Orthodox Church established in 1643

Tai Chi: Energy In Motion

Tai Chi

Tai Chi

Tai Chi

Tai Chi

Tai Chi

Tai Chi

In the early morning hours, parks in Beijing, New York and San Francisco (to name just a few) become the gathering spot for Tai Chi practitioners…young and old flowing in synchronistic waves of gentle movement. Tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that is a self-paced system of gentle physical exercises and stretching. Originally, it was developed as a martial art for self-defense but it is now also seen as a mind body practice to reduce stress and address other health conditions. One posture flows into the next with the practitioner focused on breath and movement. As Sifu Peter Judd explained, “The gentle movements and slower tempo of Tai Chi enhance one’s overall sense of well being while simultaneously developing balance, strength and flexibility.” Observing this gifted teacher was truly observing energy in motion and I set out to capture his moving meditation of strength and serenity.

Peter is an excellent Sifu (teacher). If interested in learning more and becoming a student of Tai Chi, Peter can be reached at sifupeterjudd@verizon.net or at 704-641-7332.

Underwater with a Camera

Just give me a beach (preferably Bora Bora or a far off island in the Caribbean) and put a camera in my hand and I am one happy person! I recently tried out the Olympus TG3 underwater/all weather camera but since there were no destination weddings I was booked for, I headed off to the closest beach I could find…the Jersey shore. At one point in my life, I toyed with the idea of becoming a marine biologist. I was so taken with the world under the sea but when I went scuba diving, I never had a camera that lived up to the task. Fast forward a few years (more like decades!) and after reading the rave reviews, I decided to see if Olympus had perfected the ability to capture images while staying dry. I have to say that after three hours of going after waves, floating and diving, the camera never lost its mojo! It was a glorious day but there were very few clouds in sight to give dimension to the sky. The water was warm and inviting but that clear turquoise color lies many miles out. The thrilling waves that provide the opportunity to get inside the curl somehow didn’t seem to show up. This day, the focus was on movement, light, and exploring whether this will be my new take everywhere camera…compact, sturdy and master of many options. At this point, I really liked how it held up, now I just need Olympus to send me to that far off island where I can try it out for at least a month!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wandering Along The Back Streets in Florence

Florence, Italy

Florence, Santa Maria Novella

 

 

Florence, Santa Maria Novella

 

A city bathed in the warm colors of rust and amber, A city where the artists Michelangelo, DaVinci, Donatello, Botticelli and Brunelleschi (just to mention a few) brought forth a collective body of the greatest works of art the world has ever known.  A city where artists attempted to capture the beauty, order and harmony of the human body as a way to glorify God and they excelled at this glorification. Florence is known as the heart of the Renaissance and in many ways the foundation of our modern world lifting us out of the dark ages. It is a city I go back to time and time again as it continually amazes me.

On a recent trip, I walked the far back streets where I had never been before.  There I discovered Farmaceutica Di Santa Maria Novellaone.  The Dominican Friars founded this center in 1221 as a location to make herbal remedies and potions to use in the monastery. “Their reputation became world renowned and the pharmacy, sponsored by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, opened to the public in 1612.”

Many of the Farmaceutica Di Santa Maria Novella’s products have become a part of history: the world famous pot-pourri is still hand crafted in large terra cotta vats using local essences and plants as has been the tradition since the 1200’s. The first “Eau de Cologne” has been attributed to the pharmacy’s creation in the 1500’s of Catherine de Medeci’s “Water of the Queen.” She used the citrus and bergamot scented water and shared it with all her closest friends during her reign as the Queen of France and one can still purchase this fragrance today.  There is  a quiet reverence which envelopes the visitor.  Vaulted ceilings, ornately carved dark wood and low lighting that somehow makes each vintage bottle glow as if holding a rich treasure.  Creams, soaps and perfumes all provide a glimpse into the past practices of the monks who were so attuned to the healing benefits found in nature.  Their original recipe ledgers can still be seen. While knowing that Santa Maria Novella has opened in Chevy Chase, Dallas, Los Angels and New York,  I was very happy to leave this special surprise discovery at Via della Scala, 16, 50123 with a small, beautifully wrapped “Angels of Florence”. Now the scent of white flowers from a far off place lifts my spirits  and I am transported  to a place I love and reminded to wander through the small, back streets.

PetPT

 

Madison Can Swim!

Madison Can Swim!

 

PetPT

 

PetPT, NJ
https://vimeo.com/89858263

Video Link

 

One night, a call came in  from a great friend, Carolyn Hannan Bell who was very excited to tell me about a place she had just been to and thought the story definitely needed to be told.  After having made several visits, I was in total agreement and would like to now share this.

In a small strip mall located at 1900 Greentree Rd., Cherry Hill, NJ, Dr. Russell Howe-Smith has created a healing haven…a very special place filled with incredible care and compassion for animals suffering from previous abuse, injuries, arthritis and spinal issues. During the time I was there, I met Reisling who had been chained and had his ears cut off, Bubba an abused pit bull, Peanut a minute spit fire, Axle with only three legs and Madison who was blind and could no longer walk.  When Russ gently placed Madison in the pool and guided the movement of her legs, this dog came alive!  Carolyn’s sister Jacqui Canter,  after receiving a recommendation from her vet, brings her dog Annie here each week. Out of the blue, Annie had a neurological event and now can no longer walk. Jacqui comes here to provide Annie with the necessary treatment and the chance to experience movement again. The dedication I witnessed from Dr. Russell Howe-Smith and his staff as well as all of the owners was an incredible connection of love and compassion. PetPT’s mission statement is the following:

“Our goal is to provide our patients with the best possible quality of life.  We work to maximize the physical and emotional condition of our patients and to provide a comfortable caring community for our clients.  We believe that the relationship between pet and owner is, at its best, a source of infinite joy and pleasure. It can, however, be damaged by the extremes of chronic pain and disease.  Our practice exists to protect and nurture that bond by providing the best possible care for our patients and the most compassionate support for their families.”

Trust me when I say that everyone at PetPT truly embodies this goal. Those who are unable to tell us where it hurts or were helpless victims  are held with hearts full of love and strong enfolding arms.  All the owners expressed how much their pets had given to them so this was one way to now give back. “Compassion truly is their passion.”

For more information:  PetPT

My Work and My Hope

 

A Mother and Her Child

 

 

Engagement

 

Family

Family

The Past and Present

 

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Silk Weavers

 

John Denver made famous the term, “Rocky Mountain High” (little did he know how high Colorado will be starting today!) but he also created another song which I recently heard and the words keep repeating in my mind as I stand at this threshold of a new beginning with hopes for a life well lived.

“There are children raised in sorrow on a scorched and barren plain

There are children raised beneath the golden sun

There are children of the water
And children of the sand
And they cry out through the universe
Their voices raised as one

I want to live I want to grow
I want to see I want to know
I want to share what I can give
I want to be I want to live

Have you gazed out on the ocean
Seen the breaching of a whale?
Have you watched the dolphins frolic in the foam?
Have you heard the song the humpback hears five hundred miles away
Telling tales of ancient history of passages and home?

For the worker and the warrior the lover and the liar
For the native and the wanderer in kind
For the maker and the user and the mother and her son
I am looking for my family and all of you are mine

We are standing all together
Face to face and arm in arm
We are standing on the threshold of a dream
No more hunger no more killing
No more wasting life away
It is simply an idea
And I know it’s time has come

I want to live I want to grow
I want to see I want to know
I want to share what I can give
I want to be I want to live”

This past week did not take me to far off lands.  I was local with a camera in hand.  I was invited in to capture the tender moments of a family, a wonderfully happy  engaged couple, a 99 year old mother and her daughter keeping memories alive and getting her mom to enjoy an afternoon. Then, I was with a courageous, generous woman who is a breast cancer surviver raising two beautiful daughters.  At the same time all of this was going on, I was working on a story about silk weaving in Cambodia and the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalogue arrived from those  who live on a commune in Virginia and are dedicated to saving the past for the future.  Whether far or near, all so unique and yet we are all seeking the same …health, happiness and prosperity. So many are voicing their longing for world peace, but I believe it comes one person at a time…one person who opens and tries to understand another, one person who reaches out, one person who looks within and decides not to take themselves too seriously and try to find the humor in the midst of humanity. As a photographer, it would be my hope that my visual images and storytelling will act as a path, a bridge bringing one person together with another, dispelling those boundaries and borders which serve to negatively separate us.

A friend sent me a wish for 2014 that I think we all share…”May your eyes continue to see beautiful and significant things, and your soul dance to good music!”

Happy New Year everyone!

Francie

Kutztown Folk Festival: Video Alert!

The Preacher

The Preacher

The Expert Quilter

The Expert Quilter

I could travel with a camera 24/7 and feel as if I died and went to heaven! I have been so fortunate that so many people graciously allow me to enter their world and generously share different aspects of their lives with me so freely. It was like that when I attended the Kutztown Folk Festival celebrating the Pennsylvania Dutch Culture …a truly fascinating study. So many people shared story upon story of the traditions, medicinal practices, foods and crafts with me.

The term Pennsylvania Dutch refers to those who left Alsace, Southwestern Germany and Switzerland and settled in Pennsylvania during the 17th and 18th century. The dialect is a combination of Palatinate German and English. However less than 5% of the words are English and it is spoken by nearly 500,000 Pa. Dutch Americans, mostly the Plain Dutch. According to the tradition signs posted: “This is the cussingest language on earth! Here are just some of the compounds of the best known cuss word: Dunnerwedder:
(since I have no idea exactly what I am saying, I will only pass along one!) Himmel-Dunnerwedder!” (go on, get it out and feel better!)

The culture is divided into two completely different ways of life. The Amish and Mennonites represent a minority known as “Plain Dutch” and they separate themselves from the rest of the world in matters of dress. They are biblicists and strictly conform to the bible. Their approach to worship is very simple. They avoid revelry, waste and “worldly ways” with the goal being to be little and unknown, loved by God alone. The majority of PA. Dutch are Lutherans and reformed denominations and are known as “Gay or Fancy Dutch”. These members do not wear plain clothing nor do they refuse to fight in wars. Much of the folklore is derived from this group. Some of that folklore would be: Raisin pie is known as the funeral pie and was rarely served at any other time. Dinners after the funeral were known as “Sees-Koocha Schpree” (sweet cake spree). The camp meeting was known as the bush meeting. Bush to the PA. Dutch is wooded land. A small grove was cleared, a preaching stand or bush arbor was erected with rows of benches and since participants camped in the woods, the bush meeting was both a religious and social experience. It was believed that if it didn’t rain on May 1st, there would be little hay that year. Rain on Whitsunday (Pentecost) means few chestnuts and if there is rain on that day, there will be rain on the next seven Sundays…and it goes on and on and on!
National Geographic covered this festival twice, USA Today named it one of America’s Top Celebrations and The Washington Post called it a “Must See”! The festival runs from June 29th – July 7th, (2013) 9am – 6pm. Come to join in the celebration of the oldest folk festival in the US!

Travel Gear Blog: LOOXCIE

About two months ago, I was going to have a business consult regarding the efficacy of my website. I was all set ready to go, excited about this opportunity when the man I was working with said, “What exactly do you do again?”(couldn’t be good!) I told him I was a photographer and he then said in all sincerity, “Well, don’t you think you should have some pics on the site?” Long story short, either an update did not work or I was hacked again….so after hours and hours pouring through photographs, a new website exists (thank you Dan Creighton) and hopefully, this one will have a long life! With this new format, I decided to feature very interesting travel gear as well as other sites which inspire, educate and entertain.
I will be heading out to Honduras to photograph an NGO. At the NYTimes travel show, I was intrigued by the LOOXCIE. One could wear it unobtrusively behind the ear, capture and stream video through a smart phone. I thought this would be perfect to use while away and the many contributors could see first hand all that is going on at the orphanage. I will write a review when I return, but until then, here are several sites providing information and my mind is now racing with all the ways I can incorporate this…check it out, it may intrigue you also.

Here is the official site: looxcie.com

Here is a review from Chris Burns on Slashgear.com

and if you are interested, of course Amazon.com will make your life very easy!

“Without A Spare” A Fearless Woman’s Life of Travel by Bonnie Kassel

Without A Spare

The New York Times Travel Show is not only a catalyst, stroking the desire to see fascinating far off places but it is also a hub to meet very interesting and creative people. One postcard being handed out caught my attention straight away! Who doesn’t love a red volkswagen? A car with character and a personality for sure. One took me all through Peru! “A fearless woman’s life of travel”…yes, I am there. Put that book in my hands! I have spent the last week being on a fascinating roller coaster of travels. Bonnie is the ultimate “free spirit”. All one has to do is look at the table of contents: “Europe 101”, “Bonlez, Belgium”, “Motoring Through the Sudan”, “Eritrean Guerrillas”, “The Himalayays”, “Sri Lanka and the Maldives” to name just a few! As one who loves the visual, I was disappointed that there were so few photographs throughout the book but then I read how so many roles of film were taken while abroad (I felt Bonnie’s pain)! Her writing however was a feast for the imagination. The reader is able to breathe the same air, see vibrant colors and hear the cacophony of street sounds. Bonnie travelled with an open heart allowing so many rich and sometimes horrifying experiences to be woven into her life’s story… a train was missed but this led to crossing paths with a yacht owner! I can only imagine what an interesting conversation would have taken place if Bonnie Kassel were to sit with Robert Frost! “Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, and this has made all the difference.” Reading “Without a Spare” will not only open doors to countries and cultures for the reader but will perhaps also inspire them to walk through them.

New York Times Travel Show 2013

New York Times Travel Show

New York Times Travel Show

Arthur FrommerThundering Waterfalls of the Caribbean, the Golden Buddha of Thailand, The Great Wall of China…imagine being in the center of it all! One of my most coveted possessions is the press pass I receive each year for the New York Times Travel Show (even though my name was spelled incorrectly, I think they meant it for me)! This show feeds my wanderlust while keeping me up with the latest technology and trends of the travel world. One can meander through the aisles from continent to continent sampling foods, listening to musical accompaniment while many happy people share the most unique characteristics of their countries. Concurrently, there are one hour workshops happening from 10am – 5pm in three different conference rooms on the lower level of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. So many wonderful decisions to be made. So many wonderful connections to be made! During this week, I will be going through all of my notes and passing along a synthesis of the many workshops I attended.

After visiting the elegant American Express Lounge for a cappuccino planning session as to what should come first, no one can go wrong with this father and daughter team… Arthur and Pauline Frommer always share such valuable information and I have provided the link for each recommendation. The following are companies offering customized experiences: Vayable.com,
UrbanAdventures.com, Gidsy.com, HomeFood.it . Small Group Tours are offered by: Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Djoser Tours and adventure consultants are Adventure Center, Adventure Link. Short volunteer vacations are provided by: Parismina Turtles.org, Give The Kids The World , British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, Colorado Trail Foundation while companies specializing in longer volunteer vacations are Global Volunteers, Earthwatch, Vaughan Systems, American Hiking Society. In order to get the best airfares, they suggested the following sites: Hipmunk.com, DoHop.com, Momondo.comm. Booking on a Tuesday or Wednesday, six weeks in advance seems to provide the best prices. Non-direct flights and two one way tickets may be cheaper. It is such a smart move to follow your favorite airline and hotels on Twitter and Facebook since they are competing with Orbis and Kayak so they will offer discounted deals to their followers but they may only last for a few hours so this way, you will always get the notification. TripTwit will add in this. If you are daring and would like to break out of the hotel box, VROB, Flipkey.com, Endlessvacations.com, Air B&B offer homes and apartments to rent. often directly from the owner. As far as the airlines go, it is so disheartening that Spirit is now charging for bags going in the overhead compartment while SouthWest and Jet Blue have resisted many of the extra check in charges.
Arthur and Pauline are both gifted speakers and are consummate professionals in the travel industry. Their website is one to definitely bookmark while waiting for the 2014 show date to be announced!

Stay tuned…much more information is forthcoming!

The Divine Lorraine Hotel, Philadelphia, PA

After photographing at the Mummers’ Parade last week and spending a great deal of time on Braod Street, I thought it might be interesting to photograph the architecture along this most famous street which spans approximately 13 miles. Broad Street was one of the earliest planned streets in the United States (1681) and has a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The most prestigious art centers, sporting complexes and historic architecture line this street.

The Divine Lorraine Hotel, located at the corner of Broad and Fairmount Avenue, was built in the late 19th century. This building initially symbolized opulence and luxury as a 246 room high rise apartment building with 2 ball rooms, in house staff and one of the first elevators in the city. It later became home to Father Divine and his congregation and was noted as the first integrated hotel in the city. Those wanting to join this religious cult turned their savings over in return for a room and had to abide by Father Divine’s strict rules. Richard Nickel posted a fascinating look at the history of this building, its inhabitants (Jim Jones was a member before starting his own cult which later committed mass suicide) and photographs of the interior of this now deteriorating and gutted building. A great friend and photographer, Conrad Louis-Charles shared one of his favorite quotes with me before I went off to shoot. “Don’t shoot what you see, shoot what you feel.” (David Alan Harvey). Taking this advice to heart, I went off to capture this boarded up, graffiti ridden shell as it now stands decaying. I am not sure what will become of it since it was just purchased by developer Eric Blumenfeld. He plans to convert the building into rental units with restaurants on the ground floor. May his vision come to fruition.

The Divine Lorraine Hotel
The Divine Lorraine Hotel
The Divine Lorraine Hotel, Phialdelphia
The Divine Lorraine Hotel
Divine Lorraine Hotel
The Divine Lorraine Hotel

Mummers’ Parade 2013 and New Year’s Traditions

“Tis New Year’s Day! What interesting traditions we have as we move from one year to the next. If I were in South America, last night I would have had a major decision to make about the color of my underwear…yellow would symbolize a hope for abundance. Red would show a yearning for love in the New Year and white would simply mean a desire for peace. I wonder how many people go to a tied dyed approach to get them all in! Scarecrows made up of old clothes are burned on the front lawn while the old calendars are thrown from windows. Speaking of which, I heard on the local news station yesterday that various and assorted items are dropped from high levels at the stroke of midnight…large potatoe chip bags, lebanon bologna and a possum drop in N. Carolina and Georgia (PETA has expressed their total distaste of this one). Here in Philadelphia for the past 113 years and still going strong, grown men (women referred to as the wenches brigade and children) all get dressed in feathers, sequins and umbrellas and strut their stuff up Broad Street and all of this is perfectly normal! They have perfected the art of partying for sure! I wonder what color their underwear is????????

Gifting of the Beads!The New Normal!Guess Who I Am!Here's To The Red, White and Blue!Long lines for the bathroom!The Mummers' StrutThe Strong!  The Bold! The Beautiful!Hey Philly!Your Normal Run of the Mill Rabbit on the Street