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:

Here is a review from Chris Burns on

and if you are interested, of course 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:,,, . 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, 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:,, 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,,, 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

Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Faithful Celebrate


Still in Prayer
City Procession

Over the past few years, some leaders of the Philadelphia Archdiocese have become known for very grevious offenses. However, this past week, I was able to witness what the spirit of the real church looks like. St. Thomas Acquinas is a multi-cultural parish located in South Philadelphia. Members are from the Indonesian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Hispanic, African American, Italian and Irish communities. This parish is microcosm of the world. Although struggling financially, all are committed to being a beacon of hope for the neighborhood and the vibrancy of support and welcome is so palpable.

Five centuries ago on a hill in Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe appreared to the poor and abandoned. Speaking their language she promised protection and inspired hope. On a small hillside in the freezing cold, roses bloomed. The Virgin told Juan Diego to gather the flowers in his peasant cloak (tilma). When the flowers were laid out in front of the Bishop, there appeared the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe which was miraculously imprinted on the fabric. This cloak of a poor man touched by grace can still be viewed to this day. Over time, she was declared the patroness of the Americas and has endeared the largest number of pilgrimages in the world. On December 11th, in the cold night air, the people of St Thomas Acquinas processed over an hour and a half to the cathedral to join thousands of others filled with the same heartfelt faith,belief and joy. It was so inspiring for me to see the strength and faith of the men, women, children, old and young from all different cultural backgrounds sharing in this celebration. These are the acts that should not go unnoticed. Hopefully the video provided will give an small insight into the tremendous spirit!

Such Tender Moments that Make Us All Smile!

I am always touched when a couple invites me in to accompany them and in some way capture on film their endearing qualities and tenderness towards each other…to document the vitality and vibrancy of their love. Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being with Brittany and Anthony on a beautiful fall day. Each saw in the other a heart which embraced and nurtured children and while they were on vacation in California this past summer, Anthony went out on the balcony of their hotel with a beautiful view of the ocean behind him and he proposed to Brittany. She said, “YES!” Their happiness in each other’s company is so obvious to everyone around them. They appreciate the simple moments of spending time, laughing, sharing and just being still with each other. The date has been set for the wedding (see if you can figure it out in the video!) and I am so grateful and honored to be sharing in such joy!

Cape May, NJ /Multiple Exposure

Cape May is the home to beautiful Victorian homes, a lighthouse beacon, pristine beaches and enough stimulation for all those who “shop till they drop”! I previously did a post on the vintage archetecture but in this post, I wanted to try to capture and convey the mood which emanates from this summer beach town.

All rights reserved. No unauthorized use, distribution, sales, lending or duplication is permitted without written notice from Frances Schwabenland, copyright 2012.

Niagara Falls, Canada

Water is fluid, soft and yielding.
But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield.
As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard.
This is another paradox: what is soft is strong.

Water, the hub of life.
Water is the master and matrix, mother and medium.
(Albert Szent-Gyorgyi)

We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.
(Jacques Cousteau)

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

NBC Nightly News: Pilot Shortage But We Have It Covered!

Did you ever smell a cloud?
Did you ever feel fear and ecstasy at the same time?
This past Tuesday was a day I did both.

Travel has taught me that there are so many incredible moments end experiences that flow in when one ventures out of that known comfort zone (but it is always good to have other people venturing out with you to hopefully laugh over lunch at a local restaurant in Princeton afterwards!) Trish Todd and Brina Sedar are two great friends with that adventuresome spirit and social consciousness who joined with me as we went off to see what we could do about addressing the dire need for pilots…especially of the female persuasion!

The Raritan Valley Flying School has such gracious (and patient!) staff. From Chris who sets up the flights over the phone to Steve who coordinates the entire operation and who not only is a skilled pilot, but his gentle knowing advice keeps courage up and fears at bay. Bob, Bryan and John instructed us in the movements and instruments of the planes. It was all straightforward and very clearly explained and then it was hands on learning! The twenty minutes of taking over the controls was both incredible and empowering. Through Bob’s instruction, I learned that I didn’t have to white knuckle the steering wheel and my hands just needed to relax so I could feel the subtle changes and know how to “dance” with it! He also told me that if we hit an air pocket, just go for the ride! Definitely more sage advice to add to my life lessons book!

Many thanks to the entire staff and crew of the Raritan Valley Flying School. A pilot’s liscense requires 40 hours of flying time and the cost is between $8,000 and $10,000 but as Brian Williams said, over half a million will be needed in the next 20 years…I say, “Go for it!”

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Philadelphia Color Run 2012

Today, Philadelphia held its first “Color Run”. 25.000 runners lined up at the Art Museum for a 5K run with the mandatory white shirt. 3,2,1…the runners took off into a shower of powdered paint. Oranges, greens, blues and yellows filled the air. Colors were everywhere…what is not to love about this event!

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Frances Schwabenland copyright 2012

We The People: Ellis Island

The Path That Determines Destiny

The Preamble to the Constitution begins with the familiar words, “We The People.” In order to fully realize the impact of these words and the freedoms being accorded today it is so important to go back and to look back. A recent visit to Ellis Island was as powerful for me as entering any cathedral, temple or mosque. I felt as if it was truly “sacred ground”. From 1892 to 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered the US through this portal…over 12 million people from all different races, cultures and beliefs, gathering, praying, hoping and dreaming for a future of promise and opportunity while pleading for an escape from persecution, poverty and oppression.

I walked in a type of silent reverence through these halls being struck by so many bags, personal items and photographs but there was one moment in particular that was such a touchstone for me. I was taken behind the scenes and shown places closed off to the public. The photograph above captures the exact point that set into motion the destiny of millions…my destiny. You see, my great grandparents were immigrants from Russia, Germany and Ireland. When they got to this point, they were all told to go to the right. They were now US citizens. The path to the left was for those being kept and or sent back due to the belief of a contagious disease. That one decision, that path set into motion a generational rippling effect. I, my grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters would now be blessed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This photograph hangs in my home to remind me how fortunate I am and how one moment, one decision can effect destiny.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Coney Island, A bit of Americana

In my attempt to explore as many beaches as possible this summer, yesterday was my trip to Coney Island. It seemed like such a quintessential location to visit with the Fourth of July approaching. Even though the 100 degree heat won out, quickly draining my camera batteries and me, I was caught up in the celebration, variety and flow of it all. The beach became crowded about 9:30 and there was every type of bathing suit to be seen (or not to be seen!). Luis was kind enough to give me a fishing lesson on the types of fish that can be caught with the timing of the tides and then there was the huge 85th birthday celebration for the iconic wooded roller coaster, The Cyclone. It was declared a New York City landmark on July 12, 1988 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.
The first man in line came at 9:00 with a three hour wait ahead of him. He was a security officer dressed in a full suit so that he could go right to work after his historic ride and he was so looking forward to it! Truly a dedicated individual! For the first 85 minutes, tickets were the original cost of $.25 and then it was “party city” for the rest of the afternoon!

A visit would not be complete without trying one of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs…I have to say, it was delicious. Try the one with the cheese! The fries I steered clear of, heart disease runs in the family! I am just sorry that I won’t be there for their famous hot dog eating contest on July 4th. According to their site, it is estimated that “40,000 fans have made the pilgrimage” to watch this event. Joey Chestnut holds the record for downing 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes. How does he do it!? I am actually hoping to be on another beach on the 4th, but if not, I can tune into ESPN!…only in America!

Where Is The Story? There Is Always A Story!

The weekend was one that just called out to leave behind that “To Do” list and go photograph. So off with a friend to downtown Philadelphia I went. Our GPS was set to the fountains in the center of the city and then on to capture the skyline from the Camden Waterfront. As a photographer, I try to heed the sage advice to be open to take in subjects from different vantage points…above, below, behind and basically any other way I can contort my body. So while I was at the fountains, I looked around to photograph from another direction and I was drawn to an American flag supported by boxes and blankets on the overpath of the expressway. I wanted to see more…here in Philadelphia, there is a heated debate regarding a mandate not to feed those who are homeless outdoors. Many would see this as just a way to make our homeless population more and more invisible. I wanted to see who was so proud of our county while living in cardboard boxes. It was then that I met Carlos. We talked for a long time and he shared that he had lost his job two years ago and then had major health problems the next year which caused him to loose everything he owned. Carlos said he tries to make the best of everyday and look for the good. “It’s my choice and it helps me with this time.” He is sleeping over the Vine Street expressway and he told me he doesn’t notice the noise, just the stars!

We then went off to the Camden Waterfront. There was a surprise fireworks show and Andrew, another photographer hunched down and off to the side. He was outgoing and began sharing how much he loved that spot to photograph. We learned that Andrew was studying to be a meteorologist even though many told him he wouldn’t be able to succeed due to his Asbergers. He was also gay which added to his struggle for acceptance. Andrew told us how he saw beautiful angels and was then put in a psychiatric ward but another man his same age saw angels and was put on Oprah! Andrew was a gentle soul in the night.

Following sage advice trying to look in other directions, I met Carlos who reminded me not to take all that I have for granted and try to make the best of everyday which I will remember when I get back to my mundane “To Do” list… and Andrew who I hope really did see angels.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

Bryn Athyn Cathedral Lighting Ceremony

Photographers seek out the light. It sculpts, it enhances and it invites so when I heard that Bryn Athyn Cathedral would be having their anniversary lighting celebration, I was drawn to be there.

John Pitcarin came from Scotland in the early 1800’s. Born from a state of poverty, he went on to found PPG industries and buy property outside of Philadelphia. John may have been highly influenced by his classmate, Andrew Carnegie in gaining his wealth. On April 18, 1885, a son Raymond was born and he later became a very successful lawyer and collector of medieval art. As his father created wealth from poverty, Raymond took the vacant tract of land and in 1913, decided to begin building a medieval cathedral to become the seat for “The New Church” also known as Swedenborgianism. This religion was started by the Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg who related the revelations he recieved during heavenly visions. He taught that God would replace the traditional Christion Church and establish a “New Church”.

Bryn Athen Cathedral is said to resemble Cloucester Cathedral in England. Asymmetries and irregularities were all planned into the building. There are no straight lines which then serves to soften the archetectural design and draws in Grecian refinement. One of the philosphical stances of “The New Church” is that God loves variety so doors, keys, metal work etc. are each unique when one looks closely. There are many guides available each Sunday to take visitors on a tour of this exquisite cathedral. (Many thanks to Suzy Laidlaw for taking such time and sharing her vast knowledge with me).

Right next door is a castle which was originally the private residence of Raymond and now is the Glencairin Museum. It houses a beautiful collection of religious art from around the world and is open to visitors.

June 18th is the anniversary of the founding. For three days, light sculpts and enhances the cathedral, the castle and the magnificent gardens. Tonight will be the last night and it is celebrated by inviting everyone to picnic on the grounds, listen to beautiful music and take in this great expanse which basically emerged from impoverished roots, determination and vision. If you would like to sit out on a summer night with a medieval castle and medieval cathedral as your backdrop…this spot is for you! The location for anyone able to visit is: 900 Cathedral Road, Bryn Athyn, PA 19009.
So glad I followed the light and learned fascinating stories of religion, archetecture, and history.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.