Red Bird Mission Gets a Boost from Harriman Church Youth

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Not only did I treat my car to a much needed car wash today but, better yet, in the process I donated a few dollars to the Red Bird Mission, a faith-based outreach in which young people travel to Kentucky to assist poor people with getting the things that they need, such as building houses. Last year a Confirmation class from St. Anastasia’s Catholic Church in Harriman donated their time and energy to help in Appalachia; the young people I met today come from the local United Methodist Church.

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Not only do the young people give generously of their time and physical resources — they also have to raise money to be able to make the trip, and that’s what today’s car wash was in aid of.  Pastor Wendy Paige explained to me that it costs $375 per young person just to travel to Kentucky, and they must raise the money themselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiven the recent hard winter and the even more recent pollen storm that left local cars a muddy mess, what better fundraiser than a car wash?  They worked hard and they were thorough. And the donation they requested was free will — you gave what you wanted to give.

The group will be washing cars at the United OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMethodist Church in nearby Monroe next Saturday. If you’re in the area and need your car washed — or even if you just want to make a donation, as I noticed some people doing who didn’t need or have time for a car wash — please come on by!

The Stunning Photography of John P. O’Grady

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A really remarkable exhibit entitled “Catskill Remains” featuring the photography of John P. O’Grady has been showing at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts center in Hunter since April. It closes on Sunday May 17 and I only just had the opportunity to see it on May 10. If you’re anywhere near the area before it closes, I very strongly recommend going to have a look.

What’s good to say about Mr. O’Grady’s work? Consider this:

  • He’s a Renaissance man — an author, a historian, a man with an amazing variety of interests. This informs his work. Obviously a highly intelligent man with his own very personal starting point for his photography, he refreshingly avoids both the “trendy” and the self-conscious attempt to be superficially “original.”
  • Having said that, I must say that Mr. O’Grady’s photos are unique and original, but not gimmicky. No, never gimmicky, either in composition or in technique,
  • Speaking of technique: He doesn’t speak about it. At least, he doesn’t mention f-stops, focal lengths, shutter speeds, equipment, or postprocessing software in a recent interview for  the Catskill Mountain Region Guide, and you’ll be hard put to find anything about it on his website. http://www.tuckabold.com/  His photography is out there to inspire you, to make you think, and he doesn’t get hung up on explaining to you how he did it.
  • I found this intriguing: Many of the titles of his images both are and are not “about” the central focus of the picture. For example, the one entitled Olana. If you know just where Olana is and that it’s on the height on the opposite side of the Rip van Winkle Bridge from Catskill, you’ll see it — but he seems to defy the convention of titling a picture after some obvious feature.

All the images in this show are in black and white, in plain black frames with white matting. And very modestly priced. In this day and age when one tires of looking at consciously trendy photography, I was extremely gratified to see how well received Mr. O’Grady’s work is. How did I know that? By the number of tiny green “Sold” stickers on so many of them.

The quickly snapped photo at the head of this post shows you something of the layout. It doesn’t do justice to Mr. O’Grady’s pictures at all, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. “Catskill Remains,” Kaaterskill Fine Arts center, Route 23a, Hunter. This is by far the finest exhibit they’ve had there in a long long time.

Will the Cold Spring House Survive Another Winter?

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Every now and then my camera and I take the road up to Tannersville to document the changes in the historic Cold Spring House, a once glorious and popular vacation resort that has been abandoned to go to ruin.  If you read OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmy post of September 25, 2014 you’ll see that the two photos at the bottom of that post show the right wing of the building as it looked at that time.  On December 26 I drove up there with my son, Anton, who had never seen Cold Spring House before, and I was dismayed to see what had happened to it in that short time.  Here are my latest photographs. That right wing has come crumbling down, and the iron staircase outside the building at the top floor, well, it now looks like the iconic “Stairway to Heaven.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was nearly three weeks ago, and the Catskills have had some pretty severe weather again, including very high winds. So, these photos that I took in December may no longer tell the current story.

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Saving Cooper Lake

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Cooper Lake in Ulster County is the water supply for the City of Kingston. It also happens to be an extraordinarily beautiful spot where locals and visitors enjoy walking. Because it is a water supply, it’s off limits to such activities as swimming, boating, and fishing. This somewhat “untouched” feature adds to its appeal.

But now Cooper Lake is under threat. A water bottling company in California wants to buy some 1.75 million gallons of water a day from this Catskills treasure. That means machinery, possibly a chain link fence — whatever, a complete ruination of the lake as we now know and love it. You can read the details at http://savecooperlake.org.

Locals are up in arms. Walk through Woodstock and you’ll see signs and posters in almost all the shop windows. Meetings are held, petitions are being organized.

My own argument for saving Cooper Lake — aside from loathing any project, anywhere, that prioritizes the almighty dollar over all other considerations — doesn’t need words. A picture, as they say, is worth 1,000 words. I’ve photographed Cooper Lake more times than I can count. These are from Thanksgiving weekend.

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Still in need of a Christmas gift? Looking for something that shows off our beautiful region of the globe? Check out our book Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour.

Holiday Happenings in Woodstock

Hello! Sorry for the long absence. It was a busy autumn with trips to northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island to shoot foliage. Then came a business trip to San Diego. Then Thanksgiving with the snow, and next blog post I’ll share some of the photos I took there of an endangered place in the Catskills.

But for now let’s do a “show and tell” of Woodstock. I drove up there yesterday to have lunch, enjoy a play, and generally walk around enjoying the decorations. Here goes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst, I had a fabulous lunch at Joshua’s and can highly recommend this place — the food, service, and ambience. not to mention the prices! The menu has a strong international flavor, with a number of Middle Eastern dishes.

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Here’s the front portal of the historic Dutch Reformed Church, all decked out in Christmas finery.

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The Rare Bear gift shop looks warm and inviting to potential shoppers. Also, notice the historic marker to the left. Food for thought!

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Here the emphasis is on the historic marker itself rather than on the building. A call to support your local, homegrown businesses, please.

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It may be Christmas, but Woodstock will never let you forget this is Woodstock! Still, when you look at the decorations on display in this shop window, it’s kind of fitting that the birthday of the Prince of Peace is being celebrated.

Finally, about that play I mentioned. They preferred not to have pictures taken during the performance, and I respected that. But I do encourage you to go and see it for yourself, if you can make it to Woodstock this coming weekend. It’s The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge: A Holiday Comedy by Mark Brown and performed by the Bird-on-a-Cliff Theatre Company. It’s funny, it’s not without its commentary on some foibles of modern society, a delight for everyone familiar with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and very well acted by a professional cast. More performances this weekend December 19-21, appropriately enough in the court room of the Woodstock Town Hall. See http://birdonacliff.org.

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If you’re still looking for holiday gifts, or would like to treat yourself to something, please have a look at my Etsy shop for some irresistible specials. My Ashokan Items gallery has some photo prints of obvious local interest at a special sale price plus free shipping (USA only), and my Special Sale Items gallery has a selection of some of my best photos, already matted and framed, at ridiculously reduced prices, mostly left over from summer and fall shows because I need to clear some space around here. These are special prices for you faithful readers of my blog.

Is Nature Reclaiming the Cold Spring Resort?

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It’s easy to find if you turn south at the traffic light just as Route 23A enters the village of Tannersville from the west. Follow the road as it bends to the right and before long you’ll see it looming on your left — the poor abandoned remains of the once magnificent jewel of Tannersville resorts, Cold Spring House. Back in the heyday of Catskill resorts Cold Spring House could boast of being not only the second largest one in Tannersville but also the first one to welcome Jewish guests. Built in the 1890s, it ceased operation sometime just after the middle of the twentieth century.

Nancy_6_5I first photographed the Cold Spring House in August 2013 and have returned three or four times since, to document its appearance at different seasons. And, alas, to witness and document its decline. This past Saturday a delightful motorcycle-riding couple visiting from the Midwest spent a few moments examining the house and grounds, and then, probably assuming that anyone casually crouched at the side of the road over a tripod and DSLR camera must be an authority on things in the area, asked me if I could tell them anything about the history of this house. (It turned out that the nice gentleman had spent a few summers at the Latvian summer camp over toward Elka Park in his younger years.) I told them what I knew and suggested that they could learn more if they googled the name; I knew this would take them to Greene County historian David Dorpfeld’s fine article in the Register Star from two years ago.

Before they set off again (I gave them directions to Lexington in case they were interestedNancy_6_8 in seeing two more ruined hotels) they asked whether I would be posting any of my pictures of Cold Spring House online. I gave them my card, which happens to have three small photos on the front. He pointed to the middle one and asked if that was the same place. Yes, it was. We marveled at the extent to which it has changed — deteriorated — since I took the picture, 13 short months ago. Whenever I tell people I’ve been to photograph it again they will sometimes ask me, “Is it still standing?”  My usual reply is, “It was two days ago [or however long since I was there last] but I can’t guarantee whether that’s true now.” They understand.

Here are some photos from my shoot on Saturday. I wanted to capture the building amid the autumn-colored flora–red, yellow, and orange life springing up among the sad decay of the building. Perhaps you’re wondering whether a place like this harbors ghosts. I can only assure you that if it does, they are friendly, positive ghosts.Nancy_6_10

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Another Good Eating Place in Tannersville

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There is a surprising variety of worthwhile restaurants and cafes along Route 23A between Hunter and Haines Falls. (I say “surprising” because one wouldn’t necessarily expect a rural region of the Catskills to have better eating places than a certain area of Bergen County, NJ with which I’m familiar, and yet such is definitely the case.)  A number of them are in colorful Tannersville, which prides itself on its restaurants and has taken to touting them quite enthusiastically.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATannersville. If you read this blog regularly you’ll know I’m a fan of the Last Chance. But here’s a recommendation for something totally different: Maggie’s Krooked Cafe. It looks quite unprepossessing both outside and in, but on my visit to the Mountain Top last week I decided to try it out and got attentive and friendly service from Violet and the best beef burger I’ve had probably in my entire life. Coming from someone who hasn’t been a fan of beef burgers for many a year, that’s saying something.

Maggie prides herself on using fresh, local ingredients and all food is cooked to order. The extensive breakfast menu features a variety of pancakes — including potato pancakes — along with other dishes. (I’m going to have to try the pancakes some time, although I did warn Violet that my standards for pancakes are very high.)

If you’re traveling through Tannersville, you might want to give the Krooked Cafe a try. It’s on the north side of Route 23A. Oh, and it was written up in Hudson Valley magazine’s restaurants issue in January 2014. So if you hesitate to take my word for it, believe the experts!

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The beautiful sunflower field just outside New Paltz didn’t disappoint this year! Click on the above photo to get to my website, where you can enjoy more recent sunflower photos, which are also available for purchase.