Tag Archives: niagara-on-the-lake

Late Summer Road Trip

Our road trip to New York and Canada seemed like a long time ago now. The leaves were still green and the weather was still warm. Our trip started with a weekend to Ithaca, NY in the Finger Lakes where I knew we could photograph a few of the waterfalls in that area without having to hike a long distance. Then we would head to Canada where we would spend time in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Falls.

We had three goals with this trip. The first was some serious rest and relaxation. Work has been very stressful for me this summer and I couldn’t wait to just get away. The same for Tom and we hadn’t yet had a vacation this summer. The second was to make a trip to the Small Talk Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I had decided to create a basket using their “dinner party themed” wines (just gorgeous, creative concept and labels) for the Quigley Catholic Gala. And lastly, we had wanted to photograph some landscapes and waterfalls, as we had been working so hard on getting the silky water effect with our new camera.

Finger Lakes, NY
We spent the day just outside of Ithaca and photographed the following waterfall in the Robert Treman State Park, just off Enfield Falls Road (Rt. 327) at the west end of the park.

Using NDx8 filter

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F22 using our new Hoya NDx8 Filter (click to enlarge).

From there we traveled west on Rt. 327 to Seneca Lake and Watkins Glen. We had stopped at many waterfalls along the way, but this was my other favorite photograph, taken at the SHE-QUA-GA Falls in Watkins Glen. I was so surprised, because the last time we had visited this waterfall in the winter, it was gushing with water. But I loved that it was so wispy and dainty with rich patches of green moss.


This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F22 using our new Hoya NDx8 Filter (click to enlarge).

Niagara Falls, ONT, Canada
We headed to Canada from there. I dropped my camera on the first day at the White Water Rapids exhibit. I had gotten a couple of photographs using our ND filters, but when I dropped the camera, the strap had luckily caught on the tripod and it wasn’t impacted. But I was still holding the remote release and it ripped apart, partially broken inside the camera and the rest of it was in my hand. Nice. We were done using filters. We tried, but every one of them that required the long exposure came back blurry — we just couldn’t hold the camera still enough, even propped on a hard surface. Here are a few photos that I did like:

Silky Rapids

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F8 using our new Hoya NDx8 Filter (click to enlarge).

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F8 using our new Hoya ND x400 Filter (click to enlarge). This one had a little movement.

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F8 using our new Hoya ND x400 Filter (click to enlarge). This one had a little movement.

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F10 without filters (click to enlarge).

This shot was taken with our Nikon D7100 with ISO 100, F10 without filters (click to enlarge).

Tom taking some photos after I broke the remote release.

Tom taking some photos after I broke the remote release. This shot was taken with my iPhone 4s.

Overall, the trip didn’t turn out quite like we had planned. We wished we had stayed in the Finger Lakes a couple more days and less in Canada.

We changed hotels the first night in Canada, because our Hampton Inn was so outdated that neither of us could deal. When Tom couldn’t stay, you know it’s bad. Nothing like a tiny shower stall, while having a giant heart-shaped jacuzzi tub in a retro 1970’s pink plastic. It was like a bad movie. So we moved further away from Niagara-on-the-Lake and to the Sheraton overlooking the Canadian Falls. It wasn’t the greatest either, but much better than the Hampton.  We had also seen and done everything in Niagara Falls, so after five days, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. By the end of the week, I didn’t have much energy and wasn’t feeling so great — little did I know that I would be in the hospital the following week!

So, we have no more road trips planned for the rest of 2014. But we do have a Caribbean trip coming up in November to Aruba. And we’re taking the camera!!! And I’m feeling fantastic!!! Let the countdown begin!

Always B E L I E V E !

Camera In Tow

This shot was taken with a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera using a manual mode, f/22, ISO 6. Click image for full size.

This shot was taken with a Nikon D7100 DSLR camera using a manual mode, aperture f/22, shutter speed 1/6, ISO 200. Click image for larger size.

Tom and I spent the day at McConnells Mill (again!), trying to figure out how to use all the features on the camera that we bought at Christmas. It was our hope that after taking our photography class and making the time to go out and shoot, we would learn how to use the manual mode. I think we still have a long way to go!  We’ve been on a mission to capture silky water, fireworks and star trails — all photographs requiring long exposures or long shutter speeds. 

We’ve played with the camera settings all summer and at every opportunity. Every time we came back from shooting, we re-read the manual, re-googled for new thoughts and ideas about what we are doing wrong, and made notes for the next time out. It seems like a long process, but rewarding at the same time.

While we still don’t have the lighting quite right, we’ve somewhat achieved the silky water, even though it rained all week and the water was muddy. And of course, after downloading the photos today, realized we had the ISO at 200 and thought we were shooting at 100. If you’re new to photography and want to try creating silky water, my best tip is to look for a cloudy day or go shooting in the morning or at dusk. The bright sunshine or daylight will blow out the water. We had a lot of sun today and had to wait for it to go behind the clouds. The other challenge we continually face is my ability to scale over the side of gorges and very steep gullies. It’s been our experience so far that some of the best sites require a long hike — and maybe even rappelling! Unfortunately, my hip doesn’t usually co-operate.

McConnells Mill is an absolute amazing place. The glaciers that came through western PA left rocks the size of homes. These rocks are nestled on the way into the park, as well as throughout the entire gorge. You can see just how large the one rock is that Tom is leaning against. While the summer may be coming to an end, we still have a couple of good months to shoot outdoors. We have trips planned to the Finger Lakes, NY, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ONT and Tionesta, PA. And then when it starts to turn cold, we’ll be headed to Aruba, camera in tow.

Always B E L I E V E !

Nothing Sweeter

Our first bottle of dessert wine — also known as Ice Wine — was from the Sheldrake Point Winery on Cayuga Lake in New York. It’s a bottle of 2010 Riesling Ice Wine and it cost us $65! I wouldn’t normally spend $65 on a tall and skinny bottle of wine, but it was unbelievable! We’re saving it for a toast this Christmas Eve — one year from my surgery, as I spent last Christmas in the hospital — to thank God for not only hearing our prayers, but answering them.

So Tom and I recently went to Niagara Falls for an extended weekend. We had planned to spend a day in Niagara-on-the-Lake and visit some of the wineries up there. We spent time researching the wineries and realized that Ice Wine is Canada’s specialty. Our search for the perfect Ice Wine was on! After visiting six wineries, we came home with 11 bottles of it — Cabernet Franc was by far our favorites. Each of the wines was the sweetest you can imagine and combined with dark chocolate — pure Heaven.

My brother, Bob had told us to open our window when traveling along Route 90E on our way to Canada. He told us that when we reached Lake Erie, we could smell all of the grapes along the way, as grapes are grown all along the shores of Lake Erie. I couldn’t imagine that. I cracked my window at one point and the aroma of sweet, ripe grapes poured in our car. We couldn’t believe it!!! I cracked the window for the next hour or so, every time we saw grape vines near the highway. And it instantly took me back…

Picking grapes at Grandma Knowlson’s house in August. We’d eat just as many as we picked. Those grapes were warmed by the sun and just so incredibly sweet! We’d be barefoot and the shade around the grape vines would make the ground cold on our feet. We were tanned by the sun, as we spent all of our time outside in the summer. We loved helping Grandma — whether it was picking cherries, grapes or plums. There was lots of laughter and lots of fun. There were no computers, no internet, no smart phones and no computer games — nothing to do inside. Most homes didn’t have air conditioning — if you can imagine that — and it was cooler outside. Did you ever just lay in the cool grass in the shade in the summer and spend an hour looking at the shapes in the clouds? Or lay in the grass on your belly and dig through a clover patch, looking for that cherished four-leaf clover? Or spend an afternoon picking grapes with your Grandma?

Grandma would make quarts and quarts of grape juice! My Mom planted grape vines at her house too. You could smell them on the way to the barn in August and September. I’d eat those grapes too — throwing the skins to the chickens in the chicken coop. My Mom made grape juice too — from Grandma’s recipe. There was nothing sweeter than their grape juice.

Until now. Until we found Ice Wine. So I guess we can give the credit to Grandma — who introduced all of us to the goodness of sweet grapes.


Tom and I are going to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada this coming Sunday. We are planning a wine tour for one of our days there and have gone through every winery in the region the past two nights to determine our route. Last night we had so much fun — jumping from one website to the next. The wineries in this region are well known for their award-winning ice dessert wines — my obsession in Finger Lakes! Each winery has at least two or three different ice wines and many of them offer more than 10!

And then it hit me last night, while we were researching our trip — Tom on his iPad, me on my laptop — almost dueling to find the best wineries — if we hadn’t gone on that trip between Christmas in New Years with my brother Bob, we would never be planning this fantastic adventure this coming week. Maybe we would still be going to Niagara, but we would probably have been spending more time in the casinos.

It’s amazing how three days, two years ago would influence our lives today. And it was destined to be a horrible trip back in 2011…

Bob had asked me if we wanted to join him on a short excursion to the Finger Lakes. He asked me to bring the SUV, because we needed the room to bring some “juice” back from one of the wineries, so he could make some more wine. I talked Tom into going, but he didn’t really want to go — and I knew that, but planned it anyways. Tom was annoyed at me that entire Christmas. We argued for at least five days over it — and I prayed so hard to God that he somehow help me get through it, promising that I would never knowingly do this to Tom again.

God heard me. We started out on the trip, fully packed, dressed in our winter gear. I was excited — a holiday road trip — and cautiously optimistic that Tom would have fun. And I had that nostalgic feeling you get those few days after Christmas that lasts until you have to go back to work. The SUV was almost full with my Mom, Father Louie, Tom and myself. We were picking up Father Bob at Holiday Valley ski resort in Endicottville, NY. And it was during those first few hours that God started working his magic between us. Sure, the freezing rain had me beyond stressed, along with Father Louie and his constant chatter about the temperature — but Tom started to relax. And when we reached Endicottville — the magic was all around us.

We ended up having such an adventure over those three days! Tom and I both stepped completely out of our comfort zone and took the time to enjoy something new and different. I know that God worked his magic through my brother, as even I never imagined how much I would love the Finger Lakes. Even in the winter — no leaves on the trees and as cold as you can imagine — it was amazing. I gave thanks to God for answering my prayers.

So back to our Niagara-on-the-Lake wine tour — I had a major magic moment — Tom saying, “are their wine labels designed well enough for us to stop here?” — joking with me that I was selecting the wineries based on whether or not I liked the label designs! And then it hit me — a feeling came over me — suddenly it was clear how God was working in our lives…

Those three days, two years ago are influencing our lives at this very moment! God blessed us not only then, but as the result of that trip, is now enabling us to enjoy so much more.

We’ve taken several trips to the Finger Lakes. And now we’re reaching out to Canadian wine country to try something new. That one moment and feeling, clearly seeing those threads that are weaved by God’s hand is a true testament to God’s work in our lives.

If we only believe.

Always B E L I E V E.

PS: Do you not agree that we have to visit this winery, simply because their labels are so adorable?