Boozin’ at the Van Brunt Stillhouse

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Good things come in small batches at Van Brunt Stillhouse, a Red Hook boutique distillery founded in 2012 by the husband and wife team Daric Schlesselman and Sarah Ludington. “I was an avid home brewer and distiller and my wife and I decided we wanted to own our own business,” Daric said.

The Stillhouse has since expanded their production to whiskey, rum, grappa and moonshine and offers weekend tours and tastings of their Bay Street space. “I love the magic of it all,” Derek said. “I love making good things that people appreciate.”

The below photos are part of a photo essay originally published in the Red Hook Star-Revue celebrating Labor Day and the neighborhood’s workers. Check out the entire photo essay here and more outtakes from the other neighborhood businesses here.

 

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Such Great Red Hook Heights

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At 120-feet off the ground with only a few metal bars and a pane of glass separating me from the concrete dock far below, most people might have felt nervous. Had I not been so focused on capturing photos of Chris Guerra, a union crane operator who spends his days loading and unloading ships from his 120-foot high cab, I might have been, too.

While Chris’s office has million-dollar Manhattan views, even the port’s ground-level affords unobstructed views of downtown Manhattan, the New Jersey “skyline,” Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty with her guiding torch.

Many of the below photos are part of a series I did celebrating Labor (Day) and the men and women hard at work and initially appeared in the Red Hook Star-Revue.

Over the years, the shipping traffic at the Red Hook Container Terminal has slowly decreased. Much of it moved across Manhattan Bay to the Port of Newark, whose investment in massive cranes years ago keeps their dock humming and busy with shipping traffic.

Red Hook’s maritime history has slowly waned over the year as global shipping traffic and repair has migrated elsewhere. I recently wrote an article about Red Hook’s last real maritime business that closed down in April after being founded nearly 60-years ago in the Brooklyn. Read the article here and more photos are here.

As we give thanks for the labor that built (and continues to build) our country, it makes me appreciate how fortunate we are to be living in a country that if you work hard and have a bit of luck, you can achieve a career that not only pays the bills but provides nourishing fulfillment.

Click here to catch sparks flying at a Red Hook Iron Shop.

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Sparks Fly in Red Hook

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Sparks are flying at Apollo Tech Iron Works, a Red Hook, Brooklyn iron shop.

The company works on projects throughout the neighborhood and region and everyday, welders and machinists create fences, posts, and structures from raw metals and iron.

The shop’s walls are lined with tools and iron bars and grease and grit seem to cover every visible surface.

I recently shot portraits of a handful of the ironworkers and welders while working on a photo essay celebrating Labor Day for the Red Hook Star-Revue.

A link to the photo essay is available here.

The family owned business has been in the neighborhood for more than a decade and is run by a father and son team.

Check out the photos below and stay tuned for more outtakes from the shoots celebrating Labor Day.

 

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Time Flies (in a Time Lapse Video) on 9/11

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Every year around September 11th, two beams of light brighten the night sky in remembrance of the day’s tragedy.

From the roof of my Brooklyn apartment, I have unobstructed views of downtown Manhattan and its flickering windows where the twin bolts of hope bring light to darkness.

The below video is a time lapse of hundreds of photos weaved together to create a fluidity of time and the beauty. Even in New York City’s urban jungle, perseverance continues to overcome the intolerance that led to that tragic day.

The photos are mine. Music is by Chris Zabriskie.

 

 

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Workin’ It In Red Hook, Brooklyn

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Check out my photo essay celebrating Labor (Day) and Red Hook businesses in this week’s Red Hook Star Revue.

For the story I shot Van Brunt Stillhouse, the Red Hook Container Terminal, O & B Unisex salon, Mark’s Pizza, Apollo Tech Iron Work, and Jack Pedowitz Machinery Movers.

Check out the sample below and published photo essay here.

Stay tuned for more photos and outtakes from the series.

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A crane operator unloads a container ship at the Red Hook Container Port

 

 

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Arrested in the Adirondacks

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Years ago I got “arrested.”

I was in grad school at the time and a few buddies and I decided to head up to the Adirondacks for a weekend of camping.

It was mid fall and the mountains were exploding with color. Three days of hiking, surrounded by fiery foliage and that perfect fall perfume of dead and decaying leaves, pine, and a crisp chill were a much-needed respite from the rigors of an intense semester of writing and shooting.

(Disclosure: I have a master’s in journalism and stumbled onto photography while in grad school.)

We got a late start leaving Syracuse, home to Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and arrived to the Adirondacks in the evening.

We packed our gear into our backpacks and as darkness settled, headed into the woods.

A few miles into the hike, we discovered the bridge spanning a rushing river was closed for repairs. The trail continued elusively on the far side of the river.

At this point it was dark and we were tired from a long day, so we backtracked away from the river and found a spot in the woods to set up camp. We’d hang out there for the night and in the morning return to the car and continue hiking the following day.

In the inky blackness, we explored the woods and found a boat shed with beautiful hand carved, wooden canoes next to a lake. We made a fire (of fallen branches, not boats), drank some whiskey, and called it quits in the still of night.

“Get up, get out of your tents” a voice growled.

I unzipped my tent door and peeked my head out. A bearded guy in green with his hand resting on a holstered gun was yelling at us to hurry up and get up and out of our tents.

We were “under arrest.”

Bleary and dehydrated, we emerged into the gloomy morning and listened to this guy bark about trespassing on private property.

We had no idea.

He was like a paparazzi shooting photo after photo of us with his cheap point and shoot.

He watched and hurried us as we folded up our tents and packed our backpacks. He loaded us into the bed of his pickup truck for a ride back to the security office.

Is it legal to ride in the bed of a pickup? You can’t argue with a guy with a gun.

We were under arrest and his office was our future prison. The four of us were in disbelief.

The walls of his office – a small shed with dirty windows – were plastered with photos of other campers who must have made the same mistake by camping on the Ausable Club’s property without even realizing it.

Part of the trail we were on included an easement through private property, a common occurrence in the Adirondacks but something totally unknown to us.

The security guard, always keeping one hand on his gun and eyeing us disgustedly, called the state police. After a short while, a trooper arrived and apologetically said he had to ticket us. The doofus security guard was pressing charges and there was nothing the police – or we – could do.

If my memory serves me correctly, the fine was $198 payable to the local court. We could challenge it but that required a 5-hour drive back to the Adirondacks and we all agreed wasn’t worth the hassle.

So now I’m a convicted misdemeanorer and learned my lesson: watch out for stupid people prowling the woods and if they’re gonna get you, steal some great photos (on their private property) before getting the boot.

 

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A long exposure, night photo of Lower Ausable Lake in the height of fall

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Another long exposure, night photo of Lower Ausable Lake in the height of fall

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Adirondack State of Mind

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Stepping into the Adirondacks is a move toward sensory simplicity and away from the cacophony of life (in New York City).

The ruckus of traffic, sirens, sewers, even light dissipate into a clarified Adirondack sensory delight: hear the light rain’s patter, smell and taste the gentle pine-infused breeze, listen to the rustling leaves in the trees and crunching underfoot.

I didn’t realize it until after I began reviewing my photos from the Adirondack’s and how they resonated within me, that every moment I spent exploring and photographing the wilderness, I sought to capture the moment’s quietude.

I’m lucky to say my apartment in Brooklyn isn’t too loud, but nothing like the Adirondack’s ambient silence (think white noise on steroids).

I hope these photos convey that calm and inspire and motivate you to find moments of silence in your non-stop life. Like any medicine, this curative, calming salve requires we take the first pill or in this case, first step into the Adirondack state of mind.

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Lake Saranac Paddle Power Photos

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As the double rainbow spilled from cottony clouds, the Adirondack evening cast its colorful stripes on Lake Saranac’s glassy surface.

Located five hours from New York City yet a world away, a lush paradise of pine covered mountains, crystal clear lakes and crackling streams awaits the visitor to the region.

It wasn’t my first time exploring the Adirondacks, but was my first time exploring by canoe. And for 4 days, a group of friends camped at a primitive campsite on Fern Island, one of the many islands scattered throughout Lake Saranac.

Getting to the island required paddle power (or renting a motorized boat) and a bit of sweat. We rented canoes from Saranac Lake Marina. To make things easier we hired their pontoon boat to drop off our equipment: 4 days worth of camping gear, food, firewood and naturally, lots of beer.

We scouted the island for great sites – nowhere on the island was flat and we set up shop on a healthy incline: Tents staked under a canopy of 50-foot tall trees, tarps strapped to tree trunks to create a shelter from the elements, and organized coolers and bags overflowing with food.

The nearby town of Lake Saranac offers all the necessities you needed for camping and with a little preplanning, a stop at Walmart to grab loose ends makes gearing up a snap. Just remember to bring your bag and gear from home – or you’ll be strutting in Walmart style.

Nights are perfect for a barbecues, beers and a campfire. Smores would be a great addition but we struck out finding kosher or vegan marshmallows. Next year hopefully.

Check out photos of evening on Lake Saranac below and more photos in the coming days from the lake and from the time, years ago, I got “arrested” while hiking in the Adirondacks.

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Colorado’s Screaming Silence

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This gallery contains 3 photos.

America’s rugged wilderness imposes a calming salve, even when mosquitos are attacking you. Nature doesn’t know silence. There’s always some sound like an oscillating frog belch or raspy crickets mashing their legs together. Wind whispers through the trees and when … Continue reading

Attack of Colorado’s Vampire Mosquitos

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It felt like a plague of biblical proportions. The frogs and hail weren’t a problem but hot damn, the clouds of mosquitoes were lifted directly from that miserable list of Passover plagues.

Starting off the hike, we knew the park had received more precipitation than usual and mosquitos might be bad in the backcountry, but when the swarms started blotting out the sun (darkness, figuratively), our sanity took a back seat to the need to preserve our valuable stocks of blood.

At 235,214 acres, Flat Top Wilderness Area is the 2nd largest wilderness area in Colorado and a quick drive from Denver. The park’s elevation varies a bit but much of its terrain rises above 11,000 feet and at times resembles a plateau framed by mountains. A few days of acclimation are a good idea for visitors but we hardy mountain men skipped these “pleasantries” and hiked right in.

The park is usually dotted with lakes and ponds and creeks. This year, the landscape was covered not only with the usual small bodies of water, but patches of snow, muddy, waterlogged fields and many, many small pools of standing water. These features make hiking a bit of a slog and are the perfect staging (read breeding) ground for pint size vampires.

If only we realized they were that bad before we were days away from civilization.

We thought it was slightly odd that few hikers passed us on the trail. A couple on horseback, some day hikers fly-fishing at a lake but that was it. Did we miss the memo: stay the hell away?

We must have because by day three, we threw up our arms and our determination to make it the full seven days.

This is what always happens when my buddy Jon and I go for a hike. We plan for seven days in the backcountry. Seven days of glorious wilderness, no phones, no e-mail, no real comforts, just the sublime appreciation and reconnection with nature.

Usually by day 3 (sometimes 4) the grumbling starts: my back, my legs, my thighs. Maybe we’re getting older and less willing to put up with camping’s discomfort, or maybe the world’s just becoming a more inhospitable place. Either way, by day 3 with the mosquitos attacking every exposed and covered inch of our bodies we decided it was time to head out. (At one point, I had on 2 pairs of socks and the mosquitos still managed to leave behind an anklet of swollen, itchy bites.)

But extrication from the backcountry isn’t as simple as just walking back to the car. We were 2 days from the trailhead, which mean 2 more days of torment.

Despite the condition’s challenges it’s still possible to appreciate the beauty, albeit with a buzz in your ear and murderously swatting mosquitos.

I will leave you with a pretty (or not so) picture and this might be TMI. Wilderness areas don’t have bathrooms. You find a private place to do your business and dig a hole in the ground. On a normal camping trip, it’s pretty straightforward. The mosquitos aren’t ubiquitously ravenous. Now imagine – I do not exaggerate – 50 mosquitos swarming while you squat – your ass exposed – over a 6-inch hole trying to take care of business.  Not a pretty sight…luckily the below photos are.

 

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