One thing I don’t like about New Jersey is that one must pay to access the beach. It just feels wrong. The rationale is that the beach must be cleaned and maintained and the fees help with the cost of that. Ok, fine but it also pays for the salaries of people like this woman pictured about who collect the beach access fees. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to install a turnstile? In states like California, the beach is public access and are a part of the state parks system. New Jersey could do the same and ensure that ALL New Jersey residents, not just the ones who can afford the $9 fee. Some beaches in New Jersey are free. Belmar and Avon-on-the-Sea and Bradley Beach are not among them.
The clouds were mostly gone and we could feel the sunlight. Finally!
We set up our beach chairs and sat down to enjoy the smell and sound of the ocean, the warmth of sunlight on our skins, and the salty sea breeze.
The day didn’t start out on a good note but it turned out better than I expected. I had a few hours to chat with my family and forget about work. My only regret is that we didn’t do this earlier in the summer and that our daughter, Kiran, could not join us.
Until I start my new gig next week, I have a lot of time on my hands. This week I found myself perusing my Adobe Lightroom catalogue revisiting and re-editing some of my earlier photos. There was a time when I shot with more basic camera equipment, my image composition and understanding of light and the technical aspects of photography were limited, and my photo editing skills were less developed. In some ways, I think some of my earlier images are stronger than some of my recent images.
The image above is one I took eight years ago (August 2010) on a day after my wife had her hair done. I wanted to capture the look but I also wanted to experiment with portraiture, my newly purchase AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 lens and the golden hour. I captured her portrait in the Montgomery Veterans Park in Belle Mead, Montgomery Township.
This time around, I used Nik Define 2 to remove some noise in the image, and then use the output sharpener in Nik Sharpener Pro 3.
April brought more rain but also more opportunity to be outside.
I have picked up my exercise. Though I will admit not as much as I should be doing and I know I need to do much more. The issue is trying to deal with the stress in my professional world, relaxing enough by the time I get home, and then going out for a nice walk o hike sometime after dinner just to let my body relax a bit and get the exercise it needs. However, I also know that the winter months bring cold, wet, and gloomy skies and I will not be motivated for any outdoor activities.
With that in mind, my wife and I agreed to buy an exercise bike. We did some online research, looked at Consumer Reports reviews, visited a store to try out different bikes, and ultimately purchased a Schwinn IC2 Bike from Amazon. I set myself the goal of working out for about fifteen minutes every evening. My goal is to work my way up to thirty minutes, then sixty minutes, and for a stretch goal, bike ride from my home to the local brewery. I am motivated.
We had some excellent weekend weather for the Easter weekend. On Good Friday, my wife Bhavna and I went for a hike in the Sourland Mountain Range. We drove over to the Sourland Mountain Preserve, located between Hillsborough Township and Montgomery Township in Somerset County. The large parking area near the pond was nearly full. I think local residents wanted to enjoy the incredible spring weather we have had this week. Clear, sunny skies with temperatures in the teens (ºC).
Located in Somerset and Hunterdon Counties, the Sourland Mountain Range is aptly named. The underlying geology, igneous rock from the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic age, was not able to support the farming and living needs of the early Dutch and German settlers to the area. One Wikipedia suggests that the name may be derived from the word ‘sorrel’ which German explorers used to describe the reddish-brown soils in the area or “sauer landt” because the region was not suitable for farming by 17th-century Dutch settlers.
We have hiked other trails in the Sourland Mountain Preserve but we wanted to try something new. I suggested that we hike the Ridge Trail to Devil’s Half-Acre Boulders, the most popular bouldering area in the Sourland Mountain Preserve. Devil’s Half-Acre Boulders is a fairly open section of the mountain with a cluster of boulders among the trees. There is also a handful of isolated boulders nearby the main cluster which I could not resist climbing.
It took us about 30 minutes get to the boulders of Devil’s Half Acre, with the trail winding steeply through interestingly shaped rock formations with trees growing through cracks and crevices. The park is 12.24 km2 (3,025 acres) but we used one of the connecting trails to shorten the trip back from Devil’s Half-Acre Boulders. We hiked about half of the 8.0 km (5-mile) Ridge Trail. According to my iPhone, we hiked about 2.6 km and climbed the equivalent of 21 floors. My calves ached from the exercise.
Bhavna was annoyed each time I stopped to focus my camera and take photos. The slight breeze made handheld focusing challenges. I had the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR lens with attached macro extension tubes but even using my miniature Manfrotto PIXI mini tripod required patience and persistence. The smallest movement in the subject (or my hands) was exaggerated and the photos would be blurry. Bhavna felt my photography was slowing us down but in actuality, it gave my body a chance to rest. At one point, my blood glucose fell below 70 and I had to swallow twenty carbohydrate grams of glucose gel. Stopping to take some photos helped my body recover.
We took the shortcut across a boardwalk back to the trailhead and discussed our plans for the next day. We decided that we would return and complete another Sourland Mountain Preserve trail. Bhavna had never visited the Roaring Brook but a few years ago, I hiked that trail with my friend Prasanna.
I enjoyed the walk and it made me realize I truly do want to get back into nature more. It is a way just to be out and moving enjoying the warmer weather but it is nice to get out into nature while getting some exercise with a purpose.
Some parts of the trail were muddy but mostly it was dry. On the way back, I strained a muscle in my left foot. I assumed the pain was just from pushing my ankle muscles too hard. Nevertheless, the next morning I awoke with pain in the middle of my foot. We iced it for twenty minutes on and off for the whole day. Monday morning there was a little improvement but Bhavna and I agreed it was time to see a doctor. In any case, our hike to Roaring Rocks Boulders was shortened and we took a connecting trail back to the parking lot.
When we arrived at a clearing where the Roaring Brook was visible through the trees, we stopped to take some photos. I practiced the Brenziner effect. I chose that photo as the featured image for this po
st. Bhavna was quite patient while I found a spot in the middle of the brook from which to shoot. The rocks were slippery and I was at risk of going ankle deep into the water.
In the latter part of April, we were invited to celebrate the Hindu spring of Holi hosted by an organization at the Bharat Sevashram Sangha in South Brunswick. Around India, Holi is a lunar calendar harvest festival celebrated in March by Hindu’s of all sects. This year’s Holi was March 1 in India. Spring arrives one month later in the North Eastern USA. In March the weather is too cold and dreary for an outdoor festival that signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, the end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet friends and family, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair relationships.
My wife’s birthday was the same week and this Holi festival celebration makes her birthday special each year. The first year we attended, the celebration fell right on her birthday.
The Boy is a Man
It feels like it was just months ago when I held him in my arms. He was so small, pale, and helpless. I worried that I would not know what to do as a father, but that morning a piece of my heart (and Bhavna’s) broke off and became this person.
That helpless baby grew into a handsome, warm, caring, capable, man who loves his mother and dotes on his sister. My “baby boy” is eighteen next month. He is graduating from the Montgomery Township high school in June and will be attending the Honors College at Rutgers University where he will be studying biology.