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Whispers of Golden Light in Skillman Park

A walk in Skillman Park, exploring the trails along the outer edge.

The weather was perfect for a stroll, so I suggested to Bhavna that we go for a walk in Skillman Park. I recommended we explore the trails along the outer edge since I had already checked them out earlier in the year, and I thought she would enjoy something new.

As we began walking on the winding trail that skirts the far perimeter of Skillman Park, a gentle breeze "sweetened" the air.

The trail starts at Lake Drive and follows Rock Brook until its boundary at the Burnt Hill Road bridge. Our trek took us further into the park, where we encountered meadows filled with wildflowers that added vibrant whites, yellows, and pinks to the landscape.

Skillman Park
Skillman Park · Saturday 6 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR
Skillman Park
Skillman Park · Saturday 6 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR
Skillman Park
Skillman Park · Saturday 6 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR
Skillman Park
Skillman Park · Saturday 6 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR

We walked up to the edge of the Rock Brook. Rock Brook is a tributary of the Millstone River, a part of the larger Raritan River watershed. The brook is named after the rock formations found along its course. It meanders through Montgomery Township and significantly impacts the local environment. Rock Brook provides a habitat for various species of wildlife and contributes to the overall ecological health of the area.

Skillman Park
Skillman Park · Saturday 6 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR
Skillman Park
Skillman Park · Saturday 6 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR
Skillman Park
Skillman Park · Saturday 6 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR

We continued north in Skillman Park, crossed the remnants of Maplewood Drive, and proceeded eastward around a large meadow until we arrived at Main Boulevard. After crossing Main Boulevard, we followed Association Drive, leading us to the Morrow Road semi-circle. From there, we connected to Schley Drive, which brought us back to Laroque Circle, where we had parked earlier.

Skillman Park
Skillman Park · Saturday 6 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR
Skillman Park
Skillman Park · Saturday 6 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR
Skillman Park
Skillman Park · Saturday 6 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR
Map of Skillman Park
Map of Skillman Park

Zion Crossing Park's Hidden Gem

Zion Crossing Park is a lovely little park at the end of Hollow Road in Montgomery Township.

On April 30th, I decided to resign from my position at the bank. Why? Two years ago, I joined the bank as a consultant focusing on enhancing the security architecture of their internal and cloud-based applications. It didn't take long for my leadership qualities to catch the attention of the director, and I was soon promoted to a team lead role. It was an exciting opportunity for me but also a new challenge.

Managing a geographically dispersed team across Texas, Florida, Alabama, Arizona, and Mexico was a first for me. Not only did I have to oversee the team, but I also had to juggle the expectations of internal stakeholders. While I enjoyed working with my team and had a supportive boss, I gradually started feeling disillusioned with my role. Most of my technical responsibilities were delegated to others, and my days became filled with back-to-back meetings. I spent around thirty hours a week in meetings, often munching on my lunch at my desk.

In the spring, I was offered an Associate Director position to formalise my existing responsibilities and transition into a full-time employee. At first, I was thrilled about the promotion. However, as I contemplated the travel, my excitement waned.

The new role required me to report to the office in person, meaning I would have to commute to New York City twice a week on a hybrid schedule. I experienced this commute between 2018 and 2019, and I knew I didn't want to subject myself to it again. The whole commuting experience is incredibly stressful.

In the end, I made the tough decision to decline the offer. I realised I needed a change to a less hectic work schedule. It wasn't an easy choice, but deep down, I felt it was right for me. So, starting from Monday, May 1st, I technically became unemployed.

I look forward to exploring new opportunities that align with my aspirations and provide a better work-life balance. It's an anxious and uncertain phase, but I'm optimistic about the future.

Zion Crossing Park Waterfall · Monday 1 May 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 17 sec, ISO 160 · XF27mmF2.8 R WR at f/8.0

It was raining that morning, but the weather cleared by 10 AM, and the sun shone. I grabbed my camera gear, including my X-T3, XF27mmF2.8 R WR, XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR, XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR, MCEX-16 macro extension tube, URTH ND64, and Peak Design 6L sling, and headed out to Zion Crossing Park. I planned to take photos of the waterfall and wildflowers and hike in Sourland Mountain Preserve if I had time.

Hollow Road is a scenic route from east to west and passes through wooded areas, farmland, and historic sites. It's popular with bikers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts who enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Zion Crossing Park is a lovely little park at the end of Hollow Road in Montgomery Township. The park is situated on a plot of land once occupied by two homes, which have since been demolished. The forest grew back once the houses were taken down, and the land was left vacant. The Montgomery Friends of Open Space contributed a grant of approximately $100k from Green Acres toward the purchase of this parcel and created a park.

The park has a picnic table, bench, parking area, and an interpretive sign to help visitors learn more about the area. The property is a crucial connection to preserved lands in Hillsborough. There are plans to construct a pathway through the property that could someday become a link in a trail along Rock Brook, extending from the northern township boundary with Hillsborough Township down south and east toward Skillman Park. This exemplifies how organisations can work together to preserve and protect natural resources.

Rock Brook, a tributary of the Millstone River, runs alongside Hollow Road and is around 7.4 miles long. It starts in the Sourland Mountain range and flows through several parks and natural areas, including Montgomery Park, Skillman Park, and Zion Crossing Park. Long ago, Rock Brook was used for water power, and you can still see the remains of a dam in the stream as a picturesque little waterfall. Aside from its recreational value, Rock Brook is an essential part of the ecosystem in Montgomery Township. It provides a habitat for various plant species and helps regulate water flow and quality in the area.

Zion Crossing Park is one of my favourite places in the township. It was my go-to spot for peace during the COVID pandemic and when I struggled with my health in 2018 and 2019. The sound of the water rushing over the rocks drowned out the negative thoughts in my head, and I found it to be a calming place. After several days of rain, Rock Brook had a lot of water, which made for some great photos.

I used my URTH ND64 filter on my XF27mmF2.8 R WR to capture the motion blur in the water. The filter provides six light-reduction stops, allowing me to get shutter speeds between 12 to 1 second. I edited the photos in Adobe Lightroom and used Luminar Neo for cropping recommendations.

One of my entries for Lens-Artists.

Duck Pond Trail

During our last day in Cape May, I convinced Bhavna to wake up early and take a walk in Cape May Point State Park.

During our last day in Cape May, I convinced Bhavna to wake up early and take a walk in Cape May Point State Park. I wanted her to experience the peacefulness of walking among the tall brown grass and lush green trees while listening to the birds singing. I thought it would be a magical experience before heading off to the The Seed, a brewery in Atlantic City that we both had on our bucket list.

After enjoying a quick breakfast at George's Place Cape May, a cosy local restaurant in the downtown area, we made our way to Cape May Point State Park.

Cape May Duck Pond Trail
Sunday 16 April 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1100 sec, ISO 160 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR at 55 mm at f/22
Cape May Duck Pond Trail
Sunday 16 April 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR
Sunday 16 April 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1100 sec, ISO 160 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR at 55 mm at f/3.2

Due to time constraints, instead of the Blue Trail, I opted for a shorter hike, walking on the raised platform along the Yellow Trail. We took a left fork, and then another left to Cape May Pond to see the Cape May Lighthouse before returning to the Yellow Trail. We continued on the Yellow Trail until it met with the regular Yellow Trail, and then we doubled back, returning to the parking lot via the Red Trail. This short combination of the Yellow Trail and Red Trail is also called Duck Pond Trail. Duck Pond Trail is wheelchair accessible and offers views of Lighthouse Pond West and East.

Sunday 16 April 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1340 sec, ISO 160 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR at 55 mm at f/5.6
Sunday 16 April 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1/1000 sec, ISO 160 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR at 55 mm at f/5.6
Sunday 16 April 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1/1250 sec, ISO 160 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR at 55 mm at f/5.6
Cape May Lighthouse
Sunday 16 April 2023 · FujiFilm X-T3 at 1850 sec, ISO 160 · XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR at 31.1 mm at f/8.0