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360 Drives 001  Welsh Mountains to Valleys

360 Drives 001 Welsh Mountains to Valleys

As many of you reading the blog already know, I am a huge fan of 360 imagery. I have been contributing Street Views to Google Maps for the last few years and even carried a Google Trekker around Lancaster County (check that story out here). Well after much planning and about a year and a half of waiting I recently crossed the threshold from 360 stills to 360 video. Super PUMPED about that!

Now that I got my hands on my Kodak SP360 Dual Pro Pack I have wasted no time in getting started. There are so many cool ideas swimming in my head already and I'm not going to make you wait to share them. I've always said over the last few years "we're in a constant state of evolution". Ironically, so is the 360 and Virtual Reality world. It has been an amazing industry to watch over the last few years and I'm so glad to be able to get into this format and see what we can do.

I figured I would start things off with some driving tests. So the other day after picking my daughter up from school we took a little drive from Overlys Grove up over the eastern most edge of the Welsh Mountains. Then we headed through the valleys on the other side as we headed towards Upper Leacock. 

Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think!! Check out the links below if you're interested in trying a cardboard or slightly better VR viewer. I think it's a really cool experience!

The Route

5 Years of Firebirds

5 Years of Firebirds

Every year I take a little road trip into Chester County for my favorite festivals of the year. This will be the 13th Annual Phoenixville Firebird Festival and my fifth journey through the hills to the east. So in addition to a preview of this year's firebird I thought I would do a little recap from the last half a decade, wow! 

This year's festival will be this Saturday December 3. Come down in the afternoon and take a look around Phoenixville's downtown area. There are many shops, restaurants, and other local artists and vendors who will be happy to meet you. There will be special events and music all over the place! To kick off the lighting of the firebird a drum procession will leave the downtown area at 7:30 to walk up Bridge Street towards Friendship Field. The bird will be lit at 8:15, don't be too late!  If you don't want to walk there will be shuttles available from 6-11pm to take festival goers between downtown and friendship field. 

free festival, donations still needed!

We're only days away but the Firebird Festival still needs your help to meet and exceed their goal! Every dollar you donate goes right back into making the Firebird Festival great!! With multiple sound stages, shuttles, and a GIGANTIC FIREBIRD to pay for, your help in making this festival a success is greatly appreciated.

2016 Sneak Peek

I took a little trip down to Phoenixville last weekend to check out this year's bird. With the wrap-around wings, this thing is MASSIVE!!! Here's a 360 Pano I captured inside the wings:

5 years of firebirds

The 2016 Phoenixville Firebird at Friendship Field. This year's firebird features a massive wingspan that wraps around in front of the bird.  

After a rough couple of years the 2015 Firebird Festival was a huge success with over 20,000 people attending at Friendship Field. 

Disaster struck the 2014 Firebird Festival. In the middle of the night vandals set the original bird ablaze to the shock of the community. It was cold and raining all day as tired volunteers came together and rebuilt what was destroyed. The community really came behind this effort with donations of wood and labor. Behind the replacement bird in this image volunteers warm themselves by the fire on the site of the original bird. The original bird boasted a rotating head that would have been sure to please the crowd. News of the burnt bird combined with heavy rains hurt the attendance of the 2014 festival, as well as the spirits of some of the supporters. As with the Phoenix, they were able to rise from the ashes and move forward to make a great festival in 2015.

Snow, LOTS AND LOTS of snow for the 2013 Phoenixville Firebird Festival. Personally I enjoyed the snow, and it made the night different than other years. Be sure to watch the video below.

Steph standing in front of the 2012 Firebird in Phoenixville. This was the last year the festival was held downtown. The crowd was so big it was unbelieveable. Wile friendship field isn't as conveniently located, it offers a bit more room for everyone to move around.


Here are a couple videos from my original site I don;t get as much time to edit videos as I would like these days, but I still love watching these again. There's not much dialogue or instructions, but I think they capture the spirit of the event nicely.

2013 Phoenixville Firebird Festival

2012 Phoenixville Firebird Festival

This is a great festival and I truly look forward to it every year. As I mentioned before, the event is free but they are still looking for donations to make this event a success. Click of tap the button below to help them on their mission.

#Extragive 2016

#Extragive 2016

It is an extraordinary morning here in Lancaster County. It's time again for the annual Extraordinary Give event organized by the Lancaster County Community Foundation. 

The Extraordinary Give is Lancaster County's Largest Day of Giving. This 24-hour giving marathon will benefit more than 425 local organizations. Every dollar donated at on November 18 will be stretched with at least $300,000 from the Lancaster County Community Foundation, Rodgers & Associates, and their community partners to support the causes you care about.

A number of these organizations directly and indirectly impact the content I share here on, like the Lancaster County Conservancy and the Lancaster Farmland Trust. So I thought what better way to "show" my support than to dive into the trove and actually SHOW you my support. Below are a few images coupled with #Extragive organizations who I fully endorse and need your support.

Volunteers spread the word at the 2015 #Extragive


#Extragive #iGiveExtra

Each year the Lancaster County Community Foundation gets a lot of support on social media. If you would like to follow this extraordinary event check out the hashtags #extragive and #igiveextra. To my photographer friends, if you have an image or two to support one of these organizations get involved and share! 


The Lancaster County Conservancy ensures, restores and enhances the ecological function of all our preserves for the health and well-being of our community.

I honestly don't even know where to begin with Lancaster County Conservancy. They are definitely one of my favorite organizations in Lancaster County. My family loves their mission to preserve our natural areas for future generations. We regularly take the time to visit the various nature preserves across the county. We love being outdoors and the nature preserves provide us a great opportunity to share that passion with our children.

take a look around the Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve ...

Panoramic view of some homestead remnants along the trail at the Welsh Mountain Preserve.

Panoramic view of some homestead remnants along the trail at the Welsh Mountain Preserve.

The Overlook at the Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve.

Although great strides in reducing pollution have been made over the last decades, nearly one-quarter of Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams currently suffer from pollution. The Susquehanna River, the largest source of fresh water to the Chesapeake Bay, is also the largest source of nitrogen pollution to the Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is one organization I follow very closely. We spend a lot of time kayaking, and that has sparked many conversations about water pollution, run-off, and our effect on other parts of the country. I have a number of long-term projects I have been developing around this topic. Through all of my research the name Chesapeake Bay Foundation comes up again and again. They are very active on the issues, and continue the fight daily to see cleaner waterways for future generations.

There’s this creek 50 yards from my back door. It leads to the Conestoga River, which leads to the Susquehanna River, then the bay and ultimately the ocean. On the surface it seems insignificant, like, so what? But if I put a sealed can of oil into the creek here at my house ... it has the potential to break open and destroy life anywhere from here to Virginia Beach or beyond. That little tiny creek touches more than we normally consider
— Seth Dochter speaking to a photography workshop

360 view on Upper Bear Island in the Susquehanna River below the Holtwood Dam.

Dochter Family Photo Op while capturing 360 Panos along the Susquehanna River.

Panoramic view of a "Dam" (and I use that term loosely) along the Conestoga River.

Frogs along the Susquehanna River.

Lancaster Farmland Trust works with Lancaster County farmers to permanently protect their land from development and implement environmentally friendly farming practices that improve the health of local and regional waterways – all for the benefit of future generations.

Preserved Farm in Upper Leacock as seen from a helicopter tour with Smoketown Helicopters.

A few locals enjoy the farmland south of New Holland, Pa.

PPFF and our 39 chapters ensure that your state parks and forests are here for today and for future generations to improve human health, create memories that last a lifetime, and to build connections with family and friends.

As you would expect we are lovers of our Pennsylvania State Parks. So Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation is a good fit for us. We certainly get around to a few of them. Below are a couple views from our trips to State Parks we love..


Overlook at Susquehannock State Park - Lancaster County

Adams Falls at Ricketts Glen

The Friends of the Railroad of Pennsylvania supports the mission of the world-class Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, which works in the community to preserve the great treasures of railroading and provide educational opportunities about this important aspect of American history.

View from the catwalk at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.

We reach out by building, and strengthening our community through imaginative and unique musical experiences.

I had the pleasure of attend a performance by the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra on the mission to share it in my Backyard Tourist Column in Lancaster County Magazine. In talking to the staff it became abundantly clear what a great organization they were. They are a dynamic organization providing a number of wonderful educational opportunities in a time when many music budgets are being slashed in schools.

Children on stage with the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra in their best superhero attire.

We provide a gathering place for the community for both public and private events. We also offer free educational and recreation programs for adults and children including a community day, a trout fishing derby, plant swaps and historical lectures.

Poole Forge is actually a place I have been visiting a lot recently. I love going there in the fall, but it's very beautiful any time of year. I'm honestly not active in the programs they have there, but I enjoy visiting and I think you would too!

Autumn view of the Covered Bridge at Historic Poole Forge - November 2016

Winter view of the Covered Bridge and one of the Brownstones at Historic Poole Forge.

ECA’s role is to preserve one of America’s earliest religious communities providing guided tour services, implementing programs and developing fundraising events in the place where Ephrata began.

Snow blanketing the Ephrata Cloister.

The Lititz Historical Foundation’s mission is to collect, preserve, interpret, and promote Lititz area history.

Did you know that Lititz has more standing pre-colonial era buildings than Williamsburg? Amidst all of the large events, second fridays, and other fun stuff Lititz has to offer is a long history hidden in plain sight. I had the pleasure of organizing a photowalk of Lititz with the Lititz Museum and it was a blast! So be sure to check out their walking tours.

The Lititz Museum has been a strong supporter of many local Instagram hashtags including #Lititzgram, #LititzPA, and #Lancastergram. Be sure to give them a follow!

I hope you enjoyed this collection of images connected to #Extragive Organizations we support. There are many many more organizations taking part in this year's event so be sure to visit for more details!

Enola Low Grade Trail - Providence Township - Part I

Enola Low Grade Trail - Providence Township - Part I

The Enola Low Grade Trail was on the to-do list this weekend.  Well, at least a section of the 23 miles south of Safe Harbor. I began this section at the Fairview Road Parking Area and headed west for about 3 miles to the Hollow Road Bridge. 

Tip: There is no port-a-potty at the parking lot. However there is one about 100 yards west on the trail.

This wide panoramic view over the handlebars was captured as I headed from the parking lot towards Fairview Road. 

I initially had my heart set on making it all the way to the Rt. 272 tunnels in Smithville. The trail is basically flat with finely crushed gravel, so It's relatively easy to cover a lot of ground. Unfortunately time was working against me, especially once I reached the bridge at Hollow Road. 

 I had missed this bridge as I was doing my researching on Google Maps. So it was a delightful surprise. As soon as I pulled up I heard the clippity clop of buggies. When I stopped my bike the views were very beautiful on either side of the bridge. Which nicely fits how I describe the Enola Low Grade Trail to people:

The trail quietly and peacefully twists it’s way through the woods and countryside giving you a raw rural view of Lancaster County. At times it’s bland for miles, but when you get to the really great views they are beyond extraordinary.

This wide panoramic shot shows the Enola Low Grade Trail headed east over Hollow Road in Providence Township.

Looking North over Hollow Road. From the Enola Low Grade Trail.

There were quite a few Horse and Buggies on Hollow Road that day. As I pulled up I caught the tail end of a buggy headed North into the rolling valley. 

Within a few minutes I also captured a buggie headed South into the beautifully colored woods. There was a biker crossing the street as the buggie passed. I definitely thought his shadow casted on the road was an interesting element to the scene. The elevated perspective the bridge provided was definitely neat.

Looking South over Hollow Road. 


I have been trying to make sure I carry my 360 gear with me this Autumn. It's extra weight to grab one or two panos on a trip, but every time I get super excited to share them with you.

Hollow Road Bridge

This 360 View was captured on the Enola Low Grade Trail at Hollow Road. The bridge gives you a really nice elevated view of the rolling countryside to the North and heavily wooded area to the South. As with the pictures above a Horse and Buggy came along. I captured it on both sides of the bridge just for fun.

Fairview Drive Parking Area

Fairview Drive currently offers one of the best access points to the Enola Low Grade Trail in the Providence Township section. It's quietly tucked away in the countryside and has a decent view to the south. 

From here you're roughly 5 miles from the Smithville Tunnels, and just a 1/4 of a mile from Rt. 222 in Quarryville where the old bridge was removed. If you're looking to access the Quarryville section of the trail you're going to have to start on the other end of town for now.

Share with us!

We would love to see your perspective on the Enola Low Grade Trail! Be sure to tag your photos around Central PA with #GrandLancaster on Instagram or share them on our Facebook Page for your chance to be featured!!

Martic Forge Viaduct

Martic Forge Viaduct

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting one of my favorite sections of the Enola Low Grade Trail. The massive Martic Forge Viduct is an old railroad trestle along the trail that has been renovated to carry trailhead over Pequea Creek.  

I had previously written about the Martic Forge Viaduct in my Backyard Tourist Column in Lancaster County Magazine, but I wanted get down there while there was some fall foliage left. For more info on the trail CLICK HERE to read the full column.


Here are a few shots from my visit ... 

View of the new deck and original trestle structure looking east.

Panoramic View of the Martic Forge Viaduct.

360 Street View on the Martic Forge Viaduct