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Under the Stars

Under the Stars

Growing up here in the Lancaster County countryside I remember being able to see the stars as a kid. No particular night stands out to me, but we've always had a sky full of stars when the clouds cooperate. Now that I'm older I understand that not everyone gets to experience a starlit sky without a considerable amount of effort and planning. 

I always enjoying sharing my photos of the stars. I'm not the best night photographer, but it is a challenge I like to experiment with now and then. With some of the 360 gear and software that came my way this winter I'm very excited to have some fun experimenting as the nights become more tolerable. Long waits for long exposures is a lot of fun, but it's not my favorite thing to do on cold winter nights.


Back when I first got my Nikon D5100 I was very excited. Finally, oh finally, I had a camera that would be able to capture the stars. It was actually the first thing I tried to do with it. I had no idea what I needed to do, it was my first time operating a DSLR, and yet ... there they were. All three of them! By some twist of really dumb luck (or some say "natural intuitive ability")* I managed to capture a picture of three blurry stars in the sky. The next night in an attempt to recreate the same stupidity I meticulously returned all of the settings to where they were the night before, and for some reason I couldn't seem to capture a single star. Which kickstarted my efforts to actually learning how to use this fancy new camera.

I only really use the D5100 fro 360s these days. Below is a 360 I captured one night last summer. At the end of the lane the white fence surrounds a one room Amish/Mennonite schoolhouse. To the right of the lane you can see the silos of the neighboring farm silhouetted on the Horizon. My localized and modern take on Starry Night. As a salute to one of my favorite artists of course.


VR Brings YOU into the field with me ...

This year I have been spending a lot of time and energy on 360 photos and videos. I've been fascinated with the medium for a few years now. I think it's a very interesting way to  Below are a few recent experiments where the basic idea was to convert 360 photos into 360 videos with the intent to create more depth to the experience. It's about as close as you're going to get to the experience without me actually bringing you along for some stargazing. 

These experiments were both a lot of fun to capture, and I always seem to walk away with more inspiration for next time. For the best experience I would recommend finding a Google Cardboard or other VR headset to watch it on YouTube!! 

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



4 Autumn Streetviews

4 Autumn Streetviews

I wanted to share 4 Autumn 360 photos I've captured of cool spots around Lancaster County. I can say with some certainty that these spots will still be quite gorgeous this weekend if you're looking to get out and about. The first two were captured within the last week, while the second two were from later in the season last year. The later are actually much more vibrant right now, I've seen them both this week.

Susquehannock State Park Overlook- Drumore, PA

We made our way down there last weekend. You may have seen me posting pictures all week on Facebook and Instagram. That was our first time at the park and it was really great. I look forward to going back and exploring much more of the park.

Historic Poole Forge - Narvon, PA

Historic Poole Forge is one of my favorite places to visit in Autumn. Between the covered bridge, the gorgeous foliage, and the charming brownstone buildings it is simply stunning. You can tell because there are portrait photogs everywhere hehe.

Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve - Narvon, PA

The Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve has quickly become one of my favorite places to go for a walk with little time. Being from New Holland it is the closest forested area to go for a hike. It happens to connect to the Money Rocks County Park, which is really nice. After many years of hiking at the Money Rocks it was becoming a little too familiar. It's great to have a whole new section of the mountain to explore. This pano is the Preserve's main parking lot on Gault Road. 

If you would like to know a little more about this park check out my Backyard Tourist Column from the April 2016 issue of Lancaster County Magazine.

Ephrata Township Community Park - Ephrata, PA

This is one of the kiddos favorite parks. It's also a favorite of mine due to a number of Photo opportunities that are present around the park. This 360 is the "pond" at the western edge of the park. It's actually an old quarry converted to a fishing pond. There is also a "lake" at the back of the park that is way bigger. I've uploaded some panos of that to Google Maps, be sure to check them out!

I hope this helps inspire a sense of exploration this weekend. Even if you've been to each f these places there is always something new to discover!


The Grand Lancaster Instagram page is live and alive! I started sharing featured posts selected from the #GrandLancaster tag. Wherever you explore around Central PA this weekend be sure to tag and follow us on Instagram, or post your shots to our Facebook page for your chance to be a Featured Artist. Everyone is welcome!!

4 Autumn Panos from Central Pennsylvania

4 Autumn Panos from Central Pennsylvania

We had some gorgeous weather this weekend and we took full advantage of it. We tried to cover a lot of ground, both physically and visually.  


As many of you know I love panoramic photos. They're not ideal in every situation, but sometimes it's just what this Dochter ordered to get the entire scene in one image.  I primarily shoot with the Sony a6000 which has a very handy pano mode. Put it in pano mode, press the shutter button, it starts snapping, and you turn the camera. It then stitches the pano (almost always perfectly). Love it!


Below are four panos I captured during our adventures this weekend. 



Sunrise 10-29-16 - The Sky was filled with vibrant colors in every direction.

Panoramic view towards the Northwest from the Overlook at the Susquehannock State Park.

Panoramic view towards the South/Southwest from the Overlook at the Susquehannock State Park.

Panoramic view of Mill Creek flowing next to the Mason Dixon Trail. Truly beautiful Autumn scenery in October.