Viewing entries in
Out of Town

Eclipse Roadtrip

Eclipse Roadtrip

I imagine by now anyone who didn't know there was a Solar Eclipse last Monday has heard by now. I imagine it was probably the most photographed natural phenomena ever. I imagine we'll continue to see those photos trickle off photographer's memory cards for a little while too. While I'm going to share two of my eclipse photos below, I personally found the adventure to be much more exciting. Here's a taste of what we saw on the road to West Virginia ...

note about the music: I recently discovered Event Horizon on Instagram and really liked this track. A special thanks to Shane for letting me pair his music with my Images. You can find him on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music, Instagram, Facebook, and other sites ...


Hitting the road ...

Living in Pennsylvania meant that we were around the 70% of totality zone. If we wanted to see the total eclipse we would have to do some traveling. While I had my heart set on Kentucky it seemed kind of impractical, especially given the threat of clouds and storms that would block the view. So I waited and tried to pick a place with some potential that was a little closer.

I finally settled on Valley Falls State Park near Fairmont, West Virginia. The photos I saw of the area looked gorgeous, and I always love a good waterfall scene. It was a really beautiful place which helped my patience while the clouds were blocking the sun.

Valley Falls State Park - Fairmont, WV

Valley Falls State Park - Fairmont, WV


The Eclipse ...

The eclipse began just as we arrived at Valley Falls State Park. We were able to catch a glimpse or two at the beginning before the edge of a storm system moved in. We were literally right on the edge of the clouds, but it was better than getting rained dumped on us. That was the situation just a few miles away. The clouds swished by for a while and the system didn't really move much until after the peak of the eclipse. Despite the challenge I was happy to walk away with some photos.

A quick snap before the clouds took over for a while.

A quick snap before the clouds took over for a while.

Wisps of clouds passing in front of the eclipse at it's peak in northern West Virginia 8.21.17

Wisps of clouds passing in front of the eclipse at it's peak in northern West Virginia 8.21.17

Along the way ...

The eclipse was awesome, and Valley Falls State Park was awesome, and there were two other stops along the way that we really enjoyed. On the return trip we stopped at the Youghiogheny Overlook Welcome Center near Friendsville, MD. It provided a nice place to relax for a little with a lovely view of rolling mountains and the Youghiogheny River Lake flowing North towards Pennsylvania.

My favorite stop on the entire trip was the Sideling Hill Welcome Center near Hancock, Maryland. We were able to stop there going both directions. The eastbound rest stop is connected to the westbound via a walking bridge. I definitely plan to return there in different seasons and different weather conditions. This was one of my favorite views in a while, check it out ...

Looking East from Sideling Hill Welcome Center in the morning.

Looking west at Sunset from Sideling Hill Welcome Center during our return trip. 

Route Map and Photos ...

Take a look at the route map below and you can see exactly where we stopped. Zoom in and you can see some of the images I captured at each location. If you're a Google Maps user you can save the map for a future road trip for yourself!! Happy Exploring!


Ready for #LifeALLIn?

Observation Tower at Governor Dick

Observation Tower at Governor Dick

Here's a place I've been anxious to revisit. I first visited Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick back in my Amish Road Show days. I'll post the original video further down. That was kind of a crazy time because Zoe was just a baby and had just starting to walk. Basically, we needed out of the house. It was fun, but she screamed the whole way back to the car, and it was slightly less than enjoyable. 

So the other weekend we returned with both kids older and accustomed to a decent hike. The park is located just south of Mount Gretna, Pa on Pinch Road. About a 1/4 mile south of Mount Gretna Road (Rt. 117) you will see a pull-off that provides access to the firetower. If you go another 1/2 mile or so down Pinch Road you'll find the entrance to the Environmental Center Parking Lot. This is where we like to park if we can. With over 15 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and equestrian use there's more than one way to get to the tower.

Panoramic view of the Observation Tower rising beyond the Trees at the edge of the wildflower fields.

The most direct hike is up a service road, but there are plenty of trails to branch off on, and most of them are not really stroller friendly that i saw, just a heads up. Our crew made our way through the wildflower fields. There were plenty of flying and stinging insects around, but for the most part they didn't bother us. That's where I got my Insta360 Nano out and started recording. Check out the video below to see what came next ... 

The climb up the tower is not too bad. The kids did really well with some help and guidance. I guess a lot of people don't realize it's ladders, not stairs. As you can see, when you get to the top you're in a cage. I had my selfie stick with me so I got to poke my Insta360 Nano just a little bit higher. Take a look at the view on the south side of the tower ...

There is a lot I still don't know about this park. However, that's just a reason to visit again. I know that the Park offers a wide range of nature based and  other educational programs. They also work with the Public Schools a good bit as was the desire of the late Clarence Schock. Be sure to stop by their site for more details on all of the activties, rules, and other information about the park.


Blast from the past ...

Like I said, this was our second trip up here. Just over five years ago I came up for my Amish Road Show site. This was back when I first got my GoPro Hero 2. Such a proud moment. Check it out ...

Skyline Drive 360 - Reading, PA

Skyline Drive 360 - Reading, PA

The first blog post of the year and it isn't even going to be about Lancaster. We rang in the new year with some sick days here at home, so we haven't been getting out much yet. Anxious to get out, but also needing to avoid the cold, we took a little drive up to Reading, Pa so I could capture a 360 video of the infamous Skyline Drive.

Since getting my SP360 setup back in December I've been looking for unique spots for 360 experiments. 360 Video definitely has a bit of a learning  curve, BUT I like to share what I capture as I continue to learn. I've been converting a lot of the videos to tiny planets and such for Instagram. Be sure to follow along over there to see what I'm up to!


I find Skyline Drive to be very interesting. We make it up to the area quite a bit throughout the year. In this video I drive down from North to South passing the William Penn Memorial Firetower, a few Overlook pull-offs, and of course the Reading Pagoda. While some of the stonework and other features are in need of repair there is lots to explore and discover, and tons of photo opportunities. Just check out the slideshow below from my Skyline Drive Gallery on

Photo Gallery


The first video is the 360 driving footage from the north side of Mount Penn. After turning onto Skyline Drive from McKnights Gap Rd I pulled over quickly to turn on the camera. So I began recording at the Northernmost edge of the Park property and filmed until just after passing the Reading Pagoda.

The second video is shorter than the first and flattened. While trimming for Instagram I selected some of the highlight portions of the drive and controlled the perspective using Insta360 Studio.  While I enjoy 360 and using VR headsets three is still much to learn on my end and many advances to come in the technology. I think flattening the 360 footage using Insta360 Studio is a great way to utilize the advantages of 360 video in a format most people use to consume their content (i.e. not looking around frantically with a giant thing strapped to your face). I hope you've been enjoying these short 360 clips. Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

For more details on what is available to do on Skyline Drive, as well as information about the Reading Pagoda, The William Penn Memorial Firetower, events, and more simply visit

360 Roundtop Mountain Resort

360 Roundtop Mountain Resort

Half way through December and the weather hasn't quite been ready to give us snow yet. There was a light dusting on the western edge of Lancaster County last weekend, but nothing more than a few sporadic flurries over my way. It just so happens I know where you snow lovers like myself can find some.  To find it we'll have to hit the road and venture west a little to Roundtop Mountain Resort.

I knew that SkiRoundtop was going to be opening some of the slopes this week for Skiing and Snowboarding, and then Tubing over the weekend. I had seen a few photos of them making snow earlier this week and wanted to take a peek. I really dislike cold weather, but snow is entirely different. Love snow!

To make things a little interesting I got the kids excited by telling them we were going to go find some snow. Zoe, ever vigilant, instantly KNEW that there was no snow "because it didn't snow last night, duh". However, I convinced her that maybe it had snowed somewhere else. Then she tagged a wagger onto it. The deal was that if I couldn't find snow I would have to take her and her brother directly to Chuck E Cheese's for dinner. I had already spoken to the folks at Roundtop Mountain Resort about stopping by, so game-on little lady. 

360 Video


Here are a few photos I captured while we were there. The snow crews were out in force building up the Terrain park for opening day. Outside of that it was a pretty quiet. The last quiet evening the resort will see for a while. 

If you make your way up to Roundtop Mountain Resort be sure to share your pics and videos on our Facebook Page and tag #GrandLancaster on Instagram!

The west of Roundtop Mountain Resort just after Sunset.

Snow crews working on the Terrain Park the night before opening day. 

Fife and Drum trail just behind the Roundtop map. 

The western edge of Roundtop Mountain Resort reflecting in the pond at the base of the Mountain. 

The eastern edge of Rountop Mountain Resort behind the Snow Tubing parking lot. 

Save it onto your Google Maps:

Explore more of Grand Lancaster ...

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.