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A New York Vacation for a Key West Wedding Photographer

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Why would you go from Key West to New York to vacation?  Living in Paradise has its perks.  You always have sunshine, everyone is “usually” relaxed.  Its a tropical feeling! When you are a wedding photographer who lives in one of the biggest destination locations for weddings in the United States, you sometimes need a vacation from your vacation.  It was a busy year in Key West for weddings this year.  I shot 40+ weddings, gained many new friendships, and helped capture special moments for my couples.  It was a good season.

The busiest months were the last months, so I didn’t get a lot of time for myself.  My girlfriend was traveling Japan for three months, so my head was in the grind the entire time.  She and I decided that we wanted to go camping for a few days,  which I immediately found a ticket and planned to unplug after a busy season.  I have never really vacationed much, but thankfully I have someone in my life that has ignited that travel bug!  So I boared a plane, armed with limited lenses, a cell phone ( some of these images are from an iPhone6), and the passion to explore!

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Taken with my iPhone. Its amazing how different quality is from my camera. Im a horrible iPhone photographer.

I headed off to New York State to meet up with her.  I flew into Newark where she picked me up and we headed to her parents house in Westchester County, New York.  We packed our packs, planned out our hike/camp, and realized that we were having to cut it short by one day due to weather.  Regardless it was going to be two days away from cell service, internet, and nothing but the sounds of nature.  I’m a little upset I didn’t take photos of me trying to pack my pack.  Something I have not done in ages, and realized I am back to novice status when it comes to hiking.  Maybe it’s just old age setting in.

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We started the next morning with a 2 hour drive North to the Catskills of New York.  We stopped in a small town called Rhinebeck, where I got my first taste of New York Farmers Markets.  I fell in love!  Real produce, REAL farm raised meats, and vegetables galore.  I showed a bit of my soft side, because the amount of flowers and sunflowers just made me smile.  It was something that I grew up around, but had not experienced as an adult.  It was a foreshadowing of the great adventures ahead of me.

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After grabbing provisions for the night of Kielbasa and fresh baguettes, we headed another hour north to an area called Big Indian.  We headed to the Giant Ledge/Panther Mountain trailhead and parked.  We grabbed our packs and signed the safety ledger before the hike.  It was a 3 mile, 1090 foot vertical climb.  I realized I wasn’t in the shape I thought I was, but that sweet voice in front of me gave me the motivation to keep going.  As my girlfriend always says to me “Pain is weakness escaping the body.”

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When we arrived at the top of the mountain, the views were so worth the climb.  I felt like I could see for miles and miles.  It was peaceful, the air was refreshing, and I realized it was the rejuvenation that I needed.  We scouted the ledges, and then found our campsite for the evening.  Our campsite we chose was tucked back into the western side of the mountaintop. We had our own private ledge for sunset and was just a short walk to the eastern ledges.  We setup camp, and began foraging for firewood.  I found out that I was more useful at getting our campfire going, than finding wood.  Every time I looked up, I was greeted with a smile and full arms of wood.  I got the fire to a level of coals we wanted and we went out to enjoy the ledges before dinner.  Afterwards, we whittled sticks to roast our dinner on, and prepared the bear box, so that we could enjoy sunset.  We were given a spectacular view, and the night sky seemed to just sparkle for us.

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After a solid nights sleep in the cool air, we woke up before sunrise.  We grabbed the camp stove and headed out for sunrise.  We had a small window of time to catch it before needing to pack up and get down the mountain before heavy rains started to set in.  Once we arrived at the car, we headed out in search of more coffee and a warm breakfast.  We stumbled upon the Phoenicia Diner, which apparently many of my friends had eaten before, and it was stellar.  Comfort food in the Catskill Mountains of New York!

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After breakfast we headed back towards New York City.  We had 3 days scheduled for urban exploring.  We stayed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and had a great view at night of Manhattan minus a few skyscraper cranes.  Our plan of attack was to eat, shop, and then catch my friends The Revivalists at SummerStage in Central Park.  We boarded the Metro North Rail and headed towards the city for another adventure.michael freas photography key west new york citymichael freas photography key west new york

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Ramen Misoya in East Village NYC
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Ramen Misoya in East Village NYC

After fueling up on some Ramen we headed out in search of some skateparks and a good spot for sunset.  We headed back to Brooklyn and went to the McCarren Park Skate Park.  It was a cool area that was bustling.   Soccer games, dogs, and people enjoying a beautiful Hump Day in BK!

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Bushwick Inlet Park

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My girlfriend surprised me on the first night as she remembered some street art from a previous trip.  Invader is a favorite artist of mine due to his mosaic tiles that he installs.  He was an influencer of Banksy, and on our last trip I introduced her to his art.  All of a sudden she shouts “Invader” and I realize I was staring right at a piece, but it didn’t register.  On my past two trips she has kicked my butt in spotting these.

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The next morning I got up early while she was working some from the computer and ventured out to a coffee spot I had been to on my previous trip.  Devocion is a great spot because they have hand drip coffee and I call myself a coffee snob.  The service is friendly and early morning you are the only person there.  After nailing some coffee and a croissant I went out around Williamsburg to shoot some street art, which is a favorite of mine.

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We took some time to go and find a skate spot called the Brooklyn Banks.  Growing up as a skateboard enthusiast this was a spot I dreamed of as a kid.  Its like the statue of liberty for NYC skateboarding.  Steve Rodriguez made the spot famous, and was a driving force to saving it back in 2004.  They closed it again in 2009, but then recently skaters of all ages became frustrated with the spot being closed and sitting dormant.  I went in hopes of finding some heavy hitters there, but was greeted by a group of groms who were enjoying the day.  Regardless I grabbed some shots and paid homage to a pillar in the skateboarding culture.

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After the banks we headed to the World Trade Center area, to pay my respects and check out the new memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives on 9/11.  It was a somber moment, but you could feel the power that rebuilt the area.  It gave you the sense that everything in the end rebuilds and is right again.  I took a moment of silence and then revealed in the new Freedom Tower, and the Oculus that had been built for the subway at Fulton Center and events.

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Farmers Market in Union Square

The next day we woke up.  Headed to Central Park.  On the way we stopped at Eataly to grab some food for a picnic in Central Park.  We walked around the park and found a spot to sit down and listen to soundcheck.  The Revivalists are an amazing band from New Orleans that I met at one of there shows in Key West.  Funk, Rock, and Soul all combined into a high energy show.  Make sure to check out their Facebook page for videos, tour dates, and music!  What a show!  I got to enjoy this one camera free but made sure to snap some photos via the camera phone!

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The following day we packed up our stuff and headed to the airport.  After some travel cancellations I found a flight home, while my girlfriend went off to Austin for a girls weekend.  That Monday I picked her up and we enjoyed another sunset in Key West.  It was a great trip and made me realize the importance of certain people in your life.  Make sure you surround yourself with people who will encourage you to go on adventures, make you smile, and just enjoy life.  We get wrapped up on what everyone else is doing way too much.  We focus on social media and what everyone else is doing, rather than living.  Become an influencer.  Post images of great adventures, in hopes of creating that interest to explore in others!  Next up on the trip list: Steamboat Springs for snowboarding!

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