Book and Calendar Sale!

Updated: April 20, 2016

Dear Friends,

I am announcing a final clearance sale on my book, Waterfalls of  Vermont and New Hampshire, and my 2016 Vermont Desk Calendar. Prices are reduced by over 50%!  I am almost sold out with only three books and one calendar remaining. I will not be ordering more of these limited edition items, so first come, first served.

The waterfall book is a beautiful lay flat design with solid, spill-proof pages. 19 pages of long-exposure photography of waterfalls from throughout Vermont and New Hampshire recently photographed on my Nikon DSLR in 2105.

Dimension is 6″ x 8″

Here are screen shots of some of the pages:

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 3.29.39 PMThis shows the front and back covers with the book laid out flat.

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Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 3.30.23 PMThis view shows the last two pages of the book (laid out flat) with an index and map indicating location of each waterfall.

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Cost is $11 plus $3.00 shipping. You will not find a book of this quality and price featuring beautiful waterfalls from throughout the region at this price. I am sorry, but I can only accommodate U.S. orders at this time. If you wish to order a book, please email me directly at gilbertislands@gmail.com. Payment in the amount of $14 – personal check or cash only – should be made to: Stephen Tavella and mailed to 1171 Wickopee Hill Rd., Dummerston, Vermont 05301. Please provide your mailing address.

Allow at least two weeks for delivery.

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The desk calendar is a very high quality heavy-weight paper stock you will not find anywhere else. Photo quality and the paper it is printed on is frameable. It features over a dozen of my own photographic images throughout the seasons of Vermont. Dimension is 5.5″ x 10.8″. Here are some of the images from the calendar (images on the calendar itself are much higher quality than the lower resolution screen shots shown here).

Cost is $7 + $3.00 shipping. Same terms and mailing address apply as stated above for the book. I have one calendar remaining at this time, so act quickly!!

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 3.32.27 PMFront page

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Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 3.33.43 PMDecember

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Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 3.33.29 PM

October

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If you are not satisfied with the product upon receipt, please return it, postage paid, and I will refund your money. However, I feel strongly that you will not find a calendar of this quality at this price.

To all those who have supported my blog and my work I want to say THANK YOU! You are all so kind and generous.

Peace and love (I really mean it!!)

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All content copyrighted  © Stephen Tavella

This May Not Be the Georgia You Are Thinking Of

January 23, 2016

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Back in September of 2015 when I told people I was going to move to Georgia for six months to work, a common reply was, “Why are you going to Georgia?”

Well, this may not be the Georgia you are thinking of. The Georgia where I have been living and working for the past four months is sandwiched between Russia to the north, Armenia and Turkey to the south, Azerbaijan to the east, and the Black Sea to the west. See the blue dot  ⇓

Georgia (Republic of)

As mentioned in my previous post, I will be doing a series of posts that will feature photographs from the regions I have visited so far, as well as types of photographs I have taken, such as landscape, long exposure night photography, rural, urban, people…

For this post I would like to take you for a quick tour of the places I have been so far. I am in love with this country! This is an absolutely, spectacularly mind-blowingly (I just made up a word there) beautiful country. Not only that, it’s culture and history are extraordinary, and its people welcoming. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to live, work and travel here for six months. Thinking of your next international vacation? Consider Georgia.

Without further ado, allow me to take you on a quick tour of THE REPUBLIC OF Georgia (the country, not the state).

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Tbilisi

This is a panorama shot taken with my iPhone from Narikala Hill (the Narikala Fortress itself) overlooking the city. Future photographs of Tbilisi will show you some of the ancient and modern that mix in this city that was founded by King Vakhtang I Gorgosali of Iberia in the 5th century A.D.

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Shio Mgvime

An easy day trip from Tbilisi is Shio Mgvime Monastery. It was founded by the 6th century monk, Shio, one of the Thirteen Assyrian Fathers. This is the second country in the world to adopt Christianity. Its roots run deep. Orthodox churches and monasteries are so prolific it is hard not to see one nearly everywhere you turn. And they are old. This small chapel is on a hill overlooking the monastery. This was the first significant hike I took on my second weekend in the country in September, 2015.

__ShioMgvime_SanctuaryOnHill01

Jvari Monastery

Jvari overlooks the town of Mtskheta. Both are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Jvari is a 6th century monastery built on the site where Saint Nino, a 4th century evangelist, is credited with converting King Marian III of Iberia to Christianity.

__Vacation_JvariByNight01_withMoon

Uplistsikhe

Built on a rocky bank above the Mtkvari River is a 3,500 year-old cave city that saw its final eclipse in the 14th century with the Mongol invasion.

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Ananuri

This castle complex was built in the 13th century. Its history includes peasant revolts and various battles from rival duchy. It remained in use until the 19th century. Its location is iconic, overlooking the Aragvi river and reservoir.

__Vacation_Ananuri02

Kazbegi (Stepantsminda)

Located directly north of Tbilisi on the Georgian/Russian border, this area is known for the Gergeti Trinity Church, built in the 14th century on a plateau overlooking the villages of Kazbegi and Gergeti, and in the shadow of Mt. Kazbek (16,600 ft / 5047 meters). It is a symbol for Georgia.

Look closely at the top left side of the photo to see the church on the plateau.

__Kazbegi_Trekking05_Gergeti

Rabati Castle

Located in the southwest of the country, it was built in the 9th century and recently renovated. It is a massive complex that has a church, synagogue and mosque – a reflection of the many cultures that passed through and invaded Georgia over the millennia. Today, Christian, Jew and Muslim live peacefully side-by-side in Georgia. In Tbilisi you will find churches, a mosque and a synagogue – all with thriving communities – within several city blocks.

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Vardzia

This cave city built in the 11th and 12 centuries under the rule of Queen Tamar – one of the most fabled monarchs of Georgia – at its height housed 50,000 citizens, extended 13 levels and contained 6,000 apartments. Visiting Vardzia is like visiting something out of the Lord of the Rings.

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Okhatse Canyon

Walking over the Ohkatse Canyon on this several kilometer skywalk is almost like walking on the air over an open canyon. The engineering of the skywalk is incredible! And the views are even more so.

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Sataplia Nature Reserve and Cave

Established in 1935, this nature reserve protects pristine ancient forests where dinosaurs once roamed. Footprints are preserved in the entrance to the vast cave complex that is still mostly unexplored.

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Motsameta

Located on a cliff-edge on the outskirts of the western city of Kutaisi, Motsameta’s current monastery dates to the 11th century on the ruins of the original 8th century church.

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Kakheti

Located in eastern Georgia, the Kakheti region is known for its wine. This wide and fertile valley presses up against the white-topped Dagestan Caucasus to the north and Azerbaijan to the south. The history of wine goes back to the VI millennium B.C.!  500 out of the world’s known 2,000 grape species are Georgian. Pictured here, the Italianesque hill town of Signaghi.

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The 15th century castle and church of Gremi, located in the Duruji Valley of the Kakheti region.

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Davit Gareji

This rock-hewn Orthodox monastery in southern Georgia is a remarkable historical site surrounded by arid, almost lunar landscape. It was founded in the 6th century by David Garejeli, one of the 13 Assyrian Fathers. At one time it housed thousands of monks. Today it is undergoing renovation, although a significant cave complex in a border area disputed by Azerbaijan and Georgia is unfortunately crumbling and suffering from outright vandalism.

__Vacation_DavitGareji02

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All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

 

 

 

 

A Photographic Introduction to the Republic of Georgia – Kazbegi

January 12, 2016

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I have been living and working in the Republic of Georgia since September, 2015. This is my first post to share this gorgeous, enchanting and welcoming country in the four months I have been here. I have to say, this is one of the most pleasant surprises I have had in years. If you are considering some international travel, I cannot recommend Georgia enough. Come and visit! You will not be disappointed.

If you have any questions or inquiries, shoot an email off to one of my personal accounts, gilbertislands@gmail.com, or Stephen@heart-sign.com.  This is a country not to be missed!

Over these first four months I have accumulated literally thousands of photographs. If you would like to see a gallery of what I have so far shared on social media, I invite you to my Instagram account at @stavella2314. Because I have so many photographs from all over the country and in so many genres – landscape, historical, religious, long exposure, night, urban, people – I will share them over several blog posts.

Without too many more words, let me start with photographs from one of my favorite areas so far, the northern region of Kazbegi on the Georgian/Russian border. Kazbegi – locally known as Stepantsminda – is located in what is known as the Greater Caucasus mountains stretching the length of the northern part of the country. If you consider Georgia a part of Europe, then these are the highest mountains you’ll find, reaching heights in excess of 17,000 ft (5,000 meters).

At 16,600 ft., Mt. Kazbek is the highest mountain in the Kazbegi/Gergeti area. Its local name is Mkinvartsverti, meaning Ice Top. It is the mythical mountain upon which it is claimed Prometheus was chained as punishment for stealing fire from the Gods. Forming at the edge of Kazbegi is the Dariali Gorge created by the Tergi  (Terek) river. It runs for eight miles through rugged, steep mountains and cliffs, creating a dramatic landscape that has inspired famous Georgian writers and poets like Ilia Chavchaavadze, Alexander Kazbegi and Grigol Orbeliani.

Without further ado: Kazbegi/Stepantsminda

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I have visited here twice. On both occasions I hiked from Gergeti village to the Gergeti Sameba monastery you can barely see on the plateau at the top of the photo facing Mt. Kazbek.

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Looking one way (at Mt. Kazbek)…

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… and then the other (at Gergeti Sameba monastery, 14th century)

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Descent with the color of the setting sun on the mountains

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Looking down through the villages of Kazbegi and Gergeti along the Tergi River

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Walking through the village of Kazbegi, where satellite dish and traditional life intersect

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Hiking into the fog-shrouded Dariali Canyon

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The Dariali Canyon

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The Military Highway leading from Tbilisi to Kazbegi and beyond to the Georgian/Russian border is a major trucking route moving goods between the two countries and beyond to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

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Cindy (my traveling partner on my second trip to Kazbegi) and I met and hung out with some welcoming local residents at a roadside fruit stand and local restaurant.

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Mishvidobit (Peace!)

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All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

 

 

Tribute

We miss you, Major Tom

Photo Jan 11                    You’ve stepped through the door and floated away…

 

Watch Commander Chris Hadfield’s rendition of Space Oddity from aboard the International Space Station

“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

.                                                            …. and there’s nothing I can do.”

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Listen to David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes

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… “and you better not mess with Major Tom”

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Vermont/New Hampshire Waterfall book and 2016 calendar for sale – limited number available!

January 10, 2016

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce that my new book, Waterfalls of  Vermont and New Hampshire, is for sale in limited quantities and for a limited time only, along with my 2016 Vermont Desk Calendar. I have only 5 books and 3 calendars remaining. Should there be increased demand it may be possible for me to order additional books and calendars, but I cannot guarantee the current pricing I am offering today.

The waterfall book is a beautiful lay flat design with solid, spill-proof pages. 19 pages of long-exposure photography of waterfalls from throughout Vermont and New Hampshire recently photographed on my Nikon DSLR in 2105.

Dimension is 6″ x 8″

Here are screen shots of some of the pages:

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 3.29.39 PMThis shows the front and back covers with the book laid out flat.

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Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 3.30.23 PMThis view shows the last two pages of the book with an index and map indicating location of each waterfall.

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Cost is $25 plus $3.00 shipping. I am sorry, but I can only accommodate U.S. orders at this time. If you wish to order a book, please email me directly at gilbertislands@gmail.com. Payment in the amount of $28 – personal check or cash only – should be made to: Stephen Tavella and mailed to 1171 Wickopee Hill Rd., Dummerston, Vermont 05301. Please provide your mailing address.

Allow at least two weeks for delivery.

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I also have three 2016 desk calendars remaining. This is a high quality calendar featuring over a dozen of my own photographic images throughout the seasons of Vermont. Dimension is 5.5″ x 10.8″. Here are some of the images from the calendar (images on the calendar itself are much higher quality than the lower resolution screen shots shown here).

Cost is $15 + $3.00 shipping. Same terms and mailing address apply as stated above for the book.

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 3.32.27 PMFront page

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Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 3.33.43 PMDecember

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If you are not satisfied with the product upon receipt, please return it, postage paid, and I will refund your money. However, I feel strongly that you will not find a calendar of this quality at this price.

To all those who have supported my blog and my work I want to say THANK YOU! You are all so kind and generous.

Coming right up after this post, an introduction to one of the most beautiful countries I have visited and lived in on the six continents I have been blessed to experience on this magnificent blue planet. And with that thought in mind, I will end by asking each of you to contribute just a little bit to keeping it magnificent and sustainable for the younger generations and those who have yet to come.

Sending all my blessings!

Peace and love (I really mean it!!)

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All content copyrighted  © Stephen Tavella

Waterfalls of Vermont (and New Hampshire)

October 27, 2015

WinooskiFalls_closeup

From the late autumn of 2014 I started photographing waterfalls in the vicinity of my residences in Dummerston and Morrisville, Vermont – southern and northern ends of the state. It is not that I hadn’t taken plenty of waterfall pictures before this time, I had. But around this time I became fascinated with the long exposure effects I could obtain, first with a tripod and shutter release cable and later by adding a neutral density filter that added, well, density to the images. Technology and photographic effects aside, I have always been attracted to water. Just take a look at my swim book here and you make the connection between me and water.

But I am certainly not the only one who is fascinated by waterfalls. I have a photo gallery on Instagram (find me @stavella2314), where I follow mostly landscape photographers. What do I see a lot of?  Sunsets and sunrises, mountains, and … waterfalls! What is the human fascination with falling water? I am not a psychologist, so I can’t explain it. I don’t think it needs explaining, however. Water moves something deep in us. Water – especially ocean and waterfall – evokes feeling, emotion, something beyond words, something deep within us. For me, a waterfall talks to me at a place beyond words.

I live above what I consider one of the most beautiful streams and multi-level falls in southern Vermont: Stickney Brook. I have attempted to photograph these falls from practically every angle and I still do not feel I have captured their essence. One picture in this series is from there. For nearly 30 years I have been enjoying those falls and they never grow old. They always invite me back for more. Starting late last year I discovered a whole other area of my beloved Vermont in the mountains, valleys and hidden falls of the Montpelier/Morrisville/Stowe area. Among the many discoveries were some of the waterfalls pictured here. Another thing I discovered is that some of them do not seem to have names. I looked everywhere on the internet to find them, but only mapped one. So I took the liberty of giving some of them my own names. I visited them regularly in the spring time when the light grew longer, often without my camera. I have always said that the best pictures I have taken were the ones I never took.

All photographs use exposures between 10 and 25 seconds, and are taken with my Nikon D3100 digital SLR.

Enjoy!

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StickneyBrookBridge

The upper portion of the Stickney Brook cascades, otherwise known as Jelly Mill Falls

Dummerston, Vermont

DummerstonHiddenFalls

My partner – @surfsidecp on Instagram and a wonderful photographer – and I “discovered” this waterfall as we were bush-whacking through the woods below our home. It feeds a well-known waterfall that can be seen on the west side of route 30 between the green iron and covered bridges in Dummerston. To my knowledge, it does not have a documented name. I call it “The Secret”

Here is a video clip of the entire waterfall

Dummerston, Vermont

LyeBrookFalls_Manchester02

Moving north and west to the Manchester area and Lye Brook Falls, which at 160 feet (nearly 50 meters) is Vermont’s tallest. This visit was made during a prolonged dry-spell, so the fall was not flowing very heavily.

Manchester, Vermont

TheOldBrandonMill

Moving north and slightly east: The falls at the old mill.

Brandon, Vermont

OtterCreekFalls

Staying on the west side of the state and into the center of the beautiful college town of Middlebury. Viewing Middlebury falls, an old mill site on the Otter Creek.

Middlebury, Vermont

MossGlen_Granville_wideangle

In north central Vermont along scenic route 100 you find possibly the most photographed waterfall in the state – Moss Glen. Driving here, either from the north or the south is one of the most beautiful drives in the state.

Granville, Vermont

Northfield_Rapids

Northfield is a town many visit for its four covered bridges – three of them within site of each other at the right season. Cox Brook rambles under all these bridges with long stretches of cascading falls.

Northfield, Vermont

 VT_rt12_Falls01Along a stretch of route 12 between Montpelier and Morrisville, on the edge of what is known as the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, lie four falls on the North Branch of the Winooski River. I discovered them through complete serendipity on my commute from Barre to Morrisville from late 2014 to the middle of 2015. I drove this road initially because of its reputation for moose sitings. Spending time at hidden waterfalls soon became my primary pursuit. I could only find a documented name for one of these waterfalls, thus I have attributed unofficial names to three of them.

Above, “Hidden Gem”

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VT_rt12_Falls02

“Jewell”

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VT_rt12_Falls03

This waterfall has an official name: North Branch Falls. How boring for such a beautiful fall. The only indication that this exists is a rough pull-off on the side of remote route 12.

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“Hemlock Grove”

MossGlen_2015

“The Other” Moss Glen Falls. There are two named Moss Glen in Vermont. At 125 feet (approximately 38 meters), this fall once was used as a source of water power, as were several other waterfalls in this post. Peregrine falcons sometimes nest in the steep cliffs adjacent to the falls.

Stowe, Vermont

WinooskiFalls_wideangle

The Winooski Falls, (adjacent to Vermont’s largest city, Burlington) comprising two drops (this is the first one),  has provided waterpower for about as long as there have been settlers in Vermont. The Winooski is one of the largest rivers in the state. Winooski is an Abenaki (Native American) word meaning “onion” for the wild onions that commonly grow all along the banks of the river.

AmmonoosucRiver2015

In September of this year my partner and I hiked in one of my favorite spots in the U.S. northeast – the Presidential Range of northern New Hampshire. Pictured here, the Ammonoosuc River that spills down nearly the entire Ammonoosuc ravine leading to the summits of Mts. Washington and Monroe.

In my next post I will transition to a photographic journey of my new, temporary life in the Republic of Georgia where I currently reside and work as a management adviser to a peace center. I will reside in Georgia from September, 2015, through March, 2016.

See you soon… I hope.  🙂

WilleyHouse_Whirlpool

In the White Mountain National Forest: Swirling waters at Willey House, Crawford Notch, New Hampshire

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All content copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

 

Four Seasons in One Day

October 25, 2015

FloatingLeaves2015Four seasons in one day
Lying in the depths of your imagination
Worlds above and worlds below
The sun shines on the black clouds hanging over the domain

Even when you’re feeling warm
The temperature could drop away
Like four seasons in one day

Smiling as the shit comes down
You can tell a man from what he has to say
Everything gets turned around
And I will risk my neck again, again

You can take me where you will
Up the creek and through the mill
Like all the things you can’t explain
Four seasons in one day

It doesn’t pay to make predictions
Sleeping on an unmade bed
Finding out wherever there is comfort there is pain
Only one step away
Like four seasons in one day

Songwriters: NEIL FINN, TIM FINN
Four Seasons In One Day lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC
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At the end of 2014 through the summer of 2015 I split my time living between Dummerston in southern Vermont on the weekends, and the Morrisville/Stowe/Montpelier/Barre area of northern Vermont where I lived and worked during weekdays. The one advantage of this chaotic period of my life was that I had the opportunity to photograph areas of my state I had either not visited for many years or had never seen in the 30 years I have lived in Vermont. Obviously, if you look back on the dates of my blog posts, I did not find the time to post photos for many months.
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This is a bit of a catch up: Four Seasons in One Day. Photographs from around Vermont covering the four seasons spanning the autumn of 2014 through the summer of 2015. Future posts will include a focus on waterfalls, hikes and skyscapes before I launch into sharing my experience here in the Republic of Georgia where I currently reside and will remain until at least the spring of 2016.
Enjoy!
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A-U-T-U-M-N
FallReflection2015
Autumn reflections (2014) in southern Vermont
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Rt9_2_Bennington2015
The painted mountainsides along Rt. 9 leading into Bennington
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W-I-N-T-E-R
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Rt30_in_Snow2015
The winter of 2015 was harsh, as those of you from New England who are reading this blog know. For me, it was a winter of spending a lot of time on the road commuting. Driving conditions were often difficult, but frequent snowfall made for welcomed opportunities to hop from my car and photograph.
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This photo: Scenic Route 30 (Dummerston)
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MadRiver2015
The Mad River Valley (Waitsfield)
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MorrisvilleWindSnow2015
One very cold and blustery evening, driving to Morrisville on Vermont rt. 100. The wind swept swaths of snow across the road and bit at my hands and face as I snapped this photograph quickly with my iPhone.
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S-P-R-I-N-G
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DummerstonGrange2015
Winter bled into spring. The winter that did not want to end
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This photo: The Grange and Sunrise (Dummerston)
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MossGlen_2015
As the spring thaw arrived, waterfalls fed the verdant hills and mountains of the Green Mountain State.
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This photograph: Moss Glen Falls (Stowe)
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Lupine_2015
Lupines (Morrisville)
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Buttercups_2015
Field of Buttercups over stormy spring skies (Montpelier)
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S-U-M-M-E-R
. EchoLakeLudlow2015Summer time is motorcycle time. This photograph of the sun rising over a fog-shrouded Echo Lake in Ludlow was taken from my iPhone on an early morning motorcycle ride up route 100, one of the most beautiful roads in Vermont.
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AmmonoosucRiver2015
This photo is a ‘cheat’ because it is not Vermont. This is the Ammonoosuc River in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In an upcoming post I will feature photographs from an early September hike with my partner up the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail to Mts. Monroe and Washington, two of the eight mountains that comprise the scenic and historic Presidential range.
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All content copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

The Long Repose

October 13, 2015

WithDaveMatthews_05-2015You do not have to scroll far down this page to see the last time I posted on my blog. It has been “awhile.” There are many tales to tell of why this blog has been neglected. Those stories will not be told here. For my good friends to whom I owe long-overdue letters, apologies and explanations are on their way.

Forgive me.

I hope to return to fairly regular posts. The first few will be “catch-ups” from seasons past where I snapped a lot of photos in northern Vermont while living for a short time in the Barre/Montpelier/Morrisville areas. I then hope to stay up-to-date on my latest adventures here in Georgia (the country near Russia, not the state between Alabama and South Carolina). I arrived in Georgia in mid-September on a six month work assignment as a management advisor to a peace center in Tbilisi, the capitol.

My friends and family know me as a country boy. For the next six months I am a city boy, living and working among 1.1 million people and commuting 45 minutes each way on public transportation from the outskirts of the city where I live with a Georgian family. More on all of that later. With this post I simply want to say for those who have faithfully followed this blog, “Thank you for your patience.” For those who are new, I invite you to click the ‘Like’ button or enter your email if you would like to receive an update when I post a new story. I promise, you will not get spammed. I post, at the most, a couple times a week.

Until I assemble my next few posts, which will likely be some Vermont and New England shots from the winter, spring and summer of 2015, I will leave you with a handful of photos that compare and contrast my Vermont existence with this new temporary life in the beautiful country of Georgia and its fascinating city of Tbilisi.

Sunrise on Hogback Mountain

One of my favorite views in southern Vermont: the 100 mile view into Massachusetts and New Hampshire from Hogback mountain overlook on route 9. This is the new cover photo for my blog.

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Sunset over the West River, Brattleboro, Vermont

And one of my favorite viewing spots for sunsets near my home of Dummerston, Vermont, located just a few miles north of Brattleboro.

Photo Aug 21, 20 03 23

City lights of Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia

This is a 25 second time exposure of the eastern (and older section) of Tbilisi taken from the castle on the hill overlooking the city. More descriptions and details will be forthcoming in future posts.

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Sunset on Tbilisi Sea

I live on the outskirts of the city, just 10 minutes walk from this beautiful sea/reservoir. The country boy in me gets to continue to enjoy some country while soaking in this beautiful city for the next six months.

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Thank you for visiting!

See you soon

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All photographs and content © Stephen Tavella

A Trip Down the Western Delta

January 4, 2015

This time last year I was spending my first full day in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), at the start of a six month humanitarian operation in the western part of the country. Recently, I’ve been spending my online time on Instagram posting pictures mostly from the past two years. Over the past couple of months I posted some pictures from Myanmar and received moderate praise.  The one year anniversary of my arrival in Myanmar got me thinking and reminiscing. So I thought I’d compile those pictures here, plus a few more I didn’t post on Instagram.

Upon reviewing the pictures I noticed they were thematic. It wasn’t intentional when I originally posted them. Most of these pictures were taken from the speed boat that ferried me down the western delta from Sittwe to Myebon, where my organization was responsible for managing two IDP (internally displaced persons) camps of Buddhists and Muslims who had been displaced from their homes due to ethnic fighting in 2012. I always looked forward to the two hour early morning boat ride. I’d plug in my iPod and listen to Jimmy Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Neil Young while the boat sped along muddy, narrow channels and past life as it existed, still does and will continue to for the foreseeable future.

Change doesn’t happen very quickly in the rural backwaters of places like Rakhine State. I find it ironic how I often want the pace of change to slow where I live in the United States. And yet when I think of places wrought with so much conflict like Rakhine I want the pace of change to quicken – quicken towards reconciliation, education for all children, accessible primary and maternal healthcare for children and women, and robust livelihoods for those for those who eek out a meager existence and struggle to feed their families.

The western delta is a maze of rivulets that intersect and eventually pour out into the Bay of Bengal between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Along these waterways thousands of people make their homes, subsisting primarily on rice and fish, and trading or selling those products for other staples and merchandise. The waters are milky brown and ebb and flow with the tides in these flat, wet lands. Life is not easy here for all the fertility of this land. The cause is both natural and man-made. Cyclones have swept across these lands, decimated crops, wiped out livestock and taken thousands of lives over the decades. Over-fishing, the destruction of mangrove forests where much of the aquatic life reproduces, and the use of pesticides has contributed to fewer and smaller fish. Government regulation is practically non-existent. Where it does exist, the government bureaucrat will quickly turn his eye when the unspoken bribe (‘tax’, as I’ve heard it referred to) is provided.

I’m displaying these pictures chronologically as if I’m taking that same boat trip nine months later – from the broken harbor in Sittwe, through open seas, into the winding waterways, to the docks of Myebon and into the camps themselves. I’m plugging into Jimmy Hendrix. I’m feeling fortunate for my life after my petty cursing of this winter weather earlier today. I’m well-fed, well-clothed; I sit by a cozy fire in a warm house; my refrigerator is full; my daughter is healthy and happy; I drive a nice car; I’m sipping wine.

A journey through the western delta…

Two Children

Sittwe lies at the mouth of one of the rivulets of the western delta. It’s the capitol of Rakhine State. Here, two children look for crabs on a quiet morning beach.

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Villages along the way

This is one of the first villages where our speed boat navigates closely to the shoreline. It is reached after first crossing a large stretch of the Bay of Bengal just after leaving the port in Sittwe.

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Moving wares

Here, a pair of men and possibly a son to one of them are likely moving firewood up the delta for sale in Sittwe or some other village where firewood is scarce.

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Thatched Hut

A thatched hut along a muddy river embankment.

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Awaiting Transportation

A group of women appear to be waiting for a boat – likely a dilapidated wooden one – to pick them up. They undoubtedly will be dropped somewhere to engage in a long, hot, hard day of labor.

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Distant

At a couple places along the journey the rivulet will open into a broader expanse, displaying an exotic landscape of silhouetted huts and Buddhist stupas.

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Moving Bamboo

Taking a “shortcut” into Myebon one day, we slugged through a narrow passage and squeezed by a man moving a load of bamboo upriver – by himself and only by his own manpower.

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Mybon Port

These next few pictures show the rugged, backwater port of Myebon where we provided water, sanitation and child protection services to over 3,000 internally displaced persons.

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Backwater

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Speed boat

Our speed boat being tended by a young boy and girl.

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To the camp

Once we landed in Myebon we were most often driven through town escorted by the local police on a three-wheeled vehicle called a tuk-tuk, or in the back of a pickup truck. Once we were forced to walk through a town that’s been hostile to the IDP population since ethnic tensions broke out in 2012, and of course hostile toward us because of the very limited assistance we provide them.

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IDP Children

On this particular day we were visiting the camps to inspect the latrines we had built. Children gathered for a photo.

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Water reserve?

A man dips water from a diminishing water pond during the dry season. Drink, anyone?

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WFP

The IDPs are completely dependent on food deliveries from the United Nations World Food Program.

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Coming Soon:  Winter’s Thaw and Freeze in Vermont

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All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

Sublime

December 14, 2014

Have you ever had one of those 24 hour periods where every word, every action, every thought had the word sublime wrapped around it? Sublime is how I would describe my last 24 hours. Actually, my last sublime 24 hours really lasted 48, or more. But those hours were so sublime they seemed to last only 24.

It wasn’t just what I did, where I went, what I thought, what I ate and drank, and what I saw and experienced. It was mostly about who I did it with and the way in which we did it. These pictures were taken in the last 24 hours. They start with a midnight adventure into the icy Vermont night to watch the Geminid meteor shower. We took our cameras, but the half moon rising over the horizon at that hour, coupled with the blanket of powdery clouds, made it impossible for us to photograph any of the handful of meteors we saw shooting across the sky.

Nevertheless, it was magical.

Weeks ago we discovered a hidden waterfall that we want to believe only very few people know about: most likely only those who have owned the land where it flows and those they’ve told. We ventured there again today.

And so I give you a sublime 24 hours of photographs, memories and sweetness.

Moon above Geminid

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The milk shack

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Hidden Falls

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Above the Falls 1

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Above the Falls 2

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Ah Ha!

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Lonely Chair

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Approaching the Brook

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At the Brook

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I’m going to bake cookies…

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All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

The Black and White Challenge

December 11, 2014

What little time I’ve been spending on social media these days has been mostly spent on Instagram. In these last few weeks I’ve been snapping more black and white shots. This time of year – or perhaps these past two weeks of predominantly grey days – seems to say, “Take me in black and white.”

Last week I was nominated by a very talented photographer who goes by the name of uagliu on Instagram to post five black and white photos in five days: one per day (+ 1 bonus pic). I took her up on that challenge. In that same week two of my black and white photographs were featured on two different sites – love_bnw and awesomebnw – as one of the five best photographs of the day. In this post I offer you those eight pictures. One of them you may have seen on my previous post, Bridges Over the Winooski, if you follow me here on Heart Sign or WordPress regularly.

These eight pictures were taken across a span of two years in four different countries. I posted them chronologically on Instagram and will do the same here.

As always, I hope you enjoy what I present here. If you do, please spread the word to your friends to make a visit too. If you haven’t already, you can follow this blog by clicking the Facebook Like at the right, entering your email for automatic notifications, or if you’re a WordPress user, by clicking the Follow link. Also, if you’re an Instagram user, find me at http://instagram.com/stavella2314/.

Thanks for visiting!

Lens through the Bridge

Find this photograph also in my last post, Bridges Over the Winooki

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Under the Pomegranate Trees

This second shot was taken in 2012 when I lived in southern Afghanistan working (as a civilian) with melon and pomegranate farmers. This picture was taken under a grove of pomegranate trees surrounded by arid, drought-stricken fields. I was escorted in U.S. Army armored personnel carriers to a desolate, rural, arid expanse of fields that were formerly irrigated from a seasonal river fed by snowfall from distant mountains. Over 15 years of drought had devastated agriculture in this area, forcing many farmers to leave to seek jobs in the growing, dusty metropolitan sprawl along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border at the Wesh-Chaman border crossing. We just finished a long meeting with several village elders and curious young men talking of their desperation to get water to their fields while we sipped tea. The irony of the hot water washing down my throat was not missed as I listened to their pleas for assistance. They expected no help from their own government.

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Honor Riders

The Navajo-Hopi Honor Riders

This third shot was taken in 2013 after I returned from living and working in Afghanistan. I needed to clear my head from that experience so I hopped on my motorbike and rode a 12,500 mile clockwise circle around the United States – 26 states over a three month period (see the blog archive from this trip by clicking on the hyperlinked text), crashing on friends’ sofas and pitching my single tent alongside the road and in the back of cemeteries (the quietest place to sleep where no living soul will disturb you).

I was in Arizona riding out of the Grand Canyon and on my way north to Zion National Park in Utah. I was eating breakfast when I saw about 60 Native Americans come swooping into the parking lot. I went out to ask where they were going. These are the Honor Riders (http://www.navajohopihonorriders.com). Each year they ride in a clockwise circle for three days around their reservation to honor the men and women who have served our country, as well as their families. I asked if I could join them. They welcomed me with open arms.

I reversed my course and rode west with them for the last two days of their annual ceremonial ride. As we passed through one small town after another, community groups, families, tribal officials and schools met us, fed us, prepared ceremonies and speeches and performed traditional Navajo and Hopi songs and dances. It was one of the greatest honors of my life. Here we are just departing from a school where lines of children came out to greet us. Some children exclaimed when seeing my bike, “Ooh! I like your purple bike!”  I add here one more picture of a few of those children that was not a part of my five black & white photo feature.

Navajo Children

Navajo Children greeting us during our Honor Ride

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Hut on the Delta

I spent the first half of 2014 leading a humanitarian relief operation in Rakhine State, western Myanmar (formerly Burma), where the ethnic Rohingya are being persecuted by the still mostly military government and being subjected to apartheid-like conditions. Our efforts provided water, sanitation and health services, and child and gender-based violence protection to over 3,500 displaced Rohingya in Myebon Township. From our main office in Sittwe, the state capitol of Rakhine, we had to travel two hours through a maze of delta rivers to reach Myebon. Myebon had travel prohibitions placed on it from the government, so we had to apply for repeated one-week permits to travel and work there. We were not permitted to live there. Observing river life along these waterways always fascinated me on our early morning trips.

This picture: a fisherman’s hut along the swollen waters and muddy banks of a remote tributary.

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The Eye

From the muddy delta of western Myanmar to the modern, futuristic ferris wheel in London – The Eye!  This, my fifth photograph of the Black & White Photo Challenge.

These next two photographs were featured as Photos of the Day on love_bnw and awesomebnw galleries on Instagram

Railroad Bridge

I was attending a day-long meeting in Montpelier, Vermont, on a cold, grey, early December day. I had some time before I had to return to Barre, so I pulled my iPhone out of my back pocket and walked around Montpelier photographing its many bridges over the Winooski River and its north branch. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the freedom my iPhone has given me to be a mobile photographer – and take quality pictures, at that! – when I don’t have my Nikon SLR handy.  Who doesn’t have a mobile phone tucked in their pocket these days?  The iPhone 6, with certain photographic limitations, takes splendid pictures. And it’s always available. My Nikon isn’t something I tuck in my back pocket…

This photograph featured on love_bnw on Instagram.

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Frosting

Another iPhone shot. I was driving from Barre, Vermont, to Dummerston late last week. We received a foot of snow the night before and the snow was still falling lightly, giving the trees and surrounding landscape a look like they had been spread with vanilla frosting. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road as I approached this curve. Pulled my iPhone out and snapped this picture (among others not featured here).

This photograph featured on awesomebnw on Instagram

Coming Soon: A morning trip down the western Myanmar Delta

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All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella