I meant to write this post two years ago. If I had written it back then, the post title would have a tidy number in it. You know, one of those shiny numerals easily divisible by five. But as is my modus operandi, it lingered in my drafts folder and well, here we are. 17 is what you get.
For the past 17 summers my family has been lucky enough to make the “Pennsylvanian Pilgrimage” to the Jersey Shore. “Why the Jersey Shore?” you may ask? I guess you could say I married into it. My wife grew up spending her summer vacations in Stone Harbor, NJ and as a beach-lover, was more than happy to continue that tradition with our fledgling family. Unlike my spouse, I would not assign myself to the “Beach-Lover” category. I would probably more closely self-identify with the “Beach Tolerater” cohort. I’m good for about two hours in the surf, sun and sand (The Triple “S”) till I’m planning how to extract myself back to somewhere with A/C and wondering what’s for lunch. Regardless, I could see how much joy the beach brought to my wife and kids. Joy, that by the transitive property of vacation time, was passed along to me. It was an easy decision to come back year after year.
Despite my “Beach Tolerater” status, there were some perks. Early on, the Jersey Shore was a new and exciting photography location for me. With ocean-side beauty, the vibrant colors and neon signs of nearby boardwalks, and all the little details of a seaside town, the area doesn’t lack subject matter diversity.
Hell, there’s even a free zoo (donations highly encouraged) if you want to dip your toe into animal photography. This post is littered with some of my favorite photographs covering many of those genres.
As the years passed, photographing the same subjects over and over again got to be a bit of a challenge. I find that I’m most often invigorated and engaged by new places when practicing my photography. Revisiting the same subjects in the same locale year after year found me obsessing over how to find new and interesting ways to capture them. I mean, there’s only so many times you can photograph saltwater taffy in a compelling way. While this minor obsession didn’t necessarily detract from the enjoyment of my annual family vacation as a whole, it was something that occupied a non-zero amount of my thoughts.
After a few years of this self-imposed Jersey Shore photography stagnation, I stumbled on a little bit of clarity that helped me relax a little more and not think about what I might be missing out on photographically. The boys are getting older, and it’s unclear how many trips where all five of us will be together are in the future. I do know with certainty that more “complete” family vacations are in our past than lay ahead of us. With that realization in mind, I tried to take in as much of this most recent getaway as I could. I chose to be present, enjoy the time with the boys and my wife, and let the experience, and whatever photography came with it, just happen.
I can’t say for certain whether I captured some of my best images of the Jersey Shore this year or not. Time has a way of cutting the wheat from the chaff when it comes to my photographs. What I do know is this year’s trip to Stone Harbor was one of my favorite vacations in recent memory. I wasn’t worried about getting better as a photographer, seeing new things, or missing out on great images.
Sometimes it’s okay to stand still, as long as you’re happy with the view.