Great Falls National Park in Autumn

We had some visitors from the wilds of New Jersey the other day. Mary Anne’s sister Ellen and her husband Steve came by our neck of the woods for a visit. The four of us took a walk around town and then made our way to Great Falls National Park in McLean Virginia. Among other things, the park is known for its stunning views of the Great Falls of the Potomac. Here (below) are a couple of shots taken in the park, along with one photo taken on a hiking trail by Lake Anne in Reston. 


Wide angle shot of the Great Falls waterfall in Fairfax, Virginia
Great Falls Park on an Autumn afternoon.
A close-up photo of tree leaves that have turned from green to burnt orange.
Hiking path by Lake Anne in Reston, VA.

Autumn Arrives

Fairfax County Virginia has an extraordinary system of public parks. There are lakes and nature trails everywhere you turn. In addition, Great Falls National Park in McLean Virginia features a spectacular series of waterfalls in addition to picnic grounds and hiking trails. Now that the end of October has arrived, the trees are bursting with fall colors; kayakers are braving the rapids of the Great Falls and fishermen are casting for perch and bass in the lakes. Have a look below at recent photos taken in the parks. 



Gone Fishing

Royal Lake in Fairfax County

Tree Leaves Turning Color by Royal Lake

Man in a Maelstrom

Long Exposure Shot of the Falls

Picnic Area in Lake Fairfax Park

Nelson, New Zealand

Before turning to the city of Nelson, New Zealand, a piece of news. We published an article in Apogee, an online photo magazine, that recounts some of our Safari in South Africa. The article can be seen at this link:

Now–back to Nelson.

Nelson, the second-oldest city in New Zealand, is on the eastern shore of the Tasman Bay. The city is also known by its Maori name of Whakatu. The Maori settlements in what is now Nelson came about 700 years ago, beating Captain Hook to the punch by a couple of hundred years.  The city, with a current population of about 50,000 was established as Nelson in 1841. It is named for Admiral Horatio Nelson who defeated the French and Spanish fleets at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Not Ricky.


It is a charming and laid-back city with a museum, lots of shops, the Queen’s Gardens and a pleasant vibe. It is worth noting that in this regard Nelson is not the exception: all the cities of former members of the Empire have gardens and buildings commemorating the royals.


Shopping, bars and restaurants in Nelson


Sidewalk Cafe

Captain Hook, who visited New Zealand 3 times, is credited with discovering it (for the West) around 1769 – 70. The Maori have a different perspective about this. Britain declared sovereignty based on the Treaty of Waitangi in February of 1840. The treaty signers were the chiefs of the major tribes of the north island and representatives of the British Crown. Parts of the treaty are still in dispute, and representatives of the Maori people and the New Zealand government have been working for years to reconcile their differences over the treaty and arrive at a final resolution.


That aside there is evidence that suggests that Arabs had discovered New Zealand even earlier, perhaps around the 13th or 14th centuries. Regardless, New Zealand’s is now an independent state whose independence nevertheless came in fits and starts instead of in one fell swoop. The Queen of England, though, is still formally the head of state.

The Queen’s Gardens

Frodo Lives!

When Peter Jackson filmed JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy, he was determined to be as true to the book as possible. One of the first problems he faced was finding a location that looked like the Tolkien’s description of the fantastical Middle Earth which he dubbed “Endor”.  Endor had snow-capped mountains, golden grass covered plains, sandy beaches and rain-forest creeks. As it turns out, New Zealand’s 400,000 hectare Kahurangi National Park fit the bill perfectly, which is why Jackson filmed Lord of the Rings there.


Which, in turn, is why we went there on a tour. It is not to be missed. The park has towering snow-capped mountains that slope down to a valley with wide open plains where some of the climactic battle scenes were filmed.  First, we went to Lake Clearwater that served as a backdrop, as seen below.


Looking over Lake Clearwater

After Lake Clearwater, we were off to the mountains and valleys in the park. The shear scope of the landscape is hard to imagine. The valley is huge; it is home to rivers and streams and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. One of the photos below has a woman in the lower left quadrant to give some perspective on how vast the expanse of land is.

Woman in Valley

Snow Capped Mountains

Anyway, the next two stops are Nelson and Wellington, so we’ll see what adventures await us there.



Hobart, Tasmania

Hiking in the Rain Forest

We made it. By that I mean we successfully returned from a 2.5-hour hike through a Tasmanian rain forest in Mount Field National Park. The park is around 22,000 hectares (about 54,000 acres) and is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. When we finished climbing up and down the mountainside (2 times no less), it felt like we covered the entire 22,000 hectares in one shot.

A Walk in the Rain Forest

But, truth be told it was well worth it, even considering that the forest lacked elevators.

The first thing you notice in the forest is the air quality. It is bracingly fresh and clean with the scent of the eucalyptus trees everywhere. The sights and scenery are just spectacular. We visited at least 3 waterfalls, and hiked through a field of tall trees with some trees being hundreds of years old. It turns out that these swamp gum trees are tallest flowering plants in the world.

Anyway, we finished the hike and we are on our way to Sydney.


Autumn Colors in Shark River Park

The colors of autumn are sprouting everywhere, and Shark River Park is a great place to observe the leaves turning colors as the Fall arrives in earnest. In the space below I have included some photos from a recent trip over there. Please click on the photos to see larger full resolution versions.

And before long–the middle of next week–we will be heading out for Paris and Lyon. Photos to follow.

Colorful trees along the Shark River in Belmar, NJ
A trail winds around a lake surrounded by the lush colors of autumn leaves and a blue sky peaking through the clouds.

Reflections of colorful Trees in Shark River
Beautifully colored trees are reflected in a lake on an autumn morning.

Autumn leaves at the Jersey Shore
Trees with leaves turning colors on the bank of a lake.

Trees with leaves turning colors on the banks of the Shark River
Tree leaves create an explosion of color in Autumn at the Jersey Shore.












Kessler Foundation Stroll and Roll

The Kessler Foundation is a public charity dedicated to helping people afflicted with disabilities caused by stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain and other injuries, to improve their lives. Kessler, which funds research and prepares people with disabilities to re-enter the workforce, is one of the world’s leading organizations in rehabilitation medicine. Joe Benning Photography is an enthusiastic supporter of the Kessler Foundation and is a sponsor of the Annual Stroll and Roll. The 16th annual Stroll and Roll took place today in Verona Park. Some photos from the event are below. Please take a look at the Kessler Foundation Website to learn more about their work. Here is the web address:


Cyclists preparing for the kick-off of the annual Kessler Foundation Stroll and Roll.

Ellen, Mary Anne amd Sally are walking in the Kessler Stroll and Roll.

Team Halchek participating in the annual Stroll and Roll.

Participants in the Annual Stroll and Roll.

A close-up of a small stone bridge over a section of Verona Lake, in the park.

Trees and foliage are reflected in the Verona Park Lake on an Autumn morning.

The leaves on the trees around Verona Park are starting to change colors.

Quiet lake in Verona Park, NJ in Autumn


Batsto Village in Burlington County, NJ

We recently made a trip to Batsto Village, a historic site located within Washington Township in the Pine Barrens. It is listed on both the New Jersey and National Register of Historic Places and administered by the Division of Parks and Forestry, part of New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection.


An ironmaster by the name of Charles Read built the Batsto Iron Works along the Batsto River. It would eventually grow into the Batsto Village. Over the years it changed hands a number of times, with the last private owner being Joseph Wharton, who purchased it in 1876. Wharton, a founder of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, refurbished many of the buildings in the Village. In addition, launched a number of forestry and agricultural projects, including cranberry farming and a sawmill.


In the 1950s the State of New Jersey bought the Wharton properties and it is now a State Park with a Visitors Center and a small museum. It is well worth a visit.

Batsto Village, Hammonton, NJ USA — August 28, 2017 Barns , fencing and a meadow in the historic town of Batsto, NJ, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Batsto Village, Hammonton, NJ USA — August 28, 2017 The Blacksmith and Wheelhouse shop in the historic town of Batsto, NJ , listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Photo of Batso Lake in HIstoric Batsto Village

Batsto Village, Hammonton, NJ USA — August 28, 2017 The Mansion House in historic Batsto, village, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.