Posted by: kerryl29 | March 21, 2017

South Florida: An Introduction

In mid-February I spent about a week photographing in South Florida.  It was an interesting experience, for a number of reasons, which I’ll outline below.  Unlike most of the photography trips I’ve taken over the past few years, however, I’m not going to produce a daily chronology on this blog, for two principal reasons.  The first is that I think the format has become a bit stale and I’m hoping a different approach will liven things up.  The second reason?  There are some broader points that I want to make about the photographic experience and I don’t want the themes to be lost in the wash.

Long Pine Lake in Morning Fog Black & White, Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida

Egrets in Flight, Pah-hay-okee, Everglades National Park, Florida

Why was this particular trip so interesting?  Because it deviated in so many ways from just about every other photo trip I’ve ever taken.  Specifically…

Snowy Egret, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Cypress Swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Planning (or Lack Thereof)

Almost without exception–perhaps entirely without exception–every other photographic trip I’ve made over the years has involved lengthy, copious planning.  This one?  Not so much.  I was not anticipating making a trip in February…or this winter more broadly (more on this specific point below).  The idea wasn’t even broached until some time in mid-December; my wife (bless her) suggested I go and, when I more or less brushed the notion off, strongly encouraged me until I caved some time in the first half of January and started taking the idea seriously.  It wasn’t until about six weeks in advance of when I would actually leave that I began to approach this trip as something that was actually going to happen.  (By comparison, with other trips, I usually have all of my plans set in stone long in advance of six weeks prior to departure.)

Anhinga Drying Its Wings, Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park, Florida

Cypress Swamp at Sunset, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

This all required a bit of scrambling, as I attempted to put a travel itinerary together and decide exactly where I wanted to photograph…and then try to find some resources to help me make the trip not just a reality but a successful endeavor.  I decided relatively early on in the process that I wanted to focus primarily on the Everglades.  It’s a place that has always intrigued me, though I’d never visited.  In fact, prior to this trip, I hadn’t been down to South Florida in roughly 20 years and I’d only been to the region once since I was a little kid in the early 1970s.  I had been a regular participant in annual baseball tournaments in Florida for nearly 15 years, but those had all been held in Sarasota or Bradenton, on Florida’s central Gulf Coast–a long way from southeast Florida.

Long Pine Lake Sunrise, Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida

White Ibis, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

So I was almost completely in the dark about photographing in the Everglades–or anywhere else in the area.  My wife found several used books on Florida natural areas, which were helpful, and I found an ebook guide to photographing in Everglades National Park, which was a huge asset.  In fact, it was the discovery of the ebook that really made me start taking the notion of the trip as a realistic option because I finally felt as though I had some direction.

Trade Winds, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

Great Blue Heron, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

In addition to the Everglades, where I expected to spend the majority of my time, I also decided I wanted to do some ocean/beach photography and that’s what led me to spend most of a day in the Florida Keys and the last couple of days near Jupiter Island, about 90 minutes north of Miami.

Stormy Morning Black & White, Coral Cove Park, Palm Beach County, Florida

Submerged Alligator, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

While I won’t be producing a chronology of entries, here is how I ultimately allocated my time (which was eight full days plus one morning):

Day 1:  Everglades, south section (heavily weighted towards exploration)

Day 2:  Everglades, south section

Day 3:  sunrise, Everglades south section; rest of the day spent in the Keys

Day 4:  Everglades, Shark Valley section and Big Cypress National Preserve

Day 5:  sunrise, Everglades south section;  late morning/early afternoon at Big Cypress National Preserve; sunset, Everglades south section

Day 6:  Everglades, south section

Day 7:  sunrise, Everglades south section; relocation to Jupiter, Florida; exploring Blowing Rocks Preserve and Coral Cove Park

Day 8:  sunrise, Coral Cove Park; mid-day,  Riverbend Park; sunset, Coral Cove Park

Day 9:  early morning, Coral Cove Park; travel to Miami International Airport for flight home

As you can see, the largest segment of time was spent in the southern section of the Everglades, by far the largest area of the park open to exploration.

Great Egret, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Approaching Sunset, Mahogany Hammock Road, Everglades National Park, Florida

Subject Matter

As everyone who’s been reading this blog for any period of time knows, I’m a landscape photographer.  Full stop.  I don’t photograph much of anything else and on the rare occasions when I do it’s essentially unorchestrated.  I don’t plan trips centered around photographing anything but the landscape.  That’s mostly true with regard to this trip as well, but not entirely.  I expected to have the opportunity to do a fair amount of bird photography (based on conversations with people I know who have spent time photographing in South Florida, and based on the aforementioned ebook).  And this turned out to be the case.  I spent a lot of time photographing birds.  In fact, on several occasions during the trip, I went to specific locations with the express intent of doing just that.  I spent more time photographing wildlife (mostly birds, but alligators as well) on this trip than I have on all of the other trips I’ve ever taken combined.  What’s more, I spent a surprising amount of time doing something I’ve never, ever tried to do before:  photographing birds in flight.

Brown Pelican in Flight, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

It all made for an interesting change of pace and while I’m still no wildlife photographer (not by a long shot) I learned a lot and have some things to say on the subject.

Alligator on Stump, Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park, Florida

The Landscape that is the Everglades

I’d never been to the Everglades prior to this trip but I’d seen photos of the place over the years and have spoken to others who have been there.  Based on this “indirect” experience, I was expecting landscape photography to be a particular challenge and to a greater or lesser extent, it was.  There’s really no place on earth quite like the Everglades and I’ve certainly never photographed anywhere remotely like it.  Large portions of the park are probably most similar, in broad appearance, to the open prairie of the Great Plains…only flatter.

Long Pine Lake at Sunrise, Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida

I live in what is widely regarded as the flat lands–northern Illinois, central Indiana–but Florida is another kind of flat.  How flat?  There are two spots along the park road that runs from the entrance to the southern section of the Everglades, just west of the town of Florida City, for more than 50 miles to the visitors center at Flamingo, on the Bay of Florida, that display the elevation (i.e. above sea level).  One sign reads “4 feet.”  The other reads “3 feet.”  It’s a kind of inside joke, but it’s entirely apropos; there’s simply no elevation change to speak of, anywhere.

Long Pine Key Sunset, Long Pine Key Trail, Everglades National Park, Florida

So, yes, this makes for challenging photography.  But I knew (more or less) what I was getting into and was anxious to take it on.  And I can say that the beauty of the place–a kind of haunting beauty–became more and more apparent with each passing day.  I always try to let a place reveal how it wants to be photographed rather than impose myself on the landscape, and I think I had at least some success in so doing.  I’ll discuss this in more detail in a future post.

Roseate Spoonbill, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Time of Year

Prior to this experience, I had never taken a photo trip during wintertime.  Not once.  And, admittedly, South Florida isn’t exactly what typically comes to mind when one mentions winter photography (think:  snow and ice).  But it still provided certain inherent challenges, involving potential travel issues for instance (which I was lucky enough to avoid) and clothing.  It’s not a point worthy of a blog entry, but it’s part of what made this trip different.

Piping Plovers, Bahia Honda State Park, Bahia Honda Key, Florida

*                                                   *                                                    *

Some of the above topics will serve as focal points for individual entries detailing the trip; I’ll also use the Florida experience as the locus for posts covering subjects I’ve previously stated an intention to cover, such as the importance of scouting.

Long Pine Lake at Sunrise, Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida

Wood Stork in Flight, Paurotis Pond, Everglades National Park, Florida

Regardless, I hope you find the descriptions of the experience remotely as interesting I found the experience itself.

Moonset, Long Pine Key, Everglades National Park, Florida

I left off last time by describing the majority of my final day in New England, spent in various parts of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.  It was late afternoon by the time I reached the area around Lower Falls and the Rocky Gorge Scenic Areas on the Kancamagus Highway, locations I’d visited on Day 6.  As I was eastbound, I came to Rocky Gorge first and noted, without surprise, how much farther along the color was than it had been nine days earlier.

Rocky Gorge Scenic Area, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Rocky Gorge Scenic Area, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

After I poked along the Swift River bank a bit I crossed the footbridge and revisited Falls Pond.  There was a bit of breeze but at times the wind died down, allowing for the capture of reflections.

Falls Pond, Rocky Gorge Scenic Area, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

But I spent most of my time picking out tight “across the water” compositions with a telephoto lens, with an emphasis on color contrasts amid the predominant dark greens of the prevalent conifers surrounding the pond.

Falls Pond, Rocky Gorge Scenic Area, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Falls Pond, Rocky Gorge Scenic Area, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Lower Falls is only a couple of miles east of Rocky Gorge and I stopped there next.  The area was extremely crowded–it was the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend–and it was getting colder as we neared the end of the day under still slate-gray skies.  I noticed how tired I was when I got out of the car; I suppose that I shouldn’t have been surprised given that this was the 15th straight day of burning the candle at both ends.  But I milled around the Lower Falls area and waited for people to move as I scoped out a few compositions–like the intimate below of submerged leaves–that I hoped were different than those I’d captured at the same location on Day 6.

Lower Falls Area, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I worked my way upstream, and produced an image or two featuring the colorful backdrop of maple and beech trees.  I waited, with some annoyance, for someone to move off a rock in the mid-ground.

Lower Falls Area, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

The fact that I was annoyed by someone standing on a rock admiring the view should have been a warning to me.  When people–who have every bit as much right to be in a place as I do–are annoying me by being in my shot (without even knowing it; it’s not as though the person on the rock could have possibly known that he was in my field of view) it’s always a clear sign that I’m running out of gas and my judgment is becoming a bit fuzzy.  So, a few moments later, when I decided to hop onto a small, slanted, wet rock about 50 yards farther upstream, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that it didn’t go well.  In fact, in the cold light of failure afterward, I couldn’t believe that I even tried to leap on that rock because there was no way I could have done so without mishap; it was an impossibility.  What a stupid thing to do.  And, again, it demonstrated just how tired I was.  I guess I was experiencing a bit of overconfidence borne from having successfully rock hopped at various creeks, streams, brooks and rivers over the past two weeks.  And did I mention that I wasn’t thinking all that clearly?

In the greater scheme of things, it certainly could have been a whole lot worse.  I was carrying only my tripod and my camera was slung around my neck.  (My backpack was safely stored on shore, about 20 feet away.)  And I didn’t even fall; nor was my equipment impacted in any way.  I just slipped off the rock–it was inevitable–after trying to make the leap, and landed with one foot in the river, with water up to mid-calf, roughly speaking.  So there was no injury.  But my hiking boot filled up with water instantly…and it was cold.  Very cold.  And my sock was soaked.

And with that, I decided that the photo day was over.  I sloshed back to the car and wrung out the wet sock.  I had a change of footwear (which I put on), but I didn’t have a replacement pair of socks with me in the car.  Time to go back to the hotel, I decided, get a change of clothes and call it a trip.  There was only an hour or so of daylight left anyway and it was still cloudy.  No loss.  Besides, I’d already demonstrated that I was finished, psychologically.  So, with the heater on to help obviate a wet, cold foot, I began the 20-plus minute drive back to North Conway.

But…and you knew there would be a “but”…on the way, I noticed in the rearview mirror a line of clearing on the western horizon.  There just might be a sunset after all, I thought.  And then again, there might not.  But by the time I reached the junction with NH-16–where  a left turn would take me back to North Conway, I could see that there might really be a decent shot at a sunset.

As I drove north on NH-16 I saw, on the other side of the road, a kind of unofficial pullout that looked like an interesting overlook facing west.  There were already a bunch of people there watching the sun as it sunk toward the mountains.  There was no way that I could cross the road to see for myself–too much traffic on this relatively high speed road–but I decided at this point, wet foot be damned, that I was going to try to head to an overlook I’d found north of North Conway that I’d identified a few days earlier as a possible sunset location.  It was an “official” overlook; a paved pullout with a small roadside park (I later discovered that it’s called the Intervale Scenic Vista…and I subsequently discovered that the view isn’t all that phenomenal…but I didn’t know that at the time).  So I drove into North Conway and hit the downtown area–probably two or three miles from my destination…and hit one of the worst traffic jams I’ve seen in a long time.  I mean, the traffic was at a dead stop and went on for I don’t know how long; I could see at least a half-mile in front of me and there was a line of cars heading into oblivion.  The jam was northbound only, but that was the direction I wanted to go.  Meanwhile, the sky to the west was getting nicer and nicer…and after about five minutes of sitting I realized that I had no shot at getting to that overlook north of town before dark.  So, I made a U-turn in the hopes of getting to the “unofficial” overlook I’d caught a glimpse of on the way into town.  I had no idea if I’d get there in time and I had no idea if it was photo-worthy…but I knew that Plan A was cooked and I’d better implement a Plan B immediately, even if I was unsure of its potential.

So, I got back to the unofficial overlook–which was on my side of the road this time as I was now headed south–as quickly as possible.  It probably took about five minutes though it seemed like 10-15.  And when I arrived there were at least three times as many people there as I’d seen the first time–an indication that I might be on to something.  Cars were clogging up the traffic lane.  Seeing this, I parked in an empty spot along the side of the road at least 500 feet shy of where the “action” was and grabbed my equipment, doing my best to ignore my extremely wet, extremely cold foot.

When the scene came into view, I knew I’d made the right–make that the lucky–call.  It was beautiful and the sky was just about set to explode into one of the ten or so nicest sunsets I’ve ever seen.  The place was crawling with people, some of whom had their phones out trying to capture what was unfolding in front of them.  There was one other photographer there with a tripod already set up.  He saw me coming, looking for a place to set up, and in a moment of true magnanimity, waved me toward himself and created enough room for me to squeeze in with my gear.  I thanked him profusely, got out my camera with the 24-70 mm lens attached and quickly went about metering the scene and fine tuning the composition.

I quickly decided that there were two ways to capture the scene.  Colorful trees lay in the immediate foreground on a slope below us.  The Sacco River made a wide bend in the mid-ground.  And the White Mountains–fronted by a layer of mist–and an incredible sky lay in the background.  The only question was whether to point the camera so the river was to the left-hand side of the composition or the right-hand side.  I quickly decided to play with both options.  Multiple exposures would be necessary–the dynamic range was off the charts–so I hastily established a five-frame/one-stop apart bracketing set and waited for the light.  I captured a mess of sequences of both compositions, and I’ve included one of each below.  Both essentially represent the sky at the height of its display.  We were looking just about due west so the shot that had the river bend on the right-hand side–which caused me to face southwest–included a more dynamic sky than the other option which was facing either directly west or even west-by-northwest.  I’m still not at all certain that I don’t like the second shot best, but it remains an open question.  Regardless, it was by far the most impressive sunrise/sunset I’d seen on the entire trip.  In fact, as I noted above, it was one of the better sunsets I’ve ever seen, anywhere.

White Mountains National Forest Sunset, Carroll County, New Hampshire

White Mountains National Forest Sunset, Carroll County, New Hampshire

Eventually–it took a long, long time–the sky show faded and it grew dark.  Most of the crowd had left by that time and my benefactor (turned out he was from Madison, Wisconsin, just a couple of hours from the Chicago area) and I said goodbye (he was off to Maine the next morning) after chatting for a few minutes.  My foot was freezing at this point, but I hardly cared.  Had I ever gotten lucky.  Without the stupid calamity with the rock at Lower Falls I probably wouldn’t have headed back early to North Conway and without the traffic jam I would never have returned to this spot.  In fact, without having headed back early, I never would have even known that such a spot existed.  I’d been on that stretch of road several times earlier but it was always in the pitch dark–either long before sunrise or long after sunset.

But sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.  And this was one of those times because it provided a fitting, glorious end to an excellent trip.

Posted by: kerryl29 | March 6, 2017

Day 15: An Appropriate Send-Off – The Prelude

After spending most of Day 14 in Pinkham Notch I had returned to North Conway via Crawford Notch where a brief inspection had revealed the color to be excellent.  With the day’s forecast calling for overcast conditions throughout I planned to start out in Crawford Notch with my first stop Arethusa Falls.

A guidebook I was using gushed–pardon the pun–over Arethusa Falls, calling it a “must see” destination.  When I had driven past the trailhead the previous day it was so crowded the cars were spilling out on the highway from the parking area.  This was Columbus Day weekend in the White Mountains and things were busy everywhere.  I decided that if I wanted to photograph at Arethusa Falls without being constantly frustrated by the unwanted presence of countless other visitors, I better get there early.   Since the forecast indicated that there wouldn’t be a visible sunrise, I planned to arrive at daybreak.

The forecast was correct; there wasn’t a hint of a sunrise that morning and when I arrived at the Arethusa Falls parking area at dawn it was blissfully deserted.  The hike to/from the falls involves an approximate 4 1/2 miles round trip with considerable elevation change, so I grabbed my backpack and tripod and quickly hit the trail.  There were a fair number of fresh leaves on the ground along the way, and I took note of some possible intimate shots for potential further investigation on the return.

When I reached the falls after a hike of roughly 45 minutes I was immediately disappointed; the water flow was quite weak.  To make matters worse, the descent to the base of the falls was a problematic climb between and over a series of boulders.  I dutifully undertook it and then determined it to have been a waste of time; I couldn’t find a compelling composition, so I retreated back to the high point where the falls had first come into view and resumed the search for a perspective that interested me.  After much consideration, I finally found something I liked, though it required a two-image stack to pull it off.

Arethusa Falls, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Arethusa Falls, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Somewhat disappointed–had the effort to reach the falls really been worth it?–I began the process of returning to the car.  I began to see the occasional party of hikers heading towards the falls on my return, but I stopped at one of the spots I’d identified on the way in to make an intimate image that I found interesting.  What you see below represents a six-image focus stack.  This scene was fairly characteristic of much of the trail; there were many fresh leaves down.

Arethusa Falls Trail, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Arethusa Falls Trail, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

When I got back to the parking area it was, obviously, much brighter than it had been when I arrived and I now saw some marvelous color in the trees in the notch.  I pulled out the telephoto lens and made a few images.

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

I then made the drive to Silver Cascades, a location I’d scouted in bright, sunny conditions on Day 12.  Silver Cascades is an interesting place.  Essentially, the cascade is a ribbon of water that drops several hundred feet, in steps, down a cliff face.  It’s visible from the road and that’s where the vast majority of people photograph it–from a bridge along the highway.  Water flow, however, wasn’t good so the view from the bottom wasn’t very impressive when it came to the waterfall itself; the color, however, was excellent, as it was throughout Crawford Notch as a whole.

On Day 12, I had climbed up the rock face (it’s not difficult at all) in the crevice where the Silver Cascades is located to see if I could find any views that I found more compelling than the one from the base.  I had discovered a thick clutch of ferns, many of which had begun to yellow, that could be used as a foreground.  So when I returned to the location I made a beeline to this spot.  If you look hard you can see a bit of the cascade near the upper-middle of the frame below.

Silver Cascades, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Silver Cascades, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

The other thing I’d noticed when I scouted the Silver Cascades rock face on Day 12 was that there were some terrific views of the trees on the other side of the notch from this height.  Now, three days later, they were at peak color.

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

I returned to the area around Willey Pond in Crawford Notch.  The slopes there were a tremendous  wealth of color.  From where I stood, the slopes were brilliant, rich yellows, reds and oranges mixed with the dark green of the coniferous trees.  I pulled out the telephoto lens and went to town.

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Color, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

There’s a covered bridge in Jackson, New Hampshire that I’d caught a glimpse of when I’d made my way in and out of the southern end of Pinkham Notch on Day 14.  So on this day, when I was done in Crawford Notch, I made a brief detour up NH-16 and found the bridge.  It was raining lightly when I was there and after viewing the bridge from street level I decided to explore the perspective from river level.  Down on the bank I saw an impressive set of boulders and a nice bed of bright, fresh leaves.  I set the tripod up low, placing the rocks and leaves in the foreground.  Again, a focus stack set produced the image you see below.

Honeymoon Covered Bridge, Carroll Covered Bridge, New Hampshire

Honeymoon Covered Bridge, Carroll Covered Bridge, New Hampshire

I retreated south on NH-16, in the direction of US-302.  Near the junction of the US-302 and NH-16 I came upon a tall stand of pines intermixed with smaller deciduous trees that were a riot of color.

Color Amidst the Pines, Carroll County, New Hampshire

Color Amidst the Pines, Carroll County, New Hampshire

I made my way back to the Kancamagus Highway by way of Bear Notch Road and gradually made my west to Hancock Overlook, a spot I had scouted when I made my way from Maine to Vermont via the Kanc on Day 6.

Hancock Overlook, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Hancock Overlook, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

As nice as the view from the overlook was, the trees on the other side of the Kanc from the Hancock parking area captured my attention.

Hancock Overlook, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Hancock Overlook, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Hancock Overlook, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Hancock Overlook, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I started my way east, in the direction of North Conway.  It was now late afternoon and the sky was every bit as cloudy as it had been at first light.  With no expectation of a sunset in my future I stopped at any point along the road that caught my attention, including a towering, willowy birch backed by riotous color.

Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

My next stops were at the adjoining Lower Falls and Rocky Gorge Scenic Areas and it was the events here that led to a remarkable, serendipitous set of occurrences that concluded the day–and my New England photographic excursion.  I’ll tell that story in the next post.

Posted by: kerryl29 | February 27, 2017

New England, Day 14: Primarily Pinkham Notch

On Day 14 of my trip to New England, I decided to leverage much of the scouting that I’d done during Day 13 in Pinkham Notch, starting with sunrise from an overlook I’d found along the highway (NH-16).

Pinkham Notch Sunrise, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pinkham Notch Sunrise, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pinkham Notch Sunrise, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pinkham Notch Sunrise, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pinkham Notch Sunrise, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pinkham Notch Sunrise, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

From the overlook, it was a short drive to the open fields below Mt. Washington, where, I’d discovered, 360 degree views of the surrounding peaks were available.  I was particularly attracted to a bright red maple that stood near a stream, not far from the (empty) overflow parking lot for the ride up to Mt. Washington.

Mt. Washington View, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Mt. Washington View, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Compositions including this tree could be created from multiple positions and I slowly moved around to all of them.

Mt. Washington View, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Mt. Washington View, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Mt. Washington View, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Mt. Washington View, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Mt. Washington View, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Mt. Washington View, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Finally, I pulled out the long lens and produced a shot or two that excluded the red maple.

Mt. Washington View at Sunrise, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Mt. Washington View at Sunrise, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

My next stop was a quick run up to Square Ledges, a rock outcropping up a steep trail that leads to a great view.  The final ascent up to the ledge required a bit of scrambling, but nothing too onerous and soon I found myself looking out at the White Mountains, facing directly into a stiff breeze.

Square Ledges Overlook, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Square Ledges Overlook, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I made my way to a spot on the ledge where I was standing in a gap with a huge boulder to my right and a tree to my left.  It was too windy to incorporate the tree directly in the composition (the tree was probably too tall to effectively include in any event), but the angle of the sun was casting a shadow of the tree–a conifer–on the boulder and I very deliberately included it for foreground interest.

Square Ledges Overlook, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Square Ledges Overlook, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Square Ledges Overlook, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Square Ledges Overlook, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Before I descended the trail I produced some telephoto images of the colorful trees below.

Square Ledges Overlook Color, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Square Ledges Overlook Color, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I then made a quick run–or hike, more accurately–to Lost Pond, which I’d scouted the previous day.   Compositions here were limited.

Lost Pond, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Lost Pond, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

While the skies at day break–and shortly thereafter–were mostly clear, the forecast for the day was for overcast conditions and it wasn’t long before the clouds rolled in (as you can see from the Lost Pond image).  I had anticipated this and planned the day accordingly.  My next stop was a pullout along NH-16 that I’d discovered during the previous day’s scout.  I’d identified several tight shots at this location that required even light, something that hadn’t been present during the scouting session.  Now it was and, fortunately, this spot was relatively sheltered, so the trees weren’t significantly disturbed by the wind.

Pinkham Notch Color, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pinkham Notch Color, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pinkham Notch Color, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pinkham Notch Color, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pinkham Notch Color, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pinkham Notch Color, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I now returned to one of the trails that I’d hiked without equipment the day before.  This one led to Crystal Cascades, a series of cataracts topped off by a 90-foot waterfall.  I had to wait out the breeze when trying to photograph this location, but I thought it was well worth it.

Cyrstal Cascade, Ravine Trail, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Cyrstal Cascade, Ravine Trail, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

One tier of cascades allowed fairly close access, so I descended from the trail into the creek bed and produced a series of shots.  Again, patience was required because the scene demanded a slow shutter speed (to render the water) but the breeze was playing frequent havoc with the foliage.  I had to wait for lulls, particularly for those compositions that included overhanging branches in the foreground.

Cyrstal Cascade, Ravine Trail, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Cyrstal Cascade, Ravine Trail, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Cyrstal Cascade, Ravine Trail, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Cyrstal Cascade, Ravine Trail, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I finally made it up to the main waterfall, which really only had one good vantage point from which to photograph it.  It was impossible to get the depth of field I needed with one shot, so I produced two, which I stacked to produce the image you see below.

Cyrstal Cascade, Ravine Trail, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Cyrstal Cascade, Ravine Trail, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

My next destination was Glen Ellis Falls, a spot I hadn’t been able to scout the previous day.  A guide book I had access to highly recommended a visit to this spot and, though it was rather crowded, I didn’t regret doing so.  The falls are accessed by following a relatively short paved walkway that runs along the Ellis River, downstream.  I though the rapids above the falls were fairly interesting and decided to explore them on the way back.  There are several observations points built into the trail, one of which is worse for photographing the falls than the next.  I determined quickly that good perspectives of Glen Ellis Falls could only be obtained by descending down to creek level.  Doing so required climbing down a series of boulders–nothing too onerous.

The falls are divided into two tiers, a principle one lies above a series of smaller cataracts.  I decided to do the smaller set first.

Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Glen Ellis Falls Black & White, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Glen Ellis Falls Black & White, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Any chance of including both tiers of falls in the same shot would have required crossing to the other side of the river below the lower cataract and I couldn’t find any safe we to do that and thus abandoned the idea.  The best shots of the upper tier, I determined, also required crossing the river, something I could see that would be fairly easily accomplished with a bit of rock hopping above the lower tier of falls.  I managed to do so without incident.

Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Glen Ellis Falls, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I then climbed back up the path to check out the Ellis River rapids above the upper falls.  There were a couple of perspectives I found highly compelling but it was a tricky matter to get into position to photograph them, because the rock surfaces were so slick.  There wasn’t any real danger of falling down into the creek; the concern was tumbling down a rock face to a lower ledge.  But I persevered and got the shots I was looking for, both of which required focus stacking.

Ellis River, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Ellis River, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Ellis River, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Ellis River, Pinkham Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

By this time it was mid-afternoon and given the persistent overcast conditions, I decided to return to Crawford Notch and photograph the waterfall there that I’d scouted the previous day:  Ripley Falls.  This required a 2.5-mile roundtrip hike, but I’d made it during the scouting session the day before and found it quite easy.  Given the low water flow and the maze of boulders at the foot of the falls finding compelling compositions was a bit tricky.

Ripley Falls, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hasmpshire

Ripley Falls, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hasmpshire

Ripley Falls Black & White, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hasmpshire

Ripley Falls Black & White, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hasmpshire

Ripley Falls, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hasmpshire

Ripley Falls, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hasmpshire

Ripley Falls, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hasmpshire

Ripley Falls, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hasmpshire

After returning to the trailhead, I made an image or two of the notch itself.

Crawford Notch Color, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Crawford Notch Color, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

With only an hour or so before “sunset” (there would be no visible sunset on this day), I decided to end the day with a quick stop in Bear Notch, to focus on some intimate images that I’d identified during my visit to this location on Day 12.

Bear Notch Maple Intimate, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Bear Notch Maple Intimate, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Red Maple, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Red Maple, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Bear Notch Maple Intimate, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Bear Notch Maple Intimate, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

When darkness fell, the penultimate full day of photography on this trip to New England came to an end.  I was determined to make the next day–the last full day–in New Hampshire a productive one and I would succeed, almost in spite of myself.

Posted by: kerryl29 | February 13, 2017

New England, Day 13: Return to Evans Notch

If you’ve been following this series of posts since the beginning, you may recall that I poked my nose, figuratively speaking, into Evans Notch on Day 5 and Day 6.  As a refresher, Evans Notch is a mostly north-south gap in the White Mountains, most of which lies just across the New Hampshire border in Maine.  Only the extreme southern edge of the notch–Basin Pond–is on the New Hampshire side of the state line.  When I explored the area on Days 5 and 6, the area was still quite green.  This was particularly true of the Basin Pond region, which had just begun to show signs of color, but was largely true of the rest of the notch as well.  My hope was that a week’s time had caused the area to change and I would see for myself that morning.

Despite the lack of color I had photographed at Basin Pond at sunrise on Day 6, and then had driven to Conway, New Hampshire as a prelude to my first journey across the Kancamagus Highway on my to Vermont, so I knew the route.  I would be reversing the trip on this morning and I had the added difficulty of making my way in the dark.  Fortunately I had the spot marked on my GPS.

When I arrived at Basin Pond, the light was just beginning to come up.  It was clear, chilly and essentially windless.  As it got brighter I could see that a week’s time had indeed produced a great deal of progression in the color of the foliage.  It probably wasn’t quite at peak yet, but it was pretty close.  The temperature/humidity combination produced some mist at the pond’s surface; just enough to add some atmosphere.

Basin Pond at Dawn, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Basin Pond at Dawn, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

The pond’s access area was deserted when I arrived, but after I’d been there for 10 minutes or so, someone else drove up to photograph.  This gentleman, however, set up a couple of hundred yards behind me and to my right and didn’t interfere with what I was doing in any way.

Basin Pond at Sunrise, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Basin Pond at Sunrise, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

As the sun came up, direct warm light began to hit the slopes surrounding the pond.

Basin Pond at Sunrise, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Basin Pond at Sunrise, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I followed the shadow line as it slid across the mountainside in front of me, and ultimately switched to my ultra wide angle lens.

Basin Pond at Sunrise, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Basin Pond at Sunrise, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I changed my shooting position, modestly, on several occasions.  Doing so had a significant effect on the compositional outcome.

Basin Pond at Sunrise, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Basin Pond at Sunrise, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Basin Pond at Sunrise, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Basin Pond at Sunrise, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

A quick switch to a telephoto lens, concentrating on a part of the pond that remained in open shade, highlighted the effect of the mist.  I could hear a flock of geese, at the far end of the pond, honking away and splashing around.

Basin Pond Mist, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Basin Pond Mist, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

When I finished at the pond, I made the five-minute drive north, to the Brickett Place setting.  This structure, now used by the U.S. Forest Service, was built more than 200 years ago.  I had scouted this location on Day 5, and now I took advantage of that experience.  The sun was kissing the tops of some of the trees but the light remained soft enough, roughly 30 minutes after sunrise, to remain shootable.

Brickett Place, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Brickett Place, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

From here, I drove straight to the trailhead for the Roost and made the now familiar relatively-short-but extremely-steep hike up to the overlook.  My experience there on Day 5 had been useful; this was definitely a better morning than afternoon location.

View from The Roost, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

View from The Roost, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

The view from this location is impressive, looking essentially to the southwest.

View from The Roost, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

View from The Roost, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Since there were no clouds present, I minimized the sky in my compositions, including the eight image panorama stitch that you see below.

View from The Roost Panorama, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

View from The Roost Panorama, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

On some shots, I eliminated the sky altogether.

View from The Roost, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

View from The Roost, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

View from The Roost, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

View from The Roost, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

There were quite a few leaves on the ground along the trail–really the first time I’d seen this volume of leaves of down during the trip–and on the way back down I found a shady spot to produce the intimate image you see below.

Forest Floor, The Roost Trail, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Forest Floor, The Roost Trail, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

This, believe it or not, was the final image I made until well into the afternoon this day.  The entire day was clear, or nearly so, and it became quite breezy.  The conditions simply weren’t suitable for shooting given my subject matter and location so I spent the next six or seven hours scouting.  The first couple of hours of that time was spent in the notch itself, heading north.  I stopped a number of times to explore areas of Evans Brook and the Wild River and some of their tributaries, literally climbing into the creek bed on a number of occasions.  My hope was to find locations that would be compelling in the even light that would be present late in the afternoon.  I found numerous interesting spots and it didn’t take long before I discovered that most of these areas in Evans Notch were at peak color.  This discovery, plus the fruits of the scouting session, convinced me that a return to the notch to photograph later in the day was a must.

It was late morning by the time I reached the northern edge of Evans Notch, at US-2.  I decided to head west–and then south on NH-16–to Pinkham Notch, an area of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire that I hadn’t yet explored.  I spent 3-4 hours doing so, without ever taking my camera out of the bag.  I stopped first at a wide-open meadow, near the Mt. Washington Auto Road, to scout some interesting views of Mt. Washington and some of the surrounding peaks.  It was a completely blue sky day at this point, with copious wind, so photography was out of the question, but I busily marked spots near the overflow parking area for the road to Mt. Washington and further south on NH-16.  When I reached the Pinkham Notch Lodge–a jumping off point for numerous trails–I stopped again and did some hiking.  I checked out the Square Ledges Trail, the Lost Pond Trail.  It was seven or eight miles in all, but it was remarkable how easy it all seemed, given that I didn’t have my gear with me.  I took plenty of mental notes, with the expectation of returning at a different time on another day.

By mid-afternoon I’d finished my hiking and returned to the area near Evans Notch.  The light was still too harsh, so I spent about 30 minutes retracing River Road, just north of US-2 in Maine.  I’d photographed along this road on Day 1 of the trip; it was nearly two weeks later, so I was interested to see what the area looked like.   I ended up being disappointed.  The light wasn’t going to flatter the conditions regardless, but there was in fact little to be flattered.  The color–what there was of it–was dull and uninteresting.

The River Road scouting session didn’t pay any direct dividends but it killed some time and I made the short drive to the northern edge of Evans Notch and returned to some of the spots I’d marked that morning.

Evans Notch Color, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Evans Notch Color, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

I made my way to one of the Wild River locations I’d identified and worked with some interesting reflections in some of the small pools.

Wild River Reflections, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Wild River Reflections, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

I then returned to the first of several spots on Evans Brook that I’d visited earlier in the day.  This was another location with strong reflection possibilities.

Evans Brook Reflections, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Evans Brook Reflections, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Evans Brook, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Evans Brook, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

About 30 minutes before sunset I found my way to boulder-strewn location on Evans Brook that I’d noted was especially promising during my morning scout.  This is where I would end the day.

Evans Brook, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Evans Brook, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

I really like this spot.  In even light, it has everything–great foreground options with all of the boulders, some nice rapids, excellent background color.

Evans Brook, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Evans Brook, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Evans Brook, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Evans Brook, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Ultimately, I carefully rock-hopped out into the middle of the brook for a “head on” perspective.

Evans Brook, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Evans Brook, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

I made my way back to the bank and picked my way over the boulders to the point where I had left my pack and began putting away my belongings.  The sun was down by now and it was getting dark.  I took one look behind me…and set up my tripod one last time.

Evans Brook at Dusk, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Evans Brook at Dusk, Evans Notch, White Mountain National Forest, Maine

Posted by: kerryl29 | February 8, 2017

Thematic Interruption: The “M” Setting

A bit more than two weeks ago Thom Hogan posted an article on his website that essentially provided a series of “assignments” for photographers to fulfill.  The first assignment was to go out with a camera, with exposure and focus set to manual with a single normal (i.e. 50 mm equivalent) prime lens attached and shoot for an hour or two.  The assignment is a great idea and I highly recommend that everyone read the article and follow through.

Fog & Sun, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

Fog & Sun, Bear Rocks Preserve, Dolly Sods Wilderness, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

What’s that you ask?  Did I actually go out and do the assignment?  Well, as a matter of fact…no.  I didn’t.  Why not?

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Wilson Creek Beach at Sunrise, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, California

Here’s the thing:  the assignment was designed for folks who don’t ordinarily photograph in the manner described in the article.  That is to say, the assignment is for people who don’t typically expose manually.  People who don’t usually focus manually.  People who tend to use zoom lenses as a figurative crutch, and don’t change their photographic position readily.

Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Tremont, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

The reason I didn’t complete the assignment is that I do these things every time I go out to photograph:  I expose manually (and with a spot meter); I focus manually; and while I don’t use prime lenses, I spend a lot of time moving around from place to place to examine a variety of perspectives.  (Ask anyone who’s photographed with me.)  I use the zoom feature on my lenses to fine tune a composition, not to establish one.  In short, I didn’t complete the assignment because its terms mimic my standard modus operandi whenever I’m out in the field.

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Pink Canyon, Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

If, however, it doesn’t mimic your standard m.o., I encourage you to follow through on the assignment.  And here’s why.

McConnell's Mill, McConnell's Mill State Park, Pennsylvania

McConnell’s Mill, McConnell’s Mill State Park, Pennsylvania

I’m not telling you that I photograph with fully manual settings, that I expose using a spot meter and that I’m extremely mobile when investigating compositional options in the field because I’m trying to impress anyone.  I’m not trying to impress on anyone that I’m some sort of photographic purist or because I want to be patted on the back for doing things in some sort of “old-fashioned,” uncompromising way that’s somehow “the right way to do things.”  I photograph the way I do for several reasons, the least compelling of which, I think, is that this is how I learned to do it.  But the most compelling reason (again, in my view) is that…this method of shooting constantly makes me think about what I’m doing.

Mary Lake and Lake O'Hara from the Opabin Prospect, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

Mary Lake and Lake O’Hara from the Opabin Prospect, Yoho National Park, British Columbia

This process doesn’t get in the way of my vision–the je ne sais quoi of a subject that naturally captures my attention.  It’s after that moment–the exercise of seeing–that the approach I’m describing kicks in and forces me to think about how to go about capturing what I found compelling about the subject matter.  I find that it helps to go through the process–of exposure, of focus, of mobile perspective–to produce an edge of tangibleness to the otherwise intangible.  It provides for a mingling of the conscious and the subconscious.  It introduces the realm of thought directly into the aesthetic process.  It makes me, I firmly believe, a better photographer.  It makes me–if I dare use the a-word–a better artist.  And there’s the chance that it will do the same for you.

Birch Tree Twins, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Birch Tree Twins, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Posted by: kerryl29 | January 31, 2017

New England, Day 12: An Introduction to the White Mountains

I’d had the opportunity to do some scouting of the Kancamagus Highway–something of a southern edge to exploration of the White Mountains–when I drove from Maine to Vermont on Day 6.  That stood me in good stead on this day, my first based in New Hampshire.

One of the things I had determined during that day of scouting was that I wanted to photograph sunrise from a highway overlook that had an eastern view of Kancamagus Pass.  I’d found that overlook, the CL Graham Wangan Overlook, during my scouting session.  So that was my first destination on Day 12.

I gave myself an hour to make the drive from North Conway and I arrived in the dark.  There was a light wind blowing when I approached the overlook, which was unfortunate, but I ultimately moved myself into position to photograph the sunrise.  It was cold as well–not much above freezing–but I was appropriately attired.

Kancamagus Pass at Sunrise, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Pass at Sunrise, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

There was, as you can see, quite a bit of valley fog present.  Including a lot of foreground trees in the composition was out of the question, as the breeze made it impossible to obtain sharp images given the shutter speeds necessary to properly expose the scene.

Kancamagus Pass at Sunrise, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Pass at Sunrise, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Unfortunately, there were no clouds in the eastern sky, but I tried to overcome this by emphasizing the graphic nature of the scene.

Kancamagus Pass at Sunrise, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Pass at Sunrise, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Pass at Sunrise, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Kancamagus Pass at Sunrise, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

After the sun came up, I made a quick stop at the Pemiqewasset Overlook, just a short distance to the west, to catch some of the light on the peaks in that direction.  But the overlook is rather overgrown and the shooting options are limited.  I knew this from my first check of the location six days earlier, so I didn’t stay long.

Pemiqewasset Overlook, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Pemiqewasset Overlook, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I headed back east on the highway, unsure of my next stop, but I was stopped in my tracks by a view I caught from the car of the Sugar Hill Overlook.  Lower in elevation than Graham Wangan, the views of the fog enshrouded valley were quite different; it was also less windy at this overlook, so I stopped and poked around for some interesting perspectives.

Sugar Hill Overlook, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Sugar Hill Overlook, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Sugar Hill Overlook at Sunrise, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Sugar Hill Overlook at Sunrise, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

My next stop was Lily Pond, a small body of water just off the highway to the north.  This was another spot I’d investigated during my scouting session on Day 6; the color here was only so-so, as there is a great deal of coniferous growth near the pond.  But sky conditions on scouting day had been cloudy.  It was sunny this morning and the resulting reflections were remarkably enticing, so I stopped to make some images.

Lily Pond, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Lily Pond, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

All of the shots I produced were made with a telephoto lens and most required focus stacking, including the image below (a 10-image stack).

Lily Pond Reflections, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Lily Pond Reflections, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

One image for which no focus stacking was required is displayed below.

Lily Pond Reflections, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Lily Pond Reflections, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I continued east on the Kanc (as the Kancamagus Highway is known), occasionally stopping if something caught my eye.

Autumn Intimate, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Kancamagus Highway, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

When I reached Bear Notch Road, the only through road on the Kanc between Lincoln and Conway, I headed north.  Bear Notch itself is filled with interesting subject matter–primarily overlooks, waterways and trees.  I spent the rest of the morning, and the early part of the afternoon, in Bear Notch.

My first stop was at Douglas Brook, where I found myself intrigued by reflections, creek intimates and foliage.

Reflections, Douglas Brook, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Reflections, Douglas Brook, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I spotted an interesting looking boulder-strewn section of Douglas Brook on the east side of the road and climbed down the steep embankment, knee-high rubber boots adorned, and walked into the stream itself to obtain the image you see below.

Douglas Brook, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Douglas Brook, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Back on the embankment and a short distance downstream from the above shot I found myself looking straight down on a thickly leafed (mostly) yellow branch of a maple tree.

Maple Intimate, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Maple Intimate, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

And then it was on to the overlooks.  (There are several of them on Bear Notch Road.)  The light wasn’t very good when I arrived, but I still made a few images and took special note of the locations for possible future reference.  Mt. Washington could be seen in the background on this (nearly) clear sky day.

Bear Notch Overlook, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Bear Notch Overlook, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Bear Notch Overlook, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Bear Notch Overlook, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

From here, I decided to explore Crawford Notch, to the north of Bear Notch Road.  The notch is a beautiful gap in the White Mountains, broader than Bear Notch, and I spent the most of the rest of the day exploring the area.  Since the sun was out I spent the next few hours largely limiting myself to scouting.  One exception was the image you see below.

Colorful Mountainside, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Colorful Mountainside, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Eventually, when I reached the northern end of the notch, the light was just beginning to improve as the sun began its descent.  I decided to take the steep mile-long trail up to the Elephant Head Overlook, which provides a view of the notch itself, to the south.  Elephant Head is an exposed rocky outcrop that sits several hundred feet above the canyon floor.

Elephant Head Overlook, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Elephant Head Overlook, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

In the shaded area on the slope below, on the west side of the notch, the colors and the patterns stood out so I pulled out the telephoto lens.

Greens and Yellows, Elephant Head Overlook, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Greens and Yellows, Elephant Head Overlook, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I had noticed several intimate scenes on the trail on the way up and as I descended back to the trailhead, with the area of interest entirely in shadow, I decided to indulge myself.

Tree Roots and Leaves, Elephant Head Trail, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Tree Roots and Leaves, Elephant Head Trail, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Maple Leaf Closeup, Elephant Head Trail, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Maple Leaf Closeup, Elephant Head Trail, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I then worked my way back through Crawford Notch, to the south.  By the time I reached the area around Willey Pond, much of the notch was in open shade, and I used the even light to photograph a stand of birches.

Birches, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Birches, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

I also photographed, looking north, from the edge of the pond itself.

Willey Pond, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Willey Pond, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

I resumed the journey south as the sun continued to go down.  At the very southern edge of Crawford Notch State park I photographed a sun-kissed bluff towering above trees and the last wildflowers of the year.

Sunset Bluff, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Sunset Bluff, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

I spent a lot of time photographing intimates of some of the gorgeous fall color that lined both sides of the notch.

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Trees, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Trees, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Trees, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Trees, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Autumn Intimate, Crawford Notch, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

I headed back through Bear Notch, expecting that the entirely clear sky would make for an uninteresting sunset from the west-facing overlooks.  But when I reached the same overlook that I had photographed from late in the morning, I was stopped in my tracks.  The sky gradient, the light and the color of the foliage were all exquisite.

Bear Notch Overlook at Sunset, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

Bear Notch Overlook at Sunset, Bear Notch Road, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

With three more full days based in New Hampshire, I looked forward to more excellent shooting opportunities in the White Mountains.  I wasn’t to be disappointed.

Posted by: kerryl29 | January 25, 2017

New England, Day 11: The Longest Day

I spent some long days in the field during my trip to New England last fall but none any longer than the 11th day, when I was to relocate my base of operations from St. Johnsbury, Vermont to North Conway, New Hampshire.  I wasn’t certain exactly when I would make the trip east, or exactly what route I would take; I decided to let the whims of the day dictate those decisions.

I checked out of the motel in St. Johnsbury in the pre-dawn darkness and made the now familiar trip to May Pond, in Orleans County, a bit east of the town of Barton.  This would be my third visit to May Pond; the previous two had been limited photographically by wind or rain.  The forecast for sunrise was iffy (what else is new?) but I figured it was worth taking the time to see what would happen.

It was dead calm at the pond when I arrived and the light was just beginning to come, revealing a cloudy sky–but it was cloudy with some definition.  So I set up and waited.  Before any sky developments took place, I produced one (comparatively) intimate image including reflections in the shallows of a small inlet to my left.

May Pond Reflections, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond Reflections, Orleans County, Vermont

As I waited to see what would happen as the sun came up I noticed some indications of cracks in the clouds to the south and east–just enough of a break to produce the hoped-for early morning color in the sky.

May Pond at Sunrise, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Sunrise, Orleans County, Vermont

As is my typical m.o. in settings such as this, I spent some time going back and forth between wide angle and telephoto views of the scene before me.

May Pond at Sunrise, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Sunrise, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Sunrise, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Sunrise, Orleans County, Vermont

As the sun rose and the color of the clouds shifted from a reddish-pink to a more subdued, subtle color, I returned to the wide angle to better emphasize the grandeur of the scene.

May Pond at Dawn, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Dawn, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Dawn, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Dawn, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Dawn, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Dawn, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Dawn, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond at Dawn, Orleans County, Vermont

When the color in the clouds to the southeast faded, I packed up and returned in the direction I had come.  As some views to the northwest came into sight along the unpaved May Pond Road, I stopped to investigate some potential images.  I placed the emphasis, again, on the sky.

May Pond Road Morning, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond Road Morning, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond Road Morning, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond Road Morning, Orleans County, Vermont

From here, I made the relatively short trip to Burton Hill Road, the spot where I’d spent so much time photographing–in less than optimal conditions–on Day 9.  While these conditions weren’t necessarily “perfect” (whatever that means), they were different than those of Day 9, when extremely low-hanging clouds produced a highly foggy atmosphere and restricted long views.

I made my first stop at the top of a hill and shot the same segment of road that I’d photographed two days earlier, but composed the image quite differently.

Burton Hill Road Morning, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road Morning, Orleans County, Vermont

I then made my way to the same general location that had caught my attention on Day 9.

Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road Morning, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road Morning, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road View, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road View, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road View, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road View, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road Farm, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road Farm, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road View, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road View, Orleans County, Vermont

It was still fairly early in the morning at this point and I had to make a decision:  begin making my way east, toward North Conway, or commit to spending a larger chunk of the day shooting in northeast Vermont.  It appeared that it would remain mostly cloudy; I’d scarcely seen the sun the entire time I’d been based in Vermont (five days).  But despite what was shaping up to be another mostly cloudy day, I decided to stay in Vermont and revisit the area around Island Pond that I had scouted on Day 7.

I made a quick stop at Long Pond, near Lake Willoughby, before heading north.  I hoped that, given the almost windless conditions I’d experienced at May Pond, I’d be able to play with some reflections.  But, as had been the case on Day 10, there was wind at Long Pond that destroyed any semblance of reflections.  Still, I found a few subjects to shoot.  The unpaved Long Pond Road is in good condition up to and just past the pond, after which it becomes very rough, very quickly.  I drove to the “very rough” point and found some intimate scenes to work.

Long Pond Road Color, Orleans County, Vermont

Long Pond Road Color, Orleans County, Vermont

Long Pond Road Birches, Orleans County, Vermont

Long Pond Road Birches, Orleans County, Vermont

After returning to the main road and beginning my journey north, I occasionally spotted something that caught my attention and I kept pulling off to the side to take a closer look.  Sometimes I pulled out the camera and sometimes I decided against it, but the first scene that captured my attention enough to seriously investigate image-making opportunities included the barn you see in the photograph below.

Autumn Farm, Orleans County, Vermont

Autumn Farm, Orleans County, Vermont

Further along the way I passed a field full of hay bales and I found a place to pull over on the road’s narrow shoulder to make some images.

Hay Bales, Orleans County, Vermont

Hay Bales, Orleans County, Vermont

Hay Bales Black & White, Orleans County, Vermont

Hay Bales Black & White, Orleans County, Vermont

When I reached the junction of VT-5A and VT-105, I made a right on 105, heading east towards Island Pond.  It’s here that the Clyde River forms the dammed Pensioner Pond, and flows into and out of this body of water.  105 crosses the river as it flows out of the pond to the northwest just past the junction with 5A and it was here that I spotted a moose, in the river below the bridge.  Naturally I stopped and spent a good half an hour watching and photographing the moose as he dallied in the shallows below my position.

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

Moose, Clyde River, Essex County, Vermont

The moose was still in the river when I finally left and made the short drive to the public access point for Pensioner Pond.

Pensioner Pond, Essex County, Vermont

Pensioner Pond, Essex County, Vermont

On my scouting expedition several days earlier I had taken note of a stand of young birch trees on the north side of Rt. 105 and in the four days that had gone by these trees had progressed from yellow-green to full on peak, so again I stopped to compose an image or two.

Birch Stand, Essex County, Vermont

Birch Stand, Essex County, Vermont

Just a bit further east the road brushed up against the Pherrins River–a tributary of the Clyde–and, near the edge of a bridge, I found another pleasing composition.

Pherrins River, Essex County, Vermont

Pherrins River, Essex County, Vermont

Another spot I’d found on my scouting trip was located at the intersection of Rt. 105 and Center School Road, a secondary thoroughfare that bends off to the south.  On the southeast corner is a dilapidated barn that I thought served as a strong center of interest.  I pulled off the road and walked around a bit to try to identify the best perspective.  It was a bit on the breezy side here so I had to wait out the wind.

Center School Road, Essex County, Vermont

Center School Road, Essex County, Vermont

Due to the relative lack of fall color in this location I also rendered this image as monochrome.

Center School Road Black & White, Essex County, Vermont

Center School Road Black & White, Essex County, Vermont

I continued east, until I reached the outskirts of Island Pond, where some trees that had been promising in terms of color a few days earlier were now at peak.  I pulled off on a wide shoulder and, near (but not on) private property I walked around with my camera and tripod and produced a series of intimates.

Autumn Intimate, Essex County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Essex County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Essex County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Essex County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Essex County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Essex County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Essex County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Essex County, Vermont

By now it was early afternoon and I began the return trip south.  I had seen some signs of clearing skies during the late morning and that continued, incrementally, as I made my way back in the general direction of Lyndonville.

Autumn Hillside, Essex County, Vermont

Autumn Hillside, Essex County, Vermont

When I reached the area around Newark, Vermont, I paused.  I had heard a great deal about Jobs Pond, but hadn’t made the journey over there.  Doing so required traversing some miles of unfamiliar (to me) unpaved roads.  I was now near the closest access point to the pond–Newark Road–so I decided to check it out.  I made the turn off of VT–114 and slowly made my way there.  After a few miles, I saw a sign about road construction and within a few hundred yards I could see that the road was being regraded.  I wasn’t sure if I could get through, but I decided to find out and in short order I came upon a gentleman in a road grader.  He gave me a friendly wave and pulled over to let me through.  I waved back and continued on my way.

After a false start or two, I found myself at the pull-in for the public access point to Jobs Pond in a few minutes and, after seeing the scene, I was immediately glad I’d gone to the trouble of checking it out.  There was a very nice grouping of foreground rocks, a towering rocky bluff on the hillside across the pond and excellent color present.  The only downside was a bit of wind causing some ripples, but even that wasn’t all that bad.

Jobs Pond, Orleans County, Vermont

Jobs Pond, Orleans County, Vermont

I pulled out the long lens in short order.

Jobs Pond Trees, Orleans County, Vermont

Jobs Pond Trees, Orleans County, Vermont

Jobs Pond, Orleans County, Vermont

Jobs Pond, Orleans County, Vermont

Jobs Pond, Orleans County, Vermont

Jobs Pond, Orleans County, Vermont

Jobs Pond Intimate, Orleans County, Vermont

Jobs Pond Intimate, Orleans County, Vermont

I returned to Rt. 114 and resumed the trip south, but made one more stop before reaching Lydonville when a red barn, right off the road, seized my attention.

Red Barn, Caledonia County, Vermont

Red Barn, Caledonia County, Vermont

It was now mid-afternoon and considerable clearing had taken place.  I figured that I was likely to see mostly sunny conditions for the last few hours of daylight.

I had a couple of options:  I could take US-2 east and then make my way south to North Conway.  Or, I could head south via I-91/93 down toward the Kancamagus Highway and then head east to North Conway.  I had taken US-2 west when I drove to Maine on Day 1, and I had crossed the Kancamagus Highway on Day 6.  I decided that the latter option was the better choice, so that’s where I headed.

But as I made my way south on the Interstate highway I remembered that I’d wanted to check out the area around Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.  I had driven through this general area, briefly, as it was getting dark on Day 6 and I knew that if I didn’t do it now I wouldn’t ever really have the opportunity to it again on this trip.  So when I reached the Franconia exit on the highway I took it, and slowly made my way toward Sugar Hill.

I had been told to check out the views on Sunset Hill Road in Sugar Hill, so I made my way there and reached the location about 90 minutes before sunset.  I walked up and down the road several times and stopped on a couple of occasions to pull out the camera.

Late Afternoon, Sunset Hill Road, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Late Afternoon, Sunset Hill Road, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Late Afternoon View, Sunset Hill Road, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Late Afternoon View, Sunset Hill Road, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Late Afternoon View, Sunset Hill Road, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Late Afternoon View, Sunset Hill Road, Grafton County, New Hampshire

From here, I kind of drifted fairly aimlessly and found myself driving down Easton Road, heading south.  I reached a point where a farm, behind a stone wall, spread out on a slope to the east.  The stone wall and a line of adjoining birches caught my eye.  When I went to investigate the spot along the road I could see, across the field, a very intriguing line of birch trees backed by colorful maples.  I wanted to get a closer look, but doing so would have involved crossing a large swath of the field…which was, of course, on private property.  There were no “private property” or “no trespassing” signs present, but it was clearly private property and I’m extremely reluctant to wander around on private property, posted or not, particularly in rural areas.  Instead, I returned to the car for my gear and I spent some time playing with a few compositions, all of them accessible from the public roadside and all of which required some form of focus stacking to pull off.

Easton Road Farm, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Easton Road Farm, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Easton Road Farm, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Easton Road Farm, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Shortly after producing these shots, I was standing there, longingly looking at the elements of the shot I really wanted (the stand of birches and maples across the field), when I saw a very excited Springer spaniel bounding toward me.  She was very friendly, so I let her sniff my hand, and petted her a bit, which made her very happy.  And then I heard the roar of a tractor in the field, looked up and saw it coming in my general direction (on the other side of the wall, of course).  So I waved at the farmer and he waved back, and then killed the engine.  And we engaged in a bit of small talk (he asked if I’d been up to Sugar Hill, etc.) and then I just figured I’d ask if he minded if I wandered out onto the (now plowed under) field to look at those trees.  He said “Go anywhere you like, take all the time you want.”  I said thanks very much, asked him the dog’s name (Erma, if you’re still paying attention), and told him that I was always leery about just wandering on private property.  He said “You’re supposed to post if you don’t want anyone on your property.”  I told him I’d rather be safe than sorry.  He said he understood, “but I mean it; feel free to wander anywhere you like.”  I thanked him again, and he restarted the tractor and continued plowing.  After a few more pats, Erma headed back to the farm house.

I took my gear and headed into the field and with every step, as I approached the subject matter that had caught my eye in the first place, I got more and excited and more thankful to the farmer for letting me roam on his property.

Easton Road Birches, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Easton Road Birches, Grafton County, New Hampshire

As long as I was there, I produced one additional image:

Easton Road Birches, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Easton Road Birches, Grafton County, New Hampshire

I headed back to my car entirely satisfied, sufficiently so that I didn’t even particularly care that it was just about sunset and I had no idea where to go.  I continued south on Easton Road, and basically stumbled onto another farm setting.  This one had “No Trespassing” signs up all over the place, so I was very careful not to stray from the roadside, but there was a character-laden barn and a developing sunset sky and so I just hung out there for a few minutes and tried to make the best of the situation.

Easton Road Barn at Sunset, Grafton County, New Hampshire

Easton Road Barn at Sunset, Grafton County, New Hampshire

And with that, this longest of New England trip photo days came to an end.  I still had a two-hour drive over the mountainous, curving Kancamagus Highway to make to reach North Conway, but that didn’t seem particularly onerous as I reflected on everything I had seen on Day 11.

Posted by: kerryl29 | January 17, 2017

New England, Day 10: Northern Vermont Tour, Continued

Despite (another) less than favorable sunrise forecast, I made my way back to Wheeler Pond–a spot I’d visited twice the previous day–for daybreak.  The color had been so good, I felt it would be worthwhile to revisit the spot on this morning.  It was cloudy, as predicted, when the sun rose high enough to produce enough ambient light to tell, so I started off with some long lens shots.

Wheeler Pond, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Intimate, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Intimate, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Intimate, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Intimate, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Trees, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Trees, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Trees, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Trees, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

After a few minutes, a hint of color began to appear in the clouds.  It wasn’t anything incredible by any means, but it gave me an excuse to break out the wide angle for an entirely different perspective of the pond.

Wheeler Pond, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond at Daybreak, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond at Daybreak, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond at Daybreak, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond at Daybreak, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond at Daybreak, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond at Daybreak, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

The sense that the skies might be clearing was extinguished in fairly short order, as a fifth consecutive day of overcast skies appeared to be a reality.  I made the rounds of some of the spots in the immediate area–this part of Orleans County–that I had scouted but hadn’t yet photographed, beginning with a return to Long Pond.  Conditions–as you can see from the reflections above–had been essentially windless at Wheeler Pond, and I hoped that would be the case at Long Pond as well.

Unfortunately, as I discovered within minutes, Long Pond was entirely rippled by a fairly stiff breeze when I arrived.  I limited myself to some telephoto shots of the trees surrounding the lake before moving on.

Long Pond Trees, Orleans County, Vermont

Long Pond Trees, Orleans County, Vermont

My next stop was a wetland I’d passed several times on the way to or from Lake Willoughby.  There wasn’t much color in this spot but I was sufficiently intrigued by the long grasses and reflections to render an image in black and white.

Wetlands Reflections Black & White, Orleans County, Vermont

Wetlands Reflections Black & White, Orleans County, Vermont

Finally, I simply had to stop to photograph a shockingly red maple, situated all by itself (color-wise) along the roadside.  I’d passed this tree at least three times over the past few days and so on this occasion I pulled over on the shoulder and made an image or two.

Shocking Red, Orleans County, Vermont

Shocking Red, Orleans County, Vermont

My route was going to take me to Lyndonville so I decided to spend some time back on Darling Hill Road, from which I’d photographed sunset on Day 6.  I’d only had time to explore part of the road, so I took this opportunity to revisit the areas I’d scouted previously and check out some other spots as well.

Darling Hill Road, Caledonia County, Vermont

Darling Hill Road, Caledonia County, Vermont

Darling Hill Road, Caledonia County, Vermont

Darling Hill Road, Caledonia County, Vermont

Darling Hill Road View, Caledonia County, Vermont

Darling Hill Road View, Caledonia County, Vermont

Darling Hill Road View, Caledonia County, Vermont

Darling Hill Road View, Caledonia County, Vermont

From this point, I decided to investigate some new locations, so I headed south and west, in the general direction of the previous day’s excursion to Groton State Forest.  But my destination this time was a bit different.  The two spots I definitely wanted to check out before the end of the day were Nichols Ledge and the village of Peacham.  So I headed in that general direction.  But before trying to find Nichols Ledge, I wanted to have a look at some covered bridges, the first near the tiny town of Lyndon.  This was the Chamberlin Mill Covered Bridge, at the site of the former (you guessed it) Chamberlin Mill…which no longer exists.  A small part of the foundation can still be seen, but that’s all that remains.  But the bridge is still in place, and very much in use by modern day traffic.

Chamberlin Mill Covered Bridge, Caledonia County, Vermont

Chamberlin Mill Covered Bridge, Caledonia County, Vermont

Chamberlin Mill Covered Bridge Black & White, Caledonia County, Vermont

Chamberlin Mill Covered Bridge Black & White, Caledonia County, Vermont

From the bridge I could see a series of cascades below me, so I climbed down the embankment next to the bridge to see if I could find a pleasing composition.  Options were limited and I settled for what you see below.

South Wheelock Brook, Caledonia County, Vermont

South Wheelock Brook, Caledonia County, Vermont

From here I continued west to check the Foster Covered Bridge.  This location really intrigued me.  I knew that the bridge was now located on private property but was accessible to the public.  I also knew that the bridge was no longer “in service” and in fact simply spanned a creek, more or less in the middle of a field.  Indeed, that’s what I found.  A sign was in place stating, that while visitors were welcome to approach the bridge, they were asked, very clearly not to stand on or cross the bridge itself.  As you might imagine, a few people–including a family of four when I was there–plainly ignored the sign and climbed all over the bridge.  I kept my distance and didn’t feel deprived at all.

Foster Covered Bridge, Washington County, Vermont

Foster Covered Bridge, Washington County, Vermont

Foster Covered Bridge, Washington County, Vermont

Foster Covered Bridge, Washington County, Vermont

Foster Covered Bridge Black & White, Washington County, Vermont

Foster Covered Bridge Black & White, Washington County, Vermont

Foster Covered Bridge, Washington County, Vermont

Foster Covered Bridge, Washington County, Vermont

From one spot near the bridge, there was an impressive view to the south.

Layered Ridges, Washington County, Vermont

Layered Ridges, Washington County, Vermont

It was becoming apparent that there were signs of some clearing to the west, so at this stage–it was mid-afternoon by now–I decided to make my way to Nichols Ledge.  The ledge, which is an open overlook providing a view of Nichols Pond and East Long Pond, as well as the thick forest surrounding both bodies of water, requires a fairly short, straight forward but steep hike of about a mile on a marked trail straight up a thickly wooded hillside.  The area had been closed for months due to the presence of some nesting peregrine falcons but had been re-opened to public access a few weeks earlier.

The hike was no problem and in about ten minutes I found myself on an open rocky shelf.  Seven or eight other people were up there already, but none were hanging out near the shelf’s edge, so I made my way there, jumped down to the lower part of the rock ledge and took in the view.  I waited at least five minutes before pulling out my camera.

Nichols Pond and East Long Pond from Nichols Ledge, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Pond and East Long Pond from Nichols Ledge, Washington County, Vermont

Somewhat to my surprise, given what I’d seen elsewhere, the color in the area was still probably a few days shy of peak, but the view was magnificent nonetheless.

Nichols Pond and East Long Pond from Nichols Ledge, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Pond and East Long Pond from Nichols Ledge, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Pond from Nichols Ledge, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Pond from Nichols Ledge, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Pond from Nichols Ledge, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Pond from Nichols Ledge, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Pond from Nichols Ledge, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Pond from Nichols Ledge, Washington County, Vermont

Despite being perched hundreds of feet above the pond, I could see, on occasion, a pair of loons in the water.  And before I left, I caught a glimpse of a falcon, arching through the sky.  Eventually, I turned my gaze to the south, away from the ponds, to take in that part of the 180-degree view.

Nichols Ledge View, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Ledge View, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Ledge View, Washington County, Vermont

Nichols Ledge View, Washington County, Vermont

The sun was peeking out now, with regularity.  I headed back down the trail and decided to make my way, in the now-late afternoon light, toward Peacham.  On the way, I stopped very briefly to photograph Cabot Common.

Cabot Common, Washington County, Vermont

Cabot Common, Washington County, Vermont

Peacham is a tiny Vermont village, a real throwback to yesteryear, and is the site of one of the few truly iconic scenes that I expected to come across on this trip–the view of the village from a hilly open field behind the fire department building.  I had absolutely no intention of photographing this scene myself…until I saw it with my own eyes, in the warmth of the late afternoon sunshine.  I then understood why so many people are drawn to photograph the scene and, rather than fight the urge, I simply succumbed.  A photo workshop was already on site when I arrived, but they were packing up and leaving so I ended up having the place, and the scene to myself.

Peacham Village, Caledonia County, Vermont

Peacham Village, Caledonia County, Vermont

By pure chance–as I said, I hadn’t intended to make this image–I arrived just in time.  Much sooner and the light wouldn’t have been so flattering to the scene; any later and the shadows, cast by the trees on the hillside behind me, would have covered the scene completely.

Peacham Village, Caledonia County, Vermont

Peacham Village, Caledonia County, Vermont

When I finished on the hillside, I slogged my way back to where I had parked and then, remembering something I’d read in Andy Richards’ Vermont photo guide, walked across the street from the fire station into Peacham’s cemetery.  While the cemetery itself would be awfully interesting to photograph in the right light, I walked through–it’s surprisingly large–to the back where there are some wonderful views to the south.

Peacham Cemetery View, Caledonia County, Vermont

Peacham Cemetery View, Caledonia County, Vermont

Sunset was approaching and I really didn’t have a location planned out, so I decided to drive north, in the general direction of US-2 (which would be my route back to St. Johnsbury) and see if I ran across something of interest.  This isn’t my preferred course of action, but I wasn’t sure what else to do since I hadn’t really had the opportunity to scout the area.  I was not entirely successful…but it wasn’t exactly an epic sunset sky anyway.

Bayley-Hazen Road, Caledonia County, Vermont

Bayley-Hazen Road, Caledonia County, Vermont

Bayley-Hazen Road, Caledonia County, Vermont

Bayley-Hazen Road, Caledonia County, Vermont

Bayley-Hazen Road, Caledonia County, Vermont

Bayley-Hazen Road, Caledonia County, Vermont

I made my way back to US-2 and headed east, figuring that the day’s shooting was over.  But when I reached the overlook from which I had photographed the previous day, I had to stop.  The earthshadow effect from this location, now long after sunset, was simply too much to pass up.  It was quite dark at this point but there wasn’t a breath of wind so I opened up to a 15-second exposure and let it go.

Earthshadow Viewpoint, Caledonia County, Vermont

Earthshadow Viewpoint, Caledonia County, Vermont

Earthshadow Viewpoint, Caledonia County, Vermont

Earthshadow Viewpoint, Caledonia County, Vermont

And that was the last image of the evening.  At some point the following day I was to relocate my base of operations to North Conway, New Hampshire.  As you’ll see, that relocation took place very late on Day 11.

Posted by: kerryl29 | January 10, 2017

New England, Day 9: Exploring Vermont

As I mentioned in my last post, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to join Carol Smith for some photography on Day 9, but since she wouldn’t arrive in the area until late morning, I would be on my own for a few hours.  The forecast was for a fourth consecutive cloudy day, but I got up and out in time for sunrise at May Pond, in Orleans County–about a 30-minute ride from where I was staying in St. Johnsbury–just in case.  Unfortunately the forecast was correct.  In fact, very shortly after I arrived and set up at the pond, it started to rain.

May Pond Reflections, Orleans County, Vermont

May Pond Reflections, Orleans County, Vermont

I resolved to return to May Pond at a later point in time and retreated west, through the small town of Barton, to Burton Hill Road.  My friend Andy Richards, in his Vermont photography ebook, raved about Burton Hill Road, so I decided to check it out.  Suffice to say that the fuss was entirely justified.

Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Burton Hill Road is paved, initially, but after heading west for a mile or two it changes to well-graded dirt/gravel and remains that way, pretty much all the way to its terminus in the village of Irasburg, roughly seven miles to the northwest.  The road is relentlessly hilly, which is a big part of the reason why the area accessible from Burton Hill is so scenic.  There are a number of unpaved roads that junction with Burton Hill and I spent a bit of time exploring some of the vantage points afforded to me.

Foggy Morning, Butler Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Butler Road, Orleans County, Vermont

It was not only cloudy this morning, there was also a lot of valley fog and I spent a lot of my time this morning trying to incorporate the fog into my scenic images.

Farm on Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Farm on Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

I produced some wide angle images, but during most of this time I was using a telephoto lens, due to a relative lack of usable foreground elements in many locations.

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Foggy Morning, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Eventually I turned my attention to some tighter, more intimate images including pockets of color that I spotted as I meandered along the road.

Isolated Red, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Isolated Red, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

Autumn Intimate, Burton Hill Road, Orleans County, Vermont

After completing my exploration of Burton Hill Road–and, again, vowing to return–I decided to go in search of Wheeler Pond, in the Willoughby State Forest.  I found the pond, which wasn’t all that far away, and checked out a couple of different vantage points.  There’s a trail that goes around at least part of Wheeler Pond and I was following it when it started to rain again, so I retreated to the car, found the trailhead for the hike to Wheeler Mountain for possible future reference, and then prepared to meet Carol because it was late morning by this time.

After a brief greeting we were on our way.  It had stopped raining by now and we made a quick stop at Crystal Lake at the south end of the town of Barton.  We stopped at a lakeside spot that Carol was particularly fond of (and with reason, I found).

Crystal Lake, Orleans County, Vermont

Crystal Lake, Orleans County, Vermont

The conditions weren’t optimal, but we did our best.

Crystal Lake, Orleans County, Vermont

Crystal Lake, Orleans County, Vermont

I was especially intrigued by the trunks of a leafless stand of trees that were backed by rich fall color.  This shot, taken with a telephoto lens, required a focus stacking approach to overcome a depth of field problem.

Crystal Lake Trees, Orleans County, Vermont

Crystal Lake Trees, Orleans County, Vermont

Our next stop was Lake Willoughby.  I’d stopped by the lake (without photographing) on Day 7; now, though the conditions weren’t quite perfect (it started and stopped raining again while we were on site), we stopped to shoot.  Lake Willoughby is long and comparatively narrow, running north-south.  We were at the north end of the lake which is, in my view, the best place to photograph the lake at water level.  There’s a decent sized beach at the north end of the lake and there are often at least a few boats moored in the relatively shallow water.

Lake Willougbhy, Orleans County, Vermont

Lake Willougbhy, Orleans County, Vermont

Lake Willougbhy, Orleans County, Vermont

Lake Willougbhy, Orleans County, Vermont

Lake Willougbhy Black & White, Orleans County, Vermont

Lake Willougbhy Black & White, Orleans County, Vermont

Our next stop was Long Pond, accessible via a well-graded unpaved road on the east side of Lake Willoughby.  The color here was excellent, as close to peak as anything I’d seen during my time in New England to date.

Long Pond, Orleans County, Vermont

Long Pond, Orleans County, Vermont

Autumn Hillside, Orleans County, Vermont

Autumn Hillside, Orleans County, Vermont

We moved on to Wheeler Pond–where I’d scouted during the morning.  It was still very foggy around the pond, which added “atmosphere,” if you were willing to view the glass as half-full.

Wheeler Pond in Fog, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond in Fog, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond in Fog, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond in Fog, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Though harder to see, the color here–as at Long Pond–was terrific.  In fact, the since there was arguably more red at Wheeler, this was the hottest of the hot spots thus far.

Wheeler Pond Trees, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Trees, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Trees in Fog, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

Wheeler Pond Trees in Fog, Willoughby State Forest, Vermont

We decided to spend the late afternoon hours at Groton State Forest, to the southwest of where we’d been, so we headed down I-91 to St. Johnsbury and then west on US-2.  On the way we stopped at an overlook on the south side of the road.  For the first time all day we were seeing signs of some breaks in the clouds.

US-2 View, Caledonia County, Vermont

US-2 View, Caledonia County, Vermont

US-2 View, Caledonia County, Vermont

US-2 View, Caledonia County, Vermont

When we reached the Groton State Forest area there were perhaps two hours of daylight left and we decided to spend them by checking out several ponds within  the forest, beginning with Peacham Pond.

Peacham Pond Black & White, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Peacham Pond Black & White, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Peacham Pond Black & White, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Peacham Pond Black & White, Groton State Forest, Vermont

From there, we moved on to Osmore Pond, where a beached canoe and a couple of logs served as useful foreground objects.

Osmore Pond, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Osmore Pond, Groton State Forest, Vermont

The mix of coniferous and deciduous trees across the lake were begging for the long lens treatment.

Osmore Pond Trees, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Osmore Pond Trees, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Osmore Pond Trees, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Osmore Pond Trees, Groton State Forest, Vermont

The light was fading by time we reached Ricker Pond, but it was my favorite of the three spots we checked at Groton State Forest.  We ended up at the southern end of the pond, quite near the spot where the Wells River serves as an outlet stream.  As the ambient light dropped to nothing we scrambled to procure some images.

Ricker Pond, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Ricker Pond, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Ricker Pond Outlet, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Ricker Pond Outlet, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Finally, with the light almost completely gone, I made one last reflection image shooting diagonally toward the east side of the pond, with a partially submerged tree stump serving as mid-ground interest.  The exposure was a full 10 seconds in length but the dead calm conditions allowed the foliage to remain sharp.

Ricker Pond, Groton State Forest, Vermont

Ricker Pond, Groton State Forest, Vermont

And that was the end of the photographic day.  I’ll be forever grateful to Carol for guiding me around all afternoon.  Much of whatever success I had photographing on this day is due to her patience and willingness to show me so many of northern Vermont’s top photographic locations.

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