Posted by: kerryl29 | November 14, 2016

New England Day 4: Mostly Cloudy

What have I said repeatedly on this blog?  Let the quality of light and weather conditions dictate your photographic subject/location choices.  This is something I always do.  And I’ve pointed out that overcast conditions–so-called “flat light”–are perfect for certain types of subjects:  intimate forest scenes, waterfall, creeks and so forth.

All of that foreshadows most of my fourth day in New England.  The day’s forecast was for cloudy skies to dominate until well into the afternoon.  There was no chance of a sunrise.  I made my plans–based on the scouting that I did on Day 2–to take advantage of the soft light.

My first planned stop was for Smalls Falls–which I visited briefly on that second day–but I made one brief stop in the early morning light at Webb River, along ME-4.

Webb River, Franklin County, Maine

Webb River, Franklin County, Maine

From there it was a relatively short drive to Smalls Falls.  It was raining lightly when I arrived at the deserted parking lot.  The first thing I spotted after making the very short walk from the lot to the area below the falls was a pair of Merganser ducks floating around in the splash pool below the waterfall.

Mergansers, Small Falls, Franklin County, Maine

Mergansers, Small Falls, Franklin County, Maine

Mergansers, Small Falls, Franklin County, Maine

Mergansers, Small Falls, Franklin County, Maine

I then set about photographing the waterfall itself.  The lower falls area, which had been in full sun on my earlier visit, was now evenly lit, of course.  The rain seemed like 0a modest impediment, though all of the surface areas were now wet and slippery, making it necessary to take care.  The spot was still a long way from peak color, as you can plainly see.

Smalls Falls, Franklin County, Maine

Smalls Falls, Franklin County, Maine

Smalls Falls, Franklin County, Maine

Smalls Falls, Franklin County, Maine

Smalls Falls, Franklin County, Maine

Smalls Falls, Franklin County, Maine

I continued north on ME-4 from Smalls Falls, which placed me on a route to pass the ponds I had discovered and scouted on Day 2.  Sandy River Pond had revealed the greatest color development and, knowing that another couple of days would do nothing but potentially improve the situation, I decided to stop there on this morning.

As I closed in on the pond’s public access area I drove into heavy fog.  The area around the pond was thick with morning mist, and I tried to use that to my advantage.  I’ve blogged on the topic of fog as a landscape photography aid before and I endeavored to utilize the principles illustrated in the linked piece.

At first, the fog was so heavy that–given the distance across the pond from the access area, the fall color was all but completely obscured.

Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

But–slowly–the fog lifted a bit.

Autumn Trees in Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Autumn Trees in Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Autumn Trees in Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Autumn Trees in Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

It was a waiting game.  Given time, more and more of the pond’s far shore came into view as the mist gradually thinned.  The conditions reminded me of a morning I spent at Halfmoon Lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a few years ago.

Autumn Trees in Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Autumn Trees in Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Autumn Trees in Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Autumn Trees in Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Autumn Trees in Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Autumn Trees in Morning Fog, Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Eventually things reached a point where reflections were revealed in the relatively calm water of Sandy River Pond.

Sandy River Pond in Morning Fog, Franklin County, Maine

Sandy River Pond in Morning Fog, Franklin County, Maine

It was late morning by the time I wrapped up at Sandy River Pond.  I continued north on ME-4, in the direction of the town of Rangeley, but on my way I stopped at another tiny pond that I’d taken note of on Day 2.  I’m not sure if this pond has an official name but, as best I could tell from my sources, it’s connected to Mill Brook so I began referring to it as Mill Brook Pond.  What initially caught my eye about this spot–visible from the road–was the set of red-leafed maples on the far side.  But when I had scouted this spot–in the harsh sunlight two days earlier–I had found a very nice set of lily pads as well (which were not visible from the road).

The fog wasn’t a factor at this spot, so I parked in a pull-out across the highway and made my way around a guard rail.  There was no way to get quite to water level here without some serious bushwhacking, and I was concerned that doing so would require trespassing on private property, so I remained up at the roadside and made do.  The number of available perspectives was limited, given the amount of foreground clutter and I spent a lot of time trying to pick out workable compositions, with relatively limited success, I’m afraid.

Mill Brook Pond Reflections, Franklin County, Maine

Mill Brook Pond Reflections, Franklin County, Maine

Mill Brook Pond Trees, Franklin County, Maine

Mill Brook Pond Trees, Franklin County, Maine

But the lily pads were another story.  I had a little bit more freedom given how tight I wanted to shoot this subject but, again, it took quite a bit of finagling–and just about all 400 mm of focal length–to come up with a pleasing composition.

Lily Pads and Reflections, Mill Brook Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Lily Pads and Reflections, Mill Brook Pond, Franklin County, Maine

When I was done, I headed back across the road and upon doing so, looked back in the direction of the pond and discovered a serendipitous composition that was only visible from my spot:  a prominent isolated white birch snag, in the foreground, with the arching hillside of color in the rear.  A telephoto lens was necessary to compress the scene the way I wanted, but doing so produced a depth of field problem; the birch snag was much closer to my shooting position than the background trees.  Had the distance been greater, and the background been displayed as a colorful blur, that would have been great.  But the background wasn’t nearly far enough away for that; at best, a single shot left the background just out of focus enough to be annoying.  But rendering everything sharp in a single image was impossible as well.  So, during a moment of dead calm, I quickly produced two shots–one with the foreground sharp and one with the background sharp and then I stacked the two in post-processing.  I actually did this twice, once as a horizontal and once as a vertical, but I don’t know why I bothered with the horizontal shot; given the shape of the snag, this was a vertical shot all the way.

Autumn Trees, Mill Brook Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Autumn Trees, Mill Brook Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Just steps from where I parked the car while photographing at Mill Brook Pond was direct access to a small cove that’s part of the east end of Rangeley Lake.  It appeared that the spot had potential, so I wandered down to the water’s edge.

Rangeley Lake, Franklin County, Maine

Rangeley Lake, Franklin County, Maine

Rangeley Lake, Franklin County, Maine

Rangeley Lake, Franklin County, Maine

It was early afternoon by now and I made my way to the Cascade Streams trailhead, just south of the town of Rangeley.  I had scouted this location extensively on a sunny part of  Day 2.  I’d been impressed and it was on my list of places to go if the weather was cloudy…like this day.  As I expected, there was no one in the small parking area when I arrived and I quickly made my way up the trail.

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

There are a number of interesting waterfalls along Cascade Stream and I spent several hours working the sites along the trail.  One of the problems with this location is that accessing the best spots from which to photograph many of the most photogenic features is difficult.  The trail itself runs along a bluff to the left of the water (as you hike upstream).  Getting in position to photograph the waterfalls almost invariably involves climbing down closer to water level.  The rocks were very slippery, so footing was a constant issue and accessing many spots required a near scramble, descending over boulders and over or around large fallen trees.  But I felt it was worth the effort.

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

Part of the trail wound its way through a thick pine forest.

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

The waterfall farthest up the trail allowed–with great care–a descent all the way to stream level.

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

Cascade Stream Trail, Franklin County, Maine

I also found this waterfall to be photogenic from a higher perspective as well.

Cascade Stream Black & White, Franklin County, Maine

Cascade Stream Black & White, Franklin County, Maine

Cascade Stream, Franklin County, Maine

Cascade Stream, Franklin County, Maine

By the time I hiked out and returned to the parking area it was late afternoon and the sun was beginning to make its presence felt.  I made the relatively short drive back to Sandy River Pond because I knew that the sinking sun in the southwest sky would light up the trees on the far bank.  I’d hoped that there would be some nice reflections but there was too much wind for anything particularly impressive.  It was remarkable how quickly the thick cloud layer, which had been present all day, disappeared.  The clouds in the eastern sky–visible in the image below–were the only clouds in the sky at this point.

Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

Sandy River Pond, Franklin County, Maine

I made a run back to Height of Land for sunset–the third straight day I visited this spot at last light–but the sky was entirely cloudless by the time I got there and I decided not to make any images.  I simply made the hour-long drive back to Rumford Center to check the weather forecast for the next day and prepare an appropriate travel/photographic itinerary.

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Responses

  1. These images are lovely and definitely some previous awareness of the locations and their potential was involved. Have you ever written a post about your process in researching unfamiliar locations? I think that’s a topic worth exploring.

  2. That last black and white stream shot stands out as do the lily pads and reflections. Always like seeing merganzers. I am curious if you will be shooting the Super Moon tonight.

    • Thanks, Jane.

      Couldn’t shoot the moon tonight as it was mostly cloudy where I am (northeast Illinois) right now.

  3. I’m back from my own travels now, and have enjoyed this series of posts. I wish I’d had your words about fog before I left. One of my greatest disappointments was the heavy, sometimes zero-visibility fog in the Ouachita mountains of Arkansas. Even once the fog lifted enough for photos, there wasn’t any autumn color to speak of, and the combination of so much fading green and gray, misty skies were difficult for me to deal with.

    One way I coped was getting out my macro lens, and focusing on things like fog-covered grasses. Where the fog had condensed into droplets, the plants seemed adorned with jewels, and that made the fog a little less — a good bit less! — annoying.

    • When fog sets in–particularly dense fog–the thing to do, I think, is shift gears. It’s much like dealing with the nature of the type and quality of ambient light itself. In a nutshell, certain weather conditions are well-suited for certain subjects and perspectives and not others. The key–after recognizing (and accepting) this broad concept is to understand the nuances a bit. Which subjects/perspectives/approaches work best in the present conditions? Then implement a plan of action based on that knowledge, rinse and repeat.

      Of course it isn’t necessarily as easy as the above probably seems to imply. The “accepting” part of this equation can be extremely difficult, particularly if you’ve long had your heart set on a certain type of image. (I’m sure I’ve been as guilty of that as the next person, I’m sure. Whether it was cursing the blue sky days at Letchworth State Park in New York last spring or the marine layer on the Washington and Oregon coasts in the summer of 2009 it was tough to get past the disappointment of not being able to capture something I’d anticipated.

      But if you can get past that…let’s just say that there are (almost) always other opportunities to be mined. Your story about the macro lens and ensuing approach is exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about and I applaud you for having the foresight and discipline to recognize, devise and implement a Plan B (or C). Dense fog, in fact, is a lot like flipping a photographic coin; for all the potential images it takes away, it actually produces as many potential images that otherwise wouldn’t exist; the key is being open-minded enough to recognize this.

      • Excellent advice, and it reflects my own experience very well.

        • Thanks!

  4. Excellent post Kerry and excellent replies to the comments as well. I really love your waterfall shots. Your compositions and exposures are spot on and so pleasing. I’m also really enjoying seeing the Fall colors. It’s taking me back to my favorite time for photography, and I’m happy and looking forward to the many more blog posts you will be writing from your Fall trip to New England.

    • Thanks very much, Carol. Admittedly the fall color part of most of these posts has been pretty blah so far, because my early time in Maine was a bit on the early side. That will change, and very soon, as the chronology continues.

  5. Oh, love the black and white!

  6. […] sunrise.  This would be my third visit to this location, having previously been there on Day 2 and Day 4.  The trees surrounding the pond were approaching peak and I had determined that the public access […]

  7. What a beautiful color palette in this set of images, Kerry; your use of the soft light brought out the warm golden tones in the rocks. The first image is so wonderful – the texture and patterns of the river stones is fascinating. I am SO enjoying this series of posts 🙂

    • Thanks, Lynn!


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