Hello and welcome to my…what is this…the second or is it third? Well, whatever, welcome to my Best Images of the Year post. It was hell.
Either I’m getting worse as a photographer or I’m just more picky about my images, but damn if it wasn’t hard to compile my best shots this year. The fact that I didn’t get anything decent until May is a pretty good indication of my mediocrity. Whenever I edit a batch of photos in Lightroom, I make a point to rate them with the 5-star system. Sometimes my ratings change over time, but mostly they stay the same. I think I had one 5-star image, but downgraded it later leaving none. Overall I think I did a better job with light this year, but my narrowness of subject began to bore me. Still, I did manage to generate images that I like and without further whining, here’s what I’ve got. As always they are in the order taken during the year.
This waterfall is in Pulpit Rock Conservation Area in Bedford, NH. I shot it from this angle for the first time this year and was amazed at my stupidity at not finding this view before. While steep and off the main trail, it isn’t hard to get to. The composition is very strong and came together naturally. The light was kind and the balance and heft the trees contribute adds a lovely symmetry, vigor and depth. Even the rocks cleaned up for me.
Next is a shot of High Bridge over the Piscataquog river in New Boston, NH. It is now repaired, but when I shot this the deck still had some holes and the I-beams were pretty rusty. I did not set foot on it. I love this shot because it’s powerful. I chose and set up carefully to emphasize the amount of water while also showing the gorge itself and of course the bridge. A fair amount of planning went into this shot and I picked my moment pretty well for maximum white water. I also managed the post-processing to bring up the new leaves on the trees and I like the effect.
I love this shot for a lot of reasons. First is that it is a relatively rare Luna Moth and only the second I’ve ever seen. Second because I did see it, which was an amazing piece of luck. I was on the last leg of an afternoon hike, coming pretty fast down the trail at the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, NH. Somehow I noticed a difference in the green or the shape in the undergrowth and stopped to check it out. I was flabbergasted to see this gorgeous creature just emerged from its chrysalis and pumping up those glorious wings. The light was perfect and I shot and shot and shot. What a fantastic experience it was and I’m so glad to have been a witness to this insect’s very short, but intriguing life.
The next one just happens to be an insect shot, too, although it didn’t start out that way. I went to shoot the sundew which are tiny, carnivorous plants. They secrete minute droplets of basically sugar to attract bugs which are then trapped and are gradually subsumed and digested by the plant. This one is one of millions in the Ponemah Bog Conservation Area in Amherst, NH and at first I didn’t notice the tiny whitefly, but I’m glad it’s there, even if it was probably doomed. The clarity (thanks to the OM 90mm macro), the complexity and the strangeness of the shot just make it for me (not to mention the light which is pretty fab). Next year I hope to work more with these little wonders and photograph them in bloom.
This is kind of a strange one for me even though I fly a few times a year. I just happened to look out the window as we arced over the American west. The color just knocked me out and when I saw the big bend coming up in that ribbon of river, I hauled out the camera (and lost my eyecup in the bargain, doh!). Luckily the window wasn’t too filthy and I managed a relatively clean image. A square crop gives it some tension and balance to my eye and I like how bold it is.
If you’ve been following along this year, you’re no doubt aware I caught a mega-dose of Mushroom Madness and even though there were a lot of good shots, I think you’ll agree this one takes the prize. While out to do some waterfall work, I found a huge swath of these coppery beauties. After a few failed attempts at shooting little groups of them, I spied this loner. With the soft light and the contrasting color of the moss it really pops. I love it and the OM 90mm shines as usual.
Funny how many of my abstract shots involve water. On a meetup to do a waterfall shoot at Garwin Falls in Wilton, NH, I ended up at this pool below a small cascade. The ripples and the reflection of the sky and leaves overhead was mesmerizing and I followed this little leaf around until I had it where I wanted it. Who am I kidding…I was totally at its mercy! I used the OM 90mm which is also a pretty terrific medium-telephoto and it sure was challenging to manage the focus and track the leaf. It’s on the list because it is a bit different for me and I was glad that I saw the image even before I shot it. Plus it’s just fascinating to look at…soft and ripply and the colors are so vivid.
Ok. You caught me. Another mushroom shot, but damn, just look at it! That light just knocks me out! Plus it’s a microscape which is something I’ve been working on for a while now. These little slices of the forest floor are so magical to me and mostly I shoot them as I find them. This one though got a little clean up on top of the log. The leaves though were artfully arranged by nature in the Henderson Swasey Town Forest, Exeter, NH. I like it because it’s playful and has good composition, focus and light.
Another waterfall shot, but very different from Pulpit Rock falls. This one was an unexpected treat and I raced the sun clearing up debris that really ruined the shot. With tripod precariously placed I managed not only to have great light in the trees, but also in the stream itself. No direct sun on the falls meant no blown highlights, but it just skims the rocks and I really like the added zip. I think this represents my ability to see and compose quickly enough to take advantage of excellent light that doesn’t last, something I have improved over the last couple years.
And now for something completely different…well kinda. Yeah it’s another waterfall, but the whole feeling is altered. The drama is more stark and austere and I love the deep contrast between the dark gorge walls and the water itself. I have shot these falls before, but the mood is so different that it might be another place altogether. The camera was so low and close to the flow that the lens kept getting splashed and I had a lot of do-overs. The results are strong for composition, interest and exposure, so it goes on the list. I dig how that closest rock seems to float. Oh this is Upper Purgatory Falls in Mont Vernon, NH.
This next one is from a group of images that I haven’t shared on this blog before, but will soon. Earlier this year I found a dead crow on my lawn. Being the person I am, I left it there because I had a feeling it would yield excellent photographic possibilities and I wasn’t wrong. The morning of our first hard frost I went out to see and wow, it was pretty awesome. Check out the detail in the feathers – such fantastic texture (thanks again to my old OM 90mm). The sun went to work melting the tiny crystals, but I got there first. Yes, it’s a dead creature, but I did not kill it and I think if you look hard enough you can find beauty in almost anything nature brings, even death.
Last is another shot I haven’t shared here yet and another one involving death. Frequent readers will not be surprised at my inclusion of a cemetery image in my top picks. Even without the fog, this would be a pretty intense shot, but the fog just wraps everything close and confines your view, if not your imagination. While I was driving to this location, which is Old Hill Cemetery in Londonderry, NH, I knew I’d include the wall in the shot because of the scrim of snow and because stone walls are so typical of old cemeteries around here. I like how the big branch balances the wall and frames the scene. I think I had to stand in the road for this one, but it was worth the risk.
So that’s the lot, the best images I made in 2012.
2013 is going to be a VERY different year, that much I can tell you. See, I got a job. Full time. I haven’t worked for a few years now and have been able to devote a lot of time to photography. It’s been an incredible opportunity to rekindle my old love affair with it and to develop my skills so that I’m a pretty passable art-teest these days. But it’s time for me to go back to work and the absolute perfect situation landed in my lap over the Thanksgiving holiday. Earlier this month I completed all my meetings with the decision makers (one of which I had to fly to Atlanta for), got an offer, finished negotiations and should begin work on January 7 (pending a bg check). I’m really excited about it and I know it’s the right next step for the career I’ve ignored for too long.
So where does this leave me, my photography and this blog? Hopefully with new possibilities. No, I won’t have my days to myself anymore and will no doubt turn into a weekend warrior. I will be traveling a bit more though, and while I probably won’t be toting my big rig around much, I will have an iPhone and boy won’t that be something different? Yeah, old hat to most of you, but not to me and I’m pretty psyched to be able to have a camera in other situations besides hiking. I’m looking forward to exercising my photographer’s eye outside of the woods and nature. To take more slices of life I guess. I promise not to take pictures of my lunch.
Anyway…that wraps up 2012. Thanks to all my readers and followers who enjoy the blog give me feedback. If you haven’t, don’t by shy. I don’t bite.
Happy New Year!
After Hurricane Sandy blew into the area and filled up our smaller streams and rivers again, it was a perfect time to get out and see them. Some of them I’d just been to (Purgatory) and WOW, what a difference a storm makes. At the time it didn’t seem like we got that much rain, but I guess we did. Because showers could catch me at any time, I went to a couple places that were easy and quick to get in and out of. As a result, it didn’t rain. My first stop was Tucker brook/falls, a popular spot but oh so rich in photographic possibilities. This time I got some views I’ve never tried before including going down into a sort of wide gorge. It was magical.
A few other photographers I know had been to Tucker falls the week before and the flow looked like a garden hose was on tap compared to after the storm. Wow.
Phew. Feel like a couple monochromes now? I swear I couldn’t stop shooting. I was telling myself that it was repetitive, derivative and had been done a million times, but it’s so hard to stop.
Phew. Enough already, right? The trouble is, I went to Purgatory Falls just after this. You can practically throw a rock from one location to the other so it’s kind of compulsory that if you have a good day for it, you hit both back to back.
Check out those rocks in the foreground. Just weeks ago I’d stood on them with the tripod to take a shot of the same little cascade. Amazing what some rain will do. While I didn’t spend as much time at Purgatory brook as I did at Tucker, I did finally manage to shoot a small, but intense cascade I’d never done successfully before. It’s rocky and kind of a PITA to set up for, but those bubbly-swirls…well, you know what a sucker for those I am.
And of course the falls themselves. Probably the most over-exposed waterfall in southern NH. Could be that’s Tucker falls, but it would be close. I’ve shot them before, but have never gotten up onto the little cliff next to them. I actually didn’t climb up, but down. There’s a little ledge hemmed in by trees about 18″ wide and so that’s where I perched. It’s only about 12 feet higher than the normal position for this shot, but it made me feel adventurous, so it was all good.
Crazy huh? I just can’t resist an overcast day, especially one threatening rain. It’s the perfect time to do this kind of photography. Bright, but even light and no direct sun. I hope you’re not sick of it, cause there might be more.
Not long ago, Jeff Sinon tweeted that he was going to hike up Mt. Major to photograph the sunrise over Lake Winnipesaukee and would anyone want to join him. It had been too long since we shot together and my husband and I are always up for adventure, so I tweeted back that we’d be there. Crazy.
Well kinda. We are, after all, modern humans with access to gadgetry of all kinds and Mt. Major isn’t exactly tall, although it is wicked steep in parts. So with headlamps firmly strapped we set out for the summit. A lot of the trail is an old logging road, wide and deeply set with large rocks separated from each other by years of runoff. Toward the top it got much steeper and after slogging through boulders running with water, we ended up at some bare granite ledge to monkey over. But less fit souls than I have done it (and probably in flip-flops) so up I went. I think it helped knowing that there was an alternate way down. Breaking my neck is never on my agenda.
Sometimes Mother Nature just laughs at me. At us, really, I suppose, but sometimes I think she’s after me. After our headlighted trek, the clouds we kept hoping would pile up on the horizon stayed out of range, thumbing their noses. The wind that sometimes calms just at sunrise decided that day to party hearty. Even with a backpack dangling from the tripod, it was so windy that my shots are soft and I’m not altogether happy with them. The light is lovely though and the just-off peak foliage is still pretty nice, but dammit if that tripod would not stop moving. Next time I drag the big Bogen up just for the added weight, which sucks to carry, but is evidently necessary at any altitude. Whatta dope.
By the time we got the light we wanted down in the valley, I was so cold that I think I was shivering more than my strained camera support. Dammit that wind just wouldn’t quit. No wonder the rock-walled shelter of old had two roofs blown off before people just gave up.
I didn’t know it then, but things were about to change. Through luck and a quick consult with my husband’s iPad, we ended up on the Brook trail for the hike down. It is longer, so we didn’t take it to go up, but it sure made down easier, with limited opportunities for neck-breaking. Plus it went by a brook. Always a sucker for a good brook, as soon as I heard the water, I headed in for a look. First crack out of the box I found what ended up being the best cascade I could find. I guess Nature thought I’d had enough and she gave me a break.
As I explored (with my husband standing patiently by) I was enchanted, but there was so much debris in the flow and on the rocks that make up the brook’s borders that it was really hard to find a composition that wasn’t distracting in the extreme. Once again, things were about to change, but I had to wait for it. Jeff had vamoosed to join his family for breakfast and so it was just me, looking in vain for another picturesque cascade. By the time I found one, I was racing the sun. Well, the Earth, really, but you get it. Pretty soon the sun was going to be too high to work with…shining directly on the water and blowing my highlights something fierce. But I found a cascade and began a laborious process of clearing tons of branches out of the way. Believe it or not they were hanging from other branches (blown off by storms) and dangling directly in front of the lens. Not in the water, but in the space between. Standing in the water, tripod on rock, and holding some branches that wouldn’t budge out of the way, I finally shot Minge Brook in all its golden glory.
OMG I can’t believe what I got. The light so soft and perfect that it almost doesn’t look real. It is though and that little kiss of the light on the upper rocks is pure magic for me. For once my timing was good. I’d like to revisit this spot in the spring with the fresh, green leaves in place of the glowing golden ones. And if this is Minge in the dry season, I can only imagine it in full song, with the snow-melt and spring runoff. That would be a sight to behold.
Every once in a while I do go somewhere besides the woods. Because I’m in New England that doesn’t leave a lot of somewhere else. No desert. No badlands. No canyons. No sweeping steppes. We do have coastline though and so I’ll make the trek. This time to Plum Island which is the home of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, a much-needed sanctuary for an over-developed coastline. Strangely I have only visited in the fall. It’s a popular place and maybe I just shy away from what must be hordes of people in the summer season. As it is I feel quite surrounded when I’m there, seeing more people in one day than I do in a month of forest hikes.
Because it’s a wildlife refuge, human intrusion is limited. Many areas are only accessible by wooden walkways, both to protect the fragile ecosystem and because some is deep marsh. Walking these paths you can hear birds you cannot see.
It does limit compositional choices quite a bit, but there are some areas where you can go off path, although I don’t do it often and only where there are no signs prohibiting me. This part of the marsh is tidal and a few hours before there was only mud where the water is. I love that ever-changing aspect of tidal estuaries and marshes.
And sometimes, the walkways themselves can provide a subject.
The light wasn’t really favorable for most of the day, but since I decided to stay until sunset, I did a bit of scouting for good locations and playing with what the light did give me. One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in photography is not to fight the light, that is to have certain optimal photos in my head all the while working in opposite conditions. Now either I wait for those optimal conditions or make the light I have work for me. At one point I simply walked on the beach. No camera. I left it in the car, knowing I’d get nothing useful if I brought it. On my way out though I met a guy coming in who had a big Nikon rig with him. I laughed to myself. Maybe he sees something I don’t, but to each her own.
Eventually though, if you wait long enough, the light you want arrives.
So, unfortunately, did 4 people. Yeah, it’s a public place and the viewing towers are a great spot to watch the sun go down, but I didn’t appreciate their presences up there with me. I guess all this solitary time has made me a bit of a hermit.