Archive for June, 2013

Pulpit Falls (finally!)

A while back, I can’t say exactly when, I read about Pulpit Falls in Winchester NH. Being a lover of waterfalls I thought it would be cool to add them to my growing portfolio of images. Problem was that not many people had ever seen them or knew where they were. A few pictures came up on Google, but not that many. One that was at first incorrectly labeled as Pulpit, came up also, with an explanation from the photographer that he’d hiked either the wrong way on the right brook, or hiked along the wrong brook. Those cascades are nice though and it wasn’t a bust. I wanted to see if I could find the right ones though and with a bit of research I found a bunch of information to support a hypothetical location. Given where the brook runs and the proximity of power lines, I couldn’t get too lost even if there was no trail, which was true and not true. The trail part, not the lost part.

Anyway, so I picked a day where the chance of rain was 30% and headed out. I find the pullout spot on the side of the road and switch from driving shoes to hiking boots. While getting my camera pack out of the back of the car, another car pulls up behind me. A small family gets out. Really? Of all days? The one time I come here hoping to find a semi-lost waterfall I have to have an audience? With a kid? OMG. Laughing, I set out on the trail which might or might not lead me to Pulpit Falls.

I decided to leave the trail at the first water crossing I encountered. Partially to get away from the people and partially to look for brook/forest landscapes. Those are the best. Soon I reached the powerlines. Usually powerline clear-cuts are full of blueberry bushes, but these are full of mountain laurel. And poison ivy. I had to pick my way through to the brook again, which went down into a steepish gully that I had to go around. When I got to it again, I saw that another brook joined it. Given the GPS coordinates and the map in my head, I knew I should follow the new brook upstream. With a bit of ledge scrambling, I came to this lovely spot –

Undiscovered greatness

Promising huh? I was psyched. To get this shot I put the camera on a downed tree, as far over as I could and still reach it to compose and find my focus points. And people think I’m weird to demand a flip and swivel LCD on the back. LOL.

Onward and upstream I bushwacked. Mostly it was easy. Then the land on either side of the water’s edge started to rise dramatically. Another New England gorge was ahead. I could either walk in the water or scramble. I scrambled. And surprised myself at how I judged (correctly the first time – miracle!) the best way to get into the gorge itself. First up, along some ledge, then down, clinging to some saplings for support along the way. Then under some downed trees, a couple of times taking off my backpack and pushing it under ahead of me so it wouldn’t get snagged. All the while the sound of the water getting louder and louder until eventually I had to turn off my iPod (listening to audio books is something I do all the time and I was re-listening to The Count of Monte Cristo for this trip…maybe I should start including my listening material in my blog posts. Could be fun. Anyway…). When I came out from under my final log, I was presented with this –

Pulpit Falls


Some waterfall guide sources said it was a seasonal fall and not too impressive, but I was impressed. It doesn’t show here because it was really messy with deadfall, but the gorge is very wide and deep. Probably 3-4 stories from the bottom of the streambed to the top and almost straight up. Not quite and there are plenty of trees and bushes growing everywhere they could find purchase. I put the camera is where the gorge narrows considerably and there’s a handy boulder. Too bad there’s a newly fallen hemlock right next to it or there could have been more dramatic views. The tree is blocking them now. Maybe if I’d gone in last year I could have gotten those images. Self recriminations didn’t last long though. I was too excited to explore a new place.

The condition of the moss and the presence of beer cans told me I wasn’t the first to be here, but I knew it wasn’t a popular spot either and I hoped the family wouldn’t appear at the top of the falls to ruin my shots. Under and over another couple of dead trees and I got myself about 1/2 way up the cascade onto a wedge of granite –

Geologic geometry

The roar was intense as was the breeze coming off the force of the water. And I stayed blessedly alone. Well except for a green frog which I nearly squished. I think this is the strongest image of the falls, but I also like this one with the ferns waving in the water-powered breeze –

Happy Little Ferns (thanks to Bob Ross)

After marveling and trying a bunch more shots that didn’t really work, I headed up higher and got right up on the edge of the rock for this one. I love the layered slabs of granite and the curved shape the water made –

Structural Fluidics

I wished I could have gotten out further but levitation isn’t one of my skills so I had to be content with this. All the while I shot and marveled, little birds flew into the bowl of the falls and took sips on the wing. It was very peaceful despite the roar of the water. With the ground now reasonably level, I headed upstream a bit. I wished I could go further, but I had a date with another elusive waterfall and if I wanted to get both in before the rain, I had to move. I plan to go back though. It’s a beautiful brook and one worth more exploration, that’s for sure.


Test of a teaser

Yesterday, I went to find an elusive waterfall. I’d heard of it somehow over the last couple years and found a few old photographs on the web (none newer than the 1990s), but it seemed not too many people either heard of it or much less had seen it. Armed with purported GPS coordinates and sort of reasonable directions, I set out. Here’s part of what I saw –

Sorry you have to go to flickr to see it. I can’t embed any video here without handing over money. So silly. Might be time to look for an alternative blog host if I decide to do more video. We’ll see.

Anyway, I’m putting together a post about the falls and that will have the usual photos. Having video in the camera is so new that I often forget about it. Doh!



Make with the cute

By now, you’ve probably figured out I’m not a wildlife photographer, but will take the opportunity when it presents itself. I got a few of those lately so I wanted to put together a critter collection post. Spring certainly is springing and everyone seems to be out and about, even this guy –

I haven’t come across one so early in the season before. Because it was chilly (50s) it was way less wiggly than newts usually are.

Along another trail I nearly trod on this beauty sunning itself. I can’t believe it stayed and let me photograph it with my 12-35mm which is pretty short in terms of focal length. Basically I’m right up in the snake’s face. After indulging me a few seconds, it slithered away.

There’s a small pond at the Garden in the Woods and the bullfrogs are basically in charge –

Chairman of the Board

I have a big picture window in the front of my house and big glass door in the back. Unfortunately these confuse our feathered friends and they sometimes crash into them. So far no bird has killed itself, but a few have been stunned enough to be vulnerable for a few minutes. I always go outside to check on them whenever I hear one hit. This gorgeous little yellow-bellied flycatcher is the latest casualty. I only went to get the camera after I saw enough improvement to know it would be ok. Again it’s shot with my short little zoom and so I had to get right up on him. A few minutes after this he was on his way, flying through the trees and away.

Ready for takeoff

Last but not least is another fleet-flyer, a newly-emerged dragonfly. This one was still sheltering in some grass while its exoskeleton and wings firmed up enough for it to head for the skies. I deliberately angled and cropped to get a more unusual view of this favorite subject. The sheer perfection of its wings is amazing. Wonders of nature for sure.


So that’s my wildlife experience so far this year. I’m sure there will be more, but this seems like a good start!


The Garden in the Woods

If you live in New England or are here on vacation and you love wildflowers and wild plants in general, you owe yourself a trip to The Garden in the Woods, a preserve run by the New England Wildflower Society. It is magical, awe-inspiring and an unbelievably precious resource. My mom and I visited the other day and were bowled over with the lush planting, the overwhelming variety and beauty of wild plants in their natural environments. There was so much to see and experience it almost made me cry. The dedication of the staff to the preservation and proliferation of wild plants is amazing. I can only imagine the endowment this jewel must have. Worth every penny.

For a couple of years now I’ve been meaning to get there, but kept forgetting. So last year I put it in my calendar to remind me at the beginning of May. A quick drive to Framingham, MA and we arrived. I didn’t know what the weather would be like when I made my date with mom, but as it turns out, it was perfect. Overcast, but not rainy and not too hot. I knew my Oly 90mm would get a workout and boy did it ever. There are so many displays and trails that we couldn’t get to them all and suddenly it was 5:00. I like the ‘subtle’ closing indicator to visitors. Sprinklers went off like crazy! I guess that was our cue.

The first amazing flower to catch our attention was the yellow lady slipper. Neither of us had ever seen these flowers before, either cultivated or in the wild. They are unbelievably rare. We oohed and aahed and tried really hard not to climb into the garden itself. Such willpower and restraint has never been witnessed before.

Mirror, Mirror

The next rarity to enthrall me was maidenhair fern. I’ve been looking for it for years in the forest, but have never seen it. The way it grows and the pale, delicate nature of the fronds is a wonder. It’s at once fragile, yet sheltering. Of course a fern freak like me would be all over it.

Maidenhair fern

Mom was so patient when I’d get sucked up into photographing a plant. The trilliums were all over in terms of blooming – some were past, some were fresh and some were imminent. This nodding beauty was tough to get to, but eventually after some persistence, I got a shot I like. It was a natural for a monochrome conversion, too. I didn’t notice the wee  jumping spider when I shot, but was bummed I didn’t get it in focus in any of the shots. Such a cutie.

Nodding trillium

From time to time, when I remembered and when the light wasn’t the best it could be, I used a little on-board flash to fill in and I was really pleased with the results. The OM 90mm  has some decent reach and I didn’t have to be right up on most specimens to get them in frame. This made the backgrounds really soft, with some lovely bokeh.

Greek valerian

Just along from the bed these were in, we found some more yellow lady slipper except they were mini! Seriously, this next blossom is an inch long, while the ones in the shot above are easily twice that. They were adorable. Luckily we arrived when the blooms were at their most dewy freshness.

Right profile

As we progressed through the day, the sun started to come out and it got tougher to photograph certain flowers. I like the job the fill flash did with these shooting stars though.

Make a wish

I was a bit dizzy and could hardly pay attention to the big picture, but here’s one of my favorite paths leading to the rare plant display –

My favorite path

And speaking of rare plants…here’s American Hart’s-tongue fern which only grows in rare limestone outcrops in the Northeast, but hasn’t been recorded as occurring in New England (at least according to my field guide which was updated by the New England Wildflower Society in 2005). What a treat to see it. My fern guide also says that ‘hart’ was another name for stag and the name refers to the shape resembling a deer tongue. Oh what strange stuff you learn in botanical field guides. I love the curly bits of the still unfurling leaves –

American hart’s-tongue fern

I had the camera on a rock to get this image and while I was shooting, another visitor who I will call Tripod Man came over to talk to me. Again. His opening salvo upon seeing my camera sitting on a bag of barley on the ground was “That’s one way to do it.” With kind of a disparaging tone. Ugh. Great. This time he wasn’t going to be satisfied with idle chit-chat about gear (The last time he asked me what lens I was using and I think he was taken aback by my reply. It was the old 90mm as usual, but I think it surprised him.) Anyway, this time he decided to lecture me about the things I should have like a quick-release plate for a tripod and a little light-blocking funnel thingie so I could see my LCD screen in any light. Ugh. Dude. I know you’re old enough to be my grandfather, but spare me your photography wisdom and go lecture someone else.

Anyway, we were soon rid of him and got to a lovely meadow display that made me sad we don’t have many meadows left. Paved over by sub-divisions and shopping malls. Too bad, too. There could be more of these –

Wild hyacinth

While mom was taking a break on a bench in this display, we saw these gorgeous pink flowers, but didn’t know what they were since they weren’t labeled the usual way.

Pink ladies’ bonnets

Jokingly I dubbed them Pink ladies’ bonnets and mom thought that was pretty good. Then I said they looked like giant pea flowers. We started looking around for more of them, but didn’t see more than a few plants. Then mom said they sort of looked like a locust flower and light dawned. Of course. Giant peas! They’re honey locust! We spied a much larger version nearby and yep, that was the ‘mother’ plant. Honey locust trees grow to be enormous and produce banana-sized bean pod things that fall to earth at the end of the summer. Being that the trees are so huge (at least the ones I’ve seen) I never could see the flowers before. Luckily there were tiny saplings at The Garden in the Woods and with the OM 90mm and a little fill flash, their beauty is revealed –

Honey locust

Once again I notice little green markings on the interior of the flowers – I think they must be guides for pollinators so they get right in there. So cool.

Well that’s all that I have from my time at the Garden in the Woods. I want to go back though as the season progresses. And next year since I missed the bluebells! Better put more reminders in my calendar and hope for overcast skies!