The Other Side of the Trail

Fog on the river was the thing that sent me down to the Grandfather Falls IAT segment, but it wasn’t what kept me there. After the sun rose high enough to burn off the fog, I headed to the trail to see what I could find. It’s an interesting landscape full of rocks and twisted roots and I love it.

A touch of madness

This first shot features three wonderfully tippy white cedars. I’ve recently purchased Tony Kuyper’s TK8 combo panels and Sean Bagshaw’s video guide about the new panels. I used a lot of the masking tools to create this first image and I really like the results. The way it can help you manage delicate light is truly astounding. I’ve only scratched the surface, but it’s a really powerful plug-in for Photoshop. Crazy powerful. Anyway…sometimes the color is at your feet in early fall.

Nothing covered up
Held in place

This little section puts ankles at risk, but it’s fascinating and a little bit menacing in almost every light. It’s a popular place to walk and to get to the river, so the path is worn down. Standing on this spot and looking off trail to the right you get this view –

What you’re made of

It looks like a trail, but it’s really just a seam of bedrock. I’ve shot it before, concentrating on the two leaning trees in the back, but that was winter when that leading line was covered in snow. This time it was all about that seam and the crisscrossing lines of the fallen trees. It’s in situations like this that I wish I’d brought the monster Manfrotto for more height on the trail.

For this next one I didn’t need it and I almost didn’t stop to take it, thinking I couldn’t do it justice. But I gave it a go and with some careful processing I think I preserved the magical light in this little bit of woods.

Breaking through

The land slopes down from the road to all parts of this trail, some are very steep. Up this way though, near the dam, the slope is shallower, but it is wet from a run-off and so has a few little boardwalks to keep trail erosion down and feet dry. The spreading roots of this birch got my attention and I spent some time trying to manage a decent shot. Wide angle images are especially difficult because they include so much. You need to find a unifying theme or organizing set of structures to pull it together and create order in chaos, but this image was about chaos in a way. I wanted to emphasize the roots and their tenacious grip on the earth. This is as close as I could get.

Not a reasonable excuse

Not one to stick to the trails all the time, I went off here to the left. It’s mossy and green with lots of big boulders and downed trees. I was mushroom hunting, but there was a surprise waiting for me.

Of the several mushroom scenes I shot, only a couple came out really well. This first one is a pair in the Lactarius family and I just loved the moss that surrounds them. Tripod placement was tricky because of the jumble of branches and other debris, but I managed it and used focus bracketing to get 19 images to stack. I didn’t have to do any retouching – a miracle. The reason is the out of focus areas are really minimal and everything is crisp and in the focus bracketing range.

A comforting presence

This is another scene that I had to try for. No it is not a set up. That leaf was really there like that. It’s another image stack, but I have no idea what kind of mushroom it is. Normally I always choose fresh, pristine examples, but this one, at its ragged end, was beautiful in its own way. Especially with the leaf, also in its decline. The green of the moss is a nice counterpoint to that and the light was lickable.

Sorrowburn

Just a little ways off, down in a small depression between boulders was this –

I think it’s a deer – a doe specifically, but I really don’t know. Because deer are our most numerous large mammal, a skull of this size is most likely what it is, but without the nose or the lower jaw, it’s a little harder to tell. Either way it’s been here a while. The small slug was just a bit of luck. I didn’t even notice it when I shot this picture.

And for last is my most favorite wildflower, the Indian pipe. Monotropa uniflora. A late-bloomer for sure, but oh, how could I resist? It was coming up through some moss that was either dead or just very dormant. All brown and the perfect stage for this pale beauty. I think another is making its way to the light just behind it. Not that they need it, but they need to be available for pollinators like ants and bumblebees, two that I’ve seen on these flowers from time to time. This is a multi-image stack, probably around a dozen done in Zerene with retouching in the background.

A vague feeling

Even though the trail along the river isn’t a long one, there is plenty to see and it never gets old. No doubt I’ll continue to visit in all seasons.

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