Favorite subjects

A midwinter’s stream

Another subject I love in winter are brooks, streams and rivers. Or more properly for Wisconsin, a creek. Ripley Creek in particular. It’s a lovely, but overgrown waterway that feeds into the Wisconsin river just south of my house. The trailhead is 8 minutes away so it’s becoming a go-to spot in much the same way as Tucker and Purgatory brooks used to be for me in NH.

My usual approach to this kind of shot is to use a slow shutter speed and smooth the water, but this time I decided that the smooth element was already there – the snow – and so I left off the filter(s) and used a faster shutter speed. This gave me a rougher, more jagged texture in the water and that contrasts nicely with the snowy blanket on the shore.

They make you restless


The traces always show

The camera was on the tripod for both those shots, but sometimes I just couldn’t get it into the right position and I had to hand hold. Luckily I could brace myself pretty well and there was enough light that I didn’t have to go to a very high ISO.

I had to go for it though because of the shapes the ice forms behind the boulders. Isn’t it great? You can see that the water slows down behind the rocks and so that’s where the ice forms first. I was jammed into the branches of a hemlock sapling for this one, trying to back up enough to get the near ice formation and the right bank into the shot without getting the branches in the way. Not a bad effort and one of my favorites for the series.

Voices inside

Another big choice for winter water scenes is monochrome or color. Going black and white works especially well because there is true white and true black in just about every shot (even if you do have to tweak in post). It’s dramatic and shows off the textures and contours of the landscape, which you can see here supports a lot of plant growth and is sometimes steep and rocky. The color of the water though, is part of what fascinates me about doing stream work. The tannins.

Cool down

Just look at that richness down there. It is most definitely not pollution. Tannins are chemical substances that come from phenolic acids (also called tannic acid) that are produced by plants. These acids are found in all parts of plants including leaves, bark and stems. As water moves through the soil the acids leach out and collect in surface waterways. They bind with starches, minerals, cellulose and proteins and are NOT water soluble and don’t decompose easily. This means those molecules are carried along in water, staining it like tea (tannins are exactly what makes tea that color). So when I like the composition and the contrast, I keep my shots in color.

You can’t escape the hours

But when I want to focus attention on structure and line, I leach out those tannins.

The remove of time

This last one was a little challenging in terms of getting those big logs in the foreground. My tripod was on its tiptoes (should have had the center column with me, but I didn’t) and I was on a bridge (luckily a high one), but it was close.


A Medley of Mushrooms 2 – The Yard

It’s great when I can just go out my front door and find gorgeous things to photograph. I used to do this back in NH when I had a much smaller yard and now I have even more to find and share. Like these beauties, all found in the yard –

This first one is really tiny. The stipes (stems) are as thin as thread and the caps a mere 1/4 of an inch across. They come up in the leaf litter and once you notice them it’s like a dusting of snow. The trick to finding mushrooms is to be still. Then they seem to come out of nowhere. Giving myself some time to look around and really see brought me to this pair of beauties. A couple of days later and they were gone.

Marasmius capillaris

During that same quiet few moments of looking, I saw this one and knew it to be a type of mycena. The blue tint really is there; no camera trickery. It fades as the mushroom ages so I’ll have to check earlier next year to see if I can find one in a more vivid state.

Mycena subcaerulea

Once your eyes are attuned to mushroom hunting they seem to be everywhere and they don’t need to be as brightly colored as this one, but it helps.

Hygrocybe miniata

Hygrocybe miniata


agrocybe ?

Mycena epipterygia var. lignicola

All the IDs are my best guesses according to my several books and the internet, but some just elude me altogether, like this next one –

My little mystery

My little mystery

You’d think such a distinctive little shroom would be easy, but no. This next one is though.

coprinus atramentarius

coprinus atramentarius

It’s commonly known as the tippler’s bane because of a toxin it has that makes a person feel very sick if they eat them with alcohol, or follow them up with alcohol. Otherwise they’re quite edible and rumored to be delicious. The compound they make is similar to the one used in Antabuse, a drug prescribed to alcohol abusers. Interesting.

Out of Season

Granted it’s not the only type of fern to remain green in winter, but it just looks so pathetic sometimes that it’s irresistible.

I found it while exploring some ruins in the Townes forest in New Boston, NH.  We’ve had so little snow that I noticed swathes of evergreen fern all over the foundation.  They all drooped over so artfully, like waterfalls, that I began hunting some to photograph.  This one had the best light and was nicely isolated by a large indentation in the stone foundation of the barn that used to stand here.  The comparative darkness of the rocky cave made for a great backdrop for the fern in the soft morning sun.  I especially love how the curled leaves form a repeating pattern and how the exploded spores stand out against them.  Ah nature, thou art so cool.

Parting Shots

Well 2010 is on its way out.  I can hardly believe I had such a successful photography year and I can only wonder what the next one will bring.  Thanks to everyone who stopped by, commented or even subscribed to this blog.

Here’s the latest batch of photos and probably the last of the year.  I went to a marsh I’ve shot in the spring because I thought it would make a great location for a sunrise.  After waiting for some snow, I finally got what I’d envisioned –


Sunrise at the beaver lodge (check out the mist!)

This one conveys marsh the best, I think.

I waited until the sun crested the trees to shoot these coyote prints.  Strangely enough I heard a bunch of them in the distance as I approached the marsh.  They were yipping and singing and having a grand time.  These prints look fresh to me considering the high winds we had in the days before this one.  Where was she headed?

Night traveler

Why to the beaver lodge, of course.  I bet those beavers laughed and laughed all snug down in their den.  Gotta get dinner somewhere else my canine friend.

Off to the lodge

Amazingly, the mist returned just after sunup.  I didn’t dare go out past the vegetation (maybe next month), but I really like what I was able to get.  This is definitely a terrific place.


Frost crystals and mist on a clear winter morning.

The frozen fingers and toes were worth it.

Living Bad Dreams

If you’ve been reading this blog or following my flickr or Smugmug feeds you’ll have noticed my penchant for abandoned places (and my love for heavy metal – spot the references if you can).  Especially between seasons if you know what I mean.  Sure, you can shoot derelict stuff anytime, but after the leaves fall and before the snow flies seems an especially good time.  Not just because everything is in a profound state of ugly, but because those bare trees can really add to the mood of a place.

One of the reasons I shoot abandoned locations is to document what was there before they become something else.  Here in the eastern part of the country, space is at a premium compared to say, Montana.  In the west old structures are often left to molder away on their own because there is no real need to tear them down.  It’s one of the reasons I love the west so much.  Here in the east we often bulldoze perfectly benign things because we need the real estate.

A case in point is this old (well now it’s old) miniature golf park / driving range –


Land of Pleasant Living

I can’t claim any nostalgia over the place other than in general.  I only went there once in high school even though it existed all through my childhood and only became defunct a few years ago (I think the year on the day planner in the office was 2006).  Even though I wasn’t a customer, I was used to seeing the place if you know what I mean.  It was the kind of thing you’d use to give someone directions – go through the light at the mini-golf place.


Like a Hurricane

As you can see, vandals have gotten a head start on the destruction.  I seem to recall this trap was a little New England scene with a barn or a water wheel mill or something.  Cutesy, but typical of the old-style mini-golf set up.  For some reason we also had a tribute to Gilligan’s Island –


Not a single luxury

No one bothered me while I shot although I’m sure folks in the passing cars wondered what the hell I was doing out in the wind and cold.  Eventually I made my way over to the former office.  Had to wait until some hunters played through though.  After I heard a couple of very close rifle shots, I looked over my shoulder a few minutes later and noticed a hunter standing in the walkway between the driving range and the office.  It was a little weird, but he didn’t say anything and I didn’t see him again.  The destruction inside the office was near total.  Only more sturdy structures like walls, the counter and the ice cream treat freezer remain intact.  It made for some interesting still lifes –



Forced Retirement

I like these two photos because the objects in them were found as they are, but not where they are.  I moved them to better locations and shot.  The light was pretty damn great for both and having the camera on a tripod helped.  All of these were shot with a tripod, something I don’t do often enough, but felt that I should since it wasn’t like I would be walking miles.  The additional range of options it gave me really helped.  I wasn’t cornered into using a high ISO or wide open apertures. You can find the rest of the set here on flickr.

Although the light isn’t the best in the outdoor shots, I like enough of what I got to feel satisfied with the shoot and what I was able to document.  The site is due for a date with the bulldozer in the spring.  Like the world needs another supermarket, right?  But that’s what’s going in there.  It makes me a little sad.  People complain that families and friends don’t do anything together anymore.  That we’ve become a society of passive watchers only instead of active doers.  As long as we keep tearing down miniature golf parks to put up supermarkets is there any wonder why?


House of Sorrow

I can never resist an abandoned building.

This house is in the next town over and on a road I hardly ever take, so when I did and saw it I knew I’d have to go back and shoot it.  When I did I had an intense feeling of loss and sorrow.  Judging by the garden out back with all its little markers and organization, and that aqua blue paint, I imagine this was once someone’s pride and joy.  A refuge, now becoming a ruin.  The dead bird really kicked things up a notch.  What a death.

Here are a couple of sample images, but to get the full effect hit the Slideshow on SmugMug.

House of Sorrow

Honor Guard

Hopefully I remember to get back there in summer when everything is blooming…what a lovely contrast that will be.

End of an Era

The Era of Chuck.

Aka Monkey.

Aka The Orange Menace.

Aka The Boy.

Aka The Old Man.

And he was old.  18 years.  Amazing really, but not enough.  This is the last photo I took of him.  Again, not enough.

Chuck 1992-2010

My heart is broken and my life is surely poorer without him.  For 18 years he made me smile.  Made my heart light up just for seeing him.  His little pink nose.  His bushy, bottle-washer tail.  The times I made his toes bloom.  How can a cat take up so much room?  I knew it would be hard to lose him, but I had no idea it would be so intensely devastating.

Here he was last year making a wicked awesome face.

Can't ya see I'm busy here?

How can an animal, a mere pet take up so much space in a person’s life?  Chuck did for me.  I got him at 11 or 12 weeks from a friend of my mom’s.  I wanted a male orange cat and her cat’s litter included one so I jumped at him.  I think she was a little annoyed at my insistence that he stay with his mom as long as possible, but I think it helps mature them and make them more independent.  Certainly I did not want a needy cat.  And I didn’t get one.  Chuck was his own creature; beholden to no one (unless you had something yummy on offer) and I loved that about him.

Chuck is suspicious I'll ruin his nap.

Even though it’s quite frowned upon now, and almost considered abuse, I let Chuck go outside (although not at night).  He craved it and was impossible to live with when confined.  It wasn’t always this way.  His first taste of the outside was an accident.  He leaned up against the screen on the second story porch where I lived and fell out.  Hours later it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen him in a while and went looking.  Soon I found the pooched-out screen and raced outside calling his name.  Soon he appeared, scared and shaking, from under a lilac bush.  Meowing pitifully he ran to me and clung with a fierceness that pierced my flesh and my heart.  As soon as he saw the open front door he launched himself off my shoulder and up the stairs.  It would be a couple years until we tried the outdoors again.

In no time, I could barely get him inside.

Chuck lounges under the quince in April 2004.

Chuck pants in the heat of summer 1995.

Things Chuck liked –

  • Me and my husband
  • Outside – he didn’t go far, but liked to be out all day
  • Beef jerky (we made our own and he’d maul you for some)
  • Pancakes
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Cheez Its
  • Tuna
  • Sleeping on my head and taking up most of the pillow
  • Coming to see me outside and hanging out for a while
  • The bushes by the corner of the house
  • Privacy
  • Chin scritches
  • Purring – damn, he was the best purrer ever.  Loud and strong.  What a motor!
  • The sun and breeze on his fur
  • Smooshy food (I fed him canned food the last year of his life and boy did he love it!)
  • To destroy carpets

Things Chuck did not like –

  • Other people
  • Larry and pretty much all other cats
  • Deep snow
  • Heavy rain
  • Riding in the car
  • The cat carrier (shadows of things to come)
  • Vegetables
  • Being kept inside during baby bird season
  • The vacuum cleaner
  • Being scooped up and taken indoors just when it just got dark and interesting out
  • Playing baby kitty
  • Me making his toes bloom
  • Having his feet touched
  • Me making him do Elvis
  • Having messy fur

I don’t know how to end this post.  My heart is heavy and I’ve cried a river of tears for him.  The weight of the grief is the heaviest I’ve ever felt and I will mourn him for a long time.  Possibly for the rest of my life.  Oh my Monkey Boy, 18 years wasn’t nearly enough.  I miss you terribly.

Chuck in November 2005 - he's the color of pine needles!

Reflections on Death – Part 2

Strange that I haven’t posted more from my large collection of cemetery images.  I shoot cemeteries all the time and really enjoy spending time in them.  New England is littered with old ones and many of them are tiny and very picturesque.  Recently on a trip to upstate New York, I saw this one in Stillwater right on Route 423.  It has no name and appears to be used by only a handful of families.

...all in a row

Many of the stones were illegible due to time and weather, but the ones I could read dated from early to late 19th century.

The Sentinel

I shot with my legacy Zuiko 24mm f2.8 lens this time and wanted to capture the green lushness of this little burial ground.  The huge trees spaced throughout added to the intimate feel.  I reduced the clarity slightly in two of the photos and only sharpened slightly.  Color saturation and vibrance was left alone, but I did reduce the luminance in the greens a bit.  I think it works.

In company

I know this is sort of an unusual subject for some people, but if you like it and don’t want to wait for my next cemetery post, you can visit my Graven Images Gallery on SmugMug.

Woman v. Nature

I will share more California pictures, but first some from a recent and not-too-successful trip into the woods.  Yes, I did get some usable photos, but was nearly driven insane and carried off by deer and horse flies.  Dammit why do they ruin everything?  Bug repellent in any form is useless against their onslaught.  Vicious little bastards spoiled my fun.  I found this gorgeous fern display, complete with a young orb weaver spider and could only get one good image –

The Venetian (OM 90mm f2)

It was crazy.  Between each step like taking the tripod out of its sleeve, mounting the lens, mounting the tripod etc, I had to dance around and wave my hat like a mental patient just so I could get maybe 20 seconds of peace.  Plus I was sweating profusely and it was running into my eyes.  Stingy!  This is the only frame I have like this because the flies were so relentless it was just impossible to concentrate or really start to ‘see’ the compositional possibilities.  No way I could take the time to photograph the spider.  I have a few handheld frames, but none worth a damn.  Bah!

I decided to head back to the car, muttering aloud to myself that I was giving in, are you happy now, nature?  I give up.  Back to the car I go.  You beat me.  All the time waving my hat and trying to get enough footspeed to outrun the flesh eating flies.  Looking at the map, I decided to retrace my steps as it was probably shorter than taking the trail that basically formed a loop with the one I came out on.  I didn’t really want to hike back on the dirt road, but thought it would be easiest.  Then I realized that another trail would take me by my favorite little pond and probably wouldn’t add any time to my trip.  I was temporarily fly-free and chanced it.  A little way in and I found a good boulder overlooking the pond where I could see almost all of it.  The flies even stayed away long enough for me to switch lenses again –

Charging Station (ZD 12-60mm f2.8-4)

Of course I forgot my polarizer, but thought I could try anyway.  I was there so what the hell.  Amazingly the flies stayed away and I actually could stop to have a snack and some water.  Sure, the ants noticed and wanted their tribute, but they didn’t really bother me.  I could hear some other folks on the trail now.  They went right by me and didn’t see me on my rocky perch.  Eventually I followed them up the trail and split off onto another one at the edge of the boulder field.  Then what to my wondrous eyes should appear?  Why Hemlock Varnish Shelf, my dear.

Hemlock Varnish Shelf (ZD 12-60mm f2.8-4)

I think I actually said ‘wow’ out loud.  These things are huge.  Like dinner plate huge.  And they really are that colorful and shiny.  Varnished is right.  The whole log was host to a troop of them.  They must grow really fast, too since I don’t think they could over-winter and stay so fresh looking.  It was cool and the flies stayed away.  My snack and water had revived me and I felt relaxed and comfortable photographing these huge mushrooms.

So I’m glad I stuck with it and decided to chance the trail instead of the road.  I would have missed a good opportunity to shoot my favorite little pond (and check the progress of the beaver dam – it’s been shored up and is even more effective than last fall when I think it got a bit bedraggled) and find some mushrooms I’d never seen before.  Take that nature, I win!

Raging Falls

Even though I haven’t been posting, I have been shooting.  Went to a new location yesterday at dawn and I think I might go back soon as I have other things I want to try.

Yeah, it’s another river in winter, but the rough beauty of places like this just gets to me.  The noise of the crashing water, the evergreens crowding close, the challenge of that massive dynamic range coupled with slow exposures.  Lots of fun.

I loved this one for the axe blade-like rock formation by the tree and the small fall right beneath it.

On Edge

Nearby was a rocky cascade with the most beautiful shape.  I was down the bank in a flash to set up the tripod as high as it would go.  B&W conversion and a square crop really maximize the shapes.


Black and white is just perfect for a lot of winter river work.  The dynamic range is at its maximum with the added snow and it heightens the drama of just about any photo.


That’s not to say I don’t love color.  This next photo in particular has a lot of punch; starting with that kick of green at the top which brings out the richness in the browns in the trees and rocks.  Initially I was drawn to this scene by the little rivulet snaking down the rock face on the left.  Then I stood and took in the whole scene and loved the way each terrace faces the viewer and the brook just curves away and out of sight.

Rocky Descent

It’s March now, and with the approach of spring these falls will be even more dramatic once the snowmelt is underway and the new greenery unfurls, but they still offer some gorgeous treks through the woods and are worth visiting.