This fall was a great one for foliage photography, especially from the kayak. I got out one more time (ruining my Penultimate Paddle title as I thought I might) and even though the light wasn’t perfect and neither was my technique, it was nice to find some glorious reds, oranges and yellows still clinging to the trees.
It was my first time paddling at Lake Pawtuckaway and while it might not be my last, it was a bit intimidating. It’s a lot like lake Massabesic in the sense that it’s fairly large and allows all manner of power boats. All fine and dandy if you stay in the parts of the lake that don’t suit those boats well (or just can’t get there as in the west side of Massabesic), but if you get turned around like I did, and thrown into the main lake body, it can be a challenge. Choppy, windy with big wakes. I nearly got stuck on some submerged and nearly invisible rocks, too. With some determined paddling, I made it back to Fundy Cove and I took some time finding small slices of landscape. That part was fun.
The textures and colors were pretty amazing and I realize that I need to slow down when I shoot. Often I don’t let the boat come to a halt and instead shoot while still gliding a bit. Not the best technique for sharp images, but hey, at least I have something to work on. After a while, the clouds gave it a rest and we got a little blue sky. I have to say, if you don’t use a polarizer regularly in your photography – start. I keep it on the lens most of the time and especially when I’m kayaking or doing foliage photography. Eliminating the glare just makes the colors pop. On the leaves, the water and especially to calibrate reflections without over polarizing the sky. A key piece of kit for sure.
It’s all gone now. Our ever fleet fall has moved on to the deep gold stage of the beeches and oaks. Somehow it’s knowing how short-lived it is that makes it all the more wonderful to behold. Yeah, I know it will do it again next year, but it’s still special and I’m so glad I got to see another one.
This year we’ve had so much rain that the waterfalls are still flowing mightily. Strange for this time of year when most streams, rivers and brooks are quite low. Makes for some fantastic photography though and of course I was out there.
This is Mill Brook. Yeah, original huh? There is still a semi-active mill on this waterway, but most of them are gone (there are remnants of one just upstream and across the road from here). This section is just before an old reservoir where the dam has been breached. I wished I could have gotten into the water for this, but it was way too deep and fast for that. So I clung to the bank and did the best I could.
Farther downstream on Mill brook are the massive and difficult to photograph Garwin Falls. I’m by no means the first photographer down there and it has been photographed in a more classic way than I have here, but I was interested in trying to interpret the falls differently. They’re quite wide and actually curve, with tons of trees both upright and blown down by the Halloween Noreaster we got. Also, the far bank is private property. I could have trespassed, but I don’t ever want to be ‘that asshole’ if you know what I mean. This first shot is just before the water plunges down the ledge. I loved the little bridge I found. No way in hell was I going to step on it. Oh to be young again and indestructible.
Just after the first drop, it turns a bit and I stood the tripod on top of a huge boulder and aimed it down. The curvy log there I thought would make a great leading line and the angle is pretty trippy. I don’t think I’ve seen the falls shot from here.
A little further down the falls I found a big beech tree that had recently come down. I carefully walked partway down a big slab of granite and shot from the side. It’s another strange angle, but I like it. That bit of direct sunlight in the trees in the back is pretty sweet. I didn’t have much more time left though since the clouds were burning off and the sun was getting higher.
Now let’s leave New Hampshire and go to Massachusetts and Royalston falls; a very accessible and dramatic waterfall. The river itself winds through dense woods and has carved some very impressive gorges over the thousands of years its been flowing through here.
I wished I could have spent some more time exploring and looking for unique compositions, but with the daylight hours being so short this time of year, I went right onto the falls.
The gorge is amazing and almost as impressive as the water. I got to thinking about the thousands of years it took to carve the rocks and how the course of the water has changed. It is as close to eternal as I think it gets; it’s old and doesn’t care about us and what we do. We might dam it for a while, but when we’re gone it will flow on. Makes you feel so small and insignificant. In a good way though; minimalizing my own existence has never frightened me. What did frighten me a bit was the terrain and how treacherous would have been without a sturdy fence being there. It did somewhat limit compositional possibilities, but I didn’t mind. For this shot I put the tripod out beyond the fence though. It’s about a 50 foot drop down.
After seeing the Royalston Falls I wanted to check out two more, but only had enough light for one. It’s the massive, astonishing and incredibly difficult to photograph Spirit Falls. I’m pretty sure this is also on a branch of the Tully river and isn’t far from the Royalston Falls. It went for hundreds of feet through thick forest and dropped hundreds of feet as well. The roar was so constant and so loud it was all-enveloping. I poked around a bit, but I’d need hours and hours to find views and segments for photos. It went down much further into a very large floodplain that was gorgeous from the couple of vistas on the top of Jacob’s Hill.
Well, that’s it for now. I don’t have much planned in the way of shooting. Brown stick season is well and truly here and so nothing springs immediately to mind. Hopefully it won’t last long.
So after the relatively bug-free California environment I get back up here and am basically in a cloud of mosquitoes every time I set foot out of the house. This time of year being a woodland photographer really sucks. Literally. Between the mosquitoes and the ticks I’m down a pint.
No. Not really. But they are so distracting and annoying that more than once I’ve given up and fled. Running in a backpack with an 8-pound tripod is really not something I recommend.
Still I’ve had an idea brewing around in my head a while and braving the blood-sucking hordes is just something I had to do.
I’ve always loved mountain laurel. Growing up there were a few huge bushes in our yard and when you’re little there’s nothing better than crawling in among the fantastically twisted trunks and hiding. Like a little private world which as a kid is a pretty rare thing.
These days I value them for other things. In winter they add a nice touch of color with their seemingly everlasting green leaves. In spring they can help frame and give dimension to a forest landscape. Early summer though, is when they really shine. Those delicate white blossoms with their secret pink tracery. The stuff of fantasy and just a wee bit Asian…like those beautiful paintings of cherry blossoms. So after walking through Purgatory Brook earlier this year I knew I’d have to go back when they bloomed. I visited about 10 days before this shoot and all the blossoms were out, but still clenched like tight little bonnets. Now though, they’re out and lining the banks and trails.
My goal and initial vision was to try for landscapes featuring the brook and the plants. As I explored the area though I became aware just how difficult it was going to be since you can’t really move the bushes or the brook. Few compositions worked without a great deal of effort and contortions on the part of me and the tripod. But it was worth it. I may even go back.
I spent a lot of time on the banks looking for compositions. Even climbing out onto big boulders in the middle. Not much was really working you know? Something was off. It seemed like to capture the jungleyness of the area was to introduce a lot of chaos into the shot. But as I worked the scenes things started to come together.
Overall I wanted to show the relationship between the water and the laurel. How the laurel seemed to hug the banks even though it grows all over the woods here.
After a while I started to isolate blossoms as they cantalevered out over the rushing stream. Lucky for me the day was relatively still wind-wise and I could get medium long exposures. I don’t think I’ve ever seen photos of mountain laurel shot like this and even though they’re a bit strange, I like them. It’s how I see them at Purgatory Brook.
As the light changed and the clouds thinned I got a bit of translucence in the leaves which was a bonus, really. Contortions, mosquitoes and almost falling in the brook aside, I’m pretty pleased with how these came out. I had a rough idea of what I wanted and as I worked the location it came together. I think this is how I work best; a loose framework for the images, something definite in terms of subject, but execution can remain to be seen.
Processing-wise I fiddled with the light balance to warm them up, gave the greens and yellows a touch of luminance. Some got more clarity, some less to emphasize the gauzy quality of the flowers. Others got minimal sharpening and noise reduction, some cropping. I think all of them had the vibrance turned down a bit; after the rains the color was so saturated it just looked unreal although it was intense.
Anyway, that’s it for the moment. I’ve got a few more shots of giant rhododendron to do once they blossom. That shoot is going to be challenging, but I’ve been thinking about it for months. I hope they bloom soon. Everything is so weird this year. Some things are late, some are early. Crazy.
I’ve always been intrigued by broken-down buildings on the side of the road. In New England they are everywhere. Little shacks. Barns. Garages. Unidentifiable buildings that make you wonder what they used to be and why they were hammered together in the first place. Mostly they’re wooden, but occasionally metal and almost always difficult to reach for any close work. Sometimes the available light isn’t so great either and it makes the shots almost unrecognizable to someone who doesn’t know what she’s looking at.
This is one I’ve passed by probably a hundred times. I’m told it might have been a chicken barn since before electric fans they needed a lot of natural ventilation.
Unless you’d driven by it in winter, you probably wouldn’t notice it at all during other seasons. The leaves obscure it almost completely. They also made it a challenge to find a decent composition, but the light was so yummy that I decided to risk parking on the curve with barely any shoulder and walk up and down while other drivers looked at me like I was crazy.
I’m pretty used to that by now though. This cemetery is one of my mom’s favorites and she’s been asking me to photograph it in winter. So I went out the other day to try, figuring it would be easy. Silly me forgot about the snow. Since this cemetery is right on the side of the road, there was a 6-foot snowbank between me and it. So up I went. People driving past almost crashed craning their necks to look at the lunatic with a camera on the snowbank.
It makes me laugh thinking about it because it was funny. I couldn’t move forwards or backwards because the snow was too soft. I could only move from side to side and even then I sank up to my thigh a couple of times. What else can you do but laugh?
So the next time you see something that jerks your head around on the side of the road, stop and take a chance. You might end up with a gem and a good laugh.
It’s true that mountains in New England aren’t particularly tall (the tallest being barely over 6000 feet). It’s true that they aren’t particularly awe-inspiring as say the Rockies, Alps, Himalayas or Andes. No one would call them the roof of the world. They don’t have hidden enclaves of ancient civilization or host Olympic games. They do however make you work your ass off.
Hiking in New England is destination hiking, meaning you will have to toil long and hard for a view. In Utah and Arizona there’s always a view and it makes whatever work is involved that much easier. Ditto for parts of Washington, California, Colorado and Oregon. Lots of terrain in those locations provide for views and places to hang out and catch your breath. Not so in the White Mountains. Here you hike in dense forest on a trails that can be mostly boulders and sometimes are outright stream beds. It’s not uncommon that the trails can run with water all spring and summer. I’ve heard it said that a hiker doesn’t need Gortex boots unless she hikes in New England.
So in keeping with the challenge of White Mountains hiking, we decided to tackle Mts. Jackson and Webster. There’s a 6.x mile loop trail that goes up one mountain and across a ridge to the other. Little did we know that it was all up or down, extremely rocky and steep as hell. Some niggling voice in my head made me take my hiking poles just in case and I’m seriously glad I did; they helped immensely with balance, like having a tail. Because I had to manage the poles, I couldn’t hang the camera in it’s usual spot on my pack shoulder strap and instead stowed it inside. I did break it out for little gems like this though –
On the way up Mt. Jackson we came to our first of many stream crossings (I suspect we crossed the same stream over and over) and I couldn’t resist getting in a few photos. I also shot some film here, too and have to send it off to be processed. Ah the old days. This shot of the brook falling away out of sight will give you some idea of the constant uphill pitch of the trail. It hardly ever switchbacks and just basically plows straight up.
From here until I was almost at the summit the camera stayed in the pack. We really had to get a move on if we wanted to get back home at a reasonable hour. I stopped just before the final rock scramble to take this next image. I just loved the nearest trees contrasted with the farthest and the colors of the mountains and sky.
So let me turn around for a second and let you see the final ascent –
Anyway I finally made it up and damn, it was pretty spectacular. The clouds hung in there and the light cooperated.
After a quick lunch of turkey sandwiches and homemade graham crackers, I found some mountain sandwort among the rocks on the summit –
Such fragile beauty in a relatively harsh environment. I wondered what in the world pollinated them and then found some bees, so I guess there are lots of hardy creatures in New Hampshire.
After much sliding and semi-falling, we got off the peak and started over the ridge to Mt. Webster. There’s only about 100 feet of difference in altitude between the two and so after a bit of down (ow! visions of what’s to come) we found a few rare flat spots on the trail. None lasted more than a minute, but they had their own secret beauty –
Soon we made it to Mt. Webster, had another snack, shot some more and headed out.
The camera only came out one more time on the way down, to shoot a waterfall in such bad light that I am not sharing them with anyone. On a nice overcast day, it would be spectacular though.
The climb down Mt. Webster was a personal misery. The relentless pitch and lack of any flat spots that stretch the legs and release the pressure on tendons and ligaments did me in. I hadn’t been in as much knee pain in years and it took an extraordinarily long time for me to descend. But I did and was soon ensconced in the Audi for the 90 minute ride home. A shower and a beer were never so welcome!