Recently a joint venture between the Piscataquog Land Conservancy and the Francestown Land Trust resulted in the acquisition of 149 acres of land under easement and protection from development. The official name is Diane and John R. Schott Brennan Falls Reserve, but I think folks will refer to it as The Brennan Falls Reserve or Brennan Brook Forest. Either way it’s a lovely addition to the conservation efforts of both groups. I love it when this kind of thing happens and opens new, natural spaces for people to enjoy. I especially love it when there’s a brook or a waterfall involved and Brennan brook has a lovely 20-foot cascade.
This is an out-and-back hike ending at the falls. If you were to continue up Bullard Hill Road, you’d eventually get to a long-abandoned village dating to about 1700, now reduced to cellar holes. Farming isn’t easy in New England! Between the time I headed into the preserve and when I headed out, 3 hours later, a kiosk had been erected for maps and other information about the property. Very exciting. Thanks, Ben!
Note: during dry periods, it should be easy to drive in to the kiosk area on Bullard Hill Road where there is parking and turn around space. Otherwise it’s safer to park on Campbell Hill road and walk in (maybe 1/2 a mile). Bullard Hill road is on the left, right where the pavement ends and turns to dirt. There is a sign for Bay State Forestry Service there currently.
The first thing you’ll come upon is a pond that’s created by an old dam, presumably for mill operations. The beavers appreciate it I’m sure.
The light is kind of harsh and was difficult to deal with, but because Pat Nelson helped me out so much with finding my way to the new preserve, I wanted to get some photos the PLC can use to highlight this little jewel. I have a feeling this view will be shot over and over as people explore the area.
Just on the other side of the dam, I found this little cascade reflecting the intensely green canopy and so I had to see what I could do with it. I think a faster shutter speed would have better captured the sparkly green-ness of the reflection better. Maybe next time.
Once again I was dealing with direct sun filtered through canopy. Not the ideal conditions for moving water photography, but I took it as a challenge and tried my best to make the light work for the subject. One way I find effective is to isolate details of larger views or change composition/perspective to eliminate as many distracting highlights as possible – basically to do landscape slices. And if you can’t eliminate a highlight area (where the human eye naturally goes to first), I think the best course of action is to try to make that highlight work for the overall flow of the image. With the two falls shots, I think there’s balance and cohesion to the images. Definitely the improved dynamic range of my GH3 helped manage the difficult light. For the wide shot, I waited until the earth rotated a bit so the hot spots got smaller, but in the first I didn’t. More experimentation is definitely needed.
Not far from that little cascade are the falls themselves. I love how the sound of the crashing water starts as part of the background noise, but then I become consciously aware of it. That’s when a little flicker of excitement flares in my stomach. I get closer and the roar gets louder. Anticipation builds. What will I see? What new and fantastic construction of granite ledge will I find? How will I shoot it? It’s all part of the magic of the woods for me. And who doesn’t love a waterfall?
I spent about an hour with the falls, watching the light change and finding a friend to hang out with.
With the naked eye, I couldn’t figure out why this orb weaver looked so strange. When I got the macro lens on, I saw that she was just finishing a meal. Her jaws were still actively working and she completely ignored me. Only in post did I see that it looks like there’s still an eye staring back at you out of its misery of being eaten alive. Shiver. This wasn’t the only spider making a good living beside the falls, but it was the biggest.
Later I found this little beauty –
Although I’ve encountered plenty of wood frogs before, I have no good photos of them because they’re so fast and wily. Luckily I had the 35-100mm lens mounted and when this little one froze I thought how wonderful was the camouflage and managed to get this image before it darted off into the hollow of a tree.
So that’s my 3-hour tour of the new Brennan Falls Reserve aka Brennan Brook Forest. It’s no doubt a vital part of the Piscataquog watershed and very thoughtfully managed.
Here’s some early shots from the last week or so. I don’t know w hat got into me.
Adams pond and the whole world lit up pink the other day, it was so peaceful and fresh. I could smell the apples from the orchard nearby, too.
and less than an hour later it looked like this, the fog still hung around which was cool –
A slightly larger body of water the next morning –
on the way home to coffee and breakfast from that last shot, I stopped in a cemetery just down the street because it was so darn beautiful. The colors just popped big time! I rested the camera on a granite wall and aimed back toward the road.
Lots more in the hard drive and in my head, so stay tuned.
I’m not going to get all wordy with these posts. I’m shooting like mad, but can’t process efficiently because this old laptop of mine is just not enough for the new technology. Luckily a new one should arrive today. In the mean time, here’s a couple more from recent outings –
The tail end of winter still holds some beauty, I just had to look for it. These first two are details of a beaver pond in the woods that appeared to be new. These bushes were still alive, albeit dormant for the season. I loved the patterns the ice made while it was thawing. All those bubbles. The color is striking, too, like beer or champagne. Getting them was a bit of an adventure. I stood on what I thought was the bank since it was covered with snow, but it wasn’t. Turns out there was ice under there, too. Wet socks are not fun, but I laughed my head off, startling a nearby hairy woodpecker. Luckily it wasn’t that cold so I kept on. I bet the beavers were laughing, too.
It was a day for staring into icy puddles, too. This leaf looks as if it’s trying to free itself and I love how different the colors are from the pond pictures. At first I thought that purple hue was just a goof with the white balance, but it isn’t. I even reduced the magenta in the image and the blues, it persists. Just one of the wonders of the forest.
There aren’t too many signs of spring yet, but the birches had a good year. So many of them are splitting their britches.
Also saw some porcupine tracks in the snow, so I hope spring isn’t far behind.
I am planning to head out on Saturday with some friends (the same guys I shot the Flume Gorge with last month, plus one more) and hopefully we get cooperative weather. We’re going to try to find abandoned buildings and do a sunset in the White Mountains. It’s gonna be a long day, but I hope we find some magic.
How are a landscape photographer and a vampire alike?
Neither goes outside at noon.
Seriously, it makes you wonder doesn’t it? Blood-sucking fiend and Fun-sucking fiend, both taking the joy right out of life.
I recently stopped following a landscape photographer’s blog because he just kept going on and on about only shooting at the crack of dawn. You know what? It’s pompous. It makes me wonder if the guy is really any good. Why can’t he get a terrific photo during the day, huh? Why cantcha snooty landscape photographer guy? You know what else? It’s boring. Every single photo looks the same as every single other photo. Lots of pastel-colored snow scenes with blue shadows and a few fences, trees and churches. Nice, but dull. Technically well-executed, but a yawn fest. I mean, if that’s all you do it’s pretty repetitive. Plus you have to stay inside all day and where’s the fun in that?
Don’t misunderstand, I get the appeal of shooting when the sun is low, but I don’t get the strictness about it. It’s almost like religious dogma with some photographers. I mean, hell, I’m out all day sometimes, does that mean I shouldn’t take pictures? Baloney.
I. Don’t. Buy. It.
I took that shot at about midday last spring. No, it isn’t subtle and all soft and glowing with pastel shades, but it’s still a good photograph. Sometimes photography means working with the light you have. It’s knowing how that can help you make the most of what you find. Using this same shot as an example, what did I do that helped? I used a polarizing filter. Knowing that color would be one of the things to make the shot work, I made sure I had the best of it in that reflection.
Ever hear the expression “perfect is the enemy of good”? Well, that’s how I think of these other golden hour only photographers. They sacrifice good images on the altar of perfect (or their ideas of perfect) and who knows if they ever please themselves. Yes, there is such a thing as perfect light, but it varies by subject matter and what kind of photograph you want. I’d rather be flexible than rigid. I’d rather know how to deal with “imperfect” light than only venture out twice a day. With the vampires.
So what else. Oh yeah, how about vacation. For most of us it means going to a place we probably won’t go back to again. Once in a lifetime kind of thing. You have to work with what you find. What if the sky doesn’t have nice, puffy clouds in it like that first photo? What if the sky is boring and dull? Well put something in it –
Or find something in the foreground to take its place –
Another one shot when the sun is high and guess what? It doesn’t suck. Who wants to drag their asses out of bed at dawn on vacation every day? Not this little gray duck. Once, maybe twice, but not every day. Hell. It’s vacation.
All right, what if the light itself is flat and dull? Isolate. Get out your telephoto, baby. Sometimes tightening up on big vistas can give you little slices that are just as interesting.
Another thing you can do is scout your location beforehand. This can present you with ideas you can use when the light changes. Take this example –
I shot this on my 2nd or 3rd trip to this location. From past visits I knew how the light would track in the afternoon and because I’d seen it in the trees before, I knew that it would also light up the ice in the gorge. Ta da! It worked. And it’s what makes this photo. Not the subject – the LIGHT. And it’s not sundown either. By the time the sun sinks that low up there, the light is gone from this gorge. Mr. Snooty Landscape Photographer would have missed this completely.
See…you don’t need to only photograph during the golden hours (roughly ½ hour before and after the sun rises or sets, also called civil twilight), but if you know how to manage the light you have, you can usually come up with something you’ll be happy with. After a little practice you can make almost any scene work for you. Good light is what you make of it. Of course, getting there early is never a bad idea –
Let me count the ways –
It’s been truly wonderful this season. More to come.
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 –
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 –
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.
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!
Went with some friends to explore a tiny part of another conservation area. This one also follows a stream (or several I think) through it’s course down at the bottom of a rather steep ravine. There are lots of beaver ponds as well and being sheltered by high banks on either side, it’s great for extending a sunrise shoot a few hours longer. There are lots of nest boxes and I’ll be the bird activity is very high…we scared some geese and made them crabby. Honking and flapping. They were funny. Eventually they moved off and the pond returned to its serene state. The roots of this old tree made for a terrific foreground element.
Used a polarizer to maximize those reflections and a graduated neutral density filter (8 and 4 stops) to balance the skies a bit, especially when the sun crested the hill.
For these next ones I used my 80s vintage, manual OM 65-200 zoom in order to really isolate the stumps and the reflections. Used the zoom feature in Live View to make sure the focus was spot on, so critical with these kinds of shots.
A little further away on the same side of the pond I saw this beautiful moss-covered log. After scrambling through the undergrowth I realized that beside it was a stone wall. It fell perfectly perpendicular to it and the lines were irresistible. When the beavers flooded the area the wall was submerged and this is all you can see from the shore. Went back to the Zuiko Digital 12-60mm for the wide angle view.
Sepia just seems to suit this last one despite some intense color. Mainly I wanted to emphasize the lines made by the downed tree, the boulders and the trees on the far bank. I also love the scrim of ice in the foreground. I’m definitely going back to this location for more exploration.
Even after 25 years of semi-serious photography, I’m still learning to see.
Today I went with a couple friends on a dawn shoot. Although it’s fun and I enjoy the camaraderie, I don’t know if this is a good thing for my art or not. Photography has been a solitary pursuit for me and sometimes if I’m not concentrating, I can’t see.
While my two friends were yakking it up, I took this photo. I almost missed it, too. This is actually one of two that I took, but as I worked the scene I found this (better) composition. I really wanted to stay and explore more, but instead I went with my buddies who were anxious to leave – freezing toes may have had something to do with it. Maybe I’ll go back after the next snowfall and do what I wanted to do with this location.
Anyone can take a picture, but not everyone can make a picture. Learning to see is an essential part of doing that. Any photographer who tells you that you can ‘finish’ learning to see is crazy. It’s an ongoing process. So many times have I looked over some old work and upon remembering the location wished I had done things differently. My ability to see is always getting better, but it takes focus, dedication, humility and flexibility. None of those things comes easily. Seeing like a photographer is an art unto itself. It’s a talent that needs honing; care, nurturing and most of all practice.