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Tag : tree

03 Feb 2017

Birch trees always capture my imagination

My love affair with birch trees continues. There is a fairly large grove about 15 minutes away from my Vermont house and I love wandering around there. It has a magical look to it no matter when I go.

Today I was there before sunrise hoping to get the rising sun shooting through the trees. When the sun came up, it glowed for a couple of minutes and then went behind a large cloud. I could see it would come out again so I tried several shots while waiting to see how the snow, trees and sky would look once the sun was shining again.

As usual, I wasn’t disappointed. The long shadows in the snow and deep blue sky highlighted the white bark and made for beautiful images. There must be 250 trees in the grove and today I noticed a couple of crooked ones shooting skyward. I like the shape they make and worked to get an angle that would highlight them. I’m pretty happy with the shot.

08 Oct 2016

Beauty on the way to Stowe

Toward Camel's HumpThis weekend I am participating in an art show in Stowe, VT, about 80 miles from my house in Woodstock. It is a beautiful drive and this morning during the drive the foliage was looking great. This morning as I headed up I-91, one of Vermont’s most iconic mountains, Camel’s Hump, kept appearing behind hills full of foliage.

I pulled off the highway and found a nice spot to get a shot of Vermont’s tallest mountain without any man-made structures. I love the way the light was making the foreground glow and keeping Camel’s Hump in the darkness.

21 May 2016

A surprise visitor appears at birch tree grove

4403-2I was out in a stand of birch trees as the sun came up this morning and thinking about how wonderful it is to be standing in a Vermont forest, hearing only birds chirping and bees buzzing. I was surrounded by beautiful white trees reaching for the blue sky as their leaves as just starting to fully appear.

I have been to this spot many times, the trees look pretty much the same at every visit but the pictures are always different. As the sun was first starting to stream through the trees, I wasn’t seeing any pictures better than what I have shot before. I walking around for about 30 minutes looking for different angles, trying to see something I hadn’t before. With all these trees and beauty, I know there are always unique images to be made.

Finally I got some vision. Things starting falling in line and I shot lots of scenes. None of them excited me as much as Thursday’s birches at the pond, but they were fun pictures. I worked the angles on a large tree with two leaning trees behind it.

As I moved to find another subject, a bright orange flash flew through the air. I was startled by the sudden burst of color and looked to see where it went and what was. A Baltimore oriole landed on a tree nearby. I’m not a birder, but I was a baseball fan as a kid and I recognized the bird from their logo. I watched as the bird flew to another branch, the orange color brightly on display. Another oriole joined it and they flitted around a little and flew away.

I thought about running to the car to get my big telephoto lens so I could get a closer shot of the birds. Then I decided to just enjoy the show and not worry about working for a few minutes. It was quite a show.

23 Nov 2015

A night of fun photos in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua star trailsOn a quick trip to southern California, my friend John invited me to go out to Joshua Tree National Park and spend a day in the desert. I hadn’t been there before but I knew a good bit about it, I’m not sure if it was because of Jim Morrison’s legendary trips there, or U2’s famous album (that was really in Death Valley) or just reading about it from lots of other photographers.

The park is a unique area with Joshua trees, sand and big sandstone rock formations. Some feel mystical powers emanating from the rocks, it was a cool place, but I didn’t catch any special vibes.

We got there yesterday afternoon and went to the main areas that everyone seems to visit. Being the weekend before Thanksgiving, it was pretty crowded, more people than John had seen on his many trips there. People were climbing the rocks, most of the big formations had people on top of them. It made getting a clear show without humanity pretty hard, but it was still great to see.

Joshua MoonAs the sun was getting low, we went to a standing rock monolith that has a cool old juniper tree nearby to get shots after dark. I had found the spot while doing research before my trip and it looked like a great place to do light painting after sunset. I brought a couple of large flashlights with me, so I had John light up the background a bit while I illuminated the tree and rock.

The moon is going to be full in a couple of days, so it was pretty bright out in the clear air of the desert. We could walk around with using our headlamps and see perfectly well. We stopped at another rock formation and I did a few shots with the starts and moon. I love the look of moonlight shaping the rocks.

Since there were no clouds, I want to do a star trail shot, but I didn’t want to do an all-nighter in the desert, so I set up a camera on a tripod with a 15mm fisheye lens, hooked an old iPhone to it with TriggerTrap and started shooting. The moonset was around 2:30 a.m., so I wanted the camera to start firing then so there wouldn’t be any light in the sky. Earlier at the hotel I worked to get a delay going with TriggerTrap but I couldn’t make it work. So my only option was to let the camera fire all night and hope the batteries would last until well after the moon went down. I set TriggerTrap to fire a 30 second exposure, wait one minute, make another 30 second exposure, wait, fire, wait, fire for the next six hours.

I set the camera up about a hundred yards off the road, not too worried that someone would spot and steal it in the middle of the desert. We went back to the hotel and planned on getting camera after coming back out for sunrise. We got up at 4 a.m. and headed back into the park. It was still dark and we thought we knew exactly where the camera was but we drove right past it and got back to the place where where we did the light painting last night. Since the light was coming on fast, I decided to hike a little and shoot the sunrise there and we’d find the other camera later.

Sunrise in the desert is a lot different that what I’m accustomed to in the East. The light came very quickly and since there were no clouds, it didn’t take long for the sunlight to be very harsh. I tried lots of shots but wasn’t too thrilled with any of them.

It was time to go find the other camera and see what I got. We went back through the park and watched for a pulloff near a large mound of rocks. It was farther than we thought but I recognized it and could see my camera from the road. I don’t know which died first, the phone or the camera battery, but they both were dead and the last shot was taken at about 3:30 a.m. That gave me plenty of images to stitch together to make the shot I was hoping for. The moonlight shots gave me nice light on the Joshua tree and surrounding landscape and also good color in the sky.

I look forward to getting out there again and perfect some things that I learned.

06 Oct 2015

Vermont Fall Foliage Photography Workshop Day 3

pomfretWe started the day at one of the most famous Vermont locations for photography – Jenne Farm. The farm itself isn’t too outstanding, the first time I went there it was mid-day in the summer and I didn’t understand why anyone would ever take a picture. I went in the fall at sunrise and suddenly I understood. As the rising sun clears the hill, it spreads a beauty across the farm that is hard to imagine. When the surrounding trees are in full color, it is magical. There is always a crowd there but there were only a few people this morning.

The highlight of the day is going to a property in the town of Pomfret that is owned by my Woodstock neighbor. It is a special place and I’m so lucky that she allows me to wander the property and take people with me. Visitors love when I put them in my four wheel drive Explorer and make the 15 minute ride up a narrow, rocky trail to the pinnacle. It is a unique experience to see for miles in all directions and there are only a few buildings to be seen. I love seeing the church steeple sticking up through the maples.

19 Oct 2014

Enjoying the beauty of Duke Farms

Duke Sycamores

It seems like I can’t photograph Duke Farms too much. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I love going to the old estate of Doris Duke now that her foundation encourages the public to come visit. I take my Somerset Photography Meetup.com group there two or three times a year and it never disappoints. I love the large old sycamore trees growing along the main road in the estate. The light always plays nicely with the light bark and today the deep blue sky added lovely contrast.

03 Oct 2014

Shooting to the top of Killington

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One of the many benefits of doing my photography workshops is that I get to snap some pictures along the way. I spend most the time working with the other photographers, but I occasionally get a few shots off. We rode the gondola to the top of Killington mountain today where the leaves were looking great. I shot this one out the window on the way up. Once we were there it looked pretty cool but there weren’t a lot of great photos to be had on top of the mountain. I was happy to get this one along the way.

21 Aug 2014

Walking the trails on Cortes Island

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With the beauty that is contained on British Columbia’s Cortes Island the best way to really see it is to go for a hike or paddle around in a kayak. Today we did a hike to Hank’s Beach, which has a little bluff with a great view of surrounding islands.

The trail splits right before you get to the sandy Hank’s beach and goes over to a rocky beach on the southern tip of a point. The rocks and driftwood are fascinating and I could stay there all day making pictures.

I’m really loving the ferns along the trails with the thick moss hanging from the trees and how the sunlight barely gets down to them. I love photographing ferns and these tall ones really make unique photos.

Click to see my British Columbia photo gallery from the trip.

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17 Aug 2014

Visiting my sister in British Columbia

bc-0889My sister Lynda and her husband Bill have built a great house on Cortes Island in British Columbia along the Pacific coast in a group of islands just east of the large Vancouver Island.

bc-0873I took a floatplane from Vancouver and landed at a nearby public dock. The ride was pretty neat, the Dehavilland Beaver, built in the 1950’s, made a couple of stops to drop off passengers at other islands nearby. I was a bit concerned when I got on the plane and the young pilot was wearing shorts and flip flops, but I understood when one of the stops was at a beach in front of the passenger’s house and it didn’t have a dock. The pilot jumped out as we hit the beach and had to wade a little to pull the plane up on the sand.

I sat up front in the co-pilot seat and had headphones that let me hear the air traffic control as crossed waypoints during the hour-long flight. We never got over 1,000 feet, usually around 500 and rarely broke 100 mph. The old engine was loud but she sounded steady and it was a fun ride.

Cortes Island sits in Desolation Sound between the much larger Vancouver Island and the mainland of Canada. It is full of tall ferns that grow up to your waist and was once covered by huge Douglas Fir, Hemlock and cedar trees, but were mostly been cut years ago leaving massive stumps. Second growth has taken over and even they are starting to get harvested. I liked the Alder trees that tend to grow quickly in bare places but they don’t last long, their bark is light colored and has interesting patterns.

bc-1897The locals are proud of their Arbutus trees, which have a smooth, almost skin-color bark and Cortes Island is the northern most reach of their existence. Lynda and Bill tell me that they are called Madrone in Oregon and are considered a weed tree and are cut for firewood.

I can tell already this is going to be a great place for photography during my visit this week.

Click to see my British Columbia photo gallery from the trip.

11 Aug 2013

The best part is that I rarely see what I expect

Morning mist rises from a Pomfret, VT, pond.

Morning mist rises from a Pomfret, VT, pond.

Birch trees are reflected in a Pomfret, VT, pond.

Birch trees are reflected in a Pomfret, VT, pond.

This morning I went with friend Lisa Lacasse out to shoot the sun rising over the White River near Sharon, Vt. When I left my Woodstock house, the sky was clear but there were patches of fog. When we got to the river, it was totally fogged in and didn’t look like the sun would pop through any time soon. So we headed up out of the river basin and over to a property I have access to in Pomfret.

There are two ponds with very different looks. One is very small and has a patch of birch trees that reflect nicely in the pond during the early morning. I like the look of the reflection I got there, it has a Monet feeling with the colors blurring in the ripples and the strong diagonal of the trees.

We went to the larger pond and there was a mist rising that was accentuated by the strong backlight. My photo of the dock invites me to sit there all day.

24 Mar 2013

Overexposed in the Garden of Good and Evil

Before making my 12-hour drive back to New Jersey, I decided to shoot at sunrise in the famous Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. It is most famous for the cover photo of “bird girl” on the 1994 book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” That statue is now in an art museum, so I didn’t get any photos of it, but there is plenty of other things to shoot.

I have to say this is the eeriest cemetery I’ve ever been in. This morning was cloudy and rainy, which added to the atmosphere. I was the only one nutty enough to be in the cemetery that early, which didn’t ease the eerie feeling. The cemetery is old, not the oldest in town, but still has lots of unique gravestones and statues. There are lots of trees filled with dangling Spanish moss and the old, dirty gravestones are just cool looking. I tried to get to the cemetery early enough to get the morning “blue hour” but my GPS sent me the wrong way, so the blue was gone by the time I got there. Light rain was falling, which made the trees look extra dark.

I shot my usual ton of photos, trying to work as many scenes as I could. I liked the statues, several have faces that are looking down and with the low light this morning, the faces were in pretty heavy shade. I got out my powerful flashlight and experimented with filling the heavy shadows. It worked out pretty well.

After dropping my photos into my computer, I had a bit of a surprise. I don’t remember while shooting, but I over exposed a shot of one of the more famous graves. When I first was going through my photos I marked it for deletion. Then I looked at it again. I like the overexposure, it is an interesting effect for a photo of a grave. It just shows how always following the rules doesn’t always work.

See a gallery of photos from Savannah

23 Mar 2013

Seeing the blue hour in Savannah

The blue hour makes a Savannah tree look special.

On my way back to New Jersey from Florida, I stopped for the night in Savannah, GA. It is a great city with lots of unique things going on. I got into town around 5:30 p..m. and there was a disappointing cloud cover, so I didn’t have any sweet light to shoot.

Normally when it is spitting rain, cold and cloudy, I see what is on TV. But I don’t get here very often so I went out to what pictures I could make. When I get in situations like this I think about how to use the light I do have. I went right down to the river front where there are cool stores in funky old buildings. Old bricks are exposed where plaster has fallen off, old wooden doors have original iron hinges and windows looking out on the river are lined with wrought iron.

While the sky is still gray, I look for photos that don’t show the sky. I focused on the brick walls, details of the doors and scouted areas to shoot when “blue hour” began. Blue hour is that time after sunset when the sky turns blue no matter what the weather is. It also happens before sunrise and it only lasts for about 15 minutes, I’ve always wondered why it is called blue hour w hen it doesn’t last that long.

But blue hour can make for some good photos, so I shot some along the river and walked into town a couple of blocks. I liked the look of old brick walls with winding stairs, so I worked them. The trees in Savannah are draped with Spanish moss, so I used the blue in the sky as a backdrop for the sprawling silhouetted branches.

After the blue went away, I did some night shots and called it a day.

See a gallery of photos from Savannah

24 Feb 2013

Loving a simple new layer of wet Vermont snow

It started snowing yesterday afternoon and by this morning there was five to six inches of wet snow covering the ground. Since the temperature has been hovering around 32 degrees, it is a sticky snow and stuck to everything it fell on.

So I went out looking for scenes that might look great with all the sticky snow. I went to a couple of places I thought might look good, and they did. I worked a farm scene I love trying to make sure I was thinking about composition and not just the beauty of the day. I made some pictures I liked and then I saw something and, as usual, it hit me.

Simplify.

I liked the way three fences lined up, with the one in the middle going down a little hill.

I headed to a covered bridge to see how that would look with a hill covered behind it. Not bad, I made pictures from several angles, nearly got the Jeep stuck in the snow and went to a couple of other farm scenes. I shot several things and was driving to another farm and saw a couple of trees alone on a hill.

It hit me again. Simplify.

I like the way the two trees stand out and the simplicity and balance of the photo.

26 Jan 2013

Shooting by Vermont moonlight and staying warm

One of my thrills of digital cameras is the low-light capabilities. So when there is a full moon, I want to be out there. So even though it takes more preparation, going out in the darkness when the temperature is close to zero is lots of fun.

Tonight I went with friend Lisa Lacasse out looking for a magical night shot. I had seen this barn sitting out alone in a field a couple of days ago when I was out scouting. It is a neat old barn and I thought it would look good lit by tonight’s full moon. Lisa was born and lived in New Hampshire and Vermont her whole life but has spent the last few winters in Florida. So she was as ready as you can be for the single digit temperatures as was I. We were covered with layers of thermal clothing from top to toe but being able to keep my hands warm and control the camera is always a challenge.

I’m a big fan of those little chemical hand warmers, they really make a difference for me. When it is this cold, I wear thin liner gloves inside of mittens that flip open to expose fingerless gloves. I don’t know if there is a name for them but they are like wearing gloves and having a mitten to pull over my fingers when I need more warmth. I put the hand warmer in the mitten part so when my fingers are in the mitten they are good and warm. I can stick just my index finger out of the mitten to move camera controls and then put it right back in the mitten to stay warm. I use a cable release, which I can push through the gloves and mitten.

When carrying my tripod, I don’t grab it with my hands, even though I have pipe insulation on the legs. I tuck my arm under the tripod legs so my hands aren’t touching it, just my multi-layered arm.

25 Jan 2013

Vermont birch trees took a while to see

This afternoon I headed over to a grove of birch trees in Hartford, VT, I have photographed many times. Over the years, I had driven past the trees several times before I saw them. They were always right there in the open but I was usually looking for the next farm that has a nice open field with rolling hills that lead down to the Connecticut River and is a great place to shoot sunrise. Maybe I was too groggy at sunrise, or too focused on how I was going to shoot the sunrise, but for whatever reason I didn’t take notice of the trees. Then they suddenly appeared.

They are a large grove right off a little dirt road, sitting on the other side of a small meadow. It is the largest grove of birch I have seen in Vermont. I don’t know why there are so many in that one place, around the area there are scattered groups and lots of lone birch trees, but this must be the perfect place for them to grow.

I know there is an absolutely great photo in that grove, I just haven’t made it yet. I have a bunch that I like, including one that I shot today, but I still haven’t made that killer wow shot. It is what keeps me going back, hoping to be there for the right combination of light, nature and state of mind.