Tag : tree

09 Oct 2019

Light painting a Vermont island

One of the techniques I enjoy doing with my photography is light painting. Much like it sounds, I illuminate subjects in a similar way as painting a wall. But I use a flashlight, sometimes a big one. During my Vermont Fall Foliage Workshop I like to take people to Chittenden Reservoir and light up an island that is about 250 yards from the shore. I have a big 18 million candle power flashlight that does a great job on the island. The best shots come 20-30 minutes after sunset when there is still some light and color in the sky and it is dark enough that the background is dark. We use a 30 second exposure which gives me time to light up the island. Just like painting a wall, I don’t try to cover the whole island in one splash of light, I paint across it so any one area may get only 5-8 seconds of light. When the conditions are right, it can be a fantastic photo.

23 May 2019

Chasing the sun in Tuscany

Tuscany is famous amongst photographers for the great light, especially the way it falls across the hills and mountains early in the morning and late in the day. It is a beautiful sight to see and I can’t think of anyplace where it is nicer. As long as it doesn’t rain. During my workshop there the past few days we had lots of great light but we also ran into some rather rainy days, although they weren’t the slate gray skies that we get in New Jersey. It would rain hard for a while and then the clouds would break up and let some sunlight sneak through. This was my second Tuscany workshop and the last one was in the dry heat of early July when it just doesn’t rain. While I knew there would be a chance and I made sure everyone was prepared, it was still a bit of a shock.

We had planned on going to Florence last Friday but Thursday night the forecast said clear skies Friday and rain on Saturday, so we made a quick change and took advantage of a beautiful day to shoot small ancient towns and incredible countrysides. It rained a bit while we were in Florence but only enough to be a nuisance. We were taunted by the possibility of a great sunset from a hill overlooking the city but the sun and clouds just didn’t make it happen. It just meant a late dinner at another tremendous Italian restaurant.

The rest of the week we would get an occasional downpour followed by great clouds. The group was great and didn’t let the little bit of rain slow us down. We did pick up plenty of mud while trudging out in fields for the bright red poppies or the fields of yellow or purple wildflowers. The floors of our vans were caked with mud and the rental company did charge us extra to clean them but it was worth it. We made wonderful photos and I had a great time with a fun bunch of people. 

Enjoy some of my photos below.

08 Dec 2018

I know why they call it Chile’s Lake Region

While eating dinner last night Bob and I were talking to our waiter, a young guy who spoke very good English, which isn’t overly common in southern Chile. He told us about a town to the south that is on a large lake and has yet to be spoiled by tourism. It has an unusual church and it was in the direction of the thermal spring we didn’t get to the other day. The road to Panguipulli was scenic, starting with a fairly flat drive through farmland and then we hit some hills and the pavement went to dirt. That was OK, that usually means more scenic and remote and it sure was this time again. We were on a narrow road high above a large lake. The day had started cloudy but the sun was breaking through and when we came across an overlook the light was great. Streaks of sunlight poured through the clouds lighting up green meadows, mountains and the lake. It was quite the scene and we made a ton of photos before driving on into Panguipulli. 

The town is right at the northern end of the very large Lake Panguipulli. A lone tree stood on the town’s beach but it didn’t look like a place where there was a lot of swimming. I didn’t dip my toe in the water but I’m guessing that since it was glacier fed it was pretty chilly. We then went into the main part of the town and saw the church. It, like much in this part of Chile, has a strong German influence in its design. It has two large steeples on the front and a smaller one on the back. The colors were tan, red and black, quite different from what I would expect in South America.

It looked like it could be in Bavaria and is in need of a good coat of paint. Like most of Chile, the town is modern. My research told me that I wouldn’t likely find donkeys pulling carts on dirt streets and that sure is the case. Cell phone signals were strong everywhere except the most remote areas and people take pride in their buildings and the streets are clean. Many homes aren’t fancy, they look like they are on a subsistence level but that is fine. We didn’t feel threatened anywhere we went.

On the map I saw a cemetery on a hill above the town and we drove up there. It was a large cemetery and full of well kept memorials to those who had passed. Many were decorated, there were lots of photos as part of the headstone and quite a few large structures to honor the dead. It was a lovely scene overlooking the town and the lake. I wandered to one corner and came across something I hadn’t seen before, a children’s section. The graves were small and many had little fences around them. There were at least 100 of them, some look like someone came every day. Others were rather neglected. It was a sobering sight.

We left town and drove south along Lake Panguipulli, which is 8.5 miles wide and 19 miles long. It is surrounded by the Andes Mountains and amazingly beautiful. There are several scenic pulloffs above the lake that give you a view out over the lake and can make for nice photos. At the end of the lake is the small village of Choshuenco, only 20 miles from the Argentina border. I considered driving over to Argentina since I’d never been there but this is a scouting trip and I don’t think I’d take the group there during the workshop, so I tried to stay focused on my mission.

There wasn’t much in Choshuenco but the beach on the lake was lovely. It wasn’t the prettiest or warmest of days so the beach was pretty much empty. As remote as this location is I don’t think it could ever be a packed beach. On the beach there is a wreckage of an old steam boat, it has been propped up so people can climb on it and there is a sign telling about the life of the ship. Of course the sign is in Spanish so I didn’t understand most of it.

Also on the beach is a lone tree, which always captures my attention. I don’t know why but I love to photograph a tree that separated from others. There was one on the other end of the lake on the beach at Panguipulli, but the light and clouds were better for this one. The green of the tree stood out from the lake’s water and surrounding mountains and I just like the way it all came together.

06 Jun 2018

Final day in Acadia

Today was the last day of my Acadia Photography Workshop for this year. It was a great group who were a pleasure to work with and we made some wonderful pictures. It was cloudy so we didn’t have to wake up early for sunrise. We headed over to one of my favorite Acadia locations, Sieur de Monts, which is an area away from the coast but is extremely diverse. There is a beautiful grove of birch trees, long flowing bright green grass, a garden and trails through large trees. During our classroom session earlier this week I showed one of my favorite Acadia photos I have shot, a path winding through birch trees. I took people over to the spot and they enjoyed shooting photos there. I went off on a different trail looking for some logs and found some beautiful moss growing on rocks and fallen logs. It was something different than I have shot in Acadia before and a great way to end my week here. I can’t wait to come back next year.

02 Feb 2018

It’s a winter wonderland photo workshop and it’s cold

Today was the first day of my annual Vermont Winter Wonderland Photography Workshop. The workshop is again sold out and I have a great bunch of people from all over the East Coast. We started this afternoon with a “classroom” session at my house where we talked about making great photos in the snow, thinking about how winter photos have a different impact than other times of the year and staying warm.

We went to a couple fun locations and started making some great shots. We ended on top of a hill where the wind was blowing at least 20 MPH while the air temperature hovered at 5 degrees. It was cold. In fact, it was brutal cold. I’m always prepared for the cold and most of the workshop participants were ready too, but the blowing cold was too much. I planned on light painting a covered bridge this evening but I postponed it to tomorrow night when it will be a little warmer.

I’ve photographed these birches trees many times but I’m still excited to see how different they look and what I can do with them. We’ll get more snow photos tomorrow.

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


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


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.



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.