New Hampshire Scenes: The Intimate Landscape

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No matter what time of year one visits New Hampshire, those grand mountain landscapes are always an irresistible draw for the camera. Especially (but not only) during foliage season, the scenic vistas along the Kancamagus Highway, Bear  Notch Road, and other major routes (think Rt 302 at Bretton Woods) are magnets for photographers of all stripes.

I enjoy photographing those grand scenes — “lofty mountain grandeur,” as the hymn says. And as long as one clear, sunny day is forecast, I’ll be up and out of my motel room well before the crack of dawn to station myself at Chocorua Lake Road and catch the light show (with luck, the light-and-fog show) over the lake and mountain. But what I find more rewarding is shooting the intimate landscape — particularly forest interiors. It’s a quieter, more meditative process, almost as if I’m waiting for something — a tree trunk or a group of rocks, or a particular arrangement of fallen leaves — to call out, “Hey! Here I am! Look at me!”

A clarification: By “intimate landscape” I mean a scene in which the distance between myself and the closest object is fairly small; I don’t mean macro photography.

Here are some “intimate landscape” images I made on my recent visit to the White Mountains.

DSC-2619 sDiana’s Bath. I arrived early enough on a rainy day to be able to shoot without other people getting into the images, but the recent drought hadn’t left much water in this multistream waterfall. I aimed in close and vertically so that the waterfall wouldn’t be lost in a series of rocks and played with the exposure to get a silky-but-not-too-silky look.

 

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Forest interior. After I made enough images of the actual waterfall, I looked around to see what else might be photo-worthy. Immediately I realized that the scene right before me — the photo to the right — was it. It was as if the tree trunks had bent slightly to let the foliage and the light in the distance be seen.

 

The Champney Falls Trail.

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Named for the 19th-century New Hampshire artist Benjamin Champney, this has always been one of the most popular trails along the famed Kancamagus Highway. Not even the fact that the bridge over the stream was destroyed in Hurricane Irene and will not be replaced has changed that. I’ve gotten good forest interiors here before on rainy days, and this time was no exception. When a dry summer has resulted in trees losing leaves rather prematurely, then photograph the leaves on the ground! The varied colors and patterns of those leaves “make” this photo (below), I think. Incidentally, as you can imagine, several of these images required long exposures. It helps that nothing in them was moving, except the water in the waterfalls!

 Shelburne waterfall.

DSC2732 ed sThis little waterfall has to be one of the best-kept secrets in New Hampshire, as waterfalls go. It’s not listed in any of the guides. Unless you park in the pullover next to it, you’ll hardly notice it; it’s quite hidden by trees. Long exposure needed again. I didn’t want murky shadows, nor did I want to include too much more of the waterfall above where the photo ends; it made for too busy an image. I wonder actually how much water there would have been had I tried this spot two days earlier; as I said above, the drought had depleted the water in all the falls. I had planned to shoot at this spot on the previous day and set out going north on Route 16, but by the time I reached Pinkham Notch the rain was so torrential and thus the visibility so nonexistent that I turned back. Aside from the safety factor, shooting in a bit of rain is one thing, but drowning your DSLR? Not a good idea.

I hope you enjoyed these images. I’ll continue with more from this shoot in subsequent posts. If you’d like to see larger versions, or perhaps would like one of these restful scenes decorating your home, click on the images themselves or on this link to my site. Thank you for looking!

Photographing Trees

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It’s not often that a homily preached in church will serve as inspiration for photographs  (much less a blog post about photography), but then Fr. Michael Keane, pastor of St. Anastasia Church in Harriman, NY, isn’t your ordinary priest. He’s dynamic, inspirational, and the sort of guy that bishops everywhere would undoubtedly like to clone, several times over. Last Saturday morning I attended the All Souls Day Mass, and contrary to what one might expect — comparing “dying” nature to the departed souls — Fr. Mike regarded the beauty of the natural world as we’re privileged to enjoy it in the Northeastern USA in the autumn and compared our stunning fall foliage with senior citizens who’ve spent their lives serving and doing good. For trees and for the people, Fr. Mike said, it’s a time of transition, and that’s what he emphasized — transition, not dying.

The metaphor of trees was high on my mind because the previous week I had been privileged to meet renowned photographer Sean Kernan, one of whose major projects is Among Trees. You may have seen the calendars based on this theme with his photos over the past few years, or you can check out that project on Sean’s website or grab a copy of his book by the same name.

With foliage season having just about passed, I had some new images of trees in my own collection as well as some previous images that I now was inspired to process (or, in some cases, to reprocess). Here are a few previews; you can check out my entire (thus far!) Trees Gallery on my Zenfolio site. Hope you enjoy them! If you’re looking for a special gift for someone, all images are available for purchase.

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Enjoy the Unexpected (or, an afternoon at the Cherry Pond)

Rob Sheppard is one of the best photo bloggers around. He brings a reflective and philosophical dimension to his writing that I don’t think I’ve encountered so consistently since the passing of the late, great Galen Rowell.  In his most recent post, Rob describes how he arrived at his intended photo destination too late for the “good light” — and made the most of it, experiencing things he would have missed had he arrived earlier and then not stayed on. Nature is not bound by arbitrary rules, he says, and he was amply rewarded by being open to (and taking advantage of) what was available instead of being disappointed by something not conforming to rigidly preset expectations.

It was timely that I read Rob’s post when I did, because I had just returned from a few days’ foliage shooting in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and had a similar experience — the difference being that I knew in advance that I was heading right into the unexpected and had to be open to anything. At this time of year, with the seasons changing, the New Hampshire mountains create their own weather, and anything is possible, including experiencing bright sunshine, clouds, rain, snow, and wind all in one day, in fact all in one afternoon. Things can change drastically when you travel a couple of miles. So, all I knew when I headed northwest for the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge was that it wasn’t likely to be pouring rain, which was fine, all I needed to know, it was the last thing I wanted.

Getting to the Pondicherry trailhead is one thing (I’ve met many native New Hampshirites who’ve never heard of the place); then you have to hike in a good mile or more to where the action is: the shore of Cherry Pond with the spectacular view of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range on the other side. It was quite a windy day, which meant (1) the light and other atmospheric conditions might be changing several times in the course of a minute; (2) there might not be any reflections of the mountains on the pond. It did turn out that the wind occasionally abated enough to create some reflections on the pond, but I discovered that the action of the wind, when it blew, on the water produced its own kind of beauty — a shiny texture. As for the rapidly changing light and other conditions, there was nothing to do but set up the camera, find a good composition that could be tweaked here and there, watch and enjoy nature’s amazing show, and press the shutter button whenever nature’s kaleidoscope produced a new version of the scene in front of me. It was indeed quite spectaular. We’ve heard of son et lumiere — “sound and light” shows, but this was neige et lumiere — snow and light, as the interplay of snow showers and sunlight continuously created different scenes on Mount Washington’s peaks. When I arrived in New Hampshire a few days earlier there was no snow on the mountains. The morning after my visit to the Cherry Pond, Mount Washington could be seen from North Conway completely covered in snow gleaming in the bright sun. Amazing. Sun, snow, and mountains, bless the Lord.

Here’s a selection of images from this shoot. I’m not going to dwell on the technical details — that’s not really important except to say that I tend to do much less processing in straightforward nature shots than in other types of images because I want to let the natural beauty show through, and thus my processing is aimed at helping that along rather than at enhancing the image in a way that suggests that the Creator didn’t get the world quite right.

These and my many other photos (always adding new ones) can be viewed (and purchased) on my Zenfolio site.