Socially Distanced in The Whites of New Hampshire

Back at the end of January the company I worked for gave every employee notice that as of April 1, 2020 we would stopping all field operations and begin dissolving the entire corporation. Most were let go then, the rest of us would endure staggered layoffs until the end of the year. I received an April 30th date, so what do I do? Book a 10 day trip between New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Maine’s Acadia National Park for the beginning of May. After 24.5 years, a vacation without worrying about 500+ people sounded good to me. Solitude, Peacefulness. Uninterrupted time away. Uninterrupted. Time away.

Ha! So much for that. The back half of the trip to Maine was canceled. Of course I waited as long as possible and let them do the canceling, I was not going to pull the plug. New Hampshire was still a go! I had the time, let’s put it to good use. 

White Mountains Pano, 4 images hand held at 105 mm, EOS R 24-105

It was a little early in the season but what the heck right? Less people and no crowds, little did I know when I booked it what would ensue. It was weird, but cool, staying in a motel for 2 nights and being the only person in the joint. The third night another body arrived. A friendly hello exchanged and that was that. 

Snow covered the highest peaks, not much I could do there. Wanted to hit up the auto road, nope, still quite covered under snow towards the top with more on the way. Quite a few trails I had plan to tackle were closed for maintenance. Something about mudslides and uprooted trees. Spring thaw indeed. K, so next time plan during summer/early fall. I still have a remaining bucket list of things to do and see, perhaps turn into a leaf peeping trip in the fall.  

I arrived into town around 5 pm on a Tuesday, saw a couple spots for a potential sunset on the way there, checked in and headed out. Sunsets around these parts is a bit rough with all the mountains. I did not see any at all color while I was there but she sure was pretty watching her disappear behind the mountains.  These are from the side of the road on the Sacco River, near Conway. 

Wednesday would be a full day as I headed out to explore the 34 miles that make up the Kancamagus Highway. My primary objectives were waterfalls and other bodies of water that project downward. There are stated to be around 100 waterfalls in the region, with many more flumes and gorges littered throughout. My first along the highway was Lower Falls, located along the side of the road. No hike needed. This is a focused shot on a particular area of the falls. It actually extends quite a few more feet downstream before dumping into a general area frequented by swimmers in the summer when the turbulence is not a high. 

A couple miles down the road was the Upper Falls. 

A close up and a pull back. The difference in a two second exposure and a 1/10th of a second exposure. I am still more fond of the longer exposures overall, but these shorter ones do provide a little more feeling and a better understanding of the speed at which the water is moving. 

Next up was Champney and Pitcher Falls. This one turned out to be the only real hike during my stay, covering 3.5 miles round trip. A few stream crossings made it interesting, and I still dislike when things go up <Sea Dweller>. I did take a few 60 second breaks after some of the inclines and was very pleased I can still recover quick. 

Champey Falls

Set to the side, off in a little ravine was Pitcher Falls. This combo was very beautiful to see and well worth the effort it took to get there. 

Just down the road was Sabbaday Falls. A short hike only to discover the wooden stair case of a viewing ramp was closed. Despite my best efforts there were no compositions to be had at the base or the top. Could I have gotten a shot I was happy with? Most Likely, but you gotta respect the NPS signs that say do not cross these locked gates. And if I cannot view it on a wall, not pressing that button. What I did find however was a nice composition of boulders just above the falls. I was not looking for river shots at all but this one spoke to me. 

 The Lost Gorge is one of those major, charge admission to, attractions in the area so I knew that was closed.  Beaver Brook Cascades was closed as well, this one for trail trouble. I was bummed about this one. So, I headed over to the Basin to check it out. This is right on I-93 South, which I thought was wild. A short jaunt into the woods and an area full of cascades to be had. I would imagine this is incredibly popular destination during normal times. So easy to access, and so impressive the way the rock faces were cut in a smooth circular shape. 

Just up the trail is a less traveled location called Kinsman Falls. I imagine during warmer weather everyone stays and plays in the water at the Basin and this does not get much attention. Fine by me. 

With day one in the books, my legs were trashed. Day two proved to be, well, not as productive as day one. The Pinkham Notch section was pretty much shut down to due trail maintenance. Sounds like they got hit hard. Did a bit of driving and the next location I had marked out seemed a bit sketchy so I blew that off. Did not like the feel of the area. One more I had earmarked I could not find so while I was striking out for various reasons, I was enjoying the drive. The opening two shots of this page were from day two so I remained very content with the catalog I was building. After making a loop around the area, out of nowhere I saw a sign for Ripley Falls. This one was not on my list, I pulled over, looked it up and figured I would make something happen. 

0.6 miles of uphill, leg killing, seemed much longer than it actually was, roots, rocks, snow and mud stepping love ensued and I cannot find a composition I am happy with. Well, not actually true. I had one only there were a few distracting tree branches in the way so I ended up here: 

After this I knew I was shot, legs were done from not enough walking and I was getting real food hungry so I just kept driving. This is just some random photo of the mountains from a Scenic overlook. Cool sky but the lighting was flat. Everything is still in cold weather growth mode. 

The only time I used my crop camera on the trip was for this shot of Mount Washington. 7 images, 640 mm. The only problem is it is only 19 ” tall. I should have doubled up. Live and learn, educate and grow. Time to plan some day trips before I go back to work. 

Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, stay positive. 

Phil

 

A Rock is Not Just a Rock

A rock. Simple, solid and stable. Physically or Mentally. We all need a rock in our lives during these days of angst, someone to lean on, someone to bounce thoughts off of, someone to listen. Someone you can be comfortable with when your movements are restricted. When you are locked down. You do not have to be with your rock, it can be off in the distance, just a phone call away. I will not share my views on the current methods due to the fact that I am biased, as are most people in my field. We are not allowed to be confined, restricted or locked down. Unless of course we get sick. And we do get sick.

Life remains quite the crazy, non stop adventure. Hopefully, it will slow down soon. 6 weeks to be exact. I pen this from work, it is after midnight and we are in between jobs. I have one more shift on the truck after this, ten days till the company closes. Thirty days of administrative duties after that the job of 24.5 years is gone. I will be taking a few weeks off to clear the head and stretch the legs. New Hampshire and Maine are on the agenda, and some much needed housework before I hit the ground with the new employer. I am incredibly excited to see what the future holds. Though I do have a bit of angst towards the unknown, it is a perfectly healthy feeling. The groundwork has been set and it is just a matter of time.

This particular formation is called Looking Glass Rock. It gets its name from the sun shining of the bare face after it rains or it is iced up. I caught this view from a couple of pull offs on the Blue Ridge Parkway last time I was on it. There is not as much history recorded on it as I would have thought, 300 million years old, almost 4000 feet high, a piece of land that was on its way to being a volcano but stopped short for whatever the reason.

During one of my pull offs I met a lady who did have some insight into the area. We got to talking about family, relatives and ancestry which led us to Scotland. She mentioned the Appalachian area reminds her of the Highlands and that one time many moons ago when the continents were connected this area was next to that area. I do not remember my geology, tectonic plate shifts or formations but my wife and I would love to go exploring over there.

This thing juts up out of nowhere, fills the mind with wonder and takes away whatever stress you may be having. I am big on nature and fresh air, frees the mind, postpones the worries, creates happy thoughts. Gives WTF a positive meaning. I guess Nature is my inanimate rock. Always good to have two.

Make sure you have a rock in your life. Ask for help if you are in need, give help if you are able. Do not succumb to the media, but do take precautions. It has been a wild ride this year of 2020. Let’s see what else it will be giving us.

Thanks for stopping by, Till next time

Phil

Exposing Moving Water: How long is too long?

After going through all my Waterfall Photographs I began to wonder how long is too long when it comes to long exposures of moving water. What is the right shutter speed to use? Well, there actually is no correct answer to that one, it is all up to the individuals preference. Yes, there is a base time frame you need to achieve to get that smooth look, but i learned the size of the body of water you are photographing also has a great deal of influence on that decision.

As an afternoon group activity, we hit up Seven Tubs recreational area out in Wilkes Barre, PA earlier in the summer.  A small little hike in which the water has carved out its own path through the rocks. The swimming holes are littered about and some of them contain enough room on the run ins to be used as a slide. That is if you are brave and skilled enough to avoid the jagged edges.

This was the most photogenic area of the afternoon for me, but it was littered with people. I set up shop and waited for a few to leave. The last family saw what I was doing and were kind enough to step back and let me do my thing for a few minutes.

I came across this little stream that dumps into a pond/wading area and decided it would be the perfect place to try my little experiment that came to mind when I was shooting the waterfalls a few days earlier.  What do varying shutter speeds look like with rapidly moving water. The first photo is a ten second exposure. Nice, but lacking personality. Way too long in my opinion. 

The next photo is four seconds, a little more appealing, but still too long for my liking. 

Two Seconds.  More of the same. 

One Second. Close, but still doesn’t fit. Some shape is starting to emerge, but still lost in translation. 

Half a second. This is where it started to get interesting. The wisps and swirls of water become pronounced.

Quarter of a second. This is my favorite. I needed to catch up to everyone so I did not go any shorter. 

What amazed me was the big difference between 0.5 seconds and 0.25 seconds.  I bet 0.125 would have looked even better. Beyond that though I would have my doubts. I loved how the layers of water started to come out and you can actually see the different directions of movement it was taking.  Experiment, learn, adapt.

I have yet to get into true long exposures, hopefully sometime soon.  Not my thing, but always good to understand.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

The Ricketts Glen Romp

If you are following along – Meanwhile out at Dance Nationals, we had an off day to begin the week. The girls went and did their thing, and I had a chance to go out and do some exploring. Our base of operations was in Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania, right down the road from Split Rock Resort. The cabin we rented fit all five of our families comfortably and we even talked about what a nice area this would be for a vacation home. And we continue to dream.

Just over an hour north was Ricketts Glen State Park, a destination I had pegged out due to the twenty-two waterfalls located along a seven mile loop. You can’t go wrong with that one. I did enough research of the place to figure out I really only needed to traverse just over five miles to take in all the sights and sounds of nature I could not wait to get a hold of. This place is a photographic gold mine and you can get in a decent work out while wandering about.

Once you figure out your plan of attack grab a snapshot of one of these located in either of the parking areas to help you identify where you are and which fall is which. Unfortunately, I have no idea where my notes went to so I can not remember the names of each of  waterfall that is pictured. Following the advice of the article I took research from I parked in the Lake Rose parking area and proceed to head right at the fork down the Ganoga Glenn side.

My logic heading of in this direction was simple, it was stated to be less steep than other side and I would also get right to it instead of taking the hike cross trail. Right off the bat a challenge presented itself. I have always had a hard time trying to convey the depth of a waterfall when shooting from the top of it. I’ll get it figured out one day. All part of the learning process that goes on every time I press that little button.

I have three different angles on this one. I just could not seem to get one I was very happy with. Being so mesmerized by the landscape and the inability to get a composition I felt good about I did not even pay attention to the small breeze that was blowing. Like, at all. The results from that are blurry branches. Time to bring the iPad for a bigger view perhaps. I am a big proponent of an EyeFi card, this allows me to send tiny images to my phone for the social thing but I am sure it can just as easily be set up with the iPad as well.

This photo looks like it should be Ganoga Falls. A massive beast. If you can zoom in there are a couple of people at the top of the falls to give you some perspective.

On the left of the photo below you can get an idea of what the easy portion of trails are like. Check out those steps though at the top. In many of those cases there was often an alternative route, but it was rarely ever easier. It just looked like it was.

For all the water that was being carried over the falls, I kept wondering where it all went. Just kind of dispersed once it got to the bottom.

My exposures averaged 10 – 20 seconds around f 16. I had 30 seconds on a few of them, this was too long and resulted in the branch blur. I had a polarizer and a two stop ND on the lens. I alternated between the 16-35 and the 24-70 for pretty much the whole hike I believe. I had the grads with me but it does not look like I used them. 

It had been a while since I was out in this element shooting, and you can certainly rehash your knowledge and skills very quickly with the amount of scenery on the hike. We went to one other place during the week and I will go over what I found when I used varying shutter speeds. Thus, when is long to long. It will all come down to personal preference I am sure, but it is going to be interesting for certain. 

If I am remembering correctly, this spot was one of the three on the lower trail and one of my favorite. A narrow stream of water busting out over the top and widening once it started getting to the bottom.

There were not many people in the water which I was thankful for, but there were a few locations where a dip looked doable.

My favorite image of the day, and the one that has made its way to my wall, blurry branches and all. I am glad I go here, learned a great deal.

Thanks for stopping by!!

Phil

 

The Sun Dancers

An early morning began with the intent to get in some sunset images on a full frame body I was trying out. But I am a people person, and as we progressed throughout the afternoon, I asked my wife and daughter to join in. When they said sure, I thought getting my daughters dance team sister in the mix would be a great idea too! Little did I know that we all would be so taken with the images we created. But after all, that is always the end goal, right?

One image in particular struck a nerve for all of us, and when I shared it with her mom, one of her close friends, who just happens to be a writer, commented on it. Having previously collaborated with her on an image I asked her if she would be willing to have a go at this one.

The words were inspired by this image:

BJZ_PShepherd-38-2

SUN DANCER

A blazing orange sunset

visits the shore.

Sun-drenched love from sea depths

kisses the chin of grace.

Pointed toes and sculpted limbs

adorn the beach

with the beauty of balance.

 

The audience to this sand ballet

is the surface of the sea itself –

reflecting back to the shore

a dance of freedom.

 

Color melts from the sky

in hues of caramel and mango.

The body moves to the rhythm

of storied waves and unfinished tales.

There is so much still to be written

with each fluid movement

of arched back

and essence reaching to the sky

in prayer.

  Cristina M.R. Norcross ©2015

Cristina is the Managing editor at Blue Heron Review as well as an established author. You can take in many of her poems and other writings on her writers blog.

This is our second collaboration together and if our children and mother nature are willing, we will create some more art in the future. If you would like to read the first one it can be viewed here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil 

 

The Dark Queen and the Woodland Princess

I had not used an outdoor setting to do creative portraits very much until recently and it figures I would wait until it got cold out to start. Inspired by the creations of a truly masterful artist, I enlisted the help of two of my favorite subjects and set about traversing a woodsy area across the street from my home.

AbEmWoods_PShepherd-33

I immediately encountered two problems, one, it was cold and two I started about an hour too early to achieve the light I was looking for. Away from the comfort of my studio lights, I was utilizing a few speedlites to try to capture the look and feeling of the images I had in my head. By the time that light, I should say lack of light, presented itself we were all freezing and ready for some Hot Chocolate.

It was a great learning experience for me as far as light placement for direction, power and gel color. I guess I would add timing to that list as well. I was worried about running out of light and we had just the opposite to deal with. In the woods no less. Go figure. Once spring arrives we will give it another go, unless of course I find subjects as crazy as I am over the next few months that love to play in a little snow. There is still one image I am after that has a snowy setting so we shall see.

And even though my vision didn’t come to fruition, we did obtain some really cool stuff to build upon for future endeavors.

A few individual captures

And together

And in the end everyone gets along just like old friends.

AbEmWoods_PShepherd-80

Thanks for stopping by! Till next time…..

Phil

 

 

Dancers at Sunset

I was getting antsy after a week of rain. I wanted to work on my Dancer’s at Sunset series that I had just recently started.

BrittSet_PShepherd-6-Edit

So, before I took a walk in the wet stuff just so I could get outside, I decided I would check the forecast one more time to see if any upcoming days were going to be dry. I knew I would most likely be getting soaked at work the next night but I wanted to feel the rain hit me without having a uniform on. Fortunately, I only got a bit drenched at work and there was no need to go for a rainy walk because the forecast called for clearing sky’s during the weekend!

I put out a general to see if any of my dancers would be interested in some sunset photos. Much to my surprise, I had eight of them show up. Well, seven really if we do not include my daughter. Britt will often, and usually reluctantly so, get the first shots in a series just because. More to test than anything, however we do turn out some really nice images like the one above.

The turn out.

The Sunset Crew
The Sunset Crew

I was very excited with the response but suddenly became very nervous. What would happen if I did not get them all in? Playing with a sunset means being on the clock. If the colors happen, they can go away just as quick as they appear. I guess that is why it is exciting, just mother nature doing her thing. No need to stress about it, there will be other days right?

Two distinct age groups and talent levels arrived, both on opposite ends of the spectrum. A great opportunity for some team bonding and I tried to make the most of it.Got some group shots of everyone and some posed shots of the younger ones before the older girls did their thing for me. Since I had to act quick, I under exposed the background and had one Speed lite set to 1/4 power and just adjusted the zoom pending on the number of girls in the frame. Nothing fancy

My Jumpers for the evening

SSCrew_PShepherd-62

The Captain.

SSCrew_PShepherd-35First time in front of my lens for this dancer!

SSCrew_PShepherd-43-Edit

And My Favorite, I have a feeling this one will go up on the wall.

SSCrew_PShepherd-42-Edit

My initial plan was to have everyone at the 20:27 sunset on the bay then move ocean side for the 21:48 moon rise. Impromptu plans rarely work out like you envisioned. A little late + a bit chilly x really dark = rapid loss of interest. All good though. I think the wide expanse of empty beach may have had something to do with it as well…..play time!

A couple of girls were able to stay long enough to capture some nice looks, but I found it very difficult to get the images where I wanted. Perhaps the darkness and focusing by flashlight had something to do with it.. and more importantly trying to keep detail in the moon while focusing on a person.

SSCrew_PShepherd-87I have already put out the word for July’s full moon. The beauty of that is we will be getting a full Super moon, and it is still going to be light out! Picture Perfect scenarios!

Thanks for stopping by, Till next time!

 

300 Scorched

So, I am giving my lecture and presentation to our new employees during orientation and I get a text from my wife. ‘You need to call me NOW!!!!’ Yes there were multiple exclamation points… What concerned me was the capital letters in now. Many of you are or may be familiar with my wife’s present condition so naturally I became a little freaked. When I called her and she told me part of our town was on fire I became less worried..even if it was only three blocks from our home. We live in an area surrounded by pine trees and sandy soil….and highly combustible during certain times of year.

Multiple Hot Spots
Multiple Hot Spots

As residents on the edge of the NJ Pine Barrens we are prone to some major forest fires every now and then. The last major one was 12 years ago. Over 1200 acres burned then but surprisingly only one house was destroyed, though many were severely damaged. I remember the huge ashes floating onto our lawn, I remember soaking our property and spraying our roof with the garden hose because of those pieces of ash.

This one “only” took 300 acres however it was much much closer and considerably more concentrated to major residential areas than the last one. In the back yards over 600 homes evacuated close. Through the efforts of the NJ State Fire Service and multiple neighborhood fire companies no homes were lost. There was some melted siding, destroyed fencing and smoke damage to many homes in the area but all remained structurally intact. Freaking amazing…While the forest guys were doing what they do best, the local departments were camped out in the back yards of the homes on the edge of the blaze. Again, an absolutely amazing job protecting the lives and properties of many families.

Less than half a mile away…the tree line runs the length of our street. This one area provided constant problems throughout the evening:

Ignition point
Ignition point

These guys were very active throughout the afternoon…

Copter drop
Copter drop

Fixed wing in on the action
Fixed wing in on the action

Fill 'er up
Fill ‘er up

There were three major spots trying to be contained and every now and then it seems one of them would flare up.

A flare up being knocked down

As things settled down a bit I received a guided tour of a contained area from some friends down the street

Section of aftermath
Section of aftermath

And then! One breaks out behind us in the state park. I was personally OK with the ones down the street, the wind was blowing away from the homes but there was no telling what this new one, out of no where, was going to do. Resources were immediately deployed and  containment was quick.

Surrounded
Surrounded

Once it got dark things were a bit eerie. Unable to see the smoke and more importantly unable to see what direction it was traveling we packed our bags just in case….Then a flare up very close to the suspected ignition point happened.

Flare up
Flare up

Wowowowowowowowwow! Later on in the evening, @10 hours after it all began the police removed the first roadblock from the corner. There would be crews working all night long but having our street opened made sleeping much easier. For me anyway. I am a bit desensitized to all the madness because of what I do but I can not even imagine the feeling those families closet to the fire felt. We got very lucky in this one. Let’s hope when the next one happens we are just as prepared and just as lucky.

Thanks for stopping by, Till next time….

Attack of the Harmless Bee

I wanted to take advantage of a day off and a minor decrease in temperature to give attention to some flowers that were in need of dead heading. The bed in which I was working are frequented by Bumblebees. Lots of them. They love the Cone Flowers. Every time I reached for a stem a bee landed right on top the flower, as if anticipating what the clippers were about to do, in order to get the last drop and spec of pollen left in the dying head. It was quite comical vying for space among the insects. I started feeling guilty taking away their food so I left a few piles for them until the new growth fills out…Just makes me wonder what they were thinking and if they were really doing this on purpose. Hey, you never know…..

BumbleBee_pSp-3 BumbleBee_pSp-4

It is the tiniest ones that could hurt the most

BumbleBee_pSp

And since camera was in hand and I paused to allow someone to build their home.

Bird House_pSp

While this next capture has no birds or bees, I am liking the way it looks.

BumbleBee_pSp-5A quick one today, need to get back to my chores…

Thanks for stopping! Till next time