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. 



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!!



Adventures in the Smokies

Hiking along the trails with wife and daughter by my side on our annual visit to the Smokey Mountains was difficult to get going. Rain graced us every day sans two, my father in the hospital recovering from hip surgery, and my wife required to work on Christmas day resulting in a fly down for her on the 26th. My daughter and I along with our 145 pound Landseer arrived at my parents on the 22nd, the first time I ever made that drive by myself. I did much better than expected, only one five hour energy consumed, but like clockwork by the last hour my legs began cramping up. One day of rest before my daughter and I went exploring, in the rain no less. I mentioned in my last post our intended destination was closed so we just took a drive around Little River Road and went stream shopping, for pictures of course. This is a single image processed through HDR software. Just a little experiment I was trying.

HDR Stream

Since I started seriously learning about photography last sping I have never attempted any serious nature pictures. I was very excited for this trip and finally on Thursday the rain subsided and we were able to go hiking to Abrams Falls which is located within Cades Cove. Seems everyone had the same idea because it took us almost 45 minutes to get around the loop to the pull off for the trail head. I did not mind so much because there were many other sights to see during our crawl.

Cades Cove pSpAnd around every bend and in every field the deer roamed free. There was many a time we saw people in the fields within 15 feet of one, accustomed to the tourists they are. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I see deer all the time on the way to work, but this guy had the most amazing face I have ever seen. I was just not quick enough pulling over and getting out of the car. He knew I wanted a shot of him, so naturally he decided to walk away.

Natures Deer pSp

We made it to the trail head to begin our five mile round trip hike. There were only a few very rocky sections on the trail, the normal ups and downs associated with mountains and even a few stream crossings, made possible by a carved log, at an angle, with a very shaky railing. Good stuff.

Bridge pSp

Abrams Falls is not a large waterfall at only 20 feet high but the volume of water coming through is tremendous. This is our first view as we came around the corner. I did not  notice the couple when I took this but dare I speculate that he just proposed and by her reaction she said yes!

Abrams propose pSpThere were quite a few people congregated about and as we got in closer, one large group noticed me with bag and tripod and gave me their camera’s for a group shot. Of course I obliged… as I thought….K, move along time for me to get my shot….

I was feeling the spray on this one, but it gives you the idea of how much water comes over these falls. Truly breathtaking. This was 24mm, 1/4 of a second at f13.

Close up

The next day was earmarked for a hike to Laurel Falls. This was a much different hike, the trail was paved and half the distance! Not a bad thing because it kept going up, and up and pavement, although not very smooth, was a welcome respite for our achy calves. All the people we saw the day before seem to once again have the same idea, leading to  two full parking lots and cars along the side of the road up to a half a mile in either direction of the trail head. No worries, a little patience combined with a little strategizing and we secured a spot right next to the lot. We are suburbanites after all, no need to be walking so we can go hiking….

This trail offered a few open views of the surrounding landscape:Laurel Trail View pSpLaurel Falls has an upper and a lower section, separating the two is a little bridge and a cliff. I think the upper section is visually more pleasing. Regrettably due to the amount of people present I did not get the exact shot I wanted but this one is the closest:

UpperLaurel pSp

And the little but very hazardous cliff:

LaurelCliff pSp

While the upper portion is nice looking, the lower portion is much more fun! Particularly navigating down to it.

LowerLaurel pSp

I refrained from playing too much on the rocks, lord knows I wanted to, but since my wife and daughter were looking bored topside and probably wondering how crazy I really am, logic prevailed. Besides I think they were growing tired of people watching and needed to get away from the crowds. Meeee too.

NB Wait pSp All in all it was a great time, The things I learned during my first experience dedicated to nature photography:

You should always check to see if your ND filter and Polarizer are in the bag before you leave, and when you do have it, you should take the time and use it; IS really does work to at least three stops; two second timers are great but I think the remote release is better….especially when people are milling about; that I should go to some spots in the state where I live, when it is sunny, um, less cloudy. We have so many beautiful areas here I need to take advantage of them. Oceans are one thing, but woods and mountains provide a totally different experience  I also have decided that it is time for some workshops so I can work out some of the finer points of this adventure.

Thank you for stopping by! Till next time…