Category Archives: nature photography

10 Days of Freedom

I went on a 10 day camping trip to the Adirondacks. I reserved campsites at two different campgrounds because I couldn’t get 10 days straight at one site. That is the extent of the planning I did for this trip. I had lots of ideas running through my mind of what I wanted to do, but I did not actual planning of what I was going to do or when I was going to do it. I am not the kind of person that needs to have an itinerary of my day planned out or me on trips, but generally I do plan when I am going to do big things during a trip. But for this trip I didn’t even know what the big things I was going to do were. I was just going to wing it and have a nice relaxing trip. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it.

Haystack Mountain_July 15, 2018_206

The more I thought about this trip leading up to it the more I thought about all the things I could possibly do during a 10 day trip to the Adirondacks. While I did not plan out specific details I knew in general what I wanted to do was spend a lot of time in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. So that lead me to reason 1 that I decided to camp at Meadowbrook Campground. It was the closest state campground to the High Peaks region as far as I could tell. So I would have less traveling. This worked out perfectly because I really didn’t’ have to drive far at all for any of the hiking I did even when I was outside the High Peaks region. Reason 2 I chose Meadowbrook Campground was that it had a trail that lead directly from the campground out into the forest and up a mountain. I figured I could run or hike that as much as I wanted with no travel involved at all. In my mind I figured I would be on that trail repeatedly. In reality I only accessed the trail one time and that was for my one and only trail run during the trip. I think this was in large part due to the fact that the mountain had no view at all. When I imagined it I thought it would be perfect for hiking up in the evening and watching the sun set, but since the mountain summit was completely forested there would be no watching of sunsets. Reason 3 for choosing to camp at Meadowbrook Campground was that it was only 4 miles from Lake Placid and I reasoned that would allow me to literally run into town any time I wanted. I wouldn’t even need to drive if I wanted to go to town. Running 8 miles in a day has become something I do regularly. Turns out I never did that at all, and I was kind of surprised as to why.

Heart Lake_July 15, 2018_25

I purposefully chose to go on this trip alone. I have camped alone before. I enjoy a certain amount of solitude. It is peaceful and relaxing to me. However, it turns out that going to a small relatively bustling tourist town, Lake Placid, alone is not peaceful for me. It is the exact opposite. It was extremely anxiety inducing. I don’t know if it is because I am generally an introverted person or what but wandering around this small town amongst the other tourists was very stressful for me. I could not relax. The only things I did while I was there was go to REI and a bookstore to look for trail maps and was not relaxing at all that made things worse, go down to the park by the lake which was better than being on the strip with all the businesses, and go to the small art gallery. The art gallery was the only place in Lake Placid where I felt relaxed and calm. I love the art scene and was able to just relax and enjoy the artwork. I only stayed in ton about an hour and a half and did not return. I learned there is a very big difference between solitude and being alone in a crowd.

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I imagined so many things that I could do on this trip: Run up mountains, Hike a mountain every day, Trail running, Photography, Read books, Write, Relax, Nap in my hammock. While I don’t need plans I think that I left my possibilities so wide open that even making a decision as to what to do was anxiety evoking at times. Sometime making the decision of what to do when you can literally do anything is the hardest thing to do of them all. I did manage to fit a little bit of everything into my trip but not as much of any one thing as I imagined I would.

I ran up a mountain. I hiked up 7 mountains. I did a little road running. I read 2 books cover to cover and started a third. I spent some time writing my book. I sat around relaxing. And best of all I took many naps in my hammock at whatever time of day I felt like it. I even slept in it out under the stars one night. A funny side effect of having so many things you would like to do and the very real possibility of doing them all is that you then have to pack like you might do any or all of them. And you have to pack like you might decide to do that one activity a lot if you want to be able to do it whenever you want as much as you want to. There was a real possibility that I would decide to hike every day or that I would run every day. Those two activities require certain types of gear and most importantly proper clothing to enjoy them. I literally packed just about all my running clothes and all my regular summer clothes which at this point are hiking clothes. I think I had one duffle back full of regular clothes and a separate one of the same size of jut running clothes. I give a lot of my friends grief for having a lot of running shoes, but I also have a lot of shoes. They are all just very task specific shoes and some of which I have had for a long time. I literally took a garbage bag full of shoes on this trip. I took multiple pairs of hiking shoes, road running shoes, trail running shoes, casual shoes, and a pair of sandals. It doesn’t help the packing situation when you have size 14 feet either.

Cascade Mountain_July 16, 2018_66

Also, in case you haven’t noticed the photographs accompanying this post I am also a photographer. This trip presented a plethora of photographic possibilities. I wanted to be prepared for them all. I would not want to be caught without a camera and miss out on a good photographic opportunity due to being unprepared. I have a bunch of gear but not all gear is suitable for each type of situation. I packed 2 DSLR camera bodies, 4 DSLR camera lenses, 2 mirror less camera bodies each with their own lens, 2 GoPros, 2 small tripods, and other assorted gear. If I am going to be running I need a camera I can carry and access while I am out running so a GoPro or small mirror less camera. If I am hiking up a mountain I probably will only be able to bring one camera body and one lens with me. If I am hiking a flat trail I have many more options available and could carry multiple camera bodies and multiple lenses plus additional gear.

Paul Smiths VIC_July 17, 2018_177

The purpose of this trip was to get out of the daily routine, to stop being stuck in a rut and just relax and enjoy life. I wanted some freedom. What I learned is that even if you have the freedom to do anything you want, you still can’t do everything that you want. Even on a trip with no limits on free time. No constraints. No plans. A trip where I was completely in control of what I would do. There simply are not enough hours in the day to do all the things one might want to do. Even over a 10 day trip. The depressing thing about that is, if there is not enough time to enjoy all the things one might want to do when we have the freedom to just do it how in the world are we supposed to find time to do the things we love when we have all the time constraints that daily life places on us. I am not sure what the answer to this is. I feel like it has something to do with take time out of every day to do one thing that you love. It doesn’t matter what it is. It doesn’t matter if it is big or small. It doesn’t matter if it is accomplishing a monumental task you never thought you would get done or doing some tiny seemingly insignificant thing. It doesn’t matter if it is extraordinary or mundane. Do what you love and love what you do. Find time and find peace in that.

I didn’t do all the things I imagined I would on this trip but I grabbed every minute of peace and joy I could and I embraced it with no regrets and it was a great trip.

Baxter Mountain

During this trip I camped at two different location because I couldn’t get a single 10 day block at one campsite. I had never done that before. I spent the first 7 days at one location and then I packed up and moved to a different campground in the Adirondacks. Check out time at the first campground was 11:00 AM but check in time at the next campground wasn’t until 3:00 PM. So after relaxing some and then packing up the campsite I decided to amuse myself by hiking up a mountain. Seriously, who does that.

Baxter Mountain_July 20, 2018_7

Baxter Mountain was listed in my guide book as an easy hike with a 2 mile round trip and 700 feet of elevation. That was exactly what I was looking for. Something that would not be very strenuous. Just a nice relaxing hike to pass the time and enjoy some nature before moving on to my next camp site. This mountain was reported to have some of the best views of the Adirondack high peaks relative to the amount of effort required to summit the mountain to enjoy them. I’d say that information was accurate. The views were great.

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One funny thing happened on this hike. When you are unfamiliar with a trail you often may not know where the trail starts or where the trail ends for that matter and thus you may not know where the summit of the mountain actually is.  AS I hiked the trail and began to get to where more of the vertical gain was I expected to reach the summit soon because I knew the hike was not particularly long. So when I reached an area with exposed rock and nice views and a family sitting there enjoying a picnic I assumed that I was at the summit so I found a nice quiet spot and sat down to enjoy the views and eat my lunch.

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The views were quite nice there. However, it turns out that assumption I made turned out to make an ass out of me after all. As I headed back to a trail to retrace my steps and head back down the mountain I realized there was more trail going away from the way I had hiked up.  Turns out I had not summitted the mountain, yet. I followed this trail farther up the mountain, not too far fortunately, and I reached what is actually the summit where the trail actually ends. And I made sure it ended there and did not continue farther. So I stopped here and enjoyed some more excellent views of the Adirondacks. That is one part that never gets old. The views are always stunning. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have otherwise at the true summit because I had already spent so much time where I first stopped and I had to head on out to my next campground. It was still a great time and an enjoyable hike and I learned something new. Do not assume you are at the summit just because you see someone stopped there.

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Mount Marcy

During my trip to the Adirondacks one hike I wanted to try to make sure I fit into my schedule was Mount Marcy. Mount Marcy is the tallest mountain in New York. The summit of the mountain is 5344 feet above sea level. The trail is 14.8 miles round trip. There is 3300 feet of elevation gain. I figured this would be a good day trip for me. This was also a hike that was covered in my guide book so I could glean some information about the hike from that and have an idea of what to expect.

The hike from the route I took started in the parking lot at the Adirondack Loj. There was not much elevation gain for the first several miles. During the first several miles you eventually reach the Marcy dam area which seems like a nice place to hang out; several groups of people were there. There is a water crossing with a bridge to take to traverse it.

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Most of the trail is quite a comfortable hike for what one might think it would be, knowing you are hiking up the tallest mountain in the state. It helps that it was in my opinion the perfect day for a hike. The temperature in the morning was cool and the projected high for the day was only 70 degrees. This is more my type of weather, especially on days I am going to be physically active.

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At one point myself and a pair of women arrived at one section of the trail where the trail went one way over a bridge over a stream and another way straight along the stream. We were all first timers on the trail and were not sure which way to go, so we decided we would all go up along the trail where it followed the stream. Turns out it didn’t matter as the trail eventually lead to a crossing of the same stream. The bridge was available for when the water was high. For the rest of the hike myself and the two women would pass each other back and forth as we took in fuel (runner brain) or slowed down at certain sections or stopped to take photos. It reminded me of a trail race where you pass the same people back and forth because you are each better at some sections than others. We eventually even arrived at the summit at about the same time.

There is a significant portion of the trail where you emerge from the forest and are out on exposed rock. You are now above the tree line on the mountain. This is where you begin to feel the significant change in elevation you have achieved. Where before I was comfortable, but obviously still sweating with exertion, now the wind was picking up and it was significantly colder. Luckily was I was expecting this and I was prepared. I have a lightweight EMS jacket that stuffs into its own pocket and is perfect for storing in my running pack for just such occasions. It did not take long for the exposure and temperature change to prompts me to stop and take the time to take my pack off and put the jacket on. That was a good decision; it made the rest of the hike much more enjoyable.

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The summit of this mountain was perfect. There weren’t even as many people there as I thought there would be. It was just about the perfect temperature despite being a little gusty. I found the perfect spot to hunker down behind a rock outcropping that protected me from the wind perfectly as it seemed to only be gusting from one direction. I sat and relaxed there for a while. I simply enjoyed the view. I continued to sit and rest and enjoyed a bag of trail mix I had thrown together (peanuts, raisins, and chocolate chips).

As I tend to be the kind of person that cannot sit still too long, especially when out in nature and especially with such a scenic landscape to explore and photograph. There is quite a bit of room to walk around on the summit of Mount Marcy, however there are areas that are off limits because they are trying to allow for alpine vegetation to grow back. People are encouraged to stay on the solid rock surfaces. So I moved around the summit and photographed everything I could think of to photograph. I used my Nikon D300 with 50mm lens, my GoPro, and my Samsung S8 Plus. All of which capture great photos but have different ways they can be utilized for maximum effect.

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One of the things I love about being out in nature, other than just being there to experience it myself, is seeing other people enjoying and appreciating nature. There were whole families up on the summit enjoying the views together. There was a guy stretched out on the rock with his hood pulled over his head whom I am pretty sure was asleep. There was a whole group of young people up there together exploring the summit and I am pretty sure they were shooting some videos of each other. One of them asked me to take his photo with his GoPro because he noticed that I had a GoPro as well. Knowing that there are other people out there that enjoy nature the way that I do brings me a sense of peace and joy that I can’t really explain.

Eventually it was time to hike back down the mountain.

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Paul Smith’s VIC

This portion of my trip was very different than the other parts of my trip. Most of my trip was about exploring and doing new things. Visiting Paul Smith’s Visitor Interpretive Center was not something new. I had been here on a previous trip to the Adirondacks and I loved it there. That is precisely why I came back.

Paul Smiths VIC_July 17, 2018_6

After my tough hike up Cascade and Porter Mountains I knew I still wanted to hike at least one more high peak mountain and I wanted it to be a longer hike. I thought it would be best to take a day in between as a relative rest day. I wanted to have fun and enjoy myself but not completely wear myself out so I could not rest and relax and enjoy other aspects of my trip. When I explored the area nearby on my first day there I saw a sign for Paul Smiths which was kind of surprising. I didn’t realize Paul Smiths would be near where I was. So when I decided I wanted to have a more relaxed hike and be able to enjoy nature I didn’t want to try to figure out someplace else to go. I didn’t want to have to spend time looking at guide books anymore. It was obvious. Go back to Paul Smiths, you love it there.

Paul Smiths VIC_July 17, 2018_50

Paul Smith’s did not disappoint. I hiked two different trails while I was there. There are several more left for me to explore on future visits. Some of the trails I hiked were ones I remembered from my previous visit; some of it was brand new to me. That is why you go back to a place you’ve been before, so you can see what you missed last time. Also last time I was here it was a different time of year so some of the vegetation was different as well.

Paul Smiths VIC_July 17, 2018_91

You really get the full Adirondack view at Paul Smith’s VIC. You get to hike around large bodies of water. You get to see the mountains of in the distance. There are trails through various types of terrain from forests, to swamp like areas, to floating boardwalks across a body of water, to stream crossings. There is even a trail up a mountain, which I am saving for a future trip out to Paul Smith’s. You really can get everything you are looking for right here at this one nature center.

Paul Smiths VIC_July 17, 2018_109

Paul Smith’s VIC is like the culmination of all possible the Adirondack experiences rolled into one. There isn’t much you can’t get at this one location. I watched dragonflies zoom across the water. I photographed butterflies glide on the wind and land on flowers. I looked to my right and saw nothing but forest. I looked to my left and saw nothing but forest. I watched a great blue heron land in a tree and then eventually dismount the tree to stalk some prey in the water. I heard a loon sing. I stared out into the vast panorama of sky and mountains and endless nature. This is what it is all about.

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Then in other moments I was down on my hands and knees photographing the small flowers growing at the borders of the different merging ecosystems. I singled out individual flowers floating peacefully on the water with my 300mm lens. I watched birds flit from tree to tree, most of which would not cooperate with my photography.

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I enjoy Paul Smith’s VIC so much that not only did I return to it on this trip, I went there a 2nd time during this trip. Wanting to spend 2 days of a 10 day trip at one location tells me that this is a special place.

Paul Smiths VIC_July 19, 2018_90

I went back for a very specific reason. I wanted to try out something new. I wanted to try to capture some time laps footage of landscapes, specifically clouds. I wanted to capture footage of the clouds moving across the sky. This is the first time I have tried to capture this type of footage. Usually I sue time lapse photography to capture race footage, and I like that because while it captures movement it also allows me to easily select one single image I like in isolation. This is all about capture the slow motion of clouds across the sky and showing it in a faster pace. The footage came out with the look I hoped for but over a much shorter time frame than I expected. I wouldn’t call this a success, but it surely was a learning process and that is what makes life worth living.  Get out there and do something new and learn from it.

 

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Mt. Jo and Heart Lake

After climbing Haystack Mountain in the morning I went back to camp to relax for a while. In the afternoon I wanted to get out and do some more exploring, but I wanted to do something less intense. I wanted to take a hike that would be more relaxing. My guide book noted that Mt. Jo was a relatively easy hike starting at the Adirondack Loj. The hike is under 1000 feet of elevation.

Mount Jo_July 15, 2018_19

For a mountain that required so little climbing it still rewarded the effort with a great view. Thankfully no fog, like in the morning, or gray skies.

Compared to my previous hike Mt. Jo was just a nice stroll in the park. The elevation gain was only 700 ft. The best part about it was the rewarding view that one is treated to even after such a modest effort. Being situated where it is, at the Adirondack Loj, where it is easily accessible and can be easily featured as a solo hike one can do helps.

Mount Jo_July 15, 2018_42

The Adirondack Loj is home to many of the trail heads that lead out into the vast Adirondack wilderness and lead to many of the climbs that many hikers take up to climb the Adirondack High Peak Mountains. This climb of Mt. Jo is a nice alternative for someone who wants to enjoy the scenery but is not going out for an extended hike. Being right at the center of the Adirondack Mountains trail-head freeway means that all those mountains ay out there in the distance for viewing at the summit of Mt. Jo. I might have had better views here than at any of the other spots I visited save one.

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Another nice surprise was that the guidebook I had reported Mt. Jo as a simple out and back hike, but when I arrived at the Adirondack Loj and obtained one of their maps I found that there is actually a short trail and a long trail route that one can take to and from the summit. So I took the short route up to the summit, obviously to same time and energy even though it was a short hike. Give me a break, ya know, I did just hike one of the high peaks in the morning. Ha ha ha. Then on my way down I where the two trails diverged I took the long trail back down from the mountain. It was nice to take a different route and see different scenery on the way down. I like to absorb as much nature as possible so seeing more of it is almost always better. Although photographically seeing the scenery from opposite directions can lend a very different perspective and create photographic opportunities not seen if just traveling one direction.

Heart Lake_July 15, 2018_31

After descending Mt. Jo I went to my car and ate a small lunch. Then I headed out on the trails again to check out the loop trail that circled Heart Lake. This was a very relaxing trail after hiking up two mountains. There was very little elevation gain. I mostly just strolled along enjoying the environment only stopping on a few occasions to take some photographs.

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2018 STRC Trail Fest at Grist Iron

Last year I ran the first trail race put on by the Southern Tier Running Club. This year I was back again but not as a runner. I photographed the event and an event it is. This is truly as billed a Trail Fest. One day, 3 races. There is a 1 mile race a 5k race and a 10k race. I photographed each one. Then there are post race festivities including live music, food, and beer. It does not get a whole lot better.

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Photographing one race can be challenging enough but photographing 3 races in a row is a different story all together. It was fun, exciting, and challenging just like running itself is. Photography at this point becomes an endurance sport in a way just like running. You have to be able to stay focused and not miss your shots. Look at what is in front of you and plan your moves just like on a trail run.

The first race of the day was the 1 mile race. I stayed relatively close to the finish line for this one and moved a little bit out into the field. I used my longest lens, my 300 mm, for this race so I could capture the runners as they approached in the distance. Then as they moved closer to the finish line I could take some nice close up shots that would also include some nice scenery of the trees and lake behind them.

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For the 5k and 10k races I wanted to be farther out on the course so I could depict more of the scenery in my photographs. But I also wanted to stay close enough that I would be able to tell when each race stated so that I could have a sense of when to expect runners to reach me. I hiked out on the course a mile or so until I came to the edge of the woods. It was the perfect spot for me to set up for photographs.

I could see into the woods along the trail that came directly towards me so I would see the runners approaching me. Then the trail took a 90 degree turn and then another 90 degree turn. The trail basically snaked around me where I was standing so I could watch runners along the trail from multiple perspectives. I would be able to photograph runner’s running head on towards me then they would turn and they would be running perpendicular to me across my field of view. Then they would turn again and be running parallel to me again. All I needed to do was change my positioning and I could capture each runner and multiple places along the trail with different scenery. I was also able to see the runners clear across the field from me as they started the race in the first mile or two and photograph them there with my 300mm lens.

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I really enjoyed photographing this event from this spot. It allowed me to be much more creative than I would otherwise be able to be. I used four different cameras during the 5k and 10k races. I took photographs from four different angles. I was also able take photographs with different scenery in the back ground and vary the composition of each photo by zooming in or out and they all came out very nice.

So, doing all that sounds perfectly good in theory, but in practice it is a bit challenging. One of my goals when I photographed this race is to try to get a photograph of everyone who is running. So transition and planning becomes very important. How will I move from photographing at one angle with one camera to using another camera at another angle and still another perhaps at a different angle or distance. This all has to be done on the move in real time as runners are approaching and passing you by.

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You have to get a feel for you equipment and how long it takes to move from one camera and one position to the next. You have to have a preconception of what you want to include in each photograph. For me at this location there were several flowering trees that I wanted to include as the background of most of the photos so I planned to take shots as runners approached each of these landmarks. You have to often be aware of multiple runners at once. As one runner is approaching one landmark another runner is approaching you. Which one do you photograph in which order so that you don’t miss any of the shots? How many of the runners do you group together on wide angle shots so that you can compose a nice scenic shot and include all the runners and not miss anyone? These are all thoughts and calculations that are going on in my head as a photographer in the moment sometimes subconsciously. It doesn’t always work out but I would say the vast majority of my photos turned out as I hoped they would.

This was all done basically sight unseen. I had a vague memory of some of the course from last year, but this year’s course was going to be very different for a variety of reasons. I had not been able to go up and preview the course prior to the race. I basically walked around and found a spot I liked minutes before the race started and then started thinking about how I wanted to photograph the runners as the race was happening around me. I am not sure if that says I am a bad planner or a good photographer for having it happen that way and being able to pull it off, but even if it was less than ideal it worked out ok. There might be a few things I would do differently but those are lessons learned for the next event.

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Another part of the experience that has benefits and drawbacks is that since I found such an ideal spot that allowed me to take a wide variety of photographs of each runner from multiple angles, is that it allowed me to take a wide variety of photographs of each runner from multiple angles. Meaning I was able to take a ton of photos. I took a large quantity of photographs, over 3000. I could have taken many more if I had chosen to. I was under the impression that I had done a good job on limiting the sheer volume of photos I took until I started reviewing them on my camera after the event and realize just how many I had taken. Capturing all those images in and of itself is great and I love having so many photos to share with people but what it means for me is more work. It is time consuming to transfer all the photographs from each memory card to my computer. I probably need to do some hardware upgrades there at some point. Then I have to upload all those photographs to the internet to share them with the runners and the race organization. That takes time and websites don’t always cooperate or make it easy to upload large numbers of files all at once. So it becomes a slow time consuming process. But it is a process that I love none the less. Then there is the process of editing photos and sharing them which is also fun but time consuming and with 3000 plus photos it will be a while before I get through them all and share any significant number of edited photos.

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All said this was a great event full of great people from the runners to the volunteers to the organization putting the event on and the host site.

Thank you to Southern Tier Running Club for having me out to photograph your event. Thank you to Grist Iron Brewing for hosting. Thank you to the volunteers for making this happen. These events don’t happen without volunteers. Thank you to all the runners who went out and got after it on the trails. I hope you all had a great time and I hope you enjoy the photographs.

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Photography Life

I love photography and I love trying to make it a part of every aspect of my life. Most photography is going out and finding subjects to photograph but for me photography is about photographing life and more importantly photographing my life. I want to photograph the things I do and the things that I love and share them with the world.

Some aspects of life are a bit more challenging to photograph than others so I try to explore new tools and techniques so I can capture as much of life as is possible. Over the past year I have begun using GoPro cameras to capture parts of life that are less conducive to carrying around traditional camera gear.

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I recently went running at one of my favorite local places Tanglewood Nature Center and there are so many great sights to see there. I have photographed the scenery there many times. I wanted tot try something new. I put my GoPro on an extension pole and used it to take some creative shots.

I ran out to the cliffs. I stopped at two different spots that have the best views and I used my extension pole mounted GoPro to take photographs at angles that cannot be achieved from just standing on the path. It was an interesting process to try and maneuver the GoPro into a position that would get the best shot. It took a lot of attempts to get the best photographs. This is a technique that will take some practice to master.

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After my run I hiked up the trail and found an interesting tree. This tree is hollow and had multiple holes in it. I wanted to attempt to photograph the inside of the tree. I also wanted to photograph through the openings in the tree. I was able to get a view from the hollow at the base of the tree where some woodland creatures had been munching on nuts in the past. I was able to take photographs looking up through the opening in the top of the tree. Then I rotated the camera from the same position and photographed the inside of the tree looking down to the base of the tree on the inside. Then I captured some images of the view at Tanglewood seen from the perspective of the tree.