Category Archives: nature photography

Challenges of photographing winter as part time photographer

Winter is a very fickle season. It is especially fickle in regions with a more temperate climate that have changing seasons. Seasons can seem to change overnight. Seasons may seem to change well before it is time according to the calendar. Seasons may even change and then revert to the prior season. Sometimes it can seem like we skip entire seasons all together, with transformation straight from winter to summer and then from summer back to winter. Wait, where did spring and fall go?

A lot of people complain about winter. I enjoy winter. I even enjoy winter photographically. It can often seem like winter offers fewer options for photography, which may be true, but it offers an opportunity to hone ones craft around what remains. The most challenging part of photographing winter is that very variable that makes winter definitively winter and not any other season. That is the snow. Photographing winter without snow is just not the same. So the biggest challenge in a climate where snow may or may not be present or may or may not last even an entire day is being able to get out there and get those photos of the beautiful white stuff.

This is especially difficult as someone who is a pat time photographer who is growing their business. I do as much photography as I can but I still have a day job I have to report to every weekday. There are many days I wake up, look out my windows, and see the white frosting of snow draped over the trees and I just fall in love with my environment all over again. Then I am snapped out of my revelry because I realize I have to go into the office, which for me requires a one hour commute each way, and I will not likely get a chance to photograph that dreamy landscape. It is dark when I get up in the morning and often dark when I get back home during the winter months.

The best time in my opinion to photograph a winter scene is just after the storm when the snow is soft, clinging to the trees and fresh, and undisturbed on the ground. As a photographer that is chasing the dream of a perfect photo in every spare moment I am not in the office it is not very often when I am able to go out right after a storm to take advantage of this scenario. Even worse, in my region the temperatures can fluctuate so much that you can wake up in the morning to nice powdery snow and then arrive home to try to photograph it for thereto only be puddles remaining.

The other photograph I often chase in winter is a snow-filled landscape with a bright sunny sky overhead. This is not something that I am often able to realize with my time crunch and fluctuating temperatures. Either I am not available for photography on the days and times it is sunny or it gets sunny and the snow quickly melts away. I have been able to capture this scenario at times but it is one of my goals to capture this scene in different locations more frequently.

When you have limitations, you have to be able to adapt. I have adapted for my winter photography. While I still chase these other goals, I incorporate other different types of winter photography into my portfolio. Photography of shadows shown against the white background of snow can be interesting. I take close up photographs of smaller parts of a big scene in the snow. Braving the cold and photographing frozen bodies of water can result in some excellent shots. Another option is instead of waiting for the snow to settle and photographing the peaceful aftermath of the storm, go out into the storm and photograph the weather as it is happening. This can create a sense of drama.

No matter how you are able to do it just get out there and create photographs.

Buttermilk Falls

I was recently in the Ithaca area getting some trail running in. Post run I went to Buttermilk falls to relax and do some writing. Then I decided what better way to cap off the days trip than to hike down into the gorge and photograph one of my favorite natural places. My knees did not enjoy this post run decision, but I took my time and enjoyed myself and captured some nice images. Enjoy.

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Osprey Series

I was sitting at the lake doing some writing and I heard osprey calling off in the distance. I looked around but didn’t see anything. Eventually I saw this osprey perched in a tree across the park. I was able to walk over and capture a series of photos of the osprey perched and then as the osprey took took off and flew away over the trees. The photographs are nice and sharp unfortunately the background is drab. It was overcast and cloudy most of the time. I do really like how the light shines through the tail feathers.

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Camping in Vermont

One of my favorite things to do is get out in nature and go camping someplace I have never been. This summer my wife and I decided to go to Vermont and camp with one of our dogs. We decided to camp at Gifford Woods State Park. We had narrowed the choice down to two different locations. I decided I wanted to check out Gifford Woods.
One of the main reasons I wanted to camp at Gifford woods was because it was literally right on the Appalachian Trail and that would allow me easy access to explore this legendary trail that I had previously never had the opportunity to check out. I wasted no time doing so. As soon as we arrived and unpacked the first thing I wanted us to do was go see where the Appalachian Trail met the campground and explore a little bit of the trail. As soon as we headed out we quickly learned that not only did the Appalachian trail run through our campground it literally lead right past our campsite. I thought I had spotted trail blazes on trees as we approached our campsite, but I didn’t know what they were for. We saw so many hikers pass by on the Appalachian Trail while we relaxed at our campsite, probably between a half-dozen and a dozen hikers every day. And that was just at the times we were actually at our campsite which was not most of the time, most days. It was quite impressive to see all the hikers.

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Kent Pond was just a short walk from our campsite. We visited several times.

We had purchased an AMC hikers guide to Vermont and marked off many different hikes we were interested in possibly doing while we were on our trip. There was one hike that we were excited to try out because it was right nearby our campground. We wanted to hike the Deer Leap Overlook hike. It was a relatively short, relatively easy hike with reportedly great views of the area. We followed the directions in the guide-book and parked at the noted parking location and started up the trail head we saw right in front of us. However, we missed one important detail. The trail head we wanted to be going up was across the road from where we had parked. We wouldn’t realize this for quite a while. Once we had been hiking long enough that we were sure we were likely not on the right path we decided to check to see what info we could find on out our phones. We discovered that we were not on Dear Leap but on the Sherburne Pass up to Pico Peak. The next decision was do we keep hiking up or head back down. We didn’t really have a good idea of how long or how far we had gone up or how much farther or longer it would take to reach the top. We didn’t really want to do all that hiking up a mountain without any reward of a nice view. We decided to continue up the mountain taking periodic breaks to reassess the situation and determine if we wanted to kep going and look at maps on our hones to get a sense of how close to the summit we were. We did eventually reach the summit and were rewarded with some nice views. The moral of that story is, if you want to climb a mountain but your wife might not accidental climb the wrong trail because you are both to stubborn to quite once you are out there. My wife said that she would not have wanted to climb the mountain if that was what we had set out to do. We would not have done it. But after having done it she was happy that she had done it and she felt good about having done it.

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The view from Pico Peak

In contrast to the mountain we climbed we also hiked around a short 1 mile trail at what must have been one of the flattest tracts of land in all of Vermont. There was essentially no elevation change on the trail. It was quite a nice relaxing little hike. This was on the Robert Frost Trail. All along the trail were posted Robert Frost poems to read as you relaxed and enjoyed the scenery which included a beautiful stream, some woodland, and even a more open field like area.

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Robert Frost Trail.

After a nice casual stroll at the Robert Frost Trail we decided to venture on to a more difficult trail. We really wanted to go see what kind of views we could find overlooking some beautiful scenery. So we headed out to a section of the Long Trail noted in the guidebook as Sunset Ledge. This trail definitely had some challenging sections. It was a good workout. After hiking up for what seemed like longer than we should have been we were beginning to worry that we had gone astray again. Fortunately another hiker was headed towards us and when we inquired she said that we were close and that the view is great. She was not wrong. After a little more hiking we arrive at a nice overlook. We sat and enjoyed the view and took some photographs. We relaxed and just enjoyed being out in nature.

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Sunset Ledge

One thing that definitely has to be taken into account is that even when you are looking at a guide-book that gives you ratings of how difficult a trail is to hike with rating from easy to difficult you have to be mindful that the guide is essentially all relative. That means that a lot of the hikes are rated relative to the other hikes in the area and when you are in Vermont many of the hikes are mountainous or require a lot of elevation gain or are very long hikes. So a short hike that is rated as easy might still have over 400 ft of elevation which is not necessarily a lot of elevation gain but it feels like a lot more when you are covering that elevation in 1 mile. So the perceived effort of the hike, how you feel during the climbing of the hike can feel harder than one might expect from a hike that is rated as easy or easy/moderate. Also another consideration is the decent. It sounds simple enough to think that the climbing might be easy but coming back down will be easier. This may very well be true but it might also be the opposite. The exertion might feel like it is lessened but it still might be difficult depending on how steep the trail is and what the terrain is like. Going down a large rock surface can pose bigger challenges than going up it for example.
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One of my favorite features of the scenery that just happened to be purely chance and not part of the planning was this stream that flowed across the Appalachian Trail right near our camp. It was just a short walk away. I saw that spot probably more times than anywhere else. I stopped and took photos of it multiple times. It is really cool to me when you find these neet little hidden gems that are not predominant features of the landscape or well-known marked scenic spots and you can just check them out and enjoy it.
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I also got some running in while out camping and didn’t even have to travel to do it. It is a great feeling to be able to wake up put on your clothes and run off onto a trail without having to drive anywhere. I never did get up as early as I wanted for ay of the runs I went out on. I also never quite got the distance in that I wanted. As I learned quickly out on my runs the AT is no joke and you should not underestimate it. But I did enjoy my time running there and I took some videos and photos while I was running.
When we were in the early planning stages of our trip and had decided to camp at Gifford Woods in Killington, VT we started to check into things and see what else might be going on in the time frame we would be there. I was thinking that I would like to find a trail race to run. As it turned out there was a race going on that same week. The Under Armour Mountain Running Series was at Killington Mountain just a short drive from where we were staying. It seemd like the perfect opportunity. The event featured 5k, 10k, 25k, and 50k distances. The 25k was the only distance that really interested me. However, the cut off time was 4.5 hours and that was the amount time it took me to finish my last 25k that I thought would likely be comparable, so I wasn’t even sure I would be able to finish it if I ran. Also, as the time approached I was not in the healthiest place physically. I also wasn’t sure that I wanted the anxiety and worry that can come with having a race looming hanging over my head on what was supposed to be a fun trip with my wife. I decided not to run the race, but we did go and watch the event and cheered runners on and I took many, many photographs of people crushing their races. It was really fun to sit back and watch and enjoy the event as a spectator. I was definitely glad I chose that route. I was still able to get a goo amount of running in and enjoy the rest of the trip as well as take in a cool event. Win, win, win.

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Under Armour Mountain Running Series, Killington, VT.

Then in the evening we found purely by chance what I think was the perfect way to round out and finish off our vacation. While at the running event we saw signs for a free outdoor concert at the same location later that night. So we went back that night and sat out on the side of a mountain listening to music and enjoying being outside. It was the perfect relaxing way to end a trip.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.