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Here We Go Again

I want to start with a blatant “plug” for both of my eBooks. The books (both written with the help of co-authors with their own impressive experience in the locations) are excellent resources for photographers planning to shoot these destinations. Please take a look at these books. They are available on the major sites, including Amazon and Apple iBooks. Go to the link page

Photographing the U.P.
eBook
Copyright 2016 Andy Richards and Kerry Leibowitz

Second Edition!

It’s that time.  Fall.  My favorite time of the year.  Like a cute puppy, I wish it could stay fall forever (maybe I wouldn’t like it so much if it happened – and most cute puppies grow up to be pretty nice dogs anyway).

Stowe, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Fall brings fresh, cool air, football, the harvest, and for most of my adult life, the most important “fall thing” of all: fall foliage.

Tahquamenon River
Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2004

While I enjoy photography most times of the year, the fall season presents – for me – the greatest opportunity to make the images I like.  The days are shorter, which means I don’t have to get up so early, or stay out so late, to get the nice light mornings and evenings bring.  The air is clear and fresh.  The sun is lower on the horizon, widening the photographic time window.  It always gets me recharged and excited about getting back out and shooting.

Burton Hill Road
Barton, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Most years, I have a travel plan to someplace spectacular.  My favorite place over the years, of course, has been Vermont.  I like fall foliage and Vermont so much, I wrote an eBook (now in its Second Edition, which features my co-author, Carol Smith’s insights and photography along with my own).

Glade Creek Gristmill
Babcock State Park, WV
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

No specific plans this year.  I may make a weekend trip or two up to Northern Michigan or the Upper Peninsula, but that will be spur of the moment.  But even in such “off” years, I always seem to find something “fall” to shoot.

Babcock State Park
West Virginia
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

Please consider purchasing both of my eBooks.  Both were started as logs of my shooting experiences in two of my favorite places in the world:  Vermont and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  Both are wonderful outdoor shooting destinations – and both are especially magnificent in the fall.  The books (both written with the help of co-authors with their own impressive experience in the locations) are excellent resources for photographers planning to shoot these destinations. And if you are an outdoor photographer and have not traveled to either of these locations you should – best in the fall.  The books have directions and observations about the best times to shoot, difficulty of getting to them, and other items of information that we have found useful.  In many cases we have even included approximate gps coordinates.  Please take a look at these books.  They are available on the major sites, including Amazon and Apple iBooks.

Somesville Bridge
Town Hall, Somesville, ME
Copyright 2009 Andy Richards

I hope all have good fall shooting and safe travels.

Photogaphers At Red Jack Lake
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

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Twilight; Sunrise or Sunset?

Sailboat; Naraganset Bay Sunset
Newport, Rhode Island
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Sunrise, sunset; Sunrise, sunset; Swiftly flow the days …”, voices the chorus of men from Fiddler On The Roof.  I am not sure it has any relevance, but whenever this topic comes to mind, I cannot help but conjure this earworm.

Otter Cliff Sunrise
Otter Beach, Acadia NP
Bar Harbor, ME
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Something I read recently got me thinking about this topic (and, since it has been more than a month since I last was motivated to blog, it seemed like suddenly – finally – there was a subject to write about, on which I have experience, an opinion, and perhaps some gems of wisdom). As I did some quick and dirty internet research, I was a bit nonplussed to find that it was not my own original thought.  But I will go on anyway. 🙂

Horseshoe Lake Sunrise
Huron NF, Glennie, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Photography topics and opinions can be a rather polarizing subject (see what I did there? ) 🙂 . Canon vs. Nikon.  People vs. landscape.  Digital vs. Film.  Handheld vs. tripod.  Long vs. short lens. And of course:  sunset vs. sunrise.  Like the other debates, I find it a bit humorous that anyone would bite on the “which is better” question. And while we may have a preference, the true answer is obvious enough:  both.  And aptly, the title intro: “Twilight” also means both.

Inside Passage, AK Sunrise
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

It is, of course, conventional that the “best” time to photograph is during the so-called “golden hours” which occur shortly after sunrise and last for perhaps and hour and begin again, perhaps an hour or 2 before sunset. I used quotes around best, purposely.  I am not sure there is a single best time to shoot and in my world – more often than not – it is “when you can.” Indeed there are wonderful illustrative photos supporting the merits of shooting before and after the sunrise and sunset.  But here, I am talking about shooting the sunrise and sunset themselves.  Or at the very least, subjects directly bathed in it. Like so many of my images shot in rapidly developing conditions, some are of that “f8 and be there” variety, and others are planned and even re-shot.  The sailboat on Narragansett Bay is the former. I was photographing a lighthouse when the image began to develop and I had to just react quickly to make this image. The Otter Cliff shot, on the other hand, was the product of planning – before I left Michigan, and on several mornings while in Acadia National Park.  It was also shot, and re-shot, trying to achieve the optimal sunrise. Both seem to have worked for me. But there is always a component of planning for any photography. Here are some thoughts on that preparation – mental and practical.

Little Stony Man Sunset
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Practical Considerations:  There are multiple considerations for why you might want to shoot a sunrise, sunset, or both. On a practical level, there are considerations of subject and location.  Some locations obviously are affected by their orientation. Whether your subject faces east or west may factor into the decision of which time of day is best. In order to be ready to catch a sunrise shot (or shots), it is really necessary to be on location before the sun actually rises. This may mean hiking in to a location in the darkness.  It most certainly means scouting the location in daylight, and making some calculations about where the sun will be when you make the actual image. Software programs like the Photographers’ Ephemeris, can be an invaluable tool for this planning.

Soo Locks Sunrise
St. Mary’s River
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Distractions are another important practical issue. It may well be that this phenomena is the single biggest reason why I have many more early morning images than sunsets. The main distraction is family and friends (and it may be more correct to point out that a photographer, if she is not careful, may be the distraction). This is particularly an issue during vacations and travel. My wife and I, and occasionally friends and family, enjoy travel. In recent years, we have traveled to a few parts of the world, and we certainly look forward to more of the same. But sunrise and sunset shooting presents a challenge in these circumstances. It is the rare non-photographer friend or family member who has the patience to accompany a serious photographer to shoot. Sunrise means early rising, which often makes for a long day. Sunsets invariably occur at the dinner/cocktail hours of the afternoon or evening.  For many of us, family and friend social time is important (perhaps more so than photography). My wife is not an early riser, so I have found that I can sneak away for some early morning shooting without disrupting the day plan much of the time. Sunsets are harder.  I have come to the conclusion that sometimes, I just need to go off by myself (or with a like-minded companion) on a “dedicated” photo excursion. I guess it is all about balance.

Clearwater Sunset
Clearwater, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Aesthetic Considerations:  Aesthetics will always influence this decision. For example, I mentioned orientation above. This factor is also influenced by your desired lighting (i.e., backlighting, side, or front lighting). Perhaps one of the most significant aesthetic considerations involves compositional elements. For many years, I have sought “pure” landscape locations (“pure” meaning primarily to me: no people in the frame). These days, it seems that all the good locations are populated by tourists and other “viewers.” The vast majority of them are not serious photographers and it can often be a near-frustrating challenge to make a desired composition without someone in your frame.  With only a few exceptions, sunrises do not pose this problem. Only the unique “tourist” is out at that time of day.  Indeed, I have found that, even in my travel shooting in populated areas, that early mornings are the most productive for people-free imagery. As I have grown older, perhaps wiser, and more tolerant (my wife might disagree with this last characterization 🙂 ), I have concluded that there is often some merit in including people in imagery.

Aix-en-Provence, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Photographic Considerations:  As I researched this aspect of the “sunrise/sunset” dichotomy, I learned – not surprisingly – that atmospheric conditions influence the photographic result. Sunrises generally have the characteristic of being clearer, cooler air. This is partly due to climatic conditions (is is usually cooler at sunrise than at sunset), and partly due to ambient influences (natural and man-made).  This often results in a lighter, photographically “cooler” and more contrasty image. The natural conditions are also more like to produce fog and mist – often low and dramatic.  A  significant exception to this may be the “marine layer” which is found along the northern west coast, where fog can be found almost any time of the day. But generalizations often trap us. The Horseshoe Lake image (one of my most successful sales images) was made during sunrise behind a cloud which produced a very diffuse, pastel light – in spite of the fact that the blue tint seems cooler (the blue tint is a characteristic of the film I used that morning – Fuji Velvia – in that kind of light condition). Likewise, cloudy conditions in the early morning produced a pastel-like light for the Alaska Inside Passage image. The sunrise image of the Bridge behind the Soo Locks perhaps exhibits more, the characteristics noted here. The morning was crystal clear, making conditions right for the sunstar image produce by the very small aperture, shooting directly toward the sun.

Sunset, Florida Gulf
Honeymoon Island SP
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Sunsets, in addition to being generally physically warmer, also occur after there has been a day-long accumulation of airborne pollutants and wind-blown particles. Predictably, this often produces a more diffuse, softer, darker image. This sometimes results in surprising colors and it is rare that there aren’t variations from day to day. In my new home base on the Florida Gulf Coast, I hope for partly cloudy conditions as the sunset draws near, as that promises often spectacular colored skies, which are both pastel and brilliant at the same time. It is also sometimes the case that building storm conditions can produce dramatic conditions, especially when backlit by the setting sun.

Sunset over Cruise Ship
Carribean
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

What was interesting to me from my research was the science of all of this. Not really the technical side, but what it produces. I think I probably got the most insight from a painter’s website. The advice there and elsewhere to painters was fascinating. For sunrises, painters were advised that the clear skies of dawn yield more brilliant reds and oranges, and their palate should include yellow, bright orange, pink and blue, and emphasize the contrasts using dark blue on the sky and yellow on the horizon.  For sunsets, they are advised to use warm and dark saturated reds, oranges, magentas and purples.

Sunrise, Hateras National Seashore, Hateras, NC copyright Andy Richards

Personal considerations:  Some years back, I made a quick trip back to Vermont in late summer, to attend a funeral. On Sunday morning, I was invited to go to church with family members and friends.  I politely declined. I wanted some contemplative time, and I had packed some gear.  Instead, I left my motel room in the predawn light, in to photograph a waterfall I had been to many times in my youth, but never photographed. Arriving there just after sunrise, I climbed down a steep pathway and was rewarded with this beautiful waterfall and exclusive occupancy of the area.  Except for the pounding water, there were no other sounds and no other hint of humanity. My family and friends were in church, but I am certain that I was with God!

Cool (32 degree) temperatures following a very wet period created wonderful steam and colorful morning cloud conditions on this pond near Barton, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I have, in years since, often experienced this feeling of awe, being alone, or nearly alone as the world comes awake. It is a soul -cleansing experience for me. I know for others, getting up that early and mustering out is not a pleasant or desired experience. Ironically, that is good for me. As I get older, I understand the reluctance to rise that early 🙂 .

This shot involved a pre-sunrise, 20 minute hike down a very steep mountain trail on a Sunday morning.
I’d rather be here than in church any day!
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

I do appreciate though, after a long, good day, being there to watch the suns last rays of the day.

Sunset; Crystal Beach Pier
Crystal Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The Rear View Mirror – 2017 in Review

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Most years, it seems like I get to this.  2017 was again, an eventful year, photographically and with related items.  This wasn’t a year when I planned a dedicated photo trip.  But I did manage to get to some new places, and back to some old ones.  For the most part, I carried my Sony RX100 small camera, and it gave me good service.

Crystal Beach Pier
Crystal Beach, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I ended 2016, and rang in the New Year with a series of images from a small public pier, just up the road from our Florida home.

Southernmost Beach Resort
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In January, we visited a “bucket list” location; Key West.  It has held pull for me at least since I became a “Parrot Head,” and certainly after I read a couple of Jimmy Buffet’s novels.  We celebrated my January birthday at Louie’s Backyard, a rather elegant restaurant with a wonderful outdoor deck seating area, and a great menu.  The sunset was – as is common in Florida – pretty spectacular.  Key West is a destination for eating, drinking, and people watching.  I would not put it high up on the photographic destination list. 🙂

Sunset from Louie’s Backyard
Key West, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Speaking of sunsets, these images got me thinking how much I have always loved both ends of the day, but generally preferred sunrise to sunset.  It spurred another post featuring some of my sunrise imagery.

Tokyo Sunrise
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Bay Bridge Sunrise
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Sunrise, Hateras National Seashore, Hateras, NC copyright Andy Richards

As I went through my image library, it occurred to me that some of my images had some things in common.  For example: Shape.

Whitefish Falls
Trenary, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Rocks, Lake Superior Shoreline
Copyright Andy Richards 2004

And, Color.

Shop; Istanbul, Turkey
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Shop; St. Maarten
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

And shape and color. 🙂

Just in time for Fall Foliage, my good friend, Carol Smith and I released our 2nd Edition of “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage,”  which can be purchased via the link on this blog.  This is the cover image.

Craftsbury Common, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Finally, we embarked on our much anticipated, 3rd Mediterranean cruise.  The single most anticipated image for me was the opening image here of the whitewashed, blue-domed churches that dot the landscape of Santorini.  But there was so much more to see.

Ravello, Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Positano; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Amalfi; Amalfi Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Night Canal
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

As we ring in the New Year, I want to thank all the readers here, especially those who have the patience and perseverance to visit regularly.  I want to thank all those persons who mentor and support me in my photographic endeavors.  I want to thank my great friends (you know who you are so I won’t “out” you publicly), who traveled with us this year – we had a great time with great company.  As I said last week, I am very grateful for my blessings in life.  I wish to all, a Happy New Year, and a prosperous and successful (as you define “success”) 2018!

Old Athens

Athens City, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

This was our third stop in Athens – once each cruise.  We have seen the The Temple of Zeuss, The Ancient Agora, The Acropolis, and The Olympic Stadium a couple times.  It was time to do something different.  So we took a cab from the port into old Athens, and met with our guide for the day, for a walking and eating tour (as if we hadn’t done much eating so far 🙂 ).

Athens City, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The idea, here, was to see some of the old downtown that has been rejuvenating, and learn some of the Greek food traditions.  We started with Greek coffee and sweets.  Over the day, we had traditional souvlaki, an afternoon sweet treat, tasted some wine, honey and candies, and saw a couple of the taverns and downtown area.  We also walked through the meat and produce market.

The day did not really lend itself to photography, with tight urban areas and contrasty lighting conditions.  But I managed to snap a few shots.

Athens City, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There are a number of very old churches in Athens, often uniquely juxtaposed with (or even within) more modern structures.  Our guide told us that they passed a law in Athens at some point which would protected these old churches, but the commercial value of the properties surrounding them was often so great that they would simple build around them.

Athens City, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

We ended the day with a more heavy, traditional entree; Mousaka.  I determined that I will one day try my own hand a cooking this delicious dish.  Once of the main ingredients – eggplant – draws a “love it or hate it” reaction from my friends and family.  I personally like it, but especially when prepared this way.  I have to say that there is very little Greek food I do not like.  We enjoyed our short visit, and agreed that we could come to Athens and spend a day or two, enjoying the food and the night life.

More Santorini


There were, of course, many shots other than the blue-domed churches.  As the view from our cruise ship shows, the Island of Santorini (which is composed of 3 villages) is entirely build along the top of the volcanic rock (the Caldera) which comprises the island.  Santorini is part of the Cyclades Islands, and is approximately half-way between Athens on the mainland and the Isle of Crete

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In years past, the only way to the villages from the harbor was on foot, or by donkey up the steep, winding path shown to the left of the photo.  Pathways in the Village of Oia likewise show the steep foot paths down to the Agean Sea. The Greek Isles are full of white stucco buildings with very colorful accents, and often colorful flowers in addition.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

The pathway up into Oia from the back side had traditional Greek windmills, and shops and homes that are very colorful and picturesque.  I am continually amazed at the Mediterranean methods of building shops and dwellings into the steep cliff faces.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Like the other Greek Islands, the inhabitants of the Island like splashes of color and particularly, colorful, blooming flowers.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

George took us to a spot that he believes is not well known to many tourists, but provides yet another sweeping view of the island.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

He also opined that, although the blue-domed church images are sought-after and iconic, he believes this image is the next “famous” Santorini shot.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

After seeing many gorgeous sights in Santorini, George took us to a local restaurant of the proverbial beaten path, and far from the tourist areas.  It was a beautiful, quiet, oceanfront restaurant with outstanding food and local wine.  Over the years, we have had a number of very good guides.  Indeed we have have an overwhelmingly positive experience with our guides.  But George will be one of the more memorable ones we have had, with a lively personality and a great enthusiasm for Santorini.  His quirky sense of humor can pretty easily be seen here.  I want one of these t-shirts 🙂

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

 

Bumpy Rhodes

Bumpy Rhodes
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

I was “mia” once again last week.  I took an unscheduled trip to Vermont to attend the memorial service of a dear friend, mentor, and second father to me.  New England’s fall colors were essentially done, by then, but it wasn’t a photo trip anyway.

Rhodes Harbor
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Bumpy Rhodes.”  Why that name?  Not knowing much about the island, we discovered a tour called “Bumpy Rhodes.”  The guides ran a couple old converted all terrain military vehicles all over the island, on many of its gravel back roads.  Some of them were military and some were park roads, but the guides had contracted for access.  Some of the places we went would not have been passable without this vehicle.

Mountain Top View
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our Mediterranean cruise was, as noted earlier, denominated a “Greek Isles Cruise.”  With Malta and Mykonos, we were now right in the middle of the heart of the cruise.  Our next stop was the Greek Isle of Rhodes.  Rhodes seemed to me to be essentially rural and much of its terrain, rugged.  Honey bee hives were strategically placed all over the island, and we saw olive farms everywhere we went.

Lyndos
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There were some areas in that were more populated, and tended to be resort type areas, with nice hillside homes, and pretty beaches.

Lyndos
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Our guide, George, told us that numerous celebrities have from time to time made Rhodes a vacation destination, including Anthony Quinn (who has a beach named after him) and  Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, who owned a mansion there.

Anthony Quinn Bay
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

On our way back to the ship, George stopped for a view which is a favorite of mine and asked me to make a panoramic image.  Now I just need to get his information and send it to him 🙂

Mediterranean Panoramic
Rhodes, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

All in all, we enjoyed our day on Rhodes, but I had been looking forward to our next stop for months.  Next up: Santorini

Old City of Rhodes
Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

 

The Med 2017; Islands that start with “M”

Mykonos, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Malta.  A place I don’t think I ever gave any thought about.  When we originally decided on the cruise, the second stop was Ancient Ephesus, in Turkey.  But cruise ships aren’t going to Turkey anymore.  Sad.  Our world needs to change.  But that’s for another time.  Malta:  my first and only thought was “The Maltese Falcon.”  Turns out there is a falcon native to Malta that middle eastern falconers were partial too.  Which is where any connection ends.  Heck, I doubt Bogart even knew where Malta was. 🙂

Malta
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos.  It is a Greek island, which is appropriate, since this was a “Greek Isles Cruise.”  We (my wife and I) were there once before, on our shortened, 2013 Mediterranean Cruise.  Mykonos is very small, so we didn’t book a tour there.  In Malta, we just didn’t know anything about it, and had no idea what to do.  So we had two relatively free days, with an “at sea” day in between.  which was fine, because things got pretty hectic for the remainder of the cruise.

Malta
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Photographically, Mykonos is a pretty great spot.  Malta was o.k., but not photographically inspiring.  So most of my images during these two stops were made on Mykonos.  Malta is its own sovereign nation.  It actually played a pretty big role for allies in WWII.  It consists of 3 walled cities.  We were able to see two of them from our moored cruise ship.  Being an island, it is obviously very much a maritime society, and we were impressed with the vast number of small pleasure craft moored in the many harbors around the island.

Mykonos
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos is one of the best known popular Greek islands.  It is a popular beach destination for the citizens of the Mediterranean.  Most of the island is comprised of either retail shops, hotels (which are built into the unique architecture), and private dwellings.

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

There are many backstreets, and all of them are created with the “cobblestone” look (which is really cement).  I am always take by the colors they use to set off the white stucco buildings everywhere.

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Mykonos is also famous for its distinctive windmills (though we did see them again in Santorini and Rhodes).

Mykonos Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

From my perspective, since we had been to Mykonos, I was keying for the next couple destinations, Rhodes, Santorini and the Amalfi Coast.  Some pretty great travel was yet to come.  Next up, Rhodes.