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Here We Go Again (It’s Fall!)

Second Edition!

Here we go again.  It’s fall foliage photography season.  Are you ready?

Reflections; Cascade River, Minnesota

Over the nearly 10 years since I started blogging here, I must have blogged about fall color and foliage a dozen times.  Maybe More. Not surprisingly, it remains a favorite subject for me.  For some who are fortunate enough to have great foliage photo-ops in their backyard, what I will say here may not apply. But for perhaps the vast majority of us, these opportunities often come only after travel to a more aesthetically accommodating venue.

Somesville Town Hall and Bridge
Somesville, Maine
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

I have traveled to New England (prominently: Vermont), the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Maine, Minnesota, West Virginia, Virginia and New Mexico, in various years, to photograph fall color. Vermont has long been a love of mine, and I have made numerous trips there; enough to prompt me to take my first foray into “publishing” with the first edition of “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage” in 2012.

As the previous blog notes, I am very happy to announce the 2nd Edition of this book, with updates and substantial additional locations (the first edition is no longer available, as the sellers required that it be removed from circulation in order to sell subsequent editions). The New Edition is currently available on Amazon, Apple, in the iBookstore, and Kobo.

Maple Leaf
Stowe, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Many of the persons I communicate with at this time of the year are primarily leaf peepers with cameras. For those folks, go and enjoy! For serious photographers, I want to make a few observations, based on my own travel experience.

Miner’s Castle; Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Michigan U.P.
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Preparation is Key

Mental preparation is the most important piece of this. Just because it is fall foliage season, doesn’t mean the rules for good photography change :-). It is important to be thoroughly familiar with the gear you will be using, as the “window” for a great image is often very short, and you may only have one chance to visit the location. In 2010, prior to my planned week-long trip to Vermont, I hit a milestone of sorts, in my own photography.  I had always planned my locations and tried to find as much “intel” about a location as I could.  But this time, I focused less on those details, and instead gave some contemplative thought to what I wanted to present visually, emotionally, and artistically.  I think this contributed to one of my most successful trips.

Hiawatha NF Color Sections
Michigan U.P.
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

What you can take on a trip is also always a consideration. When I shoot near home, or somewhere I can drive to, the photographic gear I will take is generally only limited by what I own (and can afford).  When flying, you really have to consider weight, and bulk. Most of us do not feel comfortable checking a bag with photo gear in it for a number of reasons. So what can you carry on, along with your other needs?  One of the miracles of modern technology is the ability to make great images with a lighter, simpler gearset.  For “casual” travel (I define that as any travel I do that is not specifically and solely dedicated to photography), I now carry a very small, packable carbon fiber tripod and the RXSony 100 iv (a point & shoot sized camera, with some professional credentials).  Even when I go on a dedicated photo shoot, the camera, lenses and tripod are much small and lighter than in the past.

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

A better question might be “what lens will you use?”

Photographic gear is a subject that is often over-thought, in my opinion.  Cameras, lenses, filters, and accessories are — for sure — tools that are necessary to the making of an image.  And there is no doubt that higher quality tools can render a technically better result.  If that is what you seek.  I have already read, several times recently, the question:  “what is the best lens for foliage photography?”  I don’t think there is a “correct” answer to that question.  A better question might be “what lens will you use?”

Tahquamenon Falls
Michigan Upper Peninsula
Copyright 2004 Andy Richards

However, that there are other considerations that will have a more direct bearing on the successful image.  Understanding light, and composition will have much more effect on imagery, in my view, than any other factor.  This assumes, of course, that you already have a solid grounding on exposure principles, how to focus the camera, and considerations of aperture and depth of field.  This relates directly back to the first point:  preparation.  If you do not come to your subject in the best light, it will be difficult to make a really great image.  More often than not, this means early and late (or–think:  during breakfast and supper :-)).  Much of my more recent travel has centered around other activities, such as family time, tours, etc.  While I do make images, it is often apparent that they were not take in the “best” light, and I frequently lament that it would be nice to be at a location either very early or in the late afternoon/early evening.  If your trip is photography-focused, you will need to be mentally prepared to be on site at times that may be inconvenient to others you travel with.  When I have made my fall foliage trips, the majority of them have either been alone, or with other, equally serious, photographers.

Santa Fe Ski Basin
Santa Fe, NM
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Don’t forget the “other” gear you may need.  Most fall foliage locations have the potential for very warm weather, rain, and even freezing temperatures (especially at sunrise).  Hat, gloves, sunscreen, and adaptable clothing is important.

Fall Color Reflection
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Most important of all, though is to have fun and enjoy the process as much as the result!  Best to all of out out there and good shooting!

Burton Hill Road
Barton, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

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“Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage” 2nd Edition is on the Way!

Second Edition!

It is hard for me to believe that is has been 5 years, since I first published this e-book!  If you are familiar with the First Edition, you will note the addition of Carol Smith as co-author.

In 2015, I published my second e-book on photographing Michigan’s UP. Trying to cover the whole UP alone was a daunting task, and I asked my good friend, Kerry Liebowitz to co-write it with me. I thought the additional coverage Kerry could offer, as well as commentary on the places we were both familiar with, would make it a better, stronger book.

Building on that experience, I asked Carol if she would co-author the 2nd Edition with me. I “met” Carol on the Scenes of Vermont Fall Foliage Board, while researching my trips to Vermont, and relied heavily on her knowledge and assistance when writing the first edition.  I encourage readers here to view her imagery on her own website.  We have regularly compared notes, and since “meeting” on the internet photography boards, have shot a number of times, in-person, together in Vermont.  Carol’s knowledge of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is near-encyclopedic.  And she is rapidly gaining similar knowledge of the rest of the state.  It became a matter of natural progression that she should join me as co-author for this new Edition.

We are very pleased to bring you many new locations, while retaining the bulk of the information from the First Edition.  In some cases, we have been able to report changes to scenes.

The manuscript has been submitted to our publisher and we expect it to be pushed out to the major e-book sellers (iBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and others) very soon.  The effort here involved re-formatting the original to add new touches, and re-working all of the images, due to the publisher’s ability to work with higher resolution.  It is significantly longer than the First Edition and has been labor-intensive over the summer.  While this is a late announcement for fall foliage shooters, the advantage of being able to download the book “instantly” will hopefully make it possible for shooters planning a trip to Vermont, to make use of it yet this year.  Unfortunately, while the 2nd Edition is in the process of conversion and distribution, we were informed that the major ebook providers require us to take the First Edition out of distribution, so if you go looking for it, you probably will not find itStay tuned for the more in-depth 2nd Edition!  I will announce as soon as I receive confirmation of availability!

Shape

Color

Last time, I wrote about color.  Color attracts.  It always grabs my attention.  It pulls the eye.  But as this image illustrates, it is about more than just color.  This image is boring.  Mundane.  In fact, pretty awful to be displayed on a photographer’s blog.  But I hope it illustrates my point.  Color is a big part of my imagery.  But there are other important ingredients. 🙂

Rose
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Color alone will not make an interesting or compelling image

As the opening image illustrates, color, alone, will not make an interesting (and most certainly not compelling image).  Indeed it is so mundane that I didn’t copyright notice it or claim “artistic” credit.  I am sure I am not the first to have created an image very like this one.  So what’s missing?

Rocks, Lake Superior Shoreline
Copyright Andy Richards 2004

There are a lot of things that will bring interest to an image.  Line, horizon, animation (either illustrated, or in the case of many animal images, imagined).  I want to talk about shape today.

Elliot Falls
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

When I started to look through my archive for illustrations, I thought I was going to have a lot more illustrations that said “shape.”  I also thought about writing about “line.”  A topic to come.  But I was surprised that I was able to find many examples of line, or line and shape.  But fewer that shape alone provided the interest.  Some good examples appeared in the last blog.  The pottery in the shop in Istanbul was really all about color and shape.  Likewise the fans in Japan.

Shiawassee River, Owosso, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

The Rose image has plenty of color.  Two primary colors in fact; red and green.  A blob (or an uninteresting shape) of red and green would not be interesting.  As a photographer, its presence would perhaps pull my eye.  But upon closer inspection, it would not tickle my photographic fancy.

Parking Structure on Wabash Avenue, Chicago
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Nature presents us with unique and interesting shapes and textures.  The Lake Superior rocks image is another example of nature’s unique presentation of shape, texture and color.  This image might be interesting without all three of the elements.  Maybe the shape and texture would still make a viable image.  But the color attracted me, and the shape and texture of the image prompted me to make it.  Likewise, shapes make the Elliot Falls image in my view.  This Michigan U.P. waterfall is oft-photographed and it is difficult to find a unique perspective.  But the scallops in the sandstone really make this image.

Street Shops
Madrid, NM
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

I was looking for color the morning I took the Shiawassee River photo.  The background was cluttered and not very picturesque.  So I started looking for reflections.  The shape of the log creates enough interest to the eye to make this image work.  Sometimes you have to “help” nature just a bit.  The Noyes Pond bubbles image is a favorite of mine.  Without the bubbles, you have another “record” shot of fall foliage surrounding a pond.  The familiar shape of the bubbles adds interest.  I must confess that although I was involved in making the bubbles, my photograph was not the primary reason for them on this morning.  This image was made in memory of a dear friend, and enthusiastic fellow Vermont shooter.  But I think George would have loved this image. 🙂 .

Moulton Barn
Mormon Row, WY
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Man made shapes often lend themselves to “shape” composition.  Architecture often lends itself to some dramatic images.  I visited Chicago several time over the years and always loved to walk around downtown in the early morning hours.  This well-known parking structure can be seen in the background of many images of downtown Chicago.  Its unique shape and physical prominence makes it visible from a number of viewpoint around the city.  Color once again drew my eye to the back street shops in Madrid, New Mexico.  Pastel colors abound in much of New Mexico’s architecture.  But again, without the juxtaposed rectangles throughout the image, it would be just a blob of color.  I liked that this image is made up of essentially all rectangles and straight lines.

Canadian Air Force
Fleet Week Air Show
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Shapes in a image can sometimes be serendipitous.  Without the contrails in the Canadian Air Force image, we would just see a handful of red dots in an shapeless, monotone sky.  The contrails make this image.

Starburst
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

And, sometimes you just have to make your own shapes.  The starburst image was taken at Christmas time of a lighted outdoor tree display in front of a large commercial building.  It just wasn’t doing it for me, so I played.  The image is shot at a slow shutter speed, on a tripod, while a zoomed the zoom lens.  But in the end, my favorite shapes come from mother nature and her random, unique artistry.  The Whitefish Falls image is but another nearly ubiquitous single drop waterfall in the Michigan U.P.  There are many of them that all look essentially identical.  To make a more unique image, I walked in close for my favorite “intimate” perspective.  I like the result as much as any shape I have ever shot.

Whitefish Falls
Trenary, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Truth in Photography (Here I go again)

Birch Clump Hiawatha NF; Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2017

Birch Clump
Hiawatha NF; Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

[Recently, I seem to have run out of fresh, new material, which partially explains my more infrequent posts here (my goal has been one a week and over the years, I have largely met it).  When I get into these times, I will sometimes look back at prior posts to see if there is anything worth re-visiting, and through my Lightroom archives to see if anything stimulates me.  I have done that for the last 2 weeks.  Nothing.]  🙂

“truth isn’t absolute”

So, this morning, I spent some time with my friend, “GOOGLE,” and found this article, Why Facts Aren’t Always Truth In PhotographyMany will remember the Afgan Girl magazine cover that (perhaps) launched photographer Steve McCurry into international recognition.  He has recently made news (at least in the photographic world) again.  Without getting into the specific circumstances of the article (written by a colleague and fellow professional photographer, Peter van Agtmael) it’s “10,000 foot view” is, in my view, focused more on some principles of “truth” in photography that can be generalized.  And boy, did it resonate with me.  In fact, it can — I believe — be applied to much of what has gone on in the past several months over media, social media and even the coffee table.

Starting with one of my earliest posts, “Get Real,”  and for example, “Has The Digital Medium Changed Everything?,” and “Photoshop Is Not Evil,” over the years I have been writing here, I have made frequent reference to my thoughts on the use of “digital darkroom techniques” to “enhance” my own images.  I think I have made position clear when it comes to the art of photography.  But Mr. van Agtmael ventures into photography that is not made, per se, as “art.”  Rather, he addresses what I refer to as “reportage” photography.  Presumably, the image depicts things exactly as they appeared.

“We shouldn’t mistake something factual for something truthful, and we should always question which facts are employed, and how.” (Peter van Agtmael)

 

Humanity is not scientific.  Biology is.  The human brain is a scientific wonder.  The workings of human brain?  Well that is only “scientific” to the extent that it is thinking about science.  The rest?  It’s an art form for certain.  How else can both the consistency and inconsistency of human thought be explained?  And so, Mr. van Agtmael posits something we have all heard back in our own ancient histories, at some point.  In my words, “truth isn’t absolute.”  But that is a bit cliche‘.  In his much more eloquently stated words: ” ... there were a lot of loaded words like ‘truth’ and ‘objectivity’ being thrown around. I don’t really believe in these words. I’ve never met two people with the same truth, nor seen true objectivity ever demonstrably applied to anything. They are nice words, but remain aspirational and cloud a more nuanced interpretation of reality and history. We shouldn’t mistake something factual for something truthful, and we should always question which facts are employed, and how.”  I like that.  Our world is filled with millions and millions of “facts.”  We also hear a lot of opinion which is cited as fact.  But even with incontrovertible, empirically provable facts, it is still important to understand context and relevance.

Goat Island Light Newport, Rhode Island Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Goat Island Light
Newport, Rhode Island
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

The opening image here is (OMG!) altered.  I know viewers will say I “saturated” it, I “enhanced” it, etc. (maybe; maybe not 🙂 ).   But that isn’t really what I mean.  This image was physically “altered” before it was even made!  I had an image I wanted to depict, and in the crotch formed by the 3 trunks there was I small pile of dead branches which were (in my view) unsightly and distracting.  Is it relevant that I removed them and spread the leaves around a bit?  Could the image have been found the way I have presented it?  Perhaps if I were trying to depict the “pristine” quality of nature, or deny that it can sometimes be messy, the answer would be different.  I appreciate that this is not reporting on the refugee crisis and is trivial in relation to that.  But this is a photography blog, and I don’t do reportage photography.  I just thought Mr. van Agtmael’s point would resonate even in the perhaps less significant milieu of nature photography.

How else can both the consistency and inconsistency of human thought be explained?

Those who have read here previously know the story of the Goat Island Light Image.  I placed those chairs there.  “Hand of man and all that good stuff.”  Again, I don’t mean to trivialize the serious piece.  But I do think the larger point has application to all of our photography.

Fayette State Park Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Fayette State Park
Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

If the viewer looks carefully at the bottom center of this image, there is a snarl of yellow polyethlyene rope in the foreground.  A better photographer than I would probably have seen that detail and excluded it (or perhaps purposely included it, again depending on the goal of the image).  I would not perhaps shock anyone here that before I made a print of this image I (GASP!) “Photoshopped” the rope out.

Small things.  But then, from small minds ……..  🙂

But seriously, I would commend the reader to read the Peter van Agtmael piece on Steve McCurry debacle.  While you may or may not agree with me, or with its premise, I hope you will agree that it it thought – provoking.

 

 

 

The Sun Rises; Reprise

Bay Bridge Sunrise San Francisco, CA Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Bay Bridge Sunrise
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

It seemed like 16 images were too many for a single blog post (really, 8 is probably too many, and my blogs tend to be longer than a blog should be 🙂 ).  So I split my sunrise images into 2 installments.

Bean Pond Barton, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Bean Pond
Barton, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

In 2010, I again visited Vermont for a fall color photography excursion.  My good friend, fellow photographer, fellow blogger, and co-author of the 2nd Edition of Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage, Carol, acted as my host and guide for the first couple days.  One magical place she took me too was Bean Pond, a small, unremarkable roadside pond near here home in Barton in the “Northeast Kingdom” of Vermont.  Unremarkable, that is, unless you are a photographer looking for fall foliage venues.  Since my first trip there, I have been back to the pond several times (and I am certain Carol has been there almost daily when she is in Vermont in season).  Our morning broke very cold, with frost on the ground, after a prolonged spell of heavy rain.  We knew the conditions were ripe for fog and steam rising off the pond and she had us there by twilight.  The resulting images (only one here) made the cold, early morning well worth it.

Bay Bridge San Francisco, CA Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Bay Bridge
San Francisco, CA
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

In 2011, we visited San Francisco, to visit our daughter.  She lives in downtown, which put me in the middle of one of the best photography venues I have ever visited.  Once again, the 3 hour time change worked in favor of early rising, and a 15 minute walk brought me to the Embarcadero, at the eastern boundary of the city, and one of San Francisco’s seaports with a closeup view of one of the two major bridges leading into San Francisco, the San Francisco Bay Bridge.  There are San Francisco Bay shooting opportunities all along the Embarcadero.  We returned again in 2014, and I couldn’t resist a couple more early morning walking trips to the Embarcadero.

Mocassin Lake Munising, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Mocassin Lake
Hiawatha NF
Munising, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I have been traveling to the Michigan Upper Peninsula (U.P.) for many years for fall color photography.  As many readers here know, I think highly enough of the photographic potential that I have co-written an eBook on Photographing the Michigan U.P., with my good friend and fellow photographer and blogger, Kerry Leibowitz.  I have photographed Mocassin Lake many times and never cease to find it photogenic.  My writings on the U.P. and some of my imagery captured the attention of a professional photographer and teacher in Pennsylvania, James Moore.  Inn 2012, he decided to host one of his workshops in the U.P.  He asked me to be his guide.  These images were all made during the 2012 trip.  I appreciate his inspiration and I think that week was the most rewarding of all of my trips to the U.P.  I was there from the beginning to the peak of color, perhaps the only time in my shooting career.

Pete's Lake Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Pete’s Lake
Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Pete's Lake Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2012

Pete’s Lake
Hiawatha NF, Munising, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

In 2013 we went on two more cruises.  In January, we joined a group affiliated with the O’Brien Estate Winery in Napa, Ca, on a Caribbean Cruise.  We didn’t know a soul when we boarded.  We were fortunate to have some very friendly table mates and we ended up not only spending most of our time on board with them and another couple, but we have made lifelong friends.  We have traveled to Napa together, and they have recently visited us in our Florida home.  It was a great cruise.  As we arrived home in the early morning hours, I was able to capture this sunrise image of the Miami Skyline.

Miami, FL Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Miami, FL
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Later, in September, we took what was my first trip out of the U.S. (Canada doesn’t count 🙂 ); a Mediterranean Cruise.  We started with a few days in Venice.  My only sunrise shot during that trip was the famous gondolas in St. Mark’s Square, which took some doing.  We were staying on the mainland, so I had to take the early train to Venice and then find my way through the maze to the square before the sunrise.  I had practiced a couple times.

Gondolas San Marco Piazza Venice, Italy Copyright Andy Richards 2013

Gondolas
San Marco Piazza
Venice, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

I grew up in the Northern Michigan town of Traverse City.  It is a resort town, and by all reports, beautiful in all seasons.  The city sits at the base of a peninsula of land (Old Mission Peninsula) which creates two deep bays (East Bay and West Bay) into Lake Michigan.  It has unique, sandy coastline and a climate similar to that of Northern California (except that winters up there are brutal and snowy).  I moved away from there shortly after I graduated from High School in 1975.  But I still have family there, and only live about 2 3/4 hours away.  It occurred to me at some point that I had spent little time photographing up there, and so, in 2014, with no major fall foliage outings planned, took a long-weekend trip up there.  I was on the high point of the peninsula, where it is possible to see both bays, at sunrise.  This sunrise image faces (perhaps obviously) East Bay.

Center Road Old Mission Peninsula Traverse City, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Center Road
Old Mission Peninsula
Traverse City, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

 

A Change of Pace; 2007

The Les Chenault Islands Michigan U.P. Copyright Andy Richards 2007

The Les Chenault Islands
Michigan U.P.
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

In 2007, we slowed the pace of travel.  Well at least a little bit :-).  We spent 2+ weeks every summer in late July or early August, visiting my wife’s family.  For many years, one of those weeks was spent with a group of “in-laws” on the Atlantic Ocean, renting anywhere from Bethany Beach, Delaware, to the north, all the way south to Nags Head, N.C.  This year marked some life changes for the family, and for the first time in many years, we did not go to the beach.  We did do a short day trip to Shenandoah National Park.

I continued to look for imagery in my own back yard, whether canoeing on the nearby Tittabawassee River sailing in the Great Lakes with my partner and friend, who owns a nice, 36 foot rig, or traveling up over the bridge for short (long-weekend) jaunts.

Little Stony Man Outlook Shenandoah N.P., Virginia Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Little Stony Man Outlook
Shenandoah N.P., Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

In early July, I joined a couple of my law partners for a long-weekend sail.  We did 2 overnight stays, one at Hessel, Michigan in the U.P.

Classic Chris Craft Boat Hessel, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Classic Chris Craft Boat
Hessel, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

On our return, we stopped at Mackinac Island, which vies with Frankenmuth, Michigan as our number one tourist attraction.  Its easy to see the draw of Mackinac.  Once a fortress for naval defense, it was settled early on (before lower Michigan was).  The fort is still there and you can see most of the waters of the Straits of Mackinac from the towers there.  It has been preserved and is now an admission-fee tourist attraction.  The little main street is also replete with the usual suspects; fudge and trinket shops.  There are also a few nice bars and restaurants, and the magnificent Grand Hotel, which sits uphill from the downtown area.  Mackinac Island hosts a governor’s conference at The Grande each year, and served as the filming point for the Christopher Reeve movie, “Somewhere In Time.”  The island is a rather steep hill and from the top, you have some magnificent views.  M-185, the single road which goes around the 8 mile perimeter of the island is bereft of cars, as motorized vehicles are not permitted on the island.  It is a great biking trail, if a little short.

Mackinac Island, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Mackinac Island, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Most tourists access the island by passenger ferry and the Sheppler Ferry company has a near monopoly on transport to the island.

Sheppler's Mackinac Island Ferry Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Sheppler’s Mackinac Island Ferry
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

During our regular summer vacation in Virginia, we made the day trip to Shenandoah National Park.  My wife and I agreed that we would spend our anniversary weekend there later in October.  During the early evening hours, I was able to capture a sunset up on one of the overlooks.

Little Stony Man Outlook Shenandoah N.P., Virginia Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Little Stony Man Outlook
Shenandoah N.P., Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

The next day, in the early morning light, I found a pathway with light shafts that was intriguing to me (it might look vaguely familiar to those regular readers here, who have looked at my banner image).  I also saw a momma bear and her two cubs cross the road in front of me, and a couple of young stag deer sparring in the road a while later.  Neither incident presented an appropriate opportunity to photograph them, but I will always remember these wonders of nature.

Shenandoah N.P. Virginia Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Shenandoah N.P.
Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

In late October, back in Michigan, I shot some fall foliage scenes in the nearby Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.  The photographs here are from a footbridge in the refuge just 5 miles from my home.  The images are “busy,” but show that you can find foliage images if you work at it.  The “big picture” is kind of “eh.”  But I was able to find two shots that I thought were worthy, by isolating areas.  The leaf on the water reflection has resulted in several sales.

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge; Saginaw, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge; Saginaw, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge; Saginaw, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge; Saginaw, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge; Saginaw, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge; Saginaw, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

I was not ready to give up on fall color yet, this particular year.  My sister and brother in law and I took a quick long-weekend trip at the end of October, to a small house he owned for a very short time in the town of Rapid River in the U.P.  We did a waterfall tour, and at the end of our trip, visited an area I had not been to before:  Fayette State Park.  Fayette was a large, iron smelting encampment during the Michigan U.P.’s boom in iron ore production.  There are some really nice image opportunities there.

Rapid River Falls Rapid River, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Rapid River Falls
Rapid River, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Whitefish Falls Rapid River, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Whitefish Falls
Rapid River, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Tannery Falls; Munising, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Tannery Falls; Munising, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Fayette State Park Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2007

Fayette State Park
Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

2006 – Vermont Reprise

The Mad River Warren, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2016

The Mad River
Warren, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

The Mad River, and in particular, this pool, was an area I would return to numerous times in the future to photograph.

The 2005 Vermont experience with Rich shocked me.  Sure, I had not been there in many years, but my memories were of a 3-4 week “wonderland” of foliage and color everywhere you looked.  As we saw, that was not to happen in 2005.  The week we were there at the end of September produced an awful lot of green foliage (still pretty, but not according to the plan).  We left, thinking we should have waited a week as we began to see some promise of color toward the end of our visit.  But the following week, it rained in torrents pretty much all week and essentially took the leaves down with no color that year.

 

The Waterville Mountain Road goes from my “home base” of Bakersfield, over the mountain to Waterville.  In years past it was colorful.  You can see the lack of maple leaves, with one small suggestion of the reds in the upper right.

Waterville Mountain Road; Bakersfield, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Waterville Mountain Road; Bakersfield, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Wanting to restore my faith, I determined to return in 2006.  Rich had other obligations, so I set off on my own.  I flew into Burlington, rented a car, and began another week long adventure (again, making the farm in Bakersfield my primary base of operation, though this time I did book a couple nights in a motel in the middle of the state).  It turns out, this would be a time for me to explore and solidify my notes for what I eventually would decide would be my first foray into writing and publishing, The Vermont E-Book.  The opening image was a find on a rainy morning near my Montpelier Motel.  I was driving down Route 100 scouting, looking for color.  Any color – anywhere.  While this wasn’t the color I was looking for, the Mad River, and this particular pool was an area I would return to numerous times in the future to photograph.

Once again, I was mostly stymied

My thinking was that if I went a week later, I had a better chance of finding color somewhere – even though I might miss it in the northern parts of the State.  Once again, I was mostly stymied.  A combination of a more normal, early fall, and a leaf mold disease afflicting Vermont’s Maple trees, created early leaf drop from the Maples.  While birch, beach, oaks and ash trees are colorful, it is the Maples that create the brilliant reds and oranges that make New England so colorful in the Fall.  Instead, there were the muted colors of the other species, amidst lots of “sticks” (branches).  Again, disappointed, I set out to make the most of it.  The Waterville Mountain Road goes from my “home base” of Bakersfield, over the mountain to Waterville.  In years past it was colorful.  You can see the lack of maples, with one small suggestion of the reds in the upper right.

Trapp Family Farm Stowe, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Trapp Family Farm
Stowe, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

In a way, less than spectacular conditions probably contribute to “growth” in a photographer’s craft.  It makes us really look at the scenes and the images we produce and requires a much more disciplined focus on composition (we should be doing that at all times, but sometimes “good stuff” in front you makes you lazy).  The Trapp Farm image was made in a part of Vermont that I was pretty familiar with.  Just a few miles from where I lived for several years in the 1970’s, Stowe, in addition to being a ski and tennis resort, has become a very popular tourist destination.  This image was made from near the front lawn of the Trapp Family Lodge.  Few among us are not familiar with the musical, The Sound of Music, a musical based on the story of the Von Trapp family’s escape during the Hitler regime.  Coming to, and touring in America, the family eventually settled here and who can blame them.  You can see the massive leaf drop in the high mountains, but there is still enough low color to make this image pop a little bit.

Hillside Acres Farm, West Barnet, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Hillside Acres Farm, West Barnet, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

The color never got much better, but I spent most of the week, driving around the state, looking for color and scouting some of the “iconic” locations I knew about.  My most successful side-trip was to West Barnett, where I knew there was the potential of an image of Hillside Acres Farm.  I found it and was rewarded with some remaining color and nice light.  The John Deere tractor spewing black smoke was an added stroke of luck.  Still, one can only imagine the big Maple in front of the white house when in full foliage.

East Orange, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2006

East Orange, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

West Barnett is in the Peacham vicinity, so of course, I stopped back in Peacham to look at that scene.  I made a number of images, but couldn’t really improve upon the 2005 shot.  So I moved on to East Orange.  In 2005, the foliage had grown so full in front of the village up on the hillside, that there was really no shot.  The irony in 2006 was that the substantial leaf drop created some “looks” through the new growth that were not there a year before.  I liked this image of the Village of East Orange in spite of the lack of colorful foliage in the background.  There is a great amount of detail in all the parts of the image.  Someone else who must have been there right around the same time period must have liked it alot, too.  A few years later, I got an e-mail from someone who had seen my image and felt compelled to write to me to tell me he hope I had been well paid for the image, which was on the Wallmart branded tissue boxes that fall.  I did some research and found that the image was on boxes being retail marketed in Wallmart stores on the East Coast.  My heart skipped a beat when I saw the box.  The image was so close to mine that the shooter could have been standing in my footprints.  I did see just enough variation, though, to satisfy myself that the image was not mine.  :-).

East Corinth, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2006

East Corinth, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Two other iconic scenes are nearby.  One is East Corinth.  It is down the road from East Orange and the Waits River Village, and then just slightly East.  I visited East Corinth that evening and found the field where the image could be made, just at the tree line above the village.  The next morning I was there at dawn, but unfortunately, there was a heavy fog and the recurring theme; significant leaf drop.  I made a few images anyway, and this one gives the viewer the idea of the potential if made before the leaves in the background hillside have dropped.  What is also pretty obvious from this, the East Orange, and the East Topsham shot below, is that these images are probably no longer viable because of the heavy growth of new foliage obscuring them from the shooters vantage point.  East Corinth may continue to provide some views, but it is a bit cluttered as a photographic subject.

East Tophsham Village, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2006

East Topsham Village, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Just up the road to the North of East Corinth is East Topsham.  Another Arnold J. Kaplan iconic shot, this village, too has enough new growth foliage in the foreground to render attempts to photograph it futile.  When I returned there a few years later, not only was this shot completely blocked, but the owner of the building to the right of the church had put a new, bright reddish-purple metal roof on.

I headed down to the Woodstock area to scout Cloudland Road and another Kaplan Icon, Sleepy Hollow Farm.  I found it, but didn’t make an image I was happy with.  Cloudland Road is pretty magical, but better when there is good foliage.  On the way there, though, I found a shot that I don’t believe was in Arnold’s book.  I wanted a shot of the Tunbridge Fairgrounds.  A local in the village told me about a road above the cemetery and I drove up and found a shot from a pasture.  Sadly, I could see even then, that new growth would soon obscure this already marginal “long view” photograph.

Tunbridge Fairgrounds Tunbridge, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Tunbridge Fairgrounds
Tunbridge, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Near the end of my trip, I visited the Vermont State Forest area called “New Discovery State Forest.”  State Forest Highway 232 goes roughly north and south  through the forest, which seems to have pretty good color every year.   One of the best parts of this forest is the Owl’s Head Overlook.  The negative is that it is not open for sunrise or sunset, however.  I was up there during the middle of the day and the light could have been pretty harsh.  It was an overcast day though, with sun peaking in and out of the clouds, so I made a couple images I like.

Owls Head Overlook New Discovery State Forest, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Owls Head Overlook
New Discovery State Forest, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Owl's Head Overlook New Discovery State Forest, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Owl’s Head Overlook
New Discovery State Forest, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Vermont wasn’t the only shooting I did in 2006, but it was the major part of it. I could see a pattern developing where I would travel and shoot, and then not shoot much in between. Earlier in the year, though, I did make it out a few mornings to my local Shiawassee Wildlife Refuge. Among other images, I was able to capture the very skittish Wood Duck from a blind. I don’t think I would ever have gotten this shot if he had the slightest inkling that I was there. This was made with a 300mm lens and a 2x converter.

Wood Duck Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, Saginaw, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Wood Duck
Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, Saginaw, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2006