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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

2005 (part II) – My Vermont “Homecoming”

Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Copyright Andy Richards 2005

For the past several posts, I diverted from my series of “old” images over the past couple weeks to write a couple Fall Foliage – specific posts, and to self-aggrandize with my two eBooks covering Vermont and the Michigan “U.P.,” the two best fall foliage locations in the U.S. (in my ever-so-humble opinion 🙂 ).  I will return to the foregoing series for a few more posts, though I am rapidly approaching the point where I began regular postings here and I don’t plan to “bore” you with “re-runs.”  It will have to come to a logical end, soon, and then I will actually have to think of something new and creative to post about :-).

Fittingly, the next couple posts have a substantial connection with Vermont and foliage, so the “theme” will continue into foliage season.  For some time I had been regaling Rich with stories about the utopian Vermont fall foliage.  I had many memories from the years I lived there.  With its high percentage of Maples, and its mountainous territory, when things turn in New England, they really turn and present some truly spectacular color shows.

With its high percentage of Maples, and its mountainous territory, when things turn in New England, they really turn

While we were on our brief spring trip to the Michigan UP, we agreed it was finally time for Rich to visit Vermont.  My last trip to Vermont had been some 20 years ago and I was pretty excited to show Rich the “stomping grounds” of my youth, and really the birthplace of my own photography obsession.  So we planned our trip.

H. T. Doane Farm Bakersfield, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2006

H. T. Doane Farm
Bakersfield, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Traditionally, fall color “happens” in Vermont any time from the last 2 weeks in September to through the first 2 weeks in October.  It typically progresses from north to south and from the high mountains down to the valleys.  But that is a generalization, I have learned, from my own empirical experience.  There are pockets of the state where foliage happens out of sync.  I have always found good color in Peacham in the “Northeast Kingdom” of Vermont – sometimes getting there late and sometimes early.  The Village of Barton seems to share that character.  On the other hand, there are parts of Southern Vermont that seem to always peak in September.  Unfortunately, I have missed it every time I have visited those locations.

Big Falls Missisquoi River Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Big Falls
Missisquoi River
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

We used my aunt and uncle’s (H.T. Doane) farm in the northwestern part of the state as our home base for this trip.  My uncle’s advice was to come the last week of September.  In his lifetime of experience, that was our best percentage chance to see “the good stuff.”  My aunt and uncle were very generous people and I was always welcome (as were many other visitors over the years) to a bed, food and whatever other hospitality they could offer.  I had first lived on the farm in the 1980’s where I spent summers working.  I was anxious to go back and excited about the process of photographing the New England Color.  I spent a lot of time researching and one of the things I found was there was no really good resource for photographers.  During this (and every other) trip, I kept careful notes, and later recorded the information I gathered.  This eventually resulted in my eBook, “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage.”  I digress, I know, but I cannot pass up an opportunity for yet another blatant plug for my own wonderful writing :-).

This trip was the beginning of a series of trips that would result in my Vermont eBook

Disappointingly, from a fall-foliage standpoint, this trip was close to a complete bust.  The magical color I remembered from earlier years just never happened in 2005.  As we drove through upstate New York and into Vermont, my heart sunk.  All I could see was green everywhere I looked.  During our week long stay, we drove all over the state to find color.   We started in Montgomery, seeking covered bridges and waterfalls, hopefully surrounded by brilliant fall foliage.  Not to be.  As you can see from the images, there was very little color and where there was, it tended to be Sumac bushes.  But we made the most of what we had.

Longley Bridge Montgomery, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Longley Bridge
Montgomery, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

My research had unearthed the Arnold John Kaplan pamphlet that is referenced in my eBook and often elsewhere on this site.  This pamphlet was to become my primary research tool and the basis for the later eBook (with foreword graciously written by the late Arnold John Kaplan himself).  There were a handful of “iconic” scenes that Arnold had famously photographed many years ago and I wanted to visit them.  So, we set off looking for Peacham, Waits River, East Orange, East Corinth, and others.  We didn’t make it to all, but we did see many.  And, pretty uniformly, there was really no color :-(.

Waits River, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Waits River, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

We did find a hint of color (which I have been able to “tease” out in post-processing) at Peacham, and you can see it was trying to start in Waits River.  The other thing we found was what I note in the beginning of the Photographing Vermont eBookOne constant about nature is that it is constantly changing.  We found the back road up the mountain that would give us the near aerial shot of East Orange.  But we didn’t see the iconic shot.  A passing local noted that over the 20 years since Arnold had photographed it, it had all grown up (meaning trees).  I didn’t bring anything home that I though was worthy of display from East Orange in 2005, but I did return in 2006 and found an opening (partly because the foliage was mostly gone by the time I arrived) which gave me a pretty nice photo.

Peacham, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Peacham, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

One constant about nature is that it is constantly changing

We also visited the famous ski resort/tennis resort/tourist-destination of Stowe, and spent a day in and around Burlington, Vermont’s major city and university town.  The Old Red Mill (now a shop) is in Jericho, on the way to Burlington from the north, and we made it a morning destination.  Basically giving up on the foliage images, we knew this would be photogenic with or without colored foliage.  This is a tough shot as you have to negotiate a very busy road (full of commuter traffic), and scramble over a bridge on around on a steep, rocky embankment to set up for the shot.  The light was pretty hot by the time it was high enough to light the scene, but we were generally pleased with the resulting images.

Old Red Mill Jericho, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Old Red Mill
Jericho, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Stowe is a short distance from the farm and is at the southern base of perhaps the most dramatic mountain (“notch”) roads in New England, passing over Mount Mansfield; Vermont’s tallest peak.  “Smuggler’s Notch” is, from Bakersfield, the shortest way South.  It unfortunately or fortunately – depending on your mission and point of view — also goes through Stowe, which can be a traffic nightmare in high tourist season.  Nonetheless, we found ourselves traveling through it almost daily.  We stopped for mid-day meals and occasionally dinner after the sun had set.  We learned a bit about the place, including that there was a “high view” shot of downtown Stowe.  Like so many of these, the shot we saw had been taken years back and new growth had all but blocked any view.  We found a trail that was very primitive and basically “bushwacked” our way down to a possible view late one night, guided by flashlight.  Believing it had potential, we arrived at dawn the next morning and schlepped our equipment down to the cleared plateau we had found.  Daylight came shrouded in a heavy fog that promised to be slow to lift.  We patiently waited for about an hour and a half as coffee got cold.  While waiting, an inspiration from a year ago (perhaps fueled by boredom) came to me and I started searching the ground for “leaf compositions.”  This leaf image and the covered bridge we photographed one morning while staying close to the farm, were combined later in Photoshop and became the official “logo” for LightCentric Photography (see the opening image).

Maple Leaf Stowe, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Maple Leaf
Stowe, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Eventually, we gave up and sought breakfast.  During breakfast, the sun finally broke through.  It was late enough in the year that we figured we still had some time before the light became untenable.  So with renewed energy, we decided to return to our spot and though it is difficult to find an area that is not blocked, the photo here is my best image of the Stowe Village (and yes, there has been some retouching 🙂 ).

Stowe, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Stowe, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

As we prepared for the long return drive to Michigan, we decided the last morning to stick close to the farm.  Waterville, only about 15 miles away (a very short distance in Vermont terms) has several covered bridges that are kind of hidden away.   We decided to start there on our last morning.  The lone tree with muted orange color in the resulting image is illustrative of our frustration.  But this image ultimately served as the primary image for my logo.

Montgomery Bridge Waterville, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Montgomery Bridge
Waterville, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

I would continue to return to Vermont every couple falls, and great foliage would continue to evade me.  But eventually, I found some and some years, spectacular results.

The Colorful Fall Foliage of Vermont

Vermont eBook

Vermont eBook

In 1965, Leslie Gore crooned “Its my Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To.”  Well.  Its my Blog and I’ll brag if I want to :-).  Or Plug.  In 2012, I published my first e-Book:  Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage.

This book is a one-of-a-kind resource for photographers seeking guidance on how to find and get to some of the best photography opportunities in the world.

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Photographers, it is time (if not already too late) to plan your fall foliage trip and there is no better destination than Vermont, nor better shooting guide than Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage.  We are just a month away from September 15 and the beginning of the 2016 season!

Burton Hill Road Barton, Vermont Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Burton Hill Road
Barton, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

I have traveled to Vermont during its foliage season (generally between September 15 and October 15) for many years.  I lived there for about 4 years back in the 1970s.  Returning in the 2000’s to photograph there, I was disappointed and surprised to find very little real useful information about shooting locations and conditions.  There are a number of very good books by some top-drawer professional photographers, but they seemed to either be designed primarily to showcase the writer’s own work, or to concentrate too narrowly on a geographic region, or type of image.

Lake Willoughby in Vermont's "Northeast Kingdom" Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Lake Willoughby in Vermont’s “Northeast Kingdom”
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

In the early years of my trips, I began to keep notes of not only the shooting conditions, but specific directions for locating the shooting vantage point, parking, and time of day considerations.  Over time this morphed from my personal notes, to a PDF document offered on my first website, to its culmination in the e-Book in 2012.  Due for a refresh in 2017, my friend, talented photographer, and sometime Vermont resident, Carol Smith, will be joining me as co-author.  We will be adding new destinations to the book (many of which she has found and shown me, including the Burton Hill Road farm shot above).

Grandview Farm Stowe, Vermont Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Grandview Farm
Stowe, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

This Blog is designed to promote my book and to give a few examples of the near-unlimited photographic opportunities Vermont offers.

Waits River, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Waits River, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

There are a large number of barn scenes, and “New England” churches and villages to be photographed in Vermont.

Bragg Hill Road, Waitsfield, Vermont

Bragg Hill Road, Waitsfield, Vermont

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

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

Stowe, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Stowe, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

The Village of East Orange, Vermont

The Village of East Orange, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Windham County Courthouse, Newfane, Vermont

Windham County Courthouse, Newfane, Vermont

Vermont also has the distinction of being one of the states with the most wooden covered bridges (I believe it ranks third) in the U.S.  Many of these bridges are very photogenic.

Covered Bridge Cabot Plains Road, Cabot, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Covered Bridge
Cabot Plains Road, Cabot, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Dummerston Covered Bridge

Dummerston Covered Bridge Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Longley Covered Bridge Montgomery, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Longley Covered Bridge
Montgomery, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

COVERED BRIDGES NORTHFIELD VERMONT 100620100008

Bridge in a Bridge Copyright Andy Richards 2010

For Waterfallers, there are hundreds of great falls; many of them virtually unknown.  The mountain brooks and streams provide many exploring and shooting opportunities.

The Mad River Warren, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2016

The Mad River
Warren, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

Bartlett Falls, Bristol, Vermont: Getting a "just right" shutter speed in difficult, but dramatic lighting conditions makes this image unique

Bartlett Falls, Bristol, Vermont: Getting a “just right” shutter speed in difficult, but dramatic lighting conditions makes this image unique

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

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

There are also numerous small lakes and ponds creating reflection, cloud and atmospheric opportunities.

Noyes Pond Seyon Ranch State Park Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Noyes Pond
Seyon Ranch State Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

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

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

Vermont also has a large number of state parks and recreational facilities.

Noyes Pond Seyon Ranch State Park Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Noyes Pond
Seyon Ranch State Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kettle Pond from Owl's Head Overlook

Kettle Pond from Owl’s Head Overlook; Copyright Andy Richards 2006

I hope you will visit the eBook page and go to your favorite online retailer (the book is available on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble and Kobo, among others), and download this guideComments and reviews are very much welcome.  Hope to see you out there somewhere this fall!