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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

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

 

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.

Oh, the Places I’ve Been!

D.H. Day Barn, Glen Haven, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2014

D.H. Day Barn, Glen Haven, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

I am pretty sure Dr. Seuss wasn’t talking about my photography when he penned his inspirational book (presumably for kids), “Oh, The Places You’ll Go,” which was clearly intended for a higher calling than this blog.  But it seemed like maybe a good jumping off point for this title, so thanks for the inspiration Dr. Seuss.  :-).

This is about my favorite subject:  Fall Foliage photography

Farm in Saginaw County, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2004

Farm in Saginaw County, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2004

While I am sure my travels pale compared to many readers and acquaintances, I have been blessed to visit many places (near and far) during my lifetime.  I aspire to go to even more new places before I am done here, but in spite of the rambling lead-in this blog is actually about what I normally write about this time of year: fall color photography.

The previous couple blogs have plugged my 2 eBooks, “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage,” and “Photographing Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Nelson Road Old Mission Peninsula; Traverse City, Michigan Copyright Andy Richards 2014

Nelson Road Old Mission Peninsula; Traverse City, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

The previous couple blogs have plugged my 2 eBooks, “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage,” and “Photographing Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”  I will believe (and argue :-)) to the grave, that these two locations are the absolute acme of fall color photography.  But I have been to other places which approach their beauty, some in similar ways (like Maine, Minnesota’s North Shore and West Virginia’s Mountains), and some in very different ways (like the West).  While I have not visited them yet, I understand that the Great Smoky Mountains have their own brand of spectacular foliage in the fall.

Shiawassee River_2

Shiawassee River, Owosso, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Readers might be surprised to find that I have found some images right in my own backyard!

Just for inspiration for those who have not already planned their 2016 Fall Foliage trips, I thought I would demonstrate the potential with a few images from around the U.S.  And, based on my travels and commentary about every place away, the reader might be surprised to find that I have found some images right in my own backyard!  The top image is near my hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, just east of Lake Michigan,in Leelanau County.  The round hay bales are even closer to home, just a few miles from my office in Saginaw County, Michigan.  The Old Mission Peninsula juts north into Lake Michigan, from Traverse City, in Grand Traverse County.  The Nelson Road vineyard image is near a point on the peninsula where you can stand and see both of the bays formed by the Peninsula.  The Shiawassee River is one of several rivers that all come together in Saginaw County to ultimately form the Saginaw River, which eventually empties into Lake Huron.  The image above was taken in Shiawassee County, just west of Saginaw County.  Perhaps the moral of the story here, is that (at least in certain parts of the country) you don’t have to travel far to find foliage images.

But I have traveled far. :-).

Cadillace Mountain, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

In 2009, my friend, Rich Pomeroy and I spent a week in Maine, mostly in Acadia National Park, shooting.  Because of our scheduling, we arrived late in the season.  There were some pros and cons to our scheduling.  We were (as the images illustrate), mostly late for color.  But the later turning birch and beach trees were still in full foliage and were cooperative, if somewhat monotone.

Jordan Brook, Acadia National Park, Maine Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Jordan Brook, Acadia National Park, Maine
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

We were also late for the lobster pounds and many of the restaurants which serve the seasonal tourists.  I had looked forward to a lobster roll at one of the pounds, but that was not to be.  But the lack of tourists did not stop the lobstermen from their daily activities.  We had a great time photographing the boats and tools of the trade in several of the harbors in and around Acadia.  The Southwest Harbor shot shows the potential for great foliage shooting with wonderful foregrounds.

Southwest Harbor, Maine Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Southwest Harbor, Maine
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

We also found a different kind of color which we had been anticipating.  We had read about the colorful wild blueberry bushes that turn color this same time of year.  Again, we mostly missed that and never found the vast fields of them we were looking for.  We did fin this image, though, which at least gave us a taste of what we sought.

Blueberry Bushes Acadia National Park, Maine Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Blueberry Bushes
Acadia National Park, Maine
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

There are a number of iconic images in the Park.  One (not technically in the park) is the Somesville Town Hall, with its distinctive white bridge.  As you can see, if timing is right, there is some serious foliage-image potential here.  We made the best of what we had.  Will have to go back someday.

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

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

My wife and I spent a weekend in October in 2007, in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park.  As serious foliage shooters know, timing is critical and also unpredictable.  But as a general rule, this is far enough south that we were probably early in the best of times.  2007 produced an unseasonably warm and dry fall and this weekend was no exception.  On of the images I was looking for was the layered sunset image with the mountains in the background.  It mostly eluded me.  But the image here illustrates that in a few weeks, the color in those mountains might be pretty spectacular.

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

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

In October of 2008, we had better luck, traveling to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to spend a week with my sister and brother in law, who acted as guides during our visit.  In addition to being on the grounds and photographing the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta (a color of a whole different kind), we traveled around other parts of the state.

Santa Fe National Forest New Mexico Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Santa Fe National Forest
New Mexico
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Western foliage is very different from what I had experienced in the northeastern United States.  With a much higher percentage of Aspen Trees, mixed in with conifers, the foliage is golden yellow and orange, with only an occasional splash of redder color.  It is “Western Foliage.” 🙂  I shot these Aspens, somewhere in the Santa Fe National Forest north of Sante Fe.

Santa Fe Ski Basin Santa Fe, New Mexico Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Santa Fe Ski Basin
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

My favorite foliage spot was the Santa Fe Ski Basin.  We had gone to Taos and stayed overnight and it rained overnight.  In the higher elevations, that translated into snow!  I was elated.  We headed back to the ski basin, which tops at an elevation of 10,350 feet, and we were able to drive up the ski basin road and stop for several views with colorful (western) foliage in the foreground and snow up top.

Santa Fe Ski Basin Santa Fe, New Mexico Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Santa Fe Ski Basin
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

My trip in 2011 to West Virginia, to photograph the famous Glade Creek Grist Mill in Babcock State Park, also yielded very good results, even though we again arrived at the tail end of the season.  You can see a substantial amount of leaf drop (due largely to torrential rains over a period of 2 days just prior to our arrival.

Glade Creek Gristmill Babcock State Park West Virginia Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Glade Creek Gristmill
Babcock State Park
West Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

There are some pretty great shooting opportunities in West Virginia.  My friend and mentor, James ____, believes West Virginia (and not Vermont or Michigan’s U.P. – though he was thoroughly impressed with the U.P.) is “god’s country” where fall foliage is concerned.  He might be right (but I will argue that he is not 🙂 ).  I will, however, let you judge for yourselves, based on a very small sampling here.

Boley Lake; Babcock State Park, West Virginia Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Boley Lake; Babcock State Park, West Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

There are many more shooting options for fall foliage.  I have friends who have been to Alaska in September and the colors there tend to be along the ground – but are spectacular.  I have been to Yellowstone and and Jackson Hole in Wyoming, but not in the fall.  I have to believe the colors there are also spectacular in their own right.  Idaho and Utah also hold great interest for me.  And, I still want to get to Northern California when the grapevines turn sometime later in the fall.  I have my work cut out for me.  :-).

The foregoing was a smattering of places I have been and have photographed; all places I can highly recommend, in addition to Vermont and Upper Michigan.  So get out there and shoot.  Somewhere.

Boley Lake, Babcock State Park; West Virginia Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Boley Lake, Babcock State Park; West Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2011