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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

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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!

The Early Years – 1978

Orchard, Randolph Center, VT Copyright Andy Richards 1978

Orchard, Randolph Center, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 1978

As I noted in my last blog, I shot in the 1970’s with a couple different “fundamental” SLR cameras; my dad’s all manual (I mean really manual) Asahiflex and a Canon “automatic” TX.  While I made a number of images with both of them, only 2 (one from each body) reside in my digitally-scanned archives.

The Orchard in Randolph Center, Vermont, was somewhere on campus at Vermont Technical College, where my math professor, John Knox, inspired me to pick up the camera and begin shooting.  While the image shows many hallmarks of a “newbie” amateur, there are some elements of decent composition.  One of the things I remember about the images made with the Asahiflex camera was how great the color rendition and sharpness was from the Kogaku Takumar lenses, wonderfully built with stainless steel bodies, small (but heavy) size, and great, sharp, contrasty glass.  Both images were made with Kodak’s Kodachrome 25 color transparency film (my film of choice for many years).

By contrast (and surprisingly, as Canon lenses are currently highly regarded), the Canon did not seem to render as nicely, in either sharpness or detail.  And the color was even less accurate on most of the images made with this camera-lens combination.

Canon TX Kodachrome 25 Canon 50mm Slides - Scenic Vol. 1 #14

Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 1978

The image here was made in Stowe, Vermont, at the famous Trapp Family Lodge.  The second image illustrates a regret, and a takeaway from modern digital development.  I used to be pretty heartless about culling my own images (which means, to my regret, that some of the technically poor results might have been salvaged today, if I’d had the foresight to keep them).  Today, I am very much less so.  Part of this is because of the ease and relatively low cost of digital storage.  But a large part is because with every advance in digital imagery and post processing technology, there is more of a chance to “salvage” an image that might not have been a keeper.

Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 1978

Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 1978 Color corrected with NIK Viveza

The Stowe image – while not a glowing example – is nonetheless, an example.  The shot was taken in relatively harsh, early afternoon light.  The color suffers, as well as the quality of light.  The fix – done with Google’s NIK Viveza – doesn’t transform the image into an award-winning, magazine cover.  But it does illustrate the ability of digital post-processing to do things that traditional wet darkroom processing was essentially incapable of.

2015; A year to Remember

As I thought about 2015 year in review, it struck me that this was a big year for our travel and perhaps equally so for photography. But I couldn’t help thinking back to some other big years. I have made many trips in the continental United States, including Vermont, Maine, New Mexico, Virginia, West Virginia, California, Wyoming, Texas, North Carolina and Florida over the years; as well as trips into Canada. But around 2009, we began to expand the travel.

Every Cruise has landed us at St. Thomas. We wanted to get off the beaten Path, so we took a boat to St. John's and spent a few hours here at Caneel Bay Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Almost every Caribbean Cruise has landed us at St. Thomas. We wanted to get off the beaten Path, so we took a boat to St. John’s and spent a few hours here at Caneel Bay
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Sony RX100iv Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Sony RX100iv
Tokyo, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

In 2009 we went to Acadia National Park in Maine. In 2010, we went to Alaska and Vermont. In 2011, I made my first trip to California and spent time in San Francisco and Napa Valley. I also made a trip to West Virginia and Babcock State Park to shoot the Grist Mill and fall color. In 2012, we were back Napa and briefly, San Francisco. We also did our first ever Caribbean Cruise (and have not missed one since). 2013 marked a huge change for us, as I made my first visit to Europe and Asia (indeed my first excursion outside the U.S. – assuming you don’t count Canada and the Caribbean) on a partly aborted, Mediterranean Cruise. In the late Fall of 2012, I had purchased the Sony NEX-6; a huge departure from my 30-year Nikon affiliation (most of it shooting SLR/DSLR cameras and lenses). I carried that camera in Europe and fell in love with its small size and ease of use. Later that year, I took a very deep breath, closed my eyes, and sold all my Nikon gear; trading for the new full frame mirrorless Sony a7. In 2014, in we spent 10 days in Ireland. Some pretty big years; and some pretty new things.

Seiryuden Temple Kyoto, Japan Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Seiryuden Temple
Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

But on reflection, 2015 will probably have been the biggest, busiest and widest-reaching of my lifetime. In this one year, we went for a week in the Caribbean. We then went to Japan for a week in August, and another 10 days in the Mediterranean in September. I topped that off with a 4-day trip to Vermont in early October. While I began saying to everyone that “I probably bit off more that I could chew,” and was just travel-weary, it was indeed and exciting and eventful year!  And now that we have turned the corner into 2016, a year with much more modest travel planned, I am looking forward to the next big adventure.  In  the meantime, here are some photos and narrative of 2015.

February

We began with our now-traditional week aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean in February. These trips have become less about excursions and photography and more about just getting some sunny warmth into our bones about ½-way through our long, cold, Michigan winters. But I do carry my camera. For reasons explained in other posts, I am mostly carrying “small gear” on these trips.  The Caneel Bay image is my favorite of the 2015 Carribbean trip.

Kyoto Temple; Kyoto, Japan Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kyoto Temple; Kyoto, Japan
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

August

Our son was married in Japan in August. This was our first trip their.  Once the long (14-hour) flight from Detroit to Tokyo (Narita) was behind us, the rest of the trip was an unanticipated pleasure. While we knew there were many wonderful things to do and see in Japan, we also expected most of our time to be taken up by wedding and family activities. While this proved mostly true for Tokyo, our new family treated us to a wonderful 2 ½ days in Kyoto, with some really great tours and some great photo opportunities. We knew and expected our new family would be nice people, but their warmth and graciousness exceeded our expectations and we left, feeling a close bond with them. Our distance is great, but we look forward to our next visit!

Sushi Restaurant with conveyor belt; Tokyo Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Sushi Restaurant with conveyor belt; Tokyo
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

September

Our 2013, long-anticipated Mediterranean Cruise, as readers here perhaps remember, was at once, fantastic and disappointing. The disappointment came from the mechanical difficulties the cruise ship experienced in the middle of the cruise. As reported back then, the cruise line came through like heros, and we made “lemonade,” with what we had, seeing much of what we had hoped to see.

Kotor Montenegro Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Kotor Montenegro
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Better yet, we were able to book our “makeup” cruise this fall, and cover all the places we missed, and some overlap with places from the last cruise. And even better still, we were joined by our good friends, Paul and Linda and the four of us had a blast. They are great, easy company and it was nice to share this adventure. We spent 3 days prior to the cruise in Barcelona, and it proved to be as “cool” a city as it has been advertised to be. We followed in Provence, Tuscany (including Florence and Pisa), Rome, Montenegro, and Athens.

Barcelona, Spain Sony RX100iv Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Barcelona, Spain
Sony RX100iv
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

October

In 2010, a group of photographers and foliage fanatics who met and participate on the SOV board, got together for a “reunion” (since it was our first time, shouldn’t it have been called a “union”?). We had so much fun, we committed to another reunion in 2015. Sadly, one of our most notable group members died of cancer (some of us knew he was fighting it back in 2010) in 2012, and we named the 2015 reunion after him. I will never forget his support and his infectious optimism and infectious smile, as well. He was an inspiration.

Noyes Pond Seyon Ranch State Park Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Noyes Pond
Seyon Ranch State Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I will look back at this year and see a number of personal high points, though I am not sure I want another one like this. The travel was exhausting but exhilarating at the same time. I captured many memorable images (and even some good ones).

Barcelona, Spain Sony RX100iv Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Barcelona, Spain
Sony RX100iv
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

In May, I took another “leap” of faith in Sony and in the advice of my mentor, Ray and traded the NEX-6 and interchangeable lenses for the newest “pro” “point and shoot” Sony: The RX100iv. I have done a couple reviews of this camera here for those who would like to see the detail. But suffice it to say that I am pretty much smitten with it and it has now become my travel camera. It is a joy to carry through airport security, and around the streets. Its image quality is so good that I am basically willing to leave the a7 full frame behind on all but dedicated photo-trip travel.

Sony RX100iv

Sony RX100iv

I am blessed to have our (now on our third winter) winter-retreat (our second – soon to be “first” home in Florida), and continue to travel there on a regular basis and find things to shoot.

Tokyo Tower Sony RX100iv Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Tokyo Tower
Sony RX100iv
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

I am looking forward to a great 2016 and hope all of you have the same. I wish you all the best, a prosperous and happy 2016, and am eternally thankful for your readership and support!

My 2015 Vermont Fall Foliage Trip

Noyes Pond Seyon Ranch State Park Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Noyes Pond
Seyon Ranch State Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Every year, as September rolls in, I get excited. Fall is my favorite time of the year. The 3 “F’s.” Football, foliage and fotography. O.k. Maybe only 2 “F’s” but you get the idea. It is a kind of magical time when the light always seems nice and the changing colors make for wonderful photographic subject matter.

Crystal Lake Barton, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Crystal Lake
Barton, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

For those of us that like to photograph foliage, it has been a challenge

Well…………      2015 certainly has been an interesting year for foliage. We had an unusually warm fall throughout the northern U.S. For us late-season golfers, that has been a nice bonus. For those of us that like to see and photograph foliage, though, it has been a challenge. But the challenge is not so much because of the timing of Mother Nature – it appears that the colors will be there. But many of us make travel plans based on “normal” trends in color change.

Pond Jerusalem, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Pond
Jerusalem, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

That was my affliction this year. This was my first trip back to Vermont since 2010, when a number of us on the SOV foliage and photography forums got together in the Northeast Kingdom (NEK) in north eastern Vermont and vowed to meet again in 2015.

This year there was a special tie the binds a group of us who photograph Vermont; GIC

In a “normal” season in Vermont, you can expect to find good color (well-developed to “peak”) during the last week of September and first week of October. But the very thought of “normal” weather is actually humorous. Weather does what weather does, no matter how much we wish and hope otherwise. This year, it is “late.” And we were there early.

Blueberry Lake Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Blueberry Lake
Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

But, I think we were fortunate in many ways. First, there was a binding tie for our trip to Vermont this year. We planned to honor one of our departed members, a good friend and companion. That gave us a reason to be there at that time, and we had a nice celebration of his “photographic” life. George (or GIC, as we knew him on the forum) was in inspiration to all of us, with infectious optimism, humor and basic goodness – even in the face of knowing he was fighting a disease which would ultimately beat him. His spirit was with us during the week.

Strafford Meeting House Strafford, Vermont Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Strafford Meeting House
Strafford, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Second, as I prepared my gear and packed for the trip, the weather forecast was dreary. 4 days of rain, with precipitation chances ranging from 20 – 80%. A tropical storm-turned hurricane was moving up the Atlantic coast toward us, on a collision course with a low-pressure system that just seemed to “hang” over the Northeast. Instead, I had my usual and customary good luck. The last raindrops we saw during the 4 days I was in Vermont were as I walked off the plane. The weather gradually, but steadily, improved.

Noyes Pond Seyon Ranch State Park Copyright Andy Richards 2015

Noyes Pond
Seyon Ranch State Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

And, while I won’t say they were the most compelling images I have ever captured, we did find some pictures. And, once again, Vermont has that draw to me that will bring me back again soon.

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

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

Maybe the nicest part of this very short, but busy trip to Vermont was being able to shoot with my good friends, Carol and Al.  I met them both on the SOV forum, and we have become good friends and compatriots.  On the last day I was their, Al and I spent the day together — just the two of us — and what a great experience it is to shoot side by side with a kindred spirit and share not only our thoughts on photography, but our philosophy of life!  Thanks to both of you for being wonderful friends.

Covered Bridges

Dummerston Covered Bridge; Dummerston, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Dummerston Covered Bridge;
Dummerston, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I don’t know how many bridges there are in the world. Thousands, is probably a pretty safe statement. Most of my own bridge photography has been in the states. I have had some very limited opportunities traveling outside the U.S. – most notably in Venice, Italy. In many of these cases, bridges were only an element of the overall image.

Holtz Bridge Frankenmuth, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Holtz Bridge
Frankenmuth, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Bridges come in all sizes, shapes, designs and uses, from foot traffic, to vehicular traffic (trains and motor vehicles, and historically – animal-drawn vehicles. There are some very modern and spectacular designs, and some more “pedestrian” (no pun intended) designs. They range from 100’s of years old, to spans recently built.

Nearly all of my own covered bridge images were made in New England

One bridge design that always appeals to the outdoor and nature photographer is the Covered Bridge. The design of these bridges, probably brought over from Europe when settlers first came to the Northeastern U.S., was intended to increase the life of the bridges. This was particularly true in times when the primary building materials for structures, including bridges, was wood. It was soon learned that bridges that were not covered had a relatively short life span, with weather being the primary culprit. Covered bridges lasted longer, and had the added advantage in cold weather climates, of shielding the bridge surface from snow accumulations.

Comstock Covered Bridge Montgomery, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Comstock Covered Bridge
Montgomery, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Nearly all of my covered bridge images were made in New England. New England – and especially Vermont – is known for its many picturesque covered bridges. Indeed, I believed Vermont probably had the largest number of covered bridges in the U.S. by a wide margin. On a per square mile basis, and probably on a per capita basis, that is absolutely true. Vermont has around 110 true, traditional covered bridges – most of them well maintained, and many of them very photogenic (particularly in the fall season).  For readers who have visited here for a long time and perhaps have been to my LightCentric Photography Website, there is an “Easter Egg” of sorts, here in one of the images :-).

The highest number of covered bridges appears to be in the state of Ohio

My assumption (and remember the old saying about those of us who ASSUME) was that the largest major concentration of covered bridges would be the New England States and most particularly, Vermont and New Hampshire. And they do have a lot of bridges between them. Vermont has around 110. New Hampshire has around 54. Maine and Massachusetts, to my surprise, only have around a dozen combined.

Longley Covered Bridge Montgomery, VT Copyright Andy Richards  2005

Longley Covered Bridge
Montgomery, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

To my great surprise, I found – with a little research – that the highest number of bridges in any state appears to be in Ohio! Ohio boasts at least 125 covered bridges. And the largest concentration of covered bridges? Right here in my own “backyard.” Ohio has 125. Indiana has 98. Wisconsin has 35-45 (I am being ambiguous here, because the data isn’t as clear and it appears that many of them are not true road-based, working bridges). Illinois has many, but I wasn’t able to find an accurate count. My “front yard,” by the way (Michigan) has but 8. I have photographed only one of them, the Holtz Bridge in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Montgomery Covered Bridge Waterville, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Montgomery Covered Bridge
Waterville, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

West of the Mississippi, with the notable exception of the state of Colorado, covered bridges are not remarkable. Most states have an average of 3 – 6 of them.

Bridge-in-a-Bridge Northfield, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Bridge-in-a-Bridge
Northfield, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I have my work cut out for me

There is a lot of information to be learned about covered bridges on the internet. I am not going to get into what is authentic and what isn’t. Although great for architectural and historical purposes, I am interested in their photogenics only. I did note, for example, that many of the bridges in other states (especially states where you would expect there to be covered bridges) are not “working” bridges, or are ornate foot bridges, parts of resorts, golf courses, etc. But if it has photographic possibilities, I am willing to attempt to shoot it. With literally hundreds of covered bridges just in the U.S., I have my work cut out for me 🙂 .

Hutchins Bridge Montgomery, VT Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Hutchins Bridge
Montgomery, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

The 7-Year Itch?

A solid support is crucial to sharpness and detail in this early morning light image

A solid support is crucial to sharpness and detail in this early morning light image

There is an old thought about relationships known as the “seven-year-itch” (something about getting an itch to try something new in the 7th year, which ultimately in most cases, terminates the former relationship). Before anyone gets alarmed, I have been happily married for 30 plus years now – that 7-year thing is well behind us. 🙂

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont Copyright 2010  Andy Richards

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

But, just trying to come up with a clever title for this blog, it came to mind. Next month, I will have been writing this blog for 7 years. So this coming year could be the year I decide it’s over and move on. Given my history, I probably won’t. Besides, I really enjoy writing this thing (the opening image is my very first posted image here).

Stone House; Manassas Virginia Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Stone House; Manassas Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I really enjoy writing this thing

In the winter of 2008, I began a series of “tutorial” e-mails to one of my sisters who had taken up DSLR photography. I was trying to explain the technical aspects of exposure, depth of field, etc. to her in steps. About the same time, a friend from Vermont began to ask questions about her point and shoot camera, and shortly, she acquired her own DSLR.

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia copyright 2011 Andy Richards

Between the two of them, and some others, I spent a fair amount of time writing and editing and responding to questions and clarifying, and it dawned on me that maybe I should save these “writings” (mainly so I wouldn’t have to re-create them later). About that same time, I hired a company to create a photography website for me to showcase my own images. The idea of a blog seemed a natural follow-up and since everybody was doing it, and there was no cost to set it up, I decided to give it a whirl.

Bernard Maine copyright  Andy Richards 2009

Bernard Maine
copyright Andy Richards 2009

I started the blog as a Google Blogger site, but migrated to WordPress a few months later, as WordPress seemed to offer both a more pleasing theme and more versatility for photographic blogging. Since moving to WordPress, the blog has had more than 50,000 views, and currently has 50 followers – not exactly “viral,” but nonetheless very heartening.

Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX Copyright Andy Richards  2010

Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

not exactly “viral,” but nonetheless very heartening

Over time, the blog has gradually evolved from my “tutorial” writings (there is only so much of that, and mine were specifically “conversational,” and certainly not intended to compete with the myriad of books and website offerings by the professionals out there), to more of a combination of a travel images blog and the occasional philosophical or political musing, with the stray tutorial thrown it. I have also spent some time reviewing equipment – primarily that which I have owned or used.

Ketchikan, Alaska Copyright  Andy Richards  2010

Ketchikan, Alaska
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Perusing my “offerings” from the beginning, I was amazed to see the territory covered. Since the first writing, I have traveled and photographed fairly extensively in the United States, including (in addition to my home state of Michigan – upper and lower peninsulas and my new “home” away from home state of Florida) Texas, Alaska, San Francisco and Northern California; Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks from Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Virginia, West Virginia; New Mexico; Minnesota; Acadia National Park and surrounds in Maine and Vermont.

Split Rock Light; North Shore, Lake Superior, MN Copyright Andy Richards  2010

Split Rock Light; North Shore, Lake Superior, MN
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

It has gotten harder to do this

I have Traveled out of the country to Canada, Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Greece, as well as 3 trips to the Caribbean. In 2015, we will travel to Japan, the Mediterranean again; and I will go to Vermont again in the fall. So hopefully, there are many more images to come. In some of the places that I have visited multiple times, the challenge will be doing something unique.

Chili Ristra, New Mexico   copyright 2008  Andy Richards

Chili Ristra, New Mexico copyright 2008 Andy Richards

There have been some milestones over the 7 years. In March of 2010, I bid a bittersweet goodbye to my best buddy and fellow shooter and traveler, Rich, whose career took a sharp left turn, as he moved away from Michigan. While we knew we would try to stay in touch, it was not certain that we would. Over the following year, we did. Then, to my great delight, his career took yet another turn and he moved back here to Michigan. We will live to shoot another day!

San Francisco Night Skyline  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

San Francisco Night Skyline copyright 2011 Andy Richards

As I looked for images that seemed to make an impression on me from the places I visited, it ocurrs to me that 2010 was a huge travel and photography year for me in the U.S.

Copyright 2012  Andy Richards

Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

the challenge will be doing something unique

I cannot even count how many times I have mentioned the word “Nikon” in my blog. I have been a loyal Nikon user for thirty plus years. As my more recent blogs have noted, I have completely moved to another name and system in the past few months. I still think Nikon makes top quality DSLR bodies and lenses. But they haven’t moved toward the mirrorless system in a way that fits my thinking.

City Center Rome, Italy Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

City Center
Rome, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

On a couple occasions, I mentioned New Year’s resolutions in my late December posts. In one case, in 2011, I noted that I don’t make them (because I don’t keep them). In 2012 I made one (and didn’t keep it).

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Copyright 2012  Andy Richards

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

It has gotten harder to do this. I still enjoy it, but inspiration for subjects or topics are tougher to come by.  For those who have read, followed and commented over the past 7 years, I am very grateful. I will be traveling again in the next couple weeks, and so may not be consistent with my weekly input. I guess it is one of the nice things about the nature of a personal blog. I can post when I want to.  🙂

The quintessential symbol of Venice is, of course, the Gondola Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

The quintessential symbol of Venice is, of course, the Gondola
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Until next time ……….