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Right Time; Right Place Photography

Porcupine Mountains Copyright Andy Richards 1997

Recently, I went through a review and update of my LightCentric Photography photo website.  As I was systematically checking captioning information (among other things), a couple of the images made me pause and reflect on their circumstances as involving a particularly memorable moment of for whatever reason, just being in the right place at the right time.  Sometimes it was planned. Sometimes it was just serendipity.

This doesn’t mean there haven’t been other times and images. There have been too many photographic memories to cover, including trips to New Mexico, Alaska, New England, California, and around the world.

In some ways, the Porcupine Mountains image is my most memorable photo. Taken back in the days of film, I made this photograph on my very first “dedicated photography trip.” I spent a long weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) for the first time since my childhood. The trip was planned with much anticipation of fall color imagery.  For the most part, even though I was there during the first week in October, I was still fairly early for foliage, and was largely disappointed in that aspect of the trip. The trip motivated many more similar excursions to the U.P., mostly in the fall.  I arrived at “The Escarpment,” in the Porcupine Mountains late on a Saturday afternoon. From the Escarpment, you can view the Lake of The Clouds, which is often photographed – especially during peak foliage. Conditions were not what I had hoped for.  It was cloudy, with a 40 plus mph wind.  I had seen images of Lake of The Clouds, and that was my goal for this part of the trip.  Foliage conditions were just starting, and I just did not see the image I had visualized. To make matters worse, the forecast called for worsening conditions, with all-out rain by morning.  So I took a number of images, using a much faster shutter speed and lower aperture combination than I normally would have, bracing the tripod against the wind buffets with my own weight (seemingly counterproductive).  Unlike these days, you could not see a representation of the result on the back of the camera.  I would wait until I returned home, and the photographic processor completed developing my slides.  I didn’t expect much from this location. But on the light table, this one image jumped out at me. It is perhaps the only “keeper” from that take. As I viewed it, I realized that the contrast between the lingering greens, the precocious reds, and the developing oranges and yellows, was actually more visually interesting – indeed satisfying – than some of those images that I had seen that were a complete wash of fall color. There is a photographer’s saying:  “F8 and be there.” I don’t think this was F8, but I was there, and this is what I found. The image here, is prepped for printing, and may look a bit saturated. But I did not touch the saturation sliders in Photoshop.  Instead, I used an old technique (surpassed for most of us by plugins such as NIK Viveza 2), converting the scanned image to LAB color space and making adjustments to the A and B curves. This image has continued to be my best selling photo. It hangs in the main conference room of my law firm’s offices, and draws many comments.

Mad River
Waitsfield, VT
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

In 2006, after much bragging to my best buddy, Rich Pomeroy, about the “best fall foliage in the world, bar none,” he called my bluff and we took a week long trip to Vermont. We had take many business trips together before, but this was our first “together” photography adventure. I am delighted to say that we have made numerous other photo trips, and will make many more in future years.  But this one turned out to be kind of a bust. We went during the last part of September and very early October. All during the week, we wished we had waited a week, as the foliage was again in very early (almost non-existent) stages. We worked hard to find some foliage and though we had a lot of fun and made some memorable images, it wasn’t what we had anticipated. Determined to “find” those colors I remembered from my youth in the 1970’s in Vermont, I returned – alone this time – in 1997, a week later. During that trip, I spend a couple nights in central Vermont, driving along it famed Route 100. Mother Nature can be fickle, and the colors were – once again – not as nice as I had hoped (this time a bit past peak in many places).  One morning, I was headed for a waterfall that has turned out to be (in my opinion) unremarkable;  Moss Glen Falls in Granville. But on my way, I got waylaid by a vision:  some color off in the distance of a scenic turnout.  The turnout turned out (see what I did there 🙂 ) to be a nice series of drops in the Mad River. The Mad River is really just a stream or creek that is not really navigable.  It is also the namesake of “Mad River Canoes,” originally built by hand in Waitsfield, where this very same stream wandered through his back yard. A drizzly rain was falling, but I donned my wading boots and spent 2 1/2 hours shooting there.  The image here was actually on a return trip in 2010, when I brought Rich back to “prove” my assertions about Vermont foliage 🙂 . That morning was a magical time. I was all alone with the subject, which remains a really photogenic series of waterfalls.

Otter Cliffs Sunrise
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

In 2009, Rich and I made another memorable photo trip; this time to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. Bar Harbor is a quaint little touristy town with just enough non-photographic things to keep our spouses entertained (well, for about a day that is – but we were there for a week 🙂 ). Acadia is probably one of the most photographed National Parks. There a numerous books about the Park Loop Road, and all the different photographic venues. Otter Cliffs is one, but it is most often viewed more distantly, from another cliff to the north.  From the vantage point, you cannot even see this cobblestone beach. I had a friend who strongly recommended that I “work” to find this spot, which is a cobblestone beach that is not well documented or marked (at least, it wasn’t in 2009). The directions in the books don’t really reveal it, but with some perseverance, and some insight from him, we did find it. We visited it for 3 successive mornings in the pre-dawn, before we got this one. There is really nothing like being in a location like this, literally alone, and watching the sunrise and the morning develop. It was a location worth “working” for.

Burton Hill Road
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Vermont has a special place in my heart. Readers here know I make period trips to Vermont to photograph; usually during the vaunted fall foliage season. I wrote my first eBook on this very topic.  As I did my homework, planning each trip, researching and hobnobbing with members of the Scenes of Vermont forum, I “met” two of my wonderful friends, both of whom also happen to be talented photographers and writers. Al Utzig and I carried on a e-mail correspondence for several years before I finally had the pleasure of meeting him in person. We were good friends by that time and the face-to-face didn’t change that (for me at least – I’ll let Al be the judge of it 🙂 ). Carol Smith, who many of you know as my co-author for the current edition of Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage,” was a frequent poster on the Scenes forums and we were all soon to learn, an extremely knowledgeable and observant resource for wannabe Vermont photographers. She was of immeasurable help to me on the first edition and it was a logical progression for her to co-write a second edition which contains much more information, primarily from Carol. In the process we also became good “online” friends. In 2010, Rich and I returned to Vermont. I was there for a week, but Rich was only able to join me on the southern part of the trip for about 3 days.  This trip began with a group of us (particularly Al, Carol and me) meeting at Carol’s Barton house in anticipation of a next-day, early morning “tour,” led by Carol. This was my first face-to-face meeting with Carol, and to my surprise, she still loves me :-). We started at Bean Pond along the US 5 highway, for a foggy sunrise over the pond. The time and images were magical, but while Al and I gushed, Carol promised that the best was yet to come. And boy, was she right. The Burton Hill Road image is by far my personal favorite Vermont image, and perhaps my most “successful.” After others had left, Carol and her very patient husband, guided me around several other areas, including the Craftsbury Common image that appears on the cover of the Vermont eBook. But that morning is one of the most memorable times of any photographic trip. And I got to enjoy it with two of my very favorite friends.

Eagle in Flight
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Some years were big travel years for me. Others not so much. 2010 was one of those big years. In addition to another trip to Vermont, my wife, son and I went on our first cruise; the Inside Passage from Vancouver, B.C., to Whittier, Alaska. It introduced us to cruising (which to my surprise, I really liked), which has opened travel doors to us throughout the world. There were hundreds of images taken on that trip to Alaska, with some pretty great photographic opportunities.  But the most memorable image of that trip came as a complete surprise to me. We were signed up for a “deadliest catch” look-alike excursion (sans the cold and ice and heavy oceans). When we came ashore, one of the crew who met us saw my “big camera” and said “I see you came prepared. We are going to get some eagle photos for you today.”  Right. He was a tour guide. He certainly wasn’t going to promise me crappy photos.  🙂 I think we were scheduled to be out for 3 1/ or 4 hours, during which they talked about the history of these fishing boats (the boat was an actual boat used in the Bering Sea, just like the ones on the “Deadliest Catch” series, which had been shipwrecked, and then salvaged and retro-fitted with observation seating).  All very interesting, but no “knock your socks off” eagle photos. We saw some, but they were a long way in the distance. At the end of the cruise, they announced that they had a special treat for us, and took us by an uninhabited island, which was in native waters (by U.S. treaty) and therefore not subject to U.S. laws. As I looked, I saw a solitary eagle perched in dead tree. O.k. Then I suddenly heard “plop.” “Plop, plop.” The crew was up in the flybridge tossing bait into the water. The skies next to our boat suddenly turned into what I can only describe as a air to air dogfight as about 30 eagles all appeared, diving and often fighting for the food. I really wasn’t prepared and it all happened in about a 5 – 10 minute sequence. But in spite of my ill-preparedness, I was able to get several good shots. This one is my favorite. I doubt that I will ever get an opportunity to photograph eagles in flight from that close a position again. As our first cruise, it was hard to have it come to an end, with so many amazing and new experiences. But it did. It marked the end of a great trip – and the beginning of many more.

San Francisco Bay Bridge
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

In 2011, instead of a fall foliage trip, my wife and I opted to spend a week in California during the first week in October. My daughter lives in San Francisco, so we used that as a staging point, with an overnight excursion to Napa for some wine tasting. Lots of memories from that trip. My daughter’s place at the time was in downtown, south of Market Street (SOMA). She was just two blocks south of Market and just a few blocks west of the Bay Bridge, the Embarcadero and the eastern part of San Francisco bay. I was up early and somewhere on the street each morning by sunrise or earlier (the 3 hour time differential was a positive, making it easy for me to wake up and roust early). What I really noticed was the relative stillness, just before the world “wakes up.” I made numerous images of the Bay Bridge, which is a favorite subject of mine (I prefer these images to those I have made of the more famous Golden Gate). But this one, I think, best illustrates that early morning pre-dawn calm and stillness.

Blue Angels
Fleet Week
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

That trip had other memories. We made friends with a couple of the winery owners, and in later years would travel with one of them, to the Caribbean and to Ireland, as well as returning to the vineyard when back in California. But the unexpected and incredible opportunity of shooting the air show put on by – mostly – the U.S. Navy, during its San Francisco “Fleet Week,” is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. We shot from the ground for over an hour as the planes flew low over us. I worked hard to capture a “bloom” from the jet fighters as they broke the sound barrier. Because sound and light do not travel at the same speed, it was touch to anticipate. I got just one. But am pretty pleased with it.

New River Gorge Lookout
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Returning to California, Rich and I were able to sneak in a quick 3-day trip to West Virginia’s Babcock State Park, to photograph the often photographed Grist Mill in fall foliage. While we probably missed the peak near the mill, we were able to find peak foliage around Boley Lake in the park. What made this trip special was my first opportunity to meet one of my photographic mentors and a great inspiration to me, James Moore. Jim is an uber-talented nature photographer with many sales and publications; primarily in and around West Virginia. We had become on-line friends a year or two before, and he had a group he was guiding there photographing earlier in the week. Jim was still there when we arrived, but left early the next morning.  We had a nice time to chat and he gave us some great insight about when and where to shoot in the park. In 2012, Jim did me the great honor of asking me to act as a guide for one of his photography workshops in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Jim had heard a lot about it but had never visited there. We spent a great week, learning, shooting, and watching the foliage develop from pre-peak to full peak conditions. Jim had some health problems later in life and sadly those of us who knew and admired him have lost touch. For the West Virginia image here, my model was Jim, and the New River Gorge lookout was one of his favorite spots in the park.

Oxbow Bend
Snake River, Wyoming
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

2012, marked yet another photography trip with my buddy, Rich (and spouses). We joke a lot because I am a “planner” when it comes to these trips. I have usually figured out what I want to shoot, how to get there, how long it will take, and what time of day to be on site. For the most part, Rich is happy to let me do that, and quite often comes home with the better image. 🙂 A couple years before, Rich had attended a photography workshop in Jackson Hole, and the Grand Teton National Park. We both wanted to go again. This time I showed up and Rich was the guide. What a fun and memorable week with many great photo opportunities. As an old school photographer (or maybe just an old photographer), when it comes to scenic shots, I think in terms of a print. What we all want to bring back is a “wall-hanger.” Over the years I have made, printed and framed a number of my images. None has been better that this image of Oxbow Bend. We arrived here (I think the second time) in the pre-dawn hours and there was frost on everything. As the sun rose, the warmer water temps created a wonderful low fog over the bend in the river. May some white cotton-candy clouds would have enhanced this, but it was a great morning and I knew walking away from this shoot that this would be a wall-hanger.

Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

2013 was a huge year for us. My wife came from a military family, so she had done some limited world travel as a young person. But in our adult lives, we had not traveled out of the U.S. except for a couple trips to the Caribbean, and Canada (which really doesn’t seem like it counts 🙂 ). We decided to kick our cruising up a notch, and booked a Mediterranean Cruise. In many ways, it may have been the most memorable of all of our cruises. It was our third cruise on the Princess Lines, and we were booked on their newest, and best ship. We were excited to see the world over the next two weeks, disembarking from Venice and ending in Barcelona. The cruise ship decided it wouldn’t cooperate, and our cruise was cut short. There was, however, a happy ending to that.

Gondolas
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

As is our custom, we planned to spend 3-4 days in our originating port city before boarding the cruise ship. We walked around Venice for 3 days and boarded the ship thankful for an immediate “day at sea,” exhausted.  But what I can say about Venice is that it is wall-to-wall “eye-candy” for the photographer. I have hundreds of Venice images, but the two shown here represent moments that separate themselves from the others.  The Gondolier was a case of right time, right place. I was looking for shots, and heard them coming. I found this setup and was blessed with wonderful early morning sunlight. The covered gondolas is not original on my part. I had seen at least one other photographer do this. What it would need was very early light in order to make an exposure long enough to capture the motion of the rocking gondolas. This meant either very early morning, or evening. I chose morning because there would be less people, and less activity on the Grand Canal, producing just some gentle rocking. I use this image on my Facebook LightCentric Photography Page Cover.

Lombard Street
San Francisco
Copyright Andy Richards 2014

In 2014, we returned again to San Francisco for several days. I made more trips to the Bay Bridge. I also walked to the San Francisco Giants ball stadium. My daughter took us to Lands End, to see the Golden Gate Bridge from a different perspective, and to Jones Beach. But what I remember the most is walking from our SOMA location, all the way across town and uphill to Lombard Street (the famous s-curved, brick-paved, switchback street that is a “must photograph” when you visit). I made the usual images (except for the nighttime shot with the streaky headlights). Then I looked for something else to shoot. A unique perspective that possibly nobody else had ever done. I think I might have been successful.

Sailboat
Narragansett Bay, Newport
Copyright Andy Richards 2016

In 2016, I made a last minute trip to join my buddy, Rich, who was in Newport, Rhode Island for business. I flew in on Thursday evening and we spent two days shooting.  Friday morning, I was on my own and walked around the downtown area and the wharfs, making lots of photos of boats, buildings, etc. Everything was a more or less nautical theme. That evening we went to shoot a lighthouse that Rich had found earlier in the week (Castle Hill Light). This was a photogenic lighthouse, and as we often do, we arrived early to scout best perspectives for shooting. And then we waited on the light. It is often worth waiting for the absolute last of the light to see if anything magical happens in the sky. To our west, the sun set over Narragansett Bay, with beautiful orange skies, but no real photographic interest. But as we watched and waited, this white sailboat approached and passed. Knowing a little about sailing from my past, I made note of the wind, and calculated that the boat (it was actually a large, tour charter boat on the last leg of the day) would come about and come back toward us. I quickly swiveled my tripod head around, took some metering measurements, and waited to frame the boat where I wanted it to be.  I knew I would get 2-3 shots at best of this quickly moving boat.

Tokyo Tower
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

2018 has been kind of a slow year, photographically. But we absolutely made up for that in 2017. In July, we spent a week in Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan. We saw many amazing sights and I did my usual early morning walking around both cities. I was intrigued by Tokyo Tower, lit at night, and worked hard to find a good place to photograph it from. I took a few from a couple different places. But it turns out that the best I could do was through the window of our Tokyo Hotel.

Santorini, Greece
Copyright Andy Richards 2017

In September, we made our 3rd, and much anticipated Mediterranean Cruise. We again spent several days in Venice. One of the other places I had seen and wanted to shoot was the Greek Island of Santorini. We had a wonderful tour guide, who happened to also be a photographer, and he the right time and place for us to be to get shots I am certain I would never have found without his help, in spite of the research I had done.  Did I mention that Venice is “eye-candy” for photographers? Ditto Santorini.

Well.  This was an interesting exercise for me.  I tried to keep it to not more than 15 images. There were many more that perhaps fit the bill. And I am sure there will be more to come. As always, thanks for reading.

 

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Here We Go Again

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

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

Second Edition!

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

Stowe, Vermont
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

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

Tahquamenon River
Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2004

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

Burton Hill Road
Barton, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

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

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

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

Babcock State Park
West Virginia
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

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

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

I hope all have good fall shooting and safe travels.

Photogaphers At Red Jack Lake
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

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

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

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 ……….

It’s Here (Again)

Boley Lake Babcock State Park, W. VA Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

Boley Lake
Babcock State Park, W. VA
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

A number of years back, when I first started writing this blog, I think I used the title, “It’s Here!” So I’ll just say “again,” this time and not try to be particularly creative. The last two blogs talked about “that” time of the year, and “teased” this one. Well, it is time and it is here.

Pete's Lake Moon Set Hiawatha NF, Michigan Copyright 2012  Andy Richards

Pete’s Lake Moon Set
Hiawatha NF, Michigan
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

Yesterday afternoon, taking a different route than usual home from work, I looked across one of mid-Michigan’s ubiquitous farm fields, just in time to see some stray sun rays break through the cloud cover and light the treetops of the wooded section in the back of the field. And in those light rays, there were reds and oranges and yellows in several of the trees; the harbinger of things to come.

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

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

The season is early yet here in Saginaw County, but with an unusually cold, wet summer, it will not surprise me if we have an early color season. We have yet to have a true frost, but we have certainly flirted with it a couple times already this month. The days are definitely getting shorter, and the air, cooler and crisper (albeit moister than normal, also). The farmers have begun to harvest their crops. And it is, after all, already the second half of September.

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

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

In years past, I have had the fortune of traveling to some place (away from home, of course) where geographic features create a setting for more spectacular fall color than can be found in our flat, farm fields that go on for miles here. This Fall, I may make a couple trips to Northern lower Michigan. This is not the Upper Peninsula that I have written so glowingly of, but it is an area I have not explored (nor exploited) as much as I would like. I have made scouting trips in the off season and noted probable good photographic setups. But I have not found the way to get there during prime color. This year may be early and I may pull it off.

Craftsbury Common Vermont Copyright 2010  Andy Richards

Craftsbury Common
Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

During normal “prime time” I will – as I have noted – be in San Francisco, where the color is local, and of a bit different variety. Still, I have hopes of bringing something back from there, too.

Scenic Overlook; Babcock SP, West Virginia Copyright 2011  Andy Richards

Scenic Overlook; Babcock SP, West Virginia
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

 

Here’s hoping that those of you who are privileged to travel, find what you are seeking. I wish the best to my friends in Vermont, my friends in Ohio, a special friend from Pennsylvania who I suspect will find his way to West Virginia, and another in Minnesota, who hopefully will make it to the North Shore of Lake Superior in time to catch some color.

Burton Hill Road Barton, Vermont Copyright 2010  Andy Richards

Burton Hill Road
Barton, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Best to all for a successful and fun Fall Foliage shoot!

Presque Isle River, Porcupine Mountain State Park; Michigan U.P. Copyright 1997  Andy Richards

Presque Isle River, Porcupine Mountain State Park; Michigan U.P.
Copyright 1997 Andy Richards

This is the final of my personal picks, 22 “best of” Fall Foliage images. Perhaps it is fitting that I saved what may be the very best for last — and ironic that it is the oldest of the bunch, shot on film.

It’s Almost “That Time Again”

Shameless Plug: If you are thinking about shooting in New England this fall, please look at my eBook, “Photographing Vermont’s Fall Foliage” for detailed directions and illustrations of some of my favorite “iconic” places in Vermont to shoot. If you click on the “SCENIC VERMONT” Link in the upper left corner here, it will take you to a series of link for your preferred e-reader format. Thank You!

Pete's Lake Sunrise Hiawatha NF, Michigan UP Copyright Andy Richards  2012

Pete’s Lake Sunrise
Hiawatha NF, Michigan UP
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

I know. I am a “broken” record (for those of you old enough to even “get” that reference :-)). Every year about this time, I start to get restless and excited. And every year about this time, it seems that I am compelled to write once again about my personal favorite time of the year for photography. I doubt that I am alone. I suspect that the vast majority of photographers – enthusiast and working pro alike – would agree with this sentiment.

Fall is my personal favorite time of the year for photography

Color

Fall color presents itself in many ways, but in each of them, photographic subjects are in their “best dress.” My focus (pun definitely intended) has always been on landscape photography, so the fact that the flora turns to magnificent colors creates a wonderful and aesthetic background for any subject (when it is not, itself, the subject).

Warning – These are not “Stuffed Animals,” Cartoons, or “Disney” Characters!

For those less inclined toward landscape, the wildlife is also often at its best at this time of the year. Many of the large mammals mate in the fall, and they are in their proverbial “rut.” This means antlers and winter coats, and generally more magnificent looking animals. Because of the combination of the rut and the quest for food and shelter for winter, they are often less reclusive and less more likely to show themselves closer to the photographer (for those with an ounce of common sense – and for the rest of you, too J, there should be a significant warning in that statement) – these are not stuffed animals and they are not cartoon or “Disney” characters. They are wild animals who, if provoked, can be frightfully violent – indeed fatally so).

Bison in Grand Teton NP are relatively acclimated to human presence (but very dangerous nonetheless) Copyright 2011 Andy Richards Copyright Andy Richards  2012

Bison in Grand Teton NP are relatively acclimated to human presence (but very dangerous nonetheless)
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

And for some, there are other colors, which show themselves in jerseys, helmets, black and white balls, and such. 🙂

There is something “special” about the light in September and October

Light

The sun moves to a more oblique position on the horizon, and the days get shorter. Ironically, for serious landscape and wildlife photographers, shorter days are actually a boon! This means we do not have to drag ourselves out of bed quite as early to get that golden morning light. It also means we are less inclined to burn the proverbial candle at both ends, and often actually get to bed at a “reasonable” time each night, even when shooting. There is something special about the light in September and October. It is warmer and more inviting and “good light” is a critical ingredient to “good imagery.”

There is a foreign hosted site that has this one up on a promotional page

Craftsbury Common, Vermont
copyright 2010 Andy Richards

Conditions

While fall has certainly become a popular travel time of the year, it is still generally less crowded (particularly on week days) than summer, as children (in the U.S., anyway) are generally back in school and families back to the “work routine.” This often means that locations are more accessible to the photographer.

One of the things I marvel at is the variable conditions right here in the North American Continent. I know I haven’t begun to scratch the surface, and that there are places in the world that rival anything we have here, for Fall Color. But here in North America, I have had the pleasure to be as far west as California in October (though I have a lot of work to do to capture even a small percentage of its fall color – yet). I have been in New Mexico, where the intense reds of the rock formations set off against the yellows of the aspen and other variety of fall foliage is magnificent. I have been to Virginia, West Virginia, Vermont, Maine, Canada, and of course, my own Michigan U.P. I have not been to Minnesota yet for fall foliage, but I know it has some scenes that will compare well to the Michigan U.P., especially along its Lake Superior North Shore.

Kit Carson National Forest Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Kit Carson National Forest
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Edit:  My friend, mentor and talented professional photographer, Ray Laskowitz makes a very important observation.  Because of the relative times of “peak” color change during the fall months, if you have the time and inclination (believe me, it is on my “bucket list”), you could chase color all over the continent for almost a two month-period from sometime beginning in September to sometime ending in November!FallFoliageMap2

Emotion

The season is a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for me. I don’t mean to say that I am losing sleep, or that I am a basket case or anything :-). But it is always bittersweet, knowing that—at least where I live—it is a wonderful and exciting time of the year—but it is also the harbinger of things to come. The all too short fall display is really a signal for the end of nice weather, outdoor activities (except for the more hardy snow lovers among us) and warm weather. So I always want to try to schedule some time to soak it in and enjoy it during this time of the year. There are, of course, some “warm-weather solutions” to this “problem.” Some of you probably think that rather than whine every year about the coming of the apocalypse (o.k.; that is a bit dramatic – “winter”), I should do something about it (I have, but that’s for another time).

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

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

This year, it is even more bittersweet, because I am pretty likely to miss most of the show that I am so accustomed to. I will be in the Mediterranean during most of the end of September and probably not “free” to spend more time outside my “real job” this year. So I will be trying to live vicariously through my many photographer friends who will be shooting in those parts of the country that I normally would try to visit. It is, of course, a good news/bad news (overwhelmingly mostly good – as the upcoming trip is one of those “few-in-a-lifetime” events that my wife and I have been looking forward to for upwards of 2 years now). But part of my heart will be with the fall foliage shooters and I will be wondering what they are finding.

Reflection of Fall Color; Shiawassee River, Owosso, MI

Reflection of Fall Color; Shiawassee River, Owosso, MI
copyright 2009 Andy Richards

Good luck this season to all my friends (and all you shooters out there) and here’s to a grand, colorful, and meteorologically pleasant shooting season!