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Aug 31 2011

Falling Waters Follow Up: Post Irene

Last Saturday, in the final moments of ordinary weather leading up to Irene’s arrival, I took some time to enjoy the Falling Waters Trail in Franconia Notch. On Sunday, I hunkered down all day during the storm, and after seeing what Irene unleashed in my own front yard I simply could not resist a return trip to Falling Waters. I tried imagining what 13 inches of rain in one day’s time would do to the falls, and I was nothing short of astounded at what I found upon my return.

I made my way onto the trail bright and early today, arriving just as the White Mountain National Forest reopened after closing at 6pm on Saturday. I have been on this trail many times, and I know it well. As I walked along the familiar grounds dodging the usual roots and rocks, I enjoyed big breaths of cool morning air and the aroma of fresh spruce. After about one tenth of a mile, however, any semblance of familiarity disappeared and water was the obvious culprit. The landscape had been transformed, or rather, demolished, with uncompromising force. The Walker and Dry Brooks had clearly joined forces in their race from Irene, and they had surged through a space that was simply too small for their amalgamation. In places, an excess of two feet had been carved out of the existing trail. Roots were emergent from both sides of the trail, and boulders the size of dormitory refrigerators were strewn about.

I lumbered through the new landscape trying to conceptualize the force that caused this damage. There was no doubt in my mind that if anyone had been here during Irene, they would have met an ultimate sort of fate. A juggernaut was here.

Below are four pictures, taken of the same falls from my August 27th blogpost (link will open in new window for side-by-side comparision). The differences in the look and feel of the photos, when compared to their pre-Irene counterparts, is incredible. Keep in mind that these are not carbon-copy photos, but are instead similar compositions that lend themselves to an exhibition of the changes.

Cloudland Falls

Immense Water at Cloudland Falls After Tropical Storm Irene

Not So Gentle Feature

What Was Once a Gentle Feature...

Swiftwater Post-Irene

Swiftwater: Post-Irene

A New Look for Stairs Falls

Stairs Falls: Post Irene

Additionally, a short video composition is available on my YouTube Channel. Stop over and have a look if you wish to see this incredible amount of water in motion; in High-Def!

I’ll end with a tip of the hat to the US Forestry Services for announcing the day-and-a-half long closure of the White Mountain National Forest. After seeing the destruction on the trail, there is no doubt in my mind that lives were saved as a result of this precaution.

Until next time, happy trails and do take care!


Aug 27 2011

Falling Waters

The Falling Waters Trail in Franconia Notch State Park is home to a delightful collection of New Hampshire-Blend Water and Falls. The incredible variety of water features along this trail simply adds to its popularity. Waterfall enthusiasts and landscape photographers have quite a bit of incentive to discover this area, as the Dry Brook and the results of her labor are nothing short of spectacular. All of the significant water features along this trail are reached within a moderate 1-1.5 hour hike.

Take care to not forgo normal preparations; bring your water, food, first aid, and all the essentials. Along the way there are several rocky areas, two river crossings, and other challenges to be met. Do tread carefully, for your own safety and for the overall good of this incredible trail.

If you happen to be hiking off the Franconia Ridge on a hot summer day, descending along this trail offers an ultimate reprieve (almost better than a cold beverage)!

Here are five photos of the landscape and the waterfalls. But don’t just take my word for it. Get out there and check it out, because you are guaranteed to love discovering them yourself.

Cloudland

Cloudland

Gentle Feature in the Woods

Gentle Feature in the Woods

Swiftwater

Swiftwater

Stairs Falls

Stairs Falls

Humble Beginings of Autumn

Humble Beginings of Autumn

Some of these photos may reappear in my blog very soon, as Tropical Storm Irene’s deluge is bound to tempt me to make a return trip….

…until then, be well, hunker down, and do take care!


Jun 30 2010

The Adventure and The Capture

A childhood friend of mine, Katrina Grace (now Katrina Grace Sevin), lent me a bit of virtual real estate and invited me to do a guest blog at her website, www.sevinfamily.com . The full post can be viewed here! This is the slightly abridged version…

Remember childhood days during summer vacation? Sure you do…the running and the playing in open fields while the buzz of the grasshoppers got louder with the intensifying heat … remember that papery sound that the wind made as it blew through the tall grass? Remember discovering new places, and building forts and riding bikes on dry dirt roads? I sure do!

Since my folks didn’t have digital cameras, I have very few pictures that illustrate those memories. For me, a great photo, even after significant time passes, can still make the mind and the senses remember and relive moments like those from summers past. For that reason I like to have my camera with me when I take my son, Carter out to new places.

Since becoming a big kid, I began to conflate my passion for hiking with my passion for photographs. I started small by taking a point and shoot camera to journalize my hikes. Then, eventually, I lost all control and started hiking with my beloved Canon 5D Mark II and several lenses. And a tripod. 23.6 pounds worth of stuff, in fact. But I can’t always hike with all of that gear….sometimes, I just want to hike. When bringing my son along, I also have to make special considerations for what to carry. Friday was Carter’s first birthday {gulp}, and to celebrate, my wife and I decided to hike to Franconia Ridge. It’s a short drive away, and this picturesque ridge is my favorite place in the whole entire world, but mind you it is no joke. On a beautiful day, you would never know that it has been the final resting place for a handful of ill-prepared hikers. At elevations of over 5,000 feet, the weather can change instantly and dramatically. Here was our approach for a fun, safe, and photo-worthy day:

Obviously I start with basics…preping the camera gear by clearing memory cards and anticipating some settings (bright day? Drop the ISO…lots to see in the background? Squeeze that aperture!..you get it, now lock it in!)…make sure batteries are charged and lenses are clean. I also checked the forecasts right up until the final moments before leaving. I use a combination of weather.com for a general overview, and mountwashington.org for a more detailed higher summits forecast (remember, a forecast is just that – a forecast. Using your own judgement is always a must). Knowing that the weather was going to be sunny and bright influenced my decision on what gear to bring. I packed the 5d Mark II Body, 50mm 1.2 lens, a circular polarizer, 24-70 2.8 L series lens, 70-200 2.8 IS L series lens, cleaning kit, two 8GB 300x cards, and my tripod.

Resting at Greenleaf for Food and Fun!

I also brought my 580 EX II flash for “fill” during those portraits where the intense midday sun causes what is affectionately known as Rocky Face (like the raccoon). All of this gear would go in the same bag I used to carry Carter. My wife was responsible for the other hiking bag in which we packed the essentials. No matter how well I know my trail, I always pack the following: compass, map, first aid kit, extra layers/clothes, biovac bag, knife, flint, headlamp, water purification tablets, and extra food and water. Since Franconia Ridge lies completely above treeline, I also packed sunscreen for the kiddo. I also packed bug dope because I know that even though the ridge is usually windy, the bugs are as relentless there as they are under the ‘canopy’! Now, keep in mind – all that I’ve mentioned here has to be enough to provide for two adults and one very vulnerable bambino in a survival situation!

We left early – 6am – and were on the trail by 8. We fed and changed Carter before breaking trail, because we didn’t want to have to stop in the bug infested woods to do so. We made the scenic outlook called The Bus Stop by 9:00 where we fed Carter again, and we were at the Greenleaf Hut by 10:00. There, we stopped again to feed this hungry kiddo again. Then, we emerged out of the treeline and headed up rugged Mount Lafayette. Once on top, we could see the expansive ridgeline, and we broke open our lunches to celebrate! We put a Pooh birthday hat on Carter, and he just smiled from ear to ear! He loved every moment on top, and we captured it in a very memorable way. The wide angle zoom of the 24-70 combined with the saturating and antiglare properties of the polarizer made for some fun shots that really captured the environment around us accurately (and without that washed out sky that you always seem to contend with without the polarizer). And let’s not forget the tripod! Family photos don’t happen without it!

Shot of the Day! Happy Birthday, Carter!

Finally, here is where knowing your trails really has to come into play when deciding to take a little one on a hike. We could have looped all the way around by going down the Falling Waters Trail to the parking lot. But I know that there is ONE area that is big trouble. It’s a spot where a small but precarious rock wall would prevent a safe descent with a baby bag like we use. I remember this area well, and think about it every time I hike…even when I bring full grown adults up or down that trail. I made the decision ahead of time to just hike up and back the same way in order to avoid any trouble. This kept the day fun, and free of major stress and worry. I would recommend checking into trails you plan to hike either by reading books, checking forums online, or asking USFS rangers or Hut Caretakers before going.

Birthday Boy on top!

Total mileage ended up being about 8. It was Carter’s first big hike on his first big day. By properly preparing for both the hike and the capture, we’ll have these fantastic memories to cherish forever. We’re actually in the process of making a photobook of Carter’s first year, and some of these shots will make a stunning conclusion!

So as far as hiking v. photographing goes here, my tendancy is to do both. Unless I would compromise the safety of my party by taking up valuable pack space with my photogear, I choose both…Hiking with kiddos is fun, but not to be taken lightly! Think fun, think safety, and think of how to capture it! Trust me, you’ll be glad that you did! Take care!

Almost Home! Final Stop: Bus Stop!

Jun 9 2010

Intersections

Yesterday, I ‘punched out’ from work at 5:15, but instead of heading south on the turnpike I, …I went the other way!

It’s the second week in June, and you know what that means…Fields of Lupines! Sweet Sugar Hill, the Lupine capitol of New Hampshire, becomes an attraction each year for about three weeks. As the lupines abound in fields all thoughout this quaint New Hampshire village, sightseers and photographers make their way into town to capture the unique wildflower among various backdrops. Indeed, last night, I was one of them! First stop…the Sampler Field to scope out this year’s bounty…

This is actually only my second time going to Lupinefest, as I affectionately call it. Life has been busy, and I’ve found it hard to get out and shoot…in fact, when faced with a day of ‘free time’, I often don’t know what to do…do I hike? Do I drive somewhere for magic hour photos? I never quite know how to handle myself. But this day off was fully planned. As far as lupines go, I still have yet to fully discover how to capture this incredible flower, but I got several hours of experimentation in. I also have yet to really get any significant practice using my new Lee Grad ND filters and glass polarizer. So, this was going to be quite a bit of fun, and quite a bit of experimentation…

I hit a bit of rain in the last 10 miles or so of my trip…I’d come all the way over 302, through Twin Mountain, down 93 and into town and a virtual deluge began essentially as soon as I got off of the highway. Go figure, you might say…but not me. I gingerly made my way to the field off Sunset Hill Road regardless of the rain, knowing that magical things might happen as this shower passed. Wouldn’t you know it…the rain stopped as soon as I parked my trusty wagon!

Walking into the Sampler field, I noticed three things: 1.) I was the only one here (woot!) 2.) Jim Salge was right…this year, the bloom was way down, and 3.) The storms were indeed leaving some fun stuff in their wake up in the sky over the Franconia Ridge. As I hunted for the right spot to start shooting, a cap cloud formed over Lafayette, which was very neat. One of the coolest things about shooting this flower, the lupine, in Sugar Hill is that the mountains add a rugged backdrop to this delecate looking plant…the cap cloud was a nice ‘add’, and it was glowing by the time the sun finally made it beyond the horizon behind me. I shot well past 8:30 pm, hopped in the car, and headed for my next destination…Jefferson, New Hampshire. Yes…Jefferson.

Sampler After the Storm

Sampler After the Storm

Lupine in Sampler Field

Lupine in Sampler Field

Cap Cloud Over Lafayette

Cap Cloud Over Lafayette

On a tip from Jim about some nice bloom along the banks of the Israel River, I headed to Jefferson to find a place to car camp. Car camping usually isn’t my style, but I couldn’t resist a Sugar Hill sunset nor could I resist a Jefferson Meadows sunrise. Besides, I had my solo tent with me as well in case I felt the need. So, I traversed 116 up to the Great North Woods and back into the Whites and did a little in-the-dark scouting for lupines. I went to the intersection of 115 and Meadows and found some flowers, but it was really hard to see by headlamp. I drove down as far as I could without risking getting stuck in the mud, and hunted a bit more, but still I couldn’t see much. I thought of parking there and camping for the night, but I opted to drive back into town and blend in. I found a non-descript piece of ground to park my car, grabbed my sleeping back, put the seat down and dozed off from ohhhh, say 11:30ish until about 3:45ish. Up and at ‘em, and off toward Isreal River I went…

…after following the river up one road and finding no good places to set up, I headed back and went down another road and found a great spot. Isreal River Road, if I recall correctly, on the way to the campground. Very accessible, and a field chalk-full of lupines was right beside the river, whose banks were also peppered with the little suckers! The view of Washington from the field was a bit obscured by telephone poles, wires, and a couple of other ‘issues’, so I worked on the river a bit and came up with some images that I liked. Then I headed over the cross roads to the Meadows to see what I might find. There were certainly more lupines, and as a matter of fact, I sort of wish I’d checked there first because the views from the Meadows are just awesome! Flat farm-like land, and then BANG, there’s the Presidentials…the two intersect unexpectedly! And right in the middle of it all, there is the Israel River with more beautiful lupines! A few more shots, and I was off, headed back into Sugar Hill to scout around more.

Israel River at Sunrise

Israel River at Sunrise

Lupines Along the Israel River

Lupines Along the Israel River

I wanted to be sure to do two things while on this trip; scout for next time’s shot opportunities, and visit Polly’s Pancake Parlor. I did both of those things, and it was well worth it! I found the fields by St. Matthews on 117 to be very lush…quite nice compared to the Sampler Field. The dumprake was not very well surrounded, though. Not to mention, the bugs were getting active since it was getting quite warm outside. And not just black flies…I found 3 mutant-sized ticks at different points following my time at St. Matthew’s… luckily just crawling…not feeding! Oh, and Polly’s…well, I had the waffle special, which today was Granola….mmmmmmmmmm. Highly recommend it. I must say, not only does Polly’s have one incredible view of the mountains (Canon to Washington!), but it smells sooooooo good over there…even just in their parking lot!

Dump Rake at St. Matthew's

Dump Rake at St. Matthew's

Lafayette From Polly's

Lafayette From Polly's

The View Around Sugar Hill

The View Around Sugar Hill

After Polly’s, I headed back over Twin Mountain and planned on hitting Clinton Mountain Road for a jaunt, but it was closed (not sure why…seems late?). Finally, a quick run up to Pinkham Notch for a quick walk, a WMNF parking pass, and a book I’ve really wanted to get – Wildflowers of the White Mountains (which is a full color photo book of the wildflowers that grow in NH…I’ve been inspired to learn more about them after becoming interested in lupines).

Many miles and many intersections later, I’m home! Next stop I’m hoping to make is one of my favorite intersections of photography and hiking….the Alpine Garden. Weather permitting, that’s next Monday!