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Feb 28 2012

Tuckerman Ravine: Worth Our Love

Located on New Hampshire’s famed Mount Washington, Tuckerman Ravine is a unique geological formation, situated in a rather unique place. “Tuck’s”, as it is colloquially referred to, is what is known as a glacial cirque; that is, it has a signature “bowl shape” that was formed by the motions of an alpine glacier left over after the retreat of a larger continental ice sheet. The resulting formation is the present day massive natural amphitheater that in the case of Tuckerman’s, faces due east.

Tuckerman Ravine Alpenglow

Alpine Sunrise Light in Tuckerman Ravine

Summer months see the Ravine transform into a lush, green paradise complete with rare and colorful wildflowers and enormous plunging waterfalls. Tens of thousands of travelers visit the Ravine during the peak hiking season, many of whom are on their way up to the summit of Mount Washington. But during the winter, the Tuckerman Ravine is a barren and frigid wasteland. A reliable wind pulls snow off the summit of Washington and into the Ravine throughout the winter, and snow accumulations bury nearly everything within the cirque. There is a constant possibility of avalanche, and temperatures rarely make it out of the single digits in the dead of winter. Standing upon the floor of the Ravine in the winter, it’s nearly inconceivable that anything could ever grow among such harsh conditions. But it does.

While Tuckerman Ravine gets most of its accolades from its reputation for late-season, no-holds-barred skiing and riding, I am personally drawn here for a different set of reasons. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve done quite a bit of snowboarding in the Ravine (although I’ve never joined the weekend hoopla during late spring, and I’ve never brought a six-pack of beer along for my hike/ride). But by and large, I am drawn to Tuckerman Ravine because of its beauty, and its offerings in the way of science and nature.

Ravines at Sunrise

Ravines at Sunrise (Tuckerman Left)

The Ravine is quite literally a photographer’s dream. There are artistic temptations all the way up the 3.1 mile trail to the floor of the Ravine, from Trout Lilies and the Crystal Cascade during the summer to snowy boulders along the Cutler River in the winter. There are all kinds of places to photograph the Ravine from without having to hike into the Ravine itself, too (although each worth-while vantage point presents its own challenges in reaching). I’ve had great luck from a variety of locations like Boott Spur and Wildcat Mountain. However, undertaking the hike into the Ravine affords an abundance of subject matter. During late June and early July, Mountain Avens and Rhodora (among other wildflowers) will lend their colorful accents to the thickets, and the waterfalls in the bowl are breathtaking in their loftiness. Add some early or late day magic to the equation and the photographs help to further transcend Tuckerman beyond its ski-party image (keep in mind, I don’t disapprove of responsible outdoor recreation). Tuck’s the kind of place that has appeal from so many angles that as a photographer, it presents a classic dilemma of wanting to be in two or three places at once.

Tuckerman Ravine

Tuckerman in Transition

What the Ravine gives us in the way of science is not only a glimpse into the past, but hope for great things in the future. We can discover the past by studying the geology and the natural communities in Alpine areas such as this. While much has already been uncovered, there are still yet a plethora of unturned stones, so to speak. As far as the future goes, it is in the best interest of all for Tuckerman Ravine to be rich with biodiversity. Biodiversity is an important tenet in both the survival of natural communities, and the derivation of their benefits. So as I sit here and write this piece, of course there is a big part of me that wants my children to grow up in a world where Tuckerman Ravine is resonant, healthy and rich; but it’s more than that. Places like Tuck’s may very well hold treasures that are indispensable. For example, it is widely believed that critical keys to the fight against such scourges as cancer and AIDS reside right under our noses, in the natural world. Human impacts will limit, or worse, eliminate these possibilities. Furthermore, I simply believe that a diverse planet is a healthy one, and isn’t that fairly important in and of itself? It is my hope that by first being a kind a caring steward myself, and next being an artist, I can make the case to a few more people that places like Tuckerman Ravine demand our care, our respect, and our love.

Hiking Tuckerman

Summer Hikers Converging on Tuckerman Ravine

Mountain Avens

Mountain Avens Within Tuckerman Ravine

For more information about the efforts to protect and preserve this incredible and unique piece of New Hampshire, visit the Friends of Tuckerman website .

For information about the changing winter conditions (particularly avalanche danger), visit the Mount Washington Avalanche Bulletin page.

Tuckerman Sunset

Autumn Sunset Behind Tuckerman Ravine (left)

My most sincere thanks to you for stopping by my New Hampshire Landscape Photography blog; take good care, and spread the good word about the good Ravine, if you will!

Jan 27 2012

Best Images of 2011

Photography in the White Mountains is nothing short of incredible. While it may lack the authority and prestige of places like Yellowstone, I have found it to be the perfect place to connect with nature, with one’s inner artist and with a child-like sense of adventure; all at once. As a life-long Granite Stater, my connection to White Mountains is stark, and my memory is filled with scenes of hiking through deep woods and scaling ledges of granite. As a photographer, I am quite fortunate to be engaged in the creation of an enhanced record of those memories. With regard those meaningful recollections, I’ve decided to start an annual tradition where I look back on the year in hiking and in photography.

First, a short compendium of the year. 2011 started off normally enough with deep cold (I was out in -22 in Jefferson one morning), but seemed to stray off course from the normal weather patterns as the year went on. By the end of the summer, we faced Tropical Storm Irene which devastated homes, business, and hiking trails. Irene also set the tone for one of the most peculiar fall foliage seasons in recent memory. Autumn never really seemed to find its rhythm in the valleys, and one had to travel to the brutal Alpine Tundras to find deep colour. Soon after, winter made cameo appearances the day before Halloween and the day before Thanksgiving, each time dumping well over a foot of snow in some areas. After that, winter never seemed to completely show up in normal fashion. 2011 ended much drier than anyone could have expected, and stick-season (a term we photographers use to refer to the in-between seasons) seemed to never go away.

Despite the challenges there were pockets of brilliance that I was fortunate to be witness to. To that end, I’ve picked my ten eleven best photographs from the year to share with you one last time as we say hello to 2012!

Winters Dusk on Washington

Winter's Dusk on Washington

Presidential Alpenglow

Presidential Alpenglow

Chocorua Alpenglow

Chocorua Alpenglow

Cloudland Before Irene

Cloudland: Before Irene

Pemigewassett Sunset

Pemigewassett Sunset

glen ellis falls

Glen Ellis Falls

Tuckerman Mystique

Tuckerman Mystique

Ripley Falls

Ripley Falls

September Color and Clarity

September Color and Clarity

Thompson Falls

Autumn at Thompson Falls

Franconia Ridge Autumnal Sunset

Franconia Ridge Autumnal Sunset

Beyond a doubt, in photography (as with other aspects of life) it is an important and useful exercise to reflect back every now and then. Picking the best landscape photographs from the past year’s collection helps photographers to allow for the necessary time to feel good about their efforts and their results. This can then help to establish a baseline for the new year, and for new goals. I look forward to sharing more images and experiences with you as we dive right in to 2012.

Take care.

Nov 19 2011

5 Canvases on Sale for Black Friday!

This year, Gallery-Wrapped Canvases have become insanely popular! I truly believe that there is no better way to display great works of New Hampshire art than on canvas! Here’s a bit more information…

What is a gallery wrapped canvas?

    It is a high quality print on an artist’s canvas.
    The canvas is stretched over custom-made wood stretcher bars.
    It is available in any size with a depth of 1.5″ or 2.5″.

What’s so cool about gallery wrapped canvases?

    Canvases make a bold statement.
    They appear to float on your wall.
    They don’t need a frame; the structure is inside the art.

Here are FIVE canvases that I’m releasing for Black Friday Weekend starting on Wednesday the 23rd (read on, there’s MORE)!!:

Tuckerman Mystique

Living Room

Picture A Canvas In Your Space!

To order, simply click any of the images above, or feel free to email me directly and I’ll take care of everything for you!

Pro Tip: You’ll receive a 15% DISCOUNT if you enter the code ILOVENH at the checkout!! Now THAT is a heck of a deal! Specials start on Wednesday, November 23rd and are good through Sunday at 11:59pm (which ought to cover the Black Friday spread)!

Happy shopping, my fellow travelers!

Oct 6 2011

Harvesting What You Will

Close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you’re driving along one of New Hampshire’s scenic byways on a crisp, autumn morning. For the last week and a half, you’ve watched a wet a rainy forecast play out and this was the morning when the rain would finally end. You woke up early, hours ahead of sunrise, and it’s midweek; a Wednesday. As you drive along, you try to decide on a subject to shoot during the peace, quiet, and color of the “magic hour”. You run though some of your old ideas in your mind. How about that flat and wet area with the mountain in the background? What about a scenic overlook? Or, perhaps the river? Today it seems that you gravitate most toward the idea of a vista. After all, you’ve been under a raincloud for ten days now, and it seems like a proper way to bid farewell to the moisture. You arrive at your overlook, which is situated right beside the road, and you are alone. The first bits of diffuse and indirect light begins to reveal the detail in the world around you. You turn your engine off, casually grab your gear, and find the perfect spot in the grass for your tripod. You take a deep breath of fall air and you scan the landscape in approval. Life is good.

With about ten minutes left until sunrise, the silence is abruptly broken. A car peels into the parking lot, and before it even comes to a complete stop the driver yanks the e-brake, shuts off the engine, and hustles out. He pulls a large and sturdy tripod from the back seat and he rushes to set it up. The metal legs make loud clanks as they telescope outward and lock into place. He scurries toward you, slinging his camera over one shoulder and his bag of gear over the other. He’s still groggy, rubbing his eyes as he sets up next to you. You don’t say a word to each other and your eyes never meet; but now you’re sharing some space with him. No big deal, because all is quiet again, but only for a few seconds.

Three more cars pull in to the lot, and each one quickly empties its occupants. They all have cameras. One of the cars is a large van, and four people from another corner of the globe spill into the area next to you, and they begin speaking loudly to one another. Nonstop. Although you have no idea what they’re talking about, you quietly wonder if they really need to discuss it at that particular volume. You begin to long for some peace and quiet.

Amidst the spontaneous chaos caused by all the folks around you, the sun begins to rise. You hear shutter buttons clicking, adjustment dials turning, and the whoosh and wish of filters sliding in and out of lens mounts. Oh, and still with the loud conversations right next to you. This sunrise as it turns out looks great to the naked eye; a once gray world instantly turns to color, and the brilliant glow of the sun illuminates the sky as it climbs over the horizon directly in front of you. But the camera and the naked eye are different, and as you look into the viewfinder you see that your filter setup is now creating some kind of lens flare. Moreover, the intensity of the sun is throwing your camera’s built-in metering system for a veritable loop. You take about 30 pictures or so, making minute changes to mitigate the wild range of tones before each click. You change filters a few times as the intensity of the light waxes and wanes. You know that your results won’t amount to anything spectacular; in fact, you knew that before you started shooting. But you came here to this spot simply because you were excited to get behind the shutter button for the first time in more than a week. You pack up and quietly leave before anyone else, and your heart lacks that usual excitement from an enjoyable sunrise photo shoot.

Now, open your eyes.

For you, this probably was not your reality on Wednesday morning. But, it was for me. I mean, what was I thinking? Sure, this is a big part of the fall foliage season. The “Camera Harvest”, as I call it. Travel and tourism are hugely important to the Granite State, and in a way I was thrilled to see that playing out all around me at the top of the Kancamagus Pass. But I was out of my element. My usual modus operandi is to seek out, experience, and ultimately capture the secluded, the desolate, the “roads less traveled”, if you will, among New Hampshire’s diverse landscape. Usually, I find what I’m looking for up on high peaks or deep in the woods, early in the morning or late in the evening. I literally immerse myself in every single aspect of the landscape; the beauty, the danger, the aloneness, and the atmospheric uniqueness of the day and the moment. Today, however, I had only a limited amount of time to get out and shoot in the morning due to some prior commitments, making the scenic vista as one of my only feasable options. It’s not that I don’t like sharing space with others. In fact, if ever there is a fellow or a gal who comes to occupy the same spaces that I do, high up in the mountains at the same ungodly hours, I tend to rather enjoy their company. When I stick to what I know and love, I usually come away with a good experience, decent results, and a sense of replenishment by way of the natural world. Lining up with a half-dozen (or more) other photographers, all vying for the same space and all shooting at the same low-hanging fruit of a subject has never been my idea of fun. To this end, I’d never make it as a celebrity paparazzi photographer (for a litany of other reasons, too). My work is literally a heartfelt and passionate attempt to take subjects that are usually quite distant for most, and bring them to life. It is my representation of what I love most about this great Stat. The process itself is at once an art, a challenge, and by and large a form of therapy.

As I drove away, I thought about how I had to make up for my morning somehow. So, as the day progressed I had some ideas for what to do when the sunset hours would approach. These ideas percolated in the back of my mind all day, and served to distract me thoroughly (which was okay by me). I took the cold and windy weather into consideration, and decided that I would head for a couple of my favorite spots in Pinkham Notch.

Now, I will admit that the foliage is “down” this year so far. The fall colors in Pinkham have been coming along for a week and a half or so, but there is a lack of the usual and desired intensity. There is a lot of muted yellow, not a whole lot of red and orange (my personal favorites) and the umber simply abounds. The experts attribute this to several factors; too much moisture, a bit of abundant leaf fungi, and daytime temperatures that have struggled to dip much below 65 until just recently. Despite the fact that leaf peepers are suffering of want this year, the world is still becoming less green. I thought of how I hadn’t been by some of Pinkham’s waterfalls for a few weeks, so my first stop was Thompson Falls.

Being that it was later in the day, I had the place essentially to myself. I had a fantastic time observing the colorful landscape around the falls. The water was flowing brilliantly after all the rain of the past ten days. The wind had created some fairly significant leaf-drop throughout the day, and I was able to work the movement of both the water and the fallen leaves into my photos.

Thompson Falls

Leaf-Drop Swirl at Thompson Falls

Thompson Falls

The Motion of Thompson Falls

Feeling inspired, I packed up and got anxious to see if Washington perhaps would emerge from the clouds for sunset. I hadn’t checked the Mount Washington Observatory website during the day, but I figured that at least some snow or ice had to be accumulating on the summit given the conditions. Sure enough, when I emerged from the wood, Mount Washington stood starkly before me, finally naked of its cloud cover. Now, it was me who was off to the races. Without a second though, I jumped into my car and raced a half mile down the road to the Pinkham Notch visitor’s center with Square Ledge on my mind.

Usually, I don’t think of Square Ledge as a sunset location since its view looks right into the setting sun. But sometimes, when you have a feeling, and when you can just taste the light, you follow it. I hiked as quickly as I could up to the ledge, which isn’t a tough scramble by any means, but a scramble no less. Once on top, I spent a few minutes just taking it all in. I was alone here, too; just me and a few crows who were struggling to navigate a stiff wind. Looking toward Washington, the sunset was just begining to unfold…and it was magnificent.

Mount Washington

Tuckerman Autumn Magic

The sun was not in sight because there was a bundle of clouds lingering on the western side of the summit. This created a “barrier” between the mountain and the setting sun. The summit itself obviously isn’t occupied by trees, so its mix of rocks and stunted vegitation creates a look of brown (Bigelow’s sedge meadows) and grey (Felsenmeer barrens); but there was also a fine sprinkling of snow here and there above the 5000 foot zone. Looking into Tuckerman Ravine, I could clearly see the streams that comprise the beginnings of the Cutler River. North of that, a single plunge of water could be seen rolling through the lesser-known Ravine of Raymond Cataracts, making up another distant waterfall. The foliage below timberline was made up almost entirely of yellow, with only small helpings of red; one here, one there. The sky came to color and the clouds took on a fiery look. Just then, a hole opened up in the clouds directly behind the Tuckerman Ravine Headwall, allowing a final breath of light to pour over the edge of the cirque. It lasted only a few moments, but it seemed as if Mother Nature was perhaps showing off her talents a bit. To me, it looked to be a reminder of the mystique of Tuckerman Ravine. Whatever it was, it reminded me of why I walk the miles that I do, into the more desolate corners, albeit sometimes ever so slightly more than a roadside vista; but still just enough out of reach.

My hope is that in keeping with what I know, by continuing to lug 20-30 pounds of camera gear uphill with another 10-15 pounds of survival gear, I can collect images and words that describe the most innate and unique beauty that New Hampshire holds. This is the side of New Hampshire that speaks to me the most. So perhaps it is here that I will admit that I’m no good at coexisting with a noisy throng of fellow photo enthusiasts, and that I’m also no good at composing anything “usual”, or “quintessential” in terms of photographs (think stone fences flanked by hundred year old maples). There are those among the crowd who tend to find these kinds of scenes, and capture them with style and great aplomb. I wholeheartedly applaud their work. I also fully support and encourage the tourism associated with the fall season, as it creates important revenue opportunities for many of New Hampshire’s small businesses. But sometimes I think I’m either fully addicted to the solitude of the New Hampshire wilderness, or I’m becoming hardened in my ways and I am no longer well-adapted to the environment of the Scenic Vista.

This year’s foliage is all about the search and the surprise since the color is just not what it has been in years past. But when you find something that strikes you, the excitement and delight is tough to contain. Regardless of where you’re looking as you hunt for that magical autumn scene, I hope you’re enjoying your search…and I hope you eventually find what YOU are looking for.

Thanks for reading, and take care.