Summit Photo of NH Homepage

Jun 5 2012

Incessant Rain

Even in a state with such a vast tapestry of incredible landscapes, there is a serious problem of opportunities when rain falls the way it has been for the last few weeks. Rain in small doses is a very good thing, but when it falls for a solid week at a rate of several inches per day, it causes all sorts of complications. Not to mention moodiness (it’s literally as if we’ve all begun to see the world in black, white, and grey). Nevertheless, as a part of my continuing series on waterfalls, I thought I’d share a few quick tips and thoughts related to rain and waterfall photography.

Too much rain can be a bad thing when it comes to photographing waterfalls, but not all waterfalls. While most falls can prove difficult to shoot when there’s too much water, some falls are normally so dry that the only time to photograph them is after a good rain. Places like Tucker Brook Falls and the Shannon Brook waterfall system are great examples of this. Usually the bigger the waterfall or the drier the area, the better it is to have some good rain before the shoot.

If you plan to venture out in the rain, consider your equipment. Very few photographs will ever fetch enough money to pay for a new camera, so keep this firmly in mind when you’re looking out the window at the torrents and jonesing for a shoot. If you insist, however, I recommend the following equipment:

-Pack Cover for your camera bag/pack
-Dry Stuff Sack for your camera body
-Rain Sleeve to shoot in the rain
-Spare camp towel or two for various uses
-Camera Cleaning kit including lens tissues

Rain Sleeve for Camera

Rain Sleeve for Camera

Dry Stuff Sack

Dry Stuff Sack - Your Best Friend

Camp Towel

Camp Towel







If you have an unfortunate mishap, try putting the camera (minus the batteries) onto a cookie sheet and into the oven on super low heat for about an hour. I’ve never had to do it, but a buddy of mine did after taking a tumble and falling into a swamp with his camera. Also, you can try the old bag-of-rice trick.

Be ready for some great things after this rain stops, too. Opportunities will abound for journalism of damage caused by flooding, uber-green landscapes, wandering wildlife, lupine in Sugar Hill, and perhaps even a touch of snow on Mount Washington given this stubborn low pressure system. Oh, and a few great waterfalls will be showing off their fury. Make a plan to hit the trails once this moisture breaks up and you’re sure to not be disappointed!

Thanks for joining me and be sure to come back again for more information about hiking and photographing New Hampshire’s amazing landscapes! Be well!

May 23 2012

The Technique | Photographing Waterfalls in New Hampshire (and elsewhere)

Waterfalls are one of the most exquisite natural features to be found in New Hampshire. Everything about them seems to speak to something deep and essential within. For some of us, waterfalls conjure up childhood memories of cooling off at a New Hampshire State Park on a hot summer’s day. For the deep-thinking individual, waterfalls provide unmistakable philosophical undercurrents. In some ways, falling waters can convey a sense of calm and tranquility, and in other ways they create pure awe. They are a veritable treasure trove of evidence and intimations for the naturalist and waterfalls are among the most fascinating arteries in the New Hampshire organism to the outdoor artist; principally because of their lines, their shapes, and their movement.

Cloudland Falls Waterfall

Tranquility at Cloudland Falls, Franconia Range

If you’ve ever seen a waterfall that just takes your breath away, perhaps you’ve also felt the urge to compose a memorable and graceful photo to remember it by. I’m not much of a collector of anything really, but I most certainly do collect waterfalls in this way. One of the great questions that I get about my collection is something along the lines of, “how did you do that”? So perhaps you do want to know how to make your own amazing waterfall images. While I can’t share absolutely everything, I can share some aspects of my technique. So to that end, I offer you my rudimentary tutorial on shooting waterfalls here in New Hampshire (and beyond).

1. START with the equipment

This is perhaps the most important step in photographing anything, waterfalls included. You don’t need to have the latest and greatest, but you do need to have the right stuff to get the job done. Let me explain with an example; all of us have a “shake speed”, or a shutter speed setting at which our natural handshakes are detectable by a degradation/blur in the quality of the photo. For me, I can’t shoot anything handheld at a speed slower than 1/60th of a second without it somehow affecting the quality of my image. Since most waterfall photos are shot at a speed of 1/5 of a second or slower in order to get that silky effect, I know I can’t personally do it without a tripod. Most people can’t. At that speed, you simply can’t get a quality waterfall image without a sturdy tripod; it’s an essential piece of gear. Other essentials include a polarizing filter, which is a filter that blocks out light with a particular “direction”. It also reduces glare on surfaces such as wet rocks and water, and thereby helps to saturate those parts of the image. The right lenses are fairly important, too, and you also want to make sure your camera has a shutter delay (or get a remote trigger). Everything beyond these items are nice, but they’re not essential.

2. Do Your Research and Pick Your Spot

New Hampshire boasts over 70 waterfalls and each one has a different size, shape, and style; in essence, their personalities differ and some will speak to you more than others. Consider honing in on your own personal favorite waterfall type, whether it’s plunges, horsetails, cascades or another. Do some research online, find an inspiring place to immerse yourself in, break out your map and plan your trip!

3. Try to Time it Right

Easier said than done, yes. But you should really try to make friends with the weather gods and occasionally ask for a nice overcast day (clouds are giant light diffusers). You can also time your shoots so that you’re not dealing with any direct sunlight hitting the falls. This planning is rather essential because of a problem we call clipping, which is just a fancy way of saying that something in the image is “too white”. Those nice, picturesque, evenly-lit shots come from shooting when there is no direct sunlight hitting the waterfall, and most often they were done on overcast days. An even and diffused light is best when shooting New Hampshire’s falls. Other timing considerations have to do with the seasons here in New Hampshire. For example, you must try to be patient as the trees’ leaves begin to bud in the spring. If you go too early, you’ll notice an absence of spring greenery and an abundance of sticks and even the potential for snow patches. As in the image below taken at Bridal Veil Falls in Franconia, New Hampshire, images can suffer if the shot is taken too early in the year.

Bridal Veil Falls Waterfall

Sticks, Snow & Too Much Water at Bridal Veil




















4. Compose Your Image in the Viewfinder

Basically you’re on your own here. You’ve got to really feel the scene, track the water, and taste the light. On a more objective note, I recommend getting the water to flow through the image. This is a traditionally accepted compositional notion that allows the viewer’s eye to travel through the image and follow the calming path of the water.

5. Adjust the Polarizer

Before you dial in any of your other settings, decide how much poliarization you want to harness in the shot. Not sure what I mean? Do this: Hold your polarizer up in between your eyes and your computer monitor (go ahead, you can do this right now…nobody is watching). Twist the filter all the way around slowly and watch as the world seen through the filter begins to darken. That point where it’s at its darkest before it all goes back to normal again is what I’d refer to as Max CP (maximum circular poliarization). Now you must take note that the amount of polarization you use is a matter of artistic choice. However, you should also know that the closer you get to max CP, the more “glare” you remove, the less light you’re letting in to the camera, and the longer you’ll need to keep your shutter open for (or the higher you’ll need to dial your camera’s ISO setting). Fully polarized water shots look great, but every now and then it’s nice to take it down a notch or two.

6. Dial in your Setttings:

It is fairly critical that you use your camera’s manual mode. By doing this, you can take full control of the camera and its capabilities rather than allowing the camera to make any decisions (which don’t tend to be right). Remember that waterfalls like to be shot at slower than 1/5 of a second and that usually means that you’ll need to squeeze your aperture (f/16 is a good place to start). Make sure to adjust your ISO accordingly and never take for granted that your camera’s automatic white balance is correct.

Next, press the button and see what happens! If you don’t like something about the results, make some adjustments. Some trial and error applies in shooting waterfalls, so don’t be discouraged if your first shot isn’t a winner. Your histogram and your clipping indicator are good in-camera tools, but make sure that you like your composition, too.

New Hampshire’s landscapes are unique and worth admiring. As far as its waterscapes go, they’re also challenging in some ways to both the adventurer and the photographer. Some are hard to reach, others show their best appeal only at particular times of year, and others are completely wild with blowdowns, brush, and moss. Overall they’re worth seeing, and a lot of fun to capture. Remember to respect the lands as you travel and shoot, though. Preservation isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a way of living.

Arethusa Falls Waterfall

The Human Element & Favorable Light at Arethusa Falls

Thank you for stopping by my New Hampshire landscape photography blog once again. Come back soon for more about New Hampshire’s collection of waterfalls! Until then, happy trails!

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 9 2011

The Hiking Dialogues

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” — Greg Child

Ethan Pond Sunrise

November Ethan Pond Sunrise

Although I spend copious amounts of time and energy hiking, creating New Hampshire landscape photographs and writing reflectively about the mountains, I fully admit that there is a conversation of an entirely different magnitude going on around the world. The media refuses to let us ignore the plight of the economy, of wars, and of disease. But by and large, I submit that something dramatic happens to our perspective when we make our way into the woods and when we plod upward onto mountaintops. Something that is a part of us, let’s call it the minutia for lack of a better word, gets stripped away clean, allowing something far more essential from within to eventually surface. There is no clear transition, or verifiable “point” at which this happens, but more or less it is gradually brought on; by fresh air, by the labor of an uphill climb, and perhaps by the very nature of simple surroundings.

The mind wanders, though this drifting is not at all aimless, and an internal dialogue manifests that at times leads to profound benchmarks in our lives. In the company of others, these conversations might unfold aloud and you may find yourself talking about politics, love, or even about God(s). These are exchanges that could never happen in quite the same way under fluorescent lights, within the cubicle cages, or at a summertime barbecue.

Furthermore, when you find occasion to pause, perhaps at a peaceful rivulet or on top of a ragged precipice, and really take a good look around once the mind has been stripped of the minutia, a true sense of our smallness and our insignificance sets in; or perhaps it’s that the universe is simply incredible, and immense beyond comprehension. Whichever way you look at it, you come to realize that although you may be but only a brushstroke in the fresco, life is at once incredible, and incredibly complex. In large part the complexities arise because of the meaning that we add to the existing physical world. It is at this point that the hiker’s dialogue proves to be important; just as much so as other, more ubiquitous conversations. I know that it seems tough to resolve worldly matters and the discourse of a couple of sweaty hikers as being similarly important; but it’s easy if you try. By and large, this reflection, this reflexivity, this resolution…is part of what makes us human.

While hiking and camping out near Ethan Pond with a good friend this weekend, I was again privy to the treasure of this hiking dialogue. As is always the case, it seems that I’ve come out of the woods knowing a little something more about myself, my friend, and life. Furthermore, I have concluded that if this aspect of hiking is ever lost on me, I will have reached a truly unfavorable point in my life.

Ripley Falls in Crawford Notch

Ripley Falls in Crawford Notch

As always, thank you for joining me; do take care, and as colder weather begins to set in we’ll be sure to see you again soon.