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I guess I like solitude, and nothing quite says it like a cold beach covered in snow. It's empty here this time of year, not like a warm summer day when you can barely find room to get to the water. I think it's the idea of taking a photo of something that's normally associated with warmth and relaxation and then showing it in a completely different way. It's so much more interesting in the winter, and it changes so quickly. One day it might look nearly identical to how it does in the summer, just without all of the people, and the next it could be covered in snow and ice. I particularly like finding the transitional phases of it, like a few days after a snowstorm when the sand starts to come through from beneath the snow. The first image here is an example of that from Hecksher State Park a little over a month ago. I had this spot in mind and waited until it just started warming up so that the snow cover would be receding.
This next image is from the same park a few weeks later. The park looks over the Great South Bay which freezes over if it's been well below freezing for a few days. I didn't put too much planning into when I came here this time, I just wanted to get some shots over the frozen landscape. I had noticed on the forecast that some fog was going to be rolling in and I think that added an interesting element because the background blurs out to the point that you can't really see the land on the other side of the bay. It's kind of like faking an arctic scene or something. Those streams that form on top of the ice make for some convenient leading lines too, especially when I noticed this one catching the pink light from the sunset. In a few days all of this ice will be gone, and it will look like it does in the summer for a while.
That's why I liked the idea of including this one. It's from Robert Moses which is an ocean beach so it never freezes over like the bay can. It's an interesting contrast though because it's just a few miles away and taken in the same month (though a year earlier) and looks just like a typical beach. Nothing really wintery about it, but the emptiness and cool blues can kind of give you a sense of the cold. The photo below is of the same beach after another snowfall this January.
A completely different feeling from nearly the same exact location at the same time of year. The way the winds mix the snow and sand give a really cool effect, and one that's only there for a few days if that. All of these beaches are awesome environments to photograph in the winter. You can't go two days in a row and expect the same landscape like you can in the summer, and on top of that you usually have most of it to yourself. So if you're tired of the cold, go to the beach. And if you're not able to overlook the fact that this advice won't make you warmer then get a flight to the desert - which just happens to be what I'm doing in March.
I'm starting to sell some prints on my website here if you're interested. I may add more soon but if you are looking for a specific image of mine let me know.
This is a little late, January kind of got away from me, but I wanted to share a recap of my year. This was the first full year that I've really focused on improving my photography, before this point I was a very casual photographer often going months at a time without even picking up my camera. It was in the fall of 2016 that I realized how therapeutic it can be through the entire creative process, and it quickly grew from a casual hobby to something of a passion. I also have done more traveling this past year than I ever have before. I've been to 32 states (14 of which I'd never been to before) and spent 59 nights away. It's particularly been interesting since I quit my job last may to focus on myself and my own projects (both with photography and programming). So I thought I'd go through this past year month by month using my favorite photos from each month (when they were taken not necessarily when they were posted) as the subjects.
The photo for this month is at the top of this post. Kind of fitting because I think it's still my favorite photo of the year (or at least a close runner up). I'd wanted a photo like this for a while, a cool lake leading up to a snow capped mountain, and I finally saw it with the waning sunlight hitting the peak while driving through Olympic National Park in Washington State with my sister. We were in the Seattle area for a long weekend and made the most of the time there, but this was actually taken only a few hours after landing in Sea-Tac.
This month spent a few days up at my parent's cabin in Upstate New York, but was home for the most part. I love the island I live on, mountains and deserts are amazing but there's no comparison for an ocean sunset (or in this case a bay sunset - close enough). This was taken a few hours after a snowfall stopped in early February. The names I choose for the photos I share are usually either the name of the place or some combination of the way I was feeling when taking the photo along with how the photo makes me feel. For instance this one is called "Stuck" because it was at a point in my life when I was feeling kind of trapped, I wanted to do something more meaningful with my life but hadn't figured out what yet and didn't think I could quit my job to figure it all out (which is what I wanted to do). You can also kind of see it in the way the overcast sky traps the colors of the sunset at the horizon, yet the pinks and purples still manage to push past that barrier. It's also called this because I had accidentally driven my car off the parking lot pavement and into the sand (it was all covered in snow) and literally had to get my car unstuck after I took this photo.
This month I went to the Southwest for the first time with my father. It has since become my favorite part of the country. I've wanted to go to Horseshoe Bend for years, so it was a kind of surreal experience finally being there. I'm showing two photos from this month because they kind of go together. It was drizzling on and off on the walk to the edge of the canyon and for a few minutes a rainbow appeared. I was glad I had my camera out at the time because it was gone a moment after I took that shot. Then I was at the edge, where I found a good spot and waited there for nearly an hour while the light changed to make sure I wouldn't lose this key spot - It was a Saturday night and it does get pretty crowded there that time of day.
I realized when going through the photos for this post that I never posted anything I took in April. I had taken a few but nothing all that interesting and I was probably more involved with going through my photos from my southwest trip at the time. I had also given in my two weeks notice to my job in the middle of this month so I was focused on finalizing things there. I did spend another weekend up at my parent's cabin with some friends (I go there several times a year because it's a really convenient getaway).
I have two photos again because they were taken at the same place, and although my favorite is the first one the second one was much more popular on social media. I still like both but I think it's interesting when a photo I love isn't as well received as one I thought was good, but not as good. I was in Tennessee for my sister's graduation staying at this cabin. The first photo I planned the night before, rolled out of bed before sunrise, opened the window, and took the shot. Then I went back to bed. The next one I just wanted a cool glowing cabin night shot and the moon happened to be in the perfect spot to make a "moon-star" - I guess. My last day at my job was the day I left to come here, so it felt like the start of something new and that's kind of the feeling I had when taking these. The very end of this month was when I began my road trip around the country.
This month is difficult to choose my favorite or best photos for, most months are to some degree, but I spent so much time driving around the country and taking photos nearly every day. The first image here is from Yellowstone National Park, a multi-shot long exposure of the Yellowstone River that I took my first time seeing it. It ended up being one of my most popular photos on social media in 2017. The second image is of Mount Shasta in northern California. I was driving around this mountain for nearly an hour on my way to San Francisco and as the light was getting better I decided that I had to stop and find a composition for it. I'm really happy with how it turned out especially being it was unplanned and from the side of the road. The third image is from Tennessee towards the end of my trip. I didn't expect one of my favorite images from this trip to be from the same half of the country I live on, but it was. I love the smooth waterfall and reflections creating those leading lines, and it was just a nice picture to close out my trip (I think this was basically the last one I took).
I stayed home for most of the summer after I got back from my cross country trip. I drove for Uber for a while to make a little extra cash but wanted to focus most of my energy on photography and some programming ideas. This image was from the north shore of Long Island in the early part of the month. Just a simple golden sunset, kind of the way I'm feeling at this point.
I love this shot, it's of the Fire Island Lighthouse about 10 minutes from my home. Lighthouses to me have a powerful yet calming feeling to them, guarding the sea. I've shot this one several times, but this was the first time I planned out a trip there before sunrise to this particular beach. I like to incorporate little details in my images that you might not notice at first glance whenever I can. In this one you can see the moon directly above the lighthouse, it's very small here because I'm using a wide angle lens but it's presence adds a bit of depth to the image.
By September I was getting the urge to go somewhere, and that somewhere was once again my parent's cabin (on my way up to Maine). A few miles away on top of Mount Utsayantha I got this image. I've been to the top of that mountain several times but this was the first time at sunset. After a few days there I left for Maine, but that was technically in October.
Here I am in Maine, or rather here are 2 pictures I really like that I took in Maine. The first one was just outside Baxter State Park on my way back to a hotel. I was trying to get a shot of a full moon that was setting but by the time I found a good spot to pull over it was gone, and this was there. Even though I've seen a lot of similar images I didn't want that to stop me from trying one out myself. The next image is from Acadia National Park, this was one of my favorite parts of the park, Otter Point I think, that I had scouted out in the afternoon. The rock I'm standing on felt much more precarious when I came back around sunset to shoot this, but it was worth it.
So this is in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. I never really think to explore other parts of New York because I live here, but that can be a mistake. There are some really awesome things to see around in my home state. I spent a few nights again at my parent's cabin (for a total of 4 times this year) and then set off for a couple of days chasing waterfalls. I love this particular image because it feels so much different than most of the others I've taken and I think it really captures the mood of the place. It worked out pretty well because the path in this photo is closed at that time of year so I was forced to take the path overlooking it. If that hadn't happened I wouldn't have seen this.
The last month of the year and the only photo I posted that was actually taken in December. I came here specifically for a shot involving that concrete wall thingy but the scene had changed a lot from what I remembered. I was happy with the composition I ended up with, and the contrast between the snow and that red algae (at least I'm pretty sure that's algae) was really cool. I honestly almost didn't share it because the focus is slightly off from where I wanted it to be and I didn't realize that when I was there. I'm starting to learn to be okay with minor imperfections as long as it works as a whole.
It was a great year for me, in fact I can pretty easily say this was my best year yet. I've done a lot of things that I've wanted to for a very long time, and I've never felt better about the path my life is on now. Thank you all for the support, and have a great 2018!
I'm starting to sell prints of some of my images, currently 5 of them shown here are available on my website here. If there are others you are interested in please let me know.
I was in upstate New York the week after Thanksgiving spending some time at my parent's cabin and exploring some areas that I haven't been to before. My original plan was to go north to either the Niagara Falls area or the Thousand Islands, but it looked like rain in both of those areas. I did some more research and decided on a few parks in the Finger Lakes Region, an area that I had never been to before and felt like I should.
A major reason I love taking landscape photos is that it gets me out into some beautiful locations and helps me appreciate them more than I would otherwise. When I force myself to focus on finding the best way to show a location I start to notice details that I otherwise wouldn't. Because of that I usually want to be at great places in great light, and today that was kind of a problem because I was trying to visit 3 parks in the area. My reasoning for that was that I knew some of the trails would be closed and they all seemed pretty accessible, so I didn't think I would need much time to get to the icons (mostly waterfalls) in the parks. This would also be kind of a scouting trip, giving me a good idea of what I would want to come back to.
I decided to drive to Buttermilk Falls first because it was on the way to the other parks, and from what I could tell this looked like a nice spot but maybe not as photogenic as my other options. It is a really cool waterfall, and very easy to get to. It may look like I hiked into the woods to get this selfie, but I'm actually about 10 feet from the parking lot. The name of this waterfall seems to fit too, the water flows smoothly across all of the rocks giving a milky appearance. I did take some photos here that I'll have to go through in more detail, but mid day light (and it was right about noon) doesn't often work out for what I like to capture and they really weren't that interesting to me.
I left Buttermilk and decided that the park I was most excited about was Watkins Glen, and when the realization that it's that time of year when the sun sets around 4:30 I thought I should just go there and possibly see the last park the next day. It was about a half hour away, and when I got to it there were only 2 other cars in the parking lot. That's something I really like about exploring these places so late in the season, yes it's colder but you can't beat the serenity. A disadvantage of it being this late in the season is that the fun trails might be closed. At Watkins Glen, which is basically a big gorge leading down to Seneca Lake, the trail running through the gorge was closed. They actually have the few entrances to the trail (which are all stone staircases) locked up. I was a little disappointed, even though I was partially expecting it, and considered just going around the blockades but ended up trying out the trail on the north side of the gorge. Apparently this trail (Indian Head I think) would have some decent views down into the gorge. It was the early afternoon at this point and I figured with how wooded the area was the light would get to where I wanted in a few hours. The whole trail is a little over a mile and is flat most of the way so it was pretty easy to scout out all of the interesting spots that I would want to come back to when the sun was lower. Of course I did get a little confused when the trail seemed to randomly go through this graveyard here:
But further down I did find a few overlooks that I liked. This ended up being my favorite:
Look at that smile, you can almost see it. You can also see the pathway below that is part of the gorge trail. When I came back to this spot in lower light and composed the shot that's at the top of this page I was kind of glad that the gorge trail was closed. Sure I would have loved to go down there and still plan to in the future, I'm sure I would have found some great shots. But if it was open I never would have thought to take this trail and I never would have taken that image, which I was really pleased with. It's kind of a different style than I usually shoot and has a different feel to it that I love.
I took that photo a couple of hours before sunset, which in my experience is a great time to photograph a forest. That's technically a while before the golden hour, but when you're in a forest the golden hour sun is often too low to get through all of the trees. About an hour before golden hour the lower sun will still create some pretty awesome light bouncing through the forest. Because I took that shot at my favorite spot that long before sunset I still had a chance to take some shots from a bridge that overlooked the gorge, my second favorite spot which I still have to decide on the photo for (that process can take me a while and I always post the photos I'm sure of first).
By the time I got back to my car I still had more than an hour left before sunset, and the last park I wanted to go to, Taughannock Falls, was a little more than a half hour away. From the images I saw on Google it also seemed more open than Watkins Glen so I thought actual golden hour, as opposed to my forest golden hour the hour before, would work well here. It would be a little tight to get to the park and walk to the waterfall in time, but I was optimistic.
As you can see from the photo there's me, there's a waterfall, and there's a blown out sky meaning that I was there before dark. This was from a parking lot overlook, it's actually an awesome view of the falls and I would have taken some more shots here if I wasn't still hoping to make it to the base of the falls before the it got dark. So I hopped back in my car and drove down to the start of that trail (the end of which you can see in the lower right corner of the above photo). This trail turned out to be less than a mile and was even marked as wheelchair accessible, so very flat and some great views of the valley made by this river. The water level was low too so you could walk out onto parts of the rock river bed if you wanted to. I made it to the falls probably ten minutes before sunset, which due to the nature of those giant rock walls I wasn't going to see, but I knew what I wanted and this was the perfect time to get it. I didn't care about the colors in the sky because I wasn't even planning on having much sky in my composition, I just wanted the colors in the foreground and a really smooth waterfall with some soft light. At this time of day I was able to get a 15 second exposure and the only filter I used was my polarizer. Because there was still some light bouncing around the valley the colors, though much cooler, were still picking up nicely. I felt that I made it at the perfect time.
I took my photo and sat there for a while enjoying the water flowing through the quickly darkening valley. I walked back in the dark, taking a detour on the dry parts of the riverbed, and got to my car just as it started to rain. I didn't know it was going to rain but it kind of worked out perfectly because I got to see the places I planned on and felt I got some pretty cool shots. Originally I was going to spend another night in the area, and maybe I should have, but this gives me more of a reason to come back and maybe focus on just one of the parks. I'm probably going to go back to all 3 eventually, but definitely Watkins Glen when the gorge trail is open, and I know I could spend a lot of time in the riverbed leading up to Taughannock Falls.
I meant to write this a few weeks ago, but I didn't. This is my trip to Acadia National Park last month. I had just spent the previous day in Baxter State Park (Maine) and was now on my way to Acadia. I've wanted to go here for a while and it's really not too far from my home in New York. It was about an hour drive from Bangor where I spent the previous night, I left in the mid morning and got there with plenty of time to do some exploring. I wanted to find a good place to come back for sunset, and I figured I'd want that spot to be on the water, so my first real stop was around Otter Point (I think that's what it's called, possibly Boulder Beach). I loved the look of the granite rocks going into the ocean with the hills and forests climbing out on top of them. I spent an hour or so climbing around until I found a view that I really liked. Of course it was on top of a slightly more difficult to get to rock, but I made it up without falling the 20 or so feet down into the ocean. I wandered around the park for the rest of the day walking through forests of birch trees and the gardens and stuff, it was all really beautiful but I was set on Otter Point for sunset. I went back leaving enough time to find another spot if I had to (I figured it would be a busy spot at that time). Surprisingly when I got there I was almost alone. I think I saw a total of 3 other people around those rocks for the next hour that I was there. I don't mind people being around me but one of my favorite things about taking landscape photos is being alone in nature. It's really peaceful and clears my head, which is the main reason I do it. Still, I didn't expect to be alone here I just really wanted the shot. I climbed up to the rock I had scouted earlier, having a little more anxiety getting back up but kind of throwing myself up the rock face did the trick. Below is my selfie from the rock and above is the image I took (from the other direction).
When I left I was completely alone in the dark. I drove out of the park towards Bar Harbor and stopped at an overlook where you could see the lights in the town. I wasn't really trying to get any pictures here, not to say I didn't take a couple, but it was nice just sitting up there for a while looking down at the town and lights on the boats skimming over the water.
I was really surprised at how often I was able to find myself alone in this park. It's beautiful and not too far from civilization, definitely worth the trip. I got a hotel on the Island and the next day I went to explore the other side of the park - it's kind of divided into two because of a sound splitting up the island the park is on.
One of the most well known icons in the park is the Bass Harbor Head light, which is where I planned on going first that day. It's roughly an hour drive from the other side of the park where I had been all day yesterday. I knew I wanted to be here around sunset, but had also heard that it can get pretty crowded. There's a small parking lot that apparently fills up quickly and causes a line down the road. If you don't park there I think it would be something like a 2 mile walk to the next reasonable spot to park your car. I thought I should go early to at least make sure I saw it and to get an idea of the place. Luckily at that time I was able to drive right in and park, then walk down to the rocks below. You can walk up close to the light but it's run by the coast guard so I don't think you can actually go inside without special permission or something. My only interest was in seeing it sitting up on that granite shoreline in person, so I was happy to climbing around below seeing it from a few different angles. There's always something so calming about these old lighthouses sitting there, timelessly guarding the shores. I'm a big fan anyway and this one did not disappoint.
I left there to scout around for a bit, but still planned on coming back for sunset. I had a few ideas of some good rocks to stand on later but I also knew it would be closer to low tide then so I was going to have more options. In the meantime I went up to Southwest Harbor and took this panorama.
Definitely not my favorite job on a photo, but I always like to try new things and see if I can make them work. I actually took 2 of the same panorama, one with the harbor in focus and one with the trees right in front of me in focus (this is the one with the harbor in focus). The plan was to try to combine them, that hasn't worked too well because there were some mismatches I think caused by the wind or maybe some focus breathing. You can also tell where some of the images were stitched because the lines in the water don't match up, and I'm not sold on my composition. No harm in trying it out but I think I'll call this one a learning experience. Anyway that's Southwest Harbor, and it was a pretty view.
After that I found this giant slab of granite jutting out into the water from the beach. I walked out onto it and saw that it was covered in little tide pools (it was just about low tide now). I took out my macro lens and spent the next couple of hours walking around that giant slab of granite taking pictures of the little creatures there. That was honestly a lot of fun, I'm not too experienced with macro so it's another learning thing for me. In fact I didn't get my macro lens for taking macro shots, I just found myself using that particular focal length (60mm) a lot on a zoom lens and wanted it in a fast prime. The macro ability of it was just a bonus but I'm starting to use it more and more.
They're nothing too special but it's a nice memory of a pretty great day. After playing around in the tidal pools it was getting within a few hours of sunset and I wanted to make it back to the lighthouse in time to deal with the potential crowds. I thought about parking farther away and walking, but I thought i'd at least check to see if there was a line first. There was a line, the internet didn't lie it does in fact get pretty crowded there. I ended up waiting though because I had allowed so much extra time and the line didn't seem terrible. After about 40 minutes I made it into the parking lot, I'll let you decide if that actually is a terrible wait time, at this point I was just focused on getting down to the rocks and securing a spot before sunset. At low tide there really is a lot more room, I think it was around 3-5 feet lower than when I was there earlier, and it was full of people. All of the spots I had scouted before had people and tripods set up on them by this point. I could have squeezed in but I was starting to like the idea of a low wide angle shot now that I could get onto some previously submerged rocks. I wandered out in front of everyone else (but behind a rock so I wasn't in anyone else's shot) and got my composition together. I had a comfy rock to sit on which was nice, because I spent the next hour and a half right there. About half that time was waiting for sunset and the other half waiting for the light to fade so I didn't miss anything. I was not about to lost my spot to the swarms of people that filled in behind me. It was kind of funny turning around to see roughly 50 people and 20-30 tripods, especially because in front of me all I could see was this.
Like I said I did wait until well after sunset, but I preferred the image of the sun hitting the horizon here. Often the better light is after the sun is below the horizon but it's always good to have options. Getting the lighthouse light in the photo (which is something I always try to do in my lighthouse pictures) was really easy for this one. It's 3 seconds of light with a 1 second gap. So you have 3 seconds to get your shot in with the light on. By contrast the Fire Island Lighthouse near where I live is something more like a half second every 5-6 seconds (I think) so you have to time that one pretty perfectly.
I got what I wanted, I enjoyed the scene for a while longer, and made my way back the car. That was my last day in Acadia, a kind of short trip but at least it's not too far from me so I should be back again. I spent the night in Augusta and headed back home the next day.