What good is a New England fall foliage season without the trees?

No, this isn’t an eco piece on global warming.  Although that does concern me and especially the question of how much warmer does it need to get before the sugar maples  recede to the more northern regions. But that is for another conversation.

What this article refers to is the temporary nature of life around us and the permanence of photography.

Red maple Acer Rubrum blooms early

Early scarlet blooms on red maple (Acer Rubrum)

I had posted this shot on my facebook page for the New England photography guild,  for a spring subject  about the red maple (Acer Rubrum) that has stood out behind my place for probably the past 75 years.  I’ve been photographing it for years and this spring is no different.  I photographed a single branch with the buds bursting open in scarlet. (A welcome sign of spring)

Trees all over the area are doing this so it’s not exactly doing something special. Not unless you consider this tree fell down two years ago and it’s still hanging on to life and putting forth leaves.

I have to admit that in general these types of shots don’t sell, they are all about the feeling that I get from being out in nature and sharing them with friends.

On warm autumn afternoons, I love to put my back to the trunk of the tree and I tilt my head back and look up at the sun filtering down to where I was standing.  I wished that this  tree would be in the yard and not in the forest because laying on the ground in the woods is out of the question.

Too many ticks lurking about unless I lay down a film of deepwoods off.  So I stand there looking up at the tapestry overhead of autumn colors.  I usually take several shots to add to my collection of fall colors.  These will reside on my computer and carry me though the snowy days of winter.

These slices of time that I recorded are happy memories that I revisit, when I have time.

Lake Reflection of New England fall foliage

Sugar maple reflecting in pond

As a photographer I often catch an image that is a moment frozen in time.

We see this in our own photo albums, where you see your kids or grandkids or parents change from year to year.  Each photo catches that slice of time and once it is taken and recorded, it never returns.  Sometimes you go back to that spot to recapture the spirit of that moment but its gone.

This happened up in Tamworth New Hampshire (off route 16) where Lake Chocorua sits at the foot of Mount Chocorua.  It was my first fall in New England where I was exploring on my own. I found by the pond, a maple tree all dressed in scarlet with one small problem, it was laying on it’s side in the water.  I photographed this scene until the light fled the sky and I had to drive back home. I came back the next year and the tree was dead with not a leaf to be seen. I again recorded a moment in time

looking up into foliage canopy

Peering up into tapestry of autumn color

This brings me back to my maple in the woods.  We would say life has gone but for the past two springs this maple has put forth the effort to do what it has always done, on at least a few branches have put forth leaves.

The maple now lays across the path into Salem woods. And folks in this area of my neighborhood duck under the massive trunk on their way to walk the trails that lie over the hill.  I too, walk these trails but I always pause next to the tree and marvel at its tenacity to keep trying.

Something all of us could take with us.

Jeff Folger
Vistaphotography, my online gallery
New England Shutterbugs
New England photography Guild
Jeff Foliage Autumn website

Longley covered bridge in Vermont

Are your scenic New England shots ruined if the weather is Wicked Crappy?

Longley covered bridge in Vermont

Cows in the rain through the longley covered bridge in Vermont

The question is “Are your New England scenic shots ruined if the weather is crappy”? I wish I could say the answer was simple but it isn’t.    I will post some different shots from my travels and I will attempt to show you that even when the weather is daunting, you can usually make an image you’re happy with.

To be honest though I would rather be out there during the golden hours of dawn and sunset shooting in the fantastic light that can only be found at those times… The question is, what do I do if this is the time I have to shoot at and it’s cloudy or worse, raining?

Wonderful stormy sky above Scituate Lighthouse

Before image of stormy sky above Scituate Lighthouse

If it’s a deluge, then I stay in and hope something is on the TV.  If it’s just a cloudy day then I take off looking for scenes that will benefit from the flat light of that giant softbox overhead (the sky).  This means that there won’t be as much shadow under the trees as normally found so the contrast will be less in your shots. One thing I just read about is, if you add a polarizer to your lens it may improve your contrast. Check this article by noted NH nature photographer Jim Salge where he shows us what a difference a circular polarizer can make on a cloudy winter day…

(I wouldn’t have thought to use one then but I learned was wrong).

Wonderful Black and White image of stormy sky above Scituate Lighthouse

After image of stormy sky above Scituate Lighthouse

If you are lucky the clouds are themselves, an interesting photographic quality.   At times like this you need to keep your options open so get under cover.  You can wait for some atmospheric event that will display well.

I drove to Scituate lighthouse and it was threatening rain all afternoon. I walked around the lighthouse and I could see that the clouds were moving out and there was a space growing between the clouds and the horizon which would allow the sun to peak through…

This is the most critical and wonderful time to be at a great location, you have to be ready and waiting for the sun to peak out.   I was  ready for it when the suns rays shot out, illuminating the the lighthouse but directly over the lighthouse the black storm clouds provided a backdrop to make your jaw drop. Needless to say I was already taking shots but when the sun dropped down below the cloud deck my shots went from ok to WOW!

Tapestry of color as the sun illuminates the hills

The far off hills are lit up as the sun peaks through

Now you may be saying to yourself what about my fall foliage shots?  All my shots are muddy and the hills are gloomy. Well first off shooting the big wide angle shot is always tough with a solid grey sky.

But if it’s broken with patches of sun peeking through on the hill then you end up with light being painted on the hills like you see in this shot.

Fall foliage reflection on Beaver Pond

low clouds over the pond help create a great reflection

One thing that does happen is that colors will deepen and if you can get them reflecting on water it can make a powerful shot especially when the water is still like glass. In this shot I was near Woodstock NH and It was early in the morning, 6:30ish and the wind

Crows landing on dead tree surrounded by red and orange maple trees

Crows land on dead tree and far hill is aflame with color

had not picked up yet. The one thing to remember is to eliminate the sky as much as possible form your shot because it will render as just white so concentrate on just the trees and reflection. In the next shot I was looking off down the road to a far hill and the low clouds or fog were being blown away and revealing the scarlet maple covered hills.

The color of the trees just after the rain

The rain lies in puddles on the road reflecting the color of the the autumn leaves

That coupled with the dead tree in the foreground with crows landing on it made for an interesting picture.  I will add that it was misting on me at this point so my main concern was to keep the rain off my gear and my lens dry.

So when you find yourself with no option but to settle for a cloudy day to shoot one.. keep your eyes to the sky because you don’t know when that photographic opportunity will present itself.

Jeff Folger
My Online gallery
Check out the New England Photography Guild website