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November 2013

November 2013 (4)

Saturday, 23 November 2013 18:42

Forever Wild

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The trail (Spruce Hill Trail) to the top of Baxter Mountain in the High Peaks Country of Adirondack Park variously conveys you through a beautiful forest of hardwood and pine, depending on the side of the ridge you happen to be traversing. In early/mid-October, after the peak of the color season, the trail is carpeted with a rainbow of color that makes you feel like royalty as you walk over it. When you break through the trees and encounter the great outcrops of granite that crown the top of the mountain, the sight will take your breath, especially if you happen to arrive just in time for the sun to breach the ridges to the east, as my friend, John DiGiacomo and I did on this morning. Baxter Mountain, at 2440' in elevation, is not on any "tallest" list of Adirondack peaks, but the views it offers of its much taller neighbors to the west and south, above the headwaters of the East Branch of Ausable River, on a crisp fall day more than compensate for its seeming lack of stature. Not wanting to shoot directly toward the rising sun, I set my camera and tripod at nearly a 45-degree angle to its rising in order to catch the awesome golden light as it washed across the pines and small hardwoods along the summit. The slopes leading down into Keene Valley were still in deep shade, so the contrast accentuated the light even further, and there was still enough color on the trees so that the element it added made for a moment to be remembered. A focal length of 36mm gave me the angle of view I wanted, with an opening through the trees to lead the eye. There was no wind, so I could use an aperture of f/22 for depth of field without concern for motion. At ISO 100 a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds gave me an overall medium exposure.   

Saturday, 16 November 2013 09:28

Pearls Before the Moon

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The Claiborne Pell-Newport Bridge, which connects the Rhode Island city of Newport on Aquidneck Island with the village of Jamestown on Conanicut Island in Narragansett Bay (The East Passage), is an awesome spectacle in any light. But on the evening after the full moon, when the nearly round orb rises approximately two hours after sunset right between the mighty towers, it is as if the Earth's satellite is wearing a double strand of pearls as it casts its golden light over the quiet waters. Originally named the Newport Bridge, it was renamed for former US Senator Claiborne Pell in 1992. I decided that a wide-angle view would cause the bridge to recede too much in the image and appear smaller than I wanted, and my choice was to emphasize the massive strength of the towers with the suspended deck in between, with the reflected light silhouetting the long jetty in the foreground. A focal length of 123mm gave me the angle of view I wanted, which truncated the span just on the outside of each tower. At an aperture of f/8 and an ISO of 200, along with a shutter speed of 6 seconds I had an overall exposure of somewhat darker than medium.


Saturday, 09 November 2013 09:42

In Light of Beavertail

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The southern tip of Conanicut Island, the second largest island in Narragansett Bay, is a rocky, granitic point of land aptly named Beavertail. There, in 1754, the first of the island's light towers was constructed. Today's structure was built in 1856 and is both functional and photogenic. It is surrounded on its stony promontory by Beavertail State Park, a beautiful natural setting for fisherpersons and sightseers alike. Looking northward from nearly the end of the point, one's eye is carried around the curve of the rocks, across the bay, and into Newport Harbor, on the mainland to the east. In the early light of a new day the direct rays of the sun illuminate the shoreline strata with their golden mantle of November grasses and the husks of September's summer wildflowers. It's enough to make history come completely alive and your photographic heart miss a beat. I found a place at the edge of the cliff where I could create an interesting C-curve looking up the coast, and positioned my tripod among the grasses just high enough above their tops so that when I tilted up they did not become a barrier. A well-worn path through them helped out in this regard. The constraints on the perimeter of the frame were a guard rail on the left and the point in the sky above where the clouds no longer had interesting texture and tonality. This left me with 2/3's of the image below the horizon and 1/3 of it above. A focal length of 51mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 and a shutter speed of 1/8th second at ISO 200 gave me a medium overall exposure and did not blow out the detail in the clouds. The ISO choice allowed me a shutter speed just fast enough the freeze the slight motion in the grasses from the dawn onshore breeze.      

Friday, 01 November 2013 21:08

Mohawk in Emerald and Amber

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On the Cape Cod Bay side of Cape Cod, west of the village of Wellfleet, are two islands, Griffin and Great, which help form the snug harbor from which the renown fishing fleets of the village have set forth since the middle of the 17th Century. The islands themselves are connected by a narrow strip of tidal march affectionately referred to as "The Gut." At low tide the grasses and reeds of The Gut reveal a gold and green richness of tone and texture. As the receding tides wash the shorter grasses, the delicate stems are gathered into eye-catching swirling patterns, which, if followed closely might lead the eye in almost any direction. As I wandered across the spongy ground, I began seeing the lines of a mohawk haircut, which led to other, similar, lines that ultimately led me over the taller reeds and into the pine-covered rise of Great Island beyond. My tripod and camera were set up about 18" above the grass. Being lower, I would begin to lose the view of the island; being higher, I would begin to lose the dramatic presence of the grass. The sky held enough visual interest that it warranted about 1/5th of the frame.  A focal length of 18mm gave me the angle of view I wanted. An aperture of f/22 gave me depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 1/6th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure.      

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