The other day, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't gone out on a significant photo shoot in several weeks. First it was dealing with the Christmas orders, then the joy of having the kids home for the holidays and finally going through the extended process of moving to a great new web site. There are always distractions, even work gets in the way occasionally, but whatever the excuses I decided I had to get out at least for a few hours of photographic treasure hunting.
When planning a shoot I often set a defined goal, a specific location at a precise time. It may be a lake at dawn or the moon rising over the mountains, but my greatest joy comes from heading out for visual adventures with no agenda. My simple goal is to wander the back roads looking for new locations and letting the light be my guide. It is a bit "Star Treky", "Boldly going where no lens has gone before".
On this day, I decided to explore in Vermont. We still have snow
On this day I had a lovely, relaxed exploration and, along the way, I was reminded of a number of challenges and opportunities that are unique to winter photography
looking for attractive scenes without having to deal with as many impatient drivers roaring up from behind. As I did my meander along the forested roads I was on the lookout for interesting arrangements of trees and light. The dense and chaotic New England forest provides few of these opportunities, but at times the foreground and background elements come into alignment with an almost audible snap. I find it relaxing to scan the forest for the "snaps", but I have to occasionally remind myself to check to see if I am going off the road.
Challenges of Forest Lighting
The day was consistently sunny, making capturing the high contrast between brilliantly illuminated snow and forest shadows a constant
waterfalls are often more challenging to capture without the contrast of sparkling water cascading next to dark, rocky ledges. In fact, in winter, the relationship between the water and the surroundings is reversed, with the water best seen dark against the white banks. When flowing water is surrounded by soft snow, I tend to use shorter exposures to provide more texture to contrast with the flat, homogenous appearing snow. I love to shoot flowing water with long exposures, but the velvet streams can become lost in the surrounding white.
After wandering for a few hours I made it to the Townsend Road. Sadly I was back on pavement, but it led me to the classic New England Village of Grafton Vermont. The town is known for the traditional warmth of the Grafton Inn, but I was drawn to the Grafton Village Store where the Chili was outstanding.
|Great Chili, Car Needs a Wash!
From Grafton I discovered a few more back roads and old farms. By the time I got to Saxton River, I had been out for about six hours and 80 miles. I was ready to head home to see what I had on the memory card. I find I get a bit hazy after 6-7 hours of head swiveling. On the way back, I got a chance to revisit Westminster West and it's famous sign post. It is always interesting to be reminded that London and the North Pole are both about 3000 miles away.
Back in Spofford I resisted the strong urge to dive right into the images and instead, went through my usual post-shoot workflow. I downloaded the 97 images, applied the GPS coordinates, inserted appropriate meta data and renamed the collection with the date and successive numbers. Then I FINALLY got to actual look at the images. I always feel that a shoot has succeeded if I get even one true “keeper” and although I didn’t find any “breath takers” there were several definite “keepers”. This was as expected with the nice, but not spectacular, light and the somewhat settled snow. Nevertheless the pictures are interesting and quintessentially New England. They may be just what someone is looking for. I have learned that it is impossible fully anticipate someone else’s taste, especially from those who don't have the good fortune of living in the midst of all this beauty.
Most importantly I explored some interesting terrain that I have filed away for future visits when the conditions may be different - they are always different. Learning more about your local country-side is never a waste of time and can be exciting even without a camera in hand.