This was a good spring for maple syrup, providing cold nights and warm days, with a certain mix of sun and wind to make the sap flow. Everyone with whom I visited had a wonderful early season – lots of fancy grade syrup. I met Mr. Williams up on the hill outside of Craftsbury; he was transferring sap to the tank in his pickup truck. No, he wouldn’t mind if I followed him to the sugarhouse where he would fire up the arch and boil for the afternoon. There, he tended the fire, tested the specific gravity of his brew, cooked hotdogs on the firebox door, and eventually asked me if I wanted to “eat some syrup.” Nikon D200, Nikkor 12-24 zoom lens, SB800 Speedlight positioned up and to the left.
House With Spring Foliage, Moscow. 2008
One of my favorite subjects is spring foliage. It starts here in late April with a hint of red, easily seen if the trees are backlit. This photo was made late afternoon on the first of May. Wafting chimney smoke and a backlit American flag added interest to the scene. My friend Byron lived in this home when we were teenagers; he and his dad sparked my interest in fishing. He lost a son this spring, so I dedicate this photo to Hunter.
Spring Tulips and the Vermont Statehouse, Montpelier. 2008
In Montpelier, gardens line the sidewalk to the Statehouse; plantings are changed throughout the warmer months. The building is illuminated with spotlights at night, but the garden is not so well lit. I was able to “paint” tungsten light from a MiniMag flashlight (torch) during a 30 second exposure. I regret not being there earlier in the evening when more blue would have shown in the sky. Nikon D200, Nikkor 12-24 zoom lens at f/11. An overlooked tip for night photography: set your camera’s LCD to its darkest setting for image review. Otherwise you may judge an underexposed image to be brighter than it actually is. Even better: practice judging exposure by the histogram and flashing highlight tools; though not perfect, they’re more accurate than using relative brightness as a guide.
Rainbow Over Stowe Community Church. 2008
Coming out of a restaurant with my Mom one rainy afternoon, we saw the skies open and a big rainbow appear. I dashed to my car, hoping to find an appropriate scene and glad to have brought my DSLR. Driving down the Mountain Road into Stowe Village, the church appeared to the east, sunlit, with the rainbow nestled silently above its steeple. Nikon D200, Nikkor 24-85mm zoom lens, hand-held.
Stowe Balloon Festival. 2008
One of our favorite summer events is the local balloon festival. It’s held at the Stoweflake Resort where the owners are balloonists. The weather here may not be as predictable as Santa Fe's, but when it’s good, there’s no comparison. Nikon D200, Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 zoom lens.
Peacham Tractor Parade. 2010
Rebecca Morgan was here in her very first tractor parade, winning an award for the oldest tractor represented: a 1941 Allis-Chalmers C. This was my first time photographing the Peacham Independence Day parade. Every year I get to take in one or two Independence Day parades around the state, as they often fall on different days (this year I photographed three). For me, the sweet spot of every parade is the staging area. Everyone is friendly, there are lots of photo ops, and of course nothing is moving. Nikon D200, Nikkor 12-24 zoom lens, SB800 Speedlight (hand-held to the upper left) as fill flash. f/8, 1/250 sec.
Late Summer Hay Cut, Brownsville.
This is a three-part composite taken after sunset. Part one is the sky and moon with some background; part two is the light-painted trees and hay; part three is some additional foreground, lit from near the camera. When light-painting a landscape, it is usually necessary to wait until the sky is dark enough to allow a significantly long time exposure. If I’m set up early, I usually don’t proceed until I can get an eight-second exposure at about f/11, using ISO 100. Even at that, it’s not a long enough time to “paint” much with a spotlight, even one rated at 2-million candlepower. My best exposures come later in the evening, when I can open the aperture up to f/8 and extend my time exposure to 30 seconds. In large scenes, it’s worth having a wireless shutter release, such as the inexpensive Phottix unit, so one doesn’t have to run into a dark, uneven landscape to reach the starting position. Nikon D200, Nikkor 12-24 zoom lens.
Early Autumn in Smugglers Notch, Cambridge. 2008
I keep returning to The Notch to photograph car taillights at dusk – have done it since the 80’s. Photographing subjects like this is much the same as photographing fireworks – select an aperture based on your ISO and leave the shutter open long enough to capture your moving subject. One does have to select the time of day carefully however, as the determined exposure settings must also be correct to capture the scene’s ambient light. Nikon D200, Nikkor 12-24 zoom lens. f/10, 6 seconds, ISO 100. If you have difficulty determining the aperture for such subjects, just remember it’s going to be close to the square root of the ISO (in this case, ISO 100 = f/10).
Clayton Miller and Jack-O’-Lantern, Belvedere. 2008
In 2008, I began a personal documentary project called Stick Season. This term is regional at best, describing the season between the end of fall foliage and the first lasting snow of winter. I realize that describes entire winters for much of the US, but in northern climes, Stick Season is pretty well defined (roughly Columbus day to Thanksgiving). It was November 1, my first day out on the project. I was driving with Robert Wright when we stopped in at Tallman’s Store in Belvedere, Robert asked Clayton, a local resident, to pose for me; I’m shy enough that I might not have spoken up. Nikon D200, Nikkor 12-24 zoom lens, SB800 Speedlight held off camera as fill light.
Old Barn with Three Chairs, Grafton. 2008
I drove by this scene during a Stick Season jaunt into southeastern Vermont. It was hard not to find several suitable compositions from the roadside. This image plays around with vertical and horizontal lines, and the two windows. I can just imagine three elderly Vermonters seated in the chairs, once in a while chuckling, otherwise as quiet as the chairs themselves. Nikon D200, Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 zoom lens, Bogen #3050 tripod with #3039 three-way head.
Three Hanging Whitetail Buck, Windsor County. 2008
It was what I considered poor light - dim, overcast November light. My Stick Season outing to Addison County had yielded some interesting scenes, but it was getting dark; time to head home. I wasn’t really looking for more photo-ops, but some things just slap you aside the head. I pulled in and knocked on the deer camp door. The owner, a native Vermonter nearing 60, asked me why I was so interested in photographing their deer. I assured him that I was no anti-hunter, having bagged a buck once myself (though not so burly as these). He released me to the subjects but didn’t want credit for himself or his location; I agreed. This has become one of my favorite Stick Season photos. Nikon D200, Nikkor 12-24 zoom lens, SB800 Speedlight (with tin foil snoot) held off camera to the right as key light. f/5.6, 1/2 sec.
Antique Wagon in Snow, Waterbury Center. 2009
The fun about light painting is running back and forth, spotlight in hand, trying to pre-visualize the photo in a panicked thirty-second time span. This wagon had been in residence behind the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for years. When light-painting on snow, one has to be careful of blowing out (overexposing) the highlights. The lighting seems most interesting when it’s done from anywhere but the camera’s position; oblique angles tend to create interesting shadows and textures. The wagon was removed from its resting place in the spring. I was glad to have made both winter and summer shots of it before its demise. Nikon D200, Nikkor 12-24 zoom lens, 2 million candlepower battery-powered spotlight. f/16, 30 seconds, ISO 100.
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