Migration of the Snow Geese

A flock of Snow Geese fly above Dead Creek

A flock of Snow Geese fly above Dead Creek

Birders speak of “magnets” for birds. The marshes of Dead Creek WMA are one such magnet. They sit along a major migratory route for snow geese heading south to the Chesapeake Bay area. Each autumn these geese leave their breeding grounds along the Greenland coast using northeastern waterways as their navigational aids. They follow the St. Lawrence Valley then hang a left and follow the Champlain Valley to the Hudson and the Atlantic coast. Vermont has two traditional rest-spots along this interstate in the sky — the Missiquoi NWR at the north end of Lake Champlain and Dead Creek WMA in Addison County.

Years before my wife and I made our first trip to see the Snow Geese, we did a family bike ride with our two daughters along the roads of this area. We passed impressive signs below Addison saying “Wildlife Viewing Area.” But we were confused; we saw no wildlife at all. It seems the best time to see the geese is late October.

Addison Vermont at sunset from near the Snow Geese viewing area

Addison, Vermont, at sunset from near the Snow Geese viewing area

Most adult snow geese are large and white. The immature snows are grayish. They fly in close-knit family units consisting typically of two adults and three young snows. It is unusual to see a single snow goose take off or land. They travel as a family or large groups of families.

A Snow Goose glides in for a landing

A Snow Goose glides in for a landing

Serious photographers view the snow geese at the crack of dawn. One can find lodging north on Route 7 in Ferrisburgh. There are numerous restaurants in tiny Vergennes, “the smallest city in the country.” We did this in a very unplanned fashion on our first trip. You can read about our adventure and see more photos HERE.

The photo below was used on the 2014 Vermont Fish and Game Calendar.

Snow Geese land in the fog

Snow Geese land in the fog

~ Jim Block

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20 Ocean Sunrise Shooting Tips

This gallery of photos were shot over a 2-hour stretch on August 15 beginning at 5:15 am and finishing around 7:30 am.

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Below are 20 quick sunrise ocean shooting tips. None is ground breaking, but they are a good summary of the common sense, and not so common sense, tips and hints I’ve gathered in my years shooting ocean seascapes.

  1. Pick Your Location ahead of time. You will be arriving in the dark. Especially on the potentially slippery and rocky New England coasts it is important to have a good idea where you will be shooting, and its geography, before you get there.
  2. Check the Weather! Then check it again just before bed. Nothing is a bigger bummer than driving 1.5 hours in the middle of the night only to find a totally bland sunrise . . . or torrential rain, or socked in with fog. Well, fog is fun ;->
  3. Even more important than weather is the Tide. Check local tide charts. I have places I shoot only at high tide. Or low tide. Or receding tides. All images in this post were shot over a 2.5 hour period beginning 2 hours after high tide. Even beginning 2 hours after high tide I was walking directly against the Ogunquit Rivermouth seawall at the beginning of the shoot. And 2.5 hours later was maybe 200 yards seaward. New England beaches have dramatic tides!
  4. Even more important than weather and tides in determining where I’ll shoot is the Swell. Check local boating and surf forecasts for current and upcoming swell information. More than almost anything, the size of swell determines where I will choose to shoot. Big swell = big fun!
  5. Pack the night before. I live 1.5 hours inland. If I shoot a coastal sunrise during most of the summer I am leaving home around 3:30am. Packing the night before is an absolute necessity for me to leave (nearly) on time.
  6. Coffee. Lots of it. Enough said.
  7. Arrive Early. Really Early! Really, really early. I try to arrive where I will shoot at least an hour before sunrise. More if I have any hike in to the location. Already, an hour before sunrise, unless cloud cover is extremely heavy, or there is a thick layer of fog, you will begin to get the early morning blues.
  8. Bring a flashlight or headlamp! If you don’t bring it, you will need it. My favorites these days are the tiny Petzl Tikkas. They are small enough that one lives in my bag at all times.
  9. Use a tripod! Always. Always. Okay, unless shooting pan blurs. But I use a tripod shooting pan blurs too.
  10. Use a shutter release cable or a self-timer. And mirror lockup or shoot using Live View. Don’t know what mirror lock up is? Here’s a little article: http://www.cameratechnica.com/2011/04/26/dslr-mirror-lock-up-worth-the-effort-or-not/.
  11. Bring multiple lenses! If you got ‘em, use ‘em. This morning I used a 14mm, a 17-40, a 70-200, and an 85 prime. By far the most used was my go-to 17-40. But all lenses got some good use.
  12. Filters! I love filters, and always have a few with me. A CPL is always mounted on my wide angle. At the break of dawn it is not very useful, but within an hour it is. I also travel with several solid and graduated NDs. For solid NDs I regularly use a 2-stop, a 4-stop, and a ten-stop depending on the effect I want to create – anything from slightly blurring moving water with the 2-stop to dramatically blurring moving water and clouds with a ten-stop.
  13.  Bring rain gear! Even on mornings with no predicted precipitation a short dawn downpour is not unusual. My camera bag has a ‘raincoat’ tucked in a bottom pocket, and I often carry a small umbrella out shooting.
  14. Experiment with shutter speeds. Find compositions that include moving water then experiment with different shutter speeds. A fast shutter speed will freeze moving water and dramatically highlight big splashing waves. A slow shutter speed will blur and soften moving water and clouds. Changes of even a quarter second can give radically different results.
  15. Look behind you! It is very easy to get sucked in to a sunrise and forget to look around. Look around. It is worth it.
  16. Stay longer than you would expect. If there are any clouds in the sky the drama of a good sunrise can go on for hours. On my last sunrise shoot I shot from 5:00am (with a 6:10 sunrise) until almost 8:00 am. Every 15 minutes had dramatically different and exciting light.
  17. Don’t be afraid to include people in your shots. As landscape shooters we most often try to exclude people from our photos. Fishermen and beachcombers can add interest to our images.
  18. As the sun gets higher in the sky look for reflections. I love shooting beaches with an outgoing tide around an hour after sunrise. Tidal pools light up with gorgeous reflections!
  19. Don’t forget the macro. I always forget the macro on beach shoots. And I’m always sorry. Intimate landscapes and rockscapes are some of my favorite images.
  20. Breakfast! A delicious breakfast after several hours shooting is superb! Especially if you can talk another dawn shooter into paying. Anybody want to go shoot?

I hope you find these tips helpful. Get out and shoot!

~ Scott Snyder

www.scottsnyderphotography.com

https://www.facebook.com/scottsnyderphotography

 

 

Autumn’s Arrival in New England

Autumn’s Arrival Is Just Around The Corner!

We all know there are hundreds if not thousands of great spots throughout New England and I bet some would say thousands in each state! But since I’m not here to write a book… (yet) here are a few that I like to hit and the dates that I normally find good to great fall foliage.

Stark, NH – Autumn Colors, October 1st

the stark covered bridge and stark church which are side-by-side in stark New Hampshire are one of the few occurrences of each church and a covered bridge being next to each other and often being photographed together at the same time due to their proximity the fall foliage on the double slide is close to showing peak fall colors on 1st of October

Devil’s Slide rises above Stark covered bridge and church which seems fitting somehow.

Around October 1st (give or take a few days) Stark, New Hampshire, combines fall foliage colors on the hills that rise dramatically above the Stark covered bridge and church.

You follow Route 110 and pull into the small parking lot next to the covered bridge or church. Generally I’ve found that the best spot for photographing the covered bridge and church at the same time is to climb up the opposite hill which is a cemetery. Please be respectful of the residents of the cemetery and stay on the paths as you see them.

Autumn's arrival at the Stark  covered bridge

Autumn’s arrival at the Stark covered bridge

I found several different aspects for catching the covered bridge and the church in the same shot, all of which are overshadowed by the Devil’s Slide (I haven’t found a true name for the hill except that Devil’s Slide State Park is right behind the Stark covered bridge). Either way the hill rising a few hundred feet above the bridge makes for a dramatic backdrop with the New England fall colors.

Other places to shoot from can be found by walking down the road and to the river’s edge to get the horizontal view of the covered bridge with other autumn colored hills in the background. I also like to walk through the covered bridge to the inn on the far side and photograph it from that angle.

If you’d like a good scenic drive to follow that includes a stop at the Stark covered bridge, then please follow this link to my fall foliage website. The enclosed route has three covered bridges, three churches, one stone tower, and one Grist Mill (really in Vermont but well worth the side trip).

 

Northfield, VT – Autumn Colors, September 27th

the slaughterhouse covered bridge is one of five bridges near Northfield Vermont and Norwich University if photographed late September to early October you have a good chance of capturing peak fall foliage in Vermont

Slaughterhouse covered bridge

The Northfield 5 (as I refer to them) are five red covered bridges in and around Northfield, Vermont, home of Norwich University. Northfield is the second town in Vermont to lay claim to five covered bridges in its vicinity. I’ve photographed four of the five bridges and have plans to drive up the first week in October and get the Moseley covered bridge, also known as the Stony Brook covered bridge. (Maybe I’ll see you there.)

the lower Cox broke bridge as seen from the Northfield covered bridge

The lower Cox Brook bridge as seen from the Northfield covered bridge.

Route 12A cuts through Northfield, Vermont, and depending on which direction you’re coming from will determine in which order you catch the covered bridges. For argument’s sake I’m just going to assume you’re coming in from the southwest so the first covered bridge that you come to is the Stony Brook covered bridge. This will be just after you pass by the Northfield Golf Course and on your left you will see Stony Brook Road. Take the left but be careful of the road conditions. The covered bridge is 8/10 of a mile up the road.

Now you retrace your steps and continue back on Route 12A, heading into Northfield. As you pass the college set your trip counter and look for it to hit 2 miles. On your left you should see Slaughterhouse Road. Take the left and follow it a short distance and you will be at the bridge. You can park on either the near side or far side, it’s your call.

I suggest driving through the covered bridge to the far side and up the hill a little ways. There’s no traffic to speak of since the slaughterhouse that the road is named after has been out of business for many years. Also the bridge is more photogenic from the far side than the near side. You may have heard me once or twice tell you to work the scene and this is one of those times.

the upper Cox Brook covered bridge is placed high above the river after was nearly knocked off its foundations during super storm Sandy

The upper Cox Brook covered bridge as seen in November

I want you to go downstream from the covered bridge and it’s a fairly easy walk to follow along the pool underneath the covered bridge walking to the far side. If you go a little bit further you’ll see what I think is the best view of this covered bridge. There is a small set of rapids where the pool falls quickly several feet and runs among boulders. You also have the covered bridge above this in the distance. I got here too early (September 23, 2013) but this year it may be much better by late September.

The final three covered bridges are up Route 12A on the next left. The first bridge you come to is the Northfield covered bridge and if you angle yourself right you’ll be able to see the lower Cox Brook bridge from the first bridge. After you’ve captured these two, drive up the road to the upper Cox River bridge. You probably should drive through it and then you’ll find some places to pull off, past the bridge.

So that gives you the Northfield 5 and your target dates are somewhere between the last week in September to the first few days in October for peak fall foliage color with your red covered bridges.

 

My Fall Foliage Forecast for New England

I suspect that this year (which seems to be a little cooler than average) may give this amount of coloration anywhere from 3 to 5 days earlier than October 1st. But keep an eye on the weather and the temperatures and the amount of sun that New England gets during September because this will influence the fall colors’ arrival. My goal is to give you advice on where to put yourself to have the best chance of finding the fall colors. I doubt I can point to a map for any given date and say here it will be peak! But I might be able to say, if you put yourself in this location you should find yourself within a very short drive of peak fall colors. (I hear Mother Nature laughing in the background at me and that’s never good.) :-)

Links on my website to help you get the most out of your fall foliage vacation:

Link to The art of getting lost

Link to My definitions of peak fall foliage

Link to my foliage locations by state.

*All dates are approximate and can change from year to year.

 

~ Jeff Foliage
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A.M. Foster Covered Bridge, Cabot Vermont

Cabot Vermont is known around the world as the home of Cabot Cheese. But Cabot is also home to a very unique covered bridge that is unblemished by power lines, guard rails or other eyesores. The A.M. Foster Covered Bridge is an authentic reproduction of the Orton or Martin covered bridge currently located in Marshfield, Vermont. The Foster bridge was built in 1988 by Richard Spaulding, Frank Foster, and Doug Blondin, and named in honor of Spaulding’s great grandfather who owned the land on which the bridge now sits.

The Milky Way rises over Foster Covered Bridge in Cabot, Vermont. There are stars,trees,green grass and light pollution visible. The milky way is orange,purple, and white

The Milky Way rises over A.M. Foster Covered Bridge in Cabot, Vermont.

The bridge, located on private property, sits over a pond in the middle of a beautiful field, directly across from the Cabot Plains Cemetery on Cabot Plains Rd, in Cabot, VT. (GPS 44°25’22.0″N 72°16’02.0″W). The location alone makes it a worthy photographic destination in any season and all hours of the day or night. That being said, I strongly suggest utilizing The Photographer’s Ephemeris to help you plan your visit.

Sunrise:  

I have made several trips here to capture sunrise, and have been thwarted by weather each time. However, other photographers have made stunning sunrise images here. Depending on how wide your lens is, the shot is typically taken from the road side so you catch the light reflecting off the side of the bridge as the sun rises over the White Mountains of New Hampshire. You will want plenty of clouds in the sky to provide color and contrast.

Sunset:

The sun will be setting along the iconic Green Mountains behind the bridge. You have plenty of options here. Again, depending on how wide your lens is, you can photograph from the road side and include the whole scene, or get close to the pond and capture the bridge and the setting sun reflecting in the still water.

 

 

Night Sky:

Vermont is blessed with many areas suitable for night photography, and this is one of my favorite. Here the skies are dark and the stars are bright! The location is perfect for photographing the Milky Way, the full moon, or if you’re lucky enough, the Northern Lights. Since there is complete access around the bridge, no matter where in the night sky your subject sits, you can use the covered bridge as foreground.

As I mentioned, the bridge is located on private property but the public is welcome to enjoy the location. Please tread lightly and leave it cleaner than you found it. While in Cabot, be sure to stop by the Cabot Creamery, and keep your eyes open as you travel as the area is a gold mine of old barns and scenic vistas just waiting to be photographed.

I’ll be back to photograph the sunrise, I hope to see you there!

~ John Vose

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New England’s Fall Foliage Geography

As the recent presence of early colorful fallen leaves in our woodlands and wetlands indicates, another New England foliage season is fast approaching. In upcoming weeks, millions of tourists and residents alike will venture across the region to enjoy the spectacle. One way to increase your chances of finding much-coveted ‘peak’ foliage is to simply know the basic forest communities and their species. In spite of its relatively small geographic area, New England has a wide range of natural habitats and their associated forests, which are influenced by elevation and climate. Each of these has its own foliage timing – you’re unlikely to find a southern oak forest at peak in late September, or a red maple wetland ablaze with color in late October. Below is a brief overview of the region’s primary foliage communities (note that peak times are general and may vary depending on seasonal weather conditions).

Red Maple Wetlands

Red maple wetlands may show color before Labor Day.

Red maple wetlands may show color before Labor Day.

Though these aren’t specific to a particular geographic area, I’ve included them because of their distinct timing and bright colors. These ponds, swamps, bogs, beaver wetlands, and streams are generally the first areas where foliage is noticeable. Stressed wetlands may show color as early as late July or August in certain years, and foliage enthusiasts should keep watch from Labor Day weekend onward. Red maples are one of the Northeast’s most common and adaptable trees, which is why they tolerate seemingly inhospitable environments.

 

 

Northern hardwood forests are characteristic of upland regions.

Northern hardwood forests are characteristic of upland regions.Northern Hardwoods

Northern Hardwoods

Regarded by many as the most vibrant foliage zone, this region stretches across the uplands of northern and western New England, including much of interior Maine and Vermont, northern and western New Hampshire, the northern Berkshires of Massachusetts, and a sliver of Connecticut’s northwest hills. Maples, birches, and beech are the primary broadleaf species, and offer a bright mix of orange, yellow, and red hues. On the upper slopes of the high mountains, the hardwoods transition to evergreen spruce-fir, and, on the highest peaks, alpine zones. This is the first of the significant forest communities to reach peak, generally in late September and early October.

 

 

The upper Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts lies within the 'transition' forest region.

The upper Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts lies within the ‘transition’ forest region.

Transition Forest

Befitting its name, this region is a mix of northern and southern New England forest types, where maples, birches, beeches, oaks, and hickories overlap. It includes the uplands of central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, the central Connecticut River Valley, the Litchfield Hills of northwest Connecticut, and a portion of southern Maine. Look for peak color here around Columbus Day weekend, after the northern mountains are past peak.

 

 

Oak Hickory

In contrast to the northern hardwoods, oaks and hickories favor milder lowland environments. This zone encompasses most of Connecticut and Rhode Island, along with portions of the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine coasts. Though not quite as colorful as other regions, these woodlands offer welcome late season foliage in mid-late October after leaves have dropped elsewhere.

 

Late October fall foliage, Nauset Marsh, Cape Cod National Seashore.

Late October fall foliage, Nauset Marsh, Cape Cod National Seashore.

Oak Pine

The sandy, impoverished soils of Cape Cod, southeast Massachusetts, and northern Rhode Island offer the region’s least hospitable growing conditions. Scrub (or ‘bear’) oak is one of the few species adapted to this environment. In addition to the oak groves, watch for colorful marshes and shrubs as the season draws to a close in November.

 

 

~ John Burk

 

John Burk is the author of several books and guides related to New England. See his Amazon page for more information. 
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