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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Good Day Sun. Goodnight Moon. Where Ya Gonna Be?

The Good Old Days – Not

Before computers and smartphones and the internet, we had this thing we called an “almanac” or, more precisely for me at least, “The Old Farmer’s Almanac.” It had all sorts of good things about the sun and the moon and the weather and it was correct at least 5% of the time. Okay, admittedly the sun and moon predictions were good, but it certainly didn’t take into account your exact location, nor plot the next Voyager mission, like a good smartphone will today.

The sun rising directly behind North Tower on Cape Ann's Thatcher Island.  At actual sunrise, it was well to the left of the lighthouse.

The sun rising directly behind North Tower on Cape Ann’s Thatcher Island. At actual sunrise, it was well to the left of the lighthouse.

So in those good old days, I would set out with my film camera and the knowledge gleaned from the “The Old Farmer’s Almanac” and I would do my best to try to figure out where the sun (or moon) was going to rise and set and what its likely arc through the sky would be. Then, I made sure I was wearing my sneakers so I could sprint to the right location when I invariably guessed wrong.

Where Ya Gonna Be?

Today, I stand in front of my tripod, hold out my iPhone against the horizon to see the sun or moon path plotted by time of day and then move until everything lines up with the composition I have in mind. I’ll also check it against the app- integrated compass (with its Google Earth overlay, of course) to make sure my relative position is also correct. It wasn’t an accident that I was knee-deep in Massachusetts’ Scituate Harbor (did I mention tide charts too?) with my tripod placed in the exact location where I could capture the moon behind the lighthouse as it rose and arced away toward the south (see image). Nor was it a coincidence when I placed myself in such a way that the morning sun was directly centered on the top of the North Tower on Cape Ann’s Thatcher Island (see image).

Old Scituate Light a few minutes after "moonrise".  The moon's path is arc upward and toward the right side of the frame as it rises.

Old Scituate Light a few minutes after “moonrise.” The moon’s path arc is upward and toward the right side of the frame as it rises.

Most photographers are familiar with The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE) – which also happens to be one of my favorite “go to” apps – but lesser known are the tools that show the projected 2-D stereographic projection arcs and locations of the sun and moon and can even give you 3-D views of the same.

2-D stereographic projection of the location of the moon from rise to set with compass, azimuth and elevation information.

2-D stereographic projection of the location of the moon from rise to set with compass, azimuth and elevation information.

I prefer “Sun Seeker” and “Moon Seeker” for iOS based devices (by ozPDA, click here to go to their website) which use the camera feature on your phone to visually show where the moon and sun are going to be at any given time relative to the horizon. But, there are similar apps for other smartphone operating systems.

3-D visual representation of the sun's path using the smartphone camera.

3-D visual representation of the sun’s path using the smartphone camera.

These tools completely take the guesswork out of determining where to place your camera and whether or not that hideous building under construction on the horizon will ruin your composition. There is some overlap of information among TPE, Sun Seeker and Moon Seeker but each has its own unique strengths and make an unbeatable combination.

Sun's path and elevation presented based on current (or plotted) GPS location.

Sun’s path and elevation presented based on current (or plotted) GPS location.

The only thing the almanac has over any of these apps is: I never cried  like a little baby when I dropped my almanac in the water.

Tom Gaitley

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Water Lilies – Wildflowers Worth Getting Wet For.

The wonderfully wet wildflower

Bright pink waterlily and and an unopened bud.

Of all the wildflowers gracing the wilds of New Hampshire, I would have to say the fragrant water lily is my favorite and most often photographed. They aren’t the rarest, or even all that hard to come by, there’s just something about those floating beauties that brings me to the water’s edge, and further, as soon as I see the pink and white buds emerging above the surface.

Two of the biggest things that attract me are availability and the length of the season.

First off, I drive by a large body of water, the Bellamy Reservoir in Dover and Madbury, NH, that is positively loaded with them. So no searching through the deep dark forest to find them.

 

Beautifully colored waterlilies rise above the lily pad covered surface of the water.

 

Second, unlike a lot of the other wildflowers I photograph, the water lilies are around all summer long. There’s no need for me to check in on my regular wildflower hot-spots, like say for painted trillium or lady’s slippers, to see how they are coming along to ensure I don’t miss their short-lived bloom.

The water lilies are around in all their hot pink and brilliant white glory from late June through early to mid September. Which leaves plenty of time to photograph them.

The most common color, at least as far as the bodies of water where I’ve seen them are concerned, seems to be a brilliant white. But it’s the hot pink ones that really catch my eye, which is why the Bellamy Reservoir is my favorite water lily photographing location. While almost every other place where I’ve found water lilies has nothing but white flowers, close to half the lilies floating on the Bellamy Reservoir are hot pink.

Getting water lilies means getting wet

Hot pink water lilies dot the green lily pad covered surface.

Sure you can photograph water lilies while staying dry on the shore, but where’s the fun in that? Call me crazy, and many have, but for the right flower, group of flowers, or composition, I’ll be the one standing waist deep in the water looking through a camera. And yes, I get a lot of odd looks from the passing motorists and fisherman.

 

Close up of a brilliantly white water lily on a black background

Getting your feet wet

1 – First and foremost, make sure you’ve emptied your pockets of anything even remotely valuable. Cell phones, car remotes, and your wallet would much rather stay dry I assure you.

2 – Get there early, but not too early. Water lilies don’t fully open until later in the morning, maybe an hour after sunrise, so no need to be there at the crack of dawn.

3 – The wind is your enemy. The motion from even the slightest wave you might create, no matter how still you think you’re standing, will create at least ripples on the water. That is going to add enough of a challenge to getting good sharp images. Fighting with the wind is going to most likely be an exercise in frustration.

4 – Which brings me to my next point. Keep the shutter speed up. Don’t be afraid to bump up the ISO in order to achieve a faster shutter speed to freeze any motion caused by wind or waves. Picking a flower or flowers surrounded by a lot of lily pads can help too. The lily pads will help to dampen the effect any small ripples you make has on the flowers.

5 – This is purely for the cool factor. When framing up the shot on a water lily that hasn’t fully opened, while looking through your viewfinder, you can actually see the stamen moving as the flower opens. The first time I saw it happening I was mesmerized. Now I take a little time to watch things unfold every time I’m photographing them.

And now one last thing, you would think with a name like “fragrant water lily” I could tell you how wonderful they smell. Would you believe I have yet to remember to even once stop and smell the flowers?

 

~ Jeff Sinon

 

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