Chasing the Aurora Borealis

The Northern Lights dance over the A.M. Foster Covered Bridge in Cabot, VT

The Northern Lights dance over the A.M. Foster Covered Bridge in Cabot, VT

On the night of June 22, 2015, residents of New England were treated to an extraordinary display of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).

This display was the result of a pair of Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) from a solar flare that left the sun four days earlier. I decided to head, with fellow photographer Mike Blanchette of Michael Blanchette Photography, to Cabot, Vermont and photograph the Aurora over the A.M. Foster Covered Bridge.

We arrived before dark to scout the location for interesting foregrounds for our compositions. While the Aurora was the main attraction, it’s always important to include an interesting foreground subject when considering composition. We knew ahead of time the waxing crescent moon would not be setting until nearly 11:00 pm possibly diminishing our view of the lights. The Aurora can be a fickle beast. Many times we have driven long distances and stayed out late, only to head home empty handed.  But on this night, the green glow above the horizon at dusk proved to be a harbinger of exciting things to come.

By 10:30 pm the sky was awash in green, purple and magenta lights, dancing and pulsating above our heads.  Typically in New England one can’t tell if the Aurora is active with the naked eye – a long exposure with your camera is the most reliable method.

On this night however, the light and colors were easily distinguishable just by looking at the dark sky. Typically, the settings I use for photographing the Aurora are f/2.8, ISO 3200, and a 25-30 second exposure using a wide angle lens.
The lights were so bright, I dropped my ISO to 2500 and my exposure time to 15-20 seconds. By 12:30 am, the clouds moved in and the lights were no longer visible. We both agreed this was one of the best Aurora displays we ever witnessed.

Northern Lights Over Foster Covered Bridge Cabot, VT  June 22nd 2015

Northern Lights Over Foster Covered Bridge Cabot, VT June 22nd 2015

Reflecting back, I’m amazed at how many times I caught myself just staring at the sky in awe, when I should have been clicking my shutter.  It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience (so far!).

Solar activity, in the form of earth-directed Coronal Mass Ejections, often referred to as CMEs and Coronal Winds, are what fuel the Aurora Borealis. Unfortunately, we are exiting the active period known as Solar Maximum, and entering a prolonged transition period of low solar activity until we reach Solar Minimum around 2020. As we move through this period, there will be fewer sunspots and solar flares resulting in fewer chances of seeing the Aurora. The next Solar Maximum is expected around 2031, so now is the time to get out and see the lights if you hear they might be visible!

The Northern Lights dance across the sky as a backdrop to the Foster Covered Bridge in Cabot Vermont.

The Northern Lights dance across the sky as a backdrop to the Foster Covered Bridge in Cabot Vermont.

Listed below are links to Facebook pages, websites, and phone apps that will educate you on the Aurora Borealis, AND notify you when there is a chance to view them here in New England.

Facebook Pages:
Solarham
Soft Serve News
Space Weather Live
Websites:
NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center
Phone Apps:
Aurora Forecast (Android)
Aurora Forecast (iphone)

Good luck and good Aurora shooting!

 John Vose

Jericho Hills Photography

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Posted in Artistic Vision, Covered Bridges, Creative Processing, Creativity, farms, Inspiration, Landscape, Moon, Nature, Night Photography, Northern Lights, Scenic New England, Vermont, Village, Wide Angle Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Now For Today’s Weather

Now For Today’s Weather

Weather or Not

Weather, we complain about it, check it daily on TV, and check it instantly on our smart phones. We hope it’s good when we’re planning a vacation, a wedding, a cookout etc. The weather impacts anything we do outdoors. If you’re an outdoor photographer, weather is one of the most important tools at your disposal. While you have no control over it, you can and should use it to your advantage whenever you plan on shooting outdoors. magalloway-2009 09 10 115_edited-3 A Sailor’s Life

From some of my earliest memories as a kid, weather has always been something I paid attention to. From an athlete’s standpoint, it affected any game I was playing outdoors. However, it was in 1962-at the age of 15 when I got my first sailboat, that I started to learn how to predict the weather. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Friends, who were commercial fisherman or farmers, already knew how to do it. I bought books on weather and learned how to predict fronts, wind, rain etc. While not terribly accurate it did save my butt a few times while out sailing.

High Noon

So what does this all have to do with photography? Absolutely everything. How many times have you seen a photograph on social media and it is getting some nice comments. It’s a nice photo technically but it lacks something, soul maybe. Many times I see a photo shot at high noon. It has good color, exposure etc. but it’s lacking something and that’s usually lighting. DCF 1.0 Better the Odds

So how can we increase our chances of finding that elusive “Lighting”? Simple, start paying attention to the weather. One of the greatest tools at your disposal-something that Ansel Adams and many of the other great photographers of yore never had-the smart phone and computer. You can now watch weather as it develops, in the palm of your hand. You can watch clouds approach, rain begin, end, lightning probabilities, solar storms that produce the aurora, moonrise, sunrise, clouds moving in or out. You can see what it’s doing 20 miles away and make a decision, “is it worth going’? “Should I try somewhere else”?

Web Cam Anyone

Web cams are another tool in predicting what the weather is doing in an area where you want to shoot. I love to shoot fog. Fog can be fleeting and unpredictable. I live about 18 miles from Newport, RI. I’ll shoot fog in the upper bay but sometimes it could be foggy in the lower bay. One easy way to tell is find web cams from restaurants, schools, weather stations etc. in the area you want to shoot and tune into it. You’ll get a real-time view of what’s going on.

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Radar

Weather radar could be the most important tool you have at your disposal when it comes to predicting lighting (and also lightning). Thunderstorms move in an out very quickly. They develop quick, move through your area quickly and depart quickly. If you’re trying to shoot lightning or rainbows you can increase your chances greatly by watching the storm approach and depart on radar. You can shoot the approaching storm, ride it out in your vehicle, and photograph it departing. You can also move to a new location for a better chance at a good composition if the storm seems to be moving into a scenic area. You can watch the back edge of the storm approach and get a sense if there is the chance of a rainbow. You need to be where you want to shoot when a rainbow develops. If you try to drive there once it develops, chances are you’ll be too late.

A bolt of lightning hits somewhere behind the Warren RI Waterfront.

A bolt of lightning hits somewhere behind the Warren RI Waterfront.

 

Weatherman

In this age of high-tech  gadgets you don’t need a college degree in meteorology to predict the weather. Everything you need is in your pocket or on your desk. I think if you start using these tools you’ll find that your odds of success will increase as your skill increases in your use of these available tools. So start predicting your own weather. Pretty soon you may have friends asking you; “Hey what’s it going to do this afternoon”?

Common Sense

As with all activities related to bad weather, common sense and caution must come into play. Many times storms that produce magical lighting can also produce dangerous weather. Pay attention to what’s going on and don’t take any undo  risks.

Butch Lombardi

www.eastbayimages.com

www.butch-lombardi.artistwebsites.com

Posted in Action Photography, Fine Art, Photography Knowledge, Photography Skills, Photography Technology, Predicting Weather, Rainbows, Sailing, Scenic New England, Tips, weather Tagged , , , , , |

My Favorite Stump

My Favorite Stump

Most photographers have a short list of favorite places they like to shoot. Within those favorites places, Photographers usually find a very specific subject or viewpoint. For me, one of my favorite places to photograph is Central Pond, aka Turner Reservoir, on the border between East Providence, RI and Seekonk, MA. My favorite thing to shoot there is a stump.

June 20, 2010 sunset over my favorite stump.

June 20, 2010 sunset over my favorite stump.

A Stump?

Yes, a stump. Along the banks of many ponds, you will find stumps. They are all that remains of mighty trees that have either fallen into the water or were cut down for one reason or another. Stumps can be very photogenic, and like most things in life (people, wine, etc) they develop much more character as they age.

July 4, 2010 sunset over my favorite stump.

July 4, 2010 sunset over my favorite stump.

The Discovery

I discovered this stump in the summer of 2010. My daughter was a year old, so most of my photo adventures were limited to places close to home. I had photographed one or two sunsets at Central Pond from the side of Newman Avenue. One particular night, the sky was looking very nice, so I took the short 3.5 mile drive and parked just past the boat ramp. I started looking for foreground subjects as I walked along the roadside. There was this small clearing in the brush, so I hopped the guard rail, and there was this stump.

Turner Reservoir Sunset

Vibrant sunset over the Turner Reservoir

It was perfect. The wood was weathered and smooth, yet still broken and gnarly. It had moss and small wildflowers growing on and in it. It was partly in the water, making the perfect foreground segue from land to water. I composed a few test shots, and waited for the sky.

central pond sunset

June 16, 2013 sunset over my favorite stump.

A Stump for all Seasons

I’ve returned to this stump several times each spring, summer and fall. After early October, the sun sets too far south for me to shoot here, so I haven’t paid her a visit during the winter yet. Summer is when the conditions are the best, the sun sets far enough North that you can compose this stump and get the sun in the photo.

central pond sunset

September 8, 2014 sunset over my favorite stump.

The absolute best part of this stump is the location. It is a 3.5 mile drive from my house, and despite how remote the location may look, the stump sits less than 10 feet from the guardrail along Newman Avenue. The downside is it sits less than 10 feet from the roadside, which means I usually have to clean up litter and trash before I shoot or do a lot of cloning in Photoshop.

central pond susnet

September 9, 2014 sunset over my favorite stump.

May 15, 2015 sunset over my favorite stump.

May 15, 2015 sunset over my favorite stump.

So the next time you’re out around a pond or river, don’t walk past the stumps. They might just turn into your favorite thing to shoot. If not, well I’d be stumped as to why. :)

~ Bryan Bzdula

www.bryanbzdulaphotography.com

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Posted in Landscape, Massachusetts, Nature, Rhode Island, Summer Tagged , , , , |

Help The Mt Washington Observatory And You Could Win A Print

 

Me standing proudly at the Mount Washington summit sign.

With your help I’ll be on the summit supporting the Mount Washington Observatory again this year.

 

Using Photography To Help Support A Worthy Cause.

As a New Hampshire based landscape photographer I’m not always interested solely in making a sale, but also in how I can use my talent as a photographer to support a cause I believe in. For me that cause is Mount Washington Observatory (MWOBS).

Perched high atop the 6,288 foot summit of the tallest peak in the Northeast, and known as “The home of the worlds worst weather,” since 1932 the non-profit  MWOBS has been performing weather research and observation under some of the most extreme weather conditions on the planet. In fact, it was in April of 1934 that the highest windspeed ever observed by man was recorded at a whopping 231 MPH, that’s some serious wind!

To continue this research MWOBS needs your help. Each year in July the Observatory holds Seek The Peak, a hike-a-thon to raise funds to help them continue their mission. This years hike is scheduled for Saturday July 18th.

Looking out over Pinkham Notch towards the distant mountains, the sun peeks over the far mountain ridge.

You gotta get on the trail pretty early to catch sunrise from above tree line. This is from last years Seek The Peak. From Harvard Rock on the Boott Spur Trail.

“How can I help?” you ask. The answer is simple.  Click HERE to support the MWOBS! and making a tax deductible pledge you’ll be among one of the many generous supporters who’ve helped keep the Observatory funded over the years.

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Still a long way to go. On the Boott Spur Trail (The large “hole” in the mid-ground is Tuckerman Ravine)

“What’s in it for me?” Fair question, and the answer is equally simple. For each $10 donation made HERE your name is automatically entered into a drawing for a signed 16″x24″ print. The winner will get to choose from among any of the photos found at www.jeffsinon.com.

Feeling really generous and want to take all the chance out of winning? For the person who makes the largest single donation you will automatically receive a signed 20″x30″ canvas gallery wrap of the image of your choice.

Still not enough? Not only do the winners each get to take home their own signed image, each lucky winner will receive a copy of “White Mountain Poems,” a book by New Hampshire author Jeffrey Zygmont.

White Mountain Poems Cover

 

 

Don’t wait!

There are less then three weeks left before this years July 18th Seek The Peak Event. In order for your donation to count you need to make your tax deductible donation by clicking HERE by Thursday July 16th.

Thank you! See you at the summit!!

Me standing on the real highest point on Mount Washington.

Me standing on the true highest point on Mount Washington.

By Jeff Sinon

www.jeffsinon.com

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Posted in Backcountry Travel, Mount Washington, New Hampshire, Scenic New England, Sunrise /Sunset, weather Tagged , , , , |

Newfane Vermont

 

Autumn Windham County Courthose, Newfane Vt

Windham County Courthouse

Newfane Vermont has long been one of my favorite nearby locations for exploration and, of course, photography. The town possesses the classic beauty of rural New England. It is notable for miles of rambling country roads and peaceful scenery, but Newfane is also the county seat and as the “Shire Town” has a perfectly arranged town center. Over the last couple of weeks, in preparation for this edition of my “Favorite Places”, I have been spending time re-exploring Newfane, and as usual, discovering new history and attractions in this place I thought I knew so well.

  • For more glimpses of Newfane’s beauty and history, check out the companion Image Album in  “Getting It Right in the Digital Camera” blog.
  • And the Newfane Gallery on my web site.

 

View South from Newfane Hill

View South from Newfane Hill & Old Newfane Site

When, in 1753, Governor Benning Wentworth chartered the town , it was named Fane after the Earl of Westmoreland, John Fane. Before the area could be settle, the French and Indian War intervened, preventing a town meeting within the required five years and the charter lapsed.  A new charter was issued in 1761 and, through a startling lack of originality, the town was renamed Newfane. The original village was located high on beautiful Newfane Hill, but, because of the difficulty of winter access, it was moved in 1825 to its current flatland location near the West River. Shortly after the relocation the town was named the Windham County seat and the classic courthouse building was constructed soon after.  Throughout its early history Newfane prospered, benefitting from rich soils for agriculture and livestock, and  abundant flowing water for various manufacturing.

 

Historical Society Bell

Historical Society Bell

Today tourists and photographers are attracted to the town center by the lovely arrangement of 19th century buildings, including classic churches, inviting Inns, a welcoming general store and, of course the impressive Windham County Courthouse.  Any photographic tour of Newfane should begin with a leisurely exploration of this quintessential New England village center. It is beautiful and, more importantly, gives me an excuse to, once again, use the word “quintessential”.  But Newfane’s back country attractions are no less interesting and are worth long rambles along its many winding country roads.

 

 

 

Civil War Statue, Green,Newfane, Vermont

War Memorial on the Green

Photographing Newfane Town Center
In addition to the various impressive individual buildings, the overall arrangement of the village next to Vermont’s Route 30, provides many opportunities for interesting views combining the complementary structures. The major challenges are dealing with the parked cars around the edges and, of course, the inevitable web of wires, which seems to contaminate every iconic New England town. The impact of these scars can be reduced through careful framing and the imposition of trees and other foliage, but eventually the decision must be made to leave the contamination or remove it through arduous post-processing.  I often start by planning to leave the intrusions alone, but as I study the images and work on perfecting their impact, the locations increasing become my own.   At that point, I usually settle in, grab a cup of coffee, and start removing those incongruous slashes.  Over the last days, I have been grabbing, foliage rich,  summer images of the center, but my favorite season is the autumn when the place glows with a special radiance.  Facing East the buildings are generally best illuminated in the warm morning light, but can also be framed by the evening golden and blue hours.

 

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Courthouse and Newfane Inn (Closed)

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Union Hall & First Congregational Church

 

The village center has undergone struggles in recent years. The Newfane Inn and the Country Store have closed but the general store remains busy and the elegant Four Columns Inn and Restaurant has just re-opened under new management.

 

 

 

 

Around the Green

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Four Columns Inn and Restaurant

The Windham County Courthouse was built in 1825 and is at the center of the village on a green which includes a Civil War Memorial and a somewhat incongruously decorated fountain. Arrayed around the green are the 1832 Union Hall, the 1839 First Congregational Church, the Four Columns Inn and Restaurant, and the Old Newfane Inn. The Four Columns is undergoing a major renovation and upgrade.  Rita Ziter, the Inn’s manager,  was happy to show me some of the beautifully designed modern and classic accommodations.  The dining room and lounge are still under construction, but I’m excited to see how the locally sourced food and warm atmosphere will come together on their opening, Four Columns Restscheduled for next month.   Across Route 30 is the Newfane Market,  a well stocked general store.    The Windham County Historical Society and the Newfane Café are just down the road.  The Historical Society building is filled with interesting artifacts and staff by friendly, helpful people who can assist you on your explorations.  Stop by the Café for a bite and a chance to try the “Coin Couch”  made from thousands of quarters by the local artist  Johnny Swing.  Really!  Settle your butt down and don’t worry, it’s actually comfortable and, of course, all the coins are “tails”.

 

Coin Couch, Newfane Café, Newfane Vt

Coin Couch, Newfane Café, Newfane Vt

 

Outside the Center

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Old Newfane Village Map, 2009

Beyond the village interesting explorations extend in every direction. Up the hill behind the general store lies the Newfane Cemetery. It is a poignant and peaceful spot which glows in the evening light. The West River can be seen from various points along both Route 30 and the River Road. Heading north Route 30 crosses the river before entering into Townsend.  Just before the bridge, a side road leads to a small cascade whose intensity varies depending the rain and run-off.  Newfane Hill is west of the village. There are lovely long views to the South at the Back Road, Newfane Hilltop of Newfane Hill Road and here also are the stone pillars that mark the location of Old Newfane Village. Even the whipping Post gets its own marker. When I was there last, 10 years ago, a sign carried a map of the old village, but things are overgrown and I didn’t find the sign on my visit last week. The remainder of the road is filled with rambling dirt backroad charm and, at the north end, small Kenny Pond offers the opportunity for a quick dip. The other day the water was surprisingly warm for this early in the season.

 

 

Newfane Village Cemetery, Newfane, Vermont

Newfane Village Cemetery, Newfane, Vermont

 

 

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Williamsville Covered Bridge

The Other Newfane’s
As is true of many New England towns, Newfane has a couple of separate and distinct villages. Both Williamsville and South Newfane are along the Dover Road,  south and west of Newfane’s center. Williamsville is notable for its 1870 covered bridge. I’ve always found it challenging to capture the bridge in unique ways, but last week I discovered nice back-lighting and captured some interesting perspectives from the edge of Rock River.

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South Newfane, Baptist Church

 

Newfane is full of New England charm. The Four Columns Inn described it as “the closest, authentic Vermont experience to New York or Boston” and although that claim might be debated, there is no question that Newfane is iconically New England and a great place for photographers to lose themselves

 

Baker Brook, Newfane, Vermont

Baker Brook, Newfane Vermont

 

 Jeff Newcomer
partridgebrookreflections.com

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