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Tag Archives: Spring
Early March is traditionally the “Enough is Enough” season in New England, and this year, more than usual, we have enjoyed more than enough of the glories of winter. The photographic opportunities in winter are like no other time of the year with the snow cover and the special light transforming and simplifying the landscape into its essence of line and form. Every year, I become excited about the onset of winter and impatient for the first snows, but now I’m done and it is time for the remarkable explosion of spring to take command. After last year’s depressingly bitterly cold winter, I practiced, early March, “Blog Therapy” by publishing a spring preview with some of my favorite images. As this winter begins to break, the need for a breath of sweet renewal seems no less imperative. So here, primarily for my own desperate benefit, I have collected a few images from last spring. It IS coming! De-ice your gear and get prepared. It will soon be time to switch from monochromatic black and white to the glory of the infinite variety of shades of green.
Even before the snow has fully melted away we will see the buds emerging in their desperate attempt to gain a head start on the short growing season. Last year I focused on macro shots of the early sprouts which explode in a remarkable variety of bizarre forms and colors. It lasts only a few days, but it is almost a disappointment when the leaves mature into the comparatively dull flat forms that will dominate the majority of the summer.
Falling Water Season
Early spring is often described as “Mud Season.” Struggle as I may I have found few ways to make muddy roads and pastures appear photographically attractive. It is much like the desolation of late fall “Stick Season,” but the saving factor in the spring is the glory of the falling water. All that melting snow mixes with the spring rain to cause torrential leaks in our roofs, but it also fills the many brooks and streams to reveal our waterfalls to their thunderous best. Many waterfalls that had dwindled to an insignificant trickle in late summer will roar to life in a few weeks.
Last spring I set myself on a quest to highlight many of my favorite waterfalls in the Monadnock Region and to discover others about which I had only heard rumors.
I published several articles about the falling waters including one covering many of my favorite waterfalls in Cheshire County. My most challenging quest was to find the elusive Pulpit Falls in Winchester New Hampshire. It took three trips, bushwhacking through the deep snow and following a number of false leads, but I was finally led by the thunder into the small valley which hides this beautiful falls. It was worth the struggle and as a bonus, while Nellie and I were exploring the cascades, we met Kris Smith, of Wicked Dark Photography. It was Kris’ blog article that initially triggered my obsession to find the falls. Where else but in New England could you stumble across your goal and the muse who led you to it at the same time. On other explorations I was able to find Fay Falls in Walpole, NH and the waterfall at Ashuelot Gorge in Gilsum, New Hampshire.
Spring Leafscapes, The Second Autumn
Every spring I am freshly entranced by the infinitely varied palate of greens which burst across our forests. The colors are as exciting in their soft and delicate tones as are the garishly brilliant colors of our New England autumn. Last spring I took the time to truly notice the early colors and I posted some of my favorites in an article which zoomed in on the “Spring Leafscapes.” Of course the advantage of the spring colors is that, after they fade, we don’t find ourselves immediately saddled with the chore of raking them up.
What can I say about the spring explosion of wildflowers. Only that their shamelessly profligate display of color is the perfect antidote to the dull monotones of the long winter. Last spring I discovered the Fox Forest in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. On a couple of early spring hikes through this varied and lovely forest I was able to sample a number of the areas wildflowers including a few varieties of Trillium and the tiny White Star. Along the trail, I was helped in identifying the lavish flora by Kris Smith who has a remarkable depth of knowledge about the plants of the New England forests. Every spring I also accompany my wife to Walker Farm in Dummerston, Vermont where I practice flower photography larceny by capturing the beautifully prepared flowers in the soft light and calm winds found in the farm’s green house. Forgive me.
Spring is also a time to celebrate new and refreshed animal life, both wild and domestic. It is inspiring to share in the excitement of the horses, cattle and sheep as they frolic in the sweat new grass of their pastures, and there is no more dramatic example of this enthusiasm than the “Annual Dancing of the Ladies” at the Stonewall Farm in Keene, New Hampshire. Every spring, on a day set by the greening of the pastures, the public is invited to witness the crazy antics of the cows as they are released from the barn for the first time to graze on the fresh grass. It has become a community rite of spring to watch these normally placid animals jump and prance through the field. The running, leaping and head bumping last only a few minutes before the cows return to their normal semi-comatose status, but as compensation for the briefness of the entertainment, the farm provides a delicious pancake breakfast. Sadly, last year, I missed the dancing ladies, but I’ll be watching for the announcement of the date of this year’s festivities.
One of my favorite local farms is Roads End in Chesterfield, New Hampshire. The farm keeps over 60 horses for their summer riding camp and it is a pleasure to see the animals gleefully reclaim their rolling pastures.
The non-domesticated New England wildlife is more difficult to capture but no less enthusiastic about surviving another bitter winter. Each spring I watch for the foxes, deer, turkeys and the Bald Eagles, who become more active along the lakes and the Connecticut River as the ice begins to open.
Of course the most prevalent and annoying of our spring visitors are the Black Flies. They are New Hampshire’s unofficial state “bird,” far too easy to find but difficult to photograph, except in the, much preferred, squashed mode.
I hope this glimpse of last year’s spring will be a welcomed escape from our “Enough is Enough” season and that it will prepare you to fully appreciate the glories that are to come.
For more images of the coming awakening, check out my Spring Album on my Getting it Right in the Digital Camera Blog.
Spring Links 2014
- I’m Done 3/9/14
- Waterfall of Cheshire County 4/13/14
- Finding Pulpit Falls, Possibly 4/6/14
- Pulpit Falls, Finally 5/4/14
- Fay Falls, Ashuelot Gorge 5/11/14
- Early Spring Macro Photography 5/18/14
- Spring in the Fox Forest & Gleason Falls 5/25/14
- Zooming in on Spring Leafscapes 6/1/14
- Noone Falls and My Sad Camera Bag 6/8/14Partridge Brook Reflections Spring Gallery
~ Jeffrey Newcomer
As anyone who lives in New England is all too aware, the long winter of 2013-14 was followed by an unusually cold early spring that delayed the onset of the growing season in many areas. However, moderating temperatures in recent weeks have induced a late but rich and colorful wildflower season. The good news is, if you haven’t had a chance to get out and search for some of the spring ephemerals, many of the early species are still flowering as of this writing (May 13). Many trees have yet to leaf out, allowing plenty of light to reach the forest floor.
Early Season Species
Among the early season species that have been flourishing in the hills of western Massachusetts are red trillium, bloodroot, round-lobed hepatica, trout lily, spring beauty, Dutchman’s breeches, and the familiar violets and bluets. The most productive areas are hills and valleys with nutrient-rich soils and streams. One example is Bartholomew’s Cobble in the southern Berkshires town of Sheffield, MA, where limestone knolls on the banks of the Housatonic River host a remarkable variety of more than 800 plant species in a compact geographic area.
A Fun Treasure Hunt
While the ephemerals aren’t always easy to find, searching for them in the forest is a fun treasure hunt. With a careful eye, you may discover rare or unusual treats such as the uncommon yellow-phase red trillium shown here. As the season progresses, the next round of woodland species to watch for includes painted trillium, fringed polygala, columbine, and pink lady’s slippers. Wetlands will also come alive during this time with the blooms of blue flag iris, yellow lady’s slippers, wild calla, northern pitcher plants, sundews, and rare showy lady’s slippers, which generally flower in mid to late June.
Fields and Meadows
After the spring ephemeral season draws to a close, the fields and meadows take over and offer abundant flower viewing throughout the summer months. While not all of the species, such as the lupines shown here, are native to New England, they serve as a much-needed food source for pollinating insects and plenty of photo opportunities. One story to keep an eye on in upcoming weeks will be the status of Monarch butterflies, which suffered a significant decline in 2013.
~ John Burk
John Burk is the author of several books and guides related to New England. See his Amazon page for more information. Visit his John Burk gallery Visit his website for current images http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/john-burk.html
Against All Odds, Loons survive
So far this summer, the wind, rain, and thunder storms have been difficult not only for our spirits in the North East, but for the hatching of our nesting loons. Despite the threat of rising water levels, many of the loons have successfully hatched. The pair I have been observing, hatched in the nick of time — temperature in the mid fifties, forceful winds, and a surge of constant battering waves could have wiped them out completely at any time. Their nest site was only two inches from the water at the peak of the floods. One day as I checked on them, an adult loon and then a second adult came around the island. As they swam closer, I could see two little chicks bobbing between them. The family swam on, staying close to each other, relocating to a nearby cove where they would raise their chicks. They made it against the odds.
Why do loons nest on the edge of lakes?
Loons have large bodies, making it cumbersome to walk on land. They build their nests on the edge of lakes for safety — should a predator appear they can quickly slip out of the nest into the water.
Downy Black Fluffy Balls
According to the Maine Audubon Society, “Newly hatched loon chicks are downy black fluffy balls that weigh roughly a quarter of a pound, the same as a stick of butter. They can swim right away, and will try to dive, though they have trouble staying under water for very long. They may feed themselves insects from the surface of the water but rely on their parents for food. By two weeks of age they gain about seven times their body weight. That’s like a baby growing to the size of a third grader in just fourteen days! ”
Why do loon chicks ride on their parents’ backs?
It’s chilly in early summer — water temperatures are not quite like July. Loon chicks cannot maintain their own body temperatures just yet, similar to human newborn humans.
They are not able to swim as fast as their parents — they need to stay close for survival. Parents will invite them under their wing when they need to move quickly away from danger.
Snapping turtles and big fish are threats to little chicks.
Bald Eagles can spot a meal a mile away, which is another reason for riding on the back. Loons are fierce fighters when they have to protect their young.
One day on the lake I was stunned to see chick #1 attack his sibling with a vengeance — pecking the top of his head with a gleam in his eye. When his parents surfaced he quickly changed his demeanor like he was an angel waiting for them. Chick #2 was a little dazed, but recovered quickly. I have not seen this before and since found out it’s fairly common. Just like in human families, loon brothers and sisters don’t always get along. The chick that hatches first generally is the bigger chick and what starts out as a tiny difference can quickly turn into a big advantage because the bigger (often the more aggressive one) can beg for more food from its parents. If the parents don’t catch enough food for both chicks, chances are the bigger chick will be the only one to survive.
It is a tough go for loons. Even if they stick close to their parents, the chance of chicks surviving through their first few weeks is quite low. Statistics say only 25% make it through the summer.
Symbol of the Northern Wilderness
I feel fortunate to be able to sit quietly in my kayak with my telephoto lens, at a distance from the loons (on a lake where many people kayak, so the loons are used to it) and watch them for hours. It is hard to describe the feeling like you are immersed in the loon’s world — truly a privilege. It has been said that no animal better symbolizes northern wilderness than the common loon, except perhaps moose!
One of the most interesting parts of being a nature photographer is the act of using the camera to take control of nature for a split second in time. Or, in the case of waterfalls, 1/25 of a second (or thereabouts, depending). Many of us use a combination of equipment and post production technique to bring our own perspective of the natural world into our collections. Here in New Hampshire, that natural world I speak of is starting to get very, very green. It’s great for the spirit, and a welcome sight for me and my lenses.
Even through spring has completely “sprung” in Southern New Hampshire, it’s still slowly coming along here in the White Mountains. In the past two weeks, we’ve experienced temperatures in the low 20’s at night, and the mercury has struggled to climb into the mid 40’s during the day (we’ve also seen a couple of days in the high 70’s, but that’s besides the point). The emerald spring foliage that the high hills are known for needs rain and warm weather to really start to pop; both are just now beginning to take place. However, I can assuredly say that within the next week or so, “Stick Season” will essentially be over. That means that waterfalls and wildflowers are on everyone’s mind.
Cabin Fever and The Waterfall Problem
With respect to New Hampshire’s waterfalls, one mistake that many photographers and enthusiasts make is researching too early (thanks mostly to cabin fever) and therefore getting into the field too early. Bare branches do not lend themselves to creating a lovely spring waterfall scene, and a little patience goes a long way. By and large, this patience also helps with overcoming a second side effect of an early waterfall adventure — too much water due to late winter/early spring runoff. With shutter speeds of a quarter second and up, a massive amount of water can cause blown-out highlights within your composition.
Just a Few Words on Technique and Equipment
When the time is right, that is, when you are ready and the falls are ready, there are some widely accepted principles that tend to work well in waterfall photography. While these tips might be an insult to the advanced photographer’s intelligence, they will help to get the novice up and running for their first successful waterfall shots. For starters, always bring a tripod. Also plan on getting it wet. You simply cannot handhold a camera at the shutter speeds needed to produce a silky and majestic look to your waterfall composition. And when I discuss composition, you’ll understand why it’s important to plan for a moderate soaking.
Consider a filter or two. A polarizer is always a safe bet since it will help you to take the glare off the water and wet trees and rocks. A neutral density filter will let you get a lot more drag out of your shutter. Stacking is okay, just play with it and find the desired effect.
Pictures that contain a flowing body of water tend to look better when the water appears to “flow through” the image. Therefore, it is necessary at times to be in the stream of water when taking your shot. You will need to keep your own safety (and the safety of your camera) front of mind, but don’t rule out the possibility of getting your feet wet.
My Gift to You – Three NH Waterfalls to Capture
New Hampshire has over 70 waterfalls of varying sizes and types. Some are easier to shoot than others, and some are easier to get to than others. I have personally hiked over 8 miles just to get to a particular falls that I wanted to photograph, and the planning and time that goes into that kind of shoot is a big commitment. There are three in particular that I like to recommend to folks who are looking for a big payoff without a long backpacking journey. And the best part of all, they can all be seen in less than half a day since they’re bundled within a 1.5 mile radius in Pinkham Notch!
Crystal Cascade – 10 minute walk up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail. Horsetail in type. Absolutely incredible in the spring (and the fall)!
Glen Ellis Falls – 7 minute walk down the trail at the Glen Ellis Falls parking area. Plunge in type, and known for getting even distant onlookers a little wet.
Thompson Falls – about a 1 mile hike from the parking lot at the Wildcat Ski Area. A deeper-woods commitment, but quite a spectacle. Cascade in type.
Entire books have been written on this topic alone, so trust me when I say that I could go on and on. Hopefully you have tamed your early lust for waterfalls, and you’re now ready to get out and capture some images the way that New Hampshire’s landscapes intend for them to be captured.
~ Matt Stearns
Matt Stearns is a freelance photographer and writer based in the Southern White Mountains of New Hampshire. His work is focused on the artistic interpretation of New Hampshire’s high peaks and surrounding waters. Discover his work online at matthewstearns.com.
With 265 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds planted with more than 15,000 species from around the world, the Arnold Arboretum is an oasis in the heart of Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Established in 1872, it is managed under a partnership between Harvard University, which maintains the collections and conducts research and public education, and the city of Boston. The Arboretum is worth a visit in any season, but is especially picturesque in spring when the colorful blooms of the various trees, shrubs, and flowers are at peak.
The Arboretum’s visitor center is located in the Hunnewell Building at the Arborway (Route 203) entrance. Here services include maps, a model of the grounds, and gift shop. Several miles of paved roads (closed to public vehicles) and footpaths allow easy exploration of the grounds. There are numerous options for walkers, ranging from easy strolls to long circuit hikes of 4 miles or longer. Meadow Road continues south from the center and passes a variety of trees and shrubs en route to three ponds and the Bradley Rosaceous Collection, where one may view roses, cherries, crabapples, and other plantings.
The lower slopes of nearby Bussey Hill are home to one of the Arboretum’s most popular collections, a lilac garden with more than 200 species. A festival is held annually during the first weekend in May when the blooms are at or near peak. An easy climb on Bussey Hill Road leads to the partially open 200-foot summit, where there are views to the Blue Hills. Colorful rhododendrons may be viewed along Hemlock Hill Road near the base of the hill. In addition to their scenic qualities, the collections offer habitat for wildlife such as songbirds, bluebirds, butterflies, and small mammals including cottontail rabbits and squirrels.
Scenic Peters Hill marks the Arboretum’s southern boundary. The 240-foot summit, which is the property’s highest point, offers panoramic views across groves of colorful crabapple and cherry trees to the buildings of downtown Boston. If the distance from the visitor center is too far to walk, you can park on Bussey Street and enter at the Peters Hill or Poplar gates. For more information, including directions, events, and descriptions of the collections, visit the Arboretum’s website www.arboretum.harvard.edu.
~ John Burk
John Burk is the author of several books and guides related to New England, which may be viewed on his Amazon page. A detailed description of an Arnold Arboretum hike, as well as 59 other trips in eastern Massachusetts, is available in the Appalachian Mountain Club Best Day Hikes near Boston guide, which John recently coauthored with Michael Tougias.