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Return to Ice

Well, just two days after a snowfall, we got hit again only this time it was an ice storm. No worries though, I made the best of it by staying busy with office work and helping some neighbors with downed trees. After all was said and done I had that itch to get out and capture the beauty of the thick ice that covered everything. Only problem was that the trees that line my driveway were so bent over with ice, that there was no way for me to just jump in my car and getaway. At first I was a bit upset that there was all of this great scenery out there and I couldn’t get to it, but as usual I decided to not let this stop me and pack my gear, grab the dog and head out on foot. I must have walked for an hour not once did I take off my pack. It was one of those moments where you scan the landscape for something to shoot and not being satisfied with everything you see.

I know it sounds like I was just being picky (and I was), but as a photographer sometimes I like shooting things that just present themselves in their own time. Whether it be a landscape or on the street. Unless I’m doing portraiture, forcing myself to compsose something that isn’t there always puts me on the losing end of the situation. Sheila met me about hallway through my walk and we both looked for places to shoot. After some time I had resolved myself to the idea that this was just one of those situations where I would go home empty handed. Seems like a waste of time, but in the past I have gone out shooting for hours and not even fire one shot, so this was no big deal. At that moment, I heard Sheila say, “Oh wow. You should get a photo of this.” I caught up to her looked into the direction that her extended arm was pointing to. And she was right. Here was the scene that I was looking for. I dropped my bag, set up and started shooting. Man was I pleased with myself. It reminded me of that old saying “Good things come to those who wait”. What was even better was the fact that the scene in the photo above was taken right in front of my house.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 100, 1/160 @ f/8

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Be Beautiful, Be Sad

I don’t know about my fellow americans here on the east coast, but living in the mid atlantic lately hasn’t exactly been a joy. Snow every week, not being able to get to work, and so much salt on the roads that the trees that line them are white. I don’t know how many times you vacuum your house without losing it. Speaking of losing it, cabin fever with all of the animals and us is a true test of one’s patience. Oh well. at least it gives me time to sort through my photos. Here is one I took of Mt. Olivet cemetery in Fredrick, MD. It was of course, after one of the many snowfalls we’ve had this year. A bit of history: Mt Olivet is the final resting spot of Francis Scott Key, the man who wrote none other than the “Star Spangled Banner”.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 160, 1/250 @ f/8

Fort Frederick

In my hunt for fall colors last year, I came upon an old fort on my way to “Big Pool”. This Fort Frederick in Big Pool, Maryland. It was built in 1756 and was primarily used as a supply depot during the French and Indian war. This building is an old log house that I believe was erected well after the initial fort was constructed. The actual fort has a large stone wall surrounding it and I will post some shots of that at a later time.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 320, 1/160 @ f/8

Hunting Creek

After eating a big fat breakfast that Sheila made me this morning, I packed up my car and headed out for some landscape photos. I had something very specific in mind: Hunting creek that runs down the Catoctin mountain near Thurmont MD. Last week during the “Polar Vortex” that we all went through I went out for a drive to the mountain to see what’s what. That’s when I noticed the creek with it’s huge boulders and rolling water that parallels the twisting mountain road. At the time the weather was a bit harsh and it was late in the day, so I decided to come back later. Well, that later was today. What I didn’t realize was that there would be very little places to park and I would have to traverse large boulders and downed trees to get to the spots where I needed to be.

Since there are no clear paths along the creek, getting to the various places along it was extremely time consuming, as I had to crawl in the mud and rocks under and over trees, get to my spot, set up, shoot, and then climb a small cliff with heavy gear on my back, only to run along the mountain road as fast as I can since there was no shoulder (only a 30 foot drop) and jump back in near the creek before I got run over by a car or truck. Sounds crazy I know, but I live for this stuff. The sheer beauty of the creek kept me wanting more, and as usual what started out as only a two hour trek lasted at least three times that. All I can say is thank god for my Think Tank camera bag and my Merrells.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 50, 0.3 sec @ f/11

Worthington House

A day or two after Christmas we had a fifty degree day so Sheila and I took full advantage of the situation and loaded the dogs into the car and went to our favorite place – Worthington Farm, which is part of the Monocacy Civil War Battlefield here in Maryland. As usual, I brought my camera with us because here the dogs are easy to manage if I want to get a few shots in while we hike. We were walking the main road in when Sheila suggested that I turn around and get a photo of the house from the back because two of our favorite trees in the park happen to be there. I post processed the photo this way as a sort of tribute to the old plate photographs one sees of the civil war.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 100, 1/200 @ f/8

Black Water

As many of you great people who follow me may have noticed, some of my landscape shots include some body of water that is either black or close to it. This because having black still water is something I look for in my shots if possible. I won’t throw away a shot if it doesn’t mind you, but it is this type scenario that I will spend the most time in the field with. It may sound crazy, but a black pool of water can absolutely mesmerize me on how it can reflect in great detail life above it yet completely conceal anything within it. Such scenes can keep a photographer busy composing a shot as the black water (for me anyway) is not just part of a scene, but almost like a model whose pose must be just right. This was the case in the photograph above. It was taken in Hancock, MD on the C&O canal, directly across from the shot that was used in a previous post. I spent a very long time at this location composing different shots and loved every second of it.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 100, .4 sec @ f/8

The Bridge at Roddy Creek

Welcome to the new year, I hope everyone is coping well. As many of you know, the east coast here in the U.S. is going through some very cold and severe winter weather and it seems like we are getting snow here every week. Yesterday the sun finally came out and I thought that I would revisit some old haunts to get a different snow covered perspective on things. At this point and time it was late afternoon and as usual I was fighting for daylight. However in recent years I have resolved myself to the idea that in photographic terms, if you want to go out and shoot something, then shoot it, providing you have the means to get there. Such is the case with the shot in this post. I was sitting around with some time on my hands, just itching to get out with my camera when I thought ” I wonder what the covered bridge at Roddy creek looks like with all this snow?” That’s it. That’s all it took to get me out the door. I just grabbed my camera, one lens, a tripod and went. As I was flying down the highway to get to my destination before dark, I slowly realized that the road this historic covered bridge lies on is very rural and the chance that any snow plow has cleared it would be slim to none. Oh well. Too late to think about that now. When I got to Roddy creek road I could see that if anything, the road was barely passable. The road itself is pretty short so I decided to just go slow and steady in my little car until I got to the bridge. Once I got there I found a small patch of ice on the side of the road that gave me just enough room to park. The snow covered bridge and the creek that ran beneath it was a site to behold.

There was snow everywhere and since there was no leaves on the trees, I had plenty of light and did not have to use my tripod. There is a concrete barrier that runs along the creek to keep cars from going  in and it was the perfect brace for me to lean on to get my shots, as there was no way I could stand on the icy boulders that line the creek itself. The barrier allowed me to lean in as far as I could without falling in and take my shot. I first found this place last summer when I was doing some research on historic bridges in Maryland that I could shoot. I got a lot of photos of the bridge back then but haven’t had the time to post them. Someday I hope to. As the title implies, this is a bridge that crosses Roddy creek in Thurmont, MD. which is near where I live. It is one of only six existing bridges in the entire state of Maryland and this one is the smallest. It is believed to have been built around 1856. More info on the bridge is HERE.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 100, 1/100 @ f/8

Return to Ruin

On occasion I will go back to places that I have visited to shoot before for various reasons. Different time of day or year. Different lenses. Or maybe there was something about the particular subject that was left unsaid from my previous visit. The truth is that the same story can always be told more than once, just from a different perspective. Such is the case of this ruin of an old stone mill the a bit off the beaten path from the C&O canal in Maryland.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 800, 1/100 @ f/8

Where The Vultures Are

Here on the east coast winter has come early, and as a photographer, venturing outside with my camera has become more and more limiting. As a consequence, I have resorted to carrying my camera out while on errands such as getting gas, going to the store, etc. This way, if something along the way strikes my fancy, I can just hop out the car and get a few photos, and continue on my merry way. Yesterday while on my way back home from the grocery store I spotted a large group of vultures roosting in a grove of trees that sat high up on a hill in the small village of New Market, MD. Since I only had a 50 on my camera it limited me on range as the hill on which they sat was fairly high and because they were on private property, I couldn’t just go waltzing in and start shooting. This relegated me to standing on the street and try to figure out a way to get a decent shot. It’s all about perspective you know. At first things weren’t working out so well for me, but then I thought I would try and and sneak around the back side of the trees which is on public property. I hiked down busy main street climbed an even bigger hill and proceeded to work my way through the woods to the other side of the trees the the vultures were roosting on. Before I got halfway through the woods I felt a sharp zap on my hands as if I had been mildly tazed. I looked down and saw this thin wire that stretched as far as the eyes could see and realized that I had just walked into an electric fence. Nice. This really pissed me off.

Instead of giving in, the anger inside me helped me focus my determination on how to correct this situation. This meant going home and getting a bigger lens. So I did. When I got back to the location, fortunately the vultures where still there. This time I was able to shoot with ease and get the shots I wanted. Now I know that all of this seems a bit crazy and maybe I should have cut my loses and moved on, but for me sometimes photography can be nothing more than catching life in a moment when no one else is looking or even paying attention and exposing it so that others know that while we are busy running errands or rushing to go nowhere, there are other forms of life that sit and wait high above us looking down and wondering what the fuss is all about.

Canon 5D markII, EF 70-200 4 L IS, ISO 320, 1/100 @ f/8

Disintegrate

Canon 5D markII, ISO 1250, 1/250 @ f/8

Forward

A few months ago Sheila and I were driving way out in the country when I spotted a field of sunflowers. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road, grabbed my camera, and proceeded to get a few shots. As I began shooting, two things jumped out at me about this situation. One: even though the flowers where blooming, they were only about three feet tall, which for sunflowers I had never seen before because most of the ones that I had seen were taller than me. Two: all of the flowers were facing the opposite direction. This was a bummer because I was standing in front of this field of flowers and since it was private property, I did not want to wade into this field and risk maybe damaging a few without permission first. I walked the length of the field (which was about 50 yards wide) and was about to give up and take pictures anyway when I noticed this one flower just looking dead at me. I got the shot I wanted and as I walked back to the car I could not help but think that it was nice to see something that despite the fact that all of it’s kind was going in one direction, this flower whether on purpose or not, went it’s own way and stood out because of it.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 160, 1/8000 @ f/2

C&O Cushwa Basin

This is the Cushwa Basin part of the C&O canal. It is in Williamsport, MD and I stumbled upon it by accident during my “Big Pool” adventure. This shot is one of those “Happy accidents”. I was on my way back to the car when I glanced to my right and saw this. Needless to saw my jaw just dropped. Many photographers will talk about The “Golden hour” which is the light one gets to shoot in during sunrise or just at sunset. This was shot at sunset. Over the years I have learned that the “Golden hour” isn’t always so golden. Depending on the color temperature of the sun, it can range from yellow to a burnt orange or even red. This scene was lit closer to the burnt orange which happens to be my particular favorite. Not only that, but the sun was just where I wanted for this shot. This is the time of day when the sun moves so fast that standing there gobsmacked for even a few minutes would have cost me the shot I wanted, so I quickly dropped to my knees, composed the shot and took it. The way I see it, there wasn’t really any time to even set my tripod up. Even though landscape photography is about detail, it is also about composition. Having said that, I can live with a shade less detail (even though things worked out fine) than wasting time setting up gear and losing the shot.

As for the locale, This small town of Williamsport was, according to their website, under consideration to be the nation’s capitol by none other than George Washington himself.

Canon 5D mark II, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 640, 1/200 @ f/8

C&O Hancock

Here is a shot of behind the aqueduct on the C&O canal in Hancock, MD. I took this on the great day I had that I mentioned in my “Big Pool” post.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 160, 1/50 @ f/8

BIG POOL

This year I made a conscious effort to shoot fall colors here in Maryland. In my spare time I have driven many miles chasing the leaves of color, even driving as far as at least four to five hours away from my home. The problem is that here in the Mid-Atlantic the fall colors can be quite fickle. One day the colors are almost peak (which is not what I want), and the next they have peaked but by the time I get a chance to grab my gear and get out shooting, they are gone. Earlier last week I knew that the colors were almost here and had planned the following saturday for shooting. As the days went by I could see the colors get stronger and more vibrant. Then last thursday I happened to be on the phone with a client who actually lived in a part of the state where I was most excited to shoot, the western part of the state which is about three to four hours away. I told her of my plans for upcoming weekend, and she relayed to me the fact that the colors there had in fact peaked and moreover, the leaves were mostly gone from the trees. Even though I was not happy about this news, I was grateful because I at least would not waste gas and travel that far for nothing.

But now I had a new dilemma. Where now? I had no clue of where to go. I don’t like looking online for places because for me the whole idea is to get out, explore, and find my own way without being influenced by something I saw on the web. That’s when I realized that I had seen the week before when I was looking for fall colors a sign on the highway that read “Big Pool”. The sign was brown so I knew it was a state park. It is about an hour away from the house so at least if it was a bust, I could at turn around and go somewhere near home to more familiar places. Shooting in places that I knew was not an option that I was thrilled about. I really wanted someplace new. Then, that night after going to bed, I awakened by the heavy sound of a hard rain absolutely pummeling the tin roof on the side porch of my house right outside my bedroom window. I panicked as I knew that the heavier the rain, the more likely that I would be left with no leaves on the trees by the weekend.

By the time saturday came, I ate a hardy breakfast, grabbed my gear that I had packed the night before, jumped in my car and hit the highway. As I was driving further and further away from home I kept an eye on the landscape of trees as I flew up the highway. Things weren’t looking so good. The more I drove, the less the leaves were on the trees. Undaunted, I decided to stick to the plan and not bail on this project which my gut was telling me to do. I finally arrived at Big Pool which is actually a pond of water created for the C&O canal back in the nineteenth century. When I got out of the car I saw that not only were there hardly any leaves to be found, the pond itself looked dismal, almost dry. To say that I was unhappy was an understatement. I sulked about the situation for a few minutes and finally I thought “Enough!” “Get back in the car and find something else.” And that’s exactly what I did.

As I was leaving I saw an unmarked dirt road that headed into the woods. I followed the road for awhile looking for a spot to setup my camera and at least get something that I would be happy with. Before too long I realized the the road was coming to an end I would have to turn around and go home. However, right when I reached the end of the road I found myself in a clearing that paralleled a river. I got out of my car to scout the location and saw that not only was this a good spot, but all the trees along this part of the river still had their leaves and were in full color. I could not have been happier. I set up shop along the banks of the river and snapped away. After about five minutes I had what I needed, so I got in my car and left. This put me in such a great mood that it emboldened me to explore three more parks that I had never been to before on my way home and needless to say, things were just as successful at these places as it was at Big Pool. Seven hours later I finally made it home with enough fall photos to last me until next year. Pics from the other parks will be posted later.

Canon 5D mark II, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 800, 1/125 @ f/8

Old Anglers Inn

There are national treasures all over in this great country of ours and here in the DMV (D.C.,Maryland,andVirginia) one of the best is the C&O canal. Since I live in central Maryland the various locks in the canal are easy access as I never have to drive too far to get to one. Over the years I have spent many hours hiking the canal either with the dogs or purely for photographic reasons. Although my favorites change all the time, my current go to has been the Old Anglers Inn part of the canal. I call it this because of the restaurant that bears this name sits directly across from the parking lot that gives me access to this part of the canal. Lately I have been spending what little spare time I have sitting on the large, ancient and smooth granite boulders along the Potomac river enjoying the view and taking photos along various points of the river. The photo above is part of the river that seems to be a favorite amongst kayakers. This is just below the famous Great Falls that borders Maryland and Virginia.

Canon 5D markII, EF 50 1.2 L, ISO 160 1/11th sec @f/8

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