Always have a second option

This image of Little Long Pond was not my intended destination to shoot. It’s always funny I guess how things work out. My intention was shoot from an outcrop over looking Lake Skannatati. The day seemed to be shaping up well.The skies were looking great all day and I was anxious to return to outcrop that I’ve shot at before. I arrived at the parking lot around 6:30. Plenty of time to hike up and set the composition up and wait for the light. From the northern end of the parking lot of Lake Skannatati there is a set of stairs that lead into the woods. I seem to remember a well marked path heading up the hill to the left but it wasn’t marked or I may have missed it. It was a little dark in the woods but I did notice some plastic fencing strewn bout where the path was. At this point I should have suspected something. Instead, I followed the red trail up and around and found a side path to take me further up the hill and closer to the outcrop. When I finally arrived, there was a fence surrounding the area with a sign. It was a Harriman State Park reclamation project. Really? I drove an hour and a half, hike up the hill and then this. The sun was setting quickly and I needed another course of action, another location to shoot. I didn’t drive all this way not to do some photography. Knowing your location is very valuable under any circumstance but really came in handy here. Hustling back down to my car I headed over to Little Long Pond. The drive from lake Skannatati to Little Long Pond isn’t far but Harriman doesn’t make it easy because they blocked all the small parking spots in and around the pond. It was so much easier years ago to park near the pond. Long Pond-2FBThe light was dimming as it headed behind the mountains and I’m hustling down the road from a parking lot near by. I quickly tried a few different compositions along the waterfront. Nothing was working. Looking around for a foreground object usually sets the tone for me. I settled on this spot with the colorful rock to establish a near far composition. I used a 2 stop neutral grad filter to help balance the light between the background and the foreground. The sunset wasn’t as spectacular as I hoped but it was very pretty on this hot night.

©Larry Zink

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Check Please

Looked at the weather report for Chatsworth the night before. A promising sunrise – check

Camera batteries charged, CF card in camera and bag is packed  by the door – check

Truck is gassed up…at 2.39 a gallon. What’s there not to like there – a  save cash check

Set alarm for 5:15am – check

Stagger out of bed, limp to bathroom (having foot issues) and get dressed – check

Easy drive down to Franklin Parker Preserve although I missed my turn – check

As it starts too get a little brighter I notice it’s cloudy.-clearly no check

Arrived at destination safely and I’m all excited. Maybe it will clear – an anticipating check

Walk about a mile to my spot and scope the possibilities – check

The forecast on Accuweather.com missed the boat completely – doesn’t deserve a check

Overcast with a hint of red at sunrise. Not what I was planning for- a concerned check

Flocks of birds making cool noises taking off out of the water – a check for ambiance

_MG_7640-1blogYears of shooting means to keep an open mind and refocus – check

Started seeing really interesting shapes and patterns in the water-check

The environment keeps changing here as water has made inroads to other sections – Remember check

My shots begin to revealed patterns that looked like a modern art painting to me – check

Wait a minute…. shoot at a slower shutter speed – a now your thinking check

Bingo…a 4 second exposure with a light wind blowing the grasses- I think I nailed it check

Drove home listening to Christmas music. Not a bad morning – check

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Fall Foliage 2014 Part 3-Blackrock Summit, Virginia

After shooting in and around  New Jersey and up in the Adirondacks I headed south to my final destination,  Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Never having been there for the fall colors I was purely guessing on when it would be considered peak. Researching online proved to be somewhat helpful as I began to hone in on a week that had the best potential. Feeling  confident I made reservations a month ahead to stay in Waynesboro Virginia and was hoping I timed it right. In hindsight, I’m learning there really is no science to predicting fall colors.  I wanted to spend some time with my brother in law who lives outside of D.C. so I picked him up and we drove another two hours to the southern terminus of the park.

Shenandoah National Park is a thin park that sits on the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. The park is probably best known for having the Skyline Drive that dissects the park from Front Royal to Waynesboro. A motorcyclist dream, Skyline Drive is a two lane road that winds around and up and down the mountains. The park itself has so much to offer with plenty of hiking trails, camp grounds and some lodges spread throughout. Needless to say it can become very busy but surprisingly it wasn’t as crowded as I expected. My plan was to shoot multiple locations but I had my sights clearly set on one particular spot and that was Blackrock Summit. If I only get one shot this was going to be it.

blackrock summit-2blogI’ve seen images from this location over the years online and was anxious to get to  see it for myself. Having never been there before I wanted to get there with plenty of time to find the best composition to shoot. We got to the parking lot and found the trailhead and began the easy hike out to the summit. Not long after we started we arrived to a giant collection of rocks known as Blackrock Summit. A short climb to the top revealed incredible 360 degree views but especially amazing were the ones to the west. Mountains lined up in a row creating amazing depth and shapes. I never get tired of views like this. Having tried several compositions I settled on this one using the rocks themselves as a strong foreground element. Once set, we waited for 2 hours for the sun to get lower on the horizon.  It’s amazing what you can chat about waiting for the perfect light. News flash – Shooting landscapes is all about patience…..a lot of patience. As the sun lowered to the horizon it shot straight through the valley and reacted with the mountains just as I hoped. It was absolutely incredible.  This light lasted for less than a minute but it was exactly what I hoping for. If it was warmer we might have stayed and shot into the night but by the end of this shot I couldn’t feel my fingers. The temperatures dropped quickly and the wind was whipping across the tops of the peaks. So we packed up, attached our head lamps and hit the trail back to the car. I was determined to get this shot and was excited to know that I got it on my first night in the park.

©Larry Zink

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Fall Foliage 2014 Part 2-Monksville Reservoir and dead trees

While not in chronological order but rather geographical order the next stop for me was  New Jersey. The fall colors  this year were really pretty good. I may have missed it slightly North in the Adirondacks and in Virginia ( upcoming Part 3 ) but wherever I was able to shoot in the Garden State the colors were bright and crisp.

These two images were shot at Monksville Reservoir. I met up with Dean Cobin that morning and we drove to Monksville Reservoir looking for some combination of fog and dead trees. Maybe  on the face of it doesn’t it sound interesting but I like to photograph dead trees in water.  The starkness and how they interact with themselves and the background make for interesting compositions and images. A couple of my current favorite dead trees in water spots  in New Jersey are Franklin Parker Preserve and Merrill Creek Reservoir and I can now add this spot to the list.

This particular morning didn’t produce any significant heavy fog but rather a light fog that quickly dissipated. For the first image we positioned ourselves directly across from a grouping of trees. monk trees-1blogTheir bold white trunks and limbs became very graphic against the wall of foliage on the shore across from us. Virtually no breeze that morning kept the water calm for beautiful reflections, an added bonus. What was hard to see in the morning was how colorful the leaves were but as the fog dissipated and the sunlight began to pour across it became apparent that it was going to be a nice combination. The colors here were similar to all the areas I shot through out the state.

For the second image I moved down the shore and looked at another set of trees further up the lake. As I did this I noticed how the low level fog was becoming backlit and the trees had a rim light effect. At this point I knew I had the perfect vantage point.  I decided that I really wanted a heavy compression of the objects for this composition. I wanted a “flatter look” to the final shot. To achieve this, I  added a 2x converter to my 70-200mm lens. I shoot with a Cannon 7d and it has a reduced chip size vs a standard 35mm sized sensor. What that effectively means is that any lens size has to be multiplied by a factor of 1.6. That makes my 70-200 a 112-320mm. Couple that with a 2x and I’m approaching a 600mm sized lens. Wildlife photographers like to use a reduced chip camera like this one to increase their lens length while still obtaining a high resolution. monk and boatblogOnce I had the composition it was just of matter of getting an exposure that I liked. I had a really strong composition that by itself would have been successful but then an unexpected treat happened. A guy in a canoe was fishing and heading straight into my image. This easily elevated the shot for me. Adding that human element gave an instant sense of scale and connection to the environment  There are times that as a photographer you know you have the image while your shooting. In this case, the exposure never really changed and it was just a matter of clicking the shutter when I felt the person was in the right spot. I shoot in live view mode so I was able to see the person maneuver his canoe on the back of my LCD and clicked away. The final capture is one of my favorite images from this year.

©Larry Zink

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Fall Foliage 2014. Part 1-The High Peaks region in the Adirondacks

This is the second year in a row where I have made the attempt to follow the changing colors starting in the Lake Placid region of the Adirondacks also known as the High Peaks region. It always sounds like a great idea but your completely at the mercy of mother natures control of the elements that make up a spectacular fall season. In some locations on my trip I felt I just missed the peak colors  and others I may have caught the tail end. For the second year in a row my journey began in the Adirondacks but this year it ended at the southern point  of Shenandoah National Park in Waynesboro Virginia rather than New Jersey.

A somewhat of an easy drive of 5 1/2 hours from my house, assuming no traffic , the Adirondacks offer a wealth of photographic opportunities. I’m still learning the terrain up there though. It’s only the second time that I’ve been there and finding locations that appeal to me is part of the adventure. In speaking with the locals it seems that traditionally the last weekend in September and the first one in October are the peak weekends. Last year I went in September and this year in October. I felt that it was just past peak this October. Mother nature and I weren’t in sync  on this trip. Don’t get me wrong the colors were beautiful but they were spectacular last September.  The High Peaks region may have been slightly towards the end of the fall color cycle but an hour or so south in the park it was amazing. Good to know for next year.

The local weather report called for cloudy skies on my first morning. Heading out that morning I drove to some popular spots but again not knowing the locations well enough and the how the light would react the morning started out slowly. What I learned on this trip is that the weather can be great in one area but 5 miles or even less in another direction it can be completely different. As I started to drive back the skies began to change and open up. I was really hoping for some beautiful light to shoot and the actual content of the image I would figure out later. The clearing morning fog combined with the developing clouds was happening quickly and it set up for an entire morning shoot in and around Marcy Park. Earlier I said that my creative vision is changing. I’m trying to capture images that have a feeling that your standing there with me soaking in the changing light and the general atmosphere. I’m not looking at purely documenting the location but trying to have you experience it with me. It’s difficult, not always successful but creatively challenging.

While this shot may not be exactly overwhelming in terms of content I love this image for the light and the feeling it has. For as outrageous as the landscapes can be in the region it also has many smaller quieter sides of life. marcy landing stripblogThe light was just beautiful as it broke over the horizon and hit the mountains in the distance. That house in the image is owned by the town and quickly became part of the composition. The only person around that early in the morning was a town worker checking on facilities in the area.  A quick conversation revealed that this large open area is a landing strip for small planes. It was perfectly fine for me to be there and shoot but he said “ just watch out for planes”.

The next image was taken taken along LOJ road. I was with my wife and I had a feeling that a good sunset may happen that evening so we headed out to find a good spot to shoot. I was aware that this is a very popular place to shoot sunsets and sure enough I was not alone.loj roadblog It’s a long road that affords plenty of space to shoot though. One of the things to get used to up there  is the concept that much of the land is privately owned. Even areas that can be hiked may be on or adjacent to private property. If a sunset could be quiet than this is the one. There were no flaming colors, no crazy cloud formation just a blend of subtle hues that illuminated the surroundings. As with the house in the previous image I needed a focal point in the lower portion of the composition and the lone orange tree was perfect. The mountains in the shot are some of the High Peaks that lay just South of Lake Placid. The quality of light and depth of the image make it a successful one for me.

Comparing the two images illustrates were my mind was and is creatively. They are both very similar in my attempt to capture and portray what I saw and felt. I’m already anxious to return the Adirondack region to explore more areas  but I have a feeling that I will not wait for the fall to make that happen.

©Larry Zink

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2 lakes 1 morning

This past Sunday I ventured up to Harriman State Park. I left my house at 5:15am to ensure I would get there in time to shoot some sort of sunrise. The weather report wasn’t looking too good the previous evening in terms of cloud cover ( I always look at cloud cover on the weather sites) and sure enough it was clear and bright moonlit skies when I walked out my door. I actually debated in my head whether to go or not. Figuring that I made the effort to be up that early I started the truck and began the trip north. As I was driving into the park there were some clouds passing by so I was beginning to feel a little better about my decision. As the skies were brightening I could start to see some really good possibilities taking shape. Lake KanawaukeblogAt this point, I realized I need to find a spot quickly and I chose Lake Kanawauke. Truth be told, it was the closest lake at the time. Normally I have a plan but on this particular day I was photographically improvising. I usually have some sort of sketchy plan on where I’m going to shoot. Scrambling to find an interesting shot I came across a grouping of rocks and quickly worked out the composition. I chose this dominant foreground rather than an over all wide lake shot because I wanted some additional interest and depth. I wasn’t feeling a straight shot of the lake would be all that interesting.

After the beautiful sunrise I walked around and continued to shoot and scout for future visits. I wanted to go down to Silver Mine Lake and see if there were any opportunities to shoot there. It’s one of my favorite spots in Harriman. At this point there were enough clouds starting to build to have some interesting skies. After parking in the lot I took the trail that skirts the left side of the water. Not far down I found a nice quiet spot. SilvermineBlogI like the composition and while I don’t normally go out of my way to shoot with a sun burst effect it does add some additional interest to the shot. When the colors change I will be back in this spot for sure.

Overall, It never ceases to amaze me that this kind of photographic potential is so close to New York City.The variety of the landscapes makes this place a must do in the area. With Fall fast approaching you can bet you will find me there.

©Larry Zink

 

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Lower Van Campens Falls

Here is another shot from my hike on the Van Campens Glen trail in the Delaware Water Gap. The hike is better described in a previous hike to photo ratio blog. This water fall is not far into the hike and is one of my favorite places to shoot. Assuming your careful it can be accessed from both sides and the top. Obviously this image was taken from the top of the falls. For this particular spot you’ll want to be sure that you have solid footing for your camera and tripod not to mention yourself. It’s definitely not desirable to have your equipment or you go over the top and in to the pool below.

lower van campen-1 blogThis image is one of my favorite shots of the year so far. Using some of the compositional elements discussed previously with the addition of another creates  an enormous amount of depth in the shot. First, the foreground rocks/ledge anchor the front of the composition. Second, the waterfall itself has beautiful lines as it leads into the creek below and curves off to the distance to a vanishing point. Lastly, on this morning if was slightly misty/foggy which is always accentuated  in the distance. Atmospheric conditions  affect objects further away rather than up close further adding to the depth. Couple all those elements together with a wide angle lens and  the image has many visual points to look at.

I love to shoot waterfalls and there are not that many many in New Jersey to begin with that offer this kind of beauty and solitude. Everyone’s safety is always paramount when shooting around water but the rewards if everything comes together is incredibly satisfying.

©Larry Zink

 

 

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