I spent all of last week traveling through and around New York State photographing some of my favorite places in the Empire State. One word comes to mind whenever I leave Colorado and head back east and it’s water.
The contrast between the arid and dry climate of Colorado, compared to the moisture laden areas of the east coast is always striking to me. In New York you are always near, around, in, or over some sort of water it seems. Colorado, not so much.
When I’m out photographing locations in Colorado, I seek out water. Small lakes and bodies of water become destinations for photography because of the impact they bring to landscape photography in a dry climate. When photographing locations in New York, water becomes almost an afterthought. It seems to always be part of the landscape and location.
Neither situation is better or worse. To me they are just part of the makeup of the unique locations and it’s the contrast is climates that continues to make these different destinations so much fun to shoot.
So even though I expect to be photographing lots of bodies of water and water features when I travel through New York, heavy rain helped to keep already green and saturated areas even more vibrant and green than I could have expected.
In fact while an average June typically see about 5.5 inches of rain the entire month, nearly 9 inches of rain fell last week alone. Even with the rain it was a great week of photography and being in a different environment is always a great way to keep the creative juices flowing.
Even still it’s good to be back in Colorado and will be even better to get back up into Rocky to see how our snowmelt and thaw out is progressing in our thin dry air.
Changing pace can be a good thing. Every once in awhile it’s nice to get out of your set routines, break from the mold a bit and photograph something different. I personally finds it helps the creative process to break from the familiar and get out into different environs.
I spend last week on a whirlwind tour of New York State visiting in-laws and relatives. The trip back east was more about visiting family and catching up with old friends then it was about photography. Of course, there was no way I was going to be able to keep my camera in the bag the entire time.
While spending the end of the week out on the east end of Long Island, I was able to get up early a few mornings and catch sunrise along the beach. While I had a good sunrise this particular morning at Dune Beach in Southampton, the humidity, sand and sea spray where all things I’ve gotten used to not having to deal with here in Colorado. The trip was great, but I’m eager to get back up to Rocky and my more comfortable surroundings.
Treeline in Colorado occurs on average just above 11,000 ft above sea level. The determining factor for treeline is an average mean temperature of fifty degrees. Hiking or driving through the transitions from the montane zone, to the sub alpine zone and lastly the alpine zone can be a thrilling experience. The transition zones in these particular areas make for amazing places for photography.
Most visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park get their first taste of this other worldly experience when they drive over Trail Ridge Road. Trail Ridge Road being the highest continuous paved road in the continental United States allows visitors to Rocky the experience of this beautiful but difficult existence with fairly little effort and from the comfort of their vehicles. Stop at one of the many pull offs along Trail Ridge Road even and one is likely to find shorts and a t-shirt offer little comfort even in the middle of a summer afternoon.
The sub alpine zone in Rocky Mountain National Park hosts a wide variety of interesting photography subjects. Wildflowers such as blue columbines, red paintbrush and alpine sunflowers amongst the talus slopes, boulders and stunted plants. What really peaks my interest in these sub alpine areas are the tree’s. The limber pines and krummholz trees which are in a constant struggle for life against the harsh elements.
These limber pines and kummholz tree’s are often contorted and twisted by the wind and elements. The constant air flow at these high altitudes prevents the tree’s from growing in a windward direction. They are often only able to grow in a leeward direction. These tree’s will eventually succumb, sometimes after hundreds of years of existence. Even at this point, mother nature is not quite done sculpting and bleaching there remains.
I’ve been spying this particular pair of dead limber pines near Trail Ridge for sometime. This particular area of Trail Ridge has quite a few limber pine skeletons littering the ridgeline. Finally on Wednesday, the lighting and conditions came together perfectly. The winds were blowing at a pretty good clip, but would subside just long enough to allow me to capture these two tree’s free of any motion blur caused by the high winds. There are limber pines like these two scattered all over the high ridges near treeline in Rocky Mountain National Park, and I’ll continue to scour these ridges for new and interesting subjects.
One final shameless self promotion tidbit. One of my images of Watermill Beach was used for this week’s online edition of Vogue magazine. You can find a link to the article here. Vogue Magazine Watermill Beach Image
Unfortunately not everyday at the Beach is going to break sunny and clear. Many mornings on the eastern end of Long Island and the Hamptons are going to break cloudy and overcast because of the strong influence the Atlantic Ocean has on the weather in the area. Even on mornings such as these you can often find plenty of subjects to photograph. While the beach itself can yield some interesting results with a little imagination and the use of long timed exposures to blur the water and the clouds, there are many other subjects that photograph well in the soft light.
This particular morning in Southampton was exactly one of those mornings. One of the difficulties in photographing along the coast and near large bodies of water is wind. It’s rare not to have a strong breeze along the shore in the morning. Often, this will not affect photography of subjects such as the beach and or the ocean, but it can make it very challenging to photograph items that move and sway in the wind without capturing motion blur. Even though this particular morning was cloudy and overcast, there was little to no wind. I decided to head off the beach to a location I had spied the day prior.
The town of Southampton, New York maintains some open space property that has been donated from a large estate just off the beach near the original 1640 town site. They have cultivated a mix of wildflowers and garden flowers in this location and there is quite an impressive display of color to see here. The cultivated gardens which are partially maintained and irrigated have had their flowers propagate outwards amongst the open space field. This has created a great location to photograph the flowers, some cultivated and some wild amongst the grasses of the open space. With the soft diffused light, I was able to capture this impressive display of flowers without a stiff breeze causing the flowers to sway during the long exposures required. All in all it worked out to be a good morning to look for subjects not beach related, and instead work with subjects that require little to no wind to capture successfully.
Here’s another beach scene from Southampton, New York, without the actual beach included. The dunes along Dune Beach are quite impressive for the area, and I have to assume how Dune Beach garnered it’s name. I had another successful shoot this morning and on my way off the Beach I almost walked right past this scene. I had envisioned photographing a scene like this many times during my visits out to the east end. In the past I’ve not quite been able to get all the visual elements to fall into place to create the image I was looking for.
After a successful morning photographing I find myself falling into a zone. I would compare it to a similar feeling that one gets after a runners high. I relax, my mind opens up a bit and I’m able to study the elements within the scene with a little less bias and preconceived ideas. I often create some of my most unique and rewarding imagery on the back end of a shoot when I’m experiencing this sort of ‘photographers high’. During this time however, I can often wander right past interesting imagery as I’m busy contemplating, thinking to myself. This almost happened to me this morning as I was heading off the beach. I felt great, had captured some beautiful images and my mind was pondering other things as I walked through the sand. I decided to stop for a moment to readjust my backpack only to look up and see this scene unfolding before me. It was a good thing my backpack distracted me enough so that I had a moment to reevaluate the scene.
One of the things I like about shooting along the beaches on the east end of Long Island is the subtlety of the scenery found in this part of New York State. While the beaches in the Hamptons are world famous for their jet setting crowd and millionaires, they are not photographed often as part of the natural landscape. I have some suspicions as to why this may be. First of all, although the beaches in the Hampton’s are public, access is made difficult due to parking restrictions and expensive day use fee’s. Furthermore, the beaches are void of stunning visual cue’s that the beaches found along the west coast of the United States have become famous for. There are no boulders, and sea stacks and large cliffs to use as props and areas of interest within the photograph. The beaches found on the east end of Long Island are known for their soft sand, subtle dunes and spaciousness. This makes strolls along the beach pleasant, but can make it difficult to capture the essence of the location in the image.
When scouting locations and making images, I use this very essence to find and make images that speak to my feelings and impressions of how I view the beach and this location. Every time I arrive at one of these beaches, I find the scene completely different than the following day, month or year. The beach is a landscape in constant flux. The wind, rain, nor’easters, and tides shape the beach daily. I often return to locations I have photographed the prior year only to find the dunes have moved, or have been removed by a powerful storm.
The night before I photographed this scene, heavy thunderstorms rolled over the beaches through the night. Heavy wind and rain fell late into the night. When I arrived at Halsey Neck beach, the skies were clear but the air was heavy with humidity from the night before. I was immediately drawn to the fences used to protect and reinforce the barrier dune formations. The dune grass was moist and a vibrant green from the moisture the night before. The sand was smooth and flat, matted down from the heavy rain as well. The dune fences, which usually are a bleached grey from the Sun and wind, were dark, coated with water and sea spray which helped to reinforce the texture of the wood used to makeup these fences. The wind, which is usually blowing along the beach was calm. I quickly hurried to capture the scene before the Sunrise would cast harsh shadows on the scene and remove the subtle texture I was looking to capture.
I apologize for the lack of any new post last week. I was back in New York visiting family, and while it was not a photographic exposition per se, I was able to get out and shoot some images. My wife Holly is originally from upstate New York and I am originally from downstate. Naturally, visits of this nature typically result in a whirlwind tour of New York visiting our various relatives and friends. This time we had our eight month old Keira in tow with us for the first time. This made the travelling a little more intense than usual but also much more rewarding for our family as Keira was able to meet lots of new relatives. I often joke that I need a vacation from my vacation on these kinds of visits.
While I was unable to spend any significant time upstate photographing the many waterfalls and gorges in the Finger Lake region, I was able to sneak away to photograph some beach scenes from the Hamptons and scenes along the Hudson river. Even when on whirlwind trips such as these, I’m making mental notes on locations I need to return to shoot when I have more time to dedicate to photography alone. I have a very large mental note, that I need to return to the Finger Lakes region during fall to take full advantage of the gorges and falls when the foliage is peaking. It’s high on my current to-do list. I also need to spend some quality time in the Hudson Valley. This is one of my favorite areas of the country to photograph. For the last few years I have been unable to spend a significant amount of time wandering and photographing all it has to offer.
Ironically, even though both myself and my wife are originally from New York, it has become more difficult to dedicate enough time to photograph these areas for any significant amount of time. The lesson learned here, is to always take advantage of the time you have right now. Future plans are great, and you may think you will be returning time and time again only to find life moves you in another direction. While, I am pretty sure I will be spending more time in this region, I can only kick myself for all the times I was in the area and chose to spend my time in another fashion doing other things.
I’ll be updating the blog quite a bit here in the next few weeks as I have a pretty good backlog of photographs and images from my recent trip. It’s great to be back in Colorado as well, and I’ll be heading up to Rocky Mountain National Park soon, so look for some Colorado images to be mixed in with some of my recent New York images.