Vibrant Autumn Magic

October 17, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Misty Autumn McDade TrailMisty Autumn McDade Trail


Photo Info:
Title: Misty Autumn McDade Trail
Aperture: f/16.0
Shutter Speed: 0.4 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 1/40 seconds and 6 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 24 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: October 14, 2016 @ Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania, USA


Autumn, hands down my favorite season for what I like to call Mother Nature's firework display of vibrant colors. In my previous blog entitled Wonderful World of Waterfalls, I mentioned how it became an area of photographic interest starting in 2011, yet at that stage I didn't pay much attention to changing seasons. From a time I lived in Montreal (Canada) cooped up indoors a whole lot in the blistering cold of winter only to complain about hot & humid summers, I would capture the bulk of my photos on vacations abroad with the mindset of limited time wanting to soak in as much as possible on camera before returning to the usual grind at home and taking things for granted.

Enter 2014 when I moved back down to the Washington DC area, and a new appreciation for embracing my surroundings. Anywhere I could drive to within a 200-300 mile radius for an overnight stay as with the above photo captured on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. From a trail I discovered by happy accident on an early morning when my original plan was to photograph Raymondskill Falls located nearby, score one for vanity points in seeking out a waterfall sharing my surname Raymond... Then again I couldn't resist the magic veil of mist hugging the ground on the way over, perfect golden hour light contrasting background against foreground, and what I saw as strong leading lines in the winding trail.

A good reminder if anything that it's ok to deviate from the script every now & then if your gut instinct tells you there's something else in the moment worth capturing on camera. At the time I felt especially conflicted with an obsessive compulsive mentality in certain respects like sticking to plan, not to mention the cars tailgating me in single lane traffic from people commuting to work. In fact I remember pulling over to a gravel parking lot just to let them pass through, yet it gave me the excuse I needed to stop and think about following a new path. Sure glad I rolled the dice in retrospect to explore the scene :-)     

Sunbathed Raymondskill FallsSunbathed Raymondskill Falls


Photo Info:
Title: Sunbathed Raymondskill Falls
Aperture: f/14.0
Shutter Speed: 5 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 1.3 seconds and 20 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 105 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: October 14, 2016 @ Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania, USA


Turns out I still got the chance to visit Raymondskill Falls as you can see from the above photo. Captured on the same day, just a little later. Initially hoping for a waterfall shaded from direct sunshine, but pleasantly surprised with patches of soft early morning light to complement the rugged rock texture, autumn foliage, and silky water flow.

In any case, that was one single trip. A great one at that, but going forward I would like to share some more general insight if you're passionate like me about vibrant autumn foliage. More specifically some key points I've come to appreciate from one year to the next.

Vibrant Autumn TrailVibrant Autumn Trail


Photo Info:
Title: Vibrant Autumn Trail
Aperture: f/14.0
Shutter Speed: 0.5 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 1/30 seconds and 8 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 50 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: November 5, 2015 @ Blockhouse Point in Maryland, USA


1) Transforming the ordinary into extraordinary: Besides waterfalls, I gravitate a lot around walking trails & scenic routes for a combination of strong leading lines & beautiful natural surroundings. A common sentiment I suspect many fellow photographers share, perhaps at the risk of turning the subject into a cliché for all the pictures out there. Autumn foliage goes a long way though in the changing the dynamics, suddenly transforming what many might consider a boring trail into something truly magic.

Autumn Huckleberry TrailAutumn Huckleberry Trail


Photo Info:
Title: Autumn Huckleberry Trail
Aperture: f/14.0
Shutter Speed: 1.6 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 1/10 seconds and 25 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 24 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: October 8, 2015 @ the Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia (USA)


2) Geography: Depending on where you live, timing naturally tends to vary for autumn foliage. So many different factors to consider, and I don't pretend to be a seasonal expert. Where I live in the extended Washington DC area, I flock first to the Canaan Valley area of West Virginia higher up in altitude, with a unique climate similar to parts of New England & southern Canada. Here I can expect the foliage to peak in early October almost a full month before peak in the Washington DC area. Dolly Sods springs to mind for spectacular autumn scenery in West Virginia, especially for its vibrant display of red huckleberry leaves carpeting the ground as far as the eye can see.

Great Autumn Twilight FallsGreat Autumn Twilight Falls


Photo Info:
Title: Great Autumn Twilight Falls
Aperture: f/14.0
Shutter Speed: 3.2 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 0.8 seconds and 13 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 24 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: November 2, 2016 @ Great Falls, Maryland (USA)


From Dolly Sods I might venture further up North in Pennsylvania to places like Ricketts Glen State Park, Delaware Water Gap, then further down South in  higher elevation ranges of Virginia such as Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway. Giving me a few weeks of autumn photo bliss before the vibrant colors invade the Washington DC area, plus maybe another week or two exploring my local surroundings until the leaves finally blow away. Where one of my local favorites is Great Falls along the Potomac River offering great views from both the Maryland & Virginia sides, although I have to admit I am partial to the former if only because it's closer to home.

Seneca Fall ReflectionsSeneca Fall Reflections


Photo Info:
Title: Seneca Fall Reflections
Aperture: f/14.0
Shutter Speed: 0.4 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 1/10 seconds and 1.6 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 24 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: October 31, 2014 @ Seneca Creek State Park, Maryland (USA)


3) Local variations: For those of you starting to capture autumn as a subject of photographic interest, I hope you can better appreciate some of the nuances in how the colorful foliage peaks & migrates based on factors like geography & elevation. None more apparent perhaps than the first photo in this blog with lots of greenery at ground level to contrast against vibrant foliage on the mountain.

To the best of my understanding, these vibrant colors appear as green chlorophyll from the leaves are being choked off. In a ways the leaves are showing their true colors, but literally clinging to dear life before elements like wind, rain and frost strip the trees bare. Adding to the magic of autumn as a moment fleeting in time and a beautiful display of natural decay.

Seneca Fall Forest Trail


Photo Info:
Title: Seneca Fall Forest Trail
Aperture: f/14.0
Shutter Speed: 0.5 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 1/8 seconds and 2 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 24 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: October 31, 2014 @ Seneca Creek State Park, Maryland (USA)


Yet even inside a single park I find the foliage can vary from one vantage point to the next. Take the above photo from a forest trail running along Clopper Lake with some clear accents of autumn colors, but not quite as pronounced when viewed by the lake in the photo before last. Another layer of autumn subtlety I first had difficulty wrapping my head around; approaching a specific place with a sense of wonder for the "outlining" vibrant colors in open spaces, only to realize the dense forest trails inside were considerably greener.

Again not pretending to be a seasonal expert, but from observation I get the impression trees in open space are more vulnerable to the elements. I.e. everything looks so colorful when cruising along the road or walking along a lake, only to see more muted colors when hitting the trail inside a forest. Why exactly I don't know, but I would speculate trees at the outer fringes of a forest act as a shield of insulation against wind & lower temperatures... until they are stripped bare and accelerating the decaying process tenfold for peak autumn foliage within the forest.


Autumn Dolmen ForestAutumn Dolmen Forest


Photo Info:
Title: Autumn Dolmen Forest
Aperture: f/14.0
Shutter Speed: 1/6 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 1/100 seconds and 2.5 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 19 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: October 24, 2016 @ Columcille Megalith Park near Bangor, Pennsylvania (USA)


4) Local subjects of interest: Beyond general themes associated with autumn trails & waterfalls, consider placing your focus on something that gives your photo extra character and a sense of local spice inviting others to visit the place. Going back to my first submitted photo along the McDade Trail in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, I also chanced upon an absolutely magical place called Columcille Megalith Park in the same general area. Originally thanks to AllTrails when looking for alternatives off the beaten path, a privately owned park at that, yet open to the public from dawn till dusk with beautiful reconstructions of megalithic structures (donations encouraged at the front gate). Especially meaningful to me as the son of a Welsh mother, and a deep rooted fascination with Arthurian Legends in my teens. Realizing this place is far removed from Celtic Britain, and the builders / owners make it abundantly clear it is a modern recreation... yet very much in tune with the essence of Celtic spirituality that I can definitely appreciate.

Wye Island Ruby RoadWye Island Ruby Road


Photo Info:
Title: Wye Island Ruby Road
Aperture: f/14.0
Shutter Speed: 1/6 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 1/100 seconds and 2.5 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 92 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: May 8, 2015 @ Wye Island, Maryland (USA)


5) If you can't make it, fake it: As a Photoshop enthusiast, I always love to experiment with new techniques. One of them includes color manipulation, and presenting the appearance of autumn even with photos I captured in spring or summer. Something photo traditionalists might frown upon, then again I tell myself photography as an art form was frowned upon by traditional artists more than a hundred years ago. Times change, and even though I cannot boast in the glory of sinking my hands in a darkroom environment, I would like to think I am taking full advantage of what digital technology has to offer.

As much as I want to go on, I am driving out soon for my main autumn expedition this year. Stay tuned in November and beyond for more photos :-)

Cheers,

Nick


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