Nicolas Raymond: Blog en-us (C) Nicolas Raymond (Nicolas Raymond) Thu, 01 Feb 2024 13:42:00 GMT Thu, 01 Feb 2024 13:42:00 GMT Nicolas Raymond: Blog 80 120 The Voynich Manuscript and Nostradamus Connection I have good reason to believe that Michel de Nostredame - aka Nostradamus - was personally connected with the Voynich Manuscript. Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge this theory goes against conventional wisdom. The radiocarbon dating of the manuscript's vellum places it between 1404 and 1438, and Nostradamus lived between 1503 and 1566. I am well aware of the apparent discrepancies.

I do not necessarily challenge the validity of the radiocarbon dating for that matter. To the best of my knowledge, the radiocarbon dating was done on the vellum. That does not otherwise prove the age of the ink applied to the vellum, and by extension, when the Voynich Manuscript was actually written (except perhaps that it was some time after the radiocarbon dating of the vellum circa 1404-1438). Nothing at face value excludes the possibility that the vellum was recycled or left as blank pages for over a hundred years. I am basically keeping an open mind, and I invite you to do the same if we can ever hope to decipher the Voynich Manuscript once and for all.

As I have been using Google Bard to assist with my research, here is a concise biography of Nostradamus in Bard’s own words:
“A French Renaissance figure of both fascination and perplexity, Michel de Nostredame (1503-1566) gained renown as a physician, astrologer, and author. While his unlicensed medical practice flourished, particularly during plague outbreaks, his lasting imprint stems from "Les Prophéties," a controversial collection of verses published in 1555, which fueled centuries of fervent interpretations and debates about their alleged predictions of future events. Beyond prophecy, his almanacs and medical treatises established him as a contributor to Renaissance understandings of health and celestial influences. Though his legacy remains shrouded in the enigmas of his verses, Nostradamus undeniably carved a unique niche in history, captivating imaginations and inspiring endless speculation even after his death in 1566.”

Please note this is only a brief summary of Nostradamus’ life. There are more details I would like to elaborate upon, and treat as circumstantial evidence in attempts to establish a connection between Nostradamus and the Voynich Manuscript.

1. Nostradamus started training to become an apothecary in the earlier stages of his life. Per Wikipedia:
At the age of 14, Nostradamus entered the University of Avignon to study for his baccalaureate. After little more than a year [...], he was forced to leave Avignon when the university closed its doors during an outbreak of the plague. After leaving Avignon, Nostradamus, by his own account, traveled the countryside for eight years from 1521 researching herbal remedies.

2. Nostradamus pursued astrology & occultism, especially in the later stages of his life. In 1550, he started publishing almanacs that contained numerous prophecies. Then starting in 1555, he went on to write Les Prophéties (French for The Prophecies).

Despite the brevity of these two points, there are interesting parallels to be drawn with the Voynich Manuscript. Indeed, a great number of prominent illustrations found therein relate to plants and astrology. These are two central fields Nostradamus claimed expertise in.

Beyond plants and astrology, Nostradamus did also have medical aspirations. It seems he studied to become a doctor, but never did obtain an official degree. He was however working as an apothecary to help treat sick people during plague outbreaks, when many proper doctors had fled the affected areas for fear of their own lives.

Needless to say, these must have been very challenging times. Nostradamus is even reported to have lost his first wife (possibly Henriette d'Encausse) and two children. One can only imagine how devastating this experience was for him. Nostradamus was human after all. Coupled with feelings of rejection from the medical establishment, I can begin to appreciate what motivated him as a person in life.

In any case, it is my understanding Nostradamus gravitated towards astrology & occultism starting around 1550. Beside his almanacs and Les Prophéties, I discovered that he was commissioned by a number of high profile clients, including royal patrons such as Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor from the Austrian House of Habsburg (1527-1576). To that end, Nostradamus is reported to have created a horoscope for Maximilian II’s son - the future Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (1552-1612) - based on his birth year of 1552. More pertinent information and correspondence samples can be found in Analyse 23 courtesy of Elmar R. Gruber via Espace Nostradamus.

Please note my research does not extend to the actual handwriting found from the images posted in Analyse 23 of Espace Nostradamus. My purpose here consists of presenting a verifiable connection between Nostradamus and the personalized horoscope he was commissioned to create for Rudolf II. Furthermore, Rudolf II comes to our attention in the provenance of the Voynich Manuscript as one of its first likely owners.

While the provenance has not been conclusively traced back to Rudolf II, I do believe there comes a point when so many coincidences put together cannot be discarded out of hand. Not only do the details of Nostradamus’ life match up with the themes and imagery used in the Voynich Manuscript, but I also perceive what could be traces of Nostradamus’ influence within the manuscript itself. I realize this is a bold claim to make, but I intend to show you how I arrived at this conclusion.


I. Semblance of the letters ‘mich’

I found these letters on the last page with text on it from the Voynich Manuscript: Page 116 V, or what I call the colophon section. For those unfamiliar with the term colophon, it can be “an inscription at the end of a book or manuscript, used especially in the 15th and 16th centuries, giving the title or subject of the work, its author, the name of the printer or publisher, and the date and place of publication.

From the very beginning of my research into the Voynich Manuscript (circa September 2023), I suspected the last page held some importance. It seems to me one of the most logical places to include a signature, and possibly some credits.

Please note however, I did not make an immediate connection with Nostradamus. I did not believe it was even possible given the prevailing wisdom backed by carbon dating. Instead, I was more perplexed than anything else as I studied German for a couple years in high school, and these ‘mich’ letters looked like they spelled the German word for “me”. That directly contradicted my theory of what other language I think the Voynich Manuscript is written in (which I am deliberately omitting from this research).

It is only after coming across one of Nostradamus’ signatures (more by chance) that I started making the connection. Below you will find the signature in question; the first one found at a very limited resolution on Wikimedia Commons, and the second, my retracing of it at much higher resolution (originally in vector format).


It is my understanding that Nostradamus varied his signature throughout his life, and unfortunately, records of his physical signature / handwriting can be challenging to find. However, the first important thing to note is that Nostradamus is known to have prefaced his signature with the letters ‘mich’ or ‘Mich’ since his first name was Michel (or Michael as he sometimes stylized it). It also makes more sense to me in the context of the Voynich Manuscript because what originally confused me as a potential German word, could just turn out to be the first few letters of a French person’s name: Michel.

Next I feel I must point out the ‘mich’ letters found in the Voynich Manuscript, but placed within surrounding text as to provide a greater sense of context. Please check the following image to that effect taken from Page 116 V.

As you might see, there are other letters / characters located in close proximity to the letters ‘mich’. Adding much to the challenges of a proper decipherment because at face value, I read the words “gafmich” or “gaf mich”. One might also see the letter ‘o’ after ‘mich’, along with several dots above the letter ‘o’ as if to convey some sort of connection between the lines (in turn reminding me of the expression “read between the lines” or “connect the dots”). Upon further scrutiny, I noticed another isolated dot in front of the letters ‘mich’.

These observations when put together lead me to believe the author made a deliberate effort to scramble his words & letters, which makes sense in the context of the Voynich Manuscript. Yet he still wanted to leave some proverbial bread crumbs behind for others to pick up on. I believe this colophon section is where some vital clues are hidden and waiting to be uncovered.

For example, let’s take a look at Nostradamus’ name. It is my understanding that he employed several variations of it from Nostredame (his family name given to him at birth), Nostra Domina, and what we commonly recognize as Nostradamus (the latter two are Latinized versions of his name). I see letters in the text that could potentially add up to Michel Nostra Domina, as the word(s) “gafmich” is preceded by what could be the letters ‘nim’ found in Domina.

What I perceived as the letter ‘f’ in ‘gaf’ could also very possibly be a stylized form of ‘s’. Nostradamus often made that letter substitution, so that letter ‘s’ would count towards spelling Nostradamus or Nostra Domina. The letter ‘o’ fits inside either variant as well.

Please note I did not conduct a full word scramble analysis to reconstruct all the letters of Nostradamus’ name. I am pointing out a few examples, but the text is otherwise very difficult to decipher. No one else that I know of has been able to decipher it for that matter, so I hope you can appreciate the connections I am making at this foundational level.


II. Potential ‘mn’ initials

These initials are found isolated in the bottom right corner of Page 72 V (part (2)). At first, I interpreted them as ‘mn’, and given their isolated position on the page, I speculated they might represent a signature. So I researched prominent historical figures between 1400-1600, and Michel de Nostredame - aka Nostradamus - was among the most noteworthy.

In retrospect, I am not certain the ‘mn’ characters refer to Michel de Nostredame. I have noticed similar isolated markings on other pages, which you can see in the image slides above. From left to right, those slides correspond to Pages 48 V, 56 V, 66 V, 67 R, 70 V (part (2)), and 72 V (part (2)).

I am ready to accept that the letters I initially perceived as ‘mn’ could mean something else entirely different than an abbreviation for Michel de Nostredame. However, I still feel the need to mention this point for one of two reasons:

1. It is what first prompted me to suspect Nostradamus from a chronological perspective, in turn making me curious about Nostradamus’ life. From there, I found his signature on Wikipedia, which in turn reminded me of the ‘mich’ letters on Page 116 V of the Voynich Manuscript.

Even if it could be considered a fluke that the name Nostradamus came to my attention, I hope it is becoming increasingly clear by now that it is not without merit. In that moment when I thought about him, it did not really matter why. I was just willing to accept it as a possibility and document my findings. The same applies for the letters ‘mich’, which perplexed me at first because they looked German. But I made a note of them regardless, only to discover later they made a lot more sense.

The point I’m emphasizing here is to keep an open mind, even if some interpretations turn out wrong or perplexing. Creative interpretations should actually be welcome and not discarded out of hand by experts who think they know better, because the reality is, the Voynich Manuscript still remains a mystery. I also happen to think it is a creative masterpiece which in turn requires creative thinking for proper decipherment.

2. You might notice the number sequence in the image slide above follows in perfect succession from 6 to 11. These isolated markings do not appear on every page, but the pattern is very consistent. It starts from the number 6 on Page 48 V, and continues all the way up to number 11 on Page 72 V (part (2)).

I do not know yet what this number sequence signifies, but I believe it to be an observation worthy of further scrutiny in and of itself. It might not necessarily be related to Nostradamus, but the 6-11 number sequence might help with other clues somewhere down the line (along with the various characters attached to these isolated numbers). At the very least, it doesn’t hurt to make a note of it.


III. Mysterious Voynich characters echoed in Nostradamus’ handwriting

Here you see a sample of Nostradamus’ signature and some handwriting. Purchased as is from Alamy Stock, although I suspect the image tones have been inverted from the original photograph. In the following image, you will find my interpretation of what I think the original text could have looked like. It is a creative interpretation, but ironically I believe it better approximates reality as manuscripts of the period usually did not come with darkened pages and bright yellow ink.

In either case, you will notice Nostradamus’ signature at the bottom. It is noticeably different than the first signature discussed previously in Point I. If I can trust the image caption from Alamy, this signature was used towards the end of Nostradamus’ life when his faculties were failing.

The signature however is not what interests me most here. In the top left corner of each image, there are a few particularly curious characters. Allow me to crop in closer and show you.

As you might notice, some details get lost when enlarging handwriting like this. I did however retrace the characters in vector format so you might get a better sense of what the contours look like at higher resolution.

Anyone who has seriously attempted to decipher the Voynich Manuscript should recognize these characters fairly easily (again, I want to mention this was found in Nostradamus’ handwriting); or at least some very familiar elements. I know I have struggled with them personally. To begin with, I just called one the Pi symbol and the other, a Pi symbol with a hook over it. I had no idea what Pi and hooked Pi meant then, although I have a fairly good idea now within the context of the Voynich Manuscript (which I am deliberately omitting in this research).

For comparison, these are the Pi and hooked Pi characters found in the Voynich Manuscript. It reveals yet another potential connection with Nostradamus that I find impossible to ignore. At this point, I would also like to mention that I do not necessarily believe the same hand wrote both sets of characters. Quite the opposite actually, the handwriting found in the body of the text of the Voynich Manuscript looks remarkably graceful and consistent in pattern to me (albeit challenging to decipher). Not so with what I perceive as the handwriting of Nostradamus; it seems more erratic and less refined.

This should come as no surprise since Nostradamus was known to employ secretaries to transcribe his writings. Nevertheless, I do believe the concurrent use of both Pi and hooked Pi symbols in Nostradamus’ handwriting and the Voynich Manuscript raises some interesting questions that cannot easily be dismissed as pure chance. I can realistically conceive a scenario where Nostradamus devised the characters and cipher key to be used in the Voynich Manuscript (perhaps adding some personal touches or annotations of his own), but otherwise delegated the bulk of the scribing work to one his secretaries with better / more legible handwriting.

In turn, I am effectively implying there are at least two authors for the Voynich Manuscript. With or without Nostradamus, I see supporting evidence for multiple authors. I would ideally like to conduct more research on this, but the most important thing I want to point out here is the commonality of what I call Pi and hooked Pi characters between Nostradamus’ handwriting sample, and the Voynich Manuscript.


IV. 52 Shades of interpretation

This point is admittedly more speculative than others, and involves a fair bit of creative thinking. I found these markings in the top right corner of Page 1 R from the Voynich Manuscript. The very first thing I saw was the number 2 in the top half portion, and another unknown character beneath it. Unknown that is until I rotated the image around 180 degrees, and discovered what might be interpreted as the number 5.

When put together, I can therefore visualize one of two numbers: 25 or 52. To begin with, I thought 25 could symbolize the number of letters in the alphabet used in the Voynich Manuscript. However, I am still conducting research on a new letter cipher key. I am optimistic about the results, but it remains a very challenging task because all it takes is for one single letter to be wrong for the whole meaning of a word to change.

All that to say I made a note of 25 as a possible indicator for the number of letters in the Voynich alphabet, but it was left as more of an open question mark while my research into the actual alphabet is ongoing. Then Nostradamus came to my attention, and this number pair presented new possible interpretations with interesting connections.

Instead of indicating 25 letters in an alphabet, perhaps this is a year marker within a specific century. In the context of Nostradamus who lived between 1503 and 1566, 52 would make more sense versus 25. It is only around 1550 that he seriously started pursuing astrology, and would have otherwise been too young in 1525 when he focused on herbal remedies.

1552 is an interesting year because that is when the would-be Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II was born. Nostradamus is reported to have cast a horoscope for Rudolf II based on his birth year of 1552, and Rudolf II re-appears as a likely candidate for one of the first people to own the Voynich Manuscript in its documented chain of custody. One theory of particular interest to me is that Rudolf II acquired the Voynich Manuscript from a 1593 sale related to four books authored by Leonhard Rauwolf (via Richard Strein von Schwarzenau).

While Leonard Rauwolf was German, he did study botany & medicine in Southern France. This is the same general region where Nostradamus lived. I realize he was dead by 1593 at the time Rauwolf’s books were allegedly sold to Rudolf II, but Nostradamus did have heirs. It is normal to expect his worldly possessions to surface for sale after death. Perhaps his son César needed the money, and knew Emperor Rudolf II had a penchant for the occult. In comes this middleman by the name Leonard Rauwolf with a background in botany & medicine, it is conceivable to me that he traveled to Southern France with the intention of buying memorabilia from Nostradamus’ estate; which in turn could have included the Voynich Manuscript.

Here I am revisiting one of Nostradamus’ signatures reportedly used toward the end of his life. I included the rasterized version of the image (which was inverted from the original stock photo as I believe the stock photo itself was inverted), and a cleaner vector version that I retraced manually.

If you haven’t noticed already, there appears to be what could be interpreted as the number 52 right in Nostradamus’ signature, after the letters “M No”, and before the letters “adamus”. By pure inference, it would follow that the characters in between spell out “str” to complete the words “M Nostradamus”. I do not dispute that either, especially since the first letter clearly looks like an ‘s’. I do however find it curious that Nostradamus also made those “str” letters look like the number 52. That is a very specific number which potentially appears in Page 1 R of the Voynich Manuscript. Nostradamus reportedly used this specific signature around 1566 (near his time of death), but he could have still assigned some sort of significance to the year 1552. In other words, those characters in his signature could carry a double meaning. One meant to be taken more literally and in line with the text of signature: the letters ‘str’. The other meaning would be more personal to him like the number 52.

As mentioned, this point is more speculative than others and involves a fair bit of creative thinking. I do however feel it is necessary to explore. The more interpretations are put out there, the better chances we can find the right answers.


V. Astrology and Nostradamus as a Sagittarius

Born on 14 or 21 December 1503, Nostradamus was a Sagittarius. He also claimed expertise in astrology and created numerous horoscopes as a result.

The Voynich Manuscript contains what many people can agree upon is a zodiac or astrology section. The zodiac sequence starts with Pisces on Page 70 V (part 1)), and follows the standard zodiac chronology from that point. In other words, here is the order of zodiac signs from start to finish in the Voynich Manuscript:

1. Pisces for the month of March.
2. Aries for the month of April (repeated twice in the Voynich Manuscript).
3. Taurus for the month of May (repeated again twice, then the singular pattern returns).
4. Gemini for the month of June.
5. Cancer for the month of July.
6. Leo for the month of August.
7. Virgo for the month of September.
8. Libra for the month of October.
9. Scorpio for the month of November.
10. Sagittarius for the month of December.

At this point, the zodiac sequence stops; rather curiously at that since Capricorn and Aquarius seem to be missing. Worth noting, the next page after Sagittarius also appears to be missing. Sagittarius corresponds to Page 73 V of the Voynich Manuscript, then it skips to Page 75 R. Leading many people to assume - including myself to begin with - that Capricorn and Aquarius must have figured on pages 74 R + V.

It is a perfectly logical assumption to make that when exactly two pages and two zodiac signs are missing that they must be connected. That is however an inference; in the strictest sense, we can only say with a high degree of certainty that ten zodiac signs were used in the Voynich Manuscript. Perhaps the sequence was meant to finish with Sagittarius, and the next missing page is related to the next section on Page 75 R. Or perhaps the authors wanted to deceive us to the point of speculating about the existence of a non-existent page. That would be quite the mind game, not to mention an interesting paradox. Anything is possible with the Voynich Manuscript, and Nostradamus does seem to fit the profile of someone who could conceptualize a project of this complexity. To top it off, he was a Sagittarius, and again, that’s where the zodiac sequence ends in the Voynich Manuscript.

Upon researching astrology around the time of Nostradamus, I came across the above image courtesy of {BnF Gallica / Bibliothèque nationale de France. I am no expert in astrology, but from what I can understand, the illustration represents a zodiac fertility wheel.

At this point, I do want to mention that I am fluent in French. I have been since kindergarten (or what the French call “école maternelle”, literally meaning “maternal school”), and immersed myself for many years within French-speaking cultures. Growing up, I attended a private French school with a standard French curriculum for 14 years. Then I lived in Montréal, Québec, Canada, for 15 years. Unfortunately, I have not practiced my French much since my latest move to the USA, so I do not pretend to be an expert translator. I would however like to think I retained most of my French after being exposed to it for so long, and here is my tentative translation of the text within the center of the above zodiac wheel. It might not be perfect, but I think it is close enough. It should also save you time from otherwise having to transcribe the text and then translate it:

This Wheel is composed of three others, each divided in 28, like the Solar Cycle in the first [wheel]
Outside are the planets which reign over the years of the Solar Cycle. In the second Wheel are the signs of the Zodiac. In the third [wheel] the resolution if the year will be fertile or sterile etc. What causes fertility or sterility are the planets or seconds or steriles [?] with the zodiac signs.
In practice we will base ourselves on [the year] 1640. If we want the resolution for a year after [1640], we count as many years as needed in order from 1640, 1641, etc, and the box where this number ends up in will show the fertility or sterility of a given year. If it is before the year 1640, we would count backward from 1640, 1639, etc., and the end count will give us what we are searching for.

What follows from there are a couple lines of text to indicate provenance, but that’s not really important to me here. What I am most interested in is the design of the zodiac wheel, and reading the instructions in attempts to better understand how it works.

I noticed for example one section of the wheel (what I henceforth refer to as the middle section) is devoted entirely to all twelve zodiac signs. If we look to the Voynich Manuscript and compare its individual zodiac pages to the image above from {BnF Gallica, that middle wheel section typically contains illustrations of women (often nude, but not always, and there are what appear to be a few rare instances of men).

By extension, I certainly think it is possible there are elements of fertility and sterility embedded within the zodiac section of the Voynich Manuscript by sheer virtue of all the nude women illustrated therein. In addition, many of them are depicted with bulging bellies; which I would in turn equate with themes of pregnancy and fertility (plus its opposite sterility).

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that each month of the zodiac section in the Voynich Manuscript contains exactly 30 illustrated people (I will use the term “people” instead of “women” from this point forward to account for the rare instances of men). There is one exception to note: The month of March (corresponding to Pisces) with a total of 29 people. Not too surprising when giving it some more thought because zodiac signs do not begin on the first of every month. Pisces actually lasts between February 19 and March 20. February has the distinction of being the shortest month of the year, so that might explain why the Pisces zodiac wheel in the Voynich Manuscript only contains 29 people (versus 30).

Beside the Pisces zodiac wheel, there is otherwise a consistent pattern of exactly 30 people illustrated per zodiac wheel from Pages 70 V (Aries) to 73 V (Sagittarius). I invite you to check for yourself. Perhaps at first you will notice some irregularities like the months of April and May with two zodiac wheels each. But when you add the half zodiac wheels together, you still get 30 people for each month.

Then you might notice people shuffling around in position. In June for example (Gemini), the zodiac wheels comes with an additional “fringe” layer of four people. Then in July (Cancer), that fringe layer gets more crowded with 12 people. Yet the total for each month (when you count all layers) adds up to exactly 30. I highly doubt this is pure coincidence.

Coming back to the months of April and May which are divided in two zodiac wheels each, it is also interesting to note that brings the total number of zodiac signs to 12. Yes, two of them are repeated (Aries & Taurus), but the total is still 12. Maybe Aries & Taurus were repeated on purpose to compensate for the lack of Capricorn & Aquarius.

This gives me more reason to believe the zodiac calendar in the Voynich Manuscript might have only been designed with 10 months in mind, despite what common sense or prevailing wisdom tells us. Especially if you consider these months could be allegorical in nature. For all we know, they can also represent greater timelines spanning years, decades, or even centuries.

Upon further research, I might even be so bold as to propose that the zodiac section in the Voynich Manuscript spans the length of Nostradamus’ life from around his birth to the time he wrote this book. I can see possible references to his life within the zodiac illustrations themselves, including:

1. Birth & infancy stages: This doesn't necessarily point to Nostradamus in particular, but everyone has to start somewhere. Authors often like to use birth as a starting point when describing their lives. In the image above from the Pisces zodiac section of the Voynich Manuscript, the illustrated people can be interpreted as babies and / or infants. They clearly look younger than the people who follow in the zodiac sequence, and Pisces is the first sign in the zodiac sequence of the Voynich Manuscript.

Another interesting observation here is that each person appears to come with a container. What type of container, I cannot say exactly; except perhaps that it might symbolize shelter or protection in general.

2. Childhood stages: Right after Pisces, it seems the people illustrated in the zodiac wheel for Aries have grown up a little, but not yet fully developed into adults when compared to later pages of the zodiac section. I also get a better sense that these illustrations are female-dominated, and that pattern continues throughout the zodiac sequence.

There is however one boy that appears to stand out among all the girls. This break in pattern suggests this boy holds some sort of importance. Nothing at face value identifies him as a young Nostradamus, but this is otherwise consistent with his life progression from baby to boy if it turns out to be him.

3. Adolescence & education: Following Aries, we are presented with another instance of Aries, then Taurus. I grouped the latter two together in the diptych above as they do seem to share some key characteristics, but also contrast against the two previous signs in distinct ways.

The people might have aged somewhat compared to those under Aries in the previous page, but to be honest, I do not see much of a difference in physical attributes to suggest pronounced age progression. There do however appear to be more vibrant splashes of colors starting with the second Aries sign, and some people are wearing hats. I might interpret them to be students. A couple of them even seem to be wearing hats with round or pointy projections, which might be seen as birettas to symbolize medical students. This would fit the profile of Nostradamus with medical ambitions from an early age.

4. Vulnerabilities of adulthood: In the second installment of Taurus, most colors are muted in comparison to the two previous pages. There is also a distinction to be made between the inner and outer sections of this Taurus zodiac wheel. The people in the inner section are standing in containers much like in previous pages, but the people in the outer section are not. It is possible to imagine that the loss of these containers in a supposed timeline of Nostradamus’ life could symbolize a loss of protection afforded to him by family while he was growing up; or a loss of innocence when entering adulthood, and / or after being expelled from medical studies.

In the outer section towards the top, it is also worth mentioning that one naked man stands out among all the women. Again, I see this as consistent with how Nostradamus might have seen himself at this stage in his life: naked / vulnerable and alone, but ready to start a new chapter.

5. Following in the line of zodiac succession is Gemini. Here for once I am focusing on a specific section of the zodiac wheel: the very center, and the visual representation of Gemini itself; notably, two people facing each other and holding hands.

In the chronology of Nostradamus’ life, he would have already given up on medical studies. Instead, I believe he was continuing research in herbal remedies and doing apothecary work. However, to become an apothecary in the first place, one would have typically had to start as an apprentice training under a master. The Gemini sign illustration in the Voynich Manuscript could therefore symbolize the relationship between apprentice and master (especially if an apprentice can be interpreted as a master in training, in which case this could also be seen as the same person, except split between past and future selves; but perhaps I am getting a bit too philosophical here).

It even appears the green clothes and cap the left person is wearing could represent an apothecary (or an apothecary in training). Perhaps the color green has a significance that transcends the literal in that we shouldn’t necessarily look to professionals of the era who were known to wear green clothes. Instead, the color green could symbolize plants in general as a primary subject of interest for apothecaries. Professionals who were also known to wear caps as a matter of proper hygiene, everything so far in this zodiac section of the Voynich Manuscript seems to be falling in line with some key events in Nostradamus’ life (in chronological order no less).

6. Between the consecutive signs of Cancer and Leo, one specific woman appears to stand out in each zodiac wheel. She is illustrated as wearing a crown, but one key characteristic setting the two apart is the color used inside the crown. On the Cancer page, the inside of the crown is left blank, or devoid of color. On the Leo page, the inside of the crown is red.

Remember, these are from two consecutive zodiac signs. In the chronology of Nostradamus’ life, he met and married a woman in the 1530s. She however died within a few years. The red color in the crown of the Leo section could therefore conceivably represent blood, and by extension, death. In other words, this could be the same woman Nostradamus is alluding to, but at different moments in time between when she was alive and dead (yet perhaps still kept alive in his memory, hence the inclusion in Leo).

The color red does otherwise stand out across both pages which otherwise seem muted in color. Other than featuring prominently inside the crown of the Leo section, the color red also appears as a pronounced stain over the tail & rear leg section of the Leo sign itself. If Nostradamus likened himself to the lion (from which the name Leo is derived) in that moment in time, then that red stain could symbolize the pain he felt over his first wife’s death.

I realize this might be more of a creative interpretation if taken by itself, but context does matter. When I look at the bigger picture, most of these observations and interpretations are making coherent sense and connecting with each other in a consistent fashion.

7. The third woman I could spot wearing a crown in the zodiac section of the Voynich Manuscript is in Libra. Please note I skipped over Virgo which immediately follows Leo, but I feel a need to speed things up after devoting considerably more effort than expected discussing astrology alone. I also want to keep exploring the crown angle from my previous point. These crowns are rare throughout the zodiac section, so I figure they hold some special importance.

In addition, this crown in the Libra section appears more ornate than the previous crowns, and capped with a cross. In the chronology of Nostradamus’ life, this could very well designate his second wife, Anne Ponsard. Someone he came to spend the rest of his life with, Anne Ponsard gave birth to a number of healthy children in the process. In this context, the more ornate crown capped with a cross makes sense. The woman wearing it would correspond to Nostradamus’ most cherished woman of all, his second wife Anne Ponsard. Having this newly crowned woman appear in the Libra section of the Voynich Manuscript is otherwise consistent with the chronology of Nostradamus’ life.

In astrology, Libra is commonly visualized as a scale to symbolize themes like balance and harmony. As expected, the Libra sign in the Voynich Manuscript can be likened to a scale. It might be a bit crudely illustrated, but all the basic elements are there to indicate a sense of equilibrium.

I feel this important to mention because the Libra section in the Voynich Manuscript could also be interpreted as a time of balance for Nostradamus. After enduring so many hardships early on, maybe he felt his life was finally moving in the right direction when meeting & marrying Anne Ponsard. She could have been largely responsible for tipping the scales in his favor, or at least that’s how he would have wanted her portrayed here. The imagery really is quite poetic when I give it some more thought. It’s like Nostradamus is weaving the zodiac sequence directly into the tapestry of his life. He might have even been trying to communicate that his life was written in the stars, or some other similar visual analogy related to concepts like destiny and predetermination.

8. Here we come around full circle to Sagittarius as the last zodiac sign we know of in the Voynich Manuscript. At this point, I am more and more convinced it was designed to be the last, and I hope you can see it as a very real possibility too.

As previously mentioned, Nostradamus was a Sagittarius, so it would make sense for him to end the zodiac sequence here. It would correspond to the end of his life around when the manuscript was published. Not necessarily the end of his life in absolute terms, i.e. death; and I feel a distinction needs to be made there because Nostradamus would have gone on to live a few years longer (theoretically extending beyond the Sagittarius sign in the Voynich Manuscript). But from his own perspective as a person living in the present (albeit now long gone in the past from our perspective), the time in which he wrote the manuscript would have corresponded to the end of his known life.

The reason I believe this to be so important (even if it sounds complicated) is because I believe it can help to pinpoint a more precise timeframe for when the Voynich Manuscript was actually published, if we can assume for the sake of argument that it relates to Nostradamus.

At first glance, the characters above taken from Page 116 V / colophon section of the Voynich Manuscript might not look like much. I saw the letters or word “vix” to begin with, but they did not inspire me with any instant interpretations. Sure, they might look like Roman numerals, but put together they don’t technically make sense to me. That is until Nostradamus came to my attention, someone who likes to get creative with words and letters. It is no stretch of the imagination to think he would make creative use of Roman numerals.

Now all of a sudden, I can potentially see “vix” as two separate Roman numerals corresponding to the numbers 5 and 9. Since it is located in what I call the colophon section, I have good reason to suspect that 59 could be a year marker. In the context of Nostradamus, that could mean 1559, but that is only one possible interpretation. 59 might alternatively designate the age of Nostradamus in years at the time of publication. Since he was born in 1503, that would in turn imply an alternate publication year of around 1562-63 at the time he was 59 years old.

I realize this could invalidate my previous theory about 1552 being a possible year of publication for the Voynich Manuscript as discussed in Point IV. A point I did concede was more speculative than others, although the number 52 (or some semblance of it) could have still been important to Nostradamus for another reason. My newly revised timeframe of 1559-63 would however seem to make more sense in the life of Nostradamus.

In retrospect, we see that Nostradamus died in 1566. He most probably didn’t know ahead of time when exactly he would die, especially around 1559-63 when I now estimate this manuscript to be written. However, 1559-63 would have placed him at an age when one might expect to wrestle with existential issues like mortality and finding a sense of purpose.

It is therefore possible to conceive that Nostradamus might have wanted to leave an enduring legacy behind. What we know as the Voynich Manuscript could actually turn out to be the lost Magnum Opus of Nostradamus.



If Nostradamus’ connection to the Voynich Manuscript is proven, I realize how far reaching the implications can be. I do however want to make it clear that I do not place much faith in Nostradamus’ predictions or divine powers.

I see Nostradamus as a regular human being. Perhaps resourceful for his time, and he got lucky when it counted for a few predictions that would attract more high profile clientèle. He did however get many predictions wrong, but at some point, I believe he reached a level of celebrity that the accuracy of his predictions no longer really mattered. He was like a Renaissance influencer who accumulated lots of followers, and got verified multiple times over by the various royals who commissioned him.

At some point, the public perception of Nostradamus must have transformed from that of a simple healer practicing apothecary work to messenger of God (or inversely, a heretic disrespecting God). That is what I find most fascinating, the evolving social dynamics surrounding Nostradamus’ life, and the legacy he left behind after death. Prophet or not, Nostradamus managed to do what most people can only dream of: Immortalize his name in history.

I invite you to test my findings; in fact, I hope more people come forward and offer new interpretations of their own. While this paper focuses on Nostradamus’ potential connection with the Voynich Manuscript, I am also exploring other angles (including linguistics and artistic interpretations). It is very challenging work, but not impossible. It is only a matter of time before the secrets of the Voynich Manuscript are revealed, and I might be so bold to predict it will happen by 2033.

Please also note this is purely personal research. I am not doing it for grades, money, or fame. There is a hidden story behind the Voynich Manuscript, and I cannot help but obsess over its mysteries. Trying to solve them makes me feel alive, especially when I see the chance to right a wrong in history.

You will otherwise have to forgive any spelllllling mistakes or grammatical errors as my last university course was in 2004. Since then, I have been pursuing photography, and it remains my main profession. What’s most important to me is making the observations and establishing some connections. I hope at least I have presented them to you in a way that makes sense.

Should you use any of my findings for your benefit, please be sure to credit me appropriately. Of this I must insist with no exceptions in order to ensure my hard work is protected.



- General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University for providing the Voynich Manuscript in digitized high resolution format.

- Google Bard as a Large Language Model for responding to all sorts of queries.

Wikipedia as a free-content online encyclopedia for providing general knowledge.

Ryan Leonard for assisting with creative interpretations.

Sijo Thomas for assisting with translations of old poems.


Additional Acknowledgments

- René Zandbergen for extensive research on the Voynich Manuscript via

- J.K. Petersen for extensive research on the Voynich Manuscript via

- Nick Pelling for extensive research on the Voynich Manuscript and other unbroken historical ciphers via

- Dan Horn as author & producer of Discerning History.

- Nicholas Everett as author of The Alphabet of Galen: Pharmacy from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. University of Toronto Press, 2012.

- Smithsonian Library for providing the herbal De historia stirpium commentarii insignes by Leonhart Fuchs in digitized high resolution format. In officina Isingriniana, 1542.

- Colenda Digital Repository / University of Pennsylvania Libraries for providing the 15th century herbal Erbario. in digitized high resolution format.

- {BnF Gallica / Bibliothèque nationale de France for providing an insightful archival document in the form of an illustrated Zodiac Fertility Wheel.

- Nostradamus as author and Knut Boeser as editor of The Elixirs of Nostradamus: Nostradamus' Original Recipes for Elixirs, Scented Water, Beauty Potions and Sweetmeats. Moyer Bell Ltd, 1996.

- Nostradamus as author of Traité des Fardements (French Edition); preface by Nicolas de Barry. 2018.

- Peter Lemesurier as author of Nostradamus, Bibliomancer: The Man, The Myth, The Truth. New Page Books, 2018.



This research paper in its entirety is supplemented with illustrative examples from third party image sources. Images I believe in good faith to be used with authorization from screen grabs of the Voynich Manuscript itself, public domain material, and in one case, a paid stock photo.

Please also note only one paragraph in this research paper was worded by artificial intelligence, notably Google Bard as a Large Language Model. I do not claim copyright ownership over Google Bard’s words, more specifically the brief summary Bard provided about the life of Nostradamus. Neither do I claim copyright ownership over excerpts quoted from third party sources. In either case, I provide due credit. Otherwise, I hereby attest to being the original author of the text in this research paper.

Copyright © Nicolas Raymond 2024. All rights reserved.

(Nicolas Raymond) analysis apothecary art artwork astrology bold frontiers boldfrontiers book botany creative creativity cryptic cursive esoteric esotericism history interpretation kabbalah manuscript michel de nostredame mysterious mystery mysticism nick ray nicolas raymond nostradamus occult occultism paper personal research perspective plants research research paper secret text voynich voynich manuscript writing zodiac Thu, 01 Feb 2024 13:41:53 GMT
My Interview with Shoutout Colorado Last August 2023, I was happy to connect with Shoutout Colorado for an interview. If you are interested in reading the article and knowing a little more about me, feel free to visit this link

Here is a transcript of that interview in case the Shoutout Colorado link expires:

We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicolas Raymond and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nicolas, what makes you happy? Why?
Beyond the simple pleasures of life, I very much enjoy travel and photography. Travel came first as I was born into an international family. My father was from Quebec, Canada, and my mother, from Wales, United Kingdom. Growing up near Washington DC, that meant lots and back forth to visit relatives, plus other interesting places around the globe.

Enter 2005, I got my first digital camera, and had the chance to visit Peru. A camera that only offered 5 megapixels, but at the time it was considered amazingly high resolution! Something clicked in me on that trip as I took in so many breathtaking sights. All of a sudden, I had this magical device which could capture and forge my travels with longer lasting impressions.

Fast forward to May 2023, I went on a road trip to Colorado. Almost 2000 miles in a single direction from start to end, but well worth the drive. Especially coming out of the Covid era and its hangover effects, it was great to stretch my legs again, and soak in the sights. At times, I sank in knee-deep snow at dizzying high altitudes. Then I got sunburned and bitten by mosquitoes in warmer desert-like environments.

Experiences that might have been inconvenient in the moment, but fun to talk about in retrospect. Ultimately, I was thrilled to bits discovering new places on my road trip to Colorado. So much spectacular scenery once approaching the Rockies from the East; suddenly, long stretches of flat land and gently rolling hills morph into skyscraping mountains like a colossal wall splitting two worlds apart. Making my imagination go wild, as if I found myself immersed in a fantasy novel navigating through unknown, yet ruggedly beautiful territory.

Trips like these go a long way to explain what makes me happy. Whether it’s Colorado, Peru, or anywhere else on this planet, I am always compelled to discover new places with a child-like sense of wonder. They give me the perfect escape and excuse to break free from the monotony of everyday life. All the better when I can put my photography to good use, and share my creative vision with others.

Yankee Girl MineYankee Girl MineHistoric Yankee Girl Mine near Ouray, Colorado, USA. HDR composite from multiple exposures.


Loup of Fintry Sunset WaterfallLoup of Fintry Sunset WaterfallLong exposure sunset waterfall from the Loup of Fintry in Scotland (UK). HDR composite from multiple exposures.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

My main interest is photography. Earlier on around 2010 I became interested in waterfalls, especially using long exposure effects. If you’re wondering what long exposure means, just think of those photos with smooth & silky white water. Typically requiring a tripod to keep the camera still for longer periods of time, and a neutral density filter acting like a dark-tinted window to force the camera shutter to remain open longer (in order to absorb the same amount of light it would have without the filter).

The end result being a waterfall with an almost divine or ghostly appearance. Would like to think that type of photography sets me apart from others. I kind of view waterfalls as living creatures with distinct moods & characters that change with passing seasons & cascading patterns. Flowing gracefully over hard rocks they helped to sculpt ever so slowly through the process of erosion. Something about that resonates with me on an elemental level. Contrasting water against earth, motion against stillness, yet all coming together to form a more harmonious impression of Mother Nature at work.

Beyond waterfalls and general landscape photography, I like to experiment with digital manipulations. Just as I enjoy traveling to discover new places, I embrace new technologies to push the creative envelope.

It hasn’t been an easy journey to be honest. I cannot rely on photography & visual arts alone to provide me with steady income, it is more like a side hustle at this point. I’ve had some success, but it’s been a lot more challenging than expected to make a name for myself. Some artists hit viral success overnight and are set for life, but I suspect most of us aren’t as fortunate.

I also happen to be introverted, so that puts me at a disadvantage with things like networking and self-promotion. Wish I was more outgoing, but have come to accept I am hard-wired this way. Very passionate about the work I do though, and the introversion helps me with the creative process. So I do my best to be patient, and keep putting in the effort as long as I can afford it.

For anyone who can relate, that would be my advice. Knowing how hard it can be to become a successful artist, but choosing to defy the odds anyways because it is what you are most passionate about. The best job is one you love doing, so might as well give it a chance if it leads you to a happier life.

Autumn Dutchman Swirl FallsAutumn Dutchman Swirl FallsLong exposure photo of Dutchman Falls with swirling autumn leaves. Located at Loyalsock State Forest, Pennsylvania, USA. HDR composite from multiple exposures.

Barking RoseBarking RoseDigital artwork combining a macro photo of a rose and a wood bark texture.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

I volunteer as a photographer for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, so it would be a no-brainer to show my friend around the area. Washington DC is the nation’s capital after all, and there is a particularly scenic stretch to walk along the National Mall between the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial. Spanning some two miles in a single direction, it is packed with historic monuments, fine examples of neoclassical architecture, and a bunch of museums like Natural History, Air & Space, and National Gallery of Art just to name a few.

That said, I’m not much of a city person. Happy to show my friends around town if only because I live near Washington DC, and they did travel a ways to get here. Touring the nation’s capital seems like something important to check off a bucket list. But if they were staying a week, I would also like to take my friends to less crowded places within say two hundred miles. This includes nearby states like Maryland (where I live), Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Obviously, the scenery here isn’t nearly as dramatic as in Colorado. The highest elevation point in Maryland for example is at 3,360 feet, which is barely higher than Colorado’s lowest elevation point at 3,317 feet. Our Appalachian Mountains are a lot older and more eroded than the Rockies, but there are some pretty landscapes and waterfalls if you know where to look, especially in autumn when the foliage glows with fiery colors. Some places I might think of taking my friends to are Great Falls (Maryland & Virginia), C&O Canal (Maryland), Shenandoah National Park (Virginia), Blackwater Falls (West Virginia), and Ohiopyle State Park (Pennsylvania).

In addition, there are many sites of historical importance all around here. Beyond Washington DC, I would consider taking my friends to places like Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), Antietam (Maryland), and Harpers Ferry (West Virginia) tied to the Civil War. Then there’s Valley Forge (Pennsylvania) with roots even further back to the Revolutionary War.

Not to mention Valley Forge is a stone’s throw away from the King of Prussia Mall, the largest mall in Pennsylvania and fifth largest in the United States. So if my friends prefer things like shopping and entertainment, at least I can dump them at King of Prussia for a few hours while I walk and drive around Valley Forge National Historical Park.

I do this quite often with Mom actually, in fact we drove together to Colorado last May. She doesn’t accompany me on nature / photo hikes, and I don’t follow her in shopping centers. But sometimes our interests do intersect, for example we both enjoyed touring the Meow Wolf in Denver as an immersive art experience, and the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park as the inspirational backdrop for Stephen King’s The Shining.

Whoever I am spending time with, I basically want them to have fun too. We don’t all share the same interests, and that’s fine. Glad to give the standard DC tour whenever a friend visits, but nothing is to stop them from going back on their own time if something in particular tickles their fancy like dancing at a nightclub.

If they like photography and hiking the great outdoors, all the better. That’s where I really shine as an unofficial tour guide. Some places I’ve been to so often that I’ve almost become indifferent to them, so it’s great to see that spark of intrigue light up in someone else’s eyes when they see the same place for the very first time. For a brief moment, I get to live that excitement vicariously through them, and we simply enjoy exchanging stories along the way.

Great Autumn Steam FallsGreat Autumn Steam FallsLong exposure photo of Great Falls along the Potomac River in Great Falls National Park, Virginia, USA. Captured on a cold autumn morning as the water was releasing mist like a giant steam bath. HDR composite from multiple exposures. Winding Wonderland WaterfallWinding Wonderland WaterfallLong exposure photo of Blackwater Falls and winding staircase from Blackwater Falls State Park near Davis, West Virginia (USA). HDR composite from multiple exposures, and variant of this image processed with a mix of blue & purple colors in the foliage for a more surreal atmosphere.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

First and foremost, I would like to dedicate this shoutout to my late father Gerard Raymond. He passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2010, but want to think much of his spirit continues to live on through me with a love for travel and photography among other things.

You see, Dad used to work as an economist and had to go on mission sometimes to developing countries. A career very different from mine, yet Dad enjoyed taking photos along the way just as I do. He also accumulated personal frequent flier miles while on mission, and shared them with Mom and me so we could go on fun family vacations.

Very grateful to both my parents for being perfect role models to me. Mom’s alive and well, I have her to thank for continued support and unconditional love. Might sound cliché, but it’s true. I am who I am in large part because of how I was raised, even though I had a habit of taking my parents for granted earlier on in life. It’s only after my father died – and the devastating impact it had on me – that I realized how important it is to cherish family. I hope you do too before it’s too late.

Iceland Sunset Motion FantasyIceland Sunset Motion FantasyRugged mountain scenery located near Foss á Síðu ("Waterfall at Síða") and the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, Iceland. Variant of this image digitally manipulated with vibrant sunset clouds in the sky and motion blur effect for a more surreal atmosphere. Golden Garden of the GodsGolden Garden of the GodsGiant rock formation illuminated with golden hour sunrise light. Located at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. HDR composite from multiple exposures.

(Nicolas Raymond) art bio biography blog boldfrontiers colorado images inspiration introversion introvert landscape landscapes nature nicolas photographer photography pictures raymond shoutout travel visual wanderlust waterfall waterfalls Tue, 07 Nov 2023 23:59:16 GMT
Renewed Optimism Once upon a time in what seems the distant past of 2019, life was great and photo opportunities were teeming at every corner. I had started the New Year with a trip to Wales (UK), spring in Utah & Idaho, then autumn in Virginia, Tennessee & North Carolina.

Fast forward a few months, news of a novel coronavirus started trickling in. Thinking at first it would subside with some isolated cases on the West coast, that it could be contained like previous outbreaks of SARS & Ebola. Recalling early conversations from when Covid19 was more of a whisper paling in comparison to the seasonal flu, only to be slapped with sobering reality almost one day to the next with infections spreading exponentially in New York City & the East Coast.

Lockdowns ensued, many schools and businesses shut down. Facing the developments with mixed feelings as an introvert able to cope with the imposed solitude, and the Canadian part of me used to hibernating (or "estivating") through the heat & humidity of summer. Yet I was saddened by the crushing human toll and a near complete lack of interaction with people who matter to me the most.

Enter autumn 2020, I was very eager to travel. Originally wanting to explore New England, but with all the Covid restrictions, I set on exploring the beautiful state of Pennsylvania almost exclusively. Starting around the Northeastern corner and Ricketts Glen State Park.

Ricketts Glen being very popular in autumn, especially this year for everyone with cabin fever. To the point of parking lots filling up quickly and closing by noon, and at first discouraging me from going there because I feared the crowds would put me at risk of infection on the trail. Nonetheless the autumn colors were coming along nicely, and for the price I paid in accommodations I wanted to make my trip worthwhile. Telling myself Ricketts Glen as a waterfall haven could not be ignored, and despite my night owl habits, I would make the effort to wake up early to hit the trail by sunrise.

Ricketts Glen was a lot less crowded in the early morning, so I made a list of specific waterfalls I wanted to photograph based on previous visits like Cayuga & Ganoga Falls as seen above. In the process realizing I was severely bent out of shape for all the steep steps, but still happy to venture out after many months of neglect. Wearing the mask on my face on narrow trails, but also wearing the mask under my chin and covering up as needed on wider / less traveled trails.

I also had the chance to squeeze into New York State a couple times right before Maryland residents were put under quarantine restrictions. Around Ithaca for a spectacular display of waterfalls & gorges carved out by ancient glaciers.

New York aside, I continued touring the many wonders of Pennsylvania, including places like Loyalsock State Forest, Quehanna Wild Area, Canoe Creek, and Ohiopyle State Park as pictured above. Most of which revolved around the great outdoors, but I was also pleasantly surprised with a place called Yellow Dog Village (in the greater Pittsburgh area) where I spent the better part of a day photographing inside abandoned houses.

Worth noting, the abandoned houses of Yellow Dog Village are located on private property. In October when I went, the owner did however welcome visitors for a price (varying by activity and time spent on site), and as long as he was contacted in advance. In fact he mentioned Yellow Dog Village was fairly popular with photo group tours, and eventually wanting to convert a house or two as rustic accommodations. So all fees collected definitely help him to preserve - hopefully even improve upon - this wonderful capsule frozen in time. If you are interested in visiting, feel free to check the Yellow Dog Village website at or email the owner at [email protected]

After Pennsylvania, I returned home for a few days of rest, then drove out towards the coast in November. Starting around Chesapeake Bay near the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. With land so incredibly flat I had to forget about waterfalls, yet finding a new sense of appreciation for other forms of waterscapes like lakes and wetlands. To be followed with a couple stops around Ocean City (Maryland) and Chincoteague (Virginia) along the Atlantic coast, but in an ironic twist, I often found myself focusing on subjects other than water like pathways and architecture. Not sure why exactly, except perhaps for wanting to introduce some more variety at the tail end of my trip.

Now back at home eager to process a never-ending backlog of photos, I would like to wish you all Happy Holidays, and renewed optimism into the New Year with vaccines on the way. Please stay safe in the meanwhile, especially if you have to travel.



(Nicolas Raymond) architecture autumn blog boldfrontiers coast fall images landscape landscapes maryland nicolas raymond pennsylvania photographer photography pictures trail trails travel urbex virginia wanderlust waterfall waterfalls Sat, 19 Dec 2020 06:02:16 GMT
Vibrant Autumn Magic 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 :-)



(Nicolas Raymond) Wed, 18 Oct 2017 06:21:33 GMT
Wonderful World of Waterfalls Chutes du Diable WaterfallChutes du Diable Waterfall

Photo Info:
Title: Chutes du Diable Waterfall
Aperture: f/11.0
Shutter Speed: 2.5 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 1 second and 6 seconds in 3 separate exposures
Focal Length: 40 mm
ISO: 200
Date & Location: October 10, 2011 @ Parc National du Mont-Tremblant, Quebec (Canada)

Since 2005 when I started developing an interest in photography, it took a few years to figure out what subject matters appealed to me most. First as a simple hobby, photography was a means to document my travels and build an image bank I could use in graphic design projects without paying too much for royalty-free stock or infringing on a fellow photographer's copyrights.

Meanwhile, I wanted to learn the fundamentals like using full manual camera controls and getting comfortable with a tripod. Involving some formal education, a fair share of reading + tutorials, and a whole lot of practice. A wealth of knowledge I dare not condense in a single blog specific to waterfalls & long exposure effects, so an existing knowledge of basic photographic principles definitely helps going forward. Key factors like Aperture, Shutter Speed, Focal Length, ISO, tripod use, and how you can make them interact with full manual control instead of relying on the camera's automatic settings.

If you are starting from scratch, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. The one book that helped me most as an amateur photographer back in the day for its emphasis on visual examples, camera settings used, and breaking the chapters down to concise yet very insightful knowledge about specific topics.

Otherwise I'll dive right into waterfalls, pun intended :-) Referencing the photo above as my first milestone of sorts for the year my love affair with waterfalls began in 2011. If you're anything like me, you might find yourself approaching the subject with some reservations or second doubts. The explanations made sense when I read about them in books or tutorials, but it still felt like I was taking a huge leap of faith for putting theory into practice.

Glencar FallsGlencar Falls

Photo Info:
Title: Glencar Falls
Aperture: f/11.0
Shutter Speed: 13 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 6 seconds and 25 seconds in 3 separate exposures
Focal Length: 47 mm
ISO: 400
Date & Location: July 14, 2011 @ Glencar Falls, Ireland

Turns out I was pleasantly surprised. If you already know the basics of photography and how to use a camera in manual mode, I would say the move to explore waterfalls & long exposure effects involves 2 additional steps; more specifically 2 key pieces of camera equipment which will greatly help for better results:

1) Tripod: Essentially used to stabilize your photo for longer shutter speeds, even the steadiest hand can experience minor shake in mere fractions of a second resulting in a blurry image. Granted, motion blur is desired in long exposure water effects for that surreal factor, but there typically are some background elements meant to remain still like surrounding rocks and vegetation. Hence the tripod as a tool to capture whatever remains still to contrast against fluid motion, in fact that delicate balance between real & surreal is what draws me into the wonderful world of waterfalls. 

2) Neutral Density (ND) Filter: The one most mysterious thing before I started experimenting with long exposure effects. Might as well have been alien technology to me, but now that I know better I might best describe an ND filter as a shaded window. Deliberately meant to darken the scene through the camera lens, thereby requiring longer shutter speeds to capture the same amount of light as it might have without an ND filter. Those long shutter speeds essentially provide that silky white surreal effect.

Kirkjufellsfoss CascadesKirkjufellsfoss Cascades

Photo Info:
Title: Kirkjufellsfoss Cascades
Aperture: f/16.0
Shutter Speed: 3.2 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 0.8 seconds and 13 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 105 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: May 19, 2017 @ Kirkjufellsfoss in the Western Region of Ireland

That said, there are many different types of ND filters out there between solid, variable and graduated. Along with different brands to choose from, ranging in glass quality and varying shades of darkness qualified in technical terms like density numbers or equivalent f-stop reductions. Needless to say it can sound very confusing to begin with, and there are many factors to consider in using the right type of ND filter to achieve the desired result... between fast flowing vertical waterfall drops under heavy forest shade you might get away with a simple polarizer filter or no filter at all, versus 10+ stop reducing ND filters on the higher end for capturing smooth water (horizontal) motion with slower moving ocean waves on a sunny day.

The above image from Kirkjufellsfoss in Iceland might help to illustrate that point. Fast moving water captured very early in the morning under thick cloud cover where I got away with a simple polarizing filter for an exposure time of 3.2 seconds at base level (bracketed in 5 different exposures for HDR output, although that is another subject altogether beyond the scope of this blog). In contrast to the following photo I took on a very sunny morning from the rugged coast of Acadia National Park in Maine (USA), requiring a 10 stop reducing ND filter for an exposure time of 20 seconds to record some abstract long exposure effects in the water.

Raging Crocodile CoastRaging Crocodile Coast

Photo Info:
Title: Raging Crocodile Coast
Aperture: f/14.0
Shutter Speed: 20 seconds
Focal Length: 105 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: April 14, 2016 @ Acadia National Park, Maine (USA)

Long story short, I would say you are better off experimenting with faster moving water first. Think straight vertical drops; the wider the stream & higher the drop, the more energy tends to flow, and less time needed to capture that silky white long exposure effect (which can be as short as 1 second or less). In many cases it means you can get away with lower density numbers (i.e. lightly shaded ND filters), especially if you use natural light to your advantage like heavy forest shade, cloud cover, or time of day towards sunrise & sunset under softer light versus harsh high noon light which can wash away the details. 

Beyond the pure visual, I also find myself listening to waterfalls, and the "roars" they emit so to speak. Not meant to invoke new age or spiritual beliefs, although it definitely helps if you feel a strong connection to nature. But in the context of photography, the louder the "roar" you hear basically means faster & more energetic flow of water.

Going back to my previous point of using lower density numbers, I would highly recommend going with that approach if you are testing the waters with long exposure effects. Start simple, gain enough practice to build a certain comfort level, then apply the knowledge gained through trial and error for moving up gradually in scales of difficulty (i.e. higher density numbers & longer exposure times). For me at least as a visual person who needs to experience things firsthand instead of absorbing everything at once from written instructions, this more organic process seems to work best. For like-minded photographers who operate the same way, I hope you walk away with some useful insight after reading this blog & various photo references including camera settings.

Blackwater Autumn FallsBlackwater Autumn Falls

Photo Info:
Title: Blackwater Autumn Falls
Aperture: f/14.0
Shutter Speed: 2 seconds for base exposure, otherwise bracketed between 0.5 seconds and 8 seconds in 5 separate exposures
Focal Length: 24 mm
ISO: 100
Date & Location: October 10, 2016 @ Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia (USA)

You might still be wondering as a key question what brand(s) to choose especially as it relates to Neutral Density (ND) filters, and even though I have certain favorites like B+W & Tiffen, I feel it isn't in my place to champion one over the other for lack of in-depth technical analysis. In general I make my photo purchases online through trusted sources like B&H Photo, Adorama, and Amazon, where I have come to rely on the abundance of customer reviews to influence my decision on what to buy. Realizing there's always a chance of some customers leaving dishonest feedback, but the more the reviews, the more I find the law of averages plays out in determining how good a product really is.

(Nicolas Raymond) blog boldfrontiers landscape landscapes long exposure long exposures nature nicolas raymond photo photographer photography pictures travel wanderlust water waterfall waterfalls Sat, 02 Sep 2017 05:50:20 GMT
An Introduction Long Overdue

It has been a little over a year now since I created this website with over a thousand images & counting. Under the initial impression that each picture is worth a thousand words, and my portfolio could speak for itself without much further need for commentary beyond simple photo descriptions.

A very technical approach when it is becoming clear I have not been sharing much insight in the process, or revealing what inspires me in the first place. Hard to know where to start by that token as my professional aspirations began with studies in economics if only to follow in my father’s footsteps fresh out of high school; only to realize I wanted something completely different in a career after obtaining my bachelor’s degree in economics.

Meanwhile, I did grow to embrace my father’s appreciation for photography. As an economist he traveled a lot on missions, took many pictures along the way, and shared his frequent flyer miles with the family. In comes this amazing vacation to Peru in May of 2005 when I was studying graphic design, and a new gift of a 5 megapixel camera to document my travels.

From there, it was love at first sight! In retrospect my photos at the time could benefit from a lot of improvement, and 5 megapixels these days can leave much to be desired for high quality prints. But everyone has to start somewhere right? An exhilarating feeling all the same to keep the memories alive, like in the following scene with a llama and yours truly from Machu Picchu. I will never forget how relaxed the llama was, almost as if he was begging tourists to pose with him.

Needless to say, my passion for photography & the creative arts never stopped growing. Starting as a hobby from one common interest shared with my father, many more photo excursions, and a constant desire to improve my skills so I can ultimately hope to make a living doing what I love most.

Sadly my father passed away in 2010, but I would like to think part of his vision & wanderlust gene continue to live in spirit through me. I still find myself wanting to make him proud by succeeding in the creative arts despite all the detours in my life, with nothing but unconditional love & support on his part to move past them. Same goes for my mother; in fact I probably owe more of my creative instinct to her beyond the scope of photography, and she continues to spoil me with frequent flyer miles including a dream vacation to Iceland this year.

Foggy KirkjufellsfossFoggy KirkjufellsfossLong exposure photo of Kirkjufellsfoss facing Kirkjufell ("Church Mountain") under partial fog cover. HDR composite from multiple exposures.

Combined with a love for travel, you could say I am where I am today thanks to a long process of discovery and the support of two loving parents. Where trial & error proved necessary in order to find my calling, and continue to play a vital role in growing as an artist from photography to digital experiments. Be it a physical location or an abstract concept, I always love to explore new depths.

In comes the name Bold Frontiers to communicate the essence of my work. Bold among things for the ambition of breaking the mold in the creative arts, and Frontiers as a nod to landscapes & nature for one of my favorite subjects to capture. Put together, Bold Frontiers also secretly references terminology used in the opening narration sequence of a popular science-fiction show, but I will leave it at that for a little bit of intrigue & mystery…

Credits to ESA / Hubble for the space image component via, thank you for generously offering it under a Creative Commons license.

In any case I have rambled on long enough about myself, and thank you for indulging in my story. Now that you have a better idea of what makes me tick and how this website came to be, I hope to share more practical insight with you going forward.


Nicolas Raymond

(Nicolas Raymond) blog bold boldfrontiers digital art frontiers images introduction landscapes long exposures nature nicolas raymond photographer photographs photography photos pictures travel traveling travelling visual arts waterfalls Tue, 15 Aug 2017 23:04:12 GMT