Thursday, February 28, 2019

New England Fall - Part 3

Now that my mood had improved again after getting a couple of nice photos, I figured it was time to step it up a bit and make sure I got to Sleepy Hollow Farm before the sun went down.  After all, it was the top spot on my shot list for this trip and if nothing else, the one place I really wanted to make sure I got a good photo before heading home.  I'd actually planned my drive through Vermont and New Hampshire, in a way that it would bring me past this location on 4 different days, JUST in case the weather was bad on any of those days, or maybe the fall colors hadn't hit peak yet and I could see it over the course of a week and maybe get super lucky and catch it on a great day.  That was my thinking anyway as I planned the trip out. 

The closer I got to the farm's location to more I realized I really had missed the best of the fall colors.  I was passing more and more areas where the trees were bare and the ground was covered in leaves.  There were still a few trees that were holding on to the last of their fall colors, but the best of the show was already over.

It didn't matter though, I was going to go get a shot of Sleepy Hollow Farm either way, and I kept telling myself that maybe I'd get lucky and get a pretty sunset instead.  I had no idea which way the farm faced or even if the sun would light it up during the golden hour, but hey, you have to stay positive in moments like this when you start to think about how far you've traveled just to take this one photo.  LOL

As I watched the sun get lower in the sky, I kept thinking that maybe I would get lucky after all.  The sky wasn't going to light up with amazing colors or anything, as there just weren't the right kind of clouds to make that happen, but the golden light that was falling across the valley was making everything look great and I was just about to the farm.

I came up over the next little hill and then suddenly there it was and I was so happy I'd planned on getting here 2 hours before the official sunset.  It turns out that the valley the farm sits in runs north and south and the sun was already being filtered by the trees on the hill behind me.  It would be dark here at least an hour before sunset because the sun was going down behind the hillside behind me at a scary fast pace.

I couldn't believe my luck though as everything was bathed in this really strong golden light.  I grabbed my camera gear out of the car and set up really quick and this was one of the first photos I shot here.

It wasn't the shot I had imagined, with all the trees covered in vibrant fall colors, but heck, it still wasn't a bad shot and the golden light, and the trees in the background still having some leaves on them kept it from being a total bust.

I think I hung out here for just over an hour, waiting to see if more clouds would move in overhead and catch the last of the sunlight before the sun completely set, giving me a chance for an even better photo that day, but no such luck.  I decided that I'd go find a motel in the area and stay the night close by and come back up first thing in the morning to catch sunrise here and see if maybe the light would be even better in the morning.

This post is getting kind of long, sorry about that!  I will stop here and tell you about my morning in my next post.  This one is scheduled to post on Thursday the 28th so if you want to hear the rest of the story, check back on Monday the 4th.  I think I'm going to try to stick to the schedule of a new blog post every Mon and Thu until April when I have a trip to Scotland planned and will be trying to do a daily blog post from there while on the road.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Travel and Planning - Part 3

In Part 2, I left off talking about how I use Google Earth to mark all the locations that I'd like to visit, how it gives me a way to look at the entire map and see where everything is located relative to where I'm going to be in the country and where I might be staying.

I forgot to mention that I also create a new folder in the Places window to hold all my locations for that country.  In this case, I created a folder called Scotland and as I pinned each location on the map, I would then make sure to drag and drop that entry into the Scotland folder to keep everything organized.  Once all of the locations from my notes have been pinned on the map, and then those entries have been dragged and dropped into my Scotland folder, it's time to see what else I can find.

I usually start to then pan around on the map and click on the photo icons to take a look at the photos that are shared there and to see if there is anything else that looks like something I just have to see or photograph myself.  If I see a photo of anything I'd like to visit myself, I'll zoom way in on the map near that photo, and scroll around looking for the actual spot on the map where that photo was taken.  You can't really trust where the image icon shows up on the map, as many of the photo icons are off a bit from the actual place those photos were taken. 

I've gotten pretty good over the years of reading those satellite imagines and finding the spots where the photos were actually taken from and then I will put a pin in that spot so I can get to that location later using my GPS.  I'll explain that whole process in another post though.

In the case of the Scotland trip, I have probably spent 30+ hours just browsing and scanning back and forth over the map of Scotland looking for anything that may make for cool photos, that isn't so well known that when I get there I'll be standing shoulder to shoulder with 30 other photographers, all taking the exact same photo at the same time.   I mean, there are those iconic shots everyone wants to take, and that I admit I want to take for myself too.  You can't always avoid the crowds of photographers in those situations, but I really do try my best to find 10 locations for every iconic one, where I might hopefully be the only photographer there.

I just spend a few hours a week on Google Earth searching out those cool, not so popular locations.  Past experience has taught me that they might not always turn out to be something worth photographing, but I have found some really cool stuff to this way, that I would have never seen without putting in the time to do this.

One other thing I do as I pin new locations to the map, and as I move those locations into the correct folder in my folder layout, is that I make sure to save often and to also export the folder I'm working on to my hard drive as a backup.  I do this because Google Earth does have a bad habit of crashing from time to time, and I have lost hours of work in the past when it's crashed on me. 

This is the step I'm currently on for my Scotland trip and I think my list of pinned locations has grown to be more than 100 entries.  There is no way I can possibly see them all in the 12 days I will have so in my next post on this subject, I will be talking about what I'm doing to narrow down what I hope to see while I'm there.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Travel and Planning - Part 2

In Part 1 of this series of posts, I was kind of all over the board with what I wanted to talk about, so I'll try to remind myself to keep each of these posts a little more on point as I come up with little things to discuss under the topic.  I think I'll try to break down steps I go through when planning for a trip since I'm currently doing just that for my trip to Scotland in April and it might be easier to write about it as I actually do it.

Once I've decided on a place I want to travel, the first thing I like to do is jump online and read other people's travel blogs about the area if I can find any.  It's usually a great place to start to find any pointers about things to do and see, and maybe what should be avoided during the trip.  Depending on where you are going, there could be tons of posts about people's journeys and it's a great way to start figuring out a plan for the trip when you go.

I know that seems pretty straight forward, but I'm always surprised how many times I will talk to someone about their travels and hear them say that they had no idea where to go or what they should see when they got there.  A quick Google search is always the first thing I do just to even see what my options might be.

As I read about peoples trips and information they share, I keep a document open on my computer that I use to take notes on any interesting sounding locations mentioned, and I will usually also rate those as "must see", "see if there is time" etc.  Those notes usually help me come up with a basic plan for what I'd like to see and do on my trip as well. 

When traveling to a country like Scotland, there is so much history, so many castles, beautiful scenery, etc that it can take a while to read up on much of it.  I think I had two pages of notes by the time I decided to jump to my next step.

That next step is to then open Google Earth and start searching for all those places I've made notes on and adding a placemark on the map for them.  Just seeing those places pinned on the map can do wonders for helping you figure out what is going to be possible to see on the trip, and the locations you'll just have to set aside for next time.  If you just wanted to plan a trip to see all of the Castles in Scotland, you'd have to give yourself at least a full month, maybe two if you wanted to spend any time at each one really exploring them.  So yeah, sometimes you just have to make those tough decisions on the things you have to skip and that is really where Google Earth comes in so handy for me.

When you zoom out on the map, you can quickly see pins of items that are just going to be too far out of the way to see, no matter how beautiful or cool they may be.  The one advantage of doing it this way is it takes some of those hard decisions out of your hands and allows you to narrow down the things you still have to choose from.

I'll talk a little more about that in the next post, as that's right where I am now while planning for my Scotland trip.

Monday, February 18, 2019

New England Fall - Part 2

After spending a good hour at Grist Mill taking photos and then exploring the area around there for a little while, I decided it was time to start working my way north and into Vermont.  One of the first things I noticed once the sun came up, was that most of the trees in Massachusettes were still green, but there were a few bare trees sprinkled in among them, so it got my hopes up that maybe I would still get lucky and find fall colors as I drove north.

 I had marked a few places to check out on my trip north and with how pretty the day was, it made for a really nice drive just exploring as I went.  There was a small town along the way, where the town square was built around a nice little pond, and I thought it might have the potential to be a beautiful photo in the right kind of light. When I got there though, the skies were mostly blue and it was just too close to mid-day to really get any kind of special photo there, but I still stopped to walk around and enjoy it, and took some shots to try to figure out what would be the perfect spot for a photo if I make it back out this way again in better conditions.  This spot has great potential to give you a beautiful photo at sunrise or sunset, or maybe when covered in snow and the pond is frozen over.  I love the location and wished I lived closer so I could visit it over an over again until I get that great photo here.  Even just catching all those trees at peak fall color would have made a world of difference to this shot.

Well, now that I've put this on my list to revisit someday, it was time to explore some more.  I could see why people talk in such glowing terms about the Northeast because I was passing so many pretty towns, on small country roads that just made me smile and think of the photos I could try to take there.  Even some of the everyday buildings would catch my eye and make me want to take pictures just to see what I could get.

I mean, something like this isn't a normal hot spot for photography, but the shape of the building and the way the light was hitting it as I came down the road, caused me to stop, and then I couldn't help but think how cool it could look if those trees behind it were bursting with fall colors or once again, everything was covered in snow.

I was starting to notice that my luck for catching great fall colors wasn't looking too good for this trip though.  From what I was seeing, I was about a week too late and many of the trees had already lost all of their leaves.  Those that hadn't lost their leaves were already past peak color...

Was I disappointed?  Yeah, I do have to admit I found myself kind of bummed at this point in time and decided I would just make the best of the trip that I could and use it more as a scouting trip than I'd hoped it would be.  Since I'd never been here before, it was the perfect chance to explore even more than I would have if I'd been totally concentrating on taking photos instead.

I knew there would still be opportunities for some nice photos, but they would just have to be things that didn't fully depend on fall colors to really make them special.  I'd already seen a number of cool old barns and some covered bridges and so I'd just set my sites on taking photos of them more than of the landscape.

My next two stops did wonders to cheer me up and put me back in the right frame of mind.  

Okay, so the fall colors aren't looking so great right now and it's looking like I had bad timing, but I can see now that there will still be some great photos to be had and that has me excited again.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

New England Fall - Part 1

Vermont in the Fall has been on my bucket list for many years. I've always heard about how beautiful it is there that time of year and that it ranks up there as one of the prettiest places for Fall photography in the U.S.

I hadn't really had a chance to travel much last year so I decided that I should finally take a trip back east to see as much of Vermont and New Hampshire as I could and see if I could get lucky with my timing and catch the peak Fall colors while I was there.  The one downside with planning a trip around Fall Foliage is that there is no set time that the colors change every year, and there are so many variables that come into play, the best you can really do is just hope luck is on your side.

When I booked my flight, I really only had one location in mind that I knew I had to visit for sure, and that was Sleepy Hollow Farm. It is one of the most photographed places on the East Coast outside of New York City that I see, and every time I would see photos of it, I would just stop and stare for a while and it would make me want to make a trip there even if that was the only photo I came away with.

I flew from Seattle to Boston and then rented a car for the week that was big enough to carry all my gear and that could double as a place to sleep at least a few nights on this trip to both save money, and to put me much closer to places I wanted to be for a couple of Sunrises while I was there.

My flight landed a couple of hours before the sun was due to come up and my plan was to visit Sleepy Hollow Farm in Vermont before Sunset,  so I planned a stop along the way that should also make for a great photo and hopefully I could get there early enough to catch sunrise there. I knew it was going to be close, but I figured I had the timing just about right as long as I didn't run into any huge delays in rush hour traffic or something.

Turned out I got really lucky and even though the rental car place at the airport took MUCH longer than I expected, traffic was so light getting out of town that time of morning that I still managed to make it to Grist Mill as the sun first lit it up.

Grist Mill

So my trip had officially started, and I already had a photo that made me happy, even though it's nothing spectacular.  It was just nice light at a very cool spot, and a photo I knew I'd like.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Travel and Planning - Part 1

I'm often asked about some of the trips that I've taken, not only questions about how the trip was, but also questions about how I was able to plan out what I was going to do when I got there.  Especially when I travel to places I've never been before that seem like they are way off the beaten path for most people.  I've realized that as time passes, I tend to forget a lot of details about my trips, so I think I'm going to start using this blog as a way to document them for myself as much as for anyone else that might be interested in hearing about them later.

I'm am honestly still surprised at how many people tell me they just finished reading my Iceland blogs and about how much they really enjoyed them.  I don't think of myself as a very good writer, and sometimes cringe when the subject of my blogs come up, since I never really tell anyone they are here, but I guess if you're reading this, you've either just discovered them, or you're one of the few people I know that tell me they check in once in a while to see if I posted anything new.

So I think I'll start a little "travel" series here to not only talk about how I prepped for a trip, but then to talk about it either when I get back or if I can find the time and internet connections, post from the road like I did in Iceland, while it's all super fresh in my head.  I can point out the good and bad things as well as things I might wish I had done differently or places I think I should have skipped because they just weren't as exciting as I thought they might be.

I hate to admit it, but do know that I have gone back and read my Iceland blogs a number of times myself now just to help re-live that trip and it's been fun each time I've done that, so maybe it's not a bad thing to at least use this as a travel log of sorts for myself.  Hopefully, I can make it a little interesting and funny for others as well.

To follow up on this, I might start with a few posts about my Fall trip to Vermont at the end of last year before those memories fade too much more than they already have.  Some of you will think I'm a little nutty at times I'm sure, when I admit to things like not having any hotel reservations at all or when I talk about how many nights I just slept for a few hours here and there in my car, but hey, it's all part of the adventure for me and a good way to not only save money, but to allow me to make the most out of the little bit of time I have to see as much as I can.

Enough rambling for now. I'll title this Part 1 as I'm sure I'll come back and add to the travel and planning parts of it this year as I prepare for a few trips already on the books, and then between those parts, I'll post about the trips as well... in the same style I did for my Iceland trip.  If you are actually reading these, I really hope you enjoy them and maybe even pick up a few ideas along the way for your own travels.