Capturing the Mood of Vermont
Though not as geographically diverse as many Western states, and certainly much smaller, Vermont has some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Eastern U.S. From waterfalls and wildlife refuges, to ponds, streams, wetlands and Eastern hardwood forests, Vermont offers any inspiring nature photographer the ability to capture many unique, creative and one-of-a-kind images. There is a maze of country roads (nearly 50% of Vermont's roads are dirt!), that wind their way through the hills and valleys, and around each corner lies breathtaking beauty.
With my Gazetteer serving as my passenger, I'll take note of road signs (if any) and landmarks, so that on a return visit, I'll have less trouble finding my way. Returning to these often uncharted places can be quite difficult. This is not a land of signs and markers like one would find in many National Parks. There are many roads left unmarked, just the way most native Vermonters' prefer (Yes…this is great place to own a GPS).
When traveling the back roads and rural townships of Vermont, my day begins early, and with a coffee in hand. What's in store for today? Will I be photographing loons, a mountain vista, or maybe my favorite pond?
Like any properly planned photographic journey, I usually let mother-nature dictate my destination. The key to my travel is to capture the moment in time that will evoke a mood and storyline that "sells" Vermont.
Light and the Land: On many occasions, even when the light does not allow for good picture taking, I will explore regions that may present great photographic opportunities in the future. In other words, I do my homework.
Be prepared for the "moment." Record your route. How far did you travel? Which lenses will be best suited for this area? Is it a late day or early morning shot? Where's the best perspective? Is it a vertical or horizontal shot? Are there foreground and background elements that may play a role in the quality of the image? And most important, is it public or private land? Once I've answered these questions, it is up to me to be there at the right time.
In spring, summer and fall, my favorite time for shooting is early morning, when the light is soft, just cresting the horizon, the air is calm, and I'm alone with my camera.
The back roads are quiet as the birds begin their early morning chatter. As the sun burns through the valley fog, it's often a race against time. In just a brief moment, the light will change and the "moment" may be gone. Timing is everything when capturing the Mood of Vermont. I love that quality of light on the landscape, and what better way is there to start the day?
Overcast light, or nature's canopy as we like to call it, allows me to shoot wildlife, streams and forested areas.
The light is low in contrast, high in color saturation, and there is the ability to record a wider tonal range. This type of light is every nature photographer's midday dream. In similar situations on sunny days, the light is too harsh resulting in blown out highlights and blocked up shadows, not very favorable for creating good images.
Geography: Within Vermont are vastly different geographical regions. The Champlain Valley lies on the Northwestern side of the state and the heart of the Green Mountains lie more to the East and Southwest and run through central Vermont. Further East, bordering New Hampshire, is the Connecticut River Valley.
The Champlain Valley offers a great number of farms and rolling hills, great for panoramic landscapes. This area is also popular in the fall for the migration of snow geese at Dead Creek Wildlife Area, located in Addison County. Each fall 10-15,000 lesser and greater snow geese congregate in this area. This is a layover point for them on their journey to warmer southern climates.
Photo opportunities abound here as well. Further to the West lies Lake Champlain, bordered by the Adirondack Mountains in New York. These mountains serve as a great backdrop for both morning and evening landscapes in virtually any season.
Inland Vermont's mountainous regions, with its spring runoffs, provide the photographer numerous streams and waterfalls, again helping him or her capture the "Mood of Vermont." For great winter photography, I'll often shoot in the North Central part of the state where you'll find two of Vermont's largest mountains, Mount Mansfield and Camel's Hump. Snowfall in this region comes generally earlier than most of the state, and stays a little longer too.
For me, I'm content photographing anywhere in Vermont with its numerous wildlife, rolling hills and pastoral farms. With its quaint little villages, its streams, ponds and beautiful mountains, no matter the season, or the reason, it's a great way to capture the Mood of Vermont. If you've never had the pleasure of photographing here in my back yard, by all means please do so!
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