Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke: Blog https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog en-us (C) Copyright 2002-2021 Rebecca Metschke All Rights Reserved (Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Sat, 04 Dec 2021 03:37:00 GMT Sat, 04 Dec 2021 03:37:00 GMT https://www.rebeccametschke.com/img/s/v-12/u763706086-o237784131-50.jpg Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke: Blog https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog 120 100 Born in Boston https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/12/born-in-boston For many, Thanksgiving weekend is synonymous with holiday shopping. While I prefer to pass on the retail mania I look forward to the immediate post-Thanksgiving period for another reason; it means cities and towns everywhere are lighting lights and decking their halls. 

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like....the next installment of The Christmas Project!

Born in Boston in late November 2010, it wasn't a "project" right out of the gate. I was just going into the city to photograph the massive Faneuil Hall tree on the day after Thanksgiving. This was completely out of character: normally I steer clear of the Black Friday frenzy. I enjoy holiday displays, though, and there was a lot of hype that year around the fancy new synchronized light show (Boston Blink) at the Marketplace. It was enough to lure me in.

All it took was that single outing to get me hooked. I worked nearly a dozen locations between Thanksgiving and Christmas that year; it became apparent this could morph into something bigger.

You can hardly ask for a better place than New England to find scores of quaint holiday scenes. It's an embarrassment of riches. 

Every autumn I'd research options for the approaching holiday season and map out my plan. I focused mostly on New England but branched out to include places like Manhattan and my home city (Chicago).

It was smooth sailing until I moved to the Intermountain West where The Christmas Project is a wee bit more of a challenge. There's the obvious issue of logistics: it's sparsely populated and towns are spread out. The bigger problem? Let's just say a lot of these municipalities aren't going to win awards for decorating prowess. 

This has left me to broaden my horizons. I've traveled thousands of miles to keep this thing going.

Right now I'm at the first 2021 Project location and have been working here for the past few days. (A second site is planned for mid-month.) Any idea where I might be? It's in the United States - west of the 100th meridian and south of the 42nd parallel, and less than 750 miles from Idaho Falls. Looking to the south, I'm pretty sure I can see a falcon. 1,760 yards means something here.

Send me your guess!  

If we were in Chicago I'd buy a Tom & Jerry's at Miller's Pub for the first person to answer correctly - but instead the winner will have to settle for bragging rights. 

In the meantime, let's take a little trip and enjoy some holiday sights from The Christmas Project.

'Tis the Season!

 

Window WreathsWindow WreathsFaneuil Hall (built in 1742) is ready for the holiday. The statue of Samuel Adams stands behind the building on Congress Street. The inscription on the pedestal reads in part: A Patriot - He organized the Revolution, and signed the Declaration of Independence. (Boston, Massachusetts)

Faneuil Halll - Boston, Massachusetts

O Come All Ye FaithfulO Come All Ye FaithfulAnchored by the stately spire of the North Church, downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire is the quintessential New England scene year-round; the addition of holiday decorations only adds to the charm. Here, rainy streets on an early morning amplify the glowing lights.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Lobster Trap TreeLobster Trap TreeThe lobster trap Christmas tree at Fox's Lobster House on Cape Neddick complements the lights on nearby Nubble Light. (York, Maine)

Lobster Trap Tree and Nubble Light - York, Maine

Rickety RacquetsRickety RacquetsThe International Tennis Hall of Fame gets into the holiday spirit: wreaths on the front double doors are decorated with tennis balls and vintage wooden racquets....strings busted, of course! (Newport, Rhode Island)

International Tennis Hall of Fame - Newport, Rhode Island

Let There Be LightLet There Be LightThis whimsical string of enormous Christmas lights sits outside the McGraw-Hill Building on Sixth Avenue. (New York, New York)

New York, New York

The LionThe LionThe South Lion at the Art Institute (built in 1893 for the Columbian Exposition) wears his Christmas wreath handsomely. In the background, both the Prudential Building and Two Prudential Plaza are lit in the colors of the season. (Chicago, Illinois)

Chicago, Ilinois

Love's Pure LightLove's Pure LightVibrant Christmas lights create a festive backdrop for these Christmas lanterns. (Salt Lake City, Utah)

Salt Lake City, Utah

Old World ChristmasOld World ChristmasDay breaks on Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America. Construction began in 1687 and was completed in 1723. (Old Town Québec City, Canada)

Québec City, Québec

AglowAglowBritish Columbia Parliament Buildings and Front Fountain, ready for for Christmas. (Victoria, B.C. - Canada)

Victoria, British Columbia

Dreaming of a White ChristmasDreaming of a White ChristmasTown Square (Jackson, Wyoming)

Jackson, Wyoming

Silent NightSilent NightAs light fades from the sky, this lovely Christmas tree takes over to brighten the quiet darkness. (North Hampton, New Hampshire)

North Hampton, New Hampshire

Up on the RoofUp on the RoofPerched 600 feet above ground, the Space Needle's Christmas tree adds a festive holiday touch to the skyline. (Seattle, Washington)

Seattle, Washington

YesteryearYesteryearThis landmark covered bridge stands at the entrance to historic downtown Long Grove, Illinois. On a mostly overcast afternoon, a bit of color still managed to peek through as the sun went down.

Long Grove, Illinois

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Boston Christmas decorations New England The Christmas Project https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/12/born-in-boston Thu, 02 Dec 2021 08:55:00 GMT
Gratitude https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/11/gratitude This being Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., it's time for feasting, family, friends - and maybe some football. Hopefully, there's also an acknowledgement of that for which the holiday is named. The "giving thanks" part.

What's on your gratitude list? 

The natural world is way up there on mine. I suppose it's not surprising that I ended up combining a life-long interest in photography and an affinity for the great outdoors. Having also spent time as an executive in corporate America I can assure you I prefer working out in the field with my camera. The first career was successful but outdoor photography is more rewarding. 
Picture Frame Grand Teton AutumnPicture FrameFoliage frames Grand Teton with autumn color. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

Nature is fascinating and spectacularly beautiful - but its attributes extend far beyond its many noteworthy physical characteristics. The natural world is a powerful tonic. It lifts the spirit. It soothes. It inspires. 

Things move at a slower pace in the great outdoors. It's good to exit the fast lane every once in a while. What better place to do that than among the trees, in the mountains, or at the ocean? Spending time in nature can coax you to become more mindful. Patient. Deliberate. 

Nature also provides a respite from noise in its many forms: from the urban environment, from the distractions of ubiquitous gadgets, and from a world gone increasingly haywire. 

"Out there" you can leave it all behind (at least temporarily). Trade all that manmade noise for the music nature has composed. Listen to elk bugling during the rut or leaves rustling with the breeze. Hear the distant thunder or water lapping at the shore or the whisper of an eagle's wings as it flies low overhead. 

Sometimes there's no sound at all - which is, of course, also music. The silence between the notes, as they say.

There is something different to enjoy each season. Each month. Each day. Every hour! Nothing in nature ever appears exactly the same. If one takes the time to look - really look - there is no end to what can be seen.  

Nature is one heck of a gift-giver and we are the lucky recipients. 

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
-John Muir

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) gratitude John Muir nature Thanksgiving https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/11/gratitude Thu, 25 Nov 2021 08:35:00 GMT
Lessons Learned https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/11/lessons-learned Jordan Pond Shoreline Acadia National ParkFeeling MistyAs early morning fog rolls over Jordan Pond, the shoreline dances in and out of sight. Low water levels expose a great deal of pink granite. (Acadia National Park, Maine) Anyone who owns an SLR camera knows there's a lot to learn if the goal is to produce something more than snapshots. Beyond equipment fundamentals and mastery of the software required to process images, one needs to understand light, exposure, perspective, depth of field, elements of composition, and more.

Log enough time with the camera and you begin to learn other types of essentials. Just as important as the core basics, these have to do with how you approach your photography.

This came up in conversation again the other day so I thought I'd share a few of the things I've learned and observed along the way.

1. Photography Isn't "One-Size-Fits-All" 

Often there is no right or wrong way to do something. "Rules" are sometimes better to be thought of as suggestions. Trust yourself.

2. Photograph What You Love

Unless you're on assignment, shoot what interests you. This applies both to the subject matter and the way you choose to depict it. Of course the image should be technically sound, but beyond that, follow your instincts. You'll be more enthusiastic about what you're doing and the quality of your work will likely be better if you're concentrating on things you're passionate about.

3. You Can't Please Everyone 

Art is subjective. Different people are drawn to different types of subject matter or styles. One likes abstracts, the next prefers realism. Another enjoys intimate desert scenes while his buddy would rather look at big mountain landscapes. It stands to reason, then, that different people will react in different ways to your photographs. That's okay. 

As Rick Nelson sang once upon a time, "You can't please everyone so you've got to please yourself." Your value as an artist is not determined by the number of likes generated on social media. 

4. Don't Put the Gear Away Too Soon

Sometimes the subject is fleeting; you may have only enough time to click the shutter once before it vanishes. When things aren't so rushed, though, be thorough. Think about all the different approaches you might take with a scene. Switch lenses. Move. Change your perspective. Use different depths of field. Try both horizontal and vertical orientations. Stretch your creativity.

Especially if it's somewhere you can't easily return to, take the time to make some "insurance" images just in case. Shoot more than you think you'll need. There's nothing worse than discovering - after the fact - there's an issue which renders an otherwise powerful image unusable.

5. Previsualization Can Blind You

Depending on what you're intending to photograph, setting up the shot in your mind's eye ahead of time can be critically important. That said, what's in your head may get in the way of what's right in front of you if you let it. Avoid being so wedded to an idea that you end up not being able to see the forest for the trees. 

6. Receive the Gift Graciously

Know how to call an audible. No matter how careful and thorough the planning, nature photographers can't control what's going to happen in the field. Be ready to work with whatever the great outdoors gives you. I've never forgotten a line from a long-ago article regarding this subject: What kind of photograph can you make given particular conditions? Learn to be adaptable or you'll often find yourself going home empty-handed.

There's nothing you can do about the inaccurate forecast (or whatever the challenge). Set aside the disappointment and/or frustration and figure out what can be accomplished instead. You might surprise yourself and end up making a photograph that's even better than what you anticipated.

 

About the Image

Points 5 and 6 apply to this photograph. The year I made this it rained nearly the entire time I was in Acadia National Park. This wasn't my first rodeo there so I had a specific composition in mind for Jordan Pond. Unfortunately, the combination of low water levels (it had been a very dry summer) and all that precipitation got in the way of the picture in my mind's eye. 

I was on site very early on this morning even though the conditions were poor and I expected no sunrise. Initially the fog was so thick it was hard to see anything. Then it started rolling through in waves, which was fascinating to watch. Hiking the shoreline looking for a composition, finally I saw these two colorful maple trees peeking out from the conifers. Just a tiny pop of color but they're the focal point - and they also provide seasonal context. The low water level revealed a great deal of the pink granite which you normally wouldn't see. More warm color. The fog was moving quite a bit; I made a series of images so I'd have plenty of options to choose from. 

This is not at all close to the photograph I had planned to make but it didn't matter. It's one of my favorite Acadia images.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Acadia National Park Jordan Pond New England photography tips https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/11/lessons-learned Thu, 18 Nov 2021 08:55:00 GMT
Don't Leave Home Without It https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/11/dont-leave-home-without-it There are a few tools in my camera bag that are indispensable. Among them are a charger, spare batteries, flashlight, and a circular neutral density filter. All very important. But up there at the top of the list is the circular polarizer. 

Back in the film days I carried quite a few filters. While most of those are now unnecessary, the polarizer is anything but. I won't head out into the field without it.

Ironically, the one function many people associate with polarizers (enhancing blue skies) is something that can be addressed quite easily - and arguably more effectively - in Lightroom. 

Glare, though, is entirely different. You can do a lot of things in post-processing; erasing glare after the fact is not one of them.  

Glare is almost everywhere. Your eye makes allowances for it; the camera doesn't. Use the polarizer to remove unwanted reflected light. LushLushHall of Mosses - Hoh Rainforest (Olympic National Park, Washington)

Eliminating glare enhances both color and detail. The polarizer knocks back reflections on wet rocks, wet vegetation and water. (Doing so can enable you to see things that otherwise might not be visible - like rocks laying on a shallow lake bed beneath the waterline.)

The accompanying photo was made in the Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park on a day when it was raining heavily. There was glare on everything: the bark, the ferns, and even the moss - but the polarizer removed all of it. 

That said, this filter isn't just for drizzly conditions or when you're working at a water source. Reflections don't happen only where water is involved. Reach for the polarizer on dry days and when it's sunny, too. Shoot the foliage in autumn with it and the end result is a little bit like what you would have gotten back in the day with an enhancing filter. (If you never used an enhancing filter, it intensifies the saturation of reds, oranges and earth tones.)

In a pinch, the polarizer can also serve as a mini-neutral density filter. It'll remove up to two stops of light. 

Indispensable! 

It doesn't always belong on the lens, however. Sometimes a little reflection is desirable. In some instances there may be no photograph without it. For example:

Let's say you're shooting water lilies. Turn the ring all the way and the water renders as completely black - which can look very cool - but you'll also lose the reflections of the flowers. Dial back a bit to get the best of both effects. You can also make two photos: one which removes glare from the plant and the other with no polarization for a beautiful reflection. Combine them in post.

If the subject is a rainbow, the polarizer isn't your friend. Rainbows, as you'll recall from long-ago science classes, are created by reflected and refracted light. No reflection, no rainbow. 

Finally, if reflected light augments the scene, obviously you don't want to eliminate it. Warm light hitting wet rocks along the ocean at the beginning of the day might tint them in a dramatic way. The ocean might also have taken on a lovely cast. Your polarizer will remove some of that wonderful color.

There's a time and a place for everything.

A final note: when shopping for a polarizing filter, go for the gusto. It'll be spendy, but this thing will be a workhorse. You invested in good glass; get a quality filter. If your lenses don't all have the same filter thread size, save some money by using a step-up filter ring. 

Stow it in your bag and never leave home without it!

FloatingFloatingChicago Botanic Garden (Glencoe, Illinois)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) filter glare photography polarizer polarizing filter tips https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/11/dont-leave-home-without-it Thu, 11 Nov 2021 08:44:00 GMT
Transitions https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/11/transitions Autumn reflections Lamprey River Durham New HampshireImpressionisticFallen leaves floating on the surface of the Lamprey River, their movement captured with a long exposure, combine with reflections of autumn color along the shoreline to create an impressionistic scene. (Near Durham, New Hampshire) Foliage season has come and gone in many areas. High elevations in the Intermountain West said goodbye to the leaves nearly a month ago; the Kancamagus Pass in New Hampshire was blanketed with snow last week.

Winter is on the way.

In the meantime, though, there is a period of transition: not quite time yet for serious cold and snow but well past the golden days of early autumn.

I don't expect to be back in Grand Teton National Park until mid-December. The annual elk reduction begins this Saturday, during which visitors are advised to wear bright colors. Never completely confident about how visible I may or may not be I prefer to wait until the hunt is over.

I'm using the transition time to scout Eastern Idaho for scenes within relatively easy reach that might look good when snow is falling. Proximity is a plus because winter driving is a white-knuckle proposition here in the wild, wild west. For whatever reason, keeping the roads clear during and/or after snowstorms isn't high on the priority list. 

Once upon a time a big-city mayor lost his re-election bid in large part because the public felt he hadn't done a good job getting the streets cleared during a blizzard (my home city: Chicago). True story. I suspect no such fate would have befallen him had this occurred in any one of countless municipalities across Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. Plows? Who needs 'em? Let it snow!

I digress. 

Isn't it interesting how some of the most magical things in nature are fleeting? Flowering trees and shrubs in the spring; wildflowers as they come and go; the lacy white aftermath of a snow or ice storm; fog; the colors of autumn. Here and gone before you know it.

Perhaps it's because they are so short-lived that events such as these are even more treasured. 

As the last of the leaves flutter to the ground and the landscape transitions from a cacophony of color to monochromatic stillness, we bid the fiery foliage adieu. 

What a show it was. Magnificent, as always.

Raindrops Keep FallingRaindrops Keep FallingAs the remnants of Hurricane Nate move closer, light rain becomes steadier and heavier. Droplets cling to this maple leaf which has fallen to rest on a colorful fern. (Sieur de Monts - Acadia National Park, Maine)

 

Tug of War Autumn MaineTug of WarSpectacular burning bush (Euonymus alatus) in all of its autumn glory, seemingly not wanting to be held back by the fence desperately attempting to stand its ground. (Mount Desert Island at Somesville, Maine - just outside of Acadia National Park)


Essence of AutumnEssence of AutumnAbstract rendering of brilliant foliage in the Hiawatha National Forest (Michigan's Upper Peninsula)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park Kancamagus Pass New Hampshire https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/11/transitions Thu, 04 Nov 2021 07:35:00 GMT
Beyond the Geysers https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/10/Beyond-the-geysers Play the word association game and toss this one out: Yellowstone. "Old Faithful" or "geysers" will probably be the most common response. And why not? The park's hydrothermal features are weird, wonderful, and more plentiful there than anywhere else on earth (10,000-plus). 

It's a big park, though - nearly 3,500 square miles of it. There's more to Yellowstone than those famous hot springs, geysers, fumaroles and mud pots. 

Exhibit A: The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. (Yes, there are steam vents in the canyon walls...but they're not the main player.) Roughly 24-miles long and containing two waterfalls, the canyon can keep me busy for many hours at a time. Much of the rim is hike-able and can be thoroughly explored if you're so inclined. Be prepared for some steep descents.

Even if you just drive the rim and stick with marked vistas you'll be treated to some great sights. If you've been to Artist Point you'll recognize this view of Lower Falls, where the canyon begins:

Just as there's more to the park than the geysers, there's more to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone than establishing shots like this one. 

Giant pinnacles, multi-hued rock, trees clinging to the steep walls...there is no shortage of potential subject matter. All you have to do is look more closely.

Here, the pinnacles create a beautiful sculpted frame for the trees on the other side. 

SculptedSculptedRugged pinnacles frame some of the trees growing among them within the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) At the location below I liked the juxtaposition of jagged pinnacles on one side and the relatively smooth canyon wall to which conifers cling on the other. Wider framing isn't necessary to establish context: this is clearly a steep canyon. On a mostly overcast day, rays of sunlight occasionally broke through and highlighted a small, colorful portion of one wall. The little pop of light is what prompted me to pull out the camera.

Steep DescentSteep DescentGrand Canyon of the Yellowstone (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) The shapes, textures and color contrast in the canyon are really interesting. I go with a long lens and keep my eyes open. 

Bottom line: whether you're in Yellowstone or a state park near your home, look beyond the obvious. There is no limit to what you might see. It could be uniquely yours, and you could be the only one who captures it.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) canyon Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone pinnacles Wyoming Yellowstone https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/10/Beyond-the-geysers Thu, 28 Oct 2021 07:24:00 GMT
Around the Bend https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/10/around-the-bend Oxbow Bend is right up there at the top of the list of Grand Teton National Park's iconic locations. Show up early in the morning during foliage season and you'll see just how popular it is with photographers.

Most people hang out at or near the parking area or along the road, but if you're willing to get away from your vehicle and venture further (do it!!), you'll be rewarded with a variety of interesting perspectives. 

To the north of the bend is a steep hill. You've got to work a little bit to get up to the top but wonderful views await if you do. (Added bonus: you'll have the place mostly - if not completely - to yourself.) From here you can clearly see the crescent-shaped oxbow situated right next to the winding Snake River.

Shift your gaze to the southwest for a spectacular view of the Teton Range. Moran is the star of the show but from this vantage point the peak of the Grand sneaks into the scene (far left). 

Above the BendAbove the BendAutumn color marches down the hillside to the Snake River shoreline below. Meanwhile, up above, clouds dance around Mount Moran's peak. (Oxbow Bend - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) Down below, I rarely shoot at road-level: my preference is the water line. Sometimes I pull on the muck boots and get into the water. There are multiple spots along the shore from which to work, though the bank is steep and full of dense vegetation; it can be challenging to get to the river in the early morning darkness if you don't already know where you want to be. Shifting position up or down stream, so to speak, requires climbing back up the slope before descending again. Best to scout ahead of time and note some sort of landmark(s) so you can find your way with only a headlamp.

This isn't a huge area so you might be surprised how much of an impact the position you select will have on what you can see and what kind of photograph you can make. 

From the far eastern edge of the bend you'll have Mount Moran on one side with smaller peaks to its right. For the pano below I got into the river in order to completely obscure the range to the left of Moran. Moving into the water also enabled me to include the little jut in the near shoreline to the right, echoing the larger one on the other side.

Peak PerfectionPeak PerfectionPeak foliage beneath the Teton peaks: perfection. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) Further up the bend, the mountains on the other side of Moran are visible.

Diaphanous DreamDiaphanous DreamLingering fog creates an ethereal scene around Mount Moran and the surrounding landscape. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) For the mid-summer shot below I was at roughly the mid-way point of the bend. Using a wider lens and getting down low essentially eliminates from view all but the portion of the Teton range which is centered in the frame. Nearly symmetrical shapes are created by the vegetation on either side. The sky and lighting on the mountains become the focal point.

Sunkissed Grand Teton National ParkSunkissedMount Moran and the surrounding peaks glow with the first light of the day. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) Positioned near the western side of the bend, Moran becomes even more dominant. A long lens enhances the effect. 

Enveloped in WhiteEnveloped in WhiteEarly morning fog at the base of Mount Moran - newly snow-covered after an early season storm - adds a second soft, white blanket to the scene. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) Bucolic Oxbow Bend is lovely from wherever you choose to view it.

There really isn't a bad seat in the house.

 

It's That Time of Year

Winter came knocking here a bit early; I had nearly a foot of snow at my house early last week. So much for the "dusting" which had been forecast. Surprise!

Yellowstone had multiple road closures during that storm, though they're fully open now (and my yard is back to being completely clear). If you want to visit Yellowstone before winter, though, the clock is ticking. With the exception of the north entrance, all roads will close to regular vehicle traffic on November 8th at 8am. Oversnow opening is December 15th.

The Inner Loop Road at Grand Teton National Park will close for the winter on November 1st. Antelope Flats Road usually closes in mid-December.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Grand Teton National Park Oxbow Bend Snake River Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/10/around-the-bend Thu, 21 Oct 2021 07:10:00 GMT
Superlative https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/10/superlative

I enjoy showing people the extravaganza that is New England in autumn - especially first-timers. They nearly always run out of superlatives to describe the spectacle. Each new scene seems - impossibly - even better than what came before. It truly is a sight to behold, especially in New Hampshire's north country: in my opinion, the place to see and photograph "the show."  

If you haven't experienced early October in New England, put it on your bucket list. Trust me: I'm not overselling. It's something you'll never forget.

I had the pleasure of introducing my father to leaf peeping in the White Mountains. Though he'd traveled extensively during the course of his career, he was mostly unfamiliar with Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. A trained landscape architect who deeply appreciated nature, those stunning autumnal scenes made quite an impression. He ran out of superlatives, too. 

Naturally, I could relate. I still react in much the same way - no matter how many times I see that amazing display.

Particularly if you're into red foliage like me, you'll find quite a bit of eye candy waiting to be admired. In some areas, especially when it's a "bumper crop" season as far as color is concerned, there are ravishing reds that will knock you over. The location in the photograph featured here is one such place.

The colors were especially vibrant that year, and even more so on this overcast, misty day. There's nothing like dampness to accentuate foliage. The combination of shoreline color and descending fog was spectacular. Whether or not I could capture it was questionable; the ceiling was dropping rapidly and I was losing light. I scrambled to find a suitable vantage point and frame a composition. There was zero time to mess with the tripod. 

This was back in the Ektachrome days; I wouldn't know until the transparencies came back from the lab whether or not I got anything. Happily, it worked out.

One of my early foliage season images, this remains a personal favorite. The icing on the cake is that my dad was with me when I made it.

If you're a fan of colorful autumnal displays, there's no more magical place to be than New England. Treat yourself. It's not too soon to plan for early October 2022... 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage New England New Hampshire White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/10/superlative Thu, 14 Oct 2021 07:46:00 GMT
Mining for Gold https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/10/mining-for-gold Twilight Wedge Grand Teton National ParkAwakeningBright autumn foliage punctuates the Willow Flats landscape at daybreak while the twilight wedge tints the sky pink. With temperatures below freezing, steam rises above distant Jackson Lake as Mount Moran waits for the sun to rise and warm its face. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) 15 magical miles. 

That's roughly the distance between Willow Flats and the Buffalo Fork of the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park's north end. Hang around that general area in autumn and you might feel as if you've struck gold. Aspens are plentiful and they like to put on a real show. Some of them dare to go Splendor on the SnakeSplendor on the SnakeGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming further than marigold and honey yellow, venturing into apricot and orange territory. A few of the truly adventurous flirt with almost-red. 

The mother lode.

It's always a beautiful sight, though of course you never know exactly when it's going to occur or how long it will last. Wyoming wind is real; it can wreak havoc on the autumnal display in the blink of an eye. 

This season color throughout the park has been, for the most part, vibrant - better than the past couple years, though a little sporadic as far as the timing. The wind has (mostly) behaved. As for those north end aspens? They pulled out all the stops. 

Each autumn, though I wander around the entire park and surrounding forests looking for potential subject matter, I can't resist that Willow Flats/Oxbow Bend/Pacific Creek/Buffalo Valley corridor. Maybe it's the oh-so-subtle nod to the colors I left behind in New Hampshire that beckons me...

It's a relatively compact area but spending all that time there is far from boring. Familiarity is a good thing.

There are always new ways to visually convey the story of the season. Figuring out how is both the appeal and the challenge. 

You never know what might catch your eye. Especially in autumn the appearance of the landscape changes dramatically within just a few hours; foliage looks very different depending on how it's lit. Then there's the color progression. Things shift significantly, sometimes in a matter of days.

The conditions this time of year can also really change things up. Late September days might begin with temperatures in the 20s but reach into the 70s later on. Wild swings like that often create interesting things (like thick morning fog).

There might be early snow on the mountains, or lingering haze from wildfires, or a turbulent thunderstorm. Anything can happen.

My kind of gold rush.

Current foliage status: the peak display has mostly passed but you can still find color. Be prepared to do some searching. Remember, you can make interesting images past peak. Don't forget to look down. There's also mountain snow in the forecast.
TransformationTransformationDense fog completely obscures the Teton Range behind the trees, instead creating a dramatic backdrop emphasizing the foliage and its various stages of autumnal color progression. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

The Lines are DrawnThe Lines are DrawnA study in diagonals: the tree line, the shadows on the face of Mount Moran, and the line of the peak itself. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

Buffalo SunsetBuffalo SunsetPeak color in the shadow of the Teton peaks. The Buffalo Fork of the Snake River meanders through a landscape decorated in the colors of autumn. (Buffalo Valley, Wyoming)

In the PinkIn the PinkMount Moran, with a dusting of late September snow, awaits the rising sun. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) aspens autumn Buffalo Fork foliage Grand Teton National Park Tetons Willow Flats Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/10/mining-for-gold Thu, 07 Oct 2021 07:14:00 GMT
Shine on, Harvest Moon https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/9/shine-on-harvest-moon I generally don't spend too much time at the "trappier" photography traps in Grand Teton National Park during foliage season, but sometimes the forecast lures me in, as it did last week at Schwabacher Landing. 

Though I arrived well before sunrise (more than 90 minutes) I was still surprised to find only one other vehicle in the lot. More followed, but it took quite a bit of time and never became as crowded as I would have expected. Perhaps the fact that the temperatures had dipped quite low overnight had something to do with it.

Because it was very cold, I anticipated - and found - ample valley fog along with lots of frost as I drove from Buffalo Valley through the north end of the park. I chose Schwabacher because I thought I might find some interesting compositions featuring the cottonwoods dressed for autumn and it's often a reliable spot for fog. Unfortunately, it hadn't climbed too high here just yet. Who knew how long it would take. I had no interest in making a big landscape (and did not expect conditions would warrant one - it had been an almost perfectly clear night) but was going to have to make the best of whatever I was gifted.

The Harvest Moon was still fairly high in the sky; though a headlamp was required for the hike in it was not pitch black. The Tetons were visible and there was still some snow remaining on the peaks from a storm a few days earlier.

I settled in to wait and watch, not knowing yet what I was going to photograph - but it became apparent fairly quickly that the story on this morning was the magical moonlight. The quality of the light on the mountain range was superb. 

Maybe I'd compose a wide shot after all.

With the shutter set on bulb I experimented with exposure times. 75 seconds produced the proper result (at about 50 minutes prior to sunrise). If you view the photo much larger you'll see many stars in the sky, even with the moon casting so much light on the scene. 

Thick frost covering the low vegetation is apparent, there's a little bit of steam rising from the river, and you can also see the developing line of fog in the distance. The blanket of fog did grow exponentially once the sun came up, but this composition was no longer about it, nor the colors of the foliage (though they played supporting roles).

It was some of the most beautiful light in which I have seen the Cathedral Group. 

Moonlight Feels RightMoonlight Feels RightRoughly 50 minutes prior to sunrise the light from the Harvest Moon was superb: superior to what it looked like later when the sun appeared and lit the mountains. The 26 degree air temperature created lovely frost, large areas of valley fog and some steam over the water. 75 second exposure.
(Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn fog foliage full moon Grand Teton National Park Harvest Moon moonlight Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/9/shine-on-harvest-moon Thu, 30 Sep 2021 07:15:00 GMT
The Old West https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/9/the-old-west If you want an authentic taste of the Old West along with some pretty spectacular scenery, you can find it in Dubois (DEW·boys), Wyoming - a little town with roughly 900 full-time residents located in the Wind River Valley. 

While only 85 miles from Jackson, it's a world away and surrounded by wilderness.

Geologically speaking the area is unique, with the Absaroka Mountains to the north, the Wind River Range to the south, and badlands between. You'll see evidence not just of glacial activity (Whiskey Basin is a good example) but also volcanic and tectonic. 

A high-clearance, off-road vehicle is your best bet when it comes to exploring this country. Finding some of the primitive roads is a little bit of an adventure (the forest service roadmap isn't the best I've ever seen) but well worth the effort. Access points to some of these treasures are hiding in places you'd never expect - but I'll leave that for you to discover.

Hiking trails - marked, and more often unmarked - are abundant. Bring your compass. Maybe a hiking buddy, too.

The town itself dates back to the late 1800s. Prior to his Hole in the Wall days, Butch Cassidy lived in Dubois; he owned a ranch on the outskirts. The general store where he shopped still stands. (Yes, he did business at the local bank. No, he did not rob it.) Later he had two hideouts in the area.

While there is tourism in Dubois, it remains a real "cowboy town." In my opinion, the landscape is beautiful - and distinctive - enough to warrant National Monument status. Then again, the fact that it's flying under the radar might be a very good thing. Stopping for a hike in Grand Teton National Park on the way back, it was busy, busy, busy. The difference was pronounced.

Ole' Butch knew how to get off the beaten path. 

"I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals."

From Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Screenplay by William Goldman

Intricate ErosionIntricate ErosionBadlands in magical late-day light (Dubois, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Absaroka Mountains badlands Butch Cassidy Dubois sunset Wind River Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/9/the-old-west Thu, 23 Sep 2021 07:45:00 GMT
Elbow Room https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/9/elbow-room I've never seen the national parks as crowded as they've been over the past few years. The issue is especially acute in the better-known destinations - like Grand Teton and Yellowstone, my two local parks. They're in the top five on the most-visited list. 

If you love the parks and enjoy photographing them you might wonder if there's any way (other than venturing deep into the backcountry) to avoid the congestion. 

Visiting during the school year used to be a good solution; it was off-peak and reliably quiet. You can no longer count on that as a fail-safe remedy. That said, there are times that are slower. Sometimes just a few weeks can make a world of difference. Take Moab, for example. Mid-March visitor traffic in Arches and Canyonlands is markedly different than what you'll encounter in late April.

Don't discount winter. While many parks can be more difficult to access and navigate, it's worth the effort. (Check first, though. Some places like Yellowstone are restricted to oversnow travel during the winter months.)  

There are other strategies: 

Consider navigation alternatives
Some parks are easier to get around in than others. If a highway runs through it, you'll have more options. If it contains only a single loop road but there are multiple access points you'll be able to jump in and out. Yellowstone doesn't have either of those features and it's huge. Once you're inside, that's it. You can easily get trapped behind scores of other vehicles; there are no alternate routes. Then someone decides to stop in the middle of the road.....just because. Ever been stuck in a bison jam? Yellowstone in the summer isn't my cup of tea. (You might have more tolerance.)

Grand Teton, on the other hand, is easier to traverse. When it's really crowded simply steering clear of the Inner Loop Road will make life easier.

Committed to summer? Consult a park map first to peruse maneuverability.

Edges of the day
I don't know any photographer who doesn't want to take advantage of the light during the golden hours. Fortunately, that's not when most non-photographers are out and about. In the morning they're still sleeping, and in the evening they're heading for dinner. If you plan carefully, you may be able to cover a handful of locations during those times.

Working during the middle of the day can be more difficult; by 9am inbound traffic might be a steady stream. If it's too crowded for you to be productive there's often interesting scenery nearby - like national forests, for example. Explore outside the park boundaries.

Get up a little earlier
If you're going to be heading out for a sunrise shoot at a popular location, plan on arriving even earlier than you'd otherwise need to. The lack of sleep and extra time spent waiting in the dark will be well worth it if it means you can claim the preferred spot from which you want to work.

Use your legs
How many times have you seen people set up their tripods just steps away from where they parked? Especially when the area is jammed, wouldn't you rather avoid all that? Besides, who doesn't want a more unique vantage point?

Take a walk away from the parking area/designated viewpoint to survey the situation. Sometimes you don't have to go very far to see something special. 

Put the crowd to work for you
Incorporate people into your shot. They don't even have to know... Break on ThroughBreak on ThroughTurret Arch (Arches National Park - Moab, Utah)

A little bit of scale can add important context to a photograph. The image at right, made in Arches National Park, is one such example. Actually I had no intention of shooting anything; this was a late afternoon scouting expedition to prepare for the following morning. I'm not sure why I even brought my gear along. 

As I was beginning the hike back to the car, I looked through Turret Arch and liked the way the clouds were stacked. It was a high-contrast scene but I decided to pull the camera out anyway. A woman was on the other side of the arch photographing her two young children. I waited a while to see if she'd move. No such luck. Though the kids eventually disappeared from view, she didn't budge.

I decided to include her in the composition to provide scale. The arch is massive, but there are no other visual clues to make this obvious. I hoped she'd turn her back to me (and that nobody else would walk up there in the meantime), and voilà - it happened.

The significant contrast issues were managed in Lightroom when the image was processed.

Another example, below, is from Death Valley National Park.

It was very early in the morning and the location was mostly deserted - nevertheless, I ended up with company. This woman arrived after I'd been working for a while and walked right into the area I was photographing. She just stood in that one spot, looking around. This was a wee bit frustrating; by now the sun had risen and I was about to lose the shade.

Since it was clear she wasn't going to proceed up the path any time soon, I decided to reframe the composition, using her to underscore the enormity of the rock formations. 

The fact that she was dressed in all black was the perfect touch; it made her more visible against the trail.

Exquisite EnormityExquisite EnormityOxidation has created a magical variety of colors throughout the massive Artist Drive Formation. (Death Valley National Park, California) Are the parks overcrowded? Yes, especially this year with visitation numbers off the charts.

It may not be the experience you hoped for, but crowds don't mean you can't see beautiful sights and make some good photographs. 

Be flexible. It'll work out.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) crowds Grand Teton National Park national parks Yellowstone https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/9/elbow-room Thu, 16 Sep 2021 07:45:00 GMT
Show Time https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/9/show-time Mist and Fog Over the PemigewassetMarriage of Mist and FogPersistent drizzle and rain made the autumn colors pop and created this moody scene over the Pemigewasset River (Near Lincoln, New Hampshire) The curtain is about to go up on one of the greatest shows on earth. 

Not meaning any disrespect to winter, spring or summer (spring is my favorite time of year, after all) but foliage season has a certain je ne sais quoi. It's a spectacle like none other; the landscape demands a reaction. 

"Admire me!"

I'm happy to oblige. 

Can trees dance and play? Can they shout? Show off? Of course they can. Take a drive on New Hampshire's Kancamagus Highway in early October and you'll think so, too.

Not everywhere in the world erupts into a cacophony of brilliant color in autumn. I've lived in places you wouldn't exactly characterize as leaf-peeper paradises. But I've also called New England home, and for my money you'll never see a better show than the one staged by the trees there - especially the sugar maples. They're botanical overachievers. Exuberant exhibitionists.

Want the best seats in the house? Head for the White Mountains.    Non-ConformistNon-ConformistA few maple saplings dot the woods otherwise dominated by a dense stand of conifers - making their brilliant autumn colors even more striking. (Hiawatha National Forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan)

I've seen and photographed beautiful color elsewhere, like the mountains of North Carolina, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and throughout the Intermountain West - but I stand by my claim regarding autumn in New England. If you've never seen it, you should. It's a bucket list item for sure.

Here in Teton Country, the show is tantalizingly close to getting underway in earnest. Rabbit brush and other low-growing plants on both sides of the mountains began turning yellow a few weeks ago; now the trees in Jackson Hole are beginning to show color.

The summer has been very dry; I suspect the display might come a little earlier than usual. 

Persistent, heavy smoke from California is a cause for concern as far as the local foliage show goes. It's been a lousy couple of months in terms of photography here due to poor air quality. Terrible. It'll be more than welcome if we're gifted with a shift in wind direction to help clear things out, at least while the aspens and mountain maples are strutting their stuff.  

The coming weeks will be busy. I'm kicking things off in Dubois, Wyoming and then will follow the foliage from Grand Teton National Park to Eastern Idaho and down to the Wasatch. After that it's off to New England; I'll wrap up the season in Zion National Park.

Let the show begin! Autumn at Oxbow Bend Grand Teton National ParkScene StealerThe sun's first warm rays light the trees along the Snake River shoreline, making the foliage pop. The effect is magnified with Mount Moran in partial shadow. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park Jackson Hole New England New Hampshire https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/9/show-time Thu, 09 Sep 2021 07:22:00 GMT
Favorite Places https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/9/favorite-places If you're a baseball fan - especially of a certain age - and live in the U.S., you probably enjoyed the recent game between the White Sox and Yankees staged amid a corn crop at its lofty late-summer peak in Dyersville, Iowa. Adjacent to the park which was constructed for the occasion are the field and farmhouse from the film Field of Dreams, looking now as they did then. The setting was magical. Perfect.

I love that movie. Of course it's about much more than baseball but the game, midwestern setting and Joe Jackson are important to the story. I'm a baseball nut and my ties to and affection for the state of Iowa go way back to when I was a little kid. The fact that the White Sox play a supporting role is the cherry on top. 

Two days after the game I watched the movie for the umpteenth time. And wept, naturally. Then I pulled the book from which the film was adapted off the shelf and re-read it. (By the way, W.P. Kinsella, who wrote Shoeless Joe, was an alumnus of the acclaimed Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. My alma mater.) 

In it, Doc "Moonlight" Graham talks with Ray about the little Minnesota town in which he settled following his brief baseball career. The conversation also appears in the screenplay.

"This is my favorite place in the whole world," Doc says quietly. "I don't think I have to tell you what that means. You look like the kind of fellow who has a favorite place. Once the land touches you, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel for the land like it was your child."

Old Doc has a way with words. 

Most of us have emotional attachments to various places, often associated with people or events. But when it comes to a visceral connection to the land itself, do you have a place like that? A place with which you've developed an innate, abiding bond? A place that has become part of you, and you a part of it?

If you do, you know Moonlight Graham was right: when the land reaches out and touches you in such a way, you're never the same. 

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."
-Henry David Thoreau

As a landscape photographer, I've become deeply attached to several places over the years but none has a hold over me like New Hampshire; it grabbed onto my heart and never let go. The photograph below of autumn color near peak was made from the summit of Mount Major. From this vantage point one has tremendous views of large expanses of Lake Winnipesaukee and the southern rim of the White Mountains.

"Is this heaven?"

"I could have sworn this was heaven."

It's New Hampshire. 

The Big Lake Winnipesaukee New HampshireAbove The Big LakeThe landscape is awash in brilliant color at the height of foliage season. From the summit of Mount Major, Lake Winnipesaukee and the mountains beyond are visible. (Lakes Region, New Hampshire)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn baseball Field of Dreams Iowa Mount Major New Hampshire White Sox https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/9/favorite-places Thu, 02 Sep 2021 07:34:00 GMT
105 Candles https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/8/105-candles 105 years ago yesterday the National Park Service was born - though parks such as Yellowstone predated the agency's creation by many decades.  

Perhaps the more significant milestone is March 1, 1872, since it was the establishment of Yellowstone on that date as protected public land "for the benefit and enjoyment of the people" that got the ball rolling, so to speak.    Grand Prismatic SpringGrand Prismatic SpringThe best way to appreciate Grand Prismatic Spring is from the air - where both its otherworldy appearance and immense size are apparent. Note the man on the walkway...though only a speck from the sky, he casts a long shadow. (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)

We're going to need a bigger birthday cake.

I was a relative late-comer in terms of my first exposure to the national parks: it's ironic that I spend so much time in them now. There weren't any near where I grew up in suburban Chicago and my family didn't travel much when I was a kid. 

What about Indiana Dunes, you say? When I was hiking its rugged trails it hadn't yet achieved NP status. Actually that didn't happen until about five minutes ago. (I exaggerate - but only a little. It was designated in 2019.) 

Park #1 was Volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii my senior year of college. Not a bad place to start. Now I live in the shadow of Yellowstone and Grand Teton and within reasonable driving range of nine other national parks: an embarrassment of riches. 

Do I have a favorite? Yes, although there's something wonderful about every one I've visited. How about you? 

The parks are being loved maybe a little too much this year (that's an understatement - they're jammed), but this is unsurprising. Nature soothes and nurtures. After the last 18 months, who doesn't need some of that? Deep down, we instinctively crave the natural world. Most of us, that is.

There are people who wander through these beautiful places, looking but not seeing. Some don't even look. Their eyes are glued to their screens as they desperately try to access the internet. Or they're chattering away on their phones. Or they're bored. Really? That said, every time I see kids obviously enjoying the experience, I'm happy. No devices in sight, they're in the moment and delighted by "the show."

There is hope.

Our national parks truly are jewels. We are fortunate to have them. When you do visit, treat the land - and the animals who live there - with respect. Leave no trace. 

And by all means, enjoy. 

“There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness - that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

Above the BendAbove the BendAutumn color marches down the hillside to the Snake River shoreline below. Meanwhile, up above, clouds dance around Mount Moran's peak. (Oxbow Bend - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park national parks NPS park service Tetons Theodore Roosevelt Yellowstone https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/8/105-candles Thu, 26 Aug 2021 07:10:00 GMT
And So It Goes https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/8/and-so-it-goes Harvest TimeHarvest TimeIn the shadow of the Teton Range, this wheat field awaits harvesting
(Fremont County, Idaho)
Soon after moving to the Intermountain West I discovered an inevitability about mid- to late-summer: expect smoke.

Summer is, unfortunately, fire season. 

Even when there are no local wildfires, as has been the case so far here this year, there can still be smoke. Sometimes a great deal of it. As a result, it's generally not a very good window for landscape photography. (There are exceptions, though. If the haze isn't too heavy it can augment sunrise and sunset color.)

The summer of 2021 has been especially poor in terms of air quality. Most of the current heavy blanket hanging over the Snake River Plain has come from California, many hundreds of miles away.

I've been trying to work on both sides of the Tetons for over a month but the smoke and haze have often had other ideas. Some of what I wanted to capture involves wheat fields in eastern Idaho. Last week I had no choice but to go for it regardless of the conditions. It's harvest time: "now or never."

Much of what I'd hoped to accomplish in the sister Teton Counties over the last six weeks will have to wait until next year. That's the way it goes with landscapes. If you've ever wondered how it can sometimes take months or years to make a photograph...

Maybe the tide is about to turn. Rain has been moving through Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming since yesterday. Will it clean things up - or make the situation worse? So far it's been the latter but we'll see what happens after the front passes.

If the air does clear I may have another opportunity to capture a few additional images before summer takes its final bow and exits the stage. The calendar says mid-August but autumn comes early to the Tetons. This latest weather system is bringing with it overnight lows in the 30s in Jackson Hole. Rabbit brush in the park are already yellow, and when I was heading up to the summit of Fred's Mountain last week a lot of the low vegetation along the way had begun to turn color.  

Meanwhile, the hazy conditions have done nothing to slow tourism.

July numbers are out for both local parks, and they're staggering. 

Yellowstone
For the first time in its 149-year history, the park saw more than one million visitors in a single month. They're calling it 1,080,000. I'm calling it mind-boggling. (If you wonder why I avoid Yellowstone over the summer, I'll give you a million reasons.)

Grand Teton
July 2021 was also a record-shattering month in Grand Teton National Park. 828,777 people showed up, which is the highest number of visits for any single month in park history.

Those are big numbers anywhere, but especially so here. Consider the sizes of the gateway communities: the population of West Yellowstone, Montana is less than 1,500. Gardiner, Montana has fewer than 1,000 residents. Cooke City, Montana? A few hundred. Cody, Wyoming's population is roughly 10,000 and Jackson, Wyoming clocks in at about 11,000. 

Busy, busy, busy.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) fire season Grand Teton National Park Idaho smoke Tetons Yellowstone National Park https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/8/and-so-it-goes Thu, 19 Aug 2021 07:55:00 GMT
The Time of Your Life https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/8/the-time-of-your-life Photography is all about light (literally translated, photography means "drawing with light") but it's just as much about time. 

There's the brief snippet of time when the shutter is open, the time invested in making the photo, and time as it relates to planning and execution.

Photographers capture and preserve moments in time - moments that will never be repeated again in exactly the same way. Yet, especially where nature photography is concerned, a single image might take many hours, or months, or perhaps even years to create. That's quite a lot to snag one little fraction of a second. 

How many moments are represented in a body of work? 

Those moments are special, but each image represents more than a single instant frozen forever for posterity. Good photographs can evoke reactions. They can tell stories. Is a picture worth a thousand words? Maybe so, especially when the viewer connects emotionally with the image. 

There are also back stories about how the photograph came to be. That's what I see and recall when looking at my own images. 

While we're immortalizing and collecting moments with our cameras, time in its broadest sense is pivotal to the process. It's every bit as important as the weather.

Consider just some of the ways time - and timing - drives decision-making and impacts the outcome:

  • The daily timing of celestial events 
  • The tide cycle 
  • How quickly the rising moon will clear the horizon
  • What is the best shutter speed to achieve the desired result
  • What day and at what time the sun or moon will be in a specific location in relation to a chosen landmark
  • How long will it take to drive to the location, make the hike, and get set up in time to capture a specific weather event
  • What time of day works best for the location
  • What time of year works best for the location
  • Time management: squeezing the most opportunity from the conditions

Time and photography are joined at the hip in more ways than one.

Time in nature is time well spent. 

"You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day,
and you only get so many days on the planet.
A good photographer does the math and doesn't waste either."

-Galen Rowell

Sunset at the Barn Grand Teton National ParkStylish ExitA beautiful sunset fills the sky over the historic John Moulton homestead with fiery color. As there was a herd of bison not too far away, tourists bypassed this stunning scene in favor of the animals - leaving it to be admired in solitude. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

About the Image

Photographically speaking, Grand Teton National Park generally doesn't produce great late-day/sunset conditions. The mountains often pick up a little bit of haze and the Big Holes to the west of the Teton Range can block the light and prevent good color development. There are exceptions, though. I was expecting something as the sun went down on this day, but the vibrance, intensity and duration of the sunset color was a surprise. Interestingly, in spite of this being a popular tourist spot, I was the only one there capturing this spectacular scene. A herd of bison were grazing not far away; the cars that did come along passed by without even a glance at the sky. They were intent on getting to the animals.   

About Galen Rowell

A landscape photographer and photojournalist who also happened to be an accomplished mountaineer, Rowell influenced me when I was starting out. He left the world too soon, tragically dying in a plane crash 19 years ago yesterday when returning from a shoot in Alaska. He was a founding contributor and columnist for Outdoor Photographer magazine; I learned a great deal from studying his work and reading his pieces. You'll find his books in my library. If you can locate a copy, I highly recommend Galen Rowell: A Retrospective (Sierra Club Books).

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Galen Rowell Grand Teton National Park nature photography time Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/8/the-time-of-your-life Thu, 12 Aug 2021 07:55:00 GMT
Ask Away https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/8/ask-away Mist and Fog Over the PemigewassetMarriage of Mist and FogPersistent drizzle and rain made the autumn colors pop and created this moody scene over the Pemigewasset River (Near Lincoln, New Hampshire) I've been corresponding this week with someone overseas who will be visiting New England in early October to see and shoot the foliage show.

After purchasing and reading my photographer's guide to the White Mountains and then studying Google Maps, he wondered if I'd help him refine his plan since his time in New Hampshire will be short.

Absolutely! I love to help visitors coming to northern New England to photograph the spectacle - especially those who will be seeing the Rocky Gorge White Mountains New HampshireRed in the RocksThe first rays of morning sunlight set the autumn foliage ablaze along the banks of the Swift River at Rocky Gorge. (White Mountains, New Hampshire) autumnal display for the first time. 

After finding out what kinds of images he likes to make along with his planned points of entry into and exit out of the state, I suggested some locations based on his objectives and timetable. Obviously the conditions will have the final say; we also covered alternatives in case he's faced with challenging situations.

If you're planning a similar trip and would like some ideas, get in touch with me! By the way, even though my book is specific to the White Mountains, I photographed throughout the state during the 20 years I was based there. And though I now live near the Tetons, my camera and I still head back to the Northeast regularly.

Like that Johnny Cash song "I've Been Everywhere" - I pretty much have been everywhere in New Hampshire. 

Will you be heading way up north to Pittsburg? Over to the Mount Monadnock Region? The Seacoast? Near Dartmouth and Lake Sunapee? The Big Lake (Winnipesaukee)? Not a problem. 

Then of course there's Vermont. And Acadia. And so on. Even though I'm partial to New Hampshire, I have been known to cross the border. :) 

I have favorite shooting locations all over New England. Looking for suggestions? I'm happy to help.

One thing I'd recommend (and this goes for any photography trip you're planning regardless of location) is that you do as much advance research as possible, come up with a rough schedule based on how much time you'll have and what you've learned, and then think about what kind of adjustments you can make if Mother Nature throws a curveball.

Let's take autumn in New England specifically. What will you shoot if it's drizzly or rainy the entire time? What if the colors aren't very far along yet? What if they've already peaked? What if you never see the sun and the skies are bland? What if it's persistently windy?

You can make excellent images in nearly any kind of weather and regardless of how far along the colors are. (The only thing I find nearly impossible to deal with is heavy rain.) Be prepared to take advantage of whatever you're gifted.

And if you'd like some ideas from me, just ask

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Acadia autumn foliage New England New Hampshire Vermont White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/8/ask-away Thu, 05 Aug 2021 07:14:00 GMT
Monsoonal Magic https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/monsoonal-magic Some of the rain that's been falling around the Four Corners is finally making it up this way. Better late than never.

To say this is welcome would be an understatement; there's been very little measurable precipitation for a few months now. We've moved beyond dry. Parched and desiccated are more accurate. 

The summer hasn't been without the occasional thunderstorm passing through the region but more often than not they've failed to produce rainfall. That, or they're very widely scattered; somebody gets lucky somewhere but it's not much to write home about. 

The current weather pattern is generating more widespread storms with rain expected to make it all the way to the ground periodically over the next few days. Or so the meteorologist says. 

A passing sprinkle has been the extent of it so far at my house but hope springs eternal. (The national park has seen a few downpours so that's a positive turn of events.)

Along with much-needed precipitation, monsoonal flow often produces spectacular cloud formations - especially the closer you get to the mountains. The cloudscapes are even more impressive because "big skies" enable expansive views. Throw the Tetons into the mix and you can really appreciate the scale. 

Watch one of these developing storms for a while and you'll see how quickly it expands and evolves - all the while climbing higher and higher. It's not an illusion; those anvil tops can reach a whopping 50,000 feet. Cruising altitude for commercial airliners is around 35,000 feet.

As much as I like to make dynamic landscape photos featuring monsoonal action, sometimes it's just as interesting to pull out the long lens and focus exclusively on the clouds. 

I look for juxtapositions of lighter against darker (more menacing) clouds, or the relationships between shapes, or interesting negative space. Most often these are abstract images - though if there's an enormous, mature formation with a well-developed anvil I might go for the whole enchilada and make a panoramic.  

Because I live up on a bench in the foothills only 60 straight-line miles from the Teton Range, I can see a lot of imposing monsoonal cloudscapes without having to venture much farther than my yard. 

These gargantuan showstoppers have been in short supply so far this summer but maybe change - rain - is in the air.   

Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) clouds cloudscapes monsoon storm summer Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/monsoonal-magic Thu, 29 Jul 2021 07:40:00 GMT
Seashells by the Seashore https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/Seashells-By-The-Seashore Rugged RyeRugged RyeNew Hampshire has less than 20 miles of ocean coastline - but what is lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Route 1A meanders northward here through beautiful Rye past marshland and toward Odiorne Point. If you didn't realize New Hampshire has an ocean coastline, it's understandable. At under 20 miles, it's the shortest of any state. What it lacks in quantity, though, it more than makes up for in quality. You know what they say: the best things come in small packages. SerenitySerenityAs the day dawned on this humid, late-summer morning, the saturated air was completely still - transforming the tidal pool into a lovely looking glass. (Atlantic Ocean at Rye, New Hampshire)

The Granite State's Atlantic shore and coastal towns are beautiful, historic and full of charm. While each season has its own unique appeal, there's a certain je ne sais quoi about the Seacoast in the summer.

(Note to outdoor photographers...there is no shortage of subject matter.)

To drive the coast, follow routes 1A and 1B from Seabrook on the southern end to Portsmouth in the north. Along the way you'll see spectacular ocean views from both sandy beaches and rocky shoreline.

You'll also find marshland, two harbors, stately mansions, a historic fort and multiple units of the state's park system.

You can complete the drive in no time - but I promise you won't want to. Spend a few days! Whether or not you're interested in making photographs, you'll find plenty to keep you busy. 

Here are some suggestions, town by town:

Hampton Beach

The boardwalk is a little kitschy but a hugely popular place, crammed with people during the summer months. Think ice cream shops, arcades, souvenir stands, food stands, boutiques and restaurants. Into street photography? Stop here.

The beach itself is large (over a mile long), sandy and clean. Every Wednesday during the summer there's a fireworks show beginning at 9:30pm. 

The annual (June) Master Sand Sculpting Classic features artists from all over the world. If you're in town while this is going on I highly recommend it.

For an evening entertainment break see who's playing the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. It's hosted a lot of famous acts since opening in 1899 - like Glenn Miller, Count Basie and Duke Ellington in the '30s to The Doors, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and The Who in the '60s and '70s, to Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Huey Lewis and the News in the '90s. 

North Hampton

Fuller Gardens is a seaside public botanical garden with unobstructed views of the Atlantic. You'll find rose gardens, a Japanese garden, a hosta garden, English perennial borders and more. Compact but lovely.

Continuing north on Ocean Boulevard (1A) you'll pass grand estates with expansive grounds overlooking the sea, many of which date back to the turn of the last century. There are some modern-day luxury homes, too, but it's the stately old ones that will catch your eye. Some are in North Hampton, others in Rye. None are for the budget-minded - but dreaming is free!

Rye

Feel like exploring the coastline from the water? Jump on board the "Uncle Oscar" at Rye Harbor for a sightseeing/whale watching cruise.

Back on land, Rye Harbor State Park is just a stone's throw up the road. Odiorne Point is the second of the town's state parks and the site of the first European settlement in New Hampshire. During World War II it was a fort and part of Portsmouth's harbor defense; the battery and gun placement mortar rings still remain.

Turn away from the sea and you'll find a lot of protected salt-water marshland to the west: great for bird watching.

Rye's beaches range from bustling Jenness State Beach to smaller, quieter options.

Hungry? Enjoy catch fresh off the boat at restaurants just steps from the water. 

New Castle

The smallest town in the state, New Castle is also an island.

Near the bridge connecting the town to Rye stands one of New Hampshire's four remaining Gilded Age grand resort hotels, Wentworth by the Sea (1874). This historic building stood vacant for a number of years and narrowly escaped demolition in the mid-1990s but was ultimately rescued. The renovated hotel reopened in 2003.

Standing at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor are Fort Constitution (first fortified by the British in the very early Colonial era) and Portsmouth Harbor Light (1771). Neither are open to the public this year but you can see/photograph the lighthouse from nearby Great Island Common. And there's a double bonus: from the Common you can also see Whaleback Light (1872) marking the entrance to the Piscataqua River. Both lighthouses are on the National Historic Register. 

Portsmouth

Founded in 1623, this is one of the country's oldest cities.

There's a lot to like about Portsmouth, not the least of which is that it's easily walkable. Stroll past the many red brick buildings on cobblestone sidewalks; you'll feel like you stepped back in time. 

This historic seaport has a vibrant, working harbor. Millions of tons of cargo move in and out every year. Watch the Moran tugs in action escorting a tanker or photograph them moored along Ceres Street. The busy commercial fishing pier is also a good place to hang around with the camera.

To survey the waterfront and/or ocean from offshore there are a few options: Portsmouth Harbor Cruises, the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company, or if you prefer sailing, the Gundalow.

Also on the waterfront is Prescott Park, a 10-acre jewel with the lovely Formal Garden as its centerpiece. For some living history, visit Strawberry Banke just across the street.

On the opposite side of the Piscataqua River you'll see the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (established in 1800) which specializes in the overhaul and repair of Los Angeles- and Virginia-class submarines.

Portsmouth's signature landmark is the beautiful North Church. Its steeple is visible from much of downtown and also from the river. Photographers, you'll have fun with this. It screams New England. Walk around town to find interesting vantage points and creative ways to capture it.

When it's time to put your feet up there are a variety of food and drink options: dozens in the downtown area alone which might surprise you given the size of the city (only about 22,000).

Hop back in the car, cross one of the three bridges spanning the Piscataqua, and you're in Maine. Wasn't that Massachusetts just a few miles ago? 

New Hampshire's ocean coastline is short but oh so sweet. Great things are tucked inside this small package. 

By the SeashoreBy the SeashorePainted pre-sunrise sky complements one of the stunning sand sculptures created for the annual sand sculpting competition. (Hampton Beach, New Hampshire)

A past entry in the Hampton Beach Sand Sculpting Classic

 

You'll find scenes like this (outside Ray's Seafood) along the ocean in Rye

 

Marshland in Rye

 

Prescott Park Portsmouth New HampshireSummer at the GardenPrescott Park's Formal Garden is awash with vibrant color at the height of its summer display. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

The formal garden at Prescott Park in Portsmouth

 

Approaching StormApproaching StormThe North Church's steeple is visible beyond the commercial fishing pier in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The commercial fishing pier in Portsmouth with historic North Church beyond 

 

One of the Moran tugs heading back to its pier

 

PyrotechnicsPyrotechnicsFireworks and the North Church steeple: it's the annual Independence Day celebration in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The North Church on Independence Day

 

And finally...if you're a regular reader you know I have a thing for this tidal pool in Rye. 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic coast Granite State Hampton Beach New Castle New England New Hampshire ocean Piscataqua Portsmouth Rye https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/Seashells-By-The-Seashore Thu, 22 Jul 2021 07:40:00 GMT
You Never Know https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/you-never-know You might be aware that it's been unusually hot in much of the northwestern U.S. - even at high altitude.

Here in Eastern Idaho the mercury started to soar much sooner than usual and decided to stay put. More than a few temperature records were broken already in June when it's typically quite pleasant. Even in a normal year late July is toasty so I doubt anyone in this neck of the woods is expecting a reprieve anytime soon.

Couple the heat with heavy smoke from distant fires that's settled in on both sides of the Teton Range (scroll down to see what it's been looking like in the park lately) and I'm dreaming of a little chill in the air and clear skies. 

Long ShadowsLong ShadowsThe low angle of the sun during the winter months creates wonderful long shadows. Here, they extend from the cottonwoods all the way to the barn, their blue hue mimicking that of the clear, early morning sky. (T.A. Moulton Barn - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) A scene like this looks refreshing right about now - and how about that excellent visibility? Yes, please.

As far as photography goes, the story of how this picture came to be proves that you never know how things are going to turn out. Let's just say I had zero intention of visiting this location on that day. Truth be told, I wouldn't have expected to be there at all that winter

It was very cold at daybreak - somewhere in the neighborhood of -20 degrees Fahrenheit. There were no clouds so a colorful sunrise wasn't in the cards. Instead, I went looking for bison and hoar frost, and found both.

While photographing the animals, a fellow joined me. Visiting from Colorado, it was his first time in the park. He asked for directions to Mormon Row. Normally this would be a simple answer - it wasn't too far from where we were working. In the winter, though, access to the barns is a little bit complicated. Roads are closed. The drive is circuitous. A hike is required. You'll need snowshoes. 

After explaining how to get there, I started thinking maybe I'd head over at some point, too.

Why I entertained the idea, I'm not sure. I generally don't spend much time at the barns. Photographically speaking, the morning had already been subpar. There was the cloudless sky. And now the color temperature of the light had changed; the sun was rising higher. I had little expectation of finding anything to shoot there. 

When I mentioned to this guy that I might run into him later, he said he'd wait and follow me to make sure he'd find his way. I hadn't intended on leaving right that minute but why not? The idea of having company was a plus; when the mercury dips well below zero I avoid hiking too far on my own. 

We were the only people there. First stop: the John Moulton barn. It was surrounded by tracks, both from snowshoes and cross country skis. I photographed one of the outbuildings, half buried by snowdrifts, but otherwise mainly served as tour guide. Once Mr. Colorado finished shooting there, I suggested we head over to the T.A. Moulton barn. After all, he'd never been to the park. If you're a first-timer you have to see both barns. 

As we got closer, I was surprised to find fewer and fewer signs of human visitors. Finally, there were no tracks at all; not even animal tracks. Nothing but pristine snow. 

The low winter sun cast spectacular long, blue shadows from a stand of cottonwood trees all the way to the barn door. Those shadows were begging to be photographed!

While my hiking buddy ventured off to try to get closer to a coyote he'd noticed earlier, I dropped down in the snow and set up my camera very low to the ground. I avoided casting my own shadow by positioning myself directly in front of the bases of the tree trunks. The cloudless blue sky was no longer a problem; very little of it is included in the frame and what remains supports the main subject thanks to the duplicating color. 

(This is a stitched pano of three images. Shooting vertically made it possible to capture the full range of shadows with minimal sky.)

Who would have thought it? To that point, the shooting had been so-so. I'd been about ready to call it a morning when some random person needed directions. I ended up at the barns. And saw something special.

Sometimes you make a picture when you least expect to.

Smoke Gets in My Eyes

Welcome to the Tetons (via webcam yesterday afternoon). Socked in. You'll need to use your imagination.

There are no clouds in the sky; that's all haze and smoke from distant fires, the nearest of which is about 260 miles away. To date most of the smoke has been coming from northern Idaho (during the overnight hours) and then when the wind shifts during the day, from Oregon.

For point of reference, Grand Teton is standing roughly in the middle of the frame - though it's tough to see anything. This camera is located not far from the Moose entrance station in the central part of the park.

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) barns fires Grand Teton National Park Mormon Row shadows smoke snow T.A. Moulton barn Tetons winter Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/you-never-know Thu, 15 Jul 2021 07:34:00 GMT
Redefining Success https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/redefining-success Nobody wants to come back from a photo shoot empty-handed, but it happens.

Nature photographers can't control the conditions, after all. Sometimes there just isn't enough to work with.

I used to consider a session like that a complete bust. Then I began to realize there's almost always something positive about time spent in the field - whether or not I make a photograph. Of course I'd prefer to get the image(s). But I've broadened my definition of what constitutes a successful outing. There is value in the experience, too.

"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore..."
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Simply being out in the natural world is, for me, a win. 

Take early morning shoots, for example. I love them - and not just because of the good light! I'll admit the 0-dark-30 starts can be tough (especially when the temperature has plummeted overnight or I've had little sleep) but there's something exhilarating about being out there to witness the darkness giving way to dawn, wherever "there" might be. 

I'm often alone. It's quiet. In the hush of those early hours, it's amazing what you can hear. The water lapping. The whooshing sound of a bird in flight. Elk bugling in the autumn. The hum of a lobster boat heading out from a distant harbor. A beaver swimming by. The loon's call.

Some mornings - especially in the dead of winter - you hear nothing at all; it's completely, utterly quiet.

I always hope to walk away with a photo, but whether or not things pan out it's not a bad way to begin the day. 

Interesting random encounters can also qualify as positive outcomes. I've met a lot of people while working in the field over the years. Some have ended up becoming photography buddies: both local and long-distance.

More often it's a single meeting - someone I'll never see or hear from again - but remembered for some reason or another. Especially when hunkered down waiting for better conditions or if I'm finishing up and there's no hurry to get to another location, there's time for conversation. We end up talking about equipment. Or other shooting destinations. Maybe we trade scouting information. Tips. Advice. Anecdotes.  

On occasion you end up shooting for a while with someone you've just met - like the time I hiked high up a steep hillside one early autumn morning to try to capture foliage in the Tetons from a more unusual vantage point. With animals in the back of my mind I wasn't sorry to see two guys follow not long afterward; some company would be okay. With persistent fog obscuring the mountain peaks, I knew I was going to have to hang around and wait for it to lift. It became obvious they were going to do the same. We began to chat. The three of us ended up parked there, shooting the breeze while hoping to be rewarded with a clear view of the entire face of Mount Moran. 

The fog toyed with us. For hours. We joked that outwaiting it had now become a matter of principle. Nobody was going anywhere! Finally, with hungry stomachs demanding to be fed, they gave up and bid me farewell. Not ten minutes after they left, the last of the fog lifted and I was able to make the photo - but I would have considered it a positive experience either way. 

Even if a shoot fails to yield a photograph, you might learn something new. About the location. About other locations. About your equipment. You might think of and experiment with a new creative approach. You might make a new friend.

So, is every shoot a success? Not in the literal sense. But even if you don't make a photo there's a good chance you'll walk away having gained something. 

The Tidal PoolThe Tidal PoolRye, New Hampshire This large tidal pool along the Atlantic Coast is one of my most often-visited early morning shooting locations in New Hampshire because it's near where I used to live. And - for my money, anyway - it's tough to beat watching the morning unfold at the seashore. 

I've spent many hours there over maybe a dozen years, and return whenever I'm back visiting my old stomping grounds. 

In all that time I can think of only a few rare occasions when anybody else showed up; it's typically just me and the lobster boats out at sea. Combine this view, the sound of the water and the wonderful solitude, and it's a special way to start the day...photo or no photo.

Success!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic ocean New England New Hampshire photography Rye Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/redefining-success Thu, 08 Jul 2021 07:40:00 GMT
Happy Birthday, America https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/happy-birthday-america O beautiful, for spacious skies

Inspiration in RedInspiration in RedThe Organ is one of the massive sandstone formations which can be found in the Courthouse Towers area of the park. (Arches National Park, Utah)

For amber waves of grain

Amber Waves of GrainAmber Waves of GrainFar northern McHenry County, Illinois

For purple mountain majesties

Purple Mountain Majesty Teton Valley IdahoPurple Mountain MajestyThe setting sun bathes the snow-topped Tetons and the clouds blanketing them with warm color. The Teton River, not yet frozen, meanders through farmland in the Teton Valley. (Near Tetonia, Idaho)

Above the fruited plain!

Country SunsetCountry SunsetNear Harvard, Illinois

America, America,

God shed His grace on thee

Chapel of the Transfiguration Grand Teton National ParkThe ChapelThe Chapel of the Transfiguration is sited - appropriately - beneath the Cathedral Peaks. The log structure was built in the 1920s and placed on the national register of historic places in 1980. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

And crown thy good with brotherhood,

Independence DayIndependence DayFireworks explode behind Portsmouth, New Hampshire's landmark North Church in celebration of Independence Day. From sea
Intracoastal WaterwayIntracoastal WaterwayOver the Intracoastal Waterway in Central Florida, looking toward the barrier islands of Vero Beach. to shining sea!

Shoreline Sentries Sea Stacks Bandon OregonShoreline SentriesSea stacks at Bandon Beach, Oregon

"America the Beautiful"

Lyric - Katharine Lee Bates
Music - Samuel A. Ward

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) America America the Beautiful Fourth of July Independence Day July 4 https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/happy-birthday-america Sun, 04 Jul 2021 14:22:41 GMT
In Black and White https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/in-black-and-white Imagine the mountains of New England in early October at the height of foliage season. It's a cacophony of spectacular color: brilliant hues of red and orange and yellow everywhere you look. I don't know too many people who'd want to photograph a landscape like that in black and white; color is integral to the story.

Other times, though, black and white can be a great way to go. 

Even if you choose to work mostly in color, learning to "see" in black and white will help improve your skills. It's possible to become over-reliant on color, expecting it to carry an image on its own. Eliminating it from the equation forces you to focus on contrast, texture, perspective and other fundamental compositional elements. Back to basics, so to speak.

Black and white images require strong compositions in order to be successful; color images should be built using the same blocks - just with the one added component.

There's another important practical bonus to working in black and white. It can greatly extend the workday. Conditions you might consider unsuitable for color photography, like harsh mid-day light or bland skies, can work just fine if color is removed from the equation.

If you show up on location only to find day after day of featureless, white skies, all is not lost. Switch to black and white. You might be surprised at the kinds of images you can make. Light is still critical, of course - but in a different way.

Don't forget the artistic angle. Black and white might be the better creative tool to convey mood or focus the viewer's attention. It can shift - or enhance - emphasis. The image might work perfectly well processed in color but could be even stronger without it. Semi-CirclesSemi-CirclesAbove and below, sweeping arcs in reverse directions. (Vishnu Temple: North Rim - Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona)

The first example illustrates conditions which were too harsh for color - but this image has nothing to do with color. It's all about shapes. For that, the light was just about perfect.

I made this at mid-day along the Grand Canyon's North Rim. While waiting for the monsoonal activity which had begun to develop behind me to move closer, I used the time (plenty of it - a few hours, actually) to watch beautiful clouds fill the sky in all directions.

This cumulus formation was opposite the incoming storm. It was especially striking in that it completed a spectacular vignette featuring two sweeping arcs - one overhead, the other in the ridgeline of the Vishnu Temple below.

Processing this in black and white enabled me to further emphasize those two shapes - which is what the photo is all about.

I bumped up the contrast and used the burn tool to remove hot spots on the rocks created by the harsh sunlight. 

Next up is an image that uses black and white to enhance the mood and place the focus squarely on the early-evening storm advancing into Jackson Hole.

This was a real show-stopper of a monsoon. (It was also a bit of a surprise; as of that morning no rain had been forecast.) I'd initially been closer to the mountains but this thing was so impressive I knew I needed to put a little bit more distance between myself and the Tetons for scale. 

It was moving quickly so I didn't have much time to reposition myself at the flats. Originally hoping to find a foreground element for the composition, I decided I'd rather place all the emphasis on the sky. 

I had a feeling before I shot it that this image would end up in black and white. Color adds nothing and risks detracting from it.

Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) Finally, a black and white abstract. The sandstone slot canyons of northern Arizona are prime examples of erosion; the play of light on the red rock is often an important part of the composition. In this case, though, I wanted to emphasize the geometric lines. Removing color also removed some of the context - thus enhancing the rock's somewhat mysterious character. 

If I hadn't told you this was a slot canyon, would you know immediately what you were looking at?

EnigmaEnigmaLower Antelope Slot Canyon (Page, Arizona) Color is great, but black and white is no slouch. It can extend your shooting time, provide new creative options, and help sharpen your skills.

Try it!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arizona black and white Grand Canyon Jackson Hole photography slot canyon Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/7/in-black-and-white Thu, 01 Jul 2021 08:05:00 GMT
West Side Story https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/6/west-side-story Attendance records in Grand Teton National Park this year have been falling by the wayside (every month but February when persistent snowfall made travel difficult). Recreational visits, camping, backcountry camping, trail use....it's all increased dramatically. Looking for a place to pitch your tent? Good luck.

Perhaps you'd prefer sleeping in a room in Jackson to the great outdoors. Prepare to be shocked when you see the rates.

Likewise, Yellowstone has been swamped (and the lodging situation is the same - or worse). Raindance Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingRaindanceChangeable skies over the Teton peaks (Alta, Wyoming)

To give you some idea what that means in real numbers, in May Yellowstone welcomed 483,100 people, while 363,700 came to Grand Teton. Neither park was open until late May 2020 due to the pandemic, but compared to 2019 stats, that's an 11% May-to-May increase for YNP and 30% for GTNP.

Not just record-breaking: more like record shattering. (By the way this isn't exclusive to 2021. Grand Teton NP broke all-time records late in 2020, too.)

Since July and August are historically the busiest times of the year, I can only imagine what's coming.

Even in a "normal" year the summer months in Yellowstone are too crowded for my taste; I generally stick with the Tetons.

In Grand Teton NP crowds can be avoided if you head out as the day breaks and steer clear of places like Jenny Lake during peak hours. Evenings are generally good, too; most folks start to disappear by dinnertime. There are also lesser-known areas both within the park and just outside its boundaries which see far fewer visitors. That syncs up just fine in terms of landscape photography.

That said, depending on the time of day, trying to head south into Jackson from the park in the summer might have you feeling more like you're stuck on Chicago's Kennedy Expressway at rush hour rather than traveling on a state highway in sparsely-populated Wyoming. You'll get into town eventually but don't expect a quick trip.

Record tourism to northwest Wyoming is just another reason to love the Teton Valley. It's not referred to as "The Quiet Side" for nothing! Some visitors do head over the pass, but most stick with the national parks.

Fine with me. 

The west side has its own beautiful views of the Tetons, though with a different perspective due to the foothills. The Teton Valley is agricultural: a striking juxtaposition of farmland framed by mountain peaks.

There's a ski resort on the western slope. During the summer months Grand Targhee's lift is open for hikers, mountain bikers, and sightseers. Down below you'll find the Teton River and lots of great hiking in Teton Canyon. 

If that's not enough, the Idaho side boasts another mountain range: the Big Holes. They're not as tall or flamboyant as the Tetons - but still lovely. 

If you want to take a break from the scenery, there are some good places to eat (like Three Peaks or Tetanka Tavern or Warbirds - all in Driggs) as well as two craft breweries and an award-winning distillery that specializes in potato vodka and whiskey.  

If you want something with even more local flavor, you might try Dave's Pubb in Tetonia. It's a favorite of one of my brothers.....also named Dave. :)

At any rate, you won't go hungry. Or thirsty.

Just between you and me, the Teton Valley is pretty nice.

Shhhhh. Let's keep it our little secret. 

Teton Valley IdahoMy Own Private IdahoThe view from the Big Hole Mountains across Idaho's Teton Valley to the Teton Range is expansive and beautiful. Many tourists never see it, but the valley more than lives up to its tagline: "The Best of Both States" (Tetonia, Idaho)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Driggs Grand Teton National Park Idaho Teton Valley Tetonia Tetons Wyoming Yellowstone https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/6/west-side-story Thu, 24 Jun 2021 07:45:00 GMT
Tick Tock https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/6/tick-tock I got hooked on wildflowers while living in New Hampshire. Lupine season in the White Mountains is lovely; fields explode with color as the spikes bloom in late spring. They're not just blue and purple, either. You'll see plenty of white and pink flowers, plus all sorts of interesting hybrids if you keep your eyes open - like pale peach, pale yellow, blush pink, and lavender. 

Grand Teton National Park has lupines, too (purple only), but the more prolific springtime floral displays come from the opposite side of the color wheel. Yellow.  Sunshine BeneathSunshine BeneathArrowleaf balsamroot add splashes of cheerful yellow to the fields of Jackson Hole in late spring. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

First up is the Arrowleaf balsamroot. Hardy and drought-tolerant, they belong to the sunflower family and grow in clumps that look like bouquets. Their bloom is followed by a similar yellow flower, the Mule Ear (aster family).

In early to mid-June various areas of the park are decorated with splashes of bright yellow that go on seemingly as far as the eye can see. Bottom line: if you like yellow, you'll find plenty of it in the Tetons this time of year. Even if yellow isn't your favorite color, it's hard to look at these plants and resist their charms. 

Anyone who shoots wildflowers knows it's more difficult to make good photographs featuring blooms than one might think. You're looking for plants that are as pristine as possible: not past peak and definitely not chomped full of holes from hungry insects. They need to be oriented correctly if you're going to compose for a bigger landscape. And so on. It can take a lot of roaming around fields before finding something that might work.

As with any type of nature photography, conditions are the biggest wildcard. This becomes a little more complicated when dealing with a show that is relatively brief. Like the autumnal foliage display, timing is everything; you want to catch the blooms when they're looking their best. Unfortunately, spring is the windiest time of the year in Teton Country. Wind and flowers don't mix well.

I've been shooting the Arrowleaf balsamroot for a number of seasons with mixed results. It was so windy last year I didn't make a single image I considered a keeper. Likewise, this spring has been brutal with day after day of sustained winds in the 20-30mph range. At some point, though, you just have to go for it. The flowers aren't going to wait.

I chose a window that, if the forecast held, promised a bit of a weather smorgasbord: windy followed by a period of relative calm followed by a chance of rain the next day. Approaching fronts in the spring always mean hang on to your hat and prepare to batten down the hatches, so while a chance of rain could mean interesting skies it just about guaranteed more wind.

Not ideal, but what is it they say about desperate times?

Upon arrival it was, as promised, blowing pretty aggressively. (My wind app indicated 21mph, which it refers to as "fresh." Which makes me laugh.) The flowers were being tossed around so much it was difficult to determine which of them might make good subjects for later but I could see those who were past prime and look for groupings that might make good compositions.  

I didn't expect to make any photographs until the next morning. Still, as the day began to wind down, I returned to an area I'd scouted earlier that afternoon. It had clouded over almost completely but the wind was much calmer. I figured I might as well wait and see what would happen. I shot for about an hour, experimenting with various compositions I thought I might try the next morning while keeping an eye on the sky. Surprisingly, the overcast began to break.

This park, though stingy with sunsets, looked as though it might deliver one.

Too much air movement remained to allow for tight shots of the blooms, so I switched gears and went for a wider composition. Better to have everything crisply in focus. The last image I made was the panoramic pictured below (it's three verticals stitched together) which captured the shadows created by the peaks of Grand Teton and Middle Teton as the sun dipped toward the horizon.  

Not at all what I anticipated. 

Better.

You never know what might happen.

Sleep TightSleep TightThe sun sets behind the Teton Range, bidding the wildflowers goodnight. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arrowleaf Balsamroot Grand Teton National Park spring sunset Tetons wildflowers https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/6/tick-tock Thu, 17 Jun 2021 07:50:00 GMT
Stay a Little Longer https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/6/stay-a-little-longer spring at Grand Teton National ParkSpotlight on SpringAfternoon storms forming over the Teton Range create quickly changeable - and dramatic - skies. A few rays of light break through, highlighting the lush springtime foliage. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) Green season is a magical time of year. It's even more special in the semi-arid wild, wild intermountain west due to its brevity. 

When the deciduous leaves first appear on the scene, they're lush and bright. They pop against the darker greens of their conifer cousins. Aspens and cottonwoods awaken from their winter sleep looking uniformly, spectacularly, luxuriantly lime. By mid-summer, the aspens will take on a deeper hue. Teton Valley IdahoThunderheadsThe Teton River cuts a path through the Teton Valley - which is never more lovely than in late spring and early summer, awash in green. Here, thunderheads climbing high into the sky dominate the scene. (Tetonia, Idaho) The cottonwoods will shift a little toward yellow. Some of trees will become stressed; those leaves might brown prematurely. For now though, they drink it all in. Literally.

Likewise, the fields and hillsides of spring are full of viridescent vegetation. The combination of runoff and precipitation paint the landscape with broad brushstrokes.

Add to that the vast expanse of agricultural land in Eastern Idaho, which - having recently been planted - is generally green right now regardless of the crop.

In a way it's a bit of bait and switch. Surprise! Don't get accustomed to the water. There isn't more where that came from...

Reality will set in when the rain stops falling and the snow has melted from the mountains; the plants will have to learn to make do.

As the trees shift into their mid-summer form, likewise the grasses and rabbitbrush will transform. Fields will become golden and brown. 

For now, though, we celebrate in the moment. Springtime green.

Sometimes the season lingers. Last year was one such glorious example. Well into July the greens hung around, thanks to significant snowpack and chilly temperatures. 

2021 is shaping up quite differently. Though it stormed often throughout the month of February, January and March didn't contribute much to the snowpack. When spring arrived apparently the rain didn't feel like coming along for the party. Precipitation has been spotty and light. Add to that unusually warm temperatures over the past 10 days; the mercury topped out at nearly 20 degrees above normal last weekend. It is most definitely dry.

I expect this year's green season will be achingly brief. 

If only we could will it to stay just a little longer.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth...
D.H. Lawrence

About the photos

Top: Afternoon thunderstorms rolling through Jackson Hole often create quickly changeable skies. If you're patient, you may see something special. The best of the show on this day was in the northern section of Grand Teton National Park, pictured here.

Middle: Idaho's Teton Valley bills itself as "The Best of Both States." It's undeniably beautiful - and much less crowded than the park. You're looking here toward the town of Tetonia with Mount Owen, Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and South Teton forming a spectacular backdrop. The Teton River originates in Victor near the Idaho/Wyoming state line and runs through the valley. It's a tributary of Henry's Fork of the Snake River. 

Below: Green season in Grand Teton National Park. This line of cottonwoods is lime green only for a brief time in the spring. The way the baseline of the trees almost perfectly mirrors the line of the mountains always catches my eye; on this evening the aftermath of thunderstorms moving out near sunset completed the scene.

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park green season spring Teton River Teton Valley Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/6/stay-a-little-longer Thu, 10 Jun 2021 07:50:00 GMT
Be The Best https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/6/be-the-best Rhapsody in BlueRhapsody in BlueTracy Arm Fjord (Near Juneau, Alaska) Photographers are their own best curators. They're also their own worst.

As the creator of the images, you know what you're trying to convey; you're intimately acquainted with the locations at which you often work; you know how you want to represent yourself as an artist. Who could be better positioned than you when it comes to identifying what ought to be included in your portfolio?

Still, it can be tough to make such decisions. 

A single photograph can evoke all sorts of memories. You recall the hours spent on location. The effort and expense required to get there. People you were shooting with or that you met along the way. What the weather was like. How long you had to wait before you could make the photo. Interesting travel adventures and/or mishaps on the way to or while on location. All sorts of things.

To be a good curator, you have to forget all of that. Emotions cloud judgement. You must be dispassionate and unbiased; easier said than done. 

Good curators are good editors. 

Step one is learning to overcome emotional attachments to images that don't represent your best work. 

  • It's a really strong composition - but there's some sort of technical issue which can't be addressed in post-processing. You want to love the photograph (you DO love it) but you see that problem staring back at you every time you look at it.
  • You drove a crazy number of miles to get to the location. Or invested a crazy amount of time to try to get those shots. Or spent a crazy amount of money. Or all of the above! The results weren't what you'd hoped for; still you want to have something to show for it. 
  • There may never be an opportunity to return to the place where you made the photo. The image isn't your best, but....
  • Your skills have improved quite a bit since you shot it, but the photograph brings back sentimental memories of something or someone.  

Does any of this sound familiar? These are the types of images that can be hard to cut but probably ought to go. That doesn't mean you can't continue to enjoy them; it's not like you're tossing them into a black hole or purging them from your hard drive. Consider them treasures for your permanent private collection.

Reserve the finest for your portfolio. You know the old saying, "You're only as strong as your weakest link." The idea is worth thinking about as you review your images and make decisions about which best represent your body of work.

[Note: there's a big difference between removing an image with flaws or which no longer stands up creatively versus pulling a photograph simply because it didn't generate a lot of "likes" when you posted it to Instagram or Facebook. Art is subjective. You will never please everyone. Some people love abstracts. Others dislike them. Some are drawn to grand vistas while others prefer intimate scenes. You say potato, I say.... Don't let social media dictate the measure of your work.]

Good editors also know when enough is enough: there can be virtue in brevity. Should your collection showcasing (fill in the blank with a location or specific subject matter) include hundreds - or thousands - of images? You may have many terrific photographs - but will people wade through it all? Are there redundancies? How many images are necessary to convey the message? Are they all equally good? Photographers must learn when, what and how much to remove. 

Portfolios evolve over time. Skills improve. We learn new post-processing techniques. Over the years, perhaps we look at the world differently, or pursue divergent subject matter. Creativity evolves. Add a few new images, remove a few older ones.

Quality, not quantity. Leave the viewer wanting more.

Remember - there are other avenues in which you can utilize some of the images you've opted to trim. Books. Presentations. Instruction. Articles. Licensing. Save them for another time or occasion.

It can be tough to curate your own work, but it's a skill that can be developed. As you become more proficient, you'll see that it's you who is best qualified for the job. 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) editing photography portfolio tips https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/6/be-the-best Thu, 03 Jun 2021 07:40:00 GMT
Playing Favorites https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/5/playing-favorites There's no such thing as a National Park I don't like. Each one is a treasure with unique charms. That said, I do have a favorite: Grand Teton. Mount Moran Grand Teton National ParkThe Great Grey FaceA long lens compresses this scene, framing Mount Moran with brilliant autumn color below and a stormy sky above. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

It's not number one on my hit parade because I live nearby; it claimed that position long before I moved to the Intermountain West. The first time I laid eyes on the park it reeled me in.

Love at first sight? "Awestruck at first sight" is probably more accurate. 

It's definitely not the kind of landscape I knew in my youth. As a product of the American Midwest, I had no experience with mountains. When I was growing up, kids in Northern Illinois went to Wilmot "Mountain" in Wisconsin to ski (960 feet). My family didn't travel much; when we did hit the road it usually meant heading out to Nebraska to see relatives. Not exactly alpine territory.

The heartland has many lovely features and I have great fondness for that part of the country, but (meaning no disrespect to Wilmot) mountains aren't among its signature sights. 

As an adult I started spending a lot of time in Colorado both for business and pleasure; I got acquainted with the Rockies. Denver. Steamboat Springs. Vail. Pike's Peak. The Rampart Range. Durango. Later I was introduced to the Appalachians. If you know me even just a little bit, you know how I feel about New Hampshire's White Mountains. Love, love, love. 

But none of that prepared me for my first glimpse of Grand Teton National Park - where the mountains reach out and smack you in the face. In a good way! 

The youngest range in the Rockies - and some of the youngest mountains in the world - the Tetons are rugged and not yet finished growing; the fault line lies at the base of the mountains with Jackson Hole on the other side. There are no foothills and absolutely no visual obstructions. Standing on the valley floor, you can look straight up to the peaks. More than 30 of them top 11,000 feet.

Though they span only about 40 miles, the Tetons are arguably one of the most recognizable mountain ranges on the planet.

So of course, everybody loves Grand Teton, right? It's the tallest mountain in the range and the star of the show. After all, the park is named for it. But as far as the Teton Peaks go, while the Grand is most definitely gorgeously grand, it's not my favorite.

I've got a soft spot for Mount Moran. 

Maybe it's not as flashy, but I think Moran is a looker. It's also a bit of a loner. Towering above Jackson Lake at the north end of the range, it stands by itself (in a manner of speaking). It features several active glaciers, one of which is clearly visible on its east face. If you're unfamiliar with the park, the photo above will provide a point of reference. That's Mount Moran at the far right of the frame. It's about a 30 minute drive from the general vicinity of Grand Teton to Moran Junction.

Certainly the Grand and the Cathedral Group are beautiful; how can you not want to spend time around them? I've made lots of photographs featuring Grand Teton, Mount Owen, Teewinot and their immediate neighbors.

Still, given the choice, I'd rather hang out with Moran.  

Part of the attraction might be that I prefer the north end of the park: Elk Flats, Willow Flats, Oxbow Bend, Pilgrim Creek, Jackson Lake. Notwithstanding the throngs of people you're likely to find at Oxbow waiting for sunrise on an autumn morning, it seems easier to get away from the crowds in the north. (You can also quickly escape from there to some pretty spectacular places not that far outside the park.)

Depending on the time of year or time of day it's not unusual to find wonderful little pockets where I'm nearly alone. Or am I? There's always magnificent Moran, standing watch over it all. Including me.

My favorite. 

Twilight Wedge Grand Teton National ParkAwakeningBright autumn foliage punctuates the Willow Flats landscape at daybreak while the twilight wedge tints the sky pink. With temperatures below freezing, steam rises above distant Jackson Lake as Mount Moran waits for the sun to rise and warm its face. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Mount Moran Rocky Mountains Teton Range Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/5/playing-favorites Thu, 27 May 2021 07:45:00 GMT
There's No Place Like Home https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/5/Theres-No-Place-Like-Home As the crow flies, I live 60 miles from Grand Teton National Park. The Teton Valley is even closer. 

This proximity isn't always a good thing; it can become a bit of a trap. Often, aspiring nature photographers who also live in this area tell me they're frustrated by the fact that they can't be in the Park frequently. As a result, they say they have little opportunity to practice.

Au contraire!

The only way to learn and improve is to get out there and shoot. As much as possible. If you're only going to shoot when visiting an exotic or iconic locale, your camera won't get much use. A well-known destination isn't a prerequisite. The solution is simple. Put the camera to work at home. 

One of the best ways to develop both skill and creativity is to work locally. I guarantee you will find interesting subject matter within reasonable proximity regardless of where you live. The more you look, the more you'll see. The more you're able to "see" the interesting - and perhaps even the extraordinary - in the ordinary, the more potential compositions you'll find when you do visit well-known destinations.  

Unlike the crow, who can fly directly from my house to Grand Teton National Park, I'm stuck traveling via pavement and over two mountain passes; my mileage is higher than his. I'm nearby, but not so close that I can rush over to take advantage of rapidly changing weather conditions. Or drop by every week. It requires a bit of a commitment. Bottom line: I'm not constantly in the Park. I look for subject matter closer to home, too.

Especially in the spring, you'll find me in my yard and gardens with the macro lens. (I'm a pushover for plant life.) Last summer I started working on a series of abstracts featuring monsoonal storm clouds. I can watch them forming over the Teton Range from my front porch; you can't get much more convenient than that. Another series features a fire-scarred, dilapidated buck and rail fence just a few miles away. I've been shooting that off and on for a few years. Eastern Idaho is agricultural; once the crops are established I'll prowl around country roads looking to see what I can do with fields of canola or wheat or potatoes. And so on. 

Your camera doesn't want to be cooped up in the bag; pull it out and get to work!

You may never do anything with some of the images you make. It doesn't matter. It will be time well spent.  

Daydream BelieverDaydream Believer'Spring Snow' crabapple blooms
(Idaho Falls, Idaho)

Bloom CyclesBloom CyclesColumbine (Aquilegia caerulea Red Hobbit)

The Neglected Fence VIIThe Neglected Fence VIIBonneville County, Idaho

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park photography Tetons tips https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/5/Theres-No-Place-Like-Home Thu, 20 May 2021 06:30:00 GMT
Serendipity https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/5/serendipity Evening Glow Lupines White MountainsEvening GlowLupines watch as the last light of the day casts warm alpenglow on the Northern Presidential Range in New Hampshire's White Mountains. (Jefferson, New Hampshire) During the course of my career in corporate America I spent a lot of time on the road (or more accurately, in the air) and logged many miles back and forth across the United states and to Puerto Rico - seeing a great deal of the country in the process.

That said, I wasn't exactly hanging out in Northern New England. In fact, the first time I set foot in New Hampshire had nothing to do with a business trip; traveling to Boston for an impromptu "foliage weekend" I drove north to Rye and Portsmouth, and then on into Maine as far as Kennebunkport to have a look around. 

Never in a million years would I have guessed then that I'd end up not just living in the Granite State - for many years, no less - but that I'd become so deeply attached to it. That I would explore what feels like nearly every square inch of it. That I'd spend countless hours capturing its beauty with my camera. That I would come to consider New Hampshire home just as much as I do my native Chicago.

Completely unexpected.

Tranquility BaseTranquility BaseThe Teton peaks reflected in the Snake River shortly after sunrise. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) Relocating to Teton Country, by contrast, was an inevitability. I didn't want to leave the Northeast but when my husband purchased 40 acres in the Teton Valley the writing was on the wall. It was just a matter of when it would happen.

Suffice it to say the marriage between me and a semi-arid climate is not a match made in heaven. 

I miss water. The canopy of abundant maples. Oaks. Green summers. Top soil. And I'm most definitely not a fan of the relentless high winds here in the Snake River Plain. Still, I adore Grand Teton National Park. It stole a piece of my heart the first time I laid eyes on it some 25-years ago. There are worse things than living in the shadow of the Tetons.

Back when I first visited the twin Teton Counties, though, I would have scoffed at the idea I'd one day live in the area (there was absolutely nothing inevitable about it at that point) - just as I couldn't have predicted I'd be a Granite State resident less than two years after that spur-of-the-moment road trip from Salem, Mass. up the coast to see the sights. It's funny how things turn out. 

Interestingly, New Hampshire and the Tetons are my two favorite places to make photographs.

You never know for sure what's waiting at the end of the path. Sometimes it's a little bit of serendipity.

About the photos

Top: the lupines bloom in New Hampshire's White Mountains anywhere from late May until mid-June. It's a stunning show, with flowers ranging in color from white, pink, and peach to lavender, blue, and purple - along with some interesting hybrids. The year this photo was made many normally-prolific fields were sparse and the flowers were very late. I ventured further north than usual to find this field of purple spikes in Jefferson on the summer solstice. The black flies were thick that evening and left me covered with bites (to which I'm allergic) but the alpenglow on the northern Presidential Range was lovely; it was worth it. 

Bottom: in early summer the landscape around the Teton Range is lush and green thanks to the runoff; meanwhile the mountains retain quite a bit of snow cover. In my opinion it's the prettiest time of the year. This photograph was made along the Snake River shortly after sunrise. 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Granite State New England New Hampshire Northeast serendipity Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/5/serendipity Thu, 13 May 2021 07:35:00 GMT
And So It Begins https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/5/and-so-it-begins Visions in TravertineVisions in TravertineCanary Spring - Mammoth Hot Springs (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) Yellowstone is preparing for its busy summer season; the west gates re-opened to auto traffic a few weeks ago. The other entrances will soon follow. My preferred times for working in Yellowstone are winter and the collar weeks when it's much less crowded, so I ran up there the other day for one last shoot before all the visitors arrive. As it was cold and windy with on-and-off precipitation, there were few people around. Nearly perfect!

The flood gates are already open in the Tetons, which remains at least partially accessible to vehicle traffic all year. Truth be told, it seems they never really closed; Grand Teton National Park set an attendance record in January. Apparently that wasn't a fluke, because March also saw record visits. (Seriously. March. Not exactly renowned as the month everyone wants to flock to the Tetons.) April's numbers aren't in yet but I expect they were big, too. 

Looks like it's going to be a busy summer! 

The inner loop road opened last Saturday, so most of the park is now drivable. There's already quite a bit of traffic - and the inevitable jams wherever there's a sighting of 399, 610, or Blondie with cubs in tow. Outside of the famous grizzlies, there are some pretty adorable bison calves romping around also.

Be advised you'll still have a little bit of a wait before everything is wide open. As of a few days ago Signal Mountain Road hadn't yet opened. The road down to Schwabacher's Landing and Pilgrim Creek Road also remain closed. This time of year foot access to places like Willow Flats, Antelope Flats, and Blacktail Ponds is restricted. That's usually lifted by the end of May.

After a very wet February with one snowstorm after another, March and April were dry. Really dry. (This doesn't bode well for fire season.) Unless the weather patterns shift soon it means my favorite time of year, "green season," will be truncated. Wildflowers usually arrive the first part of June; we'll see if the precipitation deficit impacts the timing of the blooms.

However Mother Nature decides to arrange her schedule and manage her appearance, it'll be beautiful. About that I have no doubt. You can't beat springtime!

About the photos:

The travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone are one of my favorite features of that park. I enjoy photographing them in all seasons and especially like to capture them abstractly. The image at the top is a "straight up" depiction of Canary Springs which includes some of the mountains in the distance for context. Below, thermally created steam drifting across the scene helps render another area of the same spring abstractly.

Two teen-aged girls who came by while I was working there were delighted by the otherworldly scene and exclaimed, "It's like Mars! Only white!"

It's fun to see people get excited about sights like this. And yes....it IS weird and wonderful. A little bit of Mars in the northwest corner of Wyoming.

  

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Mammoth Hot Springs Wyoming Yellowstone National Park https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/5/and-so-it-begins Thu, 06 May 2021 07:35:00 GMT
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/4/The-most-wondeful-time-of-the-year April ShowersApril ShowersNewfields, New Hampshire With all due respect to composers/lyricists George Wyle and Eddie Pola - who wrote It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Andy Williams - I think they were off by a few months. Christmas is great, but in my book the most wonderful time of the year is happening right now. Spring. 

Each season has something beautiful to offer, but especially if you live in an area where winters are harsh, there's nothing like watching the earth reawaken after its long slumber. Crocus and snowdrops pop up their heads early, followed by tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Blooming forsythia paint with broad brushstrokes of yellow. Then come the rhododendrons. Redbud. Spirea. And my personal favorites, ornamental trees - especially crabapples. One after another, bloom after bloom, all of these plants transform a monochromatic, dormant landscape into a riot of welcome color. 

While this is happening, lawns turn green. Seemingly overnight trees leaf out; the canopy reappears and there is shade where yesterday there were only the outlines of branches. 

Magical!

Spring comes later in the high-altitude, semi-arid Intermountain West, and it's more subdued than what you'll find on the other side of the 100th parallel, but still it makes its presence known here in a beautiful way. Surprisingly, crab trees (and lilacs, too) can be found in abundance in Eastern Idaho. Obviously they require an assist when it comes to watering but learning they could survive in this climate was a happy discovery; ornamental trees were promptly added to the landscaping plan for my new yard. As soon as they were planted the place started to feel like a little more like home.

Those trees are filled with buds and I expect will be blooming in the next week or so. 

Sadly, the display doesn't last long. Especially with the high winds which are all too prevalent in the Snake River plain, the show is even more fleeting. Maybe that's what makes springtime blooms all the more special. 

“The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts
well out of proportion to their size.”

Gertrude Wister

Trees in Bloom, Beds Ready for PlantingAnticipationThe beds in Prescott Park's formal garden await planting as the crab trees in full bloom take center stage. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) The opening photo was made in my yard in New Hampshire. This crab tree in the front lawn, already beautiful due to its elegant shape, was also a prolific bloomer. When transformed into a springtime vision in white it was a show stopper. On this day rain fell gently; droplets clung to the petals. I looked for a grouping which could be isolated with a nice bokeh in the background and then waited for one of the raindrops to let go. 

Pictured below is the formal garden at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The beds are prepped and ready for planting, but until the annuals arrive it's all about the eight stunning Japanese crabapples. Planted in 1962, they're unusually large and create a wonderful canopy along the outside edges of the garden. When the blooms begin to drop, the ground will be blanketed in white petals; it will appear almost as if it has just snowed. 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) blooms crabapple Eastern Idaho flowers New Hampshire Portsmouth Prescott Park spring https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/4/The-most-wondeful-time-of-the-year Thu, 29 Apr 2021 07:55:00 GMT
Your Choice https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/4/your-choice I'm often on my own when working in the field. While I don't mind it, it does influence some of my logistical decisions. 

Case in point: hiking alone in grizzly country. In Grand Teton, my home park, there are some trails I'll hike solo - but many I won't. Venturing into bear-prone areas with a companion means you'll make more noise and will be less likely to startle wildlife. Bear bells are always attached to my backpack (jokingly referred to by many as "dinner bells") and I carry bear spray, but adding a hiking partner is even better. Especially this time of year when the bears are coming out of hibernation with cubs in tow, one cannot be too careful - even with company.

I wouldn't get very far around here if I kept off every trail marked avoid hiking alone, so if it's a couple miles or less and will enable access to something I might want to photograph, I'll consider it. A few of those trails have ended up on my "I'd rather have company" list - like one I decided to scout early on an autumn morning after a sunrise shoot; it was going to take me to one of the glacially-created lakes at the base of the Tetons. Due to the early hour, there was only one other car in the parking area; it was very quiet. In we went: me, the bells and the spray. And the camera, of course. After having walked about three quarters of a mile, I began seeing quite a few huckleberry bushes. Uh oh. Grizzly snacks. To make additional noise I talked out loud and threw in some clapping for good measure, but it didn't ease my increasing discomfort. I turned around.

As for hiking solo in general, before I start on a path that's new to me I consider how well I know the general area, the weather, the terrain, the distance and rating of the hike, and the time of day. One thing I'm not crazy about - especially when I'm alone - is a poorly marked trail. On an early October morning in New Hampshire's White Mountains a few years ago I set out on a trail that was new to me. It had rained quite a bit overnight; the ground was covered with slick, wet leaves, many of which had just fallen. They completely obscured the path. Since the trail wasn't well marked to begin with, that thick carpet only made it more challenging. My car had been the only one at the trailhead so I knew there was nobody else around. I continued for a few miles before bailing out. So much of my attention was necessarily focused on navigation, I was no longer thinking in terms of potential photo opportunities. Not an enjoyable outing.

Especially when alone I'm keenly aware of my surroundings and listen to what my gut is telling me. While I dislike crowds, there can be safety in (at least a few) numbers. On my first trip to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument I saw only one other vehicle inside the Monument that day; it belonged to a fellow with whom I exchanged pleasantries as we passed on a trail. Shortly thereafter, he showed up at another location. After the third encounter I decided it was time to quit working for the day. The guy was probably harmless but it started to feel weird.

What else won't I do by myself? Serious backcountry - like out in the middle of nowhere deep inside Death Valley. Or remote areas within Idaho's Frank Church wilderness which require you to be dropped off and picked up via a small plane.

Let's see....you also won't find me by myself in the wee hours of a pitch black night shooting the Milky Way in a far-off corner of a dark sky reserve.

With a group? Different story!

Choices. 

There are things I'm comfortable doing, and others I've decided aren't for me. As a result, there are some sights I'll probably never see. There are some photographs I won't be able to make. C'est la vie. I'm okay with that. The world is jam packed with interesting scenery; I won't run out of options. 

Over the winter in Grand Teton National Park I met a woman who told me she frequently comes up to Wyoming from her home in Colorado. Primarily a portrait photographer, she likes to make landscapes in her spare time. She travels alone. (Actually she did have some company; her sweet pooch was riding shotgun.) She commented about how seldom she encounters solo female nature photographers on her trips. I've experienced the same thing - not just in the Tetons, but most of the places I work. 

I share these anecdotes especially for ladies who might not have a local photography buddy. Don't let that keep you from getting out there with your camera. Explore the great outdoors on your own if you haven't already tried it! (By the way, there's something to be said for being in complete control of your schedule.) You may be far bolder and more adventurous than me. You might be less so. There is no right or wrong. Whatever works for you is the correct approach, and whatever you choose, you'll be able to make great photographs. 

Note: Taggart Lake Trail in Grand Teton National Park is pictured above. It's one of my favorite hikes in the park - in spite of its popularity. I tend to visit on the edges of the day when few people are around. 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) bears Grand Teton National Park hiking New Hampshire Organ Pipe National Monument Taggart Lake Trail Tetons White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/4/your-choice Thu, 22 Apr 2021 07:35:00 GMT
Jump Out of the Box https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/4/jump-out-of-the-box Autumn reflections Lamprey River Durham New HampshireImpressionisticFallen leaves floating on the surface of the Lamprey River, their movement captured with a long exposure, combine with reflections of autumn color along the shoreline to create an impressionistic scene. (Near Durham, New Hampshire)
Back in the pre-digital days I used Kodak E-6 Professional Ektachrome transparency film. The photograph above (impressionistic reflections in the Lamprey River near Durham, New Hampshire) was shot with Ektachrome and is still one of my all-time favorites. 

There were constraints with film, many of which weren't issues at the time - it was just the way film worked. For example, the inability to switch ISO between images; if the film's speed was ASA100 Daylight, you were going to shoot at 100 for all 36 shots. Also, you had to be mindful about the rate at which you were going through film. Once you ran out of the rolls you had on-hand that was it for the day.

There was no such thing as immediate feedback. No histogram. No ability to review what was just captured.

And of course there was the continued expense of film and processing.

I'm glad I cut my SLR teeth on film, though. It encouraged thoughtfulness. Unless you wanted to expose dozens of rolls with nothing to show for it, you needed to learn and master the mechanics of photography - and of your camera - as quickly as possible. Early on, I carried a notebook in which I recorded the settings used for each image so I could better understand when I got them back from the lab what had worked, what hadn't, and why. I was careful about composition; what you shot was what you were going to get.

I worked hard to avoid making careless mistakes. Sure, I could make another exposure if I knew I'd gotten something wrong - but that reduced the available "click inventory." Worse were mistakes that went unrealized until the transparency came back, when it was too late.

During my transition period between film and digital, the lab got to be crazy expensive. It cost $40 per image to use their drum scanners to convert transparencies to high resolution digital files. As far as learning how to be ruthless about editing your own work, there was no better training than knowing you'd have to pony up 40 bucks a pop for an image that could be used on the computer.

While I appreciated my training in film, there's no denying the many advantages of digital. That said, one of them - the extraordinary capacity in terms of the number of images which can be exposed - was a sea change and took time to get used to. Old habits die hard! In the pre-digital days, especially when I was just starting out, I limited what I shot with the "big" camera. Most of the time it was landscapes, and most of those images were for specific projects. Now I had to remind myself that the river of cash flowing to the lab had - thankfully - dried up, and I had the capacity to shoot exponentially more photos.

In addition to project and assignment work, I could also shoot for me. It took a while to learn to jump out of the box I'd created for myself, but once I did it was liberating.

Nature photography is still my first love, main priority, and what I spend most of my time on. But with my new mindset I expanded how I define "landscapes." This created many additional opportunities in terms of subject matter.

Then I began photographing a variety of other things, some of which have absolutely nothing to do with nature. One of those "things" is professional tennis - something I'm pretty passionate about. And weirdly, though I had no intention of doing anything with the images I'd been making at various tournaments, it led to a project involving some large tennis clubs. A happy accident. 
 

Long ShadowsLong ShadowsLate-day shadows enhance the beauty of the service motion. (Rafael Nadal on the practice courts at the US Open - Flushing, New York)
Whenever I'm working with photographers just starting out, I suggest they shoot the things that most interest them - whatever that might be. Avoid arbitrary restrictions. Avoid "the box." There's something to be learned regardless of the subject matter. Shooting what you like probably means you'll end up being more creative. You'll shoot more often. And in the end, you never know where those images might lead.

In other news

While it's been unusually cold in this neck of the woods (including some scattered snowfall yesterday), spring is still on the way - which means the local parks are getting ready to open!

Yellowstone
The west entrance is scheduled to open tomorrow at 8am.
East entrance - May 7
South entrance - May 14
Via Beartooth Highway - May 28

Grand Teton
The Inner Loop Road will open to vehicles on the first of May.
The Jenny Lake shuttle to the Cascade Canyon trailhead is scheduled to begin running in mid-May.

There's also some really good news this year regarding campgrounds in Grand Teton NP. For the first time, you can make reservations. No more sitting in line for hours at the crack of dawn on your arrival day hoping for a slot. Progress! Gros Ventre opens first, at the end of this month. (Be advised: campsites for many dates all the way through summer and into autumn are already in very short supply.)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) creativity digital photography Ektachrome film New Hampshire photography tennis https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/4/jump-out-of-the-box Thu, 15 Apr 2021 07:40:00 GMT
Seeing Differently https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/4/seeing-differently Whether it's a phone, professional-grade photographic gear or anything in between, all cameras have something fundamental in common: they see quite differently than we do.

Think of the things our eyes can see (and do) that the camera cannot. We see in 3D. Our eyes can automatically adjust color balance. They can easily interpret scenes with broad dynamic ranges (like deep shadows to strong sunlight). The human eye can discern a great deal of detail in dark areas, and is very sensitive in low-light situations. Nature's JewelsNature's JewelsScores of droplets cling to a day lily leaf after persistent drizzle and light rain. (Newfields, New Hampshire)

We’re able to focus selectively. How many times have you taken a picture and noticed afterward that there were distracting elements included in the shot? Your brain ignored them. The camera can't.

One other important trait that we bring to the table is our ability to "see" with emotion. The camera is dispassionate.

On the flip side, the camera is capable of capturing things we're unable to see. It can render subjects in creative ways. Often the photograph is more interesting than the scene we saw with our eyes.

For example, the camera can create silky water or skies (by blurring movement); freeze motion (like a crashing wave or a hummingbird in flight); make things disappear (slow shutter + subject movement = poof!); view minute details (via the macro lens); create soft background blur; see tonality; compress perspective (with a long lens); and render faint nighttime objects very clearly (like the Milky Way).

The image you make is the result of a series of choices, from optics and settings to composition and perspective. It’s not simply a matter of understanding the differences between how you and your camera see a scene: it’s understanding how the camera might interpret it.

Lots of decisions! But also many possibilities.  

Sometimes what comes off the memory card will surprise you; there may be circumstances when you won’t know just how much the camera “saw” until you begin processing. The storm pictured below is one such example. It was wild; I had my hands full trying to deal with stability issues as I struggled in high winds to make the four verticals I'd need for a stitched panoramic. I liked the visual of the heavy rain partially obscuring the mountains, so underexposed to capture as much about what was going on in the sky as possible. I didn't know just how wicked the clouds overhead looked until I pulled the images off the card, opened them in Lightroom, and could appreciate what my camera had been seeing. Moulton Barn Grand Teton National ParkTurmoil AloftA strong storm creates stunning, turbulent skies and brings with it powerful winds. As it passes, the mountains are rendered as shadows by heavy rain. (T.A. Moulton Barn - Grand Teton National Park Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) camera photography vision https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/4/seeing-differently Thu, 08 Apr 2021 07:45:00 GMT
Beauty in the Less Obvious https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/4/beauty-in-the-less-obvious Especially when photographing in and around national parks, I'm always looking for different veiwpoints and alternate ways to capture the essence of the location.

Big landscapes are great; people like them. They sell. But intimate scenes are just as interesting and effective - and they're often more unique. A series combining small vignettes along with some more iconic landmarks enables the photographer to tell a more complete story.

I like the challenge of distilling a scene to its core elements. For me, the key to finding vignettes is to keep an open mind. I take my time and try to let the place guide me.  

At Moab, Utah - home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park - one of the "stories" (of course) is the red rock. Poking around the Colorado River just east of town recently I noticed some great looking trees. They hadn't yet leafed out; what caught my eye was the combination of their graceful shapes and the fact that they were really popping against the canyon walls (the sun had just poked through a mostly overcast sky which created spectacular backlighting). 

I walked around them for a while but couldn't find a good vantage point before losing the light.

While I didn't come anywhere close to making a photograph there (the camera never came out of the bag), I began looking out for other opportunities with similar isolated trees. 

Later that week along another stretch of the Colorado, I found more potential candidates. I spent quite a bit of time one morning with three different trees. As the sun continued to climb, the lighting improved. Sounds counterintuitive, right?

Mid-day light doesn't have the greatest reputation. To be sure, it can be tough to work with. It's flat. Harsh. It creates deep shadows. But depending on what you're shooting - like these trees - it can be just the ticket. The backlighting was spectacular. Without it you might not have even noticed them.

A few miles further downriver I found my "keeper." 

This tree, with its lovely lines, stood alone. Behind it was a canyon wall (a telephoto lens further compressed the scene). The dramatic backlighting made the branches pop. The tree nearly sparkled. 

It's a more subtle way of telling Moab's red rock story. 

As for that much maligned mid-day light, I made this photograph at about 11:45am. You can shoot in the middle of the day. You just have to know what to look for and how to expose properly.

GracefulGracefulNear Moab, Utah

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arches National Park canyon Canyonlands National Park landscapes Moab tree Utah https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/4/beauty-in-the-less-obvious Thu, 01 Apr 2021 07:15:00 GMT
Mighty Nice https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/3/mighty-nice ImmensityImmensityThe sandstone monoliths at Park Avenue and Courthouse Towers are even more striking in warm, evening light. (Arches National Park - Moab, Utah) The Colorado Plateau (or Colorado Plateaus Province, as the National Park Service refers to it) encompasses 240,000 square miles and is home to 30 National Parks and National Monuments - not to mention many National Forests and wilderness areas. 

Five of the region's nine National Parks are located in Utah: the so-called Mighty 5.

Not to take anything away from Bryce, a park I love, but Moab really did hit the scenery jackpot. As if being home to two of the Mighty 5 (Arches and Canyonlands) isn't enough, many additional square miles of spectacular landscapes can be found outside their borders and not far from town.

Mighty nice. 

I just spent a week in Moab photographing the area. This was my third time there; I can assure you it never gets old, and that I will return again.

Each of my visits has taken place in late winter/early spring. This is advantageous in terms of staying ahead of the crowds (many locals will tell you the Mighty 5 advertising campaign launched in 2012 has perhaps worked a little too well), and also because I find the conditions to be generally more interesting during those months. The mountains are snow covered, it's usually not too cold and definitely not yet scorching hot, and the chances I might run into some type of weather are higher. 

True to form, a snowstorm deposited a few inches just prior to my arrival. Then there was some rain; one day offered the trifecta of snow flurries, rain showers and sun (at one point all three were jockeying for position concurrently); there were periods with nice cumulus clouds; there was complete overcast; there were some Robin's egg blue-sky days. I started every morning in ski jacket and gloves. Sometimes the cold weather gear stayed on all day, but by the end of the week I was able to lose it after a few hours. A smorgasbord!

Between them, Arches and Canyonlands encompass roughly 650 square miles. It's a drop in the bucket compared to a place as huge as Yellowstone, but size isn't the only measure of greatness.

If you haven't yet explored them, put these parks on your bucket list.

Shaped by TimeShaped by TimeTurret Arch (far left) is just one of the fantastic formations in the Windows Section of the park (Arches National Park - Moab, Utah) About the photographs:

The image at the top of the post was made in the Park Avenue/Courthouse Towers section of Arches National Park. In this area, it's not about arches: the massive monoliths are the story. When the sun begins to sink low in the sky, the sandstone becomes even more beautiful as it's cast in warm light. At this moment the balance was perfect: the main subject is lit with the shadow line positioned at its base.  There's obviously a huge range of contrast with the foreground completely in shadow, yet this is a single processed image. No HDR. (Shoot RAW; all the information will be there!) Since there had been quite a bit of snow the day before, I'd hoped for - and expected - more standing water on the rocky canyon floor to create reflections. That didn't quite pan out. Still, I was able to use the remaining puddles to help anchor the foreground and create a miniature leading line.

The panorama was also made about one hour before sunset, this time in the Windows section of the park. I was looking for a different vantage point from which to photograph Turret Arch (far left). Here I was able to take advantage of warm light as well as lingering clouds from afternoon storms - both overhead and clinging to the La Sal Mountains. The original plan was to make a tighter composition featuring only the rock formations, but as the sun began to light the clouds to the right of the rocks I shifted gears and added a few vertical shots to include in the final stitched image. Those clouds underscore and extend the horizontal line created by the rocks, while balancing and complementing them. The icing on the cake is the little dark cloud, accentuated by the patch of white behind it, hovering over and calling attention to the Turret. 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arches National Park Colorado Plateau Courthouse Towers Mighty Five Moab Park Avenue Turret Arch Utah https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/3/mighty-nice Thu, 25 Mar 2021 07:42:00 GMT
Over the Rainbow https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/3/Over-the-rainbow Summer storms that roll through Jackson Hole can be impressive. Often the leading edge brings with it spectacular cloud formations. When the storm arrives and begins to sweep over the mountains, thunder echoes as it bounces off the peaks; heavy rain creates translucent curtains which temporarily obscure the range.

As someone who grew up in a tornado-prone area and developed a lifelong fear of twisters as a result, it's ironic that I've turned into something of a storm chaser. The fact that tornadoes aren't common in Wyoming and Idaho might have some bearing on my willingness to stay and watch rather than run and hide. :)

I prefer to photograph these from a little bit of a distance where I can get better perspective. Sometimes, though, storms catch me by surprise - especially when they show up earlier than forecast or pack a bigger punch than expected. If heavy weather arrives quickly I head for cover in my vehicle, hope for no hail - and sit back to watch the show as it moves over me. 

Going back through some of the many storm images in my files recently, I found one I'd forgotten about. This was a "just for fun" photograph - but it might give you a sense of what one of these looks like when it's passing directly overhead. In this case I was in the middle of Grand Teton National Park and had opened the window so I could shoot while keeping the lens (mostly) dry.

This was a wild storm but very short-lived, which made for interesting imagery. As high winds rocked the car and rain came down in sheets, I could see clearing and blue sky on the other side of it. It conjured up the Wizard of Oz: somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue...

In the spirit of the movie, black and white and color are combined. Why not? Open the door to Oz in Technicolor!  

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Jackson Hole storm summer Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/3/Over-the-rainbow Thu, 18 Mar 2021 07:35:00 GMT
The Slow Collapse https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/3/the-slow-collapse It's been nearly 25 years since I first saw Idaho's Teton Valley. The area has a rich agricultural heritage, so one of the things I enjoyed photographing on that first trip was barns - especially those that had seen better days. With their sagging roofs and worn siding they made for spectacular subject matter.

While it remains sparsely populated in comparison to other parts of the country, there are more than twice the number of people living in the valley now than there were in 1997. It's still rural but the area has changed quite a bit. Homes now sit on land that was once farmed. Quirky, ancient barns are harder to find. 

That said, there are old abandoned structures scattered around Eastern Idaho. Poke around enough and you'll stumble across them. 

I quickly became attached to a rickety farmhouse in Swan Valley. Every time I was in that area I made it a point to check on my little house. A vine had grown up one side of it and onto the roof; during the summer months it was as if the house was wearing a lovely green shawl. The opposite side had begun to cave in.

Though the conditions were seldom conducive to making anything more than a snapshot when I passed by, I often pulled out the camera (if not the "Big Boy" camera, at least my phone) to record its general health, so to speak.  

This is what it looked like not long after I first discovered it:

High winds and heavy snowpack will take their toll; every year the house sank closer to the ground. Each spring I wondered whether or not it would still be standing. It surprised me more than once!

One evening as I was heading home following a day of storm chasing in Grand Teton National Park, I wondered if I might have a chance to make a "real" photograph of the crumbling house. Coming over the second pass, I could see lingering angry-looking clouds to the west. If I was lucky they'd hang around and I'd be able to find a composition once I got to Swan Valley.

I had to move quickly but the conditions held together just long enough before the sun set. The stormy skies were a perfect complement to the house in its state of serious decline.

By the way, I made this photo in the nick of time; the little house didn't live to see the following spring. It's now a pile of wood.

Slow Collapse Swan Valley IdahoThe Slow CollapseAfter too many years of heavy snowpack and high winds, this abandoned farmhouse is nearly ready to give up the fight. (Swan Valley, Idaho)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) abandoned farmhouse Idaho storm Swan Valley Teton Valley https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/3/the-slow-collapse Thu, 11 Mar 2021 08:40:00 GMT
It's All Beautiful https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/3/its-all-beautiful It's funny how you sometimes remember people whose paths crossed yours in only a tangential way. A guy who sat behind me on a Boston-bound flight originating from Salt Lake City a few years ago is one such character. We never exchanged a single word, yet I recall him because the poor bloke was ill: afflicted with an acute case of geographic snobbery. 

After we landed and as we were taxiing to the gate at Logan Airport, he began chattering to the woman sitting next to him about the natural wonders of New England. (Loudly. Apparently he was looking for a larger audience.) Turns out this fellow wasn't much of a fan, especially when it came to the mountains. "They're not mountains; they're hills." He said he found it ridiculous that people willingly spend time there. Anyone who would do that has never seen real mountains; they don't know any better. Blah, blah, blah.

Aside from the fact that he was more than likely insulting some fellow passengers for whom this was home (we were in Boston, after all), he was also clueless about the irony. Clearly, he was the one who didn't know better. 

We all have favorite places; that doesn't make others inferior. It's not a contest. It isn't a zero sum game.

As for the grandeur of expansive, imposing and exotic locations, of course they're spectacular sights. But intimate scenes and lesser-known (or little-known) out-of-the-way settings can be equally stunning. Sometimes Mother Nature shouts; other times she whispers. She's a multifaceted artist.

We have only to open our eyes and appreciate what's on display.

The towering peaks of the Rockies and Sierras are magnificent (though if you really want to talk "big" the conversation ought to begin with the Alaska Range). The mountains of the Eastern U.S. are magnificent, too - but in a completely different way. Each has its own charms.  

Prairies and loess hills, low and high deserts, wetlands and marshes, old growth forests, expansive plateaus, swamps and coastal lowlands, vast plains, rivers and lakes, glaciers, tropics, rainforests, tundra...you can find all of that and more in the U.S. What a wild, wonderful, and varied cornucopia. Whether it's Nebraska or New Mexico or Tennessee - wherever you are - Mother Nature's features, unique to that place, are waiting to be admired.

It's all beautiful. Mirror Image Mount Chocorua New HampshireMirror ImageMount Chocorua ablaze in autumn color is reflected in the still waters of Chocorua Lake. (Tamworth, New Hampshire)

Pictured here is Mount Chocorua in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Much smaller than its cousins in the west, it's never going to win an elevation award. But who cares? Chocorua is a looker. And according to my AMC White Mountain Guide, it's purported to be one of the most photographed mountains in the world. 

 

Calendar Notes

Last call for winter recreation in Yellowstone National Park! Though it has done nothing but snow for the past month, the schedule is what it is. If you're going to be in the area and want to get in one last run, the clock is ticking. Roads will close to oversnow travel at 9pm on March 15th after which crews will begin plowing in preparation for the spring season. Weather permitting, the West Yellowstone entrance will be the first to re-open on April 16th at 8am. 

In Grand Teton National Park the Inner Loop Road remains closed to vehicle traffic until May 1st, but don't count on it being groomed once we get past the middle of March. Moose-Wilson road will re-open sometime in May once plowing between Death Canyon Road and the Granite Canyon trailhead is completed.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Mount Chocorua mountains nature New England New Hampshire Rockies White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/3/its-all-beautiful Thu, 04 Mar 2021 08:40:00 GMT
Be Careful What You Wish For https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/2/be-careful-what-you-wish-for Not long ago I wrote about a snow deficit here in Teton Country. Most everyone had been wishing for more: farmers, winter sports enthusiasts, nature photographers. Finally, after a significant storm at the end of January, Jackson Hole looked like it should in mid-winter. Since then Mother Nature has been a real over-achiever when it comes to snow production. Round after round, the inches pile up as the powder keeps falling. There have been so many consecutive snowy days in and around Jackson I've been unable to get over to Grand Teton National Park since the first of the month. And now February is nearly over. 

Be careful what you wish for! 

The good news is I expect to be able to make winter photographs in the park well into March. Maybe much later.

I've grown accustomed to abundant snow. While living in New England I experienced more than one so-called 100-year winter. Speaking of which, how many 100-year weather events can one person rack up? More than I would ever have thought. The winter of 2015 went into the record books as one of the most extreme. That season I cleared more than 200 inches off my driveway, sidewalk, and even the roof (no, I didn't live in the mountains; this was at sea level). The really crazy thing was that most of that snow fell in a very short period of time - only about six weeks.

Here in the wild, wild intermountain west it's the wind that wreaks havoc; blowing and drifting snow creates whiteouts and closes roads. 

Bottom line: it's not always easy to get around. Some days you can't go further than the end of your own driveway. Even after the roads have been opened, it can be challenging to find places to park the vehicle once I finally get to wherever it is I'm hoping to work. 

When driving becomes too difficult, I look for subject matter closer to home - or at home.

I had three flowering crab trees in my yard back in New England. One year they produced an incredible bumper crop of tiny fruit. Not only was this a hit with the birds, it provided a pop of color. 

Early that winter a storm deposited about eight inches of powdery snow which clung to everything as it softly fell. "Storm" doesn't seem like the right word; it came down gently. There was no wind - not even a breeze. Completely still, it was also very quiet, and absolutely beautiful. I grabbed the camera, pulled on my boots, and made a beeline for the tree with the most fruit. At about 15 feet tall and situated on a gradual slope, it was no longer very easy to access. Getting enough height to isolate a single branch while incorporating a pleasing background required an assist from the stepladder. Start with uneven terrain and mix in the already substantial snowpack and you've got a recipe for trouble. Both the ladder and I teetered somewhat precariously and the whole operation no doubt looked rather ridiculous - but I'm happy to report that the camera and I escaped unscathed!

It was worth the effort to search for a good background; all that snow clinging to the many branches in the dense woods beyond created a wonderful bokeh.   

Nature's beauty surrounds us. One need not travel great distances to find it.

Fresh PowderFresh PowderPowdery early season snowfall covers the berries on a crab tree in winter. (Newfields, New Hampshire)

     

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) crab tree Jackson New England New Hampshire snow Teton Country winter https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/2/be-careful-what-you-wish-for Thu, 25 Feb 2021 08:35:00 GMT
From Out of the Ashes https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/2/from-out-of-the-ashes Moving ranks near the top on the list of things I'd rather avoid. It's a lot of work. Disruptive. It can also be very expensive. That said, whenever I'd packed up and settled somewhere new it had always gone pretty smoothly - including some significantly long hauls (like Los Angeles to Northern New England). 

Then came New Hampshire to Idaho: the move from hell.

It was a train wreck from the moment the packers stepped foot into our New England home, but I'll skip ahead. We arrived at the new residence only to be informed that our belongings would be late. Apparently the moving company considered the contractually obligated delivery window to be merely a suggestion. To our astonishment, we discovered they'd never intended to begin the trip promptly. Instead, our goods had been transported to a warehouse in Portland, Maine where they now sat baking in stifling summer heat and high humidity (my piano has never been the same). When pressed, the GM was vague about what had transpired and gave no indication of when we might expect delivery. 

The dodging and evasion went on for weeks. Meantime, I had with me only what I'd been able to load into my vehicle for the cross-country drive. Most of that space having been claimed by computers, monitors, printers and camera gear, that left a few days' worth of clothing, a coffee maker, frying pan, other small kitchen items, and a few odds and ends. I set up my office on the floor. Slept there, too.

It was a happy day when the moving van finally pulled up - until the crew began unloading. The very first piece of furniture off the truck was badly damaged. A pole lamp looked like it had been used for batting practice. A floor vase was completely shattered. And so it continued. One after another, a sad parade of defacement: these things that had always been so carefully cared for in our hands. Incredulous at first, there was so much damage I became almost numb to it.

They say three moves equals a fire. This time it took just one. Four alarms.

As the truck emptied and I perused the inventory list another problem became obvious: a lot of things were missing. I spent the next five weeks wrestling with the clowns back in New England until finally some of our property was "discovered" in their warehouse - where it had been sitting all summer. But only some of it. The balance disappeared forever. 

Final tally: 2 1/2 months from initial load until the final truck showed up, $40,000 in damage, and lost inventory valued at an additional $10,000.  

You're probably thinking we must have gone with some questionable outfit to save a few bucks. Hire Looney Tunes Acme Movers and this is what you should expect, right? Actually it was a global relocation service provider. I'll bet you'd recognize the name! (Hint: it starts with North American and ends with Van Lines.) NAVL themselves described the result as "catastrophic." 

Welcome to Idaho.

What on earth does any of this have to do with the accompanying image?

In the middle of this protracted absurdity I needed a sanity break. I know of no better tonic for what ails me than nature. (There's also gin and tonic, it's true. But nature is better!) One early evening I loaded my gear and drove over to the Teton Valley; this would be my first time out with the camera since packing it up in New Hampshire. Monsoonal storms had been rolling through the area that day and I was hoping for interesting skies. 

By the time I reached Tetonia the rain had stopped and the sun was out; the light was golden. Storm clouds hung over the mountains and there were still occasional rumbles of thunder. There wouldn't be time to make it up into the Big Holes before losing the light; fortunately I found a wonderful compositional substitution. Before me was an idyllic pastoral scene: the Teton River meandering through farmland, cattle grazing, the town in the distance - all of it nestled beneath the towering three Tetons. And those clouds! It was magical. Just looking at it made me happy. Capturing it with the camera was the icing on the cake. 

Chaos was waiting for me back at the house, but for a while it didn't matter. Exactly what the doctor ordered!

The photograph is called Departure. Turns out it's a best seller (and also a personal favorite). 

From out of the ashes, the phoenix rises. 

Storm Existing Teton Valley IdahoDepartureAs a summer storm moves out just before sunset, the sky is full of character while the valley below is bathed in rich, warm light. (Teton Valley near Tetonia, Idaho)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Idaho storm Teton River Teton Valley Tetonia Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/2/from-out-of-the-ashes Thu, 18 Feb 2021 08:45:00 GMT
Best Sides https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/2/best-sides Which is your best side?

Most people photograph "better" from one side versus the other. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the fact that faces aren't completely symmetrical. Portrait photographers - whose job it is to make their subjects look their best - know which factors affect what the camera sees, and how to pose the person accordingly.

Are there best sides in nature, too? 

Sure! And like portrait artists, nature photographers employ some of the same methods to portray their subjects in the most pleasing way possible (like lighting and camera angles). There are limits, though. Good luck getting that bison to pose for you.

That said, I can think of a subject right here in my own "backyard" that's equally attractive from either side: the Teton Range. While the beautiful gneiss faces also lack symmetry (just like human models), it doesn't matter. They photograph equally well from the east and west.

Most visitors to Jackson Hole view the mountains from within the national park. A spectacular site, to be sure. Yet the many who never see the Tetons from the other side are missing something special.

Whether from Alta (WY), Tetonia, Ashton - or so many other spots in between - there are some amazing views of the Teton Range (especially the central peaks of Mount Owen, Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and South Teton) waiting for those who venture over to the "quiet side." 

  • Ride the Dreamcatcher up to the top of Fred's Mountain at Grand Targhee for outstanding high-elevation vantage points.
  • Hike Table Mountain for a spectacular face-to-face view of Grand Teton.  
  • Head up into the Big Holes; look back across the sprawling Teton Valley at an expansive panorama of the opposing range.
  • Drive the Teton Scenic Byway between Ashton and Tetonia for sweeping vistas of rolling farmland beneath the towering peaks (if the potato or canola crops are in bloom it's an added bonus). 
  • Stand on the banks of the Teton River - or float it - and admire the western slope beyond. 

Gaze at the mountains from Jackson Hole. Then head over the pass to enjoy an alternate view. 

Do the Tetons have a best side? 

I don't think so. Both are remarkable.

Summer Snow Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingWest Side StoryFollowing a chilly spring, early summer kicks off with substantial snowpack remaining. (Western Slope from Alta, Wyoming)

 

Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Alta Ashton Grand Teton National Park Idaho mountains Teton Range Teton Valley Tetonia Tetons western slope Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/2/best-sides Thu, 11 Feb 2021 08:16:00 GMT
Plan B https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/2/plan-b I was supposed to be working in Death Valley this week. Actually, I've tried three times this winter to get there; this latest effort was only the most recent. Why the slippery schedule? Good question. I'm not the one who keeps cancelling my reservation. Though the park remains open as do the all-inclusive resorts within it, this one property marches to the beat of a different drummer.

Since I'm not going to Death Valley to golf or attend a conference (i.e. I just need a place to sleep and shower), this non-resort option is where I prefer to stay, though they haven't made it easy.

I'm nothing if not persistent. The property cancels, then gives me updated options regarding future availability, and I rebook. Over and over. It's become kind of a dance. Unlike Audrey Hepburn, though, I could've danced all night is starting to feel like a bad dream. It's time to move on. Returning to Death Valley will have to go back to the end of the queue.

Fortunately, there is a Plan B. (There's always a Plan B!) It's right here in the Tetons. After all, I'm in the thick of a book project involving the twin Teton Counties (Wyoming and Idaho) and work remains to be done. 

It's been a quirky winter so far in this neck of the woods. The season arrived early with bitter cold in October and a spike in snowfall during November, but then there were extended dry stretches in December and January. Just a few weeks ago, snowpack at both Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and Grand Targhee (on the western slope) was running below average. The valley was quite a bit lower at about 50%. 

Winter sports enthusiasts aren't the only ones who have been hoping for more powder. Nature photographers have been hoping, too. Last week Mother Nature delivered with a storm that deposited more than a foot of snow in Jackson and even more than that in the park. The valley now looks more like it should this time of year. Jack FrostJack FrostSub-zero temperatures and fog create hoarfrost overnight, decorating the cottonwoods along the Gros Ventre River in white. While the peak of Grand Teton is in full sunshine, lingering fog below heavily filters the light. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

Timing-wise, the icing on the cake was the prediction of subzero overnight temperatures for Grand Teton National Park a few days ago. Very cold nights often yield foggy mornings. Thick fog - especially around the Gros Ventre River - creates wonderful hoar frost which coats the surrounding vegetation. It's spectacular. Eureka! Off to Wyoming.

Both the cold and frost materialized as had been forecast. Thanks to that recent snowfall, however, access within the park - always restricted in winter - was even more challenging. It was hard to find a place to stash my vehicle and then get to a spot where I could create the kind of images I had in mind.

Yes; I ought to know better by now what happens in the park after a big snow. Yet I'm always a little surprised by just how difficult it can be to get around. 

Pulling off at the last place I could think of from which there might be a way to access the fog-shrouded cottonwoods, I figured at least I could make abstracts featuring the hoarfrost while keeping an eye out for bigger landscapes. 

Moving further into the trees, I looked over my shoulder toward the Cathedral Group - and there was my photograph.

With fog still swirling over the river, the frosted landscape surrounding me remained softly lit. I used a few of the trees to frame Grand Teton's peak, which was in full sunlight. The blue sky provided wonderful color contrast. 

This isn't your "everyday view" of the park. Or of the Grand. It's always gratifying to find a new way of depicting these jewels.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) frost Grand Teton National Park Gros Ventre hoarfrost snow trees winter https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/2/plan-b Thu, 04 Feb 2021 08:15:00 GMT
You Can't Always Get What You Want https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/1/you-cant-always-get-what-you-want AglowAglowThe Wizard's Hat appears to glow as abundant mist created by gusty wind and choppy seas is lit by the setting sun. (Bandon Beach, Oregon) The Oregon coast is beautiful but often mercurial.

If you're going there to photograph the magnificent sea stacks, timing is important. Summer and early autumn are typically the least advantageous windows; you're apt to get either clear and uninteresting skies or a persistent marine layer. Winter and spring, on the other hand, deliver more active weather patterns. While that means more rain, it also greatly increases the odds of dramatic skies as weather systems move through the area.

Improved odds are good but they're far from a sure thing. You can't always get what you want. Case in point: my first visit to Oregon's south central coast.

Anxious to hit Bandon Beach with my camera, I was also happy about the prospect of spending time at the ocean. Having lived near the sea for many years, I miss it. The Intermountain West is pretty but large expanses of water aren't exactly a signature sight. 

What I was not looking forward to was the 14-hour drive from my home to Bandon. I'm what you might call a reluctant road tripper. Living in this part of the western U.S., by necessity you're going to have to drive - a lot - if want to go anywhere. So I do. But that doesn't mean I like it.

I'd timed the trip for late April. That year, Bandon's early spring weather had been somewhat dizzying; each new five-day outlook seemed to bear little resemblance to what had been predicted only 24-hours before. I pushed my arrival back twice to avoid projected lengthy periods of rain. Finally succumbing to forecast lottery fatigue, I committed to a schedule and hoped for the best. 

As I made my way across eastern Oregon's high desert, the mercury topped 80 degrees (double digits above the April average high). There wasn't a cloud in the sky. Odd. Crossing the "Oregon divide" into the lush green part of the state, it was still unseasonably warm and the skies remained clear. Robin's egg blue. I started to get a little concerned about the conditions. Where were the partly cloudy skies that had been forecast?

Once I was within 90 minutes of Bandon, there they were out on the horizon: clouds. Just what I'd wished for, and just in time for sunset! Perfect!

Or not.

What I saw in the distance was actually a thick marine layer. There were no cumulus clouds drifting above Bandon. No sunshine, either. There would be no sunset that night. 

The weather apps said not to worry so I didn't. I used the rest of the afternoon and early evening to walk the beach, familiarizing myself with the sea stacks and thinking about possible compositions. I listened to the ocean. And then I got some rest, anticipating a productive day ahead.

I'll bet you can guess what happened. Rain. (So much for the forecast.) It wasn't a complete washout; sometimes it just drizzled. But this went on and on. Not just that day, but the next, and the day after that as well. Adding insult to injury, it was the worst kind of precipitation. No dramatic, stormy skies. No rainbows. Just flat, white nothingness overhead. 

I drove up and down the coast a bit hoping I could outreach the featureless ceiling. This being unsuccessful, I switched gears and began looking for intimate compositions along the beach featuring the surf and the sand. I switched to black and white to emphasize the moodiness of the monochromatic landscape. You've got to play the hand you were dealt.

Still, I was prepared each morning and evening to capture a sunrise or sunset, just in case. I kept a close eye on my radar app, just in case. And as the clock ticked down to the final hours of my stay, something wonderful happened. There was a break in the clouds - and it persisted long enough for a beautiful sunset to develop.

Though it was low tide, it felt otherwise; high winds pushed the sea forcefully back onto the beach and created heavy mist. My lens cloth got a workout as I continually checked the glass for spray. More than once the icy water crashed up, over, and into my muck boots, the retreating waves doing their best to knock both my tripod and me off our collective feet. The force of that surging water against the tripod could easily cause unexpected camera movement so it limited the length of time I was able to leave the shutter open. We take what we're gifted and make it work.

The color was short-lived; the overcast soon returned. It began raining again overnight. Very early the next morning I pulled into my favorite little coffee kiosk in Bandon to pick up a cup of hot roasted rocket fuel, and then began the long drive back to Eastern Idaho.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Bandon Beach ocean Oregon photography sea stacks weather https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/1/you-cant-always-get-what-you-want Thu, 28 Jan 2021 08:30:00 GMT
Who Makes the Photograph? https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/1/who-makes-the-photograph I’ve got good news for everyone whose bag doesn’t contain the latest flagship pro body and hottest new accessories. Your gear is important – but your gear doesn’t make the photograph. You do.

Your eyes, your ideas, your perspective, your creativity and your experience are more important than model numbers and price tags. So don’t get hung up about the fact that you haven’t yet upgraded to….whatever. That zippy new camera body getting all the press might make it possible - or easier - to do certain things, but in and of itself it does not have the power to make you a better photographer

Not every shiny new thing that hits the market is a "must have." Busting the budget is not a prerequisite when it comes to making good images.

That said, gear can augment your artistic abilities. Some items are essential and definitely worth the investment. Once purchased - if properly cared for - they'll remain in service for a long, long time. 

Glass
Lenses are more important than the camera body. Good quality glass produces good quality images: sharp and distortion free. It always makes sense to buy the best you can afford. In addition, lenses hold their value. Some of the first Nikon lenses I purchased nearly 30 years ago remain useful. (Most Nikon lenses can be used with most Nikon bodies dating back 50 years; the mount is consistent and backward compatible.) I’ve sold other lenses along the way for nearly what I paid for them. Contrast that to the number of camera bodies that have come and gone over the years, particularly since the advent of digital photography. They depreciate rapidly.

Tripod
If you’re shooting landscapes, a tripod is part of the equation. That's a given. Panoramics and long exposures require one. Importantly, the tripod enables you to slow down and carefully consider your composition. It allows you to select the ideal ISO and f-stop for any situation. But not all tripods are created equally. Investing in quality will pay dividends.

Unfortunately, tripods (along with camera bags) are among the most difficult items to purchase since there are very few physical camera stores remaining with substantial product inventory on site - which means unless you're lucky enough to live in close proximity to a place like B&H in New York, you can't pick these up and get a feel for them. Whatever you ultimately choose is, in a way, a blind purchase. 

I’ve owned both Manfrotto and Gitzo tripods but for me there’s no comparison to Really Right Stuff. I have two: the full-size Versa carbon fiber and the more compact Ultralight (a good travel solution when space is a consideration). I use the RRS BH-55 ball head and L-plate quick release system. RRS products are expensive but they're superior and will last. I’d never go back. 

Filters
Good filters are like good lenses: the better the quality, the better the output. Especially when you've invested in superior-quality lenses, don't stick LushLushHall of Mosses - Hoh Rainforest (Olympic National Park, Washington) cheap filters on them! Fortunately, digital photography and processing have eliminated the need for many of the filters that were once essential. But because not everything can be addressed in post processing, two filters remain indispensable: the polarizer and the neutral density. For example, if you're photographing wet foliage you'll need a polarizer to knock back all the glare. 

The image posted here was made in the Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park. On that day, it was raining at a pretty good clip. Everything was soaked but the bark and ferns were especially shiny. You can't remove glare after the fact when sitting at the computer. It would have been impossible to create usable photographs at Hoh without a polarizer. 

Quality filters are expensive, though. Those two filters, the ND and polarizer, can set you back hundreds of dollars. If you need to prioritize, opt for a good polarizer first. 

But wait: what if you have a variety of lens sizes? Save some cash by using a step-up adapter ring. My Nikon wide-angle zoom and mid-range zoom both accept 77mm filters, while my 70-200mm’s filter size is 67mm – so I use a 67/77 adapter on the latter lens. (Mine came from B+W, a German optical manufacturer.)

Bottom line: equipment can impact your work in a positive way, but there's much more to photography than whatever it is you're carrying with you from one location to the next. Regardless of what's in your bag at the moment, remember who's making the photo. You. Not your gear.

"Gear is good. Vision is better."
-David duChemin

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) equipment gear photography tips https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/1/who-makes-the-photograph Thu, 21 Jan 2021 08:25:00 GMT
Color My World https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/1/thinking-abstractly A few months ago I began tinkering in my studio with abstracts created from the interplay of sunlight and liquid. Like making abstracts featuring subject matter in the natural world, it's a great creative exercise. However, these are quite different in that I have complete control over the objects and, because I'm working indoors, Mother Nature isn't calling the shots.   

While the basic building blocks for each image are the same, the possibilities are nearly limitless depending on which specific components are chosen and how they're combined (such as the shapes and characteristics of the vessels, which colors and color combinations are used, and whether the light is soft versus hard). 

What one might "see" in the finished images is also limited only by the imagination: it could be the surface of an otherworldly planet or the sun setting at the ocean's shore. A kaleidoscopic flower, a skyscraper, or a waterfall. 

The simplicity of the setup might surprise you. There is no strobe or artificial light of any kind. The camera is hand held. To date, I've used only a single lens (56mm LensBaby Velvet). The subjects are arranged within a very small area - roughly six square feet or less. As for post processing, it's bare bones; these images essentially come straight out of the camera. Sometimes the orientation is shifted or there's some cropping, but that's about it. 

I've shot hundreds of these but am selective about which make the final cut. Currently I'm developing pairs and triptychs based on similar color palettes. When I return from working in the field, I'm right back to my weird and wonderful colors.

I've included a few images from the series along with this post. What do you see?

 

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) abstract photography abstracts color https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/1/thinking-abstractly Thu, 14 Jan 2021 08:24:00 GMT
And Now For Something Completely Different https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/1/and-now-for-something-completely-different More than one monthly attendance record was shattered in Grand Teton National Park during 2020. September's year-over-year increase was 17%, while October's was a whopping 88%.  

To give you an idea what that means in real numbers, there were nearly 603,000 visitors during the month of September and more than 350,000 in October. (Nearly 711,000 dropped by in August.)

That might not sound very appealing if getting away from crowds is what you're after.  

There's a remedy for all those people, though, and it's called Winter. The park is wonderfully empty this time of year. It's also wonderfully beautiful; the winter months offer excellent opportunities for outdoor photographers.

Racing StripesRacing StripesBeautiful bands of low fog are suspended beneath the Teton Peaks (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) Sound inviting? It is - but be prepared for a different kind of experience.

Many park roads are closed in the winter. Those that remain open can be treacherous, especially if there has been recent snowfall. Areas that are easily accessible during the summer months may be reachable only on foot with snowshoes or cross country skis. Others, like much of the Snake River flood plain, are entirely off-limits to humans. That means no hiking in to Schwabacher's Landing. Or down to Blacktail Ponds.

It's often bitterly cold. You need to be dressed properly.

But the days are short, the shadows are long, the light is soft (you can work all day), and the alpenglow can be spectacular. 

There are still plenty of animals out and about if you're into wildlife photography. The elk refuge is packed. Bison have moved to the south end where the conditions are a little less harsh. Bighorn sheep hang out around Miller Butte. Moose can be found around Antelope Flats and near Kelly.

Also it might interest you to know you can find lodging in Jackson during the winter months without taking out a second mortgage on the house to pay for it. What's not to like about that? (I exaggerate. However, if you've visited in the summer or autumn you know what I'm talking about.)

For me, this time of year also means I put less mileage on the vehicle since I generally focus on the southern half of the park during the snowiest months. 

A winter visit to Grand Teton National Park is completely different and something special. As long as you're well-prepared, you will most certainly enjoy it.

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Jackson national parks photography Tetons winter https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/1/and-now-for-something-completely-different Thu, 07 Jan 2021 07:45:32 GMT
King of the Hill https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/1/king-of-the-hill CountdownCountdownNew Year's Eve torchlight parade and fireworks at Snow King - Jackson's oldest ski hill (1936) and the first ski area in the state of Wyoming. (Jackson, Wyoming) Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, New Year's Eve and fireworks are an inspired pairing. 

Though you won't find me painting the town red on the last night of the year, if there's a fireworks show nearby that's a different story. 

Since I was working in the Tetons on a photo shoot for a few days over the holiday, I made sure to punch my own ticket for the pyrotechnics hosted by Snow King Ski Mountain in Jackson, Wyoming.

The torchlight parade which usually draws many, many participants was cancelled at the eleventh hour, but it was wonderful to see about a dozen ski club members carry on the tradition. The slopes would have felt a little neglected without this.

Not knowing whether I'd have trouble securing my preferred vantage point I arrived nearly two hours ahead of time. It was a long wait in brisk weather (15 degrees Fahrenheit); by the end of the show my fingers were numb in spite of the chemical heat packs stuffed into my trigger mittens. But who cares? I got my fireworks fix. 

A good way to step into 2021!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) fireworks Jackson New Year's Eve Show King Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2021/1/king-of-the-hill Sun, 03 Jan 2021 00:36:12 GMT
Happy New Year https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/happy-new-year First NightFirst NightAs the chapter closes on one year, the fireworks show at Portsmouth, New Hampshire's annual First Night celebration helps to ring in the next.


"Life is like a camera.
Just focus on what is important
and capture the good times.
Develop from the negatives;
and if things don't work out...

...take another shot."

 

Here's to a year filled with good light and interesting subject matter.

Cheers to you and yours.

Happy 2021!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) 2021 New Year https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/happy-new-year Thu, 31 Dec 2020 08:22:00 GMT
Merry Christmas! https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/merry-christmas-to-all All is Calm, All is BrightAll is Calm, All is BrightAmidst vibrant colors everywhere on the grounds, this little vignette - illuminated with only white light - was quietly beautiful in a completely different way. (Morton Arboretum Illumination - Lisle, Illinois)

This image, which I made at the Morton Arboretum in suburban Chicago, always reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas carols - "Still, Still, Still." Heavy snow which had begun falling earlier that afternoon continued to blanket the landscape as color faded from the sky, transforming already beautiful scenes into something truly magical. 

Amidst all the fantastic, colorful displays which are the hallmark of the annual "Illumination" holiday show, stood this quiet little vignette in the distance - lit only with a few white lights. 

Hushed.

Peaceful.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas. 
 

Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.
For all is hushed,
The world is sleeping,
Holy Star its vigil keeping.
Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.

Sleep, sleep, sleep,
'Tis the eve of our Saviour's birth.
The night is peaceful all around you,
Close your eyes,
Let sleep surround you.
Sleep, sleep, sleep,
'Tis the eve of our Saviour's birth.

Dream, dream, dream,
Of the joyous day to come.
While guardian angels without number,
Watch you as you sweetly slumber.
Dream, dream, dream,
Of the joyous day to come.

Traditional: Austrian

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Chicago Christmas Christmas Carol Illumination Morton Arboretum Still Still Still https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/merry-christmas-to-all Thu, 24 Dec 2020 08:18:00 GMT
The Christmas Star https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/the-christmas-star Tonight's the night! The Christmas Star is here and will be at its most brilliant this evening. (It seems fitting that this should occur on the solstice - the longest night of the year.) 

It's actually not a star at all, but Jupiter and Saturn pairing up to light the sky as if they were a single mega-star. A "Great Conjunction." It's an illusion, of course, but from earth it'll look like they're right next to each other. Put two celestial giants together and you get something big and bright.

You'll be able to see it with the naked eye even if you live in a populated area. Dark sky reserve not required.  

Whether or not you're into astrophotography, this will be a treat; it isn't something that happens every day. Or year. Or decade. Or lifetime. In fact, it's been nearly 800 years since a Great Conjunction like this one - happening at night and this near to earth - has been visible to sky watchers (it was March of 1226). 800 years. And you'll have to wait 60 years for the next extra-close one. 

So as far as Great Conjunctions go, this one is a big deal. Hope for clear skies.

Some astronomers have theorized that the Star of Bethlehem referenced in the Gospel of St. Matthew might have been a Great Conjunction. Several occurred around the time of the birth of Christ. 

Star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright...

Since this event happens to be taking place during the holiday week, the "Christmas Star" moniker is appropriate. Wonderful, actually. And after the way this year has played out, a little bit of extra sparkle from up above is more than welcome.  Transparent TreesTransparent TreesThe Magic of Christmas at Butchart Gardens (Victoria, British Columbia)

To see it, you'll need an unobstructed view of the southwestern sky. About 45 minutes after sunset you should be able to find Jupiter and Saturn hanging out together low in the sky; they'll be visible for about an hour until they set. 

As an added bonus, you may be treated to a few shooting stars courtesy of the Ursids meteor shower tonight and into the wee hours tomorrow morning (though you'll probably need to get away from light pollution to see those).

So whether or not you're going to pull out the camera gear, why not kick off Christmas Week with a little star gazing? After tonight, every time you look at a star shining from the top of a Christmas tree you can remember the time you got to see the real deal.

Don't miss it! Take some time this evening to look up!

(If Mother Nature isn't cooperating and you're socked in with cloud cover today, you're not out of luck. Jupiter and Saturn will remain close to one another for the next few days. Still worth seeing even if not quite as brilliant as this evening. Try again when the overcast lifts.)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) astronomy Christmas Star great conjunction https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/the-christmas-star Mon, 21 Dec 2020 08:05:00 GMT
Bundle Up https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/bundle-up Icy GripIcy GripOn this early morning with temperatures hovering at more than 20 degrees below zero, fog is suspended over the Madison River and trees are coated with hoar frost. The first rays of sunlight touch the mountains beyond. (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)


"To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake
it is necessary to stand in the cold."


There is a magical transience to the winter landscape. The transformative powers of a fresh blanket of snow (or hoar frost created by freezing fog, or an ice storm, or heavy snow as it's falling) are considerable, yet fleeting. Otherwise ordinary locations can appear fantastically beautiful when decorated with snow and ice.

It's a terrific time of year to make unique photographs - as long as you're willing to deal with plummeting temperatures. 

Once upon a time I was most assuredly in the "unwilling" camp. I don't love the cold and am cold-sensitive. 

That was before I realized there's actually no 'bad' winter weather, only 'bad' clothing. (More accurately, bad clothing choices. Which I guess would be poor preparation.) Textile technologies, from the protection layer to the insulation layer, have come a long way. If you're dressed properly, it's possible to stay reasonably warm in very harsh conditions - even when standing around waiting for the light to change. 

A little GORE-TEX here, perhaps some Omni-Tech there, a base layer, good boots, hat and gloves, then toss in a few chemical heating pads for good measure  - and the world is your oyster!

The photo above was made in Yellowstone National Park just as the sun was coming up on an early February morning. It was -24 degrees Fahrenheit. You see a thick layer of fog hovering over the Madison River, which never freezes thanks to super-heated water from the park's geothermal features. As the clash of temperatures becomes more extreme, hydrothermally-created conditions - like this fog - become more spectacular. 

The colder the better. 

The mercury never made it north of zero degrees that day. (Most of the time it was in negative territory.) But I was out in the field from roughly 7am until 5:30pm.

I'm still cold-sensitive, but I shoot all season long. It's all about the clothing.

The winter months can yield excellent images. Don't go into hibernation. Grab that camera and get outside!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) cold weather photography winter photography Yellowstone https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/bundle-up Thu, 17 Dec 2020 08:44:00 GMT
Feeling Crowded? https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/where-are-the-people Last week's Christmas Project post prompted a few questions about navigating around crowds. In short, how can you make these types of holiday images without people getting in the way?

It can definitely be a challenge. After all, cities and towns alike are hustling and bustling during the Christmas season. 

Further complicating the "people" factor - for me, anyway - is an aesthetic preference: I try to avoid pitch black skies in my images featuring holiday lights, which means working late at night (when more people are tucked in bed and there's some elbow room) isn't the best option.

Sometimes colorless skies can't be helped. For example, some venues (like botanic gardens or zoos) don't begin their shows until it's nearly dark. But if I have control over the schedule, I prefer that beautiful, deep blue/purple you get overhead just before all the color fades away. The window for that kind of sky lasts for only about fifteen minutes and in December it happens early: beginning around 4:45pm local time in places like Boston, New York, and Chicago. At that time of day you've got commuters, holiday shoppers, and tourists all on the sidewalks at the same time.

Following are three solutions to the people problem:

Composition

Depending on the location and/or how you've composed the shot, you may be able to work in the midst of a sea of humanity and still avoid including any of them in the image.  

Low CeilingLow CeilingOn a misty evening just a few days before Christmas, the ceiling dips lower and lower - dancing with the top of the Hancock Building before nearly obscuring much of the structure an hour later. Two eras of the city of Chicago are represented here: the landmark Pumping Station (built 1869) and the Hancock (1968).

This photo of Chicago's historic pumping station tower juxtaposed with the Hancock Building was made at the corner of East Chicago Avenue and North Michigan Avenue at about 5pm a week before Christmas. If you're unfamiliar with the city, that's smack dab in the middle of the main shopping district and directly across the street from the landmark Water Tower. It was like a scene straight out of the song "Silver Bells" - city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, shoppers rushing home with their treasures. Because I was focusing upward, though, that didn't matter. The only challenges were carving out a spot large enough to set up my tripod, trying to keep from getting bumped, and stability issues (I only partially opened the tripod's legs to avoid creating a tripping hazard). 

Side note: I know, I know. Technically speaking, it's not the John Hancock Center any longer. As with the Sears Tower, there has been a name change. And like the Sears Tower, which I continue to refer to as the Sears Tower, this remains the Hancock in my book. Later we can discuss Comiskey Park. :)

Slow Shutter

As long as people aren't stationary, don't forget: you have the power to make them disappear from the shot!

The lower the ISO, the longer the shutter will have to be open to get the correct exposure. The longer the shutter remains open, the more motion begins to disappear. 

Grand Central TerminalGrand Central TerminalThis Midtown Manhattan landmark is ready for the holidays. (New York City)

According to the clock on the building's facade, this photograph of the 42nd Street/Pershing Square entrance to Grand Central Station in Midtown Manhattan was made at about 4:55pm. I was surrounded by pedestrians. Obviously! Everybody was making a beeline for mass transit as the workday came to an end. There was also a lot of vehicular traffic. Yet all you see are a handful of people and the streaking lights created by a passing automobile or two. 

I used an ISO of 64, which enabled me to keep the shutter open for many seconds. As a result, all those people hustling in front of me and around the terminal's entrance "disappeared." I waited for parked taxis to drive away and for the nearby stoplight to lend an assist. Whenever it cycled to red, everyone waiting to cross 42nd Street got moving.  

Get Up Early 

The very best solution to beating the crowds is to shoot in the morning. After all, that fifteen minute window of deep blue skies doesn't just happen at night. 

In my experience, the vast majority of municipalities keep the Christmas lights on all night. Dusk to dawn. (It's not true everywhere, of course. I've been disappointed a few times.)

Even in large cities, you might be surprised how few people are out and about early in the morning. This includes New York. Which never sleeps. Those who are up and at 'em typically aren't hanging around looking at Christmas decorations. They're on their way to work. Or out for a run. Or whatever. First thing in the morning, you'll lose nearly all of the tourists and definitely all of the shoppers. 

Situated in the heart of downtown Victoria, B.C., the grounds around the Parliament Buildings are very busy in the evenings over the holiday season; everyone wants to see the beautiful decorations. The night before I made the photograph below, a huge crowd gathered to celebrate the lighting of the city's official Christmas tree (located on the grounds). And they lingered. I stopped by at 11pm, willing to shoot with a black sky - yet people were still hanging around. In the pouring rain.

Very early the following morning, but for two security guards, the place was empty. Perfecto! 

AglowAglowBritish Columbia Parliament Buildings and Front Fountain, ready for for Christmas. (Victoria, B.C. - Canada)

Now you know why there are so many deep blue skies in my Christmas Project images - and how I've been able to capture many cityscapes with nearly empty sidewalks.

I've found photographing holiday scenes to be addictive. It's also somewhat exhilarating not to have to worry about whether or not there's cloud cover, or whether or not there will be a spectacular sunrise or sunset. Interesting conditions overhead are a bonus but not a prerequisite. 

Light up the night!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas lights cityscapes holdiay how to photography tips https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/where-are-the-people Thu, 10 Dec 2020 08:37:00 GMT
The Christmas Project https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/the-christmas-project Part fine art, part photojournalism - and 100% festive. Though The Christmas Project didn't begin as an assignment, it quickly took on a life of its own and earned a slot on my annual shooting calendar. This marks its tenth year.

Back in 2010, I decided to head into Boston over Thanksgiving weekend to photograph the giant Faneuil Hall Christmas tree. Why? I'm not sure. To say I'm not a fan of the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping orgy would be a glaring understatement. No matter how much I enjoy Christmas lights and decorations, the idea of wading through that late-November frenzy to see them is pretty much a non-starter. By then, I'd lived in New England for 15 years and had never once felt the slightest urge to brave the crowds in order to admire the Faneuil Hall Marketplace decorations over Thanksgiving. And until then I hadn't typically photographed that type of subject matter.

Yet somehow there I was with my camera. (Not just once, but twice over that long weekend.) Within ten days I'd worked five locations. Off to the races!

Had I lived in another part of the country, I doubt the chain of events would have played out in the same way. It's hard to beat New England when it comes to quaint - and plentiful - holiday scenes. Bandstands and gazebos are everywhere; even many of the smallest are decorated. Town squares are reminiscent of scenes from vintage Currier and Ives lithographs: red brick buildings, cobblestones, white church steeples, old fashioned streetlamps, wreaths hung on windows, candles aglow. With a nod to the region's nautical heritage, there are Christmas trees decorated with miniature buoys. Others are built from lobster traps. Lighthouses are adorned with wreaths - and some wear twinkling holiday lights.

Conversely, for some really-really-big-city-Christmas-glitz I could hop in the car and head for Midtown Manhattan. 

Since moving to Idaho, the project has gotten a little more complicated and now generally involves air travel.

I typically start mulling over potential locations for the next year as soon as the current season's images are processed. Washington, D.C. and Edinburgh, Scotland (the latter being one of my favorite cities on the planet) were on the short list for 2020. Until 2020 unraveled. 

So for the first time in a long time I've had to call an audible. Having ceded the skies to Rudolph and Santa this season, I'm left with whatever is reachable by car. It's the wild, wild west or bust! Quite the conundrum. 

The intermountain west is spread out, sparsely populated, and many municipalities are a wee bit lacking when it comes to decking the halls. ("Wee bit lacking" is a wee bit charitable. I've poked around enough business districts over the past few years to know.) String some lights, people!

Bottom line: it's not easy to find new subject matter. 

I've narrowed the possibilities down to five locations scattered across four states - though Mother Nature will have the final say. One thinks twice about driving for many hours in a winter storm to photograph holiday cheer. I'm not sure how this is going to play out but the calendar says I need to get a move on.

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a throwback to the very beginning: the infamous Faneuil Hall tree that called my name and got this whole thing rolling. The tallest Christmas tree in New England, that year it was even taller than the one at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. Behind it stands my favorite structure in Boston, the Custom House Tower. 

This year at Faneuil Hall it's Bah Humbug and a lump of coal for your stocking: there is no tree. Scrooge lives.

Not to worry; he's not going to ruin this party. Feeling like some Santa Claus, ho ho ho and mistletoe? Follow the link below!

The Christmas Project

Star of WonderStar of WonderThe massive Faneuil Hall Christmas tree reaches high into the sky, lighting up the night along with the Custom House Tower. (Boston, Massachusetts)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Boston Christmas Project Christmas Tree Faneuil Hall holiday Massachusetts New England https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/12/the-christmas-project Thu, 03 Dec 2020 08:25:00 GMT
Happy Thanksgiving https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/11/thanksgiving Chapel of the Transfiguration Grand Teton National ParkThe ChapelThe Chapel of the Transfiguration is sited - appropriately - beneath the Cathedral Peaks. The log structure was built in the 1920s and placed on the national register of historic places in 1980. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) It's Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. - wishing you and yours a very happy holiday.

I'd like to take this opportunity to convey a special thank you to readers who stop by here regularly to see what's new, and to those who've joined me on photographic excursions this year in the Teton Valley. 

I had expected to have some new images to share with you this week from Death Valley, but like most everything else in 2020 my shooting schedule has been turned on its head. That latest disruption involving the California desert will be (hopefully) only temporary; let's just say I didn't use permanent ink when crossing it off the calendar. It's now tentatively on the books for late January. 

Closer to home, I expect to be in the field again among the Tetons shortly, so may have some tales to share from the icy tundra otherwise known as the intermountain west (winter has come early this year).

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Thanksgiving https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/11/thanksgiving Thu, 26 Nov 2020 08:19:00 GMT
Marty's Mountain https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/11/well-done-marty The summit of New Hampshire's Mount Washington is notorious for its extreme weather. Though only 6,288 feet tall, the mountain is situated in the paths of three storm tracks which often converge and collide there. Conditions can change quickly. Hurricane-force winds are not uncommon. Snowfall is heavy. Winters are long. Mount Washington's low temperatures are comparable to the coldest places on the planet (like Mt. Everest's summit and the poles).

"Home of the world's worst weather" is not an empty slogan.

Conditions have been monitored at an observatory there since the early 1930s. From the beginning, pets have been part of the crew - usually cats. (In fact, they're the only permanent residents; the human staff work weekly shifts.) Their furry companionship has always been welcome. Especially during winter, the summit can be a lonely place.

Since 2008, Mount Washington's mascot has been a handsome black Maine coon cat named Marty. Though he sometimes gets a bit shy when the summer and early autumn crowds appear, he has the run of the place. Because I typically summit early in the morning before most people arrive, I've been lucky to spend some quality time with Mr. Marty.

His "mewsings" about life on the mountain are a regular feature each quarter in Windswept, the Members of the Observatory magazine.

I've been thinking a lot about Marty lately. I'd been planning on visiting him again last month, but due to the pandemic my trip back East was shelved. Though I was disappointed about not being able to photograph the foliage show, I was more downhearted about not being able to see Marty. After all, he's an elder statesman. The clock is ticking and I can hear it.

When my latest issue of Windswept arrived the other day, as always I looked for Marty's column first - and this time he surprised me with an announcement of his plan to retire after this winter. Having put in 12 years of service on the summit, he said it would soon be time to bid farewell to both the Rock Pile and his co-workers, and head to the valley below to enjoy his golden years amidst grass and trees.

It seemed fitting to mark the occasion and write a little something about this wonderful fellow.

Still wrapping my head around the fact that his pending retirement meant I wouldn't again see him on the summit, I was crushed this morning to learn that Marty suffered a medical emergency earlier this month from which he couldn't be saved.

Now he plays in the lush meadows at the Rainbow Bridge.

Au revior, chérie. Job well done. You are missed by many.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Marty the Cat Mount Washington Mount Washington Observatory New Hampshire summit https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/11/well-done-marty Tue, 24 Nov 2020 08:15:00 GMT
Familiar Ground https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/11/familiar-ground Can a location become "worn out" with nothing left to photograph? 

I don't think so.

To be sure, shooting somewhere new is an exciting challenge. Who doesn't enjoy exploring a location you've never seen or worked previously? It's interesting. It can boost your creativity. If you feel like you've been in a rut, it might push you out of those well-worn tracks.  

But unless you're planning on endlessly globetrotting in search of unfamiliar destinations, at some point you'll find yourself revisiting old haunts. Embracing areas you already know can improve the quality your work.

Nothing looks exactly the same from one visit to the next. Locations change from year to year; with the seasons; from one day to the next; from morning, to mid-day, to night. The light is different. Weather conditions vary. Water levels change. Vegetation grows. And on, and on, and on.

Slow down. Open your mind to see new things. Expand your horizons.

Challenge yourself to find new ways to make photographs at places you've worked before. There are many ways to do this. Limit yourself to using one lens; leave the in others in the bag. Move around to look for unusual angles. Don't normally make panoramics? Try one. If you usually work in color, create compositions with black and white processing in mind. Vary your shutter speed. Employ intentional camera movement. Visit during a different time of day.

Challenge yourself by eliminating a favorite location from your itinerary the next time you visit a well-worked area. Force yourself to find something different. Look for another back road; a new hiking trail; an alternative vantage point.

There's something to be said for revisiting familiar ground. Your eye improves. You notice things you didn't see previously. Your artistic vision expands. You move beyond postcard shots. The better you know a location, the more effectively you'll be able to capture it.

The image below was made at a tidal pool on the Atlantic Coast at Rye, New Hampshire: one of my "familiar spots." In the broader sense, it was always the same: the sea, the rocks, the horizon - yet each shoot could be wildly different (which is what attracted me to that location). Other than the tidal situation, I never knew what I'd find. Reasonably close to home, I worked there regularly. As with any location, sometimes it was maddening - but it was never boring!

TranquilTranquilColorful palette in the eastern sky at daybreak is reflected in a large tidal pool. A long exposure blurs the ocean beyond, contrasting nicely with the still water in the foreground. (Rye, New Hampshire)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) familiar ground New Hampshire photography Rye tips https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/11/familiar-ground Thu, 19 Nov 2020 08:17:00 GMT
Finding Tranquility https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/11/tranquility Off to Sea IIOff to Sea IIA departing Nor'easter made for nearly ideal conditions at daybreak. Though a breeze began to gently ripple the water in the tidal pool, it wasn't enough to interfere with the reflection. Just as quickly, the color disappeared. (Rye, New Hampshire) It's no surprise that there have been record numbers of visits to many of our national parks in 2020. Nature can be an antidote for stress: there's been more than enough of that to go around.

Nature soothes. It's restorative. 

Fortunately, you don't need a national park to get outside and experience these benefits. Head for green space at the center of town. A garden. A pond. Your back yard. Your deck. 

Put the phone away and enjoy the great outdoors. Go for a hike - or simply sit and savor the sights and sounds.

(If I were writing the prescription, I'd suggest you do this regularly.) 

Contemplate the night sky. Watch the sun come up or bid it farewell at the end of the day. Gaze at clouds drifting through the sky. Marvel at the graceful lines of trees. Listen to the birds.....the wind....the water. Track a storm as it moves in, or watch as it leaves. Admire the landscape.

Think about what a gift it is to witness such things.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and
give strength to body and soul.
-John Muir

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) benefits of nature nature outdoors https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/11/tranquility Thu, 12 Nov 2020 08:17:00 GMT
The Man Behind the Mountain https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/11/magnificent-moran Majestic MoranMajestic MoranMount Moran dominates the Teton range above Jackson Lake. As the sun begins to set, a ray of light breaks through partial overcast to touch the mountain's face. (Teton Range, Wyoming) Towering over Jackson Lake, Mount Moran dominates the northern end of Grand Teton National Park. Standing at 12,605 feet, several active glaciers cling to its face. 

The mountain was named for Thomas Moran, renowned for his paintings of the American West.

Moran was one of dozens of acclaimed artists who were part of a 19th century American movement known as the Hudson River School. (Interestingly, quite a few of them - including Moran - were born in Europe.) Characterized by realism and detail, their landscapes initially focused not only on the Hudson River Valley but also nearby areas such as the Adirondacks and New Hampshire's White Mountains. The school expanded later to include other locales, including the American West.

How's that for a little bit of serendipity? Via the Hudson School, two of my favorite peaks have common ties. I can look at Mount Moran and give a nod to my beloved Mount Washington nearly 2,500 miles away.

You may be wondering what brought Thomas Moran to the wild, wild, west in the first place. 

Based in Philadelphia and already well-known by mid-century, he was asked to join the 1871 Hayden expedition into the Greater Yellowstone wilderness...and the rest, as they say, is history. His paintings and sketches of the region (along with photographs made by fellow survey member William Henry Jackson) greatly influenced those back in Washington, D.C. The following year, Yellowstone National Park was officially created by President Grant with legislation that protected more than two million acres - the first such park in the world.

Moran made many trips to the west following that, and some twenty years later returned again to the Yellowstone region - sketching prolifically the entire time.

As far as I know, he never painted the mountain that bears his name. 

Mount Moran and I have become well acquainted over the past few years. I enjoy hiking down to the edge of the Snake River in the darkness well before dawn, finding a little spot to sit along the shore, and stargazing until I can just begin to see Moran's outlines. Out of the blackness the mountain appears, until finally its face is lit by the rising sun.

Not a bad way to start the day.

Diaphanous DreamDiaphanous DreamLingering fog creates an ethereal scene around Mount Moran and the surrounding landscape. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Hudson River School Mount Moran Mount Washington Thomas Moran White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/11/magnificent-moran Thu, 05 Nov 2020 08:22:00 GMT
October Surprise https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/10/october-surprise Not all October surprises are political. I had one just a few days ago and can assure you it had absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming election!

A photo shoot in Yellowstone has been on my radar for weeks. Because I avoid that park between Memorial Day and Labor Day (far too many people) my window of opportunity to work there is limited - even more so lately due to lengthy stretches of cloudless skies, heavy smoke from California wildfires, and prolonged periods of high winds. 

That said, the park's roads close for the winter on November 2nd. Now or never.

Just in the nick of time, the local meteorologist and my weather apps all predicted a two-day period of workable conditions after a cold front moved through. Winds would die down, I could expect some clouds, and it would be dry. Unseasonably low temps would be a plus; the park's geothermal features are even more pronounced when the mercury dips. All good! I packed up my gear, and in the wee hours of the morning pointed the car in the direction of the west entrance.

As advertised, it was brisk: 16 degrees. But when I hit the Montana state line I encountered ice - first a little, then a lot. West Yellowstone was like one big skating rink. Rain overnight had turned to measurable snowfall and left a parting gift of very poor road conditions. Oops. So much for the forecast.

What about the park? I'll bet you can guess. It was closed.

Surprise!

Would it open at all that day? The ranger couldn't say. At that point I should have called an audible and scrubbed the shoot but this cockeyed optimist decided to hang around and see what would happen. 

The park did finally partially reopen but not until mid-day. Dozens of vehicles lined up at each of the four entrance gates, waiting to get in. Many filled with kids. On a weekday. Late in October (when Yellowstone is typically very quiet). It may as well have been June. 

Once inside, it was obvious that though the roads were "open" they were ice-covered and in very rough shape. The one-hour drive to Mammoth took more than double that time. Even more snow had fallen there. What I intended to shoot was now buried under a foot of fresh powder. 

(For the record, the park is beautiful in winter. The terraces at Mammoth are pictured here in early March.) 

FrigidFrigidEarly March means spring in many parts of the country, but at Mammoth Hot Springs, it's still sub-zero - perfect conditions to amplify the thermal features at Mound Terrace. (Mammoth Hot Springs - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) So my subject matter had mostly disappeared, the place was crawling with people, the roads were terrible, and I'd lost most of the entire first day before even reaching my first location. Comedy of errors. The whole situation was so ridiculous it was almost amusing. Bottom line, it's impossible to avoid racking up mileage when dealing with a park the size of Yellowstone; given the unexpected inclement weather it was going to be difficult to efficiently travel from one location to the next.

Know when to fold 'em.

I put the camera away and treated myself to a hike before heading to the exit and back to autumn in Idaho. 

October surprise. 

When you're having a run of back luck with poor conditions, or struggling through a series of difficult shoots, try not to let it get you down. It happens to us all! Persist. The tide will turn.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Mammoth Hot Springs Montana October Surprise Wyoming Yellowstone National Park https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/10/october-surprise Thu, 29 Oct 2020 07:14:00 GMT
Rodney Dangerfield and The Sister Parks https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/10/the-rodney-dangerfield-of-sister-parks If you're old enough to remember comedian Rodney Dangerfield, you'll recall his signature "I get no respect" catchphrase. Before your time? Search for him on YouTube. He was a funny guy.

If Dangerfield is dipping too far into the way-back time machine, we can switch to sports and nearer to the present day for a more current example of the "no respect" syndrome.

Take the White Sox. If you're from Chicago - like me - people automatically assume you're a Cubs fan. (Don't get me started...) Go outside of Illinois and you'll find there are a lot of folks who forget Chicago has two baseball teams. Oddly, this includes sports reporters - whom you'd think ought to have some familiarity with the baseball landscape. In the runup to the Cubs' 2016 World Series appearance, multiple media outlets seemed to have amnesia regarding the Sox's 2005 Series win (I might add they won it running away, losing only one game during the postseason). For example, this CBS tweet: Wrigley Field is prepping for an event Chicago hasn't seen in 71 years, the World Series. ESPN has forgotten about the 2005 Series at least twice. Apparently they slept through that entire postseason. Granted, ESPN's Boston/New York bias is legendary but still... 

No respect. Splendor on the SnakeSplendor on the SnakeGrand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Which brings me to my two local national parks. Situated nearly adjacent to Yellowstone, Grand Teton is often overshadowed by its larger neighbor. Many visitors who fly into Jackson Hole depart from the rental car facility bound for Yellowstone, blasting past the Tetons with barely a sideways glance. Each night on the local news, the meteorologist gives the Old Faithful weather forecast for the following day. As for that other park? Crickets. When I tell local friends I'm heading over to the park to work, they assume I mean Yellowstone. Most often, this is incorrect.

Yes, Yellowstone is huge, at nearly 3,500 square miles. It has weird and wonderful geothermal features (best seen in winter - truly amazing). It has the Yellowstone River - the principal tributary of the upper Missouri River. It's home to the oldest and largest herd of bison in the United States. 

But Grand Teton National Park isn't exactly chopped liver. While the stunning Teton Range is one of the shortest in the Rockies, it's arguably the most recognized - and probably the most dramatic thanks in large part to the absence of foothills. 20 of its named peaks exceed 10,000 feet. It has the Snake River - the largest tributary of the Columbia. Like Yellowstone, it's also home to a large variety of wildlife - including bison.

So while Yellowstone steals an inordinate amount of the thunder, Grand Teton National Park is every bit as spectacular. 

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that nobody visits the Tetons. Believe me when I say plenty of people come! But GTNP most definitely lives in the shadow of the other park. It's a head scratcher, but something tells me Rodney Dangerfield - and my White Sox - would be able to relate. :)
 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Teton Range Tetons Wyoming Yellowstone https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/10/the-rodney-dangerfield-of-sister-parks Thu, 22 Oct 2020 07:14:00 GMT
Order From Chaos https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/10/songs-of-autumn Many outdoor photographers consider the autumn foliage season to be the crème de la crème when it comes to subject matter. I certainly do. While spring (the "other" foliage season) is my favorite time of year, there's something unique and magical about the fiery hues of an autumnal landscape in transition.

Still, it can be somewhat overwhelming; the riot of color is mesmerizing but chaotic. While your eyes can easily edit what you're looking at - automatically filtering out the extraneous and focusing on whatever is of interest - the camera has no such ability. You might struggle to find a focal point in the wide view, while less expansive (but equally stunning) scenes often remain hidden in plain sight. 

Spinning an old saying on its head, you can't see the trees for the forest.

Capturing the foliage show is no different than making good photographs any other time of the year. Look for patterns, shapes, lines, contrast. Consider depth of field, viewpoint, focal length, and so on. As always, give careful consideration to the placement of elements within the frame and think about what ought to be excluded. Remove distractions. Simplify. If it doesn't support what you're trying to communicate, or makes it less clear, it shouldn't be in the photograph. 

One great way to simplify is to try something other than the "big landscape." Added bonus: if you're willing to look at things a little differently it'll exponentially increase opportunities to make unique and interesting photographs.

Vignettes Non-ConformistNon-ConformistA few maple saplings dot the woods otherwise dominated by a dense stand of conifers - making their brilliant autumn colors even more striking. (Hiawatha National Forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan)

You don't always have to go big to tell the story of foliage season. 

This transitional forest in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is spectacular in autumn as young maples screaming with color are scattered among towering, mature pines. They seem weirdly - and wonderfully - out of place: a whimsical juxtaposition.

Especially at dawn and dusk the pops of red, orange and yellow scattered across an otherwise dark and brooding landscape here are stunning. To me, it was a magic forest with the maples as nymphs darting in and out from behind the larger trees. 

It was beautiful but there was a lot going on. 

One dreary, wet morning this location kept calling me back. With fewer maples and most of them younger and smaller than in other areas I'd hiked, it was a little less "messy." Two fiery red trees commanded attention amidst all those huge pines. 

Here I included just one of them along with a dash of yellow from one of its cousins in the distance. Then it was a matter of moving around until I found a spot that provided good separation between the trunks of each of the pines, allowed the maple's trunk to be centered between two of the bigger trees, and left room for the little non-conformist to lean into the frame. 

To illustrate the "Magic Forest," I made a panoramic including both of the red maples along with many more of the pines. One location, two stories.

Close-ups

Raindrops Keep FallingRaindrops Keep FallingAs the remnants of Hurricane Nate move closer, light rain becomes steadier and heavier. Droplets cling to this maple leaf which has fallen to rest on a colorful fern. (Sieur de Monts - Acadia National Park, Maine) Close-ups are another way of simplifying the composition. 

On this day, I was playing beat the clock as the remnants of a hurricane were bearing down on Acadia National Park. Close-ups were about the only thing that might still be doable in the rapidly deteriorating weather so I made a beeline for Sieur de Monts to see if I could get a photograph featuring its amazing ferns. There are hundreds - thousands - of them in this section of the park and in autumn they turn intensely deep-orange. The colors popped even more vibrantly in the rain. Tightly packed with birch trees, tall grasses, fallen leaves, and of course the ferns, it's lovely but definitely chaotic.

When I saw this maple leaf covered with raindrops and clinging to the fern, I knew I'd found my subject. Initially disappointed it had come to rest colorful-side-down, I quickly changed my mind. The photo works better without competing colors. 

Side note: don't shy away from precipitation, especially in autumn, but do carry an umbrella in your camera bag (something like a collapsible diffuser will work, too). I wouldn't have been able to make this photo without mine; it shielded my subject from heavy precipitation, keeping it from moving. 

Beaver Brook Falls in AutumnDreaming of AutumnLovely Beaver Brook Falls framed by brightly-colored autumn foliage. (Near Colebrook, New Hampshire) Autumn as a Supporting Player

Rather than making it the star of the show, you can also assign the foliage a supporting role as in this example. The waterfall is clearly the main subject; the leaves are an accent. They create a frame and provide seasonal context. 

They also salvaged the shoot.

Many of the trees had yet to begin turning; those that had weren't exactly spectacular. I didn't want to squander the misty, damp conditions (great for color saturation), and it was the last day I'd budgeted for the far northern part of New Hampshire. Now or never.

This pop of orange was tucked in an out-of-the-way corner. The tree itself wasn't anything to write home about but was just about perfect as a framing device.

Don't be too quick to throw in the towel. If something about the scene captured your attention, keep looking for a way to compose it. Think creatively. Even if the color is muted, or you've missed the peak, or the conditions aren't what you'd hoped for, there are many ways to communicate the story of foliage season. 

The image of Thompson Falls in Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire (below) is another example of an understated approach to the foliage.

Often the further you hike into a mature forest, the less color you'll see; it's now high over your head. There's nothing special about the foliage in the background behind the falls. However, some really intense reds and yellows were directly above me. Only some of those leaves had begun to fall to the ground, but there were enough to make this work. They provide seasonal context, and even though there are just a handful, because of their placement in the frame they're nearly as prominent as the main subject. 

Thompson Falls White Mountains New HampshireThompson FallsThe falls are named for Joseph M. Thompson, one of the builders of the Mount Washington Carriage Road (later to become the Auto Road) and the man who drove the first horse-drawn wagon to the summit. (Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire)

Bottom Line

The autumnal foliage display isn't just pretty; it's great fun to photograph. Don't let it overwhelm you. Learn to see more deeply into the lovely chaos and you'll find plenty of ways to capture one of the greatest shows on earth. 

Winter is an etching,
spring a watercolor,
summer an oil painting,
and autumn a mosaic of them all.
-Stanley Horowitz
 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn fall foliage landscapes tips https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/10/songs-of-autumn Thu, 15 Oct 2020 07:22:00 GMT
A Way With Words https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/10/a-way-with-words I wasn't especially fond of autumn as a kid. Though I liked school, it was bittersweet when the glorious summer vacation came to an end.

Before long there would be mountains of leaves to rake - which, by the way, weren't all that colorful. The stately oak trees which were predominant where I grew up were most certainly not exhibitionists, preferring to approach foliage season in a quiet and dignified fashion. Their canopy transformed into deep rusty shades with strong brown undertones.

Autumn and I had a further falling out when I grew older. Now the season made me melancholy: a reminder of time's relentless march. Rather than a Grand Finale it seemed to be more of a Sorrowful Goodbye. And still there was the raking... Colorful CarpetColorful CarpetAt the height of foliage season in New England, the ground below is often as beautiful and colorful as the trees above. (Dover, New Hampshire)

Then something interesting happened. After a few years living on the west coast I ended up in New Hampshire. I became serious about photography. And I learned to love autumn.

Actually, I wonder if it's possible to live in the Granite State and not love the season. There is nothing "quiet" about it; the deciduous trees in autumn are flamboyant, conspicuous attention-seekers. Especially the ones that turn red.

For the record, I still dislike raking leaves. Adjacent to the woods, my yard in New England was filled with exponentially more of them than I'd ever had to clean up anywhere I'd called home prior to that. It would take three backbreaking rakings over the course of a week or two to remove it all. Still, it seemed a reasonable price to pay for a front seat to the Greatest Show on Earth.

I loved looking at that show and capturing it with my camera. I eagerly anticipated its arrival each year.

This is still true today.

Poet, writer, and literary editor Donald Hall (also the 14th Poet Laureate of the United States) knew a thing or two about New Hampshire. As a youth he went to Phillips Exeter Academy, located just a few miles from the small town where I ended up. Later, he and his wife (poet Jane Kenyon) came back Rocky Gorge White Mountains New HampshireRed in the RocksThe first rays of morning sunlight set the autumn foliage ablaze along the banks of the Swift River at Rocky Gorge. (White Mountains, New Hampshire) for good - moving into the rural home in which his grandparents once lived. He remained there for more than 40 years until his death in 2018.

Some years ago I purchased a wonderful book he wrote about that place, called Seasons at Eagle Pond (Houghton Mifflin, 1987). It artfully captures the nature of New Hampshire, depicting life on his land and around the town of Wilmot in each of the four seasons. The inevitable ice storms. Mud season. Spring's relentless black flies. The crying of loons. Summer hikes through dense woods. The riot of color each October. Sometimes wry, often witty, always beautifully authentic: if you've never been to that part of the world his vivid prose will transport you there.  

Because Hall opens with winter, Fall is the final chapter - as it should be. Anyone who has seen autumn in New Hampshire knows it's the culmination of the year. The high water mark. The pièce de résistance. 

The following passages excerpted from that last chapter eloquently express the annual spectacle and will give you a sense of this gifted writer's way with words. 

Each morning is more outrageous than the one before, days outdoing their predecessors as sons outdo their fathers. We walk out over the chill dew to audit glorious wreckage from the night's cold passage - new branches suddenly turned, others gone deeper into ranges of fire, trees vying to surpass each other and their yesterselves.

He compares the superlative "show" to what you'll find elsewhere:

Deep Autumn is a beautiful Godzilla, wildest of wild beasts. Abrupt shreds and edges of New Hampshire turn fauve, while most of the northern hemisphere remains vague, impressionist, and pretty

And finally this....about how it never, ever gets old:

And you looked around you in the October woods at the extended private exhibition, low pale Autumn sunlight striking through the diminishing leafy air to catch on reds and yellows of the great woods. After hauling rocks it was good to catch your breath; it was good to look, and look, and look. And everyone looked and still looks. Even people who have lived their whole lives here never become bored with this looking...

Beautiful, sublime New Hampshire - at its most beguiling in autumn.

If you can find a copy of Seasons at Eagle Pond, I highly recommend it.

Mist and Fog Over the PemigewassetMarriage of Mist and FogPersistent drizzle and rain made the autumn colors pop and created this moody scene over the Pemigewasset River (Near Lincoln, New Hampshire)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Donald Hall fall foliage leaves New Hampshire Seasons at Eagle Pond https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/10/a-way-with-words Thu, 08 Oct 2020 07:14:00 GMT
Peaking Beneath the Peaks https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/10/peaking-under-the-peaks The foliage was nearing peak color in the north end of Grand Teton National Park over the past weekend. There are still some pockets which remain green but for the most part it was definitely showtime.

Conditions have been challenging. Between thick smoke from California and high winds, it's been tough to find windows in which to work over the course of the past two weeks. A cold front pushed through the area late on Friday which shifted the wind direction and greatly improved the air quality. It brought with it some unstable weather which, on balance, was a good thing. Though a few sunrise sessions were busts due to heavy cloud cover, I'd rather have something in the sky than nothing at all.

The front also made for some brisk early mornings as the mercury dipped as low as 18 degrees. I wore every bit of winter gear I had with me to start each day!

When it comes to deciduous trees and autumn foliage, I find the north end of the park to be the prettiest. While the southern half is populated mainly by cottonwoods, in the north there are many aspens - and some of them turn bright orange which provides some color variation. The area extending from Moran into the Buffalo Valley is also quite good for autumn color.  

If you're planning on visiting the park to see the landscape in all its autumnal glory, time is of the essence. Many of the cottonwoods in the southern portions are past peak and now have only dull color. The north end still looks very good but won't last much longer - especially if we get high winds. 

Parallel ThoughtsParallel ThoughtsAspens in front, the Teton Range beyond. Nature's symmetry. The rising sun lights Moran's peak first as a new day begins. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

 

Autumn's SongAutumn's SongBuffalo Valley, Wyoming

 

Buffalo SunsetBuffalo SunsetPeak color in the shadow of the Teton peaks. The Buffalo Fork of the Snake River meanders through a landscape decorated in the colors of autumn. (Buffalo Valley, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Buffalo Valley foliage Grand Teton National Park Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/10/peaking-under-the-peaks Thu, 01 Oct 2020 07:16:00 GMT
Pockets of Perfection https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/9/pockets-of-perfection After YouAfter YouThe aspens hold back, giving the vibrant mountain maples center stage during round one of the autumn "foliage show." (Palisades, Idaho)

I may not have been born in New Hampshire but there's a lot of Granite State blood running through my veins after having lived there for so many years. It's where I learned to delight in autumn. There aren't enough words to describe the various shades of red decorating the White Mountains during the foliage show. 

Yellow may be mellow - but for me it's all about those jaw-dropping reds.

In the intermountain western United States, the autumnal color scheme is obviously quite different than what you'll find in New England. It's pretty, but generally monochromatic with yellow dominating. Still, there are pockets of red and deep orange if you know where to find mountain maples!

There's one such area near where I live, beginning in Palisades, Idaho and running on into the Snake River Canyon. If the conditions are conducive (and this year the magic recipe seems to be just about perfect), the maples explode with intense color - and yellow isn't so much in their playbook.  This season, they've been at peak while most of the aspens remain green. "No, we insist - you go first."

So at the moment, there are some areas in Palisades that are spectacular in their red and red-orange glory, with only occasional splashes of yellow to be found.  The range of color in this species of maples is less varied than what their eastern cousins are capable of producing, but it's still beautiful and quite the treat in an area where these fiery hues are uncommon.

Speaking of Rocky Mountain maples (Acer glabrum Torr), they're generally quite short - less like trees and closer to leggy bushes - and tend to be found at higher elevations and on slopes. They cling to landscapes that, quite honestly, don't appear very hospitable. Yet there they are. And this autumn, these scrubby little plants are going for the gusto.

It's enough to make this displaced Granite Stater's heart skip a beat.

Cascading CrimsonCascading CrimsonMountain maples clinging to the steep hillside are ablaze with peak autumn color. (Palisades, Idaho)  

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) aspens autumn foliage Idaho mountain maples Palisades https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/9/pockets-of-perfection Thu, 24 Sep 2020 07:12:00 GMT
Beyond the Obvious https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/9/beyond-the-obvious As a kid maybe you enjoyed cloud-watching: laying in the grass, gazing at puffy cumulus clouds as they drifted by, and letting your imagination run free. You might have seen a horse, or an elephant, or a puppy up there in the sky. 

In many ways, abstract nature photography reminds me of that long-ago game.

Colors, shapes, patterns, and textures can be rendered in such a way that the subject of a photograph may not be obvious. Avoiding the impulse to look at the caption, one might imagine a variety of things in an abstract image. Even if you can guess what you're looking at, it's interesting to see things from a different perspective.

Photographers can utilize a variety of different methods to make abstract images. Isolate a subject with the telephoto - or take it a step further and go as tight as you can with the macro lens. Employ intentional camera movement. Change your perspective. Shoot from an unusual angle. 

I enjoy shooting obviously recognizable subjects, but abstracts are just as much of a pleasure to create. (Sometimes more so.)

Just like the cloud-watching game: what do you see?

FireworksFireworksAbstract of Western Salsify plant gone to seed - its lines and shapes reminiscent of exploding fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Essence of AutumnEssence of AutumnAbstract rendering of brilliant foliage in the Hiawatha National Forest (Michigan's Upper Peninsula)

Mineral Stain IIWishbonesPictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Near Munising, Michigan)


 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) abstract photography abstracts https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/9/beyond-the-obvious Thu, 17 Sep 2020 07:10:00 GMT
A Thousand Words https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/9/1000-words "One picture is worth a thousand words."

Popularized in modern times by the early 20th century American advertising industry, variations of that sentiment have been around for hundreds of years (and expressed by some very famous people, including Leonardo da Vinci).

It's true for photographs as well as paintings. A single image can convey what might take many pages of text to describe.

Even more powerful is the idea that those words are not static: because viewers interpret images uniquely, it's easy to imagine how a single picture can easily be worth hundreds of words - or yes, even a thousand of them. The words a picture paints for me may be very different than those it paints for you.

Create a series or collection of photographs, and now you've got an essay. Maybe a novella! Curating multiple images around a theme enables the photographer to tell a richer story...or present an intriguing concept...or ask a question. Collections can also be an excellent opportunity to combine "big" landscapes along with more intimate impressions to better showcase a location or express an idea. Just like moviemaking: start with an establishing shot and then move in for more detail. 

Your collection might be based on a literal concept, or lean more to the abstract. I've been building a series under the working title "From Out of the Mist" which contains images like these:
 

Dappled Fog Autumn New EnglandCurtain RisingRecipe for an idyllic scene: take some early morning lake fog, add a dash of brilliant autumn color, and finish with an iconic New England church. (The "Little White Church" sits on the shore of Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire.)

Revealed Chocorua Lake White Mountains New HampshireRevealedClearing fog just after sunrise picks up color from the first light, and reveals part of the shoreline at Chocorua Lake. (Tamworth, New Hampshire) Misty ApparitionMisty ApparitionWispy fog dances through the mountains on the heels of rain showers. The wet conditions amplify the colorful appearance of the autumn foliage. (Pinkham Notch - White Mountains, New Hampshire)

Thinking about my work from a thematic perspective also gives me ideas about what I'd like to shoot moving forward. What stories am I trying to tell? What chapters still need to be written in order to complete the narrative?

Speaking of which, sometimes a series or collection turns into a book project. "Seasons in Teton Country" is one on which I'm currently working. Its outlines were established a few years ago; over time the remaining details continue to be added. 
 

spring at Grand Teton National ParkSpotlight on SpringAfternoon storms forming over the Teton Range create quickly changeable - and dramatic - skies. A few rays of light break through, highlighting the lush springtime foliage. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

And the Rain Came Teton Peaks from Driggs IdahoAnd the Rain CameSheets of rain darken the sky above this old, abandoned homestead standing in a field of wheat. (Alta, Wyoming)

Leaves of GoldLeaves of GoldAspens standing beneath Grand Teton at the height of autumn color. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

Long ShadowsLong ShadowsThe low angle of the sun during the winter months creates wonderful long shadows. Here, they extend from the cottonwoods all the way to the barn, their blue hue mimicking that of the clear, early morning sky. (T.A. Moulton Barn - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
You can create stories without being a writer in the literal sense. Good photographs have their own very special way with words; what they have to say can be compelling.

Write on!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn fog Grand Teton National Park misty photograph picture seasons Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/9/1000-words Thu, 10 Sep 2020 07:12:00 GMT
Reliving the Moment https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/9/reliving-the-moment Radiant Red White Mountains New HampshireRadiant RedVibrant autumn foliage can nearly always be found in this spot at Bear Notch. The season this image was made, however, the crimson leaves outdid themselves. Mount Washington, often cloud covered, is visible in the distance - entirely in the clear. (White Mountains, New Hampshire) I consider the autumn foliage display in New England to be one of the greatest shows on earth - and there's no place I'd rather enjoy the spectacle than in New Hampshire's White Mountains. 

I'll never forget the first time I saw the tree-covered mountains painted in fiery colors. It was captivating; the immense beauty took my breath away. I found it difficult to focus on the task at hand - namely, keeping the car on the road! I'd never seen anything like it. 

Even more special is the memory of my father's reaction to the "show" during his first early October visit to my new home. Trained as a landscape architect, this was a guy who appreciated nature. His delight at what he was experiencing was palpable; the "oohs" and "ahhs" didn't stop. Each new scene seemed to be more spectacularly beautiful to him than whatever had come before. I could appreciate what he was feeling. 

For me there have been many lengthy autumnal excursions to the White Mountains since then, spanning more than 20 years. I've seen that landscape over and over again yet it never gets old. The days shorten, the leaves begin to turn, there's a chill in the air...and it's time to pack up the camera gear and head for my little slice of heaven on earth.

Each year when I catch my first glimpse of the mountains in all their October glory - exploding in bright oranges and yellows along with various fantastic shades of red you must see to believe - it's a deeply moving experience. It can bring tears to my eyes. And without fail, at that moment I also think of my father. I relive his first reaction.

The White Mountains grabbed onto my heart long ago and never let go. I feel a profound connection to this beautiful place.

Autumn in New Hampshire's north country means long workdays with the camera. There's always a lot of ground to cover and much to accomplish. Somehow, though, it doesn't feel like work.   

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage mountains New Hampshire White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/9/reliving-the-moment Thu, 03 Sep 2020 07:15:00 GMT
The Summer Garden https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/8/the-summer-garden Prescott Park Portsmouth New HampshireSummer at the GardenPrescott Park's Formal Garden is awash with vibrant color at the height of its summer display. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

“How deeply seated in the human heart is the liking for gardens and gardening.” 
— Alexander Smith

This is certainly true for me! No doubt I inherited my love of gardens and garden design from my father, who was trained as a landscape architect (even though he went on to become a civil engineer). Like my dad, I tinker in my own gardens and relish exploring them when traveling.

Give me a beautiful garden to wander through - or better yet, to sit within and linger - and I'll be a happy camper.

Not surprisingly, I also love to photograph them! 

My favorites include the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois with millions of plants in a variety of settings scattered across 385 acres; a little bit of heaven on earth. Then there are the exquisite formal and informal gardens at The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, these are a living legacy to the man considered to be America's foremost landscape architect. 

Gardens don't have to be immense in order to be magical, though. I'll happily spend any afternoon in the petite Formal Garden at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, pictured here. Steps away from the Piscataqua River and anchored by spectacular, mature crabapple trees, it's a wonderful place to find shade on a hot summer day. Featuring red brick walkways and filled with colorful annuals during the blooming season, white benches scattered throughout beckon visitors to linger. The garden's three fountains add to the ambiance.

(My appreciation of the Formal Garden extends beyond the aesthetic to the sentimental: my husband and I were married there.)

Due to its small size, proximity to the center of town, and popularity, it's not an easy place to make photographs. Quarters are somewhat cramped and there are nearly always people around. That said, if you're willing to come out very early in the day (just before the sun comes up), your chances of working without an unreasonable amount of company will be greatly improved.

If you're visiting Portsmouth, be sure to give yourself time to enjoy Prescott Park.

Take a SeatTake a SeatWhite benches line the perimeter of the formal garden, inviting visitors to linger and enjoy the lovely setting.

 

Trees in Bloom, Beds Ready for PlantingAnticipationThe beds in Prescott Park's formal garden await planting as the crab trees in full bloom take center stage. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) flowers garden New England New Hampshire Portsmouth Prescott Park summer https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/8/the-summer-garden Thu, 27 Aug 2020 07:14:00 GMT
A Mere Photograph https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/8/a-mere-photograph Autumn at Oxbow Bend Grand Teton National ParkScene StealerThe sun's first warm rays light the trees along the Snake River shoreline, making the foliage pop. The effect is magnified with Mount Moran in partial shadow. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) Sometimes intended praise falls a little bit flat.

Case in point: in a recent letter to the editor of a magazine to which I subscribe, the writer expressed admiration for a photograph which had been published in an earlier issue. He said the image reminded him of a great painting rather than a mere photo. 

A mere photo... 

I chuckled when I read that. While I'm sure it wasn't intended as such, that's what I'd call a backhanded compliment! 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Perhaps this fellow simply prefers paintings to photographs. Or when he thinks of photographs it's casual snapshots which come to mind. Maybe his definition of "art" is limited to paintings and sculpture.

Is photography art?

Are the only true artists people like the Rembrandts and Van Goghs of the world? What about Ansel Adams? Or Michael Kenna? Galen Rowell?

Consider the word photography, which comes from the Greek language and roughly translated means "drawing with light." 

Both the painter and the photographer create images. The painter begins with a blank canvas, adding one brushstroke at a time. Conversely, the photographer's process is subtractive (especially true of the nature/outdoor photographer): simplifying the lovely chaos which is inherent in the landscape, removing extraneous and/or distracting elements, distilling the scene to its essence.  

Both paintings and photographs can be either representational or abstract.

A painting takes time to create. Certainly in the case of nature photography, this is also true. It's not as simple as just tripping the shutter. It might take months - or years - to get the shot.

Becoming an accomplished painter requires hard work, skill, technical proficiency, a creative eye and an ability to visualize. The same is true of the photographer.

A good photograph, like a good painting, makes a connection with the viewer. It evokes a response.

So....is photography art? Of course! Renowned museums agree, by the way. You'll find permanent collections as well as exhibitions featuring photography at places the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, the Met, and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

"You don't take a photograph. You make it."
~Ansel Adams
  

About the image: this is the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River in the northern end of Grand Teton National Park during what was the most beautiful autumn I've experienced thus far in the Tetons. The color that season arrived early, was intensely vibrant - and then disappeared in the blink of an eye. Though we're experiencing record heat here in Teton Country this week, autumn is waiting in the wings. You'll see signs of it in the park right now. It won't be long before the aspens and cottonwoods begin turning. 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park Oxbow Bend photography Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/8/a-mere-photograph Thu, 20 Aug 2020 07:14:00 GMT
Nautical New England https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/8/shoreline-guardians Morning GloryMorning GloryIn autumn and winter, the spot where the sun first appears in the morning shifts significantly further south - creating opportunities to compose images featuring Nubble Light and colorful skies at daybreak much differently than during the longest days of summer. (Cape Neddick, Maine) New England has a wonderful, unique character. There you'll find rich colonial history, picturesque villages filled with antique red-brick buildings, old white churches with tall steeples, covered bridges, mile after mile of stone walls, quaint seaside towns, panoramic mountain views, and - of course - brilliant autumn foliage.

Another signature sight? Lighthouses. This is a seafaring region with a longstanding maritime tradition, after all. Think about New England and you probably conjure up an image of a lighthouse or two. Like Butch and Sundance, Lennon and McCartney, Aparicio and Fox - it's a classic pairing.

Nine of the ten oldest lighthouses in the United States are located in New England. And if you're looking to get the most bang for your lighthouse buck, head to Maine - home to more than 60 of them. Among those many dozens of shoreline beauties is Cape Neddick Light Station (aka Nubble Light) on the Atlantic coast in far-southern York. 

It's not the oldest, nor is it the tallest, but it's absolutely endearing and definitely my favorite.

Fun fact: Voyager I, launched in 1977 and now way "out there" in interstellar space, carries onboard it a so-called Golden Record which contains, among other things, photographs of notable features one can find on Earth - both natural and man made. The Pale Blue Dot's hit parade, so to speak. If you guessed that a photo of the Nubble is included on that disc, you're correct! When the goal is to show off the magnificence of our planet to any extra-terrestrials who might happen upon the spacecraft and rummage through its contents, why not include this lovely lighthouse as an example? In my book, it was an inspired choice.

In case you're wondering, nearly 43 years after its launch, Voyager I is still communicating with the Deep Space Network and continues to transmit data back to NASA. As far as we know, nobody has looked at that Golden Record just yet...

Anyway, back to Maine. A relative youngster, the Nubble was constructed in 1879. Perched on a steep rocky inlet and visible for 13 nautical miles, it's still in use today, though its enchanting Victorian keeper's house in now unoccupied; the lighthouse was automated in 1987. Added to the National Historic Register in 1985, it's one of the last remaining Maine lighthouses to still have its Fresnel lens.

My home in New Hampshire was only about 25 miles from Nubble Light. I spent many early morning hours in its company with my camera. Often it was just the four of us: me, the camera, the lighthouse - and the wind. Even in the summer it can be a chilly spot in the darkness before dawn thanks to that wind. Let's just say after an hour or two out there it often felt very good to jump back in the car and blast the heat.

If you're visiting the area, don't miss Nubble Lighthouse. York is a quick run up either Route 1 or I-95 from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Try to stop by at the edges of the day as it gets quite crowded during the summer months and again when the leaves are turning. Once in York, go to the far north end of Long Sands Beach. Nubble Road will be the first right. Make your way through a residential area above the coastline before arriving at Sohier Park, where you'll make another right. There's a parking lot (space is limited) - and Fox's Lobster House is nearby if you're hungry. Obviously, their menu features plenty of lobstah! But also chowdah. Ice cream. Blueberry pie. And much more. Fox's is open May through mid-October. 

I made the photograph featured above on a blustery and frigid late November morning. Though heavy overcast hung over the scene at dawn, it broke in time for spectacular color to develop just before the sun came up. Not only were the conditions lovely, but I was able to enjoy it all in complete solitude. Quite a magical start to the day.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic Ocean Cape Neddick Light lighthouse Maine nautical New England Nubble Light sunrise York https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/8/shoreline-guardians Thu, 13 Aug 2020 07:13:00 GMT
This Wonderful World https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/8/what-a-wonderful-world Emerald and IceEmerald and IceGlacier Bay National Park, Alaska Written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, What a Wonderful World was recorded by the great Louis Armstrong and first released in 1967. While it charted in the United Kingdom, the record wasn't promoted in the U.S. so did not perform well. In spite of this, the song picked up traction over the years as it was used in a variety of television projects. Finally, after being featured in the 1988 film Good Morning, Vietnam it became quite popular and was re-released as a single.

It's never too late!

(Others have covered it, but I'm partial to Armstrong's performance.)

In 1990 I was back again in Hawaii, touring Kauai's spectacular Waimea Canyon and Napali coast by helicopter. Though I had my camera with me, this was a sightseeing excursion rather than a charter photo flight. The door remained on; I had to shoot through the window and the flight path was set rather than flexible. Still, I had two-way communication with the pilot. As we began the return to the airport, he said he was going to let the scenery do the rest of the talking while he played some music. What a Wonderful World was the first tune up. I'll never forget seeing those stunning aerial views of the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" while listening to Satchmo sing about how wonderful it all was. Indeed.

The incredible beauty in nature never ceases to amaze me. Not only is it lovely to look at, it's restorative. Balm for the soul, to borrow a phrase.

Particularly this year with all the seemingly endless craziness, I treasure every opportunity to get "out there" - wherever that might be. A national park or some other type of exotic location isn't a prerequisite (though I'm lucky to live near two parks and frequent one of them as often as possible). It can be as simple as sitting on my deck watching farmers harvest their crops in the distance as clouds drift by. No phone. No computer. No devices of any kind. Nobody admonishing me to "do this" or "do that" in the name of....something. Just nature.

Need a break from the insanity? Go outside. Nature doesn't have an agenda. Nature will help to ease your mind. 

"Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."
-Henry David Thoreau
 

If you're wondering about the images, the aerial shot was captured over Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park from a DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver (the quintessential Alaska bush plane). The photograph below was made in far northern McHenry County, Illinois.  

Amber Waves of GrainAmber Waves of GrainFar northern McHenry County, Illinois

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Glacier Bay National Park Illinois Louis Armstrong nature photography What a Wonderful World https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/8/what-a-wonderful-world Thu, 06 Aug 2020 07:34:00 GMT
Consolation Prize https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/7/consolation-prize The Comet Neowise and I didn't sync up, unfortunately. It wasn't for lack of effort on my part. As is often the case, Mother Nature had other ideas.

Late last week I made my final attempt to photograph the celestial visitor, this time in Grand Teton National Park. Clear skies were forecast for the evening, with an extra bonus of pop-up storms early in the afternoon. If all went well, perhaps I could snag a monsoonal shot while waiting for Neowise to make an appearance over the Teton Range later that night. 

Unfortunately, the forecast turned out to be less than accurate.

Though the storms did arrive, they pushed into the area many hours later than predicted. It was evening when they finally materialized. Then, rather than popping up and moving along, they settled in for the night.

Completely overcast, there was no sunset - and absolutely no hope to see the comet. Still the day managed to pay dividends.

Though it took many hours to develop, once the monsoonal activity began to move into the valley its progression was rapid. Climbing high into the sky very quickly, its leading edge was quite spectacular. I had to scramble to find a good position from which to photograph it: my initial location was much too close to the Teton peaks. 

I settled on Antelope Flats, from which I could include both the mountain range and everything that was going on overhead. Though I made a few panoramics, in the end I preferred the single capture.

No comet for me this time. But the consolation prize turned out to be pretty nice.

Leading EdgeLeading EdgeA monsoonal storm advances into Jackson Hole (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)  

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park monsoon mountains storm summer Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/7/consolation-prize Thu, 30 Jul 2020 07:34:00 GMT
You're the Artist https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/7/youre-the-artist Single DigitsSingle DigitsBoth the sky and the shoreline below are painted with warm hues just before sunrise - making the frigid January morning seem a little less icy. (Atlantic Ocean at Rye, New Hampshire) Way back in the pre-Internet days, if you wanted to teach yourself how to become a photographer you probably did so with the help of some books and magazines. That's the route I took, anyway. Good instructional manuals written by talented outdoor photographers were key to providing a solid foundation. Then I discovered Outdoor Photographer magazine, which featured great "how to" articles and regular columns by accomplished artists like Bill Neill, Frans Lanting and George Lepp. (OP now is but a shadow of what it once was, but as long as Neill keeps contributing, I continue to subscribe.) Finally, some of the best "textbooks" for me were coffee table masterpieces showcasing the work of my favorite photographers. Studying images created by artists like Galen Rowell or David Muench was - and continues to be - an excellent education and source of inspiration.

That was then. Now workshops proliferate and you can find scores of photography articles and video tutorials online. There's an abundance of information, some of which is very good. Useful tips; suggestions regarding how to develop your creativity; different approaches to processing. We all continue to evolve as artists. New ideas and techniques are always interesting to think about and experiment with.

That said, you'll also find many opinions regarding what you "should" and "shouldn't" do to make good landscape photos. Everyone has opinions. It's what makes the world go 'round! You can agree or not. Trust yourself. 

Of course there are some universal truths both about fundamentals like exposure and focus and how to control them as well as the basics of composition. Then there are guidelines like the rule of thirds. Often you'll follow these. But there may very well be times when "breaking the rules" results in fantastic photos. The better you understand the concepts behind the guidelines, the better positioned you'll be to jettison them when it makes sense to go in a different direction.    

Beyond the basics, there are many schools of thought about outdoor photography, such as:

  • To make unique images, avoid "big" landscapes. Go for intimate compositions instead.
  • Only use your wide angle to make landscape photographs.
  • You must have a pronounced foreground subject to create a strong landscape composition.
  • Stay away from icons like Yosemite's Half Dome or Olympic's sea stacks. You can't do anything original with them. 
  • Compositions featuring spectacular conditions aren't interesting. The intense weather or colorful sunset "happened" to you. Those types of shots prove only that you have patience and perseverance.
  • Never shoot during the middle of the day. Put your camera away after sunrise and don't get it out again until magic hour in the evening.
  • Create complete images in-camera. You shouldn't be processing at all. 

I'm sure you've run across at least some of what's on this short list (which contains contradictory advice). They're opinions: neither right nor wrong. What works for one isn't necessarily the next person's cup of tea. In this context, "must" or "shouldn't" are better taken as suggestions. You're the artist. It's up to you to determine how to create your art. 

Certainly it's important to get the basics correct. Know your equipment. Know how to create a technically good photo. But when it comes to subject matter and how to tell the story, don't feel you must follow everyone's advice - and don't worry about pleasing everybody else!

Art is subjective. You have a unique vision; be yourself. 

When you look at paintings in an art museum, do you like every piece on display? Probably not.  

While I enjoy a wide range of styles from impressionism to post-impressionism to American Realism, I favor French Impressionism the most. Does that mean I like every impressionist painting ever created? No. And while Claude Monet is one of my favorite painters, some of his pieces resonate more than others. 

So it will be with your photographs. Different people will be drawn to different images for different reasons. 

Photograph what you love. Strive to find ways to creatively compose the shot in a way that conveys what you're seeing or feeling to the viewer. The more effectively you're able to do this, the more likely your images will resonate with your audience. 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) artist outdoor photography photographer photography tips https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/7/youre-the-artist Thu, 23 Jul 2020 07:10:00 GMT
A Feast for the Eyes https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/7/a-feast-for-the-eyes The Wedding TreesThe Wedding TreesMiddle Teton, Grand Teton, and Mount Owen framed by the Wedding Trees. (Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming)
2020: serving up the mother of all perfect storms. I can't say I saw this coming when the clock struck midnight last New Year's Eve. 

That said, there have also been some pleasant surprises this year, one of which is happening right now in this part of the Intermountain West. "Green season" (which just happens to be my favorite time in Teton Country) has lingered well past its normal departure date. Head into the Snake River Canyon between Jackson and Alpine (Wyoming), or Eastern Idaho's Palisades, or Swan Valley, or Grand Teton National Park, and you'll be greeted by a landscape that remains spectacularly green.

Normally, by July the runoff is only a memory, meaningful rainfall is hard to come by, and the heat settles in; valleys and slopes transition to yellow as the grasses and rabbit brush dry out. The bright, lime green of new foliage on cottonwood trees shifts and becomes darker and more subdued. Fire season begins. The high desert, having temporarily forgotten itself for a few blissful weeks during springtime, once again looks like - the high desert.   

Not this year, though!

Thanks to a spring that was colder than usual (including unexpected measurable snowfall as low as 4500 feet at the end of May) and a period of uninterrupted soaking rain just two weeks ago, the spectacular greens persist. Eye candy! 

If, like me, you're a fan of green season, and you've been planning on visiting the park this summer anyway, now's the time to do it. The weather pattern has shifted; there's no precipitation in the long-range forecast and daytime temperatures are rising. The lush greens aren't going to last much longer.

The park is nearly completely open. Campgrounds, the main visitor center, Jenny Lake boat rides, the Jenny Lake Ranger Station, bookstores, permits desks, Colter Bay, wildlife tours - all open. Exceptions include Jenny Lake Lodge and Jackson Lake Lodge, both of which will remain closed for the 2020 season, the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, LSR Preserve Center, and some guided activities. 

The photograph above (from Bridger-Teton National Forest) was made on Monday.

Green!

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Bridger-Teton National Forest green season Tetons Wedding Trees Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/7/a-feast-for-the-eyes Thu, 16 Jul 2020 07:10:00 GMT
Those Pesky Forecasts https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/7/those-pesky-forecasts When I'm not traveling, I tune in to the local weather early every morning without fail. This routine is somewhat laughable; I'm well aware forecasting is a bit of a crapshoot. The 8-day projection seems more like a random guess; it's typically a moving target. Even the current day's forecast often fails to unfold as predicted. Still, you'll find me peering intently at the future-cast. That said, I'm not completely gullible! If a photo shoot looks plausible, I consult my weather apps to see if there's any sort of agreement. (Currently on my phone: NOAA Weather, AccuWeather, MyRadar, Clear Outside, Willy-Weather - which I use mainly to check the wind forecast, and WeatherBug.)

Last week, I took Mr. Local Meteorologist at his word when he indicated I could expect towering thunderheads to develop over the mountains that afternoon. It's July, after all, and that sort of thing often happens in the Rocky Mountains during the summer months. I packed up my gear and pointed the vehicle toward Jackson Hole. 

Cumulus clouds were abundant. So far so good.

Needing a place from which I could photograph both the promised thunderheads and the storm I anticipated would follow, I passed through the park and continued on about 20 miles to the northeast. Approaching the Continental Divide, you pick up altitude; eventually there is a wonderful view back to the west of both the Teton Range and the valley below. This would be a great spot to capture whatever was going to develop.

Settling in to wait for the show, it became apparent the towering clouds weren't going to materialize. Though plentiful cumulus pillows hung around, they failed to climb higher in the sky. Rain developed and moved through the valley, but it wasn't "showy." When it did pass, the skies turned flat. 

I was committed to waiting it out. Besides, there are worse things to do than spend an afternoon/evening watching changeable skies over the Tetons! 

After a few hours, an alert rang through on my phone: heavy weather was headed in my direction with 50mph downdrafts expected. I could see it coming. The skies over the mountains were shaping up nicely. 

It moved quickly; I only had time to make two panoramics before the sky lost definition as the rain closed in on my position. Though the final image was initially processed in color, ultimately I felt that the progression of the storm was better emphasized in black and white. 

Not what was forecast. Not what I expected to see. Still a good day.

Buckle UpBuckle UpHeavy weather moves through Jackson Hole on an early summer afternoon. (Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) clouds Grand Teton National Park monsoon storm summer Teton Range Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/7/those-pesky-forecasts Thu, 09 Jul 2020 07:14:00 GMT
Bloom Where You're Planted https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/7/bloom-where-youre-planted Don't live in close proximity to a national park or other iconic natural location? 

Don't have the budget - or time - to do a lot of traveling to such places?

Don't despair. In terms of your development as an outdoor photographer, this may be a blessing in disguise; there can be many benefits to working in closer proximity to where you live.

I began shooting in earnest when I relocated from Los Angeles to New Hampshire in the mid-1990s. Prior to that my job took me out on the road nearly every week. As partner at an executive search firm in New England, the hours were very long but at least I wasn't constantly flying back and forth. I could sneak in some time with the camera but most often it was going to have to be local.

The topography of the Granite State was delightfully different than what I'd been accustomed to. There's a little bit of everything: ocean shoreline, marshes, rivers, lakes, dense forests, mountains - including the highest peak in the Northeast - but it's compact. Most of it is within relatively easy reach. And while there are signature sights in New Hampshire, and photographers do visit (especially during foliage season), it's not filled with "hot spots" like the Snake River Overlook in the Tetons or Yosemite's Tunnel View, where it's easy to find tripod impressions made by the hundreds of people who've come previously and set up in exactly the same spot. 

For me, that was just about perfect.

It forced me to figure things out for myself. I explored what seemed like every nook and cranny in every region of the state. I identified the areas in which I had the most interest. I became well acquainted with weather patterns and conditions. I found my own locations and compositions. What stories did I want to tell? How would I convey them? 

Working in areas that are a little further off the beaten path increases the likelihood that your images will be more unique, and it's training that will stay with you when you do visit locations to which photographers flock. I consider myself fortunate to have had New Hampshire as my classroom.

Does it mean one can't make unique images in iconic spots? Do I have something against Zion or Death Valley or the Grand Canyon? Absolutely not! What it does mean is that you can make interesting images just about anywhere. Shooting closer to home is a great way to train yourself to see the beauty that is everywhere, and to learn how to reveal it in a unique, compelling way.

Don't feel you're at a disadvantage if you're based in Northern Illinois, or Eastern Iowa (both places I've called home) - or wherever it is that you live. 

Bloom where you're planted. 

Autumn reflections Lamprey River Durham New HampshireImpressionisticFallen leaves floating on the surface of the Lamprey River, their movement captured with a long exposure, combine with reflections of autumn color along the shoreline to create an impressionistic scene. (Near Durham, New Hampshire)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage New Hampshire Photographer's Guide photography Rebecca Metschke Photography reflections river https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/7/bloom-where-youre-planted Thu, 02 Jul 2020 07:10:00 GMT
What's So Grand About the Tetons? https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/6/whats-so-grand-about-the-tetons Face-to-FaceFace-to-FaceAerial view of the Grand from the west (Teton Range, Wyoming)
I've been trying to convince a long-time friend and classmate from high school days to visit the area, having offered to serve as Grand Teton National Park tour guide. He quipped that, were he to do so, he'd discover the answer to the age-old question: "What's so grand about the Tetons?"

Though that comment was obviously tongue in cheek, I thought about it while working late last week in both the park and neighboring Bridger-Teton National Forest. I remembered my reaction when I first saw the Tetons some 25 years ago, and considered how they elicit much the same feeling even now. What's so grand about them? In a word, everything. I wonder if "grand" is a grand enough descriptor.

It was love at first sight when I ventured into Grand Teton National Park on that long-ago initial visit, and the feeling has only intensified over the years as I've had the opportunity to spend much time there and become closely acquainted with the place. Though I left New Hampshire reluctantly and with a heavy heart, there are worse things in life than living so close to this magical slice of Northwest Wyoming. 

There's nothing subtle or demure about the Teton Range - and it's about as far from the landscape of my youth (the mostly flat American Midwest) as one can get. Geologically speaking, the Tetons are quite young; as a result their profile is jagged and dramatic. With no foothills on their eastern side, they rise abruptly and tower over the valley. This unique absence of visual obstructions makes the massive peaks even more commanding and awe-inspiring. Everything about the Tetons is grand. Imposing. Palatial. Formidable.

While my beloved White Mountains of New Hampshire sing, the Tetons shout out. Both are worthy of admiration but tug at the heart in different ways.

Though the rugged mountains are undoubtedly the park's signature sight, its many lakes are also superb - including 15-mile long Jackson Lake, Jenny Lake nestled at the base of Teewinot Mountain, and Taggart Lake situated at the terminus of Avalanche Canyon. The Snake River, which originates in neighboring Yellowstone, also winds its way through the park and supports a wide variety of wildlife including moose, beavers, otters and ospreys. 

And though the view from the western slope is quite different (there are foothills on that side), the peaks are no less magnificent when experienced and savored from places like Alta, Wyoming or Tetonia, Idaho or Ashton, Idaho. 

(Note to landscape photographers: you may find the western side more appealing as it's far less-often photographed.)

It never ceases to amaze me when people pass through Grand Teton National Park without much more than a cursory view; Yellowstone being their main objective, they speed by on the main highway. To each his own - but they're missing out on something special.

Grand.

Do the Tetons live up to the name? Absolutely. And then some. 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park mountains Tetons West Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/6/whats-so-grand-about-the-tetons Thu, 25 Jun 2020 07:10:00 GMT
Finding Inspiration Locally https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/6/inspiration-in-the-garden Look InsideLook InsideDaylily (Hemerocallis)
Newfields, New Hampshire

As the crow flies, Grand Teton National Park is only 65 miles from my home. Unlike Mr. Crow, however, I have to drive from here to there - which adds additional mileage and involves traveling over two mountain passes. Depending on the time of year, that can get a little tricky. So while I'm fortunate to live in close proximity to such a wonderful park, it's not as though I'm there every week.

What do I photograph when I'm not in the Tetons or elsewhere on the road? I look for inspiration closer to home. During the summer months that inspiration often is only a few steps away, in my gardens.

I've actually been photographing my own flowers for many years: both back in New Hampshire and now here in Idaho. Despite the high-desert climate in this part of the Intermountain West, I've been able to get some gardens established. One of the first things I planted were day lilies. While I enjoy them for aesthetic reasons, I also find them to be great subject matter. They're prolific bloomers - and depending on the variety, the bloom period can last for quite some time. Because they're now available in such a wide range of colors and with a variety of traits (frilled vs straight petal edges, different petal shapes, single vs double blooms, etc.) you can find some really stunning combinations. 

I've spent many hours crawling among my lilies looking for interesting ways to render their beauty. The sky's the limit with flowers: you can go from realistic capture to wild abstract. For me, the abstracts are more fun - and an excellent creative challenge. 

While I can find inspiration in flower beds, for you it might be something entirely different. The point is, potential subject matter is everywhere. Especially now while travel is a little more challenging than usual, finding things to shoot closer to home might be just the ticket.   

Petal PassionPetal Passion

 

StripedStripedDaylily petal abstract (Newfields, New Hampshire)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) abstracts day lilies flowers gardens inspiration photography tips https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/6/inspiration-in-the-garden Thu, 18 Jun 2020 07:10:00 GMT
Moments of Magic https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/6/a-few-minutes-of-magic The wildflower situation so far this spring in Teton Country has been superlative. As far as Arrowleaf Balsam Root are concerned, it's been a bumper crop with thousands of bunches of sunny yellow optimism showing off in a big, bold way. Unfortunately, the timing of the bloom has coincided with a period of persistently heavy winds which has made photographing them quite challenging. Late last week I was in the park for a few days hoping to find a window of relative calm in which to work. My wind speed app told me it was going to happen - and I really wanted to believe it! 

Long story short: the forecast wasn't exactly accurate. The elusive calm conditions never materialized. It became painfully clear I probably wouldn't be capturing many images of flowers during these sessions. This being "green season," though, I was also on the lookout for subject matter that would enable me to tell that story. Perhaps all would not be lost.

The second day, I worked from sunrise until mid-morning at which point the wind became a real nuisance. Thunderstorms had been forecast but weren't supposed to arrive until evening. While weighing my options, an alert rang in on my phone: heavy weather would be arriving imminently with 40-50mph downdrafts, lightning, and heavy rain. Once again....so much for the forecast. Within 15 minutes I could see it coming; it was moving quickly. Never one to pass up a storm in the Tetons, I hurried to find a suitable spot from which I could watch (safely) - and possibly capture it with the camera. 

The storm was absolutely stunning - and unusual in that the falling rain rendered not as dark blue streaks, but white. It descended all the way from the sky to the valley floor, creating a translucent "curtain." This monochromatic backdrop accentuated the lush, signature springtime greens. Snow still clinging to the mountains added depth to the scene. 

At its heaviest, the rain nearly obscured everything. Occasionally, though, the line of trees nearest to me was clearly visible. The mountains would disappear, re-emerge, and then disappear again. Scanning the peaks, I noticed a spot where there was a break in the solid wall of rock. The dramatic "V" was a perfect backdrop - while the gauzy white accentuated the space between the first two lines of trees. I ended up with four distinct horizontal stripes at the bottom of the frame.

High winds, heavy rain, thunder, lightning - and these fantastic scenes sweeping over the landscape. Quite the spectacle!

It didn't last long, but it was pure magic. 

ThunderstruckThunderstruckAs a powerful thunderstorm moves through, a translucent curtain created by heavy rain lowers over both the mountains and valley. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

 

 

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park mountains spring storm Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/6/a-few-minutes-of-magic Thu, 11 Jun 2020 07:05:00 GMT
17 Minutes https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/6/17-minutes According to national park surveys, the average visit to the Grand Canyon lasts between five to seven hours, with just 17 minutes spent actually looking at the canyon (versus driving from one spot to the next).

That can't be right, can it?

Ah, but it's true.

While the parks are heavily visited (with some nearly overrun during peak months), for most people a visit consists of not much more than a cursory once-over. Stop at a few overlooks, grab some lunch, and you're done!

Obviously, if your objective is to make good landscape photographs at a national park, you won't be one of these 17-minute wonders. Plan on staying a while. (I'd suggest a minimum of three or four days; if you can swing more than that you won't regret it.)

No matter how thorough your advance research, there's no substitute for actual feet-on-the-ground scouting. Build time into the schedule so you can familiarize yourself with the area once you arrive. Make a connection to what you're seeing; let nature begin to "speak" to you. Identify places and/or objects that peak your interest. Study the light. Determine how long it's going to take to get from one location to the next - not just the drive, but also the hiking. From this you can build a rough schedule.

Then there's weather. It can be your friend or make life maddeningly difficult. The more time you give yourself, the greater the odds of success. (If it's a particularly challenging forecast, additional time might be what saves you from walking away completely empty-handed.) Each additional day is another chance to wait out poor conditions. Another chance to capture the aftermath when a front passes through - or before one moves in. It might provide a chance to see the landscape in a variety of completely different ways. Storms. Fog. Clearing. And naturally, each additional day provides you with one more sunrise and sunset opportunity!

Linger. You'll be glad you did.

Semi-CirclesSemi-CirclesAbove and below, sweeping arcs in reverse directions. (Vishnu Temple: North Rim - Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Canyon Grand Canyon National Park national parks North Rim https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/6/17-minutes Thu, 04 Jun 2020 07:23:00 GMT
On Repetition https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/5/on-repetition While I enjoy experiencing and photographing new locations as much as the next person, there's also much to be said for places that are frequently visited - like those closer to home. (Given the current situation, close to home may be all you've got to work with right now. And let's face it, even if things were "normal" constantly traveling to find the next exciting locale can be costly and time consuming.)

As mentioned in a recent post, when I lived in New Hampshire I spent countless mornings working at the seacoast for the better part of five years. My husband once asked whether that didn't get boring.

I'll bet you can guess my answer!  

Going to the same area over and over again is the only way to truly get to know it. You see it in different types of light. In a variety of conditions. During different times of the year. You can see how it changes over time, and you'll learn what to expect from Mother Nature. You learn to look deeper; there are many intimate shots to be found within the bigger landscape.

Shooting a location repeatedly encourages creativity. Nothing appears exactly the same from one visit to the next. What catches the eye today may be something that appeared plain or nondescript yesterday. 

In a few days I'll be back again in the Tetons - my "local" park - where I've worked many, many times. My assignment will be to photograph "green season." What that means in terms of images, I don't yet know. Avoiding preconceived notions about specifically what I'm going to shoot creates more opportunities.

If you're feeling like you're in a rut with a location, remove expectations, keep an open mind, and slow down to give yourself a chance to notice things. The photographs will follow.

Majestic Grand Teton National ParkMajesticAs sunset nears, a dramatic sky complements the grandeur of the Teton Range while the lush greens of spring decorate the landscape below. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park repetition Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/5/on-repetition Thu, 28 May 2020 07:00:00 GMT
Avoiding Tunnel Vision https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/5/avoiding-tunnel-vision A person can have perfect 20/20 eyesight and still suffer from tunnel vision. Photographers are not immune from this malady! 

You can be so intent on getting to a specific location that you fail to notice interesting subject matter along the way. You walk right by something that would have made an even better photograph - or perhaps a more unique shot.

Working on-site, you might stick with a single composition rather than trying a different way of framing the scene, or alternate vantage points, or switching lenses. You might be so absorbed with what's in front of you that you forget to turn around and see that something equally interesting is just waiting to be photographed.

I'm not suggesting that getting expeditiously to a location in order to take advantage of favorable conditions or good light is a bad thing. We all do it. Further, the window of opportunity can be fleeting. If so, quick work is required. There may be barely enough time for more than a single shot. And of course your attention and efforts are primarily focused on the subject at hand; that's what caught your eye. Or it's what you came to shoot.

Still, be aware of tunnel vision and try to avoid it. Being mindful when out in nature pays dividends. Notice things. Slow down whenever possible. Keep an open mind. Give yourself some latitude to connect with your surroundings. And whatever you do, don't be in a rush to pack up your bag and leave.

The photo pictured below illustrates how important it can be to simply look over your shoulder. 

On this morning in Grand Teton National Park, I was hoping for fog; it had rained overnight and was still showering when I arrived on location in the hour before daybreak. Unfortunately, though the desired fog arrived, it was so thick the images I had in mind would not be possible to make. (It would be early afternoon before it burned off.) That said, the dense, opaque curtain created other interesting opportunities. I made a series of photos while the fog waxed and waned, shifting and dancing. 

While doing so, I kept an eye on what was unfolding behind me. The mountains to the east were becoming visible; the storm clouds above them had a great deal of definition; the fog was burning off more quickly in that direction. A young conifer along the river caught my eye. It stood alone, its line emphasized by its reflection. Though pretty to look at, it wasn't a photograph - until just a little bit of sunlight broke through which lit the tree, a few of the aspens in the background, and most important, the wisp of lingering fog. 

It was that illuminated bit of fog which completed the scene. This is where your eye first lands, and the spotlight effect would be much less obvious without it. Its shape is duplicated by the cloud above it which contributes to the vertical structure within the center of the frame.

That fleeting shaft of sunlight created a vignette featuring what first captured my attention: the little tree and its reflection. I wouldn't have noticed this, or made the photograph, if I hadn't looked behind my shoulder. Another bonus? It's a different way of depicting the Park; it includes none of the iconic elements you normally see. 

Take the blinders off. You'll be rewarded with more opportunities to make interesting photos.  

In the SpotlightIn the SpotlightAs heavy fog following overnight rain slowly begins to lift, a shaft of sunlight accentuates the center vignette. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn fog Grand Teton National Park Snake River https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/5/avoiding-tunnel-vision Thu, 21 May 2020 07:30:00 GMT
Back in the Saddle https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/5/back-in-the-saddle Great news! Grand Teton National Park will begin re-opening on Monday (May 18th). Just in the nick of time, too. Green season is my favorite time of year, so I couldn't be happier.

If you're wondering about other parks in this part of the country, here are a few status updates:

Yellowstone - phased re-opening beginning May 18th with entry only via the two Wyoming gates initially (the three Montana entrances will remain closed)

Zion - began phased re-opening yesterday

Bryce - reopened at the end of April

Arches - scheduled for May 29th

Canyonlands - scheduled for May 29th

Glacier - no opening has yet been announced 

Be prepared for limited services. Realistically, these measured openings mean the parks will initially be accessed mainly by locals. For example, in Grand Teton, visitor centers will remain closed for the time being, lodging inside the park is currently unavailable and will likely be limited all season (neither Jenny Lake Lodge nor Jackson Lake Lodge will open at all this year while Signal Mountain Lodge will open some rooms on June 5th), and campgrounds are not yet open. Dornan's Trading Post at Moose is open from noon until 6pm but I don't know if that includes the deli; Colter Bay convenience store opens on the 22nd with the general store to follow on June 5th. For now, I'd plan on bringing your own food and water to make sure you don't go hungry. 

Something is better than nothing. This is a step in the right direction.

spring at Grand Teton National ParkSpotlight on SpringAfternoon storms forming over the Teton Range create quickly changeable - and dramatic - skies. A few rays of light break through, highlighting the lush springtime foliage. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/5/back-in-the-saddle Thu, 14 May 2020 07:30:00 GMT
Short But Sweet https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/5/short-but-sweet When you think of New England and the sea, you might conjure up images of lobster boats working off the coast of Massachusetts, or scores of sailboats in Newport Harbor, or iconic Maine lighthouses. Chances are New Hampshire doesn't jump into your head. And really, why would it? Glancing at a map of the United States, the Atlantic Coast of the northeast may appear to pass directly from Massachusetts to Maine. Move right along. Nothing to see here! 

But New Hampshire does have an ocean shoreline. In fact, the southeast section of the state (where I lived for more than 20 years) is designated the Seacoast Region. At only 18 miles, New Hampshire's Atlantic coast may be short (the shortest oceanfront of any state) - but it's spectacular. By the way, as if 18 miles isn't slight enough, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration calculates it as a mere 13 miles. 18, 13....either way it's not a lot. It doesn't need to be, though. There's much to see.

You'll find rocky beaches, sandy beaches and promontories. There's a harbor (Rye), along with the entrance to another one (Portsmouth) at the point where the Piscataqua River's mouth meets the sea. There are four state parks. And there is history. For example: the transatlantic telegraph cable which traversed the ocean's floor first to Newfoundland and then all the way to Ireland was laid in 1874 at a spot near Jenness State Beach. Further north, Odiorne Point State Park is the site of the state's first English settlement (1623). There you'll also find the ruins of Second World War-era gun turrets. 

Come to the shore to gaze out at the gulls or simply sit and listen to the water while you let your mind wander. Walk the beach, or one of the paths lined by hardy wild roses along Ocean Boulevard. Scramble over huge granite boulders in rugged sections where the sand retreats. Like seafood? You'll find places to enjoy fresh catch just off the boat. During the dog days of summer, come here for relief; this far north the water is always cold. In the winter you might be treated to a glimpse of a snowy owl. On very cold winter mornings, sea smoke forms and hovers over the water. 

I spent a lot of time along this Atlantic shore, camera in hand. There were three locations at which I liked to work - but most often you'd find me at a large tidal pool in Rye, usually at the beginning of the day. The start times in June and July were tough (out of bed at 3:30am to drive over, get set up and be ready to shoot by 4:15) and the temperatures in January were brisk, but oh how I enjoyed those mornings....and miss them. There was almost never anyone around; it was just me at the water's edge and the lobster boats out on the ocean. Even when the conditions weren't conducive to making a photo, there was something special about the blissful solitude and the opportunity to watch darkness turn to light. Not a bad way to start the day.

So yes, Virginia, New Hampshire has a seacoast. And it's wonderful.   TranquilTranquilColorful palette in the eastern sky at daybreak is reflected in a large tidal pool. A long exposure blurs the ocean beyond, contrasting nicely with the still water in the foreground. (Rye, New Hampshire)

  

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic ocean coast New Hampshire ocean tidal pool https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/5/short-but-sweet Thu, 07 May 2020 07:00:00 GMT
Speaking of Green https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/4/speaking-of-green Shenandoah SpringShenandoah SpringEarly spring color in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Shenandoah National Park creates interesting patterns in lime green. Dappled late-day light enhances the effect. (From Skyline Drive near Rockfish Gap, Virginia) There's something magical about spring.

Winter's darkness and often-dreary, monochromatic landscapes are transformed into something completely different - seemingly overnight. While the days have been growing longer since late December and the sun has been creeping ever higher in the sky, these things happen rather quietly and unassumingly until suddenly all those added minutes and gently climbing temperatures combine to reach a glorious crescendo. All at once the earth is giddy and impatient to awaken.

A stretch of divine, warm days arrives and you look out the window to see something that wasn't there yesterday: shade! The trees got together for a little confab and decided "today's the day!" Presto! 

If springtime were a color, of course it would have to be green. As leaves bud and then unfurl, the lush new growth paints lawns, gardens, hillsides and forests in a rich variety of greens. How to describe all those beautiful hues? Green in the landscape is never more lovely - and more varied - than in the spring.

Lime. Chartreuse. Forest. Sage. Juniper. Fern. Kelly. Hunter. Mint.

In the Rocky Mountains, we're a little late to the party. Higher altitudes and a dry climate will do that. But even here at this time of year we speak green, emphatically and beautifully! The runoff will finish making its way down the mountains and all too soon those greens will necessarily bid us farewell as the dry summer days settle in. For now, though, I revel in it: the language of green. The language of spring.      

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) green green season mountains Shenandoah National Park spring Virginia https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/4/speaking-of-green Thu, 30 Apr 2020 07:00:00 GMT
The Spice of Life https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/4/the-spice-of-life ‘Variety's the very spice of life,
That gives it all its flavour.’
~William Cowper

Most of the time, you'll find me photographing landscapes in the natural world. That said, I shoot other subject matter, too - like cityscapes and architecture. One of my favorite places to do that is in my home city: Chicago.

Since most of the buildings downtown were completely destroyed by the great fire of 1871, Chicago's skyline is a relatively recent creation (and, like every city, continues to change over time). Still, the modern skyscraper can trace much of its history to Chicago and the Chicago School of Architecture. The city boasts a variety of styles and many landmark masterpieces.  

Whether you're a first-time visitor or a native, the Chicago Architecture Foundation's river cruise is a wonderful way to become acquainted with the stories of how many of the buildings lining the Chicago River came to be. It's always enjoyable to cruise the Chicago River, and even if you've done so previously, you might learn and/or see something new (for example, three riverside buildings are scheduled to be completed this year). 

Beyond the skyscrapers, there are spectacularly beautiful parks - and of course, the Lake Michigan waterfront! 

While I often have specific locations and compositions in mind when I'm working in Chicago, other times I like to wander around with an open mind just to see what captures my attention. Since the light and conditions are always fluid, you never know what opportunities might present themselves.

The photograph below is an example of one of those unplanned shots. Standing in Millennium Park one late afternoon, I was admiring the lines of the Trump Tower, which at that time had just been completed. It was still a little unusual to see something up high in that spot (the unattractive Sun-Times Building which it replaced had been short and squat) - so the new skyscraper captured my attention. The building was further accentuated by the picture frame my eyes were seeing - created by the "Diamond Building" (Crain Communications) and the "Bean" (Cloud Gate). I used a telephoto lens to compress and accentuate the framing. The combination of shapes (curves on the one side and diamond on the other) and the fact that the reflections are unorthodox make for a more interesting composition. Even someone who is familiar with the city might pause for a second before recognizing that he's looking at reflections in the face of Cloud Gate, mainly because the sculpture is actually quite some distance from the Crain Building (and the Crain Building is, in turn, not at all close to the Trump Tower). 

Thanks to the telephoto lens, this is one of those instances when what the camera sees is even more fascinating than what the human eye observes. 

FlankedFlankedChicago's Trump Tower is flanked by the "Diamond Building" (Crain Communications Building) and Cloud Gate - which reflects the buildings along Michigan Avenue in a unique way on its curved surface. If you haven't already, I highly recommend shooting something completely different from what you normally photograph from time to time. Switching gears can exercise your imagination. Especially if it feels like you're in a creative rut, give it a spin. Variety is the spice of life!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) architecture Chicago Illinois skyline Trump Tower https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/4/the-spice-of-life Thu, 23 Apr 2020 07:00:00 GMT
It's Your Concert https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/4/its-your-concert There is no right or wrong way to progress from image capture to final print. 

I was asked recently about the "straight out of the camera" school of thought by an individual who was concerned he might be managing his images incorrectly. If you're unfamiliar with it, here's the concept: "Why spend time sitting in front of a computer when you can pull a properly-rendered photograph right off the card?" The implication: You're doing something wrong if you're not going directly from camera to print.

Not true.

You should certainly strive to create a complete photograph in-camera. Thoughtfully compose the shot. Pay attention to the edges of the frame. Get your focus correct. Expose properly. Use a polarizer to remove glare, etc. Avoid thinking of post-processing as a crutch with which you can correct mistakes. Images shouldn’t require an inordinate amount of time in post.

That said, there is nothing wrong with post-processing. You aren't doing something "wrong" if that's how you prepare your images for print. 

If you shoot in RAW format, you know files come off the card looking flat; RAW files contain source data which is meant to be processed. At the most basic level, Lightroom and Photoshop are simply tools which enable you to adjust the file in such a way that the photograph renders the scene as you saw it. You might tweak contrast or vibrancy. If a certain area requires exposure regulation, you can either dodge or burn as necessary. Tiny spots resulting from dust on the lens can be removed. Certainly many other things can be adjusted, but in terms of the fundamentals it often doesn’t take much to bring a RAW file to life.

Beyond that, post-processing enables the creation of images which otherwise would be difficult – or impossible – to achieve. Two examples: subject matter containing range of contrast too extreme for the camera to handle, and stitched panoramics. These types of scenes are easy for your eye to see though the camera is unable to reproduce them without some help. (The image pictured below is such an example. Without switching to a wide angle lens – which would have rendered the immense sandstone fin known as The Organ much too small – my camera couldn’t capture the beautiful expanse of clouds at Arches National Park. Nor would cropping have been a solution, since the resulting file would have been too small. Instead I shot it as a series of verticals which were then combined in Lightroom.)

What about black and white? Not all bodies are capable of monochrome shooting. In that case, unless you’re using film, you’ll be shooting in color and transitioning to black and white in post-processing.

Perhaps realism isn’t your thing. You might want to go beyond recreating exactly what your eye saw and instead render the image more artistically or abstractly. If that's your vision, there's nothing wrong with doing so. 

Don't forget: post-processing is nothing new. Film couldn't be pulled "straight out of the camera." Neither could glass plates. The darkroom was a necessary stop.

The negative is comparable to the composer's score and the print is the performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.
-Ansel Adams

It was in the lab that Adams completed his vision. Not only that, he'd re-visit images, sometimes many years later, and process some of them differently. Perhaps his taste had changed, or he wanted to try a new concept. This is the performance to which he refers. 

By all means, aim to capture images correctly in-camera. After that, though, you’re the maestro. It's your concert. Don't let anyone else take the baton!

Inspiration in RedInspiration in RedThe Organ is one of the massive sandstone formations which can be found in the Courthouse Towers area of the park. (Arches National Park, Utah)

 

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Ansel Adams Arches National Park post-processing https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/4/its-your-concert Thu, 16 Apr 2020 06:45:00 GMT
From One Extreme to the Other https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/4/from-one-extreme-to-the-other Photographing the landscape is often a tale of contrasts. 

On the one hand, we wait. 

We sit in the darkness before dawn waiting for the sky to lighten. We wait for the wind to die down. We wait for a front to move through, or for a stubbornly persistent region of low pressure to begin to ease its grip. We wait for the rain to let up. We wait for the fog to lift. We wait for the light to change.

This waiting can go on for quite some time. Hours. Days. 

After all that cooling of heels, finally - if we're lucky - we get something we can work with. Very often when that occurs, it's a flurry of activity as we scramble to take advantage of conditions which may be fleeting. And since the resulting conditions might be something other than what we were anticipating, there's the added element of improvisation on the fly.

One extreme to the other.

When you have only a narrow window in which to make a photograph, you can't afford to squander the opportunity. Decisions must be made quickly. Mistakes cannot be made.

Do you know everything your camera is capable of doing? In the blink of an eye, can you manipulate its settings to achieve whatever your objective might be - and to manage quickly changing conditions? Have you read your owners' manual? (By this I mean really reading it - not just paging through.) Though the vast majority of information contained therein is likely basic to you, you might be surprised to find some nuggets scattered throughout. There may be a few functions which you either had no idea were possible, or have never taken the time to master.

Likewise, are you up to speed regarding the capabilities of both Lightroom and Photoshop?

Since field shoots are currently constrained, now might be a great time to familiarize yourself with the full range of features at your disposal - both in terms of your gear and as far as the digital darkroom is concerned.

The image pictured below is an example of a situation in which the conditions not only changed rapidly but also created a difficult shooting environment. On this summer afternoon, storms had been firing up and moving through Grand Teton National Park. I'd been chasing them. One featuring violent winds had just passed to the southeast of the Moulton barn. Having photographed that storm, I decided to hang around and see if anything else might develop. Though the sky was flat and uninteresting for a while, finally another cell began to creep into the area - this one moving from south to north over the mountains.

Again the winds dramatically picked up; it was difficult at times to maintain balance and certainly the camera and tripod had to be tightly gripped. The sky was phenomenal, with angry-looking clouds swirling above and the distant downpour nearly obscuring the Cathedral Group. THAT was the photo, with the barn anchoring the foreground. The storm was moving very quickly; I had only seconds to decide how to compose and execute the image. 

This had to be a stitched panoramic: a pano would make it possible to see both the progress of the storm over the peaks and as much of the swirling clouds higher overhead as possible. There were two problems with that: manipulating the camera in that heavy wind (I needed to create four verticals to stitch together), and dealing with extreme contrast. Exposing for the sky was critical; it was the story. But exposing for the sky meant the barn and foreground would be extremely dark. 

The cell moved quickly. I had time for two series of verticals before widespread, heavy rain moved in and created a flat sky. I knew what I had to do to execute - and there was an element of luck at play, too, in that there was no camera shake from all that wind.

Put yourself in a position to make the most of golden opportunities like this storm. Take advantage of extra time you might have right now and augment your skills!

Moulton Barn Grand Teton National ParkTurmoil AloftA strong storm creates stunning, turbulent skies and brings with it powerful winds. As it passes, the mountains are rendered as shadows by heavy rain. (T.A. Moulton Barn - Grand Teton National Park Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Moulton Barn mountains storm Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/4/from-one-extreme-to-the-other Thu, 09 Apr 2020 08:00:00 GMT
Re-Thinking https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/4/re-thinking I hope you and yours are well during this very challenging time.

This too, shall pass. Let's hope it's reasonably soon.

In the meantime, you're probably restricted in terms of where you can go right now. I was scheduled to be photographing the tulip fields in the Pacific Northwest this week. They're at about 50% color right now, but are blooming without an audience. Following that, both Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Badlands National Park were teed up. Your shooting plans might have been disrupted also. That doesn't mean you must pack your camera away. 

A few suggestions:

Blooms

Speaking of flowers, in many parts of the country the landscape is already painted with color. Flowering shrubs, trees, and early blooming perennials like tulips, daffodils, bleeding heart and iris make great subject matter. Non-flowering perennials are also interesting; hosta leaves unfurling create fantastic shapes and are one of my favorites. Especially if you have your own garden, you'll find endless possibilities just outside your door. Get in tight to create interesting compositions. Experiment with a variety of perspectives.     

If you live in a colder climate like me, you may still be a few weeks away from garden blooms. There was fresh snow on the ground this morning in my yard! That doesn't mean you can't photograph flowers right now. Check the floral department when you next head to the market, or Wal-Mart, or wherever you're getting your groceries. You may find both potted and cut flowers - and this week and next they'll also have Easter lilies. Working inside, you'll have complete control over lighting and the setting.  I shot the dahlia pictured below inside. That year, before I planted the containers on my deck, I brought some of the annuals into my studio and spent an afternoon making abstract images with them.

In the Middle of it AllIn the Middle of it AllGarden dahlia (Dahlia pinnata) Architecture

Live in the city? Grab a long lens and have a look outside your window. Perhaps you'll notice something which has been, until now, hiding in plain sight. 

Birds

Do you provide food and/or shelter for wild birds? Consider capturing images of your feathered visitors. If you're like me and lean more heavily toward landscapes rather than wildlife photography, this is an opportunity to practice. Pull out your long lens and give it a whirl. Spoiler alert - photographing birds isn't easy, so be patient with yourself! A few basics to get you started: 1) focus on the eyes, 2) select a fast shutter speed, 3) use a shallow depth of field to blur the background, and 4) set your camera to continuous high speed.  

Full Moon

This month's full moon (known as the Pink Moon) on April 7th will be a supermoon - and because it's going to be closer to the earth in April than during any other month, it'll be biggest of 2020. Is there an open area near your home where you can be safely out and about (i.e. just you and your camera) to photograph it as it rises? Consult the Photographer's Ephemeris to determine exactly where and when it'll clear the horizon. It's at that point that it'll appear the largest, and will also take on a golden hue. 

You might've had photography plans this spring which have been scuttled. I know I have. There are still things to shoot! Get creative. Re-think your subject matter. Find beauty in the unexpected.  

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) architecture birds flowers full moon https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/4/re-thinking Thu, 02 Apr 2020 18:53:43 GMT
Improvisation https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/3/improvisation For me, if it's early March, it must be time to head for Spring Training. I've been attending for years. This season was no different, except I drove to the desert southwest rather than fly. Though a long trek, traveling by car would make it logistically easier to get from Phoenix to Indian Wells, California for the BNP Paribas Open....the second stop on my spring sports tour.

I'd no sooner arrived in Arizona than the tennis tournament was cancelled due to you-know-what. (I did manage to see three baseball games.) 

What to do? 

Since I'd planned to stop briefly at Joshua Tree National Park on the way to Palm Springs, and because I was going to be shooting at the Open, I had all of my camera gear with me. I'd still have to make the long drive back north through Utah to get home. Hmmm. Southern Utah = parks. I began to hear Arches calling...

Though I didn't exactly have the clothing I'd want for an early March shoot in the Colorado Plateau, I wasn't caught completely flat-footed. It was still cold in Idaho when I left; a few winter-ish items had been tossed into the car, like my leather jacket. That said, I didn't have my hiking boots, serious cold-weather gear, or a waterproof jacket. I'd have to make do - just as I'd have to make the best of the forecast since this was going to be a short shoot. A huge area of low pressure had moved into the southwest earlier in the week and was scheduled to remain for the duration of my visit. Worst case, the park would be socked in. Best cast, the unsettled weather might create something interesting.

Along the way, a hooded sweatshirt and inexpensive poncho were acquired. Not ideal, but helpful. Because I've worked at Arches previously, I knew what would be possible given the limitations both in terms of gear (i.e. hiking up to Delicate Arch wasn't going to happen without those boots) and the forecast, and mapped out a rough plan for the next two days.

While it did rain off and on the entire time - sometimes heavily - and temperatures dipped below freezing, conditions were quickly changeable. Flat skies periodically materialized, but didn't persist.

Though completely spur-of-the-moment and brief, the improvisational stop in Utah was successful.     

Now You See It...Now You See It...Cold temperatures and early morning rain create rolling waves of fog which alternate between transparent, translucent and opaque - occasionally exposing a wonderfully moody scene at Balanced Rock. (Arches National Park, Utah)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arches National Park Balanced Rock Utah https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/3/improvisation Thu, 26 Mar 2020 16:53:12 GMT
Trying Times https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/3/trying-times The speed with which the world has been turned upside down over COVID-19 has been astonishing. 

It's not the first pandemic or serious epidemic, and especially as global movement has become ubiquitous, unfortunately it won't be the last. (In the last roughly 60 years alone the world has experienced Hong Kong Influenza, H2N2, Swine Influenza, Ebola, and H1N1 among others.)

Obviously, everyone's hope is that the situation can be brought under control expeditiously. 

The virus may have impacted plans you had to travel with your camera this spring. That said, you can still get out and shoot. Remember, you need not jet off to some exotic destination to make images! What's just outside your door? What can you find in your yard, or in the park, or in the sky? Potential subject matter surrounds us. Exercise your creativity - or photograph something completely different from what you normally shoot. Practice something you haven't done much of before (such as close up work).

Watching the world awaken after its winter sleep is rejuvenating. I suspect this year it will be even more so. Today is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of spring. Welcome the season!

Be well.

Early BloomersEarly BloomersAmong the first to bloom each spring, tulips are a welcome sight after a harsh winter.

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) photography spring https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/3/trying-times Thu, 19 Mar 2020 13:35:41 GMT
First Taste of Spring https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/3/first-taste-of-spring Tired of winter?

We have a way to go here in the Rocky Mountain region, though in just the last week there has been a noticeable shift. Even if winter wants to hang on a while longer, the days are quite a bit longer and birds are starting to return.

Spring was often slow to come to my home in New Hampshire, also - but I recall with fondness what a joyful day it would be each year when the first of my crocus plants poked their heads up to greet the season. Sometimes they were surrounded by snow, yet their arrival announced that winter was on the retreat.

Monochromatic, snowy landscapes are nice, but the colors which spring ushers in are a welcome change! It's my favorite season. Gardens come alive; budding trees create beautiful shade seemingly overnight; shrubs bloom. There aren't enough words for the lush, wonderful shades of green which decorate the landscape.

It's coming...

First UpFirst UpThe first to appear in the garden each year, crocus signal the arrival of spring. (Newfields, New Hampshire)  

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) crocus gardens spring https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/3/first-taste-of-spring Thu, 12 Mar 2020 07:14:00 GMT
The Thrill of Victory... https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/3/the-thrill-of-victory ....and the Agony of Defeat.

If you're of a certain age, enjoy sports and grew up in the United States, you probably watched "Wide World of Sports" on Saturday afternoons just as I did. Host Jim McCay's introduction to the show, which included that phrase, became iconic.

I recalled that line a few weeks back on the anniversary of Ansel Adams' birth. Rereading some of his quotes, I was reminded of one that conjures up what McCay referenced, albeit in a context outside of sports: 

"Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer - and often the supreme disappointment."

How could the quest to make a picture possibly be so challenging? How could the process elicit feelings ranging from elation on the one hand to extreme dismay on the other?

Especially since smartphone cameras are now ubiquitous (point, snap, presto!), the idea of planning for months, or waiting a year (or more), or returning over and over again to the same location before being able to capture a specific image is probably inconceivable to many. Then there's the matter of understanding what kind of an image is possible to create and how to achieve it: mastering the technical nuances of one's equipment and becoming proficient in the digital darkroom. 

Good landscape photos are generally not created in an instant. Nor are they cranked out in rapid succession.

Outdoor photographers know a little something about striking out. While advance planning certainly improves the likelihood of success, when push comes to shove we have no control over the conditions. Every shoot does not yield a successful result. We don't always get that assist from a little bit of good luck. After all the time, effort, and expense spent trying to make an image, walking away empty-handed can be a crushing disappointment. The agony of defeat, so to speak.

But when it all comes together, especially after having struggled with poor conditions for what feels like an eternity, it can be a euphoric feeling to get the photo. Particularly after your patience has been put to the test, there's nothing like knowing you just witnessed something special - and knowing that you captured it with your camera. Like the batter who connects for a decisive home run after a lengthy drought at the plate, we experience the thrill of victory.

Soon enough, it's off to the next shoot, or as Adams puts it, the next test. Again we plan, we wait, we persevere. We hope for some serendipity. And though the odds might be stacked in Mother Nature's favor, we enjoy.

Fiery Vision Mount Chocorua White Mountains New HampshireFiery VisionMount Chocorua is especially beautiful in autumn when decorated with warm color. (Tamworth, New Hampshire)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) landscape photography photography planning https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/3/the-thrill-of-victory Thu, 05 Mar 2020 08:45:00 GMT
Nothin' But Blue Skies https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/2/nothin-but-blue-skies Blue skies
Smiling at me
Nothing but blue skies
Do I see...

"There's not a cloud in the sky; excellent!" said no landscape photographer ever. :) 

Clear, blue skies are great for all sorts of outdoor pursuits. Photographing the landscape is not generally among them. Want to capture a colorful sunrise or sunset? You need clouds. Angry skies associated with heavy weather? Clouds. Fog - or mist? Low clouds. If you're shooting on a partly sunny day, you can manage contrast by waiting for a cloud to block the sun.

Even flat, white skies - though uninteresting in and of themselves - create excellent, soft light. Exclude the sky from the composition and it's possible to work all day long in that type of overcast. 

Down there at the bottom of most everyone's list would probably be the Robin's-egg-blue-sky syndrome.

That said, it doesn't mean you can't work if that's what Mother Nature has served.

The other day in Grand Teton National Park was such a "blue sky" situation. It has been very cold in Eastern Idaho and Western Wyoming this mid-February thanks to high pressure, the jet stream, and the absence of cloud cover overnight. Following the pattern, that morning it was -15 degrees Fahrenheit when I entered the park in the darkness before dawn. After finishing up at my first two locations, I decided to head over to the historic Moulton barns and check things out. Though the sky was completely clear, because it was still early the light wasn't overly harsh.

Winter is a unique time of year to visit Mormon Row: the road is closed due to heavy snowfall so the only option is to enter on foot. 

Long ShadowsLong ShadowsThe low angle of the sun during the winter months creates wonderful long shadows. Here, they extend from the cottonwoods all the way to the barn, their blue hue mimicking that of the clear, early morning sky. (T.A. Moulton Barn - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

Not only were there no people around, the area around the T.A. Moulton barn was pristine with no snowshoe or ski tracks anywhere near the structure. Spectacular, long shadows created by the low angle of the sun shining through a stand of cottonwoods were completely uninterrupted. Perfect leading lines! I got down low and directly in front of one of the trees to block my own shadow, and positioned both the mountain range and the barn high in the frame since the shadows are the main focal point. Shooting this as a panoramic of four vertical images combined enabled me to include more of the shadows (both vertically and horizontally), the cottonwoods on either side of the barn, and much less of the sky. Thus, the geometry of the composition is more pronounced and the "problem" sky is minimized.

While I considered processing the image in black and white, it's far more interesting rendered in this way because of the contrasting colors. The trees "disappear" somewhat when color is removed, and the horizontal line created by the barn and trees is less apparent.

No clouds? Not necessarily a problem. While "nothing but blue skies" may not be ideal conditions, don't be too quick to pull the plug. 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Mormon Row Moulton Barn photography tips shadows winter https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/2/nothin-but-blue-skies Thu, 27 Feb 2020 08:45:00 GMT
In Praise of Black and White https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/2/in-praise-of-black-and-white Color defines much of my work as a photographer. Having been fortunate enough to call New Hampshire home for many years, where the amazing spectacle otherwise known as foliage season is truly something to behold, perhaps it's unsurprising that color became such a key component in terms of what makes a scene interesting to me. 

That said, there are times when removing it results in a stronger image. The photograph below is one such example. 

The sea stacks at Bandon Beach in south-central Oregon are fantastic subjects. There are many variables which make it possible to create wildly different images depending on the situation. It can be a notoriously difficult location at which to work if rainy days featuring blank, white skies decide to settle in for a prolonged period. I've spent many hours at the beach waiting for conditions to improve; my patience has been tested but also rewarded as I've been able to witness - and photograph - some beautiful sunsets. 

My last visit was nearly a complete exercise in futility due to rain. On one early morning, the sky to the east tried to partially clear as sunrise neared, but it wasn't enough to allow for any color to develop and the light quickly faded. It would begin raining again before long. However, the clouds had some interesting definition. I went ahead and made a few photos.  

When I pulled this image off the card, it didn't do much for me. The issue wasn't the shapes and orientation of these two sea stacks: that was interesting. Nor was it the sky: the clouds were moving and creating patterns. There was a nice mix of both churning seas and a little bit of reflection in the wet sand. The problem was the color - particularly overhead - which was bland. Consequently the composition felt unbalanced. I thought the image might be successful if it were processed in black and white. 

Removing color from the equation brought out the character aloft. It accentuated the relationship not just between the two stacks, but between the taller stack and the sky to which it points. The movement of the clouds became more apparent, and the haze hugging the shoreline more prominent. The feeling of unsettled weather is more obvious.

I love color! Sometimes, though, black and white is the way to go. 

Castles in the SeaCastles in the SeaBandon Beach, Oregon

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Bandon black and white Oregon processing seastacks https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/2/in-praise-of-black-and-white Thu, 20 Feb 2020 09:15:00 GMT
A Journey of Inner Vision https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/2/a-journey-of-inner-vision As a self-taught photographer, I learned a lot early on by reading several of John Shaw's books. Shaw is an acclaimed nature photographer and an equally gifted instructor. 

Something he wrote in a volume on close-up photography stuck with me over the years. He said that finding subject matter is "more of a journey of inner vision than a journey in terms of location." 

So true! 

If you're observant, have a keen eye, and are open to freeing your imagination, you'll find an ample supply of interesting images waiting to be made...just about anywhere. You need not jet off to some exotic destination. Better yet, close-up photography affords you an opportunity to create something a little more unique.  

Developing that inner vision Shaw speaks of isn't just an asset in terms of close-up work - it'll benefit all of your photographs.

I've found all sorts of subject matter over the years in my own yard. With zero travel time involved, I can react quickly to favorable conditions. I can work there throughout the year, any time of the day. I can experiment. 

The day lily leaf pictured below is one such example. On that late spring day, it had been drizzling off and on all morning. The precipitation was falling gently enough that the droplets clung by the hundreds to the scores of day lilies scattered within my gardens. It was as if the plants were covered in jewels. I spent a few hours creating abstract images.

What might you photograph just outside your door? 

A lot of people wish they could shoot more often. It's enjoyable, and the more time you spend working with your camera, the more both your artistic and technical skills are honed. Unfortunately, the realities of schedules and budgets might very well dictate how frequently - or seldom - various locations can be visited. There are no such restrictions when it comes to close-up work, though. Step outside and have a look!

Nature's JewelsNature's JewelsScores of droplets cling to a day lily leaf after persistent drizzle and light rain. (Newfields, New Hampshire)

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) close-up photography https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/2/a-journey-of-inner-vision Thu, 13 Feb 2020 08:15:00 GMT
To Every Thing There is a Season https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/2/to-every-thing-there-is-a-season You probably have a favorite time of year. I know I do. (Spring.) That said, there's something wonderful about every season.

Take winter, for example. I'm actually stressing out just a little about the fact that it's already the first week of February - and wondering how I'm going to cram in all the things I'd like to shoot before spring arrives. Punxsutawney Phil's prognostication notwithstanding, I'm hoping the season doesn't leave too quickly. 

There was a time when I would not have said that. In fact, for many years I disliked this time of year intensely. With one exception, harsh winter climates have been characteristic of all the places I've lived. The winter months meant miserable driving conditions, bitter cold, and the inevitable (seemingly never ending) chore of driveway clearing. Period. 

To be clear, I continue to dislike driving in ice and snow, and firing up the snowblower multiple times every week isn't up there at the top of my hit parade. Still, I now have a great fondness for winter. 

What changed?

The camera.

Once I began photographing the landscape, winter started to call my name and eventually pulled me outside. (Thankfully!) Winter has much to offer.

Long shadows. Monochromatic color palettes. A completely different story waiting to be told. And arguably the most significant benefit of all: fewer people.

Places that are overrun during the summer months are transformed. Take Yellowstone, for example, which I nearly completely avoid from May to October. It's mostly closed to vehicle traffic this time of year, which means you'll have to enter by snowcoach, snowmobile, or via skis or snowshoes unless you come in through the north gate, from which you can access both Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley with your car.

The thermal features in Yellowstone - always otherworldly - are further transformed into something truly magical in the winter. The colder, the better. I've been lucky enough to be in the park when the mercury dipped to more than twenty degrees below zero - and was treated to spectacular steam and hoar frost thanks to the clash between super-heated waters and frigid air temperature. 

In the image below, thick steam hangs over the Madison River as the sun comes up. It was -24 degrees F that morning. Magical.

Icy GripIcy GripOn this early morning with temperatures hovering at more than 20 degrees below zero, fog is suspended over the Madison River and trees are coated with hoar frost. The first rays of sunlight touch the mountains beyond. (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)
To fully embrace working outside in the winter, of course you must be prepared. You're not going to enjoy yourself if you're freezing, and you need to make sure your gear remains functional.

It is possible to stay reasonably warm without forfeiting mobility! 

Wear layers, beginning with a base layer. Get a good pair of insulated pants (I prefer snow pants to ski pants; they're often less expensive and the fit better accommodates a base layer). Wool socks will keep you warmer than cotton - and you might want to start with silk sock liners. Good gloves are paramount. (Full disclosure: I still haven't found a pair with which I'm completely satisfied.) You obviously need to be able to manipulate your camera while staying warm. Whatever you choose, chemical heat pads help tremendously. I still end up pulling my glove off briefly when it comes time to change settings.

One other point to remember about your hands: the tripod is going to get very cold very quickly. That cold will transfer through your gloves more rapidly than you might think. Try to limit contact. For example, if you're carrying the tripod to the next location rather than strapping it onto your backpack, balance it on your shoulder and drape your arm over it versus gripping it with your hand. 

Those chemical heat pads are also great for your feet; I adhere them to my socks. If it's going to be exceptionally cold, I also toss one or two into my insulated vest. Also on very cold and/or snowy days, I wear a neck gaiter. A really warm hat goes without saying. Also good boots, and microspikes so you can get around safely.

As for the camera, be sure to take extra batteries. The colder it gets, the more quickly they'll lose power. Keep the spares as warm as possible by storing them close to your body (interior vest pockets are a good spot). 

On those -26 degree F days, I go with a super zoom because I find switching lenses in bitter, extreme cold to be clumsy. Better to get the shot than to be fumbling with lenses.

Pack a zip-lock bag along with your camera gear. When you're finished for the day, place your camera in the plastic bag before heading inside. This will help prevent condensation as the camera warms.

Make sure you have lens cloths in your bag, as well as a rain jacket to protect your camera in the event it begins to snow. 

Dress properly and take a few precautions with your gear, and you'll be ready to rock and roll. Take it from me - someone who was most definitely not a fan of winter - you can learn to embrace it! 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) tips winter photography https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/2/to-every-thing-there-is-a-season Thu, 06 Feb 2020 08:45:00 GMT
Seeing Like the Camera Sees https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/1/seeing-like-the-camera-sees Photographers perceive the world a bit differently. We tend to see things from the perspective of the camera, quite often considering how what we're looking at could become a photograph. It's not unusual for us to notice things that non-photographers might not see at all. This trait is acquired and developed over time, and I believe it's something to be treasured. After all, the world is full of interesting things just waiting to be seen (and photographed) - if we're open to the possibilities!

If it hasn't happened already, at some point you'll discover that your "photographer's eye" is always working, even when making pictures is far from front-of-mind.

My final winter as a resident of New England was one for the record books. It began snowing heavily at the end of January and seemingly didn't let up for the next six weeks. Ice dams, leaking roofs - and even roof collapses - were serious issues throughout the region. Roof raking crews were so backed up they couldn't take new customers. Calcium chloride ice melt (a last line of defense for roofs) was impossible to find. Whenever the hardware store would receive a shipment, customers lined up before their doors opened, hoping to score a few bags before the supply ran out. Every day I'd check my house for damage - hoping for the best but prepared for the worst.

It's safe to say I wasn't thinking a lot about photography.

One Sunday afternoon as I looked outside, surveying the fresh, massive mountain of snow that needed to be removed from one of our decks, a squall came through: the intensity quickly picked up with conditions escalating to near-whiteout. My first reaction was utter dismay (more snow?) - but I was almost immediately transfixed by the sheer spectacle. Though I'd seen my share of Nor'easters and blizzards, the woods behind my house had never looked quite like this.

Soon I noticed a flurry of activity at one corner of the deck; there were as many as ten lovely eastern bluebirds crowding around the feeder I kept there. I love bluebirds. Though I regularly stocked my feeders and had many feathered visitors year-round, in all the time I lived in New Hampshire, bluebirds had only just discovered my yard that winter. And here they were - in spades - attempting to get something to eat in spite of the rough weather! Everything about what I was seeing was unusual. I ran into the studio to grab my camera. 

Under normal conditions, I wouldn't have considered photographing birds at the feeder: not much more than a snapshot. This scene, though, was completely different. The heavy snow was visually stunning. It nearly obscured the trees in the background, removing distracting visual elements and creating a beautiful wash of neutral tones (no lens bokeh required!), all the better to emphasize colors of the birds. One of them fluttered its wings as it tried to grab onto the feeder and take a bite of suet; I used a slow enough shutter speed to capture the movement. The other three sat still, puffed up against the cold - and even better, they were oriented properly for the composition. This was a lucky break. Shooting through a window, there was little room to maneuver.

I worked quickly. Who knew how long the storm would hold up, or how tenacious the birds would be about hanging around? The window of opportunity closed after only about ten minutes. All too soon it was time to get back to the issues at hand: clearing the deck and figuring out how to get the thick ice off my roof.

But thanks to that "photographer's eye" which is always on the job, I made an image that day which I wouldn't have anticipated.

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) photographer's eye https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/1/seeing-like-the-camera-sees Thu, 30 Jan 2020 08:10:00 GMT
Finding the Scene https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/1/finding-the-scene Finding an interesting composition can sometimes be a challenge. It might be that it's an often-photographed location: how in the world are you going to create something unique? Perhaps your subject matter is difficult to translate (for example, a forest of towering redwood trees). It could be an uncooperative forecast. You may be overly tired. Distracted. 

Whatever the reason, it happens. What to do if you're just not "seeing" anything?

Try putting the camera down.

With your gear tucked away in the bag, experience the location. Hike it. Sit and look at it. Soak it in. Think about what you're seeing. What captures your attention? Why? Identify details that make it interesting. Look for leading lines. Look for patterns. Colors. Shapes. Textures. Contrasting elements (curved vs straight, blue vs yellow, shadow vs light). How can you use these elements to frame a picture? How can you "edit" a scene: removing distracting elements and eliminating clutter to create a stronger visual? Where would you want the viewer to look first? How will you direct their eyes through the scene? Is there more than one way to compose it?

Sometimes temporarily removing the camera from the equation can do wonders.

Likewise, if you're new to a location you might consider making a first pass without your gear to "find" compositions more readily. You've done your research and have a good idea what to expect, but especially if the subject matter or conditions are challenging, that initial survey may enable you to be much more productive when you return, ready to shoot. Last month in Olympic National Park's Hoh Rainforest, I opted to employ this method. It being the height of the rainy season, I expected precipitation - and got it in spades. Because I find heavy rain to be the most difficult of conditions in which to work, I wanted to have a good idea how I was going to approach the subject matter before wrestling with Mother Nature. 

Those few hours spent hiking yielded quite a few potential compositions. When I came back with my camera, I made a few of the photographs I'd visualized while remaining on the lookout for additional opportunities - all while limiting my gear's exposure to the heavy weather.

Great images are first created with your eyes. Use them first....THEN go to the viewfinder. 

Delicate DrapingDelicate DrapingHall of Mosses, Hoh Rainforest (Olympic National Park, Washington)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) creative vision Hoh Rainforest landscape photography https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/1/finding-the-scene Thu, 23 Jan 2020 08:30:00 GMT
Enjoy the Experience https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/1/enjoying-the-experience Walking away from a shoot empty-handed can be discouraging. Especially when you've invested significant travel time and/or expense to reach the location at which you're working, or if you have a finite period of time in which to spend at a location, every session that fails to yield an image is frustrating.

Still, there's almost always something positive you can take away from nearly every field shoot. Sometimes it's as basic as having enjoyed the experience.

That enjoyment can manifest itself in a variety of ways. It could be an appreciation for what you just witnessed: the beginning of the day, a spectacular storm rolling through, clouds dancing across the sky, darkness blanketing the scene, falling snow transforming the landscape. Perhaps it was the company of a fellow photographer. Maybe it's some little nugget you observed that will help you make an even better image than what you originally intended when you return to try again. It could simply be savoring the process itself.

When your workplace is the great outdoors, there's a lot to be said for the opportunity to be outside "in it" - even if you don't get the shot. Not only that, the fact that every session isn't a success makes it even more exhilarating when everything does come together.

Enjoy!   Bryce PastelsPastelsPastel sunrise from Inspiration Point (Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) enjoy the experience photography https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/1/enjoying-the-experience Thu, 16 Jan 2020 08:14:00 GMT
Game Changer https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/1/game-changer Look UpLook UpSnow squalls moving in create angry skies over hoodoos silently waiting for the rough weather to arrive. (Bryce Amphitheater at Sunset Point - Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah) Winter photography in the northern latitudes can be very rewarding for many reasons; one of the most important from my perspective is the fact that there are far fewer people to contend with! Locations like National Parks that are teeming with visitors during the warmer months can be nearly deserted as the mercury dips - and especially at the edges of the day.

That said, working in subzero conditions while navigating a snow-covered landscape can be a challenge if you're not prepared. Little things can make a big difference: one of those game changers is micro-spikes. I don't go anywhere without them (mine are manufactured by Kahtoola).

Micro-spikes stretch securely over your boots; the stainless steel spikes dig into the snow and ice, making it very easy to hike.

If you have a pair, you know what I mean. 

Added traction makes slick trails more accessible - and safer (for both you and your camera!). You'll be able to get to locations that you otherwise might have great difficulty reaching, and you'll be able to move much more quickly. The last time I was at Bryce in the winter, some of the steep trails descending into the amphitheater were extremely icy. Since it had recently snowed heavily, even parking areas were sheets of ice. I witnessed more than one person take a spill before they ever got anywhere near the trail. 

The two parks in my "backyard," Yellowstone and Grand Teton, can also be extremely treacherous in winter. Even when ice isn't involved, you might be trying to make your way across a trail piled high with compressed snow. Especially when elevation changes are involved, you'll have a difficult time progressing if you can't dig in and get some traction.

Obviously, you don't need a national park to find slippery trails and paths. (You also might find yourself pulling out your spikes more than you'd think you would; I use them when clearing snow from my steep driveway...)

If you're headed outside this winter with your camera, do yourself a favor and give your boots some teeth!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) ice microspikes photography tips snow winter photography https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/1/game-changer Thu, 09 Jan 2020 08:15:00 GMT
Who Needs Filters? https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/1/who-needs-filters Back in the pre-digital era, most photographers' kits included any number of filters. 

Now, with the post-processing power of Lightroom and Photoshop, there's no longer any need to shoot with filters, right?

Wrong.

While it's true you can let many of them go, there are two filters you should consider always having on hand: 1) circular polarizer, and 2) circular neutral density. They live permanently in my bag. (I use a Nikon thin-ring multi-coated polarizer, and Singh-Ray's Vari-ND which enables me to add anywhere from two to eight stops simply by rotating the glass.)

Good filters aren't inexpensive. If you must choose between the two, prioritize first with the polarizer.

Of course, it can enhance blue skies - but that can also be achieved when processing the image. It's not really necessary for this purpose. There are some things, though, which can't be adjusted/changed/fixed after the fact. And it's those situations for which the circular polarizer is an indispensable tool:

  • Removing glare from wet vegetation
  • Removing glare from water
  • Enabling the use of a slower shutter (not nearly what you'd get from an ND, but helpful in a pinch)

I was working recently in the Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park in Washington State. In early December, the rainforest is particularly wet: winter is the rainy season. Without a polarizer, there would have been unsightly glare on just about everything, most especially the ferns and tree trunks. There's not a lot you can do about glare after the fact. The key is to eliminate it as much as possible before clicking the shutter - which you can do with your polarizer.

Higher quality filters have superior glass, which means their anti-reflective coatings are more effective. Invest in a good polarizer, and make sure it's always in your bag. You'll thank yourself.

LushLushHall of Mosses - Hoh Rainforest (Olympic National Park, Washington)

Happy New Year to you and yours! Here's hoping you have plenty of good light in the year to come.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) filters Hoh Rainforest Olympic National Park photography tips polarizer https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2020/1/who-needs-filters Thu, 02 Jan 2020 08:45:00 GMT
Farewell to the Teens https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/12/farewell-to-the-teens Thinking back on the last ten years, the biggest change for me (both photographically and personally) was relocating from my long-time home in New Hampshire to the Intermountain West mid-decade. Though I continue to miss being based in New England, reasonably close proximity to many national parks has its advantages. 

Following is an abbreviated look at the past decade as seen through my camera's lenses.

In 2010 I began spending nearly every morning that looked like the conditions might yield an interesting photograph at the Atlantic Ocean. This I continued to do until we moved. I had four favorite spots, three of which were in Rye, New Hampshire: a large tidal pool, Odiorne Point State Park, and Rye Beach State Park. The fourth location was Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine.

Single DigitsSingle DigitsBoth the sky and the shoreline below are painted with warm hues just before sunrise - making the frigid January morning seem a little less icy. (Atlantic Ocean at Rye, New Hampshire)

 

Morning GloryMorning GloryIn autumn and winter, the spot where the sun first appears in the morning shifts significantly further south - creating opportunities to compose images featuring Nubble Light and colorful skies at daybreak much differently than during the longest days of summer. (Cape Neddick, Maine)
Also in 2010, I took to the sky - and have continued with aerial photography throughout the decade - working with great pilots out of Laconia and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Vero Beach, Florida, and Jackson, Wyoming. 
 

Face-to-FaceFace-to-FaceTeton Range, Wyoming
Old New England towns are rich in character and offer extensive opportunities to create interesting images. Of all the beautiful locations in Portsmouth, two subjects top my list: the formal garden at Prescott Park, and the North Church. During the 2010s, I spent a lot more time working locally than I had over the course of the ten years prior....and still visit these spots with my camera when I return to New Hampshire.
 

Prescott Park Portsmouth New HampshireSummer at the GardenPrescott Park's Formal Garden is awash with vibrant color at the height of its summer display. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)
 

First NightFirst NightAs the chapter closes on one year, the fireworks show at Portsmouth, New Hampshire's annual First Night celebration helps to ring in the next.
In spite of all that great local scenery, the White Mountains continued to occupy the top spot in my heart (they still do). Though I work the region year-round, my two favorite times are when the lupines are blooming in the spring, and during what I consider to be the greatest show on earth - autumn foliage. The 2014 lupines were late and the blooms sparse, yet I made one of my favorite images of the flowers that year.
 

Evening Glow Lupines White MountainsEvening GlowLupines watch as the last light of the day casts warm alpenglow on the Northern Presidential Range in New Hampshire's White Mountains. (Jefferson, New Hampshire)
As for the foliage show, what need I say? It's always fantastic. Big landscapes, close-ups, fog lifting, frost - there's always something wonderful to capture. And of course Acadia is just a few hours away if you're in the mood to add a little coastal variety to the mix.

Dappled Fog Autumn New EnglandCurtain RisingRecipe for an idyllic scene: take some early morning lake fog, add a dash of brilliant autumn color, and finish with an iconic New England church. (The "Little White Church" sits on the shore of Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire.)


Upon moving to eastern Idaho, I was within 90 miles of not one, but two national parks! I spend most of my time locally working in and around the Tetons. They are spectacular both from the east and the west. The added benefit of the western slope is that it's much less often photographed.
 

Diaphanous DreamDiaphanous DreamLingering fog creates an ethereal scene around Mount Moran and the surrounding landscape. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
Summer Snow Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingWest Side StoryFollowing a chilly spring, early summer kicks off with substantial snowpack remaining. (Western Slope from Alta, Wyoming)
Aside from the work I continue to do back East, you will have found me in the past few years working extensively in areas west of the 100th parallel: Bryce, Arches, Grand Canyon, Glacier Bay, Petrified Forest, Redwoods, Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Olympic National Parks, as well as Juneau, Alaska, Bandon Beach, Oregon and Sedona, Arizona. 
 

FramedFramedHoodoos create the frame; the patch of snow in which the fir tree stands further enhances the vignette. (Bryce Amphitheater at Sunset Point - Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah)
DownpourDownpourBalanced Rock (Arches National Park, Utah)
Incoming North Rim Monsoon Grand CanyonIncomingA thuderstorm moves in during monsoon season, creating a beautiful show overhead. (Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - North Rim)
Rhapsody in BlueRhapsody in BlueTracy Arm Fjord (Near Juneau, Alaska)
Emissaries From AntiquityEmissaries From AntiquityCoastal redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens) grow in a narrow strip along the Pacific Ocean. The tallest trees on earth, they reach nearly 380 feet in height. Here, two of them create a frame through which more of their cousins are visible in the magical fog resulting from heavy rain. (Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park - Redwood National and State Parks, California)
Shadow PlayShadow PlayThe setting sun creates beautiful long shadows at Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (Death Valley National Park, California)
Stormy WeatherRestlessWizard's Hat
(Bandon Beach, Oregon)

LushLushHall of Mosses - Hoh Rainforest (Olympic National Park, Washington)
In the East, I added Shenandoah National Park to my repertoire, visiting several times and in three seasons.
Shenandoah SpringShenandoah SpringEarly spring color in the Blue Ridge Mountains at Shenandoah National Park creates interesting patterns in lime green. Dappled late-day light enhances the effect. (From Skyline Drive near Rockfish Gap, Virginia)
And finally, the Christmas Project was born - and has flourished - in this decade. If you're a regular reader, you know about the genesis of this from my last post. The whole thing began with the Faneuil Hall Christmas Tree in Boston back in November 2010, with the most recent images having been made just a few short weeks ago in Victoria, British Columbia.
Bright Red and GreenBright Red and GreenRight out of "Silver Bells" - the lights outside the Parliament Buildings sport red and green globes for the holiday. (Victoria, British Columbia)
With winter weather advisories posted for Jackson, Wyoming tonight, I'll be foregoing a New Year's Eve shoot (white knuckle driving over two mountain passes isn't my cup of tea) but expect to be back in the Tetons with my camera soon thereafter.

As we prepare to ring in the new year, I extend my best wishes to you and yours for good health and happiness....and may you find many beautiful sights to enjoy in the coming year. They're outside each of our windows, waiting to be admired!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) happy new year review https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/12/farewell-to-the-teens Tue, 31 Dec 2019 16:42:21 GMT
Return Engagement https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/12/return-Engagement Back for its 10th season: The Christmas Project!

This began innocently enough in 2010, when I decided to do something I'm normally adamant about resisting: braving the Thanksgiving weekend crowds. I opted to head into Boston that Friday to see the massive Faneuil Hall Christmas tree. I don't "do" the day after Thanksgiving. The crowds, shopping - none of it appeals to me. For some reason, though, that year I decided to break my own rule. The camera came along. (And something must have been in the water....because my husband, who is like-minded about crowds, tagged along, too!)

The tree was spectacular. The largest in New England, 2010's conifer was even taller than the one which stood in Rockefeller Plaza. Its immense size made it a challenge to compose a shot, but I like a creative challenge! The lights surrounding Quincy Market were also wonderful. Before I left that evening, I thought a return trip might be in order to photograph some of the other lights during that magical window when the sky turns from dark blue to bluish-purple, just before losing all color.

I made that second trip, and the rest is history! (Self-assignments can take on a life of their own.)

The fact that I lived in New England was most certainly a contributing factor to this becoming a "thing." In that part of the country, quaint holiday vignettes are scattered everywhere. Tall white church steeples, hundreds-of-years-old towns populated with red brick buildings, cobblestone streets, covered bridges.....and it's all decked out for the season. What's not to like?

That first season, I focused on Boston as well as small towns not far from my home. Because I prefer to shoot just before the sky has lost color, it means my evening (or early morning) sessions can last for only about twenty minutes.  

The following year, I expanded across the southern part of New Hampshire.

Later, I broadened my scope - heading north to the Connecticut River Valley and the White Mountains. I went south to Newport, Rhode Island, Cape Ann, Massachusetts - and back to Boston. I did coastal Maine. New York, too. 

In the years when I'd fly back to Illinois to visit family prior to the holidays, Chicago was added to the list. First I focused on the city. Next, I began scouting suburban neighborhoods: first near my hometown, then - everywhere. Light shows at the Arboretum in Lisle. The Botanic Garden in Glencoe. You name it!

The project became more challenging after we relocated from New England to the Intermountain West. These are wide-open spaces. It's sparsely populated between larger towns - and when you do find a downtown, you may not find much of a holiday display. Salt Lake City, Jackson, Wyoming and a few small towns in Eastern Idaho have delivered - but I've essentially exhausted everything within three hours of my home.

This situation has prompted me to greatly expand my scope. The entire U.S. and Canada are at play and I've considered Europe as well. (Number one on the European hit parade would have to be one of my favorite cities in the world: Edinburgh, Scotland.)

This year "The Project" took me beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. Since I flew in and out of Seattle, I was able to add the Space Needle's tree to the mix as a bonus.

I've already compiled my short list for Christmas 2020....

Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season!

AglowAglowBritish Columbia Parliament Buildings and Front Fountain, ready for for Christmas. (Victoria, B.C. - Canada)

 

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas Christmas Project https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/12/return-Engagement Thu, 19 Dec 2019 08:00:00 GMT
Moments in Time https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/12/moments-in-time The natural world is constantly changing. Nothing is static. Nothing looks exactly the same from one day (or hour - or less) to the next. The light changes. Weather conditions differ. The tide is coming in, or going out.

Of course, the transformation of some subjects is more significant than others. Take sand dunes, for example.

A few weeks ago, while photographing the vast Mesquite Flats dunes at Death Valley National Park, I was thinking about how different they might look in a relatively short period of time - for example, following a wind storm. All footsteps would be erased. Accumulating sand would continue to shape both the windward and slipface sides of the unstable structures. Ripples and contours would move.

Constantly undulating, not unlike the sea, dunes are one of nature's many incredibly interesting - and beautiful - wonders.

Shifting SandShifting SandMesquite Flat Sand Dunes (Death Valley National Park, California)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) California Death Valley National Park desert Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes sand dunes https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/12/moments-in-time Thu, 05 Dec 2019 08:15:00 GMT
Magic in a Few Square Meters https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/11/magic-in-a-few-square-meters "Personally, I find great pleasure in shooting intimate landscapes. Wherever you are in the world, it's possible to find magic in a few square meters."
-Hans Strand

 

Fresh PowderFresh PowderPowdery early season snowfall rests on tiny crabapples. (Newfields, New Hampshire)

Go big or go home?

I don't think so.

While "big landscapes" are impressive, the macro world can be equally as interesting and beautiful. Better yet, close-up subject matter can be found just about anywhere (i.e. no need to travel). Switch lenses and start looking around! 

During the spring and summer months, gardens are fantastic places to work. Abstracts can be found regardless of the weather conditions. From backlit full sun to heavy drizzle - and pretty much everything between: they can all yield good close-up images. Conversely, find a field of wildflowers, put some extension tubes on a long lens and experiment with color washes. 

As we head into winter, expanding your repertoire to include close-up work may spell the difference between being able to shoot or not. Let's face it: there are times when it's just not worth trying to get behind the wheel and white-knuckle it through piles of snow and ice. I certainly am in no mood to drive 90 miles during a winter storm - including a run over the Teton Pass - no matter how much I'd like to shoot in Grand Teton National Park.

Fortunately, there are other options, some of which might be just outside your door.

Winter Lace (Snow)

While snow is falling, particularly if it's coming down at a good clip in relatively calm conditions, you may find endless possibilities. Dry and powdery will give you one type of scene, while heavy and wet delivers something entirely different. Particularly if you live in a wooded area, the lacy patterns created by pristine, newly-fallen snow can be spectacular. 

Freezing Rain

While this may not be so magical in terms of potential power outages, there's nothing like the aftermath of freezing rain: ice-encased branches, twigs, and leaves become fanciful abstractions. If the ice holds after the sun comes out, the reflected light can be magical.

Ice

Particularly after a freeze/thaw/re-freeze cycle (and depending on the water source), you might find some really interesting abstract swirl patterns or crystals in the ice. Objects such as leaves or rocks in or under the ice can add depth or texture. This doesn't necessarily require a lake, stream, creek or river. A ditch that has collected water can work just as well.

Hoar Frost

Freezing fog (usually overnight) can create spectacular hoar frost, with ice crystals covering just about everything. Depending on how moist the air was, the resulting crystal patterns can be quite intricate and very thick. Put your macro lens on the camera and go hunting!

Expansive landscapes are great, but they're not the only game in town. The natural world is full of interesting "small" scenes, and they're always available. Look for the magic that's all around us.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) close-up photography macro photography https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/11/magic-in-a-few-square-meters Thu, 21 Nov 2019 10:00:00 GMT
Anything Can Be Extraordinary https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/11/anything-can-be-extraordinary "In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary." 
--Aaron Rose

Photographic opportunities surround us if we learn not just to look, but to see. Notice things. Keep an open mind. At the same time you'll develop your ability to find the picture in the scenes to which you're attracted. The latest and greatest gear isn't nearly as important as freeing your imagination. 

Sometimes the most interesting things are waiting to be noticed - and photographed - when we least expect it. Case in point: while on a shoot at Acadia National Park, approaching heavy rain forced me to shelve the location at which I'd planned to work that evening. Already it had been a tough day; the morning hadn't been particularly productive due to less-than-desirable conditions. Early afternoon wasn't much better. I decided to pack it in and was on my way back from Southwest Harbor to Bar Harbor.

Driving through the little town of Somesville on the way, though, something caught my eye which compelled me to stop.

Set back from the main drag was a hedge created by the most spectacular burning bush I've ever seen. Instead of the usual deep red color (always lovely), this foliage was a dazzling fuchsia. And the hedge seemed to go on forever. The fact that it was a heavily overcast day with rain beginning to fall only accentuated the eye-popping color. Next to the hedge on the street side was a white wooden fence.

Was there a photo here? Possibly. Maybe I wasn't finished working after all! I found a place to leave the car and grabbed my camera. 

I'm always looking for interesting ways to convey what I consider to be one of the greatest shows on earth: foliage season (particularly when it comes to autumn in New England). Getting up close and walking alongside, it was obvious the fence had a lot to say. Clearly, it had seen better days. The whole thing was leaning, some portions precariously so, with stakes having been added in one section to help shore it up. As lovely as the foliage was (the reason I stopped in the first place), it was the combination of fence and burning bush which made this scene interesting. They appeared to be locked in a struggle. Which would prevail? I call the image "Tug of War."

Just passing through. Just a fence. Just some shrubs. But at that time and in that light, the scene was extraordinary.

I went into Acadia that day with a plan, but the conditions didn't accommodate it. The landscapes I'd hoped to make would have to wait. Yet I ended up having a great shoot. 

We are surrounded by opportunities. Sometimes they're unexpected. They might be very close to home. Even when the conditions don't allow you to make the image you had in mind, there may be another photograph waiting to be made. Keep your eyes - and your mind - open. 

Tug of War Autumn MaineTug of WarSpectacular burning bush (Euonymus alatus) in all of its autumn glory, seemingly not wanting to be held back by the fence desperately attempting to stand its ground. (Mount Desert Island at Somesville, Maine - just outside of Acadia National Park)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) creativity seeing the photograph https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/11/anything-can-be-extraordinary Thu, 07 Nov 2019 08:45:00 GMT
Winter Isn't the Time to Hibernate https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/10/winter-isnt-the-time-to-hibernate Heavy LoadHeavy LoadBuck and rail fence at Norris Geyser Basin (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)

As those of us in northern climates bid farewell to the lovely colors of autumn, we're well aware that chilling temperatures and snowfall are waiting in the wings (perhaps they've already arrived where you live).

Time to tuck the camera away and wait for spring? Absolutely not!

A photographer can't hope to remain sharp - let alone improve skills - by taking a few months off. World-class athletes practice regularly; so should you! Beyond that, there are some other great reasons to grab your gear and get outside over the winter. Just a few to consider:

Magical Landscapes

There's nothing like a blanket of fresh snow, or vegetation thickly coated with hoar frost, or patterns in ice, or the beautiful lines of deciduous trees which are now leaf-less. Potential subject matter is everywhere; it might be as close as your own backyard or a nearby park.

The monochromatic and muted color palette offers up completely different creative opportunities. Before you might be a portrait in whites and grays, or perhaps it's a study in contrasts with a deep, blue sky against white snow.  

Shoot during a snowstorm and experiment with shutter speeds to render the falling precipitation in different ways. Or switch to your macro lens and photograph individual snowflakes.

Fewer People 

Love the national parks but not the crowds? Visit in winter. Many remain open throughout the year. Even parks which restrict vehicle access due to heavy snow remain partially open to automobiles (such as Yellowstone via the north gate). Whichever park you're considering, be sure to check its website for current conditions and closures.

Revel in the elbow room you'll enjoy at the parks during the off-season.

Another bonus? Fewer visitors overall means fewer photographers, too. Shooting during the winter months provides an opportunity to create images that are a little more unique.

Less Demanding Timetable

The sun rises late and sets early. This is the one time of year when you don't have to deprive yourself of sleep to catch the magic hours! Not only that, because the sun is low in the sky, you'll have opportunities to work throughout the day. Winter light isn't overly harsh and creates nice, exaggerated shadows. 

Get ready to reap the benefits of all the winter months have to offer. Keep your camera out, and keep shooting!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) buck and rail fence snow winter https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/10/winter-isnt-the-time-to-hibernate Thu, 24 Oct 2019 20:22:00 GMT
Use Your Legs https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/10/use-your-legs Visit any national park or forest and you'll find many scenic pullouts and vistas. They're situated where they are for a reason: the views are typically quite lovely! At these spots, you'll also often find many photographers working just a few feet from the parking area. There is nothing inherently wrong with this; however, not straying from the viewpoint may not yield the most unique photograph.

If you're willing to walk a bit you might find that a much more original scene awaits you. Sometimes just a few hundred yards can make all the difference. 

Be willing to explore! An added benefit: you'll quickly lose the crowd. Most people will not only remain at the lot, but also at the same spot where they first planted their tripod.

Likewise, we can use our legs - along with those of our tripods - to adjust the angle of perspective. Too often, the tripod is reflexively extended to match the photographer's standing height, and it's from that point of view that the image is created when the better shot might require that we crouch - or get even lower. Conversely, maybe we need to find a way to add additional height, like climbing onto a boulder. 

The following two images, both created in Grand Teton National Park, illustrate this point.

The lone young conifer in the first shot not only anchors the foreground of the composition, it also creates a visual link to the line of conifers beyond it. I was on the crest of a small hill not far away; standing at full height would have created far too much space between the single tree and the others. The scene required some compression - but not too much: the top of the lone tree needed to be situated very close to the others while maintaining some separation. To achieve that, I ended up on my knees with one leg of the tripod extended partway down the hill.
 

Autumn LightAutumn LightThe first rays of the rising sun cast the Cathedral Group in warm light, complementing the autumnal hues decorating the valley floor. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)


In the image below, the arrowleaf balsamroot was the star of the show. These wildflowers dot the valley floor in late May and early June, but can be difficult to capture since they co-exist with a lot of scrubby high-desert vegetation - some of which isn't especially photogenic. When composing shots of the blooms, one must carefully inspect the edges of the frame for distracting elements. In this case, once I found a plant which was at prime and properly oriented in relation to the mountains, I needed to make sure nothing detracted from the scene (including other balsamroot plants). I also wanted the tallest of the flowers to extend just a little bit higher than the peaks immediately behind them in the background. To accomplish both objectives, I framed the composition tightly and got very low: the camera was only about eight inches from the ground.
 


Your legs - all five of them! - are flexible. Use them to your advantage.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) grand teton national park mountains tetons wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/10/use-your-legs Thu, 10 Oct 2019 20:38:45 GMT
Should I Stay or Should I Go? https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/10/should-i-stay-or-should-i-go That's often the $64,000 question, right? After waiting (and waiting) for challenging conditions to improve, is it prudent to invest still more time in a specific location - or is this session just not going to yield a result? Maybe you'd have better luck tackling something else on your shot list.

Obviously, there's no way to know for sure. 

The better acquainted you are with the area, including an understanding of its micro-climate, the more prepared you'll be to make that call. (Certainly your objectives will factor into the decision as well.)

Fog is one of those interesting elements that can throw a monkey wrench into the mix. Don't get me wrong: who doesn't love fog? It can add a great deal to a scene. There are some locations at which I decide to work specifically because I'm expecting early morning fog. No fog, no photograph.

That said, fog has a mind of its own. Sometimes there's too much of a good thing: it can be extremely dense and linger for hours. By the time it burns off, the sun has risen too high in the sky and the light is too harsh. Or conversely, perhaps it's in too much of a hurry to leave and dissipates very rapidly.

Over the past week, I've had two challenging sessions in Grand Teton National Park in which the hoped-for fog played a factor, and each time I had to weigh whether or not it was worth hanging around. On both occasions I opted to remain - though I was unable able to make the photographs I had imagined.

Both times I expected fog. In the early mornings following rainfall it's typical to see fog over portions of the valley. On the first day, it was still raining steadily two hours before sunrise and continued to sprinkle off and on after that. I got the hoped-for fog....and then some. The mountains were completely obscured. Ultimately, it took more than seven hours for it to finally lift completely and reveal the tops of the peaks. Yet I remained because the dense, often-changing blanket presented a variety of alternate compositions, both in front of and behind me. Interesting weather is one of the things that can help photographers create unique images in overly-photographed places like national parks. 
 

TransformationTransformationDense fog completely obscures the Teton Range behind the trees, instead creating a dramatic backdrop emphasizing the foliage and its various stages of autumnal color progression. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)
Four days later at the same location, I remained because I was there specifically to try to take advantage of potentially fleeting conditions. Early snowfall had just draped the Tetons in white. Many of the trees were at or near peak color. I wanted to capture that mix of autumn and winter - but the window wasn't open very wide. Heavy winds forecast for the coming days could quickly sweep the colorful foliage to the ground. There was a chance for more precipitation on the horizon. This time of year, precipitation often brings with it very low ceilings which completely obscure the mountains. This session could be my only opportunity. The decision to stay was easy.
 

Enveloped in WhiteEnveloped in WhiteEarly morning fog at the base of Mount Moran - newly snow-covered after an early season storm - adds a second soft, white blanket to the scene. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)


Each time I could have walked away empty-handed. 

However, knowing what to expect in terms of conditions in the park, and based on what I wanted to accomplish, it made it easier to decide how to manage my time.  

We don't always have the luxury of working an area we know well. In that case, do as much research as you can ahead of time. Depending on where you're headed, there's often a great deal you can learn online. Once you hit the ground, spend the first day scouting the locations you've designated on your shot list. What you glean when you actually see them for yourself - combined with your knowledge of weather patterns/behavior - will help you further crystallize your plan. Sometimes waiting for seven hours is the thing to do. Other times, it's wise to cut your losses and move on.

Just don't give up on a location too quickly.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn fog foliage Grand Teton National Park mountains Oxbow Bend snow Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/10/should-i-stay-or-should-i-go Fri, 04 Oct 2019 19:10:00 GMT
Has Every Great Photograph Already Been Taken? https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/9/has-every-great-photograph-already-been-taken Is it even worth trying to make photographs at any of the National Parks? Think of all those who have been there before you. How many have already visited, cameras in hand?

Just because others - many others - have worked a location doesn't mean you can't create something unique there.

Has every good book already been written? Has every story already been told? I don't think so. Common literary devices are utilized over and over, yet there's always a new twist. Different characters. An alternate perspective. 

The same holds true with photography.

It might be more of a challenge to work in an "overphotographed" location, but that doesn't mean you can't make something special. 

Freeman Patterson said, "The camera always points both ways. In expressing the subject, you also express yourself."

The more you allow yourself to get to know your subject and to connect with it...if you are patient...if you remain open to possibilities...if you're willing to explore...you can make images that are uniquely yours, no matter where you're shooting. And don't forget: no location looks exactly the same from one day to the next. 

Moulton Barn Grand Teton National ParkTurmoil AloftA strong storm creates stunning, turbulent skies and brings with it powerful winds. As it passes, the mountains are rendered as shadows by heavy rain. (T.A. Moulton Barn - Grand Teton National Park Wyoming)

The image above exemplifies what's possible to create in a place that is "well-visited." I typically avoid the Moulton Barns in Grand Teton National Park because they're so often photographed. That doesn't mean I won't shoot them; but if I do end up there, it's because there's an opportunity to do something special.

On this day, I had been chasing storms from one end of the park to the other with little to show for it. Rather than continue to try to second guess the weather, I finally decided to stay put on the southern end. The only thing I could think of to use for potential foreground interest there were the buildings around Mormon Row. Somewhat reluctantly, I ended up at here at the T.A. Moulton homestead. 

Because rain had been moving through, there were very few tourists present on this late afternoon. Long story short, I ended up capturing not one, but two spectacular storms at this location from opposite directions. This photo, with storm clouds violently swirling above the barn, was my favorite. It's most certainly not a "postcard shot" - which proves the point that you can do something quite unique at a place where countless photographs have already been made.

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) grand teton national park monsoon moulton barn storm tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/9/has-every-great-photograph-already-been-taken Thu, 05 Sep 2019 00:32:58 GMT
When Mother Nature Fails to Cooperate https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/8/when-mother-nature-fails-to-cooperate All outdoor photographers are very aware of the fact that Mother Nature runs the show. No matter how carefully you've researched a location or how meticulously you've planned the shoot, anything can happen. Especially if you've traveled a great distance, you have no choice but to work with the hand you've been dealt. 

What kind of photograph can you make given the particular conditions? 

As we head into the autumn foliage season (which is, for many of us, is the Super Bowl of landscape photography), it's good to know how to call an audible that will still get you into the end zone.

I was fortunate to have called New Hampshire home for many years. New England is famous for its autumn foliage and the White Mountains are, in my opinion, one of the most magnificent places to view this annual spectacle. (I may not live there any longer but I would not miss it!) I've spent countless hours photographing the fiery landscape in all its glory - and through it all, I've had many a tussle with Mother Nature.

If you're preparing to photograph the colors of the season, here are three suggestions to help you level the playing field:

1) Plan, Plan, Plan

Know the area. Even if this will be your first time visiting, you can gather a wealth of information beforehand. Where specifically will the sun make its appearance and departure? How are the locations you want to shoot oriented to the light? Historically, what kind of temperatures and conditions can you expect? Give some thought to the kinds of images you might be able to make in a variety of weather events. And so on.

I always create a shot list based on what I know about the location, my objectives, and what I'm expecting from the forecast. It may end up tossed out the window, but the list will also keep you organized and help tremendously when it comes to the next point.

2) Be Prepared to Improvise

For example: you run into a persistently stubborn patch of cloudy skies. You may have to scrub your plans to capture colorful sunrises and/or sunsets.  Now what? While it's disappointing to know you're not going to be able to create some of the images you had envisioned, this is where your advance planning - and prior experience - come in handy. How about swapping locations to take advantage of the diffused light? Maybe you were going to photograph a mountain panorama. Head to a waterfall instead! There's nothing better than cloudy skies when water is the subject. Or you could stick with the original location, but remove the flat sky from the equation. Switch to a telephoto lens and look for interesting macro compositions. 

3) Precipitation is Not the Enemy

Autumn foliage is even more beautiful when it's wet. The colors are more saturated. When it begins to drizzle, don't head inside! Drizzly conditions often create low ceilings and - if you're near a lake or river - fog. Just remember to use a polarizer to remove glare from the leaves, and increase your exposure to ensure the fog is rendered properly. To keep errant droplets off the lens, use your hood. (I always have a collapsible umbrella on hand to further protect the front of the lens.) Check the lens often to make sure it's free of any water. If the skies really open up, you'll probably want to stop shooting - but unless it's a steady, hard rain, go for it. You'll be glad you did. 

One more reason to embrace light precipitation: most of the "leaf peepers" will head inside. Tired of the crowds? You'll quickly enjoy much more solitude.  

Be prepared so you can do your best improvisation regardless of what Mother Nature throws your way. The grand autumnal spectacle is only a few short weeks away!

Jackson FallsJackson FallsJackson Falls is picturesque but also immensely popular and crowded since it's situated near the center of town and easy to get to. A chilly, rainy October afternoon cleared the spot and provided perfect light. (Jackson, New Hampshire) Will you be visiting New England to photograph the fall color? My guidebook, Autumn in New Hampshire's White Mountains, is a compilation of prime locations from which you can capture the stunning beauty for which the region is famous. 

Find out how to get to each site (including both directions and coordinates), when you can expect the best light, nuances about the settings, and insider tips. Having this logistical information in hand will free you to focus on your creative vision and make successful images. It's available at Amazon.com. Follow the link to check it out.

 

Autumn in New Hampshire's White Mountains: The Photographer's Guide

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage New Hampshire https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/8/when-mother-nature-fails-to-cooperate Sat, 31 Aug 2019 00:23:18 GMT
Grand Canyon National Park: Celebrating 100 Years 1919-2019 https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/8/grand-canyon-national-park-celebrating-100-years-1919-2019 Teddy Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a National Monument in 1908. It became a National Park in 1919, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.

Of the Canyon, Roosevelt said, "Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight every American should see."

It is, of course, a spectacular example of the power of erosion.

July and August being prime monsoon season, I recently spent a few days at the North Rim to photograph the storms rolling through. Fortunately, Mother Nature served up monsoon conditions with regularity.

The elevation at the North Rim is higher than that of its cousin to the south, and the area receives significantly more precipitation, so temperatures are lower and the vegetation is different (most notably, you'll find dense forests). Numerous side canyons have been created due to redirection of water from the southward tilt of the land. Not only does one have an excellent vantage point from the North Rim of storms moving across the canyon, but because it's more remote, it's much less crowded than the South Rim. Bonus!

Don't have a lightning trigger? 

There are a variety of other ways to capture storms. As thunderheads form and skies begin to darken, interesting scenes - sometimes quickly changeable - are often created. Depending on how far you are away from the storm, once the rain moves into view you might capture panoramas that give a sense of its track across the horizon. Even as storms get closer and the sky flattens out, if you're lucky and it's dark and foreboding overhead, that'll likely give you something to work with in spite of the lack of definition.

Even though it's "off the beaten path," I highly recommend the North Rim. (As the crow flies, it's less than 25 miles from rim to rim. By car, however, it's 220 miles.) Be advised, though, that the roads are only open from May through October. 
 

Incoming North Rim Monsoon Grand CanyonIncomingA thuderstorm moves in during monsoon season, creating a beautiful show overhead. (Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - North Rim)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) arizona grand canyon grand canyon national park monsoon north rim storm https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/8/grand-canyon-national-park-celebrating-100-years-1919-2019 Wed, 14 Aug 2019 21:01:21 GMT
When Bad Weather is Good Weather https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/7/when-bad-weather-is-good-weather Though many head indoors during inclement weather, that's often prime time for a landscape photographer.

Clear blue skies make for lovely days to be enjoyed outdoors - but they're not good for photographers! Which brings me to storms. Sometimes they create wonderfully wild, turbulent, and angry - but beautiful - skies. 

With a monsoonal flow over Grand Teton National Park during the past week, I've been doing some storm chasing. The first few attempts did not bear fruit: either the forecast didn't pan out or I was one step behind the action.

The other day, though, things came together.

Conditions changed rapidly throughout the afternoon; it was a challenge trying to determine where to be to try to get the best vantage point. After four hours traversing the park from one end to the other, the storm clouds seemed to be hanging together over the south end, so I ended up at the Moulton Barns on Mormon Row late in the afternoon. This is not one of my favorite locations: the barns are seldom without tourists during the day, and they're over-photographed. That said, one can shoot in a variety of directions from there, and I knew that most folks would clear out of the park as the dinner hour approached.

After an hour or so, the sky darkened as some interesting storm clouds formed. I started photographing one of the barns, but the better conditions were to the south and east as a thunderstorm was rolling through. As I stood and watched it, the wind picked up - and quickly became violent. I used a cottonwood tree which was being thrashed about as my foreground element, and captured the spectacular sky to the southeast.

Another bonus: as the weather deteriorated, all but a handful of tourists exited. There would be no issues in terms of having to wait for people to get out of the shot.

Fury Grand Teton National ParkFuryA powerful storm brings with it fierce winds and creates an ominous sky. (Mormon Row - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

Once that storm moved through, another nearer to me began dumping rain over the Teton Range, nearly obscuring it from view. Now it was possible to begin shooting in the direction of the mountains. This time, the barn anchored the foreground (below). This panoramic of four vertical images combined was difficult to make due to the extremely windy conditions. Happily, it came together. 

Not only is the tumult in the sky wonderful, but it's not the type of image of this often-photographed structure that you normally see. 

Moulton Barn Grand Teton National ParkTurmoil AloftA strong storm creates stunning, turbulent skies and brings with it powerful winds. As it passes, the mountains are rendered as shadows by heavy rain. (T.A. Moulton Barn - Grand Teton National Park Wyoming)

After a while the high winds died down but the sky remained interesting - continuing to change quickly - so I waited to see what else might happen. (Don't be in a hurry to pack up your gear!) Eventually it looked as though it might clear. The sun peeked out through a little opening which allowed for a glimpse of the blue skies high above all the unsettled weather. This, however, was to be short-lived as the slice of blue marched on with yet more storm clouds following in its wake.

I waited until the sliver of blue was situated diagonally across from the barn:

Soon thereafter, more rain moved in as the sky lost all definition - signaling an end to the session. 

It is possible to create unique images in places that have been photographed over and over again. Something interesting overhead is one way to achieve that. "Bad weather" isn't always bad!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) bad weather grand teton national park mountains storm tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/7/when-bad-weather-is-good-weather Tue, 16 Jul 2019 23:34:02 GMT
Updated for 2019: The Photographer's Guide to Autumn in New Hampshire's White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/7/updated-for-2019-the-photographers-guide-to-autumn-in-new-hampshire-s-white-mountains Planning a trip to New Hampshire to enjoy and photograph the grand autumn foliage spectacle this year?

I've updated my Photographer's Guide to include the latest information. For example, in this, Mount Washington Cog Railway's 150th anniversary year, a second steam train was added to the operating schedule. For those of you interested in photographing a steam-powered train, that means you've got a little bit more latitude. 

Little nuggets like this are important when it comes to making the best use of the time you have available.

My goal is to provide you with the logistical information you'll need to get the most out of your trip!

Follow the link for more information or to order:

Autumn in New Hampshire's White Mountains: The Photographer's Guide

Albany Covered BridgeRed RoofThe red roof of the Albany Covered Bridge complements the foliage beginning to turn color nearby. (White Mountains, New Hampshire)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage New Hampshire Photographer's Guide to Autumn in New Hampshire's White Mountains Rebecca Metschke Photography https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/7/updated-for-2019-the-photographers-guide-to-autumn-in-new-hampshire-s-white-mountains Thu, 11 Jul 2019 21:16:08 GMT
The Magnificent Castle https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/7/the-magnificent-castle One of my two favorite geysers in Yellowstone National Park is Castle, located in the Upper Geyser Basin. Among the oldest in the world, Castle Geyser has been around for thousands of years. While it erupts regularly, it is with much less frequency than its famous cousin, Old Faithful. 

That said, Castle puts on a far more spectacular show. Lasting nearly an hour, its eruption features two phases: water (reaching as high as 90 feet) for about twenty minutes, followed by steam. 

It's worth planning your schedule around, and though its predicated eruption window is fairly broad at plus or minus 45 minutes, it's most definitely worth the wait.

I photographed it again just the other day, making a few hundred exposures. The geyser's appearance changes significantly during the complete eruption, and it's accessible from three sides - so creative options are numerous. In addition, the conditions that day were changeable. Best course of action with geysers is to be aware, move around, and keep shooting. With its prolonged eruption, Castle affords plenty of time to try different things.

Below, you can see the steam phase. Storm clouds began to form mid-way through the eruption; when the sun popped through, it further darkened them while accentuating the steam. 

I tightened my composition to eliminate all but the three most important elements at that point: the cone, the steam, and the darkening sky.

Letting Off SteamLetting Off SteamCastle Geyser erupts roughly every 12 hours for a duration of nearly 60 minutes. After first tossing hot water into the sky, the eruption transitions to a noisy steam phase - almost tornadic in nature - which you see here. (Upper Geyser Basin - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) castle geyser geyser wyoming yellowstone yellowstone national park https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/7/the-magnificent-castle Mon, 08 Jul 2019 01:02:52 GMT
The Quiet Side https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/6/the-quiet-side If you're visiting Jackson Hole, make sure to journey over the Teton Pass while in the area. You're in for a treat.

The views of the mountains from the west side are very different from what you'll see while in Grand Teton National Park (there are foothills!), but equally beautiful. In some ways I find them more beautiful - because they are photographed far less often.

Routes 33 and 32, both scenic byways, each deliver spectacular vistas of the Teton Range. This is agricultural country; you'll be in the midst of farm fields. Especially in late spring and early summer when the landscape is lush and green, it's particularly lovely. Meander these byways, explore the many side roads, and see what kinds of compositions you might find.

Arriving in Teton County, Idaho, you will have left the crowds of both the national park and Jackson behind. They call this the "quiet side" for a reason. It's our secret - which we're more than happy to share.

Don't miss it!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Idaho mountains Teton Valley Tetons western slope https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/6/the-quiet-side Sat, 29 Jun 2019 07:00:00 GMT
Spring Rains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/6/spring-rains With scattered thunderstorms in the forecast, I ran over to Grand Teton National Park yesterday. Not only interested in the conditions which might be produced, I wanted to check out the spring wildflowers. 

Though the sky was filled with cumulus clouds, it took quite a while for them to morph into the rain bearers for which I'd hoped.

While waiting, I spent a few hours photographing Arrowleaf Balsamroot blooms in the south end of the park. Once the skies began to turn, I went north to the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River. 

I've had an image in my mind for a few years now involving dark, stormy skies over Mount Moran. Unfortunately, what I've conjured up has not yet come to fruition - at least while I've been in the park. Would this day serve up something remotely close to that which I've imagined? Hiking down to the water's edge, I sat and waited. While there were some interesting (and quickly changing) clouds, the scene wasn't lending itself to making a good photograph. 

Enjoying the company of the ducks (and - amazingly, since it's summer tourism season - no people), I hung around watching the sky. When the rain began to fall, an interesting scene developed. Even as the sky brightened on either side of Mount Moran, nicely defined stormy clouds formed and held together just above the peaks. At the same time, rain came down over Moran creating a dark veil. I had myself some bookends, framing what was going on over the taller mountain.

The only way to capture this was to create a panoramic. I made five vertical shots, later stitching them together to create a very large file. The result is what you see below.

Though I waited another hour or so, rain persisted over the Teton Range and the skies turned flat. More rain was forecast through sunset, so that was it for the day. Still, a productive afternoon.

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Mount Moran mountains Oxbow Bend rain Snake River Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/6/spring-rains Thu, 13 Jun 2019 22:31:17 GMT
Ambassadors From Another Time https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/5/ambassadors-from-another-time Emissaries From AntiquityEmissaries From AntiquityCoastal redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens) grow in a narrow strip along the Pacific Ocean. The tallest trees on earth, they reach nearly 380 feet in height. Here, two of them create a frame through which more of their cousins are visible in the magical fog resulting from heavy rain. (Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park - Redwood National and State Parks, California)

That's how John Steinbeck described California's giant, spectacular redwoods.

"From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”

The tallest trees on earth, coastal redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are not only mighty in size, but have exceptionally long lifespans - some to 2,000 years. It's amazing to comprehend that some of the trees along which you walk when visiting Redwood National and State Parks may have been just beginning to grow right around the same time Christ and the apostles walked the earth.

Appropriately, their botanical name means "ever-living." 

Though logging destroyed many of them, some forward-thinking people in the 1920s set aside some of the ancient forests with the creation of three California state redwood parks. Later, in the 1960s, the federal government created Redwood National Park - encircling the state parks and thereby expanding the coastal setting.

Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron macrophyllum) grow in many areas within the old growth forests. These aren't the rhodies you might have in your garden; instead, they're gangly and can be as tall as 26 feet. When they bloom in the spring, it's a perfect pairing: stately, massive redwoods surrounded at their bases by splashes of pink.

One of the features of the coastal climate, fog, not only helps the trees to thrive - it also is a wonderful element which enhances not just the mood in and among these giants, but also can make for interesting photographs. 

Forest in BloomForest in BloomThe Pacific rhododendron (Rhododendron Macrophyllum) reaches up to 26 feet in height and can be found growing among the ancient redwoods along the far northern California coast. In late May/early June, the plants bloom, dotting the forest with splashes of bright pink.
(Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park - Redwood National and State Parks, California)

I caught the redwoods during an exceptionally rainy few days last week. At times, the precipitation was so heavy I couldn't shoot. Even with a rain jacket for the camera and an umbrella above that in an attempt to keep raindrops away from the front of the lens, it was just coming down too hard. Still, on one afternoon I decided to keep hiking...partly to scout, and partly just to enjoy the trees. As it continued to rain, fog kept building. Finally, as the afternoon was waning, the rain let up enough that I was able to work - and take advantage of the fantastic opaque shroud.

Though soggy, it was a truly magical day.

When on location with a finite amount of days available to work, one must forge ahead and see what's possible given the conditions - no matter how challenging they may be. It might not be what you hoped to achieve, but what kind of photograph can you make given what Mother Nature has served up? Adapt. Be creative. You may end up with images that are better than what you imagined you were going to create.

If you'd like to see more images from Redwood National and State Parks, you'll find them in the "Across America" gallery.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) california fog forest redwoods Redwoods National & State Park rhododendron https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/5/ambassadors-from-another-time Tue, 28 May 2019 20:58:55 GMT
Careful Planning and Creative Improvisation: Two Sides of the Coin https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/4/careful-planning-and-creative-improvisation-two-sides-of-the-coin An acquaintance of mine once commented, "It must be nice to make landscape photos. All you have to do is click!"

I'm bemused every time I recall him saying that, because making good images is far from simple. It requires a great deal of preparation. Research. Planning. Patience. Perseverance. 

Based on the type of images I hope to create, time of day/time of year are factors. (Some photographs are only possible to make on a few specific days. Or perhaps just once a year. A simple example of the former would be shots involving the full moon.) I need to know in which direction I'll be shooting, what time the sun and moon will rise and set (and where they'll track across the sky, when the moon will clear the mountains, etc.), and take into consideration the phase of the moon. Beyond the obvious general weather conditions, there are other relevant forecasts. Tides. The wind. Projected percentage of cloud cover. Are the expected temperature and humidity conducive to the creation of fog or mist? And so on. 

I think about equipment: for instance, what kind of lens(es) I'll most likely want to use. There are practical considerations, too, like allowing for how long it'll take me to hike to the spot at which I want to shoot.

If it's a first-time location, once I'm on-site, I take time to familiarize myself with the area before ever reaching for the camera. It's one thing to "know" a place from the research, but another to actually experience it first-hand. This is when I begin to look for possible compositions. 

Planning and research and critically important. No matter how thorough the preparation, though, Mother Nature has the final say. Unlike a studio session where the photographer has complete control, landscape photographers never know exactly what they're going to get. Unfortunately, time and schedules are realities. It's often impossible to add another couple days or a week to a shoot when faced with stubbornly poor conditions.

That's when creativity and improvisation are key. And the more methodically a shoot has been planned, the better prepared you'll be to deviate from it when - almost inevitably - it becomes necessary. 

Last spring, I was at Bandon Beach on Oregon's coast to photograph the sea stacks. Unfortunately, the forecast ended up being wildly inaccurate, and it rained for three days. Worse, the skies were mostly flat and white. The gloomy weather hugged the coast for miles, so "outdriving" it was not an option. (Though I attempted it.) Instead, I created some compositions in black and white which, by virtue of long exposures, accentuated the movement of the surf and coaxed some character out of an otherwise bland sky. If this was all I could get, at least I wouldn't walk away empty-handed.

Still, I continued to wait at the shore, hoping for a little something to happen overhead.

Sometimes, patience can lead to results.

On my final afternoon in Bandon, beautiful thunderheads formed. That was a brief photo opportunity. After yet another period of rain, a few hours later the sun broke through just enough to create some color in the sky at sunset. It was fleeting. I had to work quickly, but it was spectacular. Early the next morning as I began the long drive back to eastern Idaho, it was pouring once again.

The final tally for four days' work was just four photographs. Would I have preferred more output? Certainly. But I was happy with what I was able to create. And because I had ample opportunity to thoroughly scout the area while waiting for conditions to change, I am well-prepared for the next shoot on the coast. I'll be leaving in two weeks. :)

Shoreline Sentries Sea Stacks Bandon OregonShoreline SentriesSea stacks at Bandon Beach, Oregon

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Bandon Beach ocean Oregon sea stacks sunset https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/4/careful-planning-and-creative-improvisation-two-sides-of-the-coin Mon, 29 Apr 2019 18:04:28 GMT
Spring? Not So Fast... https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/3/spring-not-so-fast Now that March has arrived, thoughts turn to spring.

While the seasons may be transitioning in many places, winter still has a firm grip inside Yellowstone National Park. It was well below zero yesterday morning while I was working at Mammoth Hot Springs, with deep snow still blanketing the landscape.

Extremely cold temperatures make the thermal features for which the park is famous appear even more spectacular. Thick clouds of steam are generated as hot water meets the air. This, of course, can make for challenging photography since the scene can be obscured - sometimes stubbornly so. At the same time, it creates interesting, ghostly vignettes, not to mention plenty of hoar frost as trees nearby are coated in white.

When the mercury dips, it's a magical time in the park. 

FrigidFrigidEarly March means spring in many parts of the country, but at Mammoth Hot Springs, it's still sub-zero - perfect conditions to amplify the thermal features at Mound Terrace. (Mammoth Hot Springs - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Mammoth Hot Springs snow winter Wyoming Yellowstone https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2019/3/spring-not-so-fast Sun, 03 Mar 2019 23:48:25 GMT
Farewell, 2018 https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/12/farewell-2018 As the calendar year comes to an end, as always, I pause to think back on the shoots which have occurred over the course of the previous 12 months.

2018 was nothing if not challenging. Mother Nature was doggedly determined to make me sing for my supper, so to speak! Still, in spite of conditions which were quite often very difficult, I was happy to walk away with images with which I was happy.

At the top of my short list: photographs from two far-flung locations, along with two which are nearby.

In April I drove to Bandon Beach on the south-central coast of Oregon. This was not an insignificant road trip: it's 14 hours by car from my home to Bandon. Unseasonably warm temperatures and completely clear skies followed me most of the way. Clear skies may be wonderful to enjoy, but they're not a favorite of landscape photographers. I began to worry just a bit. Turns out, I needn't have fretted about those robin's egg blue skies! They disappeared once I got within 60 miles of the coast, and never returned. The forecast for the week turned out to be wildly inaccurate.

Bandon was socked in with flat, white skies and a fair amount of rain. Every morning I rose before daybreak and went to the beach - hoping either for a break in the cloud cover or some nice, angry skies. When neither developed, I drove further up the coast to see if I could get beyond the system. This, too, was a non-starter.

Just as I thought I might have to leave empty-handed, the skies began to clear - just a little - late in the afternoon on my last day. Again I went to sit at the beach, waiting and watching. 

In those final five hours, things came together. I was able to photograph both some of the angry skies I'd hoped for, as well as a single sunset. The latter nearly didn't happen since there was cloud cover along the horizon and the skies above me were beginning to fill in once again. However, there was just enough of an opening to create some magical conditions for a few brief moments. Disaster averted!

AglowAglowThe Wizard's Hat appears to glow as abundant mist created by gusty wind and choppy seas is lit by the setting sun. (Bandon Beach, Oregon)

A few months later, I happily returned to Southeast Alaska many years after my first visit. Mother Nature again decided to serve up a week of mostly flat skies with a fair amount of rain and chilly temperatures. Though the panhandle of Alaska is a rainforest, during the summer it's not unusual to encounter periods of sunny, warm weather. Not this time!

That said, the conditions were an asset while I was shooting in Tracy Arm Fjord. The skies were anything but flat. Before it began to rain in earnest, the sun peeked out and darkened the clouds, enhancing the stunning contrast between the icebergs and the sky.

Rhapsody in BlueRhapsody in BlueTracy Arm Fjord (Near Juneau, Alaska)

Much closer to home, the spring of 2018 was exceptional in Grand Teton National Park. Following another winter with more than ample snowpack, the valley floor was superbly green in late May. Though it ended up being a lackluster monsoon season during the ensuing summer months, there were some very photogenic storms in the spring, like this one:

spring at Grand Teton National ParkSpotlight on SpringAfternoon storms forming over the Teton Range create quickly changeable - and dramatic - skies. A few rays of light break through, highlighting the lush springtime foliage. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

Finally, though Mother Nature has also been stingy when it comes to serving up interesting conditions very close to my home nearly all year, still there have been some exceptions. I continue to enjoy working at the derelict, fire-scarred buck and rail fence less than five miles away. In addition to its great character, because it follows a curving road and is therefore oriented in somewhat different directions, it affords me some flexibility to adapt to what's going on overhead. Moral of the story: one needn't necessarily jet off to exotic destinations to make good photographs.

The Neglected Fence IIThe Neglected Fence IIDerelict, fire-scarred buck and rail fence (Bonneville County, Idaho)

As we prepare to step over the threshold into 2019, I extend my best wishes to you and yours. Many thanks for visiting the website. May your new year be healthy and prosperous - and of course, let's hope for good light! :)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Rebecca Metschke Photography https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/12/farewell-2018 Mon, 31 Dec 2018 18:55:46 GMT
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/12/have-yourself-a-merry-little-christmas Home for the HolidaysHome for the HolidaysThe Christmas Tree at Pioneer Court looks across the street at the iconic Wrigley Building, quiet here on an early Sunday morning in mid-December. (Chicago, Illinois)

2018 marks season number 9 of "The Christmas Project." 

This all began by happenstance back in 2010 when I decided to go down to Faneuil Hall in Boston to see THE TREE. This isn't just any Christmas Tree. It's the largest in New England - and actually, it's often bigger than the one which adorns Rockefeller Plaza in New York City (as it was that year). It had been quite some time since I'd been to Faneuil Hall over the holidays, so it seemed like an outing which was overdue. I brought the camera along with me.

After having made some photographs that day-into-night, the idea of capturing vignettes featuring holiday decorations took hold. 

The rest, as they say, is history. 

From then on, each holiday season I scoured New England looking for imagery. The reach subsequently expanded to include a variety of geographic areas. You might say this has become a bit of an obsession.

I might fly a few thousand miles for a Christmas Project shoot, or travel 4-5 hours in one day to make a single image. One afternoon a few years back, I drove two hours up to Dartmouth College to shoot the tree which sits on the Green, and then turned around and drove the two hours back home. Was it worth it? Of course!

This year took me back home to Chicago. Though I've already photographed the city more than once at Christmas time, I can always come up with new ideas when it comes to subject matter. Decorations change from year to year, so you never know for sure what you're going to find. Adaptability is the name of the game - just as it is with any landscape shoot!

In the shot pictured here, you see the tree which sits at Pioneer Plaza (just outside Tribune Tower). Across Michigan Avenue is the landmark Wrigley Building. I made this image early last Sunday morning in the blue light before sunrise. It's the best time of day + day of the week to photograph the decorations since there are few people out at that hour on a Sunday. 

The Wrigley Building dressed for Christmas is a beautiful sight to me. As the song says, there's no place like home for the holidays!

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Chicago Christmas christmas lights city holiday Illinois Wrigley Building https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/12/have-yourself-a-merry-little-christmas Mon, 24 Dec 2018 02:51:24 GMT
Seasons in New Hampshire https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/11/seasons-in-new-hampshire Double the ColorDouble the ColorIn heavy overcast, the vibrant foliage pops. The impact is heightened as the colorful scene along the shore is reflected in the still water below. (Chocorua Lake - Tamworth, New Hampshire)

I first became familiar with American poet and writer Donald Hall a number of years ago when I discovered his wonderful book, Seasons at Eagle Pond. The Poet Laureate of New Hampshire from 1984-1989, Hall was appointed 14th Poet Laureate of the United States in 2006. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2010.

In this book, Hall muses about rural life in New Hampshire; there's an essay for each of the four seasons. Every time I read it, I find myself chuckling - or nodding my head in agreement - over and over again. Black flies, mud season, snow piled upon snow - any resident can relate! But when you get right down to it, he's talking about the land. The place.

The way he describes the spectacular, breathtaking beauty of autumn is especially eloquent.

For example:

Each morning is more outrageous than the one before, days outdoing their predecessors as sons outdo their fathers. We walk out over the chill dew to audit glorious wreckage from the night's cold passage - new branches suddenly turned, others gone deeper into ranges of fire, trees vying to surpass each other and their yesterselves.

Or this:

And you looked around you in the October woods at the extended private exhibition, low pale Autumn sunlight striking through the diminishing leafy air to catch on reds and yellows of the great woods....

And everyone looked and still looks. Even people who have lived their whole lives here never become bored with this looking.

Eagle Pond is a farm which had been owned by Hall's grandfather, to which he and his wife moved in the 1970s. He wrote in an essay penned many years later that relocating back to New Hampshire "for good" to his grandparents' house had been a daydream from childhood. One feels his obvious love for the Granite State in the pages of Seasons at Eagle Pond.

I love New Hampshire, too. Looking at its landscapes - and capturing them with my camera - is never boring. I feel a deep connection to the Granite State that will never leave me.

Donald Hall passed away in late June at the age of 89 - at that home on Eagle Pond in Wilmot. It seems fitting that his journey in this life ended there.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Donald Hall new hampshire Seasons at Eagle Pond https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/11/seasons-in-new-hampshire Thu, 01 Nov 2018 20:25:32 GMT
Permission Granted! https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/10/permission-granted Tug of War Autumn MaineTug of WarSpectacular burning bush (Euonymus alatus) in all of its autumn glory, seemingly not wanting to be held back by the fence desperately attempting to stand its ground. (Mount Desert Island at Somesville, Maine - just outside of Acadia National Park)

When I think back to my earlier years as a photographer, it's with a measure of both bemusement and regret as far the restrictions I placed on myself.

While the landscape is - and has always been - my primary interest, the definition of what constitutes a landscape photograph has broadened dramatically for me over time. Back in the day, I would seldom have considered photographing a composition featuring a man made object. 

I unnecessarily constrained myself.

The fact that I lived in New England - a region filled to the brim with wonderful, unique, character and charm - and didn't consider photographing things like covered bridges and churches and all those amazing old brick buildings until after I'd been there for a few years? Opportunities lost.

Of course, one's thinking can evolve over time. That's what happened in my case. Thankfully! 

All I needed to do was give myself permission to expand my horizons.

The photograph above is a classic example. Early in my career, I never would have made that image. While I'd have appreciated the spectacular burning bush in all its autumnal splendor, it would have been a pretty scene and nothing more. Fast forward to a few years ago. I saw this in a little town near Acadia National Park and it nearly screamed at me to stop and capture it! 

It wasn't just that the shrubs were so spectacularly vibrant, and that there were so many of them: there was a story in what I was seeing. Here was this poor fence struggling mightily to stand up against the onslaught of the burning bush. Though someone had tried to help the fence by installing supports, the hedge appeared to be gaining the upper hand.  Who would win in the end?

Not only did I spend quite a bit of time with this subject, the image is hanging on one of my walls. It's called "Tug of War."

Following this epiphany in terms of subject matter, of course I continued to photograph the natural world - one where humans are out of sight. But I also began capturing a lot of other things.  

There's absolutely nothing wrong with shooting all nature, all the time. 

In my case, I'm glad I decided "landscapes" could mean something more.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) landscapes New England https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/10/permission-granted Mon, 22 Oct 2018 21:54:06 GMT
Rain, Rain Go Away https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/10/rain-rain-go-away Non-ConformistNon-ConformistA few maple saplings dot the woods otherwise dominated by a dense stand of conifers - making their brilliant autumn colors even more striking. (Hiawatha National Forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan)

I just returned from a shoot in Michigan's Upper Peninsula near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

The color was quite good: not only was it peaking, but there was an ample supply of rich reds - reminding me of the "show" I'm accustomed to in my beloved New Hampshire. 

That said, the conditions were brutal for photography. Flat, bland skies predominated (and refused to give way to anything remotely interesting); rain threatened and/or fell every day; for added measure, it was persistently windy. All of the photos I'd hoped to make involving some of the many lakes in the area had to be scuttled as a result. 

One location which was not negatively impacted by the weather? A magical spot in the Hiawatha National Forest, thick with conifers, which is in the beginning stages of transformation. Dotted within it you'll find the occasional maple sapling. Brightly colored this time of year, it seemed as if the little maples were forest nymphs trying unsuccessfully to hide behind the large, established trees. The pops of brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows among the dark, uniform trunks were unexpected and seemingly incongruent. Light rain further saturated the colors of the leaves. It was a delightful scene - and thank heavens for it since so many of the locations on my shot list were non-starters due to the conditions.

Mother Nature always has the final say when it comes to the types of photographs it will be possible to make. It's up to the photographer to figure out how to work with the cards which have been dealt.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage hiawatha national forest michigan upper peninsula https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/10/rain-rain-go-away Sun, 14 Oct 2018 20:43:00 GMT
Curtain Rising https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/9/curtain-rising Autumn reflections Lamprey River Durham New HampshireImpressionisticFallen leaves floating on the surface of the Lamprey River, their movement captured with a long exposure, combine with reflections of autumn color along the shoreline to create an impressionistic scene. (Near Durham, New Hampshire)

It's time for the "foliage show!"

As I prepare to photograph the color in Grand Teton National Park - before heading back East to do more of the same - I think about how dramatically my relationship with autumn has changed over the years. 

Back in the day, I wasn't exactly a fan of the season. Growing up in suburban Chicago, our yard was filled with mature, stately oak trees. When the leaves began to fall, all I could see was the big raking job ahead - and winter waiting in the wings. Most oaks don't produce riotous color (though there are exceptions), so there wasn't much of a display to speak of. And the winter which would soon follow meant intense cold, too much snow, and driving difficulties. From my point of view, October was a little depressing.

Living later in Southern California, the changing of the seasons was so subtle (at least to this Midwesterner), there was no autumn to speak of. Perhaps I missed it just a bit....?

Enter New England. My first visit there occurred in early October. The spectacle knocked me over: the intense, varied color was like nothing I had ever seen. A few years later I moved to New Hampshire, and thus began my love affair with foliage season. 

While all of New England is beautiful as the trees turn color, for my money, nowhere is it more lovely then in the mountains of the Granite State. Though I've witnessed that "show" now for many years, still it takes my breath away every time. Autumn? YES! Bring it! I look forward to experiencing those magical sights, and to capture the essence of the season with my camera. 

Ironically, cleaning up the yard was an even bigger chore in New Hampshire than it had been in Illinois: we lived in a heavily wooded area. And winters, with their inevitable Nor'easters and power outages, could be challenging. The negatives were still there, but my views changed considerably - and I have New Hampshire to thank for it. 

Autumn foliage is one of my favorite things to photograph. And I learned how to cope with the biting winter cold - and invested in a good pair of snowshoes - so I now enjoy capturing the landscape during those months as well.

While I no longer live in the Northeast, I return every year with my camera. I seek out autumn colors in other parts of the country to extend the season. It is a magnificent show....every bit as striking as the beauty of the earth awakening each spring with bursts of blooms (still my very favorite time of the year). 

Never experienced autumn in New England? Put it on your bucket list. 

If you're interested in photographing the display, check out my guide to the white mountains, available at Amazon. It'll familiarize you with the area, save you time, and free you up to concentrate on making beautiful images. The link below will take you to the book:

Autumn in New Hampshire's White Mountains: The Photographer's Guide

As for the image pictured here, it's one of my all-time favorites. I made it about 15 years ago on film. It's not from the mountains; rather, I was about 15 minutes from home. That year it had been an extremely dry summer. Considering the drought conditions, the color in the Whites had been quite good. That said, it came and went quickly. I'd finished my shoot up north and was now poking around the Seacoast trying to find more opportunities.

On this overcast day, late in the afternoon, I decided to swing by the river to have a look before wrapping up for the day. A single red tree caught my eye, so I decided to explore further. Hiking through dense underbrush to get down to the water's edge, picking up quite a few bloody scrapes along the way, there was nothing particularly interesting on land - but I saw the makings of a photograph in the water. 

The surface was scattered with leaves, which transformed the scene into something that might have come from Monet's paintbrush. I eliminated the shoreline entirely and shot only the reflection. The combination of slight water movement in select areas of the frame and a shallower depth of field created an impressionistic feel. The single red tree provided the focal point. 

Reflections of Autumn.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage New England New Hampshire reflection river https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/9/curtain-rising Thu, 13 Sep 2018 17:05:40 GMT
Look Up https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/8/look-up

"The sky is the ultimate art gallery just above us."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I do believe the famous poet was on to something! While I'm not sure I'd call it the ultimate art gallery (there are others I find equally compelling), the sky can certainly transfix me. I especially enjoy making photographs which incorporate the beautiful scenes created by interesting clouds.

During the summer months the wonderful "neglected fence" near my home isn't a particularly good shooting location, the sun having moved too far to the north to make sunset compositions workable.

Exacerbating the situation this season has been the fact that a series of particularly stubborn high pressure systems have parked themselves over and over again above the region, blocking the inflow of the monsoonal moisture we'd normally see this time of year. That, coupled with extremely low humidity (12% yesterday) means clouds - let alone storms - have been in short supply.

I raced up to the fence one day about six weeks ago when some rough weather did move through the area. I watched the sky darken in the distance, kept an eye on the clouds as they moved closer, and once I saw that they might be nearing my trusty location, I hopped in the car and drove up there. 

The clouds were moving quickly, so fast work was required to position the lighter-gray break where I wanted it: mid-frame and just to the left of the post. A few minutes later, the lightning got a little too close for comfort - and the rain began to fall. I had the shot, so retreated to my vehicle and watched the rest of the show from there. 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) country fence idaho storm summer https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/8/look-up Wed, 08 Aug 2018 17:49:57 GMT
Photographer's Guide to the White Mountains of New Hampshire https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/7/photographers-guide-to-the-white-mountains-of-new-hampshire Birches White Mountains New HampshireBirches INew Hampshire's state tree, the paper birch (Betula papyrifera) graces the landscape with beautiful white trunks. (Near Gorham, New Hampshire)

Regular readers will know I was based in New Hampshire for 20 years and spent a great deal of time working in the White Mountains. And though I'm now in Southeast Idaho, I return to the Granite State regularly. Beautiful in all seasons, there's something especially magical about autumn in my old neck of the woods. While wonderful color can be found in many places across the United States at that time of year, I've never seen anything that tops the "show" my adoptive home state puts on in early October.

If you're planning a trip to northern New England (specifically the mountains of New Hampshire) to see and photograph the spectacular foliage, I'd like to help you get the most out of your visit. Especially if this will be your first time in the area, wouldn't you rather concentrate on shooting instead of losing precious hours trying to figure out where to go, when you should be there, and how to best traverse an unfamiliar area? 

To that end, I've written a photographer's guide to autumn in the Whites: it's available at Amazon.com. This ebook is a compilation of prime locations from which you can capture the stunning beauty for which the region is famous. You'll find out how to get to each site (including both directions and coordinates), when you can expect the best light, nuances about each spot, and other tips to help you get the most out of your visit. Having this logistical information in hand will free you to focus on your creative vision and make successful images. 

If you’re planning your first photography trip to the Granite State, this guide will broadly acquaint you with the area and enable you to maximize your time. If you’re returning, perhaps you’ll discover locations you missed previously, or be inspired to view these landscapes in a different way.

Don't have a Kindle? Not to worry. You can read the book on your smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Follow the link for more information or to order. 

Autumn in New Hampshire's White Mountains: The Photographer's Guide

And by all means, should you have questions about the White Mountains or wish to know something further about any of the locations I've selected, don't hesitate to shoot me a note

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn New England New Hampshire photographer's guide Rebecca Metschke Photography White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/7/photographers-guide-to-the-white-mountains-of-new-hampshire Mon, 23 Jul 2018 18:21:23 GMT
Rhapsody in Blue https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/7/rhapsody-in-blue I just returned from a shoot in southeast Alaska. The weather in the panhandle can be quite wet, especially the further southeast one travels. What do I mean by wet? Juneau receives 150 inches of precipitation annually. As a result, it is extremely lush and emerald green during the summer months.

The rain was expected, but not the cold. We hit a decidedly, stubbornly cool stretch. Coupled with the near constant moisture, it didn't feel anything like the summer solstice! On my last visit to The Last Frontier (also in the summer) it was quite warm, so I got the opposite scenario this time around. 

The conditions were extremely changeable the day we spent on Tracy Arm. Departing early in the morning from Juneau under sunny skies and relatively mild temperatures, clouds quickly began to fill the sky - but they were interesting and created nice, flat light. By the time we'd made our way the roughly 45 miles to the entrance to the fjord, once again the sun was showing its face intermittently. This actually was somewhat concerning since I knew sunlight would create significant contrast issues when we reached the Sawyer Glacier. 

Not to worry!

By the time we reached the "end of the line," clouds were mostly winning the battle.

Tracy Arm is a narrow, deep fjord roughly 30 miles long. Much of it is covered in ice. During the summer months, icebergs are plentiful and can be quite sizable: some are as large as multi-story buildings (as gigantic as some of these were, I kept reminding myself that there is much more underwater than what is visible above).

The glacier was spectacular, and we were able to spend a good deal of time there with the engines cut, drifting, watching, and waiting to see whether it would calve. Indeed, it did. In spades. We witnessed two massive breaks, along with a few smaller ones. 

As we slowly began to make our way out of the fjord, we spent time at a number of enormous icebergs. By then it also had started to rain - but the sun was still peeking through every now and then. Our skilled captain maneuvered the vessel superbly, providing magnificent viewing - and shooting - opportunities. As is the case when photographing from a small plane, one must move very quickly to identify compositions and keep up with wildly fluctuating light to ensure proper exposure. Though the peek-a-boo sunlight made the lighting even more challenging, it also enhanced the stormy skies. The conditions while we were exploring these icebergs could not have been better. 

We ended up completely soaked and freezing, but it was worth it.

Rhapsody in BlueRhapsody in BlueTracy Arm Fjord (Near Juneau, Alaska)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Alaska iceberg Juneau Rebecca Metschke Photography Tracy Arm Fjord https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/7/rhapsody-in-blue Wed, 04 Jul 2018 23:22:51 GMT
Spring in the Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/5/spring-in-the-tetons It arrives late and doesn't last long - but spring is a magical time of year at Grand Teton National Park.

Even in this high-desert climate (the valley floor averages 6,800 feet), everything is lush and green this time of year. Aspens and cottonwoods, newly leafed out, create a canopy of lime - while the wild grasses, well watered from both runoff and frequent May rains, paint great swaths of the ground in emerald. 

Soon enough, as we inch closer to summer, the rain will stop falling as frequently and that lovely carpet below will transition to gold. For now, though, the various hues of green are something to behold. 

During much of this May, the weather pattern has been quite active. Frequent afternoon storms, scattered over both the Snake River Plain in Idaho and the highlands of western Wyoming, have created very nice skies on a regular basis. I was in the Park the other day hoping the storms which had been forecast would materialize. While rain did move through, it was widely scattered. Based on wind direction and the behavior of clouds over the mountains, I chased the skies from one end of the park to the other, to no avail. 

Since that appeared to be an exercise in futility, I decided to stay put on the north side near the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River and hope for the best. That was my desired location anyway, and storm clouds were clearly trying to form there; it was just a matter of whether they'd be successful. After a few hours, it looked like I might get a chance for some weather.

Once the threatening clouds finally blotted out the sun, things moved quickly. (This is often the irony of landscape photography: wait, wait, wait - sometimes for many hours - but if and when the conditions do shape up, suddenly it's hurry, hurry, hurry.) The composition I envisioned presented itself, and I made a few variations of that shot. Then I noticed sunlight trying to poke through the clouds in a completely different spot. I switched lenses, repositioned, and found an alternate composition just in time to catch the rays peeking through and lighting the line of aspens - in all their springtime glory - below. The shafts of light were only briefly visible. Though I continued to shoot the quickly-changing storm until it moved on, it was that one fleeting scene that ended up being my favorite from the afternoon.

spring at Grand Teton National ParkSpotlight on SpringAfternoon storms forming over the Teton Range create quickly changeable - and dramatic - skies. A few rays of light break through, highlighting the lush springtime foliage. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) grand teton national park mountains spring storm Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/5/spring-in-the-tetons Thu, 31 May 2018 21:39:02 GMT
Sea Stacks https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/5/sea-stacks I've been wanting to photograph the sea stacks along the Pacific Coast for a while. Three shoots had to be scuttled for one reason or another, but I finally made it to Bandon, Oregon last week.

Because flying still requires nearly six hours of driving in order to complete the trip, and since driving the whole way was going to afford me additional flexibility in terms of trying to work around the forecast, I opted to travel exclusively via ground. (This in spite of the fact that lengthy, solo road trips don't exactly sing to me.) 

As I made my way across Oregon, the temperatures rose to nearly 80 degrees and there wasn't a cloud in sight. While Robin's-egg-blue, completely clear skies are pleasant, they're not a landscape photographer's friend. Finally, within 60 miles of the coast, clouds were visible over the ocean. Since I hoped to get to work as the sun set that evening, I was happy to see something going on in the sky.

Nearing Bandon, my initial enthusiasm about those clouds waned. The skies quickly transitioned to complete overcast: flat and white with absolutely no definition as far as the eye could see. Little did I know, those uninteresting skies were going to make themselves at home for quite some time. So much for the favorable forecast! 

When you've driven 14-hours for a shoot, you're stuck. There is no choice but to try to figure out what kind of photograph you CAN make given the conditions - or, in this case, since the sky necessarily had to be included in the composition, to wait it out. I sat at the shore for hours, watching and hoping for some improvement. Fog would have been great, but none materialized. Angry skies, too, would have been welcome but were also nowhere to be found.

It was a challenging couple of days. The flat light would have been perfect to photograph waterfalls or to do close-up work, but there were no opportunities for either in the general area. 

Coming down to the wire, with time running out on my stay, Mother Nature came through. It's hard to describe the sense of euphoria when, after nearly walking away from a location shoot empty-handed, the conditions turn in your favor.  

AglowAglowThe Wizard's Hat appears to glow as abundant mist created by gusty wind and choppy seas is lit by the setting sun. (Bandon Beach, Oregon)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) bandon Bandon Beach ocean oregon pacific sea stacks https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/5/sea-stacks Tue, 01 May 2018 15:55:59 GMT
The Land of Lincoln https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/2/the-land-of-lincoln Once upon a time, before the Monday Holiday Bill, there was no such thing as “Presidents' Day.”

In Illinois (The Land of Lincoln), where I was born and raised, every kid knew when Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was: February 12th. It was a state holiday….and it was acknowledged on the actual date. Imagine that!

For photographers who enjoy shooting architecture, Washington, D.C. is hard to beat. My favorite place to work is, without a doubt, the Lincoln Memorial (architect: Henry Bacon). The ionic columns, the symbolism, and of course - the statue of the President - it's stunning.

Favorite SonFavorite SonThe statue of Abraham Lincoln, Illinois' favorite son, is framed by some of the imposing Ionic columns on the memorial's interior. (Washington, D.C.)  

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) d.c. lincoln lincoln memorial statue washington https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/2/the-land-of-lincoln Tue, 13 Feb 2018 03:36:30 GMT
Focus on the Fence https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/1/focus-on-the-fence Since we've had much less snowfall this winter-to-date than last year, my shooting at Grand Teton National Park is on hold for the time being. Instead, I've continued to concentrate on the derelict buck and rail fence just a few miles from my home. 

Interesting skies have been in short supply since the first of the year: there have been a number of long stretches of complete overcast, and unfortunately no inversion situations to speak of (which can create wonderful rime ice). A handful of late afternoons looked promising; I'd set up and be waiting for the sun to drop lower in the sky, only to watch my compositions evaporate as the clouds disappeared rapidly. Mornings thus far have been either completely overcast or completely clear.

That said, a couple days have served up good conditions. The areas of fence line which I've been able to feature has expanded, thanks to the position of the clouds in the sky. 

There's something about buck and rail fences which I've always found appealing. The fact that this one with so much character is located nearby is a wonderful thing. 

The Neglected Fence VIIThe Neglected Fence VIIBonneville County, Idaho I made this photo about thirty minutes prior to sunset: the clouds directly overhead were beautifully lit and who knew if they'd hold together? Might as well try to capture this and then hope for color later.

I got down very low and used the fence post to block the sun. The combination of low perspective and wide angle lens also enabled me to include as much of the sky as possible. I liked the way the lighting above created yet another line, so you end up with the fence line and cloud line nearly converging. 

While the clouds remained in the sky past sunset on this evening, they did not pick up much color: low overcast along the horizon prevented the last light from filling the sky with fiery hues.

So for a few minutes, the sky was exceptionally beautiful, and there was a photo to be made. It was simply thirty minutes ahead of "schedule," and the composition was based on lines and shapes more so than color. 

You never know exactly what's going to happen....or when!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) buck and rail fence fence idaho sunset https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2018/1/focus-on-the-fence Wed, 24 Jan 2018 20:38:29 GMT
2017 in Review https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/12/2017-in-review 2017 was another memorable year for me photographically - in spite of the fact that I had to give up three planned shoots due to a move which wreaked havoc with my schedule. I'm looking at the 2018 calendar now and hoping to plug at least one of those locations back into the rotation.

Reviewing the images which were made over the last 12 months is an opportunity for me not only to revisit the places I've worked, but it's also a wonderful reminder of people I've met and/or traveled with along the way.

First up is Bryce Canyon National Park, where I spent a week in early February and was fortunate to arrive on the heels of a substantial snowfall. While this resulted in closures of some areas I'd hoped to photograph, since it was snow I was after, this was a fortuitous turn of events.

Below you'll see one of my favorite images from that trip. I was fortunate to have a lovely sky at daybreak; after making that photo, I continued to work in the same general area for as long as possible before the sun got too high in the sky. This was the last shot of the morning. I liked the way the rocks framed the tree; it's a different way of capturing the hoodoos, and the patch of snow adds emphasis to the tree and also provides context regarding the time of year. I had some reservations about making this picture (i.e. harsher light than I would have preferred) but liked the composition so much I forged ahead, utilizing HDR in order to properly expose both the rocks and snow.

FramedFramedHoodoos create the frame; the patch of snow in which the fir tree stands further enhances the vignette. (Bryce Amphitheater at Sunset Point - Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah)

I ventured back to the Colorado Plateau in March, where I visited both Petrified Forest National Park and the slot canyons near Page, Arizona. Lower Antelope Canyon was a spectacular - but challenging - place in which to work. One must deal with time constraints, significant contrast/exposure issues, and the necessity of shooting around a lot of visitors! Work fast, work smart.

Lower Antelope CanyonBalancing ActLower Antelope Slot Canyon (Page, Arizona) Just a few weeks later, I chartered a plane and pilot in order to photograph the Teton peaks from the air as the sun set. While it was a beautiful early April day with temperatures in the 50s at the Jackson airport, the landscape was still in winter mode. This was perfect, since snow covered mountains were what I was after. However, we encountered quite a bit more cloud cover than had been forecast, particularly at the western horizon - which quashed my hopes of capturing alpenglow on the mountains as the sun went down. Still, the clouds made possible some interesting compositions. 

Last LightLast LightThe last rays of sunlight warm the western peaks of Grand Teton and Mount Owen at the end of the day. (Teton Range, Wyoming) Spring comes late to the Tetons, and is short-lived. However, I find it to be the loveliest time of year - both in the Park and on the western side in Idaho's Teton Valley.

Wildflowers dot Grand Teton National Park with color.

Meanwhile, over on the Idaho side, the landscape is lush and green, which contrasts beautifully with the peaks still covered with snow.

I was back in my home state (Illinois) in June, and made sure to set aside time to work at the Chicago Botanic Garden: one of my favorite spots.

FloatingFloatingChicago Botanic Garden (Glencoe, Illinois) Then it was back to the Tetons at the height of summer. One of the great things about that time of year is monsoonal moisture: when it works its way into the region, it can create spectacular skies over the mountains in the afternoon. On the day this photo was made, though the forecast called for a high probability of afternoon storms, initially it didn't appear Mother Nature was going to cooperate. I hung around the barn for a few hours.....waiting. Finally, some dark clouds began to build in the distance - but they weren't positioned properly to make a photo at this spot. I moved to a location a mile or so away where I was able to make an image incorporating those stormy skies over the Cathedral peaks. After spending 30-45 minutes there, I looked in the direction of the barn and saw that the clouds had shifted: it might now be possible to make an image there after all! Racing back, I was somewhat astonished to find not a single tourist in sight. Not only did I now have the incredible skies I'd hoped for, but I had one of the more popular places in the park to myself. For just a few minutes, some light peeked through an opening overhead and brightened a few of the snow-covered peaks. 

Sunset at the Barn Grand Teton National ParkStylish ExitA beautiful sunset fills the sky over the historic John Moulton homestead with fiery color. As there was a herd of bison not too far away, tourists bypassed this stunning scene in favor of the animals - leaving it to be admired in solitude. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) I'm partial to Mount Moran, and am always looking for different ways to shoot it. On this late-July morning, it wasn't an unusual location (quite the opposite, since Oxbow Bend is very popular with photographers) but rather the conditions which gave me something interesting. Though most of the sky was clear, there was some nice cloud development over the Tetons as the day broke. Fortunately, they held together. I waited until the sun cleared the opposite horizon far enough to bathe the mountains in warm light - but before the trees came out of the shadows - to make the picture.

Sunkissed Grand Teton National ParkSunkissedMount Moran and the surrounding peaks glow with the first light of the day. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming) Autumn in the Tetons was unusual this year. The snow came early, while the color, such as it was, arrived late. High winds ended up knocking what little color we did have off the trees in quick order.

Not to worry! I was scheduled to be back in my beloved New England to photograph the "show." While the color there was also off (very late), the usually reliable areas in the White Mountains of New Hampshire were beautiful, as always.

Morning Stillness White Mountains New HampshireA Moment in TimeThough "leaf peepers" crowd the area in early October, the landscape is quiet, peaceful and mostly deserted in the hour before sunrise. (White Mountains, New Hampshire) Moving on to Acadia National Park, I fought challenging conditions the entire time (remnants of a hurricane followed by days of wind) but was able to create some images in spite of it. I made this one during a downpour with the help of my trusty umbrella, which shielded the fern and maple leaf from the heavy rain and therefore kept them from moving.

Raindrops Keep FallingRaindrops Keep FallingAs the remnants of Hurricane Nate move closer, light rain becomes steadier and heavier. Droplets cling to this maple leaf which has fallen to rest on a colorful fern. (Sieur de Monts - Acadia National Park, Maine) Back in Idaho, I was pleased to discover a location very near my new home which is loaded with potential. Since arriving in the Gem State, I've been searching for a place within a half hour drive (or less) at which I can work on a regular basis (i.e. as often as the conditions look as though they might be conducive to making a photo). I had such a location in New Hampshire - a large tidal pool on the Atlantic coast at Rye. I'd had no such luck near my first house in Idaho.....but struck paydirt shortly after moving a few months ago. I found a derelict, fire-scarred buck and rail fence in BLM acreage less than three miles away. (The fire-scarred part is a little disconcerting; three miles is a little too close for comfort when it comes to wildfire.) 

I've been up there dozens of times already. At this time of year, it has possibilities both at sunrise and sunset - and of course when skies are stormy it could be viable any time of the day. I'm not sure whether it will work as well during the summer months when the sun moves much further to the north; we'll see. The sky can be the main focal point, or I can go in tight and focus on the character of the poles. Lots of creative options. I'm certain you'll see more from the "neglected fence!"

Earlier this month, I traveled to Québec City to add to my Christmas Project portfolio. This was a favorite destination when I lived in New Hampshire; though it's now not nearly as easy to get there, it was worth the effort. Dressed for the holiday, the old city is more charming than ever.

Old World ChristmasOld World ChristmasDay breaks on Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America. Construction began in 1687 and was completed in 1723. (Old Town Québec City, Canada) I'm anxious to get out in the field in 2018! Thanks for visiting the website; I appreciate your interest.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

Warm regards,
Rebecca

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) landscapes rebecca metschke photography year in review https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/12/2017-in-review Fri, 22 Dec 2017 22:10:57 GMT
Joyeux Noël https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/12/joyeux-no-l The Christmas Project: Chapter 8

Begun in 2010, each holiday season I endeavor to find more vignettes to photograph and add to my portfolio of Christmas scenes. The first of this month I made my way to one of my favorite places, Québec City, to capture images of this lovely destination decorated for the season. 

When I lived in New Hampshire, my husband and I often frequented Québec. After all, it's reachable by car in just a few hours. Now that I'm living in the "wild west," the journey is quite a bit more involved. 19-hours later, via Toronto and Montréal, I finally made it! 

It was worth the effort. Never having visited in the winter, I was anxious to see the city dressed for Christmas. Founded in 1608, Old Town Québec maintains a feeling of yesteryear, with narrow, cobblestone streets and many old stone buildings. Beautiful any time, it is the perfect setting for Christmas scenes once decorated. The only disappointment was the fact that there was very little snow on the ground. That said, one morning dawned with a fresh dusting which was a welcome surprise.

I have another "Christmas Project" shoot planned, this one closer to home, in another week. Stay tuned!

You can view all of the Québec City images in the Christmas Project gallery.

Lower TownLower TownRue de Cul de Sac - in the oldest shopping district in North America - is decorated for Christmas. The imposing Château Frontenac is visible above. (Québec City, Canada)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) canada christmas québec city https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/12/joyeux-no-l Fri, 08 Dec 2017 12:27:09 GMT
The Neglected Fence https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/10/the-neglected-fence Since arriving in Idaho, I have been searching for a location near my home (30 minutes or less) at which I could work on a regular basis. Close proximity means there's a good chance what I see out the window will be somewhat similar to what it's going to look like where I'll be shooting. I can "drop everything" if there's something interesting developing, scoot over there, and see if I can make a picture.  

In New Hampshire, I had my wonderful tidal pool, where I spent dozens of hours over many years. Here, in spite of my best ongoing efforts to find something, nothing had yet materialized.

Until now.

Having moved locally (about 30 miles) just a few weeks ago, I embarked once again on the "quest." Our new house is in the foothills near a huge expanse of BLM acreage; I decided to drive up into the federal land to see what I might find. I didn't have to go far to discover a buck and rail fence which has fallen into disrepair.

I'm a huge fan of buck and rail fences. Not only do they epitomize the Old West, but there's something about the look of them which I find interesting. This fence, less than three miles from my house, was even more captivating due to its derelict condition. 

It's lengthy and bends to follow a curve in the road. Posts are falling down all along the length of it. As a result, I have some flexibility in terms of which direction I end up shooting (though this is not a sunrise location) and a variety of options in terms of compositions. 

It'll work!

I've named this newest project "The Neglected Fence." I'll be able to follow it through the course of the seasons, and certainly whenever the skies above are interesting - whether it's due to a colorful sunset, or a storm rolling through.

I embarked on this in earnest last week, and have been fortunate enough to have had a string of pretty skies at the end of the day in which to work. Looking ahead to when the snow flies, I'll be interested to see where this takes me.

The Neglected Fence IThe Neglected Fence IDerelict, fire-scarred buck and rail fence (Bonneville County, Idaho)

 

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) buck and rail fence fence idaho sunset https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/10/the-neglected-fence Mon, 30 Oct 2017 23:49:42 GMT
One of the Greatest Shows on Earth https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/10/one-of-the-greatest-shows-on-earth For my money, there's no better place to enjoy the spectacle of autumn than New England. It was my home for more than 20 years, so you'll expect some regional bias. :) That said, I've traveled to a variety of locations in autumn, and while each have been pretty, none compares.

I recently spent a little over a week back East working along the New Hampshire seacoast, in the White Mountains, in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, and at Acadia National Park. 

Just as the colors were late arriving at Grand Teton National Park, so were they off-schedule in the Northeast. I was dismayed to find most trees still green in and around Portsmouth. Once I arrived in the mountains, to my relief, there was color. It was spotty and not as advanced as it normally would have been based on the calendar, but it was still beautiful.

The bigger culprit were the conditions. The wind blew every day but one: even very early in the morning. This wreaked havoc with most of the water shots I had planned, and made close-up work challenging.

Tossed into the mix were the remnants of Hurricane Nate, moving quickly but dumping copious amounts of rain.

Wet weather is not a bad thing when it comes to photographing foliage. Drizzle, in particular, makes the colors pop even more dramatically. There are down sides to precipitation: sometimes the ceiling is so low it can obscure the very scenery you're trying to view and/or shoot. And when the drizzle or showers turn to heavy rain, it becomes nearly impossible to work. Even with a rain jacket on the camera, an umbrella is still required to keep the rain off the lens. This can be difficult logistically if you're working alone with no assistant. (Not enough hands!) Also, especially when working close-up, heavy rain will cause the subject to move.

On the day Nate blew through, I took advantage of the rain and kept working until there was just too much of it.

While I always begin a location shoot with a shot list, by necessity, it often ends up significantly altered. One never knows what Mother Nature will have in store! In this instance, I had to make significant adjustments due to the persistent wind, and to get the most out of the rain and fog.

The single morning which was calm, I was able to make a photograph at a spot at which I actually HAD planned on working. There was just enough definition in the sky to make this composition work. Shortly thereafter, the sky became flat and white, and the winds picked up - erasing this scene:

Morning Stillness White Mountains New HampshireA Moment in TimeThough "leaf peepers" crowd the area in early October, the landscape is quiet, peaceful and mostly deserted in the hour before sunrise. (White Mountains, New Hampshire)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage mountains New England new hampshire white mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/10/one-of-the-greatest-shows-on-earth Fri, 20 Oct 2017 15:53:18 GMT
The Snow Came Early - While the Color is Arriving Late https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/9/early-snow---late-color Autumn color in both 2015 and 2016 came early to the Tetons. I was photographing peak color around the 20th of September two years ago. It was a little bit later last year - but not much. (Ironically, though foliage season came and went early, the autumn of 2016 was unusually mild. The ski resorts weren't happy about the fact that they had to delay opening.....though they ended up with record snowfall over the course of the winter.)

This year, though the early part of September was quite warm, snowfall came early to Grand Teton National Park. An unsettled weather pattern mid-month deposited quite a bit of snow at elevation, thus setting the table for interesting foliage photo opportunities; there is typically very little snow on the mountains in September. However, the trees apparently didn't get the memo that it's time to start the show! 

Here we are at the end of the month, and much of the park is still quite green. 

Though I pushed my long-planned foliage shoot back by a week at the last minute, it was no remedy. The trees remained stubbornly green.

This was one of those situations when something I read years ago in a landscape photography magazine was most certainly applicable: What kind of photograph CAN you make given particular conditions? 

This is one of the pitfalls of photographing nature. We are at the mercy of Mother Nature! You plan as thoroughly and carefully as possible - knowing you may end up being forced to toss your shot list out the window. 

In this case, there was that snow on the mountains: a big plus. There was also quite a bit of cloud cover the first two days I was there: not flat and white but interesting unsettled cumulus formations with lots of definition. Clouds may or may not pan out, but they're nearly always better than completely cloudless skies. Finally, it got very cold overnight which can create fog in the morning. 

So even though the color was lacking, the conditions were conducive to making some good images.

Shortly after I arrived in the park, I headed for the location along the banks of the Snake River at which I intended to photograph the following morning at daybreak. I wanted to see what the foliage situation looked like, and also see if the beavers had been able to rebuild any of their dams which were destroyed with the massive spring runoff. 

Making my way to the water's edge, I encountered a family of moose on the opposite shoreline. While I hadn't planned on making any photos at that spot that late afternoon, I quickly pulled out the camera and captured the mother and youngster. Fortunately, some of the grasses had turned color, so there were some yellows to provide contrast with the snow-covered Grand Teton in the background. 

I'd barely been there 30 minutes and already I had an image.

Landscape photography is as much about improvisation and quick thinking as it is about careful planning.

autumn pastoral Grand Teton National ParkAutumn PastoralLate in the day, a family of moose feeds near the Snake River. The father is nearby, just outside of the frame. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage grand teton national park moose Tetons wildlife Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/9/early-snow---late-color Sat, 30 Sep 2017 23:10:22 GMT
On Things Celestial https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/8/on-things-celestial With the "Great American Eclipse" just two days away, I'm reminded - once again - of how capricious Mother Nature can be. (Actually, landscape photographers don't need to be reminded of this; it's a simple fact we deal with on a regular basis.)

I live in the path of totality. In fact, my town is nearly smack dab in the middle of the 70-mile wide swath which will experience complete darkness for 2 1/2 minutes on Monday at roughly 11:30am Mountain Time. Tens of thousands of people from across the United States - and around the world - are headed to eastern Idaho for the event, in no small part because the skies here are generally clear during the month of August. It being high desert, there's not a lot of cloud production this time of year unless you're in the shadow of the Teton Range.

Ironically, though Monday's forecast calls for the sunny day everyone expected, meteorologists are also watching some cloud cover that is expected to move through the area at mid-day. When the height of the "show" lasts for less than three minutes, a passing bank of clouds can be a very bad thing. 

Fingers crossed.

This situation got me thinking about my challenging relationship with the moon.

One September evening a few years back (when I still lived in New Hampshire), I decided on a whim to run over to the shore and photograph the full moon rising over the Atlantic ocean. I went to one of my favorite shoreline locations, a large tidal pool, and positioned myself so the moon was aligned with the trio of partially submerged rocks in the foreground. There were no clouds in the sky, but the twilight wedge added a lot of nice pink to the scene. 

Three months later, I went out again on a brutally cold and windy evening to Nubble Light in York, Maine to shoot the full moon shining over the lighthouse, decorated for Christmas.

Cold MoonCold MoonNubble Light, decorated for Christmas. Newly fallen snow from a storm just a few days before, along with an appearance by the December full moon (aka the Cold Moon), add to the festive scene. The decorations come out and the lighthouse is lit a second time each year - "Christmas in July" - beginning on the last Sunday in July and lasting for one week. (Cape Neddick - York, Maine)

Two nice moon shots in just a few months! I started thinking I should give the full moon more of my attention. 

Little did I know how difficult that endeavor would be. It wasn't for lack of effort. Mother Nature simply did not see fit to provide me another opportunity to photograph the rising full moon for the next 18 months (the rest of the time I lived in the Granite State). 

Three Super Moons in a row: clear skies but extreme haze at the horizon. I trudged out to the ocean each time. It wasn't obvious whether it was haze out there or not - but as moonrise came and went, and there was nothing in the sky.....

On those occasions it took more than 30 minutes before anything was visible, and by then of course it was too high in the sky.

Other times, it was raining - or overcast.  

If it seems far-fetched when you hear a photographer talk about the fact that it took years to make a specific image, you can now understand how that can be.

Here's hoping for clear skies on Monday!

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) eclipse full moon https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/8/on-things-celestial Sat, 19 Aug 2017 15:19:11 GMT
The Western Slope https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/7/the-western-slope Summer Snow Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingWest Side StoryFollowing a chilly spring, early summer kicks off with substantial snowpack remaining. (Western Slope from Alta, Wyoming)

Referred to as "the quiet side," the western slope of the Teton Range is much less frequently visited. People who don't head over the pass outside of Jackson, Wyoming to see what's over in the Teton Valley are missing something quite beautiful.

Especially as you make your way north of Driggs and on into Tetonia, the views of the Grand are stunning.

Also on the west side, in a little sliver of Wyoming which is isolated from the rest of the state, you'll find the town of Alta and nearby Grand Targhee Ski Resort. If you're into skiing, you probably already know that Grand Targhee is considered one of the top four ski resorts in the country, averaging over 500 inches of powder each season.

I'm a big fan of Grand Targhee in the summer. The vistas from the summit of Fred's Mountain (roughly 9800 feet) are lovely. You can take the ski lift to the top and hike in a variety of directions from there. The Cathedral Peaks are only about eight miles away, so this is a terrific vantage point from which to view them. Also, unlike on the eastern side, there are foothills to the west which are quite green during the summer months and set off the higher peaks nicely.

I made this image yesterday. We've been in a monsoonal flow for the past few days, which generates beautiful storm clouds over the mountains each afternoon. Last week I captured an approaching storm from Grand Teton National Park. This time I was hoping to get the incoming action on the opposite side, and from altitude. The conditions didn't disappoint. In fact, it didn't just rain. Things turned interesting quickly as the rain morphed into a thunderstorm - which meant it was time to get off the summit quickly. 

There will be a few more chances as this weather pattern is expected to hold for another couple of days.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) mountains tetons western slope https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/7/the-western-slope Sat, 29 Jul 2017 22:18:56 GMT
Summer Storms https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/7/summer-storms Monsoon Season Grand Teton National ParkMonsoonSummer in the mountains: a southwesterly flow can create impressive afternoon thunderstorms. (T.A. Moulton Barn - Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

High pressure has been parked over the western United States in just the right spot to create a southwesterly flow and deliver monsoonal moisture to the Tetons for the better part of the past week. Just about every afternoon you can count on cloud production to create interesting skies. It's even better when things go one step further and we get some storms.

Yesterday, with the forecast calling for a 50% chance of rain, I hoped something would happen. By late morning, as cumulus clouds began to form, I kept one eye to the sky - and was thinking about where I'd want to photograph the storm if, indeed, one materialized. 

This being the height of tourist season, I was less than enthusiastic about venturing to the barns on Mormon Row in the middle of the afternoon. Still, based on the direction from which clouds were coming, it seemed like that might be a good spot. I went by and waited there for an hour or so while watching the changes in the sky. While the clouds did begin to darken, there weren't enough of them.....at least not at that point.  I bailed out and drove a few miles away to see what I could do with lupines dotting the fields. Better positioned to take advantage of the stormy clouds that were trying to thicken but hadn't yet filled the sky, I spent the next hour working there.

As I was wrapping up, though, things began changing rapidly overhead! Rain was definitely on the way.

I raced back over to the barn, hoping it wouldn't be mobbed but expecting I'd just have to make do with people milling about. Oddly - wonderfully! - I was the only person there. I grabbed my gear, ran over to set up, and started firing away. I shot from three different vantage points, moving quickly to keep up with the clouds which were shifting quite a bit. Suddenly, some sunlight found its way through a break in the overcast, lighting up the remaining snow on one section of mountain peaks. I re-positioned myself yet again to place that enhanced snow just to the left of the barn's roof, and centered the white "donut" in the clouds - like a huge punctuation mark - over the entire scene below.

After having endured a long stretch of tough-going in terms of shooting conditions, the afternoon's turn of events felt nearly magical. 

Of course, it wasn't a wild coincidence. Based on the weather patterns, at the very least I knew I'd get some nice clouds over the Tetons at some point during the afternoon. That's why I scheduled the shoot in the first place. (That said, I walked away with nothing the day before - in spite of copious cumulus clouds followed by rain.) Beyond that, yesterday's forecast called for a better chance of precipitation than the previous afternoon. I figured the odds were favorable in terms of the pattern repeating itself.

Still - there's rain, and then there's rain. Mother Nature delivered something special. I was fortunate the location I settled on ended up working as well as it did to capture the beautiful skies.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) barn grand teton national park monsoon Mormon Row mountains storms T.A. Moulton Barn Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/7/summer-storms Tue, 18 Jul 2017 21:42:48 GMT
Back in the Garden https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/6/back-in-the-garden I just returned from a shoot in and around Chicago. One of my chief objectives while there was to work extensively at the Chicago Botanic Garden. While the Greater Yellowstone region (now my home base) is undeniably beautiful, there's no getting around the arid climate. Consequently, there are no public gardens to speak of, and of course not many trees. Big skies? Yes. Greenery? Not so much. Venturing back east of the 100th parallel is not only an opportunity for me to photograph flowers, it's also a welcome chance to soak up as much green as possible!

Unfortunately, the conditions all week were challenging. Most difficult to deal with was the wind, which was a factor every time I went out. Extra perseverance was the order of the day.....every day. 

Happily, in spite of the lack of calm air, I was still able to accomplish some of what I'd hoped to do. Even the water lilies, which were swaying to and fro in rippled pools that were seldom completely still, managed to briefly cooperate.

FloatingFloatingChicago Botanic Garden (Glencoe, Illinois)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Chicago Botanic Garden flowers garden water lilies https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/6/back-in-the-garden Thu, 29 Jun 2017 23:34:46 GMT
Green Season https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/6/green-season  

After a long winter during which the Teton Range received record amounts of snowfall, the arrival of "green season" is especially welcome this year. I find spring to be the prettiest time on both sides of the Tetons. Newly leafed out, aspens and cottonwoods dot the landscape in lovely lime and kelly greens. The grass and underbrush are lush. Wildflowers begin to bloom. Huge expanses of agricultural fields are painted bright green. Still covered with snow, the mountains add interesting contrast to the scenery: a juxtaposition of seasons.

There has been so much runoff that the rivers are not only quite high, but also churned up. As a result, some are not as photogenic as they normally would be. Over in the red hills of Bridger-Teton National Forest east of Grand Teton National Park, the Gros Ventre River and Slide Lake are brownish-red right now. The effect is even more pronounced on sunny days. Those locations will have to wait a while before I can make images including water. 

I'll gladly wait. All that additional moisture should be an asset later on when fire season is upon us.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park green season mountains spring Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/6/green-season Fri, 09 Jun 2017 02:13:02 GMT
Eye to Eye With the Teton Peaks https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/4/eye-to-eye-with-the-teton-peaks I've been wanting to photograph the Teton Peaks up-close (via small plane) for months. In the summer, haze can be an issue - especially in a year like 2016 when fire season began early and burned within close proximity.

While the air quality is much better in the winter, obviously there is the weather to deal with at that time of year. The winter of 2016/2017 was especially snowy, which made travel between Idaho and Wyoming challenging on a number of occasions. With front after front marching through the area, it's also been difficult to find a suitable break between storm systems with a good chance for the kind of sky and quality of light I wanted.

Finally last week, it looked as though the conditions might be workable. I scheduled the plane and pilot for a late evening flight in hopes of catching alpenglow on the western faces of the mountains. 

(Side note: a benefit of flying in early April versus January or February is the temperature! With the window open in the plane, a winter shoot can get mighty chilly.) 

Unlike the eastern side of the Teton range, where flight restrictions over the National Park limit you to landscape shots (i.e. aircraft must stay to the east of the Snake River), you can get right up into the mountains on the western side. It's quite a view.

Though there were very few clouds visible from ground level on the Jackson side, once we got into the air we saw that cumulus clouds were blanketing the western side of the range. While this would limit some of what I'd be able to shoot, it also added something special: the highest peaks were poking out of the clouds.

We made a pass by the Cathedral Group and then up to Mount Moran before turning around for a second look. In that short time, the light from the setting sun had already changed dramatically and was even warmer. I photographed another series. Looking to the west, however, we could see we were soon going to lose our window of opportunity. High clouds associated with an approaching front were moving in much earlier than had been forecast and would put a damper on the hoped-for alpenglow. 

We made one final pass in front of the Cathedral peaks and then headed back for the airport.

Mother Nature always has the final say! 

Last LightLast LightThe last rays of sunlight warm the western peaks of Grand Teton and Mount Owen at the end of the day. (Teton Range, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) aerial photography Cathedral Peaks mountains Tetons https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/4/eye-to-eye-with-the-teton-peaks Mon, 03 Apr 2017 16:49:07 GMT
Movement in Sandstone https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/3/movement-in-sandstone Lower Antelope CanyonBalancing ActLower Antelope Slot Canyon (Page, Arizona) Last week I had the opportunity to work in two of the slot canyons near Page, Arizona: Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope. There are hundreds of such canyons in the general vicinity; according to our Navajo guide, it's in excess of 900. Created primarily by erosion due to flash flooding, there is a lovely sense of movement throughout. The rushing water leaves behind not only elegant, curving shapes, but also etches graceful lines through much of the rock. 

These are challenging locations in which to photograph. Many of the passageways very narrow which limits maneuverability, and there is extreme contrast between bright light spilling in from above and many darker, shadowy areas. Another difficulty: the many tourists constantly passing by. 

From that perspective, Lower Antelope Canyon is the better of the two. Because it's more difficult to access, requiring visitors to slide through a crack and then descend down sets of narrow ladders, more people tend to bypass it. It was far less congested.

The slot canyons are further examples of the many wonderful things to be found in the Colorado Plateau.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Arizona Colorado Plateau Lower Antelope Canyon slot canyons Upper Antelope Canyon https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/3/movement-in-sandstone Tue, 21 Mar 2017 21:52:20 GMT
Bryce Canyon in Winter https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/2/bryce-canyon-in-winter Morning ColorCarvings in RedMagnificent sculptures in rock, hoodoos stand in the cold dawn, awaiting the first rays of light from the rising sun. (Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Amphitheater - Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah)

I just returned from a 4-day shoot at Bryce Canyon National Park. Though we have been inundated with snow in Eastern Idaho this winter, I was dismayed to find the ground in Salt Lake City nearly clear as I drove through. Knowing that Bryce - though topping out at 9,100 feet - had also just experienced its first warm snap of the winter, I wondered what I'd find there. After all, one visits Bryce the first week of February hoping for winter conditions....not an early taste of springtime!

Fortunately, there was indeed snow - and plenty of it. In fact, the far southern end of the park was still closed following a recent storm. (Unfortunately, this meant I would be unable to access the bristlecone pines which had been on my shot list. Since it was winter conditions I was seeking, that was a price worth paying.)

With the exception of a snowstorm (the aftermath of which would have been great), I encountered just about every other type of condition. Clear blue skies, a few colorful sunrises, snow squalls, complete overcast, fog, high winds and extreme cold, borderline uncomfortable warmth....you name it.

Long distance location shoots can be a challenge. All the careful prior planning often ends up tossed out the window as improvisation - and perseverance - instead become the name of the game. The weather cannot be controlled! If you've driven hundreds of miles to get to your workplace, then you must make do with whatever is encountered. 

With an eye on both the sky and the clock, and keeping track of the forecast, you do your best to position yourself optimally to take advantage of what Mother Nature is serving up. If conditions are changeable, you must have the patience to wait - and wait some more - to see what happens at a given location. Sometimes this is time very well spent. On other occasions, it's just......time spent.

A little bit of luck never hurts, either.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Bryce Bryce Canyon National Park landscapes Utah winter https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2017/2/bryce-canyon-in-winter Fri, 10 Feb 2017 23:07:29 GMT
Holiday Greetings! https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/12/holiday-greetings Holiday Greetings!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it's been said
Many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you.

YesteryearYesteryearThis landmark covered bridge stands at the entrance to historic downtown Long Grove, Illinois. On a mostly overcast afternoon, a bit of color still managed to peek through as the sun went down.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/12/holiday-greetings Sat, 24 Dec 2016 16:42:57 GMT
Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/12/illumination-tree-lights-at-morton-arboretum Color WashColor WashIllumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum (Lisle, Illinois)

Chicago's Morton Arboretum (located in Lisle, Illinois) introduced Illumination during the 2013 holiday season. This year was my first opportunity to see it. There aren't enough superlatives to describe Tree Lights. 

Magical. Captivating. Enchanting!

I went straight from the airport over to Illumination, and decided even before I left the grounds at the end of the evening that I'd be returning again during my week's stay in Chicago. Fortunately, I'd anticipated this possibility when planning my shot list a few weeks prior and kept a slot open for just this purpose. :) 

What may not be obvious from the still photos is that these scenes are constantly changing. The color palettes shift. The lights move. It was easy to stand and watch a display for 20 minutes to see how it changed. And since I was there working with my camera, 20 minutes in one spot was a drop in the bucket! The changing hues (sometimes quite rapidly) made it challenging to shoot as the color temperatures varied wildly - but I was up for it, and this was part of the fun.

On the day of my second visit, the nominal snow which had been forecast turned into 6-8 inches. And it was wet. This made the trip to Lisle a little more interesting than I cared for, but some white knuckle driving was a small price to pay for what I was about to witness. Already magnificent when I was there four days earlier, the light dancing off trees now coated with thick snow transformed the place into a true winter wonderland. It continued to snow lightly for the first two hours, which enhanced the spotlights as they lit snowflakes falling from the sky. Consequently, the beams of light shining skyward became an integral part of many compositions. 

Illumination continues through January 2nd. If you live in Chicago and haven't seen it yet, or will be in the area over the holidays, I urge you to go!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas Illinois Illumination Morton Arboretum Tree Lights https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/12/illumination-tree-lights-at-morton-arboretum Sun, 11 Dec 2016 00:52:36 GMT
The Splendor of Autumn in New England https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/10/the-splendor-of-autumn-in-new-england The colors of autumn are a sight to behold. And while there are many wonderful locations from which to enjoy the annual "show," I'm partial to northern New England. Having lived in New Hampshire for more than 20 years, and having traveled to quite a few other prime foliage destinations as well, I can honestly say I have never seen a more spectacular display than what was served up every year right in my own backyard. 

Now based in Southeastern Idaho, I made it a point to get back to my adoptive home this autumn - scheduling a shoot for the first part of October, right on the heels of my local foliage shoot in Grand Teton National Park. I began and ended in New Hampshire's White Mountains with a few days at Acadia National Park along Maine's coast in between.

In spite of a very dry summer, the color was excellent. What's more, my timing was nearly perfect. The trees had just begun to pop a few days prior to my arrival, and were nearing peak by the end of my trip. Given the capriciousness of Mother Nature, of course it's nearly impossible to "time" anything like peak foliage in a given location - so this was indeed a fortunate turn of events. 

With the temperatures projected to dip down to the freezing mark one night, I knew exactly where I wanted to work the following morning at daybreak: Chocoura Lake. I expected fog would be hanging over the water, and wanted to see what kind of images I could make once it began to burn off. 

Fog can be tricky. (Talk about capricious!) It's impossible to know how it's going to behave: how thick it'll be, how long it'll take to burn off, and how it will dissipate. It can be a challenge to expose correctly, and you have to be prepared to react very quickly. Still, I like those types of conditions. Fog can deliver a special result. 

That morning at the lake, I was hoping I might be able to work with a part of the shoreline featuring a line of maples which turn intensely red. Unfortunately, they were completely shrouded. That said, the opposite shore danced in and out of sight for more than 30 minutes. The lines of the mountain began to peek through, and then hide themselves again. 

By now, the sun had been up for a while. Though it hadn't yet been able to burn all the fog from the lake, the colorful trees on the nearest shoreline were quite clear, the landscape beyond was completely lit, the water droplets were tinted pink, and some of the blue sky began to show through. Beautiful! I had my image.

Revealed Chocorua Lake White Mountains New HampshireRevealedClearing fog just after sunrise picks up color from the first light, and reveals part of the shoreline at Chocorua Lake. (Tamworth, New Hampshire)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Chocorua Lake New England New Hampshire sunrise https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/10/the-splendor-of-autumn-in-new-england Thu, 20 Oct 2016 21:38:26 GMT
Making Unique Images in Often-Photographed Locations https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/9/making-unique-images-in-often-photographed-locations Sunset at the Barn Grand Teton National ParkStylish ExitA beautiful sunset fills the sky over the historic John Moulton homestead with fiery color. As there was a herd of bison not too far away, tourists bypassed this stunning scene in favor of the animals - leaving it to be admired in solitude. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

National parks can be challenging locations in which to shoot: stunningly beautiful, yet often-photographed. How to make a unique image?

First, there's what each person sees and how they choose to convey it. Drop a dozen photographers in the same general area at the same time and you'd be surprised how different the photos they make might be. Where do they choose to position themselves? Do they shoot from eye-level or closer to the ground? Do they go for a wide shot, or a tighter framing? What lens(es) do they use? 

Next, the conditions. The same spot can look vastly different from season to season, morning to night, hour to hour. Interesting weather, or light, or color, will change a scene - sometimes dramatically. The photo one makes is driven in large part by conditions (forecasts aren't always accurate!), and one's ability to work within those constraints. 

Finally, a little bit of serendipity can be helpful. Especially when a photographer is familiar with an area, a nudge can sometimes be provided - setting the table for Lady Luck to step in if she so desires.

The landmark Moulton Barns in Grand Teton National Park are examples of iconic locations to which a lot of photographers flock. Earlier this month, though, I made a picture there one evening as the sun went down that is one-of-a-kind.

The sky that day had been quite active as cumulus clouds constantly formed and moved through the area. Not just hovering over the mountains, they appeared in every direction. For a while in the late afternoon, it looked as though it might rain - though the clouds retained their interesting shapes and never transitioned to flat white. The threat of rain passed. But would there be a colorful sunset? Too many clouds and the western horizon might be obscured.

I thought about where to go to wait it out and see what would happen. Where could I make the best photo if there was going to be color? It had been a very windy day; therefore, any shot involving reflections in the water wasn't going to work. I was going to need a location where I could use a wide shot to emphasize the cloud-filled sky. I drove over to one of the Moulton Barns, watched the sky for a while, then opted to scope out the situation from a vantage point closer to the mountains. Off I went to a little log-constructed chapel sited at the base of the Cathedral Peaks. After perusing that scene, I decided I needed more flexibility in terms of how to compose the shot given the changeable nature of the sky. Back to the barn.

How many people was I going to have to contend with? The wide shot I had in mind wouldn't work if there were scores of photographers lined up nearer to the structure. 

That is where serendipity (and my past experience) stepped in. I've found that people are much more inclined to shoot the barns at sunrise rather than sunset. Also, at this time of year it's not uncommon for a herd of bison to be in the general vicinity of the barns late in the day. Exceptional tourist and photographer magnets, the animals appeared about a half mile down the road an hour before sunset. Each time a car passed by I held my breath and wondered if it would stop - but no, not a single vehicle even slowed down to see the amazing things that were beginning to happen up above. They had a singular objective: the bison! 

I set up and shot the changing sky until well after the sun went down - and had the place all to myself. 

So while there are certainly many other images of the barns, the one I made that evening is unique: the conditions will never be duplicated in exactly the same way, and I was the only one present at that location. It's still possible to make a photo that is truly your own even in a place that is well-traveled.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Moulton Barn sunset Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/9/making-unique-images-in-often-photographed-locations Tue, 27 Sep 2016 16:21:03 GMT
Autumn in the High Country https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/9/autumn-in-the-high-country Early in the month I was sweltering in the New York City heat. Two weeks later, as I began my week-long foliage shoot in Grand Teton National Park, I started each day in layers (the last of which was my ski jacket) with temperatures hovering near freezing at dawn!

Autumn comes early - and progresses quickly - in the Tetons. 

Though the color wasn't that far along when I began to work, within just a few days it had developed significantly. The season is fleeting, to be sure.

Mother Nature served up quite a few challenges, as is typically the case, but I was also treated to some very special conditions - such as an excellent stretch of interesting, dynamic, changeable skies. 

Case in point: arriving in the dark at Oxbow Bend about an hour and a half before sunrise a few days ago, I watched showers move across the peaks from south to north (which had not been forecast). The falling rain was eventually lit by the sun as it cleared the opposite horizon, which was spectacular. Following that, there was significant cloud build-up ahead of rain which was forecast for later that day. By this point, the sun had risen far enough to light the aspens along the shoreline, some of which were nearing peak color. However, the increasing and rapidly-moving cloud cover was now limiting the sun's ability to illuminate the entire scene - which created wonderful (and quickly changing) effects.

I shot for about 90-minutes, and walked away with a handful of "keepers," each of which is very different.

A great way to start the day, indeed!

Purple Rain Oxbow Bend Mount MoranPurple RainJust as the sun clears the opposite horizon, a band of showers moves almost directly in front of Mount Moran - painting the scene in hues in purple and pink. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

 

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage Grand Teton National Park Mount Moran Oxbow Bend reflections https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/9/autumn-in-the-high-country Sun, 25 Sep 2016 21:44:56 GMT
Bridges https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/9/bridges On the one hand, bridges are utilitarian as they make transportation easier by connecting point A to point B. At the same time, the best of them are beautiful works of art.

If you like bridges, as I do, New York has many to offer. I've been wanting to photograph three of them for quite some time (Queensboro aka 59th Street Bridge, Brooklyn, and Manhattan). Unfortunately, when I'm in the city I typically have a lot on my plate and consequently there never seems to be enough time.

Last week I made it a point to rectify this. The Brooklyn Bridge was at the top of my shot list, and Mother Nature cooperated in a big way as I had only one evening free in which to shoot. Just a single chance.

It did not rain. It wasn't completely overcast. And as an added bonus, though it had been a clear-blue-sky kind of day, some clouds appeared to the west as evening drew near - poised to pick up color from the setting sun. Nearly perfect conditions! 

It's not unusual to spend many days - or months, or longer - waiting for favorable conditions in order to make a photograph at a specific location. When you have only a single opportunity and everything comes together, it's pretty special. That night at Brooklyn Bridge Park was one of those occasions. 

While the Queensboro Bridge will have to wait until my next visit, I was extraordinarily happy to have had the opportunity to capture the other two. 

Brooklyn Bridge IBrooklyn Bridge IThe setting sun punctuates the end of the day with a colorful sky over the Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan. (New York City)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) bridges Brooklyn Bridge New York skyline sunset https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/9/bridges Sun, 04 Sep 2016 04:14:21 GMT
Rain Dance https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/8/rain-dance The last few weeks have been exceptionally dry here, with monsoonal moisture from the four corners region unable to penetrate the area. This has been especially unfortunate since a wildfire has been burning near Jackson, Wyoming since July 17th. There are other fires in Idaho as well, but this one so close to the Tetons is making for extremely poor air quality in the park. 

Showers briefly passed through one week ago, but were widely scattered and barely wet the ground. The area in and around Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park had a bit of luck over the weekend, though, with some significant precipitation. Clouds having been in very short supply of late, I took a chance and headed over to the park hoping I might be able to make a photograph. It didn't look promising at first. Dramatic clouds had already moved east of the Tetons by the time I went over the pass. I found myself wondering if I'd been better off staying on the Idaho side in the Teton Valley and working from there.

Rain was drawing near from the west, but those dark skies were flat and uninteresting. I worked my way through a number of locations trying to find a spot which featured both thunderheads and the flatter dark clouds, to no avail. My last idea was to go to the far northern end of the park where I'd have a completely different vantage point. At first, this didn't seem like it was going to pan out, either. Raindrops were already falling, and the sky was losing detail. Fresh out of ideas given how the storm was behaving, I decided to stick with it, hike out, and see what happened.

The first wave moved through rather rapidly. The sky was painted with dark streaks from rain very nearby. Behind it, the combination of cumulonimbus clouds and sun duking it out for control of the weather created some amazing lighting, especially around Mount Moran. Shafts of light found holes in the busy sky, dancing around the peaks. As I watched the mountains, the movement of these light rays was constant and obvious. It was short-lived, but spectacular. 

Hoping I might catch some reflections of cumulonimbus clouds in the Snake River, I finished up at this spot and ventured back south to another location. That photo was not meant to be, as the sky was simply dark and flat. I waited an hour, but there was no change. Checking the radar, I could see that my opportunity for the evening had likely passed as the rain was going to settle in. Still - a good outing, and the precipitation was welcome.

Raindance Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingRaindanceChangeable skies over the Teton peaks (Alta, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Alta Grand Teton National Park mountains rain storm Tetons Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/8/rain-dance Wed, 10 Aug 2016 02:47:16 GMT
July Tease https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/7/july-tease July often delivers dramatic afternoon storms here in the Greater Yellowstone area - especially over the mountains. That's how the month began, in fact, with promising conditions developing not long after lunch on the very first day. I jumped in the car early that afternoon and chased the clouds, starting first in Idaho's Teton Valley and then working my way up to Harriman State Park near Island Park.

This is what it looked like at Harriman at about five o'clock, with beautiful clouds and rain moving over Henry's Fork of the Snake River.  

Unfortunately, the rest of the month has mostly failed to followed suit. Humidity levels have dipped into the single digits on some days, and there has been next to no precipitation. On the few occasions when there has been cloud production, the result has been "dry" storms - perhaps some thunder and lightning, but none of the rain reaches the ground. One such storm on the afternoon of the 17th sparked the Cliff Creek Fire near Bondurant, Wyoming - not far from Jackson. It has grown to more than 16,000 acres and continues to burn. While the threat to structures has been mitigated, smoke continues to hang over the Jackson Hole Valley. 

Today's fire report indicates it's being "actively suppressed" with both ground crews and aerial support. Burnouts are being set to control its path. As it moves into the Gros Ventre wilderness, the fire is being permitted to burn as it plays its natural ecological role. 

As long as it's burning, I expect air quality to continue to be less than desirable for photographs - especially in the mornings as colder overnight air pushes the smoke back down into the valley. Sometimes extra haze can enhance the sunrise or sunset colors; if there's too much, though, all you're looking at is smog. We'll see. 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) clouds Harriman State Park Henry's Fork Idaho storm https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/7/july-tease Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:36:52 GMT
Back in the Air https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/7/back-in-the-air I began dabbling in aerial photography about five years ago. It took only one flight for me to become hooked. But for the fact that it can become expensive quickly, I'd be shooting from the air frequently.

At the outset, I worked with a wonderful pilot out of Laconia, New Hampshire - which gave me good access to the Lakes Region of the Granite State. Then I began to take advantage of the fact that one of my brothers is a pilot, and would go up with him when he was flying out of central Florida. Before I left the Northeast, I tried something different and took to the skies above the Seacoast of New Hampshire in a small helicopter - a truly tremendous shooting opportunity. The door is removed for photo flights, which affords great flexibility. Those opportunities, however, are a rarity: helicopters are even more expensive to rent than Cessnas.

Since relocating to eastern Idaho, I've had aerial photography on my list, but until this week had not pursued it.

Middle- to late-summer is not optimal for aerial shooting here: the atmosphere tends to be hazy (actually, it often impacts shooting from the ground as well). This is exacerbated when smoke from inevitable forest fires, sometimes burning hundreds of miles away, moves into the area. Another contributing factor in this agricultural region is all the dust raised during harvest season. Last August the skies were stubbornly hazy; I put my camera away for most of the month.

I was hoping to take advantage of clearer skies while I still could, and made arrangements to fly shortly after sunrise out of Jackson, Wyoming early this week. My objective was mainly to photograph the Cathedral Group from various perspectives, bathed with warm, early morning light.

Unfortunately, storms over the Tetons on Sunday afternoon generated lightning. It has been very dry lately, with humidity as low as 9%. Therefore, all it took was one strike to spark a fire near Bondurant - very close to Jackson. By Monday morning, the skies over the valley were filled with thick smoke. I was just about ready to cancel Tuesday's flight when the wind cleared things out nicely. We decided to play it be ear, so I made my way to Jackson very early the next morning. As the darkness began to lighten, I could see that the Idaho side of the mountains was clear. A good sign! Once I made it to the top of the Teton Pass, however, the intense smell of smoke hit me like a brick. I knew exactly what I was going to see once the valley came into sight. Thick smoke. Clearly, I was going to have to scrub the shoot.

However, I'd been thinking about a contingency plan so continued on to the airport and discussed it with the pilot. I decided to roll the dice and see if the air might be clearer up at Yellowstone, which would enable me to photograph Grand Prismatic Spring. As we traveled north, the smoke was still quite heavy. Uh oh. However, as the geyser field came into view, it cleared up significantly. 

Though I hadn't set out to shoot Grand Prismatic this week, and it therefore wasn't the time of day I would have chosen had that been my original plan, I did want to get there at some point - and was pleased with the outcome. The play of light and shadow I was initially concerned about added to the otherworldly feel of this weird and wonderful thermal feature.

I still plan on shooting the peaks from the air - but now may need to wait for the clearer skies of September.

Grand Prismatic SpringGrand Prismatic SpringThe only way to really appreciate Grand Prismatic Spring is from the air. From this perspective, not only is its size apparent, but also its otherworldly, star-like appearance. (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) aerial photography Grand Prismatic Spring Wyoming Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/7/back-in-the-air Wed, 20 Jul 2016 17:45:53 GMT
Silent Tribute https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/7/silent-tribute In Virginia's Shenandoah Valley last week on a shoot, I had to wait out persistent rain. After a complete wash-out on July 4th, I decided the next day to escape to the north to try to find drier conditions. With Gettysburg less than three hours away, and having never seen the battlefield, it seemed like a good opportunity to insert some sightseeing into the agenda.

I'm a history buff, so this was my kind of outing. It was much more than I expected, though. For one thing, it is expansive. Knowing that it looks much the same now as it did then made it very tangible. Envisioning the events of those three long-ago days - and the many thousands of casualties (more than 7,000 dead, more than 30,000 wounded, and nearly 11,000 missing) - while looking at the very landscapes where it all occurred was quite moving.

Though I had the camera in the car, I didn't expect to shoot anything. However, I was taken by the 19th century-style fences which stand throughout the military park, so began to look for a way to photograph them. As I was making my way slowly around Oak Ridge, site of fighting on the first afternoon of the battle, I spotted a clump of Black-eyed Susans standing on the fence line. It felt to me almost as though I could be looking at flowers adorning a cemetery honoring the Civil War dead on Decoration Day. The unsettled sky added to the scene. There was my photograph.

I had to work quickly since the sun was trying to break through the clouds - but was able to make the photo I wanted. 

Silent Tribute.

Silent TributeSilent TributeBlack-eyed Susans stand along the Oak Ridge fence line as if paying silent tribute to the many whose lives were lost here. (Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) battlefield fence field flowers Gettysburg https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/7/silent-tribute Thu, 14 Jul 2016 16:12:21 GMT
Picturesque Palouse https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/6/picturesque-palouse The Palouse is a large agricultural area in southeast Washington and north-central Idaho. Sometimes referred to as "America's Tuscany," the region is known for its fertile, rolling loess hills. Though irrigation is common in farmland west of the 100th parallel, the Palouse is unique in that you will not see any central pivot or other forms of self-propelled systems; views of the fields of wheat, lentils, barley, chick peas and canola are mostly unobstructed. 

Particularly if you are drawn to the beauty of rural areas, this is a wonderful place for the landscape photographer.

I recently spent five days in the Palouse to photograph the lush greens of springtime. It's a challenging location in that it encompasses so many thousands of square miles. A shoot there requires a good deal of perseverance - but is well worth the effort.

Loess Hills of the PalouseUndulatingLate day light accentuates the lovely rolling hills (Palouse - southeastern Washington)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Idaho Palouse Washington https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/6/picturesque-palouse Tue, 21 Jun 2016 02:25:19 GMT
Arches National Park https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/4/arches-national-park I love National Parks, but don't necessarily relish the idea of shooting within them.

Why?

Because they're over-photographed - particularly those in the southwest. It can be quite challenging to make a photo that is unique. That's one of the reasons I so enjoyed all those years I was based in New England. Certainly there are well-known locations there, too - but not as many. (And only one National Park.) One must often search for compositions in an environment which is more intimate.

That said, when in Rome.....

Currently living in the Intermountain West, that's where I'm shooting the majority of the time. Parks are abundant!

Last week I spent a few days working in Utah's Arches National Park. 

I'd carefully organized my days based on the research I'd done and the forecast as predicted. Quite soon it was obvious I'd be tossing my plan out the window, as a massive low pressure system ended up parking itself over Colorado and churning wave after wave of changeable conditions into southeast Utah. The forecast bore no semblance to reality, as Mother Nature mixed it up with a little bit of everything. It was extremely cold. It was so windy the camera shook even when secured to the tripod. It rained. Clouds rolled in and out. The sun would appear - and just as quickly it would become overcast.

As frustrating as this was, I would much rather contend with somewhat unruly weather than completely clear skies. 

Though I wasn't able to make some of the shots I had hoped for, other excellent opportunities materialized which I could not have foreseen.

Case in point: one late afternoon/early evening, after having spent much of the day chasing both the light and the weather from one end of the park to the other, I ended up spending nearly four hours photographing storms moving in and out behind iconic Balanced Rock. This sandstone formation certainly qualifies as one which is over-photographed. Earlier that afternoon, I could see storms forming in the distance and took a chance that they might end up arriving at this location. If so, and if the late-day sun would continue to show its face from the opposite direction, I knew the lighting would darken the stormy skies and the rocks would take on warm color. 

The gamble paid off. 

So while Balanced Rock is often photographed, I got something unique that day. And since I was the only one there, not only was I able to enjoy the "show" in solitude, I also know my images are the only ones which chronicled what happened during that window.

If you do your homework, if you're observant, and if you're persistent, it's still possible to put your own stamp on subject matter which is perhaps a little too popular. :)

 

DownpourDownpourBalanced Rock (Arches National Park, Utah)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) arches Arches National Park Balanced Rock Utah https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/4/arches-national-park Sun, 24 Apr 2016 16:16:59 GMT
When Persistence Pays Off https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/4/when-persistence-pays-off Landscape photography is fraught with variables. While the photographer does everything possible to increase the odds of walking away with a successful image - he or she is still at the mercy of conditions. 

A few days ago, the sky here in Eastern Idaho was fantastic. It was filled with cumulus clouds in all directions as far as the eye could see, with the added dimension of rain moving in and out. 

I decided to hit the road and try to make a photo. But.....where to go?

Spring has come early this year, so most of the snow is gone. It's still too early for any of the landscape to have greened up, though - so things look rather "blah." There is a marshy wildlife refuge about 45 minutes from my home which I thought might have some potential, so I headed in that direction. Upon arrival, though, I discovered very low water levels and therefore not much in the way of interesting compositions.

I wasn't willing to give up. The sky looked too interesting. Where to head next? 

That question was actually a challenge to answer. I've done a lot of research about Southeastern Idaho and have scouted locations since I arrived here last summer, but I have zero springtime experience under my belt. Where to go, indeed? I thought about trying another wildlife refuge, a state park through which Henry's Fork of the Snake River runs. Though it would take a little more than an hour to get there, I guessed it might be worth it as the river could provide me with something interesting to anchor the shot - even though the landscape would be rather drab. On the way, I drove through quite a bit of rain. In spite of what was happening directly overhead, however, it appeared the clouds were dissipating in the direction I'd need to shoot if I continued on.

I abandoned that plan and took another road which I knew would deposit me in the Teton Valley. Roughly 30 minutes later, I'd put 122 miles on the odometer and still had nothing to show for my effort. 

Thunderstorms were now beginning to roll through the Valley; sheets of rain were visible in the distance. I found a farm field with an interesting looking fence. That was as good a spot as I'd seen: I opted to photograph the storm using a wide lens. After having spent an hour there, and with that particular storm moving on, I figured that was going to be about it for the day. I pointed the car west for the 45 minute drive back to my house.

Keeping my eyes open along the way, I taken by how beautiful the skies remained. The conditions were still very changeable; the fact that I was on the move only magnified this fact. It seemed a pity that I only had the one chance to make a picture after having spent so much time in search of viable locations. 

That's when a little bit of serendipity came my way. In the middle of nothing but farm fields, some trees caught my eye. They were oriented in such a way that the amazing sky was behind them. Could that be the photo I had been chasing all afternoon? STOP! I pulled over, turned around, and found - to my amazement - a crossroad conveniently located nearby. Somewhere to safely park my vehicle! I climbed out, walked around to peruse the situation, and knew I'd found something.

I spent the next hour capturing the scene in a variety of ways and watching as the skies continued to quickly change. 

The photo below was the result. Sometimes you go home with nothing. Other times, persistence pays off.

Winterscape Teton Valley IdahoWhitewashRain moving in and out of the area created spectacular cloudscapes; fantastic conditions persisted all afternoon and into the evening. Snow still clinging to the early spring landscape nicely complements the beautiful cloudscape overhead. (Teton/Madison County Line, Eastern Idaho)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) cloudscape Idaho https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/4/when-persistence-pays-off Wed, 13 Apr 2016 18:15:40 GMT
Yellowstone in Winter https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/2/yellowstone-in-winter I just returned from five days shooting in Yellowstone National Park. This was my first time exploring the park in the winter, and it was a fantastic experience.

Yellowstone is essentially closed to cars from late autumn until spring - so the only way to see it this time of year is by snowcoach, via snowmobile, or on foot (cross country skis or, for the truly ambitious, snowshoes). This dramatically reduces the number of people visiting, which is a bonus in terms of being able to enjoy the vast landscapes.

At an average elevation of 8,000 feet, temperatures can be brutal during the winter months. In fact, the initial two days of the shoot it was -23 and -22 degrees respectively. The first location on each of those mornings was a bit of a jolt! The extreme cold, however, combined with the thermal features within the park to create some magical landscapes. Truly a winter wonderland.

Icy GripIcy GripOn this early morning with temperatures hovering at more than 20 degrees below zero, fog is suspended over the Madison River and trees are coated with hoar frost. The first rays of sunlight touch the mountains beyond. (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) landscapes snow winter Yellowstone Yellowstone National Park https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2016/2/yellowstone-in-winter Tue, 09 Feb 2016 00:53:48 GMT
I'll Be Home For Christmas https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/12/ill-be-home-for-christmas Well......not exactly, but close.

There are two places I call home. One is the Chicago area, where I was born, raised, and started my career. The second is New Hampshire, my adoptive state, which I recently left after many years happily photographing its beautiful landscapes.

I did get back home to Chicago for a combination photo shoot and pre-Christmas family visit last week, having just returned to snowy southeastern Idaho on Tuesday. 

Given the time of year, naturally I worked on adding to my Christmas Project portfolio while in the city! There are some decorations that are reliably consistent there year after year, while others change. Consequently, margin for error has to be considered when creating the shot list. I plan based on what I expect to be in various locations from previous experience, and then adjust on the fly once I see what's really going on.

Many of these compositions involve lights, which obviously requires shooting once it's dark. However, I prefer to make most of my images before the sky turns completely black, which means there are only so many compositions that can be captured each day. A complicating factor in big cities is the fact that there are (naturally) a lot of people around - sometimes so many that it's nearly impossible to make the image I have in mind.

The solution?

I get what I can in the evening, but save some compositions for very early in the morning. Especially in places like New York and Chicago, most if not all of the lights remain lit all night long, if not around the clock. (This is actually sometimes true even in smaller towns like Portsmouth, New Hampshire.) I arrive on location while the sky is still completely dark, get set up, and start shooting once color begins to appear. It's the perfect combination of the blue/purple sky I seek, and very few (if any) people out and about.

Below is one example of a shot that would never have worked in the evening.

The Red LineThe Red LineAt daybreak on the weekend before Christmas, Chicago's loop is quiet. Red Line subway stations are decorated along with the street lamps on State Street. A long exposure transforms the headlights of a passing taxi into two white stripes.

This is State Street in the heart of Chicago's loop. The Red Line subway stations were all sporting roping, red bows, and the same oversized ornaments which decorated the street lights. Along with the holiday banners above, I liked the vignette - but knew I couldn't make that picture when the sidewalks were packed with people.

I saved this one for daybreak on Sunday morning. The sidewalks were mostly deserted. A few people came up and exited the subway while I was there, and one or two crossed State at Adams in the distance, but I didn't have to wait long for it to clear. There were more vehicles than I expected, so I decided to use them to my advantage. I waited for the light to turn green, which enabled me to include two streaks of white light from oncoming headlights in the shot. 

As for the holiday itself, "I'll be home for Christmas....if only in my dreams."

Wishing you and yours a joyous celebration.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Chicago Christmas Christmas Project State Street https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/12/ill-be-home-for-christmas Fri, 25 Dec 2015 00:16:27 GMT
Return of The Christmas Project https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/12/return-of-the-christmas-project What happens during that window between Thanksgiving and New Year's? For me, it's The Christmas Project, of course!

Since 2010, I've been seeking out scenes of the season to photograph. Whether in cities or small towns, I'm a sucker for holiday displays. Who but the Grinchiest among us doesn't feel a little bit warmer inside - even on the coldest December night - when viewing the twinkling lights, festive decorations, and whimsical scenes adorning the landscape this time of year? 

The 2015 project has gotten off to a wobbly start. I've been attempting to photograph the lights in Jackson, Wyoming for a while now but the weather has been stubborn - making both driving and shot setup challenging at best and impossible at worst. Since that shoot still hasn't come to fruition, I punted - and shifted the calendar around.

Salt Lake City, already on the schedule, leapfrogged past Jackson and went to the top of the list for this week. There were two sessions: one in the evening/night and then again the next morning before daybreak. While there is enough material there to keep me busy for days (case on point, the lighted "bubbles" floating in the reflecting pool at Temple Square: see below), I had to settle for a quick in and out.

Next up: a return engagement to do some additional Christmas Project work in my home town, Chicago.

Tiny BubblesTiny BubblesReflecting pool at Temple Square (Salt Lake City, Utah)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas Christmas Project decorations lights Salt Lake City https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/12/return-of-the-christmas-project Thu, 10 Dec 2015 22:49:00 GMT
Autumn at Grand Teton National Park https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/9/autumn-at-grand-teton-national-park Having photographed northern New England's spectacular autumn "show" for 20 years, I decided this year - my first based in the interior west - to focus on my new backyard (Grand Teton National Park and the Palisades in Idaho's Teton Valley), before flying to Virginia for a week to work in and around Shenandoah National Park.

Now that we're on the doorstep of the foliage season back East, I'm having some serious pangs of regret about my choice. I checked flights - and my schedule - last week to see if I could somehow squeeze some time to go back to my beloved New Hampshire. It's not going to happen....

Refocus on the original strategy.

I spent a few days last week in and around Grand Teton National Park. The conditions were pretty tough. Cloudless skies at daybreak. Sunny days with harsh light. No frost overnight. No fog.

Clearly, I wasn't going to make the images I had in mind.

When Mother Nature isn't cooperating, I often think about something I've had posted on my desk for many years now. It's a line from a long ago article in Outdoor Photographer magazine: What kind of photograph can you make given particular conditions?

More often than not, the situation is far from ideal. There aren't any clouds. Or there are too many. Or it's pouring. Maybe it's windy. Or it's warmer - or colder - than it should be. No amount of advance planning can trump the weather! If you're on location, you must learn to improvise.

Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.

I was reminded of this the other day, as the stars shone brightly on yet another perfectly cloudless morning. It didn't look good as I set out in the darkness to drive to Oxbow Bend for a daybreak session.

The shot I wanted to make, indeed, never materialized. Not even close. It looked like I'd go home empty-handed.

For just a few minutes prior to sunrise, though, the twilight wedge became faintly visible, then more pronounced - creating a band of pink in the cloudless sky. I snapped away...

Though I stayed and continued to work in the changing light for another 40 minutes or so, the image which was the keeper was the one I made before the sun showed up.

You never know.

Hushed daybreak at Oxbow Bend Grand Teton National ParkHushedMount Moran and the colorful shoreline are reflected in the early morning calm of the Snake River. As sunrise nears, the twilight wedge adds soft pink to the palette. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Teton National Park Mount Moran Tetons twilight wedge Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/9/autumn-at-grand-teton-national-park Mon, 28 Sep 2015 00:26:19 GMT
Lingering, Lovely Blooms https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/9/lingering-lovely-blooms Zesty ZinniaZesty ZinniaZinnias decorate the September garden with intense color: not yet ready to say goodbye. (Chicago Botanic Garden ~ Glencoe, Illinois) Here we are, hours away from the autumnal equinox. Already.

Where did the summer go?

Especially as I'm adapting to the wildly different (from what I'm used to) high-elevation, interior western climate, from my perspective this was a "year with no summer." I've not yet acclimated to what June, July and August feel like in the high country near the Tetons and Yellowstone. While I don't miss oppressively high humidity, neither have I wrapped my head around the fact that one must often don heated gloves for early morning shoots even in the middle of July.

A week ago, while in Chicago for a family gathering, I had an opportunity to spend an afternoon at the Botanic Garden. It was a spectacular day with temperatures in the mid-70s, a light breeze, and no humidity. Somewhat surprisingly, there were many more plants blooming than I expected this late in the season. My gardens in New Hampshire were always beginning to look a little tired by September...

Especially lovely were the zinnias and lantana. The vibrant, hot colors were a feast for the eyes, and a clear signal to visitors that summer was not quite ready yet to let go.

Linger on, beautiful blooms! There is plenty of time for snow...

I was happy I brought the camera and tripod with me.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) blooms Chicago Botanic Garden flowers zinnia https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/9/lingering-lovely-blooms Tue, 22 Sep 2015 17:22:42 GMT
Light It Up https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/9/light-it-up While nature offers up endless beautiful landscapes, of course there are also many stunning scenes which were created by the hands of man.

I just returned from a fabulous few days at the US Open. Though I knew I was only going to have a limited opportunity to do any landscape work while in New York City, I was hoping to make an image featuring The Chrysler Building - my favorite structure there - at the edges of the day. The odds would not be in my favor; I'd only have two chances before it would be "all tennis all the time" - and who knew what the conditions would serve up.

For the sunset attempt, I needed a few things to happen.

1) My inbound flight had to land on time. It didn't....but neither was it terribly late.

2) I needed some clouds in the sky. Check. Driving to Manhattan from the airport, they began to take on color as the sun got lower in the sky. It didn't look good in terms of me getting to the hotel in time, though.

3) Speaking of the hotel, I was going to be at a property with great city views - and in the same general vicinity of the Chrysler Building. Having stayed there many times previously when in town on business, I knew I'd be hard pressed to get a better spot from which to work IF I could get a room on the west side of the property, and IF I could get up high. 

Bingo on both counts. The desk clerk gave me the top floor on the city-view side.

Opening the door to the room, I saw color lingering in the sky, creating a wonderful backdrop for the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings. However, since the sun had already gone down, I knew I only had a short time to work.

I threw open my suitcase, pulled out the tripod, got set up as quickly as possible, and composed the shot. After ten minutes, the color was gone.

But - I got what I was after.

While it's not unusual to come back empty-handed from carefully planned photo shoots, there are times when everything comes together. This was one of those occasions. 

Light It UpLight It UpLingering color from the setting sun decorates the sky as the lights go on in Midtown Manhattan. From this vantage point high above 1st Avenue, the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building punctuate the skyline.

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Chrysler Building Manhattan Midtown New York City https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/9/light-it-up Sat, 05 Sep 2015 21:35:33 GMT
Happy Birthday NPS! https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/8/happy-birthday-nps Today marks the 99th anniversary of the National Park Service's founding.

There are 58 parks within the NPS. How many have you visited?

Get out there and enjoy!

(As you've probably already surmised, this image was made at Grand Canyon National Park...)

Hint of SpringHint of SpringSnow clings to the rim in mid-March (Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona - South Rim)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Grand Canyon Grand Canyon National Park National Park Service NPS https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/8/happy-birthday-nps Wed, 26 Aug 2015 02:10:24 GMT
Not in Kansas Anymore... https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/8/toto-were-not-in-kansas-anymore The move is behind me.

I've traded the spectacular New England scenery which I've come to know intimately over the past 20 years for the majestic landscapes of the Teton/Yellowstone region.

It's a monumental adjustment.

I've traveled the United States extensively and have lived on the West Coast, in the Midwest, and on the East Coast. A home base in the interior West, though, is something new.

I have loved the Tetons since first visiting many years ago, so one of my initial priorities has been to better acclimate myself to the park from a photographic perspective and take advantage of its lovely - but fleeting - summer landscapes. Given that it happens to be the height of tourist season in this neck of the woods, and Jackson/the Tetons/Yellowstone are very popular destinations, retreating to the Teton Valley on the other side of the mountains is sometimes the more workable option.

Among the nice things about the perspective of the Tetons from the west side is the fact that it's less familiar to most people, and less often photographed. But....it's just as beautiful.

Recently I spent a long afternoon at Grand Targhee ski resort in Alta, Wyoming. Taking the chairlift to the summit of Fred's Mountain (9,862 feet), I hiked to a spot which afforded me a wonderful view of the Tetons. The pine trees below aligned to form an abstract arrow, leading the eye to the peaks beyond. The weather was changeable that day, with rain moving in and out - and the mountaintops were mostly shrouded in clouds. Though Grand Teton was visible briefly just three times over the course of the afternoon, it was worth waiting many hours to catch a glimpse and capture it with the camera when it did appear.
 

Raindance Teton Peaks from Alta WyomingRaindanceChangeable skies over the Teton peaks (Alta, Wyoming)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Alta Grand Teton mountains Tetons western slope Wyoming https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/8/toto-were-not-in-kansas-anymore Thu, 06 Aug 2015 03:47:03 GMT
Valentine to New Hampshire https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/6/valentine-to-new-hampshire Fiery Vision Mount Chocorua White Mountains New HampshireFiery VisionMount Chocorua is especially beautiful in autumn when decorated with warm color. (Tamworth, New Hampshire)

When I arrived in the Granite State at the end of 1994, I had no idea I'd still be here in 2015. Let's just say that my husband and I had an entirely different game plan in mind back then.

I'm not sorry that my stay has lasted so long. Quite the contrary: I've grown to love this place deeply. I became a photographer here, and as such, I have traveled the back roads and hiked trails from the Seacoast to the Great North Woods - some of them many, many times. Though small in area, New Hampshire's geography is richly varied. Within her borders you'll find everything from ocean shoreline and coastal islands to rivers and lakes, vast timberland, and mountain peaks. I deeply cherish the opportunity I've had to explore, experience, and capture these beautiful landscapes with the lens.

I ran across a wonderful book a number of years ago entitled Seasons at Eagle Pond. In it, author Donald Hall (the poet laureate of New Hampshire from 1984-1989 and also the 14th U.S. poet laureate) writes beautifully about the Granite State. The focus is rural life on his farmland, but Hall's anecdotes accurately describe a lot of what I've experienced in the nearly 20 years I've trekked across the state with my camera in tow.

Something Hall writes in his chapter on autumn aptly summarizes how I feel about this place, not just during foliage season, but throughout the year:

"And you looked around you in the October woods at the extended private exhibition, low pale Autumn sunlight striking through the diminishing leafy air to catch on reds and yellows of the great woods. After hauling rocks it was good to catch your breath; it was good to look, and look, and look.

And everyone looked and still looks. Even people who have lived their whole lives here never become bored with this looking..." (emphasis added)

Indeed.

I wasn't born and raised in New Hampshire, but it has gotten into my blood. It's as much a part of me now as is my native Illinois.
This week, I will be leaving this land I love. It is bittersweet; the landscapes to which I'm headed are also quite spectacular and will be wonderful to photograph. But a piece of my heart will remain here always, especially in my beloved White Mountains. Farewell....

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Donald Hall Granite State New England New Hampshire White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/6/valentine-to-new-hampshire Tue, 09 Jun 2015 09:30:00 GMT
Lupine Season https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/6/lupine-season Springtime in the White Mountains means it's time for the lupines!

I've been photographing the annual display for the past ten years and have enjoyed every minute. (Except for the ticks, that is....)

Though Sugar Hill is the epicenter of the annual Celebration of Lupines Festival, you'll find the flowers over a large area. In fact, last spring the shot I was happiest with was made in Jefferson - about 40 miles away. It was also the latest I have ever made a lupine photo: June 20th. The combination of late winter and cold spring slowed everything down.

From year to year, the scenery can be quite changeable. I've seen areas that were once packed with flowers now only sporting a few blooms here and there. Conversely, flowers have popped up in other spots. Some lupines bloom much earlier than others, so a field that on first glance looks as though it may not produce much could be awash in color 10 days later.

Though I know the area quite well, and always have a "game plan" in mind, what actually plays out in the fields (and the corresponding weather conditions) can dramatically alter the situation. Preparation is important, but nature is in charge!

I ran up to Sugar Hill the other day for a late-day shoot. It was bittersweet; we are days away from a move that will take me far from my beloved White Mountains. More on that later....

 

Notice MeNotice MeField of lupines at New Hampshire's Crawford Notch State Park.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) lupine New Hampshire Sugar Hill White Mountains wildflower https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/6/lupine-season Sat, 06 Jun 2015 10:47:40 GMT
Low Tide https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/5/low-tide SerenitySerenityAs the day dawned on this humid, late-summer morning, the saturated air was completely still - transforming the tidal pool into a lovely looking glass. (Atlantic Ocean at Rye, New Hampshire)

I've spent many, many hours at this large tidal pool in Rye, New Hampshire over the past five years - most of them at daybreak. 

The pool all but disappears when the tide is high, but it can be a fantastic place to work when the water is low and the air calm. If the skies above are colorful, the still water doubles the effect as it becomes a giant mirror.

If the sky is filled with interesting cloud formations, looking down at their reflections gives one the sense that the sky is beneath one's feet.

The variables are the position of the clouds relative to where the sun is going to come up and how that all relates to the rocks which are visible. This can make it challenging to find compositions that work...but it's also part of what makes this location interesting and keeps me coming back over and over again.

Some people might think it boring to revisit the same location.

Quite the contrary. One gains knowledge and experience returning often to an area. A connection is created.

This tidal pool is one of my "haystack" spots, as in Claude Monet's famous series of paintings. The Haystacks illustrate how different the same subject matter can look from one season to the next. In my case, though the composition is not exactly the same from session to session, the concept is similar. It's fascinating to observe how differently the same spot appears given the time of day, season of the year, and in different weather conditions.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic Ocean New England New Hampshire reflection Rye sunrise tidal pool https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/5/low-tide Thu, 21 May 2015 13:16:33 GMT
Spring in Bloom https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/5/spring-in-bloom Spring is my favorite season. After moving to New Hampshire, I must admit autumn (which previously had only been a reminder that winter was fast approaching) quickly jumped into a close second - but for me, nothing beats the month of May. To watch the natural world waking up after a long winter...to witness the landscape changing dramatically, sometimes from one day to the next...it's something to behold. It never gets old.

Every year, the thing I look forward to most is the beautiful flowering crab trees - packed with blossoms and decorating so many yards, including my own. 

After a brutal winter here in New England, spring came late. Snow was still falling in mid-April. That said, once we got into the month of May, we had a  full week of unusual, summer-like temperatures. This sped everything up - including the crab trees. 

Their lovely displays, always too short, are going to be even more fleeting this year due to the high temperatures. 

This has made the time spent shooting my own cherished trees this season even more special. I know there is not much time....

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) crab trees flowering https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/5/spring-in-bloom Fri, 15 May 2015 01:23:29 GMT
Haystacks at the Lighthouse https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/3/haystacks-at-the-lighthouse I'm a long-time admirer of impressionism in general and Claude Monet specifically. Monet's "Haystacks" series, in which he painted the same subject many times to show variances in light, season, and weather, is a beautiful demonstration of how a particular scene never looks exactly the same.

Those "Haystacks" opportunities abound for the landscape photographer, since it's not unusual to visit certain locations over and over again.

For me, the shore is one such example. I've worked at a handful of areas along the Atlantic Coast at daybreak steadily over the past five years. While I'm visiting the same spots at the same time relative to sunrise (45 minutes prior) over and over, the sessions are never duplicated. The point where the sun is going to come up moves; the tide is changeable (which means the shoreline itself can look significantly different from one shoot to the next); the sky can be painted in a variety of ways; the ocean might be rough and in constant motion - or calm and still as glass; based on what's happening overhead, the water is tinted differently. And so on.

Over the course of the past year, I've spent quite a bit of time at Nubble Light in Cape Neddick, Maine. After having captured it in a variety of different conditions, I made a photograph in late November that I was especially happy with. I began to think it would be wonderful if I could transform that specific scene into my own version of the "Haystacks."

Morning GloryMorning GloryIn autumn and winter, the spot where the sun first appears in the morning shifts significantly further south - creating opportunities to compose images featuring Nubble Light and colorful skies at daybreak much differently than during the longest days of summer. (Cape Neddick, Maine) There was one caveat: this composition is only possible during the shorter days of the year, when the sun rises much further to the south. Therefore, my shooting window would be confined to only the autumn/winter months - and I'd be making just two images: one with grass, and one with snow.

The lighthouse sits out on the water in an open area that can receive a lot of wind. Would the snow stick to the ground or be blown away before I could make my photo?

I needed a "big sky" for this composition. They don't occur with great frequency. Would I get one before the sun moved too far back to the north?

Would I be able to make the photo I had in mind during the winter of 2014/2015....or would it have to wait for a year?

One morning in late February, I got what I'd been seeking.

We had been inundated with show during the course of the month, so even at this windswept location, the ground remained white.

Speaking of which, snow was forecast for later in the day - so I knew there was a chance for "red sky in the morning." That said, when I got up to Sohier Park, the skies were mostly empty and pretty "blah." Quickly, however, wispy clouds began to move in. They were so thin and high that they were difficult to see at first - until they began to take on some faint color. Then it became apparent that they were rapidly filling the sky. Soon, everything lit up and even the sea turned pink. Unbelievable!

As is often the case, the show was fleeting: as quickly as it arrived, the color faded. Within 45 minutes, it was totally overcast.

I got my "haystacks" - and in just three months! Mission accomplished.

Sailor Take WarningSailor Take WarningRed skies just before sunrise at Nubble Light signal snow on the way. (Cape Neddick, Maine)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Cape Neddick lighthouse Maine Nubble Light sunrise https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/3/haystacks-at-the-lighthouse Sat, 28 Mar 2015 14:17:28 GMT
Snow, snow, and more snow https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/2/snow-snow-and-more-snow The first part of winter here in coastal New Hampshire was amazingly dry, with very little snowfall. Mind you, that's fine by me. I've shoveled my way through too many 100+ inch seasons.

That said, the weather pattern shifted rather suddenly. In less than two weeks, we've had nearly 55 inches of the white stuff. Even more frustrating, some of the storms have been so severe it's hampered my ability to get out and shoot!

Overnight and into today, we had about five inches of fresh, wet snow. Clinging to the branches, it transformed the woods into a delicate landscape of white lace.

This tree stood out, with souvenir leaves from the autumn long-passed still hanging on - and adding punctuations of color to an otherwise monochromatic scene.

I don't love cleaning it up, but the beauty of the snowfall cannot be denied.

Winter LaceWinter LaceDelicate patterns of lacy white are created as wet snow clings to the branches. A few remaining leaves - souvenirs of autumn long gone - punctuate the scene with color. (Newfields, New Hampshire)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) snow winter https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/2/snow-snow-and-more-snow Fri, 06 Feb 2015 01:29:17 GMT
Winter at the Shore https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/1/winter-at-the-shore When temperatures dip into the single digits - or better yet, below zero - it can create interesting conditions at the coastline. Sea steam (also known as sea smoke) forms when very cold air moves in over the warmer ocean water.

I was out of town at a trade show for a week early this month when New England experienced Midwest-style bitter cold. One night, it dipped to 7 below zero. Though I was happy to be enjoying mild weather in Las Vegas, I was also frustrated to be missing great opportunities to make early morning images featuring sea steam.

Upon my return, it had warmed up slightly - but forecasters were still calling for single digit lows my first night back in town. Could I be so lucky to find some steam the following morning?

The skies were mostly clear - not great news in terms of producing good color at daybreak. That said, there were some clouds in the vicinity of where the sun would later come up. Fingers crossed, I set out. When I arrived at the shore, it was completely clear above the water. No steam in any direction. Ten degrees might have made for brisk working conditions, but it wasn't cold enough to create sea steam. However, the sky was spectacular. Mother Nature served up something much better than what I'd thought I might find when I left the house in the early darkness.

Single DigitsSingle DigitsBoth the sky and the shoreline below are painted with warm hues just before sunrise - making the frigid January morning seem a little less icy. (Atlantic Ocean at Rye, New Hampshire)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic coastal daybreak New Hampshire ocean Rye sunrise https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/1/winter-at-the-shore Wed, 21 Jan 2015 14:26:29 GMT
Welcome, 2015! https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/1/welcome-2015 I spent the last night of 2014 this year exactly as I did on December 31, 2013: bundled up against the cold, shooting the First Night fireworks in the skies above Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

While last year I chose a vantage point across the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Maine, this time I opted for a closer view - from the top of the parking garage in downtown Portsmouth.

Knowing the garage would be a popular spot since First Night festivities would be in high gear, I ventured into town three hours before the fireworks. I figured if I could still get in, great - I'd give it a whirl. If not, oh well.

When I arrived, there was a line of cars waiting to enter but the structure was far from full. Driving all the way to the top, I was able to park right next to where I wanted to shoot. Good omens!

It turned out to be a productive shoot.

Let's hope the rest of the year proves just as positive!

Wishing you and yours a joyous, healthy, and prosperous 2015.

First NightFirst NightAs the chapter closes on one year, the fireworks show at Portsmouth, New Hampshire's annual First Night celebration helps to ring in the next.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) 2015 First Night New Hampshire New Year's Portsmouth https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2015/1/welcome-2015 Sat, 03 Jan 2015 02:01:19 GMT
Merry Christmas! https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/12/merry-christmas Warmest wishes to you and yours this holiday season. May your Christmas be joy-filled, and the new year a happy and healthy one.

Old Fashioned ChristmasOld Fashioned ChristmasEarly on the Sunday morning before Christmas, quiet streets are a little brighter than usual as holiday lights illuminate them. Especially when dressed for Christmas, the town has a lovely feeling of yesteryear. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) I made this image a few days ago in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Early on the Sunday morning before Christmas, the mostly quiet streets are illuminated a bit more brightly than normal with festive holiday lights. The iconic North Church stands in Market Square, just two blocks away.

But for the automobiles, it could just as easily be a scene from yesteryear....part of the charm of this historic, old town.

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas New Hampshire North Church Portsmouth https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/12/merry-christmas Wed, 24 Dec 2014 18:17:58 GMT
The Christmas Project https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/12/the-christmas-project Since I was a little girl, I've been drawn to Christmas decorations - especially the lights. A favorite moment each holiday season was the first lighting of our tree. Actually, this remains the case!

Though primarily a landscape photographer, a few years ago I gave myself "permission" to branch out and shoot more architecture, city scenes, and the like. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I placed restrictions on myself....

I made my first Christmas image in 2010 outside Faneuil Hall in Boston. I hadn't seen the huge Christmas tree there since before I moved to this area and thought it might be fun to photograph it. (By the way, this is a REALLY large tree - typically around 15 feet taller than the one in Rockefeller Plaza.) A few nights later, I set my sights closer to home. Settled in the 1600s, Portsmouth is a historic seaport with a lovely downtown featuring the landmark North Church - an iconic New England house of worship with a tall, white steeple. The city's Christmas tree stands each year across the street. The composition I had in mind (featuring both the tree and church) seemed like the perfect scene for another business venture of mine, so off I went to photograph it.

And so began The Christmas Project. Since then, it's taken on a life of its own!

Each November, I begin to map my strategy. Where might I shoot? How much can I reasonably expect to accomplish? (Necessarily, over time the map has expanded...)

This year, with a short window between Thanksgiving and Christmas and two Nor'easters already since Thanksgiving Eve, it's been a real juggling act to tackle my shot list. 

That said, I was able to squeeze a slot into the schedule to dash down to Manhattan.  I still have much work to do - including two new locations, both in Massachusetts. Stay tuned!

Christmas in New YorkChristmas in New YorkNothing says Christmas in Manhattan quite like the Rockettes. Crowds flock to Radio City Music Hall (1932) each year to see the annual "Christmas Spectacular." (New York, New York)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Christmas Christmas decorations Manhattan New York https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/12/the-christmas-project Sun, 14 Dec 2014 17:16:39 GMT
Aftermath https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/11/aftermath Winter made an early appearance this week in New Hampshire - and in the process, wrecked the holiday for tens of thousands. A Thanksgiving-Eve Nor'easter brought with it significant heavy, wet snow which took down tree limbs and knocked out power to nearly 1/3 of the state.

While shoveling the drive early the following morning, I noticed lovely color beginning to paint the sky as the sun came up. In spite of the drone from many generators, the scene was quietly beautiful. I ran inside to grab the camera.

So much damage and disruption - followed by a hushed, tranquil scene. Irony.

AftermathAftermathA Nor'easter bringing with it heavy, wet snow snapped tree limbs and created massive power outages, yet the following morning's sunrise - Thanksgiving Day - was quietly beautiful. (Newfields, New Hampshire)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) daybreak New Hampshire nor'easter snow sunrise winter https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/11/aftermath Sun, 30 Nov 2014 01:25:19 GMT
Autumn at Nubble Light https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/11/autumn-at-nubble-light Those of us who live in far northern areas are accustomed to significant changes in the position of the sun from mid-summer to mid-winter. Making its early morning appearance well to the northeast during the longest days of the summer, it slips further and further southward as the days become shorter.

This, of course, especially affects the composition of sunrise and sunset shots.

Nubble Light at Cape Neddick, Maine, isn't too far from my house - so it's a location I keep in mind throughout the course of the year. The orientation of the sun at daybreak in November makes for a much different photo than I would make in August. 

If you browse the "Coastal" gallery, you'll see how the composition of images featuring the lighthouse differ from the longest days of the year to the shortest.

This photograph, made today, underscores just how far to the south the sun has traveled.

Morning GloryMorning GloryIn autumn and winter, the spot where the sun first appears in the morning shifts significantly further south - creating opportunities to compose images featuring Nubble Light and colorful skies at daybreak much differently than during the longest days of summer. (Cape Neddick, Maine)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic Cape Neddick coastal daybreak lighthouse Maine New England Nubble Light sunrise York https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/11/autumn-at-nubble-light Mon, 17 Nov 2014 01:40:10 GMT
Autumn's Last Lovely Smile https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/10/autumns-last-lovely-smile The foliage season feels like a flurry of hyper-activity with trees shouting for attention - each one trying to outdo the next with spectacular displays of color - and all of them knowing their time in the spotlight will be short-lived.

The fact that it's fleeting is no doubt one of the reasons the annual display is even more special. 

This autumn was particularly lovely here in New Hampshire. Though the color began early, the show was long-lasting.

I spent the better part of a day sitting on the shores of Chocorua Lake earlier this month waiting for something interesting to materialize in the sky. Though the forecasts all called for exactly the kind of conditions I was seeking at daybreak, they were wildly inaccurate. It wasn't until early afternoon that things finally improved. (It could have been worse, of course; the sky might have remained flat and white all day.)

It was worth the wait.

As is often the case, there was only a short window in which to work. Not long after I made this image, the wind picked up - ruining the reflection in the lake - and the sun popped through the clouds, creating harsh contrast.

Fiery Vision Mount Chocorua White Mountains New HampshireFiery VisionMount Chocorua is especially beautiful in autumn when decorated with warm color. (Tamworth, New Hampshire)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Chocorua Lake foliage Mount Chocorua New Hampshire White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/10/autumns-last-lovely-smile Thu, 30 Oct 2014 01:12:47 GMT
Never the Same https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/10/never-the-same When I visit the same location over and over again, I'm often reminded of Monet's "Haystacks" series of paintings. Do you recall them?

Created over the course of a year, Monet showed through repetition of theme how changes of light, season, and weather can make a single scene look vastly different.

Nothing in nature is ever the same. From one season to the next, one day to another, or even from morning until evening - what you see will never be duplicated in exactly the same way again. The light shifts. The sky is different. The weather changes.

That's why it never becomes boring visiting the same location scores of times.

It may get frustrating waiting for conditions which are conducive in order to make the photograph....but it is never boring!

I live near New Hampshire's Atlantic coast, so you'll find me there quite often at daybreak looking for interesting skies.

This image was made as a very slow-moving Nor'easter finally decided to head off to sea. Initially, it didn't look like there would be much color at all since the cloud cover was fairly heavy. For just a few minutes, though, just before the sun appeared, the skies turned vibrantly pink. A slight breeze began to gently ripple the water in the tidal pool, but it wasn't enough to disturb the reflection...so the color was doubled. Beautiful.

Off to Sea IIOff to Sea IIA departing Nor'easter made for nearly ideal conditions at daybreak. Though a breeze began to gently ripple the water in the tidal pool, it wasn't enough to interfere with the reflection. Just as quickly, the color disappeared. (Rye, New Hampshire)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic New England New Hampshire ocean Rye sea shore sky sunrise https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/10/never-the-same Mon, 27 Oct 2014 01:45:29 GMT
The Little White Church https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/10/the-little-white-church This time of year, fog often develops over lakes in and around the White Mountains overnight. With temperatures forecast to dip near the freezing mark during the wee hours and into the early morning a few days ago, the table was set for the conditions I was after at Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire.

I arrived at my location at sunrise.....not that the sun could be seen given the thick fog hanging over the lake. A fisherman who'd pulled in the same time as me launched his boat and promptly disappeared into the dense, white nothingness. Since this was just the situation I expected, I settled in to wait for the sun to work its magic.

After about 90 minutes, though the fog was still quite heavy, it began to brighten considerably. I set up for the shot.

Fog is interesting, though - because one never knows how it's going to behave as it burns off. Also, when it does begin to lift, it typically does so very quickly. The other wildcard was the fact that I had no idea how far along the foliage was in this location since I hadn't visited it yet this season.

As the opposite shore began to drift vaguely in and out of focus, I wondered if I'd be able to make the photo I had in mind. Many of the trees surrounding the little white church were still green - and the fog was lifting in an unusual way. 

I had no choice but to go with a much tighter composition than what I'd envisioned. Ironically, it turned out to be a more interesting image in the end.

The single point of concentrated color was an asset. The horizontal parting of the fog created the sense of a curtain going up. And the tight shot highlighted the ethereal feel which the fog lent to the scene.

Dappled Fog Autumn New EnglandCurtain RisingRecipe for an idyllic scene: take some early morning lake fog, add a dash of brilliant autumn color, and finish with an iconic New England church. (The "Little White Church" sits on the shore of Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire.)

 

 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn Crystal Lake Eaton fog foliage New England New Hampshire The Little White Church https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/10/the-little-white-church Fri, 10 Oct 2014 14:12:34 GMT
October Gave a Party https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/10/october-gave-a-party  

Radiant Red White Mountains New HampshireRadiant RedVibrant autumn foliage can nearly always be found in this spot at Bear Notch. The season this image was made, however, the crimson leaves outdid themselves. Mount Washington, often cloud covered, is visible in the distance - entirely in the clear. (White Mountains, New Hampshire) I'm always reminded of that classic George Cooper poem this time of year. "October gave a party; The leaves by hundreds came..."

It's been my great fortune to have been based for nearly 20 years smack dab in the midst of a region known for its iconic autumnal beauty. Specifically, the White Mountains of New Hampshire is my favorite place to view and photograph the foliage - though I work outside of that region and throughout New England to catch the lovely leaves. (Not to shortchange the rest of the year...but there's something magical about the landscape when it's decorated with spectacular color during late September and early October in the mountains of northern New England.)

Of course, there are many other places outside of this area which boast wonderful autumn color. The highlands of North Carolina, for example, are absolutely lovely. For me, though, I'm happiest working in my "back yard."

Since the end of September, I've been trekking up north as often as possible to photograph the show.

Some of the images I've made recently have been added to the Recent Work gallery. Enjoy!

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) autumn foliage New Hampshire October White Mountains https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/10/october-gave-a-party Tue, 07 Oct 2014 21:17:59 GMT
Nubble Light https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/9/nubble-light One of the iconic lighthouses of Maine is Nubble Light at Cape Neddick (near York).

If you like lighthouses, there's a good chance you've seen a shot of it at some point or another. If you've visited Northern New England, you may very well have stopped there as it's a popular destination and near other area attractions.

This makes photographing the lighthouse a bit of a challenge: how to present the scene differently?

For my money, what's going on above is the important differentiating factor. Whether it's interesting color, or storm clouds, or the moon, or light from the setting sun in the opposite horizon painting the structure in warm hues....it's all about the sky.

I've been visiting Nubble Light quite a bit this year at various times of the day and under a variety of conditions, but most often I've been looking for something interesting at daybreak. I made the image below in late August. 

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic Cape Neddick coastal lighthouse Maine Nubble Light York https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/9/nubble-light Tue, 02 Sep 2014 20:39:31 GMT
The Tidal Pool https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/8/the-tidal-pool "Coastal New Hampshire" is a term which surprises many. New Hampshire has an ocean coastline? Indeed, it does.

While it's compact at just 18 miles, the Granite State's Atlantic shore is beautiful. It includes sandy beaches and rocky outcroppings, a couple of state parks, and marshes. With a maximum tidal range of roughly 10 feet, its appearance can change significantly depending on the water level.

One of my favorite places to shoot when the water is low is a very large tidal pool in Rye. It's ringed by the rocks which form it; then, depending on the water level, individual rocks which are scattered in the middle become more - or less - visible. If there is no wind and the water is perfectly calm, the pool will reflect the color in the sky. The resulting contrast between the water in the pool and the ocean beyond can be interesting.

There are obviously a lot of "ifs" involved in making photos at this location.

"If" there are clouds to pick up pre-sunrise color.

"If" the water is still.

"If" the rocks which are visible are positioned relative to the day's color such that a composition can be made.

And so on.

Then there's the biggest variable of all during the longest days of summer: the sun. Because it rises significantly further to the north in the weeks surrounding the solstice, and since there is a point which juts into the ocean not far up the coast from my tidal pool, land can easily get in the way of the shot.

It isn't often that everything comes together...but when it does, it's a special morning.

This is one of my favorite shots at the tidal pool so far this year:

TranquilTranquilColorful palette in the eastern sky at daybreak is reflected in a large tidal pool. A long exposure blurs the ocean beyond, contrasting nicely with the still water in the foreground. (Rye, New Hampshire)

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Atlantic ocean beach New Hampshire Rye sunrise tidal pool https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/8/the-tidal-pool Fri, 22 Aug 2014 15:00:15 GMT
Summer Garden https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/8/summer-garden One of the prettiest spots in Portsmouth is the Formal Garden at Prescott Park. Compact and full of color, it's a wonderful place to enjoy a bag lunch in the summer months, or just sit for a while taking it all in - both the lovely sights as well as the sounds of cascading water from the three fountains. 

I also happen to have a soft spot for the garden since my husband and I were married there. :)

While those who tend the beds have stopped using impatiens (one of my favorite annuals), they have instead selected some fantastic varieties of coleus the past few years, like those pictured here.

For more photographs of the garden, visit my Portsmouth, New Hampshire gallery.

Prescott Park Portsmouth New HampshireSummer at the GardenPrescott Park's Formal Garden is awash with vibrant color at the height of its summer display. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) flowers garden New Hampshire Portsmouth Prescott Park https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/8/summer-garden Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:16:30 GMT
Tall Ships Visit Portsmouth https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/8/tall-ships-visit-portsmouth Sail Portsmouth is an annual event which brings a tall ship or two into the harbor for a weekend visit. This year, it's two beautiful schooners...Mystic and Lynx

Mystic is 171-feet and has 13 sails, with a 110-foot main mast. Lynx is a replica of a privateer from the War of 1812 - built for speed.

Unfortunately, heavy weather in the area put a damper on the Parade of Sail...normally a festive welcoming of the vessels down the Piscataqua River and into the harbor.

Mystic no sooner eased her way in next to the commercial fishing pier when the thunder and lightning which had been threatening drew near and the skies opened.

Though it was overcast for most of the first full day of the event, this morning dawned with a canvas that was "just right" - enabling the sun to get out the paintbrush and work some magic.

Daybreak: Tall Ships at Portsmouth HarborTall ShipsPastel colors just before sunrise create a nice backdrop for schooners Mystic and Lynx as they visit Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Moored at the commercial fishing pier on Peirce Island, the tall ships were the centerpiece of the annual Sail Portsmouth weekend. Mystic is a three-masted square topsail schooner (main mast, 110 feet), and Lynx is a replica of a privateer from the War of 1812.

 

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) New England New Hampshire Portsmouth Portsmouth Harbor Sail Portsmouth schooners tall ships https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/8/tall-ships-visit-portsmouth Sun, 03 Aug 2014 13:15:00 GMT
A New Look https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/7/a-new-look Rebecca Metschke Photography has a new look!

The changes enable more flexibility in terms of photo presentation and the ability to include more information about each of the images.

Another new option: you can now also order prints on luster photo paper as well as vivid metal directly through the website. Both are fulfilled by Mpix, a division of Miller's Professional Imaging. Founded more than 40 years ago, Miller's is the largest professional photography lab in the United States.

Not to worry, though...if you're interested in a signed piece, they're still available directly from me. Those are printed on Epson Cold Press Bright professional fine art paper in my digital darkroom, signed, and then shipped you. Use the contact form to get in touch with me if that's of interest.

Meantime, it's time for me to get back out in the field and shoot!

Thanks for visiting.

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(Fine Art Landscape & Nature Photographs by Rebecca Metschke) Rebecca Metschke Photography https://www.rebeccametschke.com/blog/2014/7/a-new-look Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:03:28 GMT