Winter’s Dance

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Sunset over Lake Champlain looking South with ice and color reflections.

Finally after a few months of what I like to call a photography slump I am finally getting some decent Winter images. I did almost no shooting in November and December but things really started to pick up in January as the weather conditions improved and I wasn’t sick with whatever the newest funk was going around. I suppose we all go through these slumps from time to time but I fought tooth and nail through it and I am having a great time getting out and shooting the Vermont landscape again!

I shot this image the first week in February after a warm-up/freeze which left some really awesome ice formations along the shores of Lake Champlain. When this happens you have an unlimited set of compositions as long as there isn’t any snow to cover up the ice. In between storm systems the clouds opened up just enough for me to be able to make this shot. The cloud system here is streaking in a northerly direction with some build up happening in the left top of the frame. I take what nature throws at me so I let the sun and clouds do it’s thing and I was able to make this shot.

What really drew me into this image was the color from the sunset reflecting off of the ice. I thought the combination of the ice formations with the color on the ice was just too good to miss! I made two exposures here…One for the foreground ice and the other for the sky and background which I merged in Photoshop. I wanted to get some more light into the foreground as it was darker than the background but I also wanted to get as much of that reflecting color as I could. The blending made it possible to achieve both and come up with a unique shot of Winter’s grip on the lake.

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Ice Wave

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Shore Ice on Lake Champlain at sunset with a view of the Adirondack Mountains from Burlington, Vermont.

Finally after a tough start to the Winter I feel like I am getting into a photography groove again! The weather is still hit or miss and 9 times out of 10 I get skunked with the light but I feel that I am still getting out to shoot as much as I can and making some decent images despite all of the complications this Winter. Last week we got a few snow storms and in between the two storm systems the light and clouds cooperated so I made my way down to the lake to finally get some ice shots at sunset.

The lake has been in a cycle of freezes and thaws which create these really fantastic shapes in the ice as the waves move it toward shore. When there is no snow cover on the ice it is a great opportunity for some great foreground interest in a photograph at sunrise or sunset. Another bonus for shooting ice or snow at sunrise or sunset is that they take up whatever color is in the sky and you can get some really brilliant color if the light is right. In this image I did not get that effect as much because I was pointed a little bit away from where the sun was setting but the clouds here were pretty awesome!

I focused in on this cracked piece of ice sticking up from the water and setting my tripod low to the ground I crawled out onto the ice to make the shot. I took a risk here on the ice closer too shore as I could here ice cracking everywhere and you could feel the movement of the waves in the ice. However it was quite strong here in the image so without any danger I shot a few frames for focus and exposure and blended them together. The clouds really gave this one a painterly quality as they were drifting in straight lines off to the north and not directly overhead. Images like this make sitting out in the cold on lake ice worth it!

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Frozen Tides

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Ice on the Lake Champlain shoreline with clouds at sunset.

Finally we are getting some favorable conditions for Winter photography but for quite a few months I was worried we wouldn’t have much of a Winter here in Burlington. I shot today’s image a few weeks ago during a warm spell that broke up a good portion of the lake ice that we did have. Now we have a good deal of snow and Lake Champlain is completely frozen over for the first time since 2007! It has been a tough Winter for me with lots of different things keeping me from shooting regularly but I do what I can and go out as often as I can.

As the warming temps here a few weeks ago broke up the lake ice the waves push the leftovers ashore into these really interesting formations among the rocks of the shoreline. For the first time in weeks we had a decent sunset with some nice clouds and I was really looking for a nice bit of ice to use as a foreground to the clouds and color of the sunset. Needless to say even with the warm temps the ground around this composition was quite icy but with a little care I was able to pull off this image!

This is a blended image of two frames that I shot for sharpness and exposure as the foreground ice was much darker than the sky. I merged the two images in Photoshop, equalized the exposure between the two images and made my usual general corrections to come up with the final piece. The clouds were moving quite fast at this point so I had to shoot fast to catch them before they were gone along with the color! The view is looking North from Oaklege Park to Rock Point.

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Stars Over Burlington

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Star trails over Lake Champlain and Burlington, Vermont from Oakledge Park.

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of my photography friends and followers a happy holiday season! I have been struggling with a never-ending and terrible cold for three weeks now so my posting has been a bit erratic. It’s been three years since I started this blog and my Twitter account at the same time and it has been quite the journey. It has been a great pleasure to meet and interact with photographers from all over the world and I am truly grateful for the support and friendship. While it has been slow going building a small photography business I feel I have made great strides forward with my work in the past year and a half. There are ups and downs of course and I wanted to thank everyone for joining my journey!

I have been thinking about the shot above for a number of years now and with the ending of the Autumn foliage season I decided to get more seriously involved with night photography. It’s been a challenge learning the ins and outs of shooting at night but the rewards for all of the hard work are well worth the effort. I love the city of Burlington where I live and I wanted to capture it in a new and unique way. It really is a beautiful city to look at from a distance and a star trail shot is just what I had in mind!

The final image consisted of 120 images that I took over an hours time stacked in Photoshop. My settings were F4 at ISO 400 for 30 seconds and I used Lightroom to perform the final edits. The only speed bump with this one was a small cloud in the bottom third of the frame that slowly dissipated over the time that I was shooting. A minor annoyance but I loved the final result of one of my first decent star trail shots! I hope you all enjoy this one and that you have the best holiday season!

Spinning

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A tree near Lake Champlain with the North star visible in a star trail image

It’s the time of year again here in Vermont that photographers like to call stick season. All of the foliage is gone, All you can see for miles is bare trees and Winter is on its way. Instead of not shooting anything for the next two months I decided to embrace night photography and learn how to do some proper star trail imagery. I think my time could be better spent while waiting for the snow to fly learning some new photography technique and nighttime work is challenging for sure!

To get the circular star pattern you must be pointed North and in Burlington where I live this is difficult. There are only a few spots that point north that are also image worthy and I have been on a mission to investigate them. I have looked at some and still have a few more spots to go to but you can make some really nice star imagery around the city. This image was accidental as I was shooting a different star trail sequence and I bumped my tripod in the dark making the shots unusable for stacking. Undeterred I quickly looked around and framed up this tree!

This image is composed of 95 images stacked in Photoshop and nothing fancy in terms of processing the final image. There are some street lamps near the tree and I liked the orange glow they added to the trees. I wasn’t crazy about the composition here but I had to move fast as these shots take quite a bit of time to make. I do not have an intervalometer so I have to use my wireless remote to trigger the shutter manually for every shot. It’s very boring at times but I get to watch the stars and make an image with a little something special to it!

Monolith

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A large boulder and trees with clouds on Lake Champlain.

Foliage season is in full swing here in Vermont but the leaves are not quite at their peak yet so i am holding off on sharing any of those images just yet. Peak foliage should be within the next two weeks with probably another week or so of foliage in the valley’s after that and then it will be all over. In the meantime I still have several images from over the Summer like today’s image! If you want to see a couple of other shots from this area head here or here!

I was out shooting on a blue sky day with some exceptional cloud formations however it was mid day so the light was rather strong. The conditions were actually great for some black and white photography so I made a few images with the intent on converting them. The rock here is part of the shoreline in Burlington that is part of a larger Thrust Fault that runs under the lake and over to the New York Side. There are a few parts of the shoreline here that I have yet to explore due to the difficulty in access. The rock here is very slippery at the waterline as well as being sharp and jagged so you either cut your hands or slip in the water.

The cloudscape and blue skies here made for a nice conversion to black and white and I did a simple conversion in Silver Efex Pro. I only had to use one control point to darken the lower left corner a bit and I thought out of several different images shot this one had the nicest amount of contrast and combination of lights to darks. Normally I hate shooting in this light because of how harsh it is but I couldn’t pass up the clouds and with a decent exposure I came up with keeper!

A Painted Sky

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Storm and rain clouds over Lake Champlain at sunset.

We had a ton of rain in the Spring and early Summer this year and lucky for me that I am a Photographer and I was able to capture quite a few of these storms coming over Lake Champlain! The Lake is only a few minutes drive from my house so I can react quickly when they come in and get into position for some shots at several different locations. Every time I shoot these storms I am amazed at how varied they are…I never know what I am going to see from night to night.

If you notice in this image there are raindrops visible on the rocks and I only had a few moments to capture an image or two before it started to rain on me! I was fortunate that there were a few trees around for me to stand under while the rain quickly passed so I could keep shooting! The thing that impressed me most about this storm was the painterly quality to the clouds and light behind the rain clouds. The foreground clouds were really defined with some great depth but the sunset light and clouds behind looked almost like an abstract painting to me!

I had to do an exposure blend here due to the exposure difference on the foreground and in the clouds. A slightly more difficult one than usual because the rocks here were jagged making it a bit more challenging to blend the two together. I almost deleted these images but in the end I stuck with the image files and managed to make a cohesive image out of them!

Sleeping Dragon

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Storm clouds at sunset over Lake Champlain.

Nothing makes me happier as a photographer than when a good set of storm clouds rolls over Lake Champlain at sunset! You really never know what’s going to happen…Sometimes you get it right and are in position for a great photograph and sometimes you guess wrong and are sitting at home while the magic happens outside. The light takes on a special quality at the beginning and end of a storm and I love when I am there to capture it!

As I was shooting this passing storm I was lucky to capture a number of small boats zipping around the lake. The boats and activity give the image scale in relation to the massive storm clouds above. At times the good cloudscapes like this peter out pretty quickly and even in this image you can see the tail end of the system in the lower left corner where the clouds are thinned out and there is a bit of rain coming down!

There wasn’t much in the way of processing on this one. The image here is pretty close to the original raw file with the exception of some lens correction, white balance and exposure changes. It’s nice that you get a hint of color way off in the distance with the looming clouds dominating the scene. Blue sky conditions just never are as exciting as some good storm light!

Descent

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Sunset light reflecting off of clouds on Lake Champlain.

Sometimes the best light at sunset isn’t what is in front of you but what is behind you. If you get a good set of clouds the reflected light on them will often be much better and more dramatic than pointing your camera right where the sun is setting. It takes only a moment but looking behind you to see what the light is doing can be really rewarding and make for some very striking images! Usually clouds like the ones here tend to dissipate as the sun sets over Lake Champlain but on this night they were staying put!

I was a bit rushed here as this light was changing very rapidly and the best cloud formations were off to my left and not over where the sun was setting. What you see here is the very first reflected light from the setting sun and it does not last long! I moved my gear quickly and managed to find a decent foreground getting this image before the clouds passed me by. The deep blues and subtle pinks here lasted only a few moments but they were just beautiful. Sometimes the best part of the show isn’t straight ahead!

Nothing fancy here in terms of shooting or processing of this image. I had to rush a bit to find a decent composition and the light only allowed for a shot or two before it changed as the sun set. This is looking South along Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains away from the setting sun. Train your eyes to look away from where the main action is in a sunset because there will always be a surprise waiting for you!

Summer Whisper

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Sunset over Lake Champlain with fading clouds and a rocky shoreline.

I follow weather patterns over Lake Champlain quite a bit waiting for sets of clouds that I like at sunset. I love cloud formations and how the vary from day-to-day but I especially love the colors they produce at sunset from all the reflected light! Where I live it’s easy for me to look out my window and see if the clouds over the lake are going to fizzle out or if the sunset is going to be a decent one for images. It was 50/50 on the day I shot this image but I still went out regardless.

As I picked out my composition the light was fading fast and the clouds along with it! I had just enough time to shoot this image with the last of the clouds. In fact this small whisper of clouds disappeared completely a few moments after I shot this leaving only the band of color at the horizon. The clouds here had an almost painterly quality to them as the fizzled away but they were reflecting some really gorgeous pink light along with them!

The processing was pretty simple on this one…One shot for the clouds and one shot for the foreground rocks. I blended the two images together in Photoshop using some brush work to balance out the exposure in the rocks. I always try to keep these blends as close as I can to what I was seeing and as natural looking as possible. It can be a challenge to find good sunset spots here in Vermont but on this night I think I had the best seat in the house!

Red Storm

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Storm clouds at sunset Over Lake Champlain and Burlington, Vermont with the Adirondack Mountains in the distance.

Most of my photography work this year has focused around Lake Champlain as it’s close to home and our new baby keeps us pretty busy. Fortunately we are so close to some pretty beautiful scenery here in Vermont that I am still able to practice and keep up with my landscape work. It’s much easier for me to track the weather and cloud formations over the day for sunset shooting conditions than it is for me to guess at what conditions may be present at sunrise.

The storms that pass over the lake provide some phenomenal light at sunset if you can catch the tail end of them as the sun goes down behind the Adirondacks. This Spring and Summer we were graced with lots of rain and a ton of storms. I have spent a great deal of time learning these patterns this year and I think I have gotten pretty good at knowing when the storm and clouds will just fizz out and when they will turn into great shooting conditions. This storm produced some exceptional cloud formations and some beautiful red light!

I did have a pretty tough time shooting this composition however but in the end it was worth it. the rocky shoreline here rises about 5 feet or so quite severely right behind the camera position so not only was my tripod and camera only a few inches off of the ground in a puddle of water but I was sprawled out on my stomach in the water on some pretty sharp rock! I was aiming for getting a bit of the reflection of the clouds in the water and because of how flat the rocks here were I had to get as low as I could. Sometimes you have to get your clothes a bit dirty to get a decent shot!

Storm Glow

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Rock outcropping on the Lake Champlain shoreline at sunset with a passing storm.

With storms and otherwise terrible weather that comes over Lake Champlain I pay attention to what’s happening with the weather and if the light looks great I will grab my gear and head out to shoot. The view from my house is not the best but I can see how conditions are changing over the lake which makes deciding to go out to shoot or not fairly easy. I tend to look for the tail end of the storm systems as the light and clouds can be quite fantastic. You have to be quick however because the conditions can be awesome one minute and the next the clouds can completely dissipate leaving you with an empty, boring sky!

This shot was a desperation move as the park was crowded with people at all of the best compositions. The light was fading fast when I came across this grouping of rocks so I had to set up and get my images as quickly as I could. The rocks are pretty tight against the shoreline and wouldn’t you know it but this specific spot was infested with mosquitoes! The rocky ground made setting up my tripod difficult and the pesky mosquitoes were all over me but I managed to get my images and witness the end of a beautiful sunset!

I got lucky catching the tail end of a passing storm just as the sun set below the horizon. There was some awesome orange light in the sky and washing over the water and I even managed to capture a small sailboat off in the distance! Processing took a bit as I wanted to bring out some more light in the rocks which were very dark. I captured two images here for the sky and the rocks and blended them together in Photoshop. Nothing much was needed in the sky but I had to brush in a bit of light into the rocks and water in the foreground. It really is amazing the sights I get to see around here!