A Brief Respite

Sunset-Lois McClure-Perkins Pier-Burlington-Vermont
The Schooner Lois McClure docked on Perkins pier. Lake Champlain. Burlington, Vermont.

Burlington has a pretty rich history over the past few hundred years and an example of that is this replica schooner, The Lois McClure. The ship is an 1862 class fully functioning replica that was designed by intensive study of two schooner shipwrecks that currently sit underwater in Burlington harbor. There are no existing plans for ships of this type which is why the studies were needed for construction. Building began in 2002 here in town at the Burlington Shipyard and the inaugural launch was in 2004. White Oak, White Pine, White Spruce, Oak and Mahogany where all used in its construction with the wood being sourced from Vermont, New York and Maine.

Clouds really provide a great backdrop for sunsets here but on this night I got skunked. I did however like the minimalist feel to the sky with the moored boat against the large granite blocks that make up Perkins Pier. I was most attracted to how the light wrapped around the front of the boat and I wanted to add a bit of the foreground into the image. The light was beautiful and the hint of clouds, boat and land I think give this one a bit of mystery! I blended two images together here…One for the light on the foreground rocks and one for the sunset and Adirondack Mountains beyond.

Image Data: ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ 1/8 and 1 second. No filters. Two images blended with gradients in Photoshop.

A Thrust Of Earth

Cliff, Burlington, Vermont, rocks
Thrust fault and cliff face on Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont.

I have been nagging myself for a few years now to get to this location and I finally made it here yesterday. This is the one and only spot in Burlington along Lake Champlain that I have not photographed and probably the most unusual. The cliffs here are actually part of a thrust fault which runs from here, Under Lake Champlain and all the way to the Catskill Mountains over in New York. Geologically interesting as tons and tons of this rock sits on a layer of black shale which if you were to go here you can see the shale layer as well as the thrust fault. The land here sits on privately owned land which is one of the reasons why it took me so long to shoot this.

I researched out the land and found that is owned by the Burlington Episcopal Church. I discovered online that they have a small blog devoted to the area and I was excited to learn that they allow hiking on the property as long as you stop by their offices to get a pass. Some really terrible skies rolled into the area which never broke so I decided to settle for a scouting mission and I came away with a few keepers! The weather made for some good long exposures in black and white and I took advantage breaking out the Lee Big Stopper after about a year of shooting other subjects.

The rocks and cliffs here are just massive. There are several good compositions here and I can’t wait to explore it further. some of the good comps require a good set of waders and some tough gloves…The shale here is extremely sharp on the hands and the rocks here in the distance are difficult to get to without getting into the lake and walking in the water. I had quite the adventure today, Scrambling among these large boulders and using my time to scout even though the weather was less than ideal.

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Image Data: ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ 95 seconds. Lee Big Stopper 10 stop filter and a Cokin Z Pro two stop graduated neutral density filter. Processed in Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and Lightroom. Did some distortion correction as the Canon 17-40mm has some incredible distortion on the wide end at 17mm. (One of my pet peeves about this lens!)

The Stage Is Set

Lake Champlain-Sunset_clouds
Passing clouds at sunset with side lighting over Lake Champlain. Burlington, Vermont.

As I was hunting around for compositions I had to weave my way around several people who were out due to the warming weather. I had to choose my comps wisely and for just a few moments because of the suns position I caught a break with some incredible side lighting on the rocks and clouds. The sun was off to camera left and the scene was quite boring but with a slight turn of my camera I got the most amazing scene!

For just a few minutes during each sunset there is a bit of wiggle room to capture the great side lighting here in the area hitting the rocks along the shore. The rocks light up a beautiful shade of pink due to their natural color. It happens very quickly just before the sun sets under the horizon but if you scramble around like a mad man then you can get a few images of it.

The composition here was mainly because of desperation! I saw the awesome light on the clouds but there were some people in the area and I had to compose without them walking into the shot. The light here in this image really did not last very long so I had to be quick. The view is looking in  a northerly direction over Lake Champlain with Burlington’s Rock Point way off in the distance.

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Image Data: Two images shot for exposure and focus: foreground shot at ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ 1/10 and the clouds at 1/80. Blended in Photoshop CS2 and finished in Lightroom.

Turning Towards Heaven

Sunset, Lake Champlain, Burlington, Vermont, Clouds
Sunset over the Burlington, Vermont Breakwater on Lake Champlain.

Usually the sunsets here in Vermont are just fantastic one day and then followed by several days of bad weather and overcast and flat skies. You have to make the most of the short windows you have especially at the end of Winter and in the early Spring. Every year is different of course but we seem to be in this pattern this year. We had a warm up followed by a cool down with more snow several weeks ago and the sky opened up just a bit for me to shoot this sunset.

Here in Burlington we have a huge open area park with quite an expansive view of Lake Champlain. The inner breakwater at the bottom of the image is used in Wintertime to store boat docks and off to camera right is Burlington’s Coast Guard station. The clouds here formed into one giant blob of darkness soon after I shot this so time was of the essence for this sunset. You can see to the last of the lake ice with some seagulls perched on top! In the background you can see the majestic Adirondack Mountains…I feel lucky everyday to be able to drive 5 minutes to see sites like this!

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Image Data: ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ 1/80. No filters.

Two Trees

Ice covered trees and rocks with sunset over Lake Champlain.
Ice covered trees and rocks with sunset over Lake Champlain.

It’s all about perspective when it comes to shooting images at locations you have visited many times. Changing your perspective several times and really working a composition always 100% of the time will lead to some surprising results! I am fortunate to live in a state where the locations I often return to change throughout the year. While it can be a challenge at times especially in the icy grip of Winter to get something new from an old location I never leave a composition without first exhausting all of its possibilities.

This image was shot during a fairly cold sunset over Lake Champlain at a park that I visit quite often throughout the year. The waves from the lake over the course of the Winter build up a fairly thick coating of ice on the shoreline in the area making it difficult to get down to the water’s edge in places. Not finding good compositions on the ice I stepped back several paces and found this composition looking out between these two trees. I liked the combination of the setting sun with the fading light striking the ice.

Here I had to do an exposure blend of two images. I wanted a certain level of light on the foreground as well as to preserve the light in the sunset something impossible to do in one exposure given the composition and the contrast between the light and dark areas. I try to keep my blends rather simple…..I placed the two images over each other and I used a brush set to about 30 to 40% opacity to blend in the color in the sky. Fine tuning is the key along the edges of the icy rocks and the tree limbs but I think the results were worth it!

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Image Data: ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ 1/4 and 1 second. No filters.

Transitions

Winter sunset during blue hour over Lake Champlain. Burlington, Vermont.
Winter sunset during blue hour over Lake Champlain. Burlington, Vermont.

Sometimes you get lucky with an image and you are in the right place at the right time. Here in Vermont you may get some frozen fingers and toes but if you can position yourself and your gear just right you can come away with some interesting images! I shot this image back in January and I forgot I had shot it but when I took a second look at this one I realized what a gem it was. I would say over the past four months 99% of my images have been shot in the hour before sunset, blue hour and the hour after sunset. We may not get all of the color in a sunset you may see out west but what we do get in the Wintertime is a certain crispness to the images.

In this image I managed to capture the fading light of sunset as well as the transition from blue hour and into night with some stars poking through the sky. It is really interesting to see all three events in one single frame. Cloud cover has been a bear over the past few months but here I got a nice touch of interest in the clouds that were present. I have to take advantage of skies like this as they can turn into an ugly mess in a heartbeat with our fickle Vermont weather!

Image Data: ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ 13 seconds. No filters.

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Frozen Embrace

Ice formations on rocks and sunset Over Lake Champlain. Oakledge Park. Burlington, Vermont.
Ice formations on rocks and sunset Over Lake Champlain. Oakledge Park. Burlington, Vermont.

When the clouds and overcast skies do break around here in Vermont, We have been treated to some really fantastic sunsets and winter landscape photography! I try to get out as often as I can when I see the conditions are favorable and I was treated to quite a show last week. Due to the extreme cold we had the waves hitting the shoreline were creating some really great ice formations giving the rocks here an alien world sort of look. While there is not much snow to speak of there are all kinds of crazy shapes in the ice making for some good foregrounds.

Here I was getting some good color in the sky but the positioning of the sun made the foregrounds a bit darker than I would have liked. This image is a two image exposure blend and while the two exposures are pretty close to each other just that small difference in settings allowed me to add in a hint of light and detail to the foreground rocks while keeping the gorgeous color in the sky. I always want to keep my exposure blends believable, That is I don’t want to push the foreground exposure so much that it doesn’t match the light in the sky. I wanted a hint of light and to make the image as close to what I was actually seeing as possible.

Image Data: ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ 1/8 and 1/25. No filters.

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Across The Pond

Tree silhouette with sunset over Lake Champlain.
Tree silhouette with sunset over Lake Champlain.

I like this tree. It’s one of only a handful that are on the Burlington waterfront. I happened to be out at sunset on another cold Winter night with little snow but I did get some nice color! I really wanted to frame the clouds with a silhouette shot if this tree but getting the right color in the sky with some good clouds seems to be the real trick this Winter. You just have to keep going back day after day and often I am rewarded with a shot like this.

Nothing fancy with this one… I wanted to have the tree dominate the frame and catching some of the light on the ground around the base of the tree. I use the term Pond in the title loosely because Lake Champlain is quite large. Not as big as the other Great Lakes but equally as impressive.

Image Data: ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ 1/4. No Filters or blending.

Marching forward

Canon 7d/ Canon 17-40mm F4 L series lens. UV filter. Lee Big Stopper 10 stop neutral density filter. ISO 100, 40mm, F 11 @ 70 seconds. Burlington, Vermont waterfront with flooding from Lake Champlain.

As promised I have a few images of all the flooding that persists here along the shores of Lake Champlain. The lake does rise quite signficantly in the spring time due to melting snow but I can’t remember a time when it had gotten this bad and all the rain we are getting certainly does not help. If you look to the left side of this image where that old barge is, I should be able to walk out over there but here I am several hundred feet back.

I made this image on yes… A cloudy early morning that was threatening rain. This particular spot is five minutes from my home but I was really liking reflections from the trees in the water. Here you are looking at the back parking lot of the Echo Lake and science aquarium. It’s devoted to the science and ecology of Lake Champlain with lots of neat exhibits about the area.

Using the 10 stop neutral density filter really stopped any movement in the water and gave it that “glassy” look. The sky here is pretty horrible but I think it emphasises the flooding aspect. fortunately I have not had to put on the hip waders to make  an image!

Struggle for life

Canon 7d/Canon 17-40mm F4 L series lens, UV filter, Lee Big Stopper 10 stop neutral density filter. Processed in Lightroom 3. ISO 100 17mm F 16 @ 90 seconds.

I have been looking at this tree for a while now contemplating an interesting composition for it. The tree sits on a tiny spit of land on Lake Champlain in Oakledge Park and I have always admired its tenacity at surviving such a harsh environment.

I wanted to show lots of movement here and there is a little in the tree. With the whipping wind it would have been near impossible to capture the long exposure without showing the movement of the tree and branches. While an image of the tree not moving with the clouds speeding by would have been nice that was not my intent here. Have a good weekend…Let me know what you think of this one!