A Winter sunset on Lake Champlain

Winter sunset with clouds on Lake Champlain looking towards the Adirondack MountainsDuring the Winter months here in Vermont we go through cold snaps and this year has been no exception. In December of 2017 we had a few weeks where the temps ranged from zero to well below zero on a daily basis.  Difficult shooting conditions for not only your body but all of your camera gear as well. Armed with plenty of cold weather protection I went out on a 20 below zero evening to shoot the sunset over Lake Champlain.

Generally when it is that cold with wind you don’t really have a whole lot of time to make images. I was only ably to stand it for about an hour but I did manage to get this image as the clouds wandered by. As the sun was setting the clouds started to dissipate but luckily the ones that were around reflected some really nice light around the scene. I did not have a ton of time to hunt for compositions as this light was fading fast and the cold made it tough for operating the camera.

Despite all of the challenges in shooting during bitter cold temps I was able to use this foreground rock to anchor everything else in the background. Sometimes with lake ice due to wave action it gets pushed up against the shoreline even with the rest of the lake not entirely frozen over.  I think it adds some interesting contours to the scene and it does add to the cold, Winter feel. The pop of color in the sky at least adds some much-needed warmth. Typically these scenes shoot towards the blue side with the snow and ice and the sunset gives it another range of colors and interest.

The image here is a blend of two images that I shot, One for the foreground and one for the sky. In most situations it can be hard to match up exposures as the foreground is always going to be much darker so two separate exposures are needed so you can see the detail in the foreground. I also used a three stop graduated neutral density filter to hold back some light in the sky and pull out some of that color.

Blended landscape image from Photoshop before lightroom edits are applied
Here is the two exposures blended in Photoshop but before any Lightroom editing and cropping. The camera doesn’t always pick up all of the color that my eye can see both in the sky and the foreground. using my artistic vision I have to interpret that and apply it to my photograph.

The advantage of shooting in raw is that I can bring the image back to what my eyes were seeing. The camera at times might not accurately pick up the color happening especially in the foreground snow. In this case I wanted to lighten up the foreground and add a touch of color to the light that was reflecting off of the snow.

Erosion

Sunset-Lake Champlain-Oakledge Park
Cracked rocks and sunset over Lake Champlain from Oakledge park.

In the springtime along the shores of Lake Champlain you have a short window of time to make images with decent, rocky foregrounds before the snowmelt and rains cover them up. This image I made in early April and because of the heavy rains we have had this Summer, The rock here is now submerged in water. It’s something I have to watch out for and depending on how high the water is I have to wait some months to return to certain spots.

We have had so much rain this summer that a lot of the good foregrounds are covered up now including this one but I had the chance to shoot this section of rock before the rains came. The rocks here at this park have a ton of character….Many are cracked and pitted but some are smooth due to many years of the relentless pounding of the waves from the lake. The landscape here changes daily and I was lucky on this trip to catch a really nice sunset with clouds reflecting the beautiful light from the setting sun!

The image itself is a blend of two different shots. Both were made for focus and at different exposure settings to blend together exactly the kind of light that I was seeing while shooting. These exposure blends always require a different amount of work for each one ,Some are easier and some are a bit more difficult. Along with blending the foreground and background together like this image they will need a good amount of brush work to even out the exposure and to add in extra light where I need it. We certainly live in a beautiful world!

Image Data: ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ .06 and 1/15. No filters. Two images blended in Photoshop and edited in Lightroom.

A Curious Rock

waterfalls-Honey Hollow-Vermont
Honey Hollow Falls at the base of Camels Hump mountain.

This is a pretty interesting set of waterfalls located near the base of Vermont’s other well-known mountain Camels Hump. On really old maps of the area the mountain is listed as Camels hump and no other name due to its distinctive shape looking like…You guessed it, A camels hump! The falls here are a short drive from Burlington, Roughly 30 minutes or so. The falls are part of a larger stream system that runs directly alongside one of the steepest logging roads I have ever seen. You can drive up it but only in the late Spring Summer and fall. I wouldn’t even attempt it in the Winter months without some serious 4wd. These falls are in a fairly deep gorge with sloping sides of very slippery rock.

The careful decent is worth it as there are a series of smaller falls leading to the final, large falls with small pools, circular pools and good shots facing either up or downstream. The only downside to shooting here is that a huge pine tree has fallen into the gorge making some of the downstream shots almost impossible. The rock here is rather interesting because of its red color but due to the force of the water over many years it forms a pretty graceful curve back behind the camera position here. It’s an awesome foreground subject and here I am using it for the smaller upper falls!

The image is a two shot composite for focus and exposure. I made one exposure for the falls and one for the red rock in the foreground. I blended the two together with some simple brush work…No gradients or anything else were needed. This is one location as long as you are careful and aware can yield more than one image. Be aware of the slippery rocks and you will be rewarded with some nice waterfall images!

Image Data: ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ 2.5 seconds for both images. Shot with a Cokin Circular Polarizer.

Giant

Lake Champlain-Rock-Burlington-Vermont
Giant boulder fallen from a cliff that is part of a thrust fault that runs under Lake Champlain. Burlington, Vermont.

The Lake Champlain valley is a pretty diverse ecosystem with a wealth of photographic possibilities. In my earlier post “A Thrust Of Earth,” I introduced you to a rather unique location on Lake Champlain and another spot with wealth of photo ops! This area is a thrust fault which runs under the lake and is the only spot in Burlington with massive cliffs and rocky outcroppings. There is a ton of visual interest at this location but on the day I was here for my first visit the sky wasn’t great and it was more of a scouting mission.

I took what nature gave me and made several long exposures…One of which is this giant boulder which sits at the base of the fault. The boulder broke off from the cliffs above and now sits in the water on a very small bit of loose rocky shoreline. The location here is very tight with not much room to manuever for compositions but with more time and the right weather conditions this location is prime for some landscape shooting.

The windy conditions allowed me to break out the Lee Big Stopper for some long exposures. The sun kept poking out making some bright spots in the clouds but I think this shot came out nicely. The boulder with the still living trees growing on the side make for an interesting component to a landscape shot! The weather has been less than ideal but when the conditions improve I will return to this location. I have the ideas for some shots in my head, Now I just need Mother Nature to cooperate.

Image Data: ISO 100. 17mm. F11 @ 90 seconds. Lee Big Stopper.