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The Ups & Downs of Landscape Photography
I am sure all of you reading this article have experienced ups and downs in your careers (photographic or any other type of career). Anything from not selling your images to just having a bad photo experience. I experienced all those ups and downs on a trip I took several years ago to the Adirondack State park in upstate New York. I have described to you four different incidents during this photo trip. I also have told you what lessons I have learned from each one. Let me start with a little background information o the trip.
My family and I decided we wanted to explore the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. We could only concentrate on one small area of the park, considering the fact that there is a total of six million acres in the park. We then decided to make our home base in the small town of Saranac Lake, ten miles north west of Lake Placid where two winter Olympics were held.
So let's get started with the ups and downs.
We started our trip by traveling the highways of New York just getting the feel of the scenery and trying to get to know the area. I bought several books about the Adirondacks for my research, and since one of my favorite subjects is waterfalls, I both a book titled "Waterfalls of the Adirondacks and Catskills" by Derek Doeffinger and Keith Boes, which was an immense help to find some hidden waterfalls around the park. But one of the falls that we discovered was not listed in the book was located along NY 86 called Wilmington Flumes. We parked at a small dirt parking space right above the falls. The descent down was a littler dangerous, especially for my husband who was carrying my then twenty-month-old daughter. When we reached the falls I had to be very careful setting up my tripod and camera because there were so many rocks and boulders in the area. If I didn't set up the tripod just right, then the whole set up would crash to the ground and there goes my camera.
I happened to get lucky with the weather that day. It was a cloudy day so when I photographed the waterfall, the water appeared white as it should be and not blue as when the sun is shining and the water reflects the blue sky. Lesson: I learned from this experience that you should keep yours eyes open to the possibility of discovering new areas to photograph.
My next experience was not as good. We received a package from New York.com. In this package there was a pamphlet that contained a list of of different trails in the park. There was one listed near Saranac Lake. The trail was called Panther Mountain Trail. It was a fairly short trail; unfortunately we did not know how steep the trail was. What made it ever more difficult is that not only did I have to carry my gear, but my husband also had to carry my daughter. So by the time we ascended the top of the mountain my husband and I were just about ready to collapse. I was bound and determined to create photographs on top of that mountain. The problem was that it was about 6 pm and there was still a haze across the horizon. I tried using warming filters, a circular polarizer and a neutral density filter. Unfortunately none of them worked. I still had a blue tint to the photos. Lesson: I learned from this experience that your timing has to be perfect to create a beautiful mountain photograph, or be a little more patient and wait for the "right light." You also cannot force a photograph that just isn't there.
One of the more surprising photo experiences happened to me when we decided to visit the Paul Smiths Interpretive Visitors Center. There are two Visitors Centers in the Adirondack State Park. The Paul Smiths Interpretive Visitors Center is located in the High Peaks region of the park in a small town called Paul Smiths. What is unique about this visitors center is not only does it have the traditional building with pieces representing the indigenous species to the area including mammals, birds, plant life and insects it also had a butterfly building that houses all the various butterflies found locally (including species that migrate to the area from the north and south). But the best part about this visitors center was the fact that there were several trails found behind the buildings. The trails meander through a forest with different trees and plants labeled with the common and Latin names. Eventually the trails lead to a boardwalk that runs along a large swamp area where you can observe various species of binds including bald eagles and the Great Blue Herons.
The visitor's center does not open up until 9 am. We arrived around 10 am. So I was not expecting too much in the way of photographing landscapes since we did not make it there until the harsh sunlight was beating down on the scene. Fortunately I was wrong. I had noticed while we were walking along the swamp that there were some really beautiful clouds in the sky and the reflection of the water was absolutely gorgeous. So I took advantage of the clouds and reflection to photograph at the worst possible time of day. Lesson: The lesson I learned from this experience was rules are meant to be broken.
Now this lesson does not really have to do with photograph itself. This has to do with Mother Nature. Some of you who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Maine as well as New York (or even if you happen to photograph these areas in June) will understand this dilemma. I was told that the black fly was very nasty. Being from Ohio the worst insects we have is the common mosquito. A friend of mine who lives in the area warned me that we better smother ourselves with insect repellent. Up until this point we really had not had to many problems with the black fly. We went ahead and did like we had been doing that entire week. We doused ourselves with insect repellent and then we decided we would visit Buttermilk Falls. The falls itself was just a short hike from where we parked. When we arrived at the actual falls there wasn't a person in sight, the clouds were thick enough so there wouldn't be any sky reflecting in the water and the falls were breathtaking. I was so excited; it was a landscape photographers dream. I began to setup my equipment, began composing and photographing the falls. Then I heard them. The Swarm. It was like one of those terrible B movies. I thought the black flies were going to carry my daughter off. The annoying insects were trying to find any exposed skin where there wasn't any repellent. They flew in my mouth, up my nose, in my ears and in my hair. They were flying around in front of my camera and lens. I was afraid I was going to have all my photographs featuring the black flies instead of the waterfalls. I tried to concentrate as hard as I could and I think I created some really excellent photographs but it was no thanks to those black flies. Lesson: I learned that no matter how much we try there is absolutely no way we can control Mother Nature. Also try to smother yourself with as much insect repellent as you can if you know there will be any insects flying around.
I learned many lessons from this photo trip. I guess photography is a lot like life. It has its ups and downs. As long as you have the patients and perseverance you can ride those waves, survive and enjoy it!