In March I hiked up Old Rag, an iconic hike in the central section of Shenandoah National Park. I had planned for 2016 to be a year that I worked on my landscape photography. It's so hard to photograph a really beautiful scene and have your photograph convey the sense of wonder that you felt at the time. The rules for landscape photography are pretty unforgiving. You have to be out early or late, have to be methodical, and you have to stand in front of beautiful landscapes. It's harder than you think. Here on the east coast, you have to work to not have power lines, clear cuts, or cars on blocks in your scene. What I've learned, at least one thing I've learned, is that your mind is great at editing out those blemishes when you are looking at the scene. The view from an overlook can be breathtaking when you step from the car. The camera then invites you to really look at the place. It freezes the time and place. You can't ignore the scars that we've cut into our lands. Some days it makes me sad.
I came close to writing that I shot my mom in early April, let that sink in for a moment. This was a portrait I had wanted to do for some time. We went to the mill pond and the creek bank trying to get a location that would set in the place. I wanted my family to be able to look at this in ten years and know exactly where it was and pull back all those memories and associations we have with Narrows and Wolf Creek. Technically speaking there are some good things here. I used a flash in a soft box to separate her from the purposefully underexposed background.
I know wildflowers are so 2015. I can't help it. When I'm hiking in the spring, nothing catches my eye like wildflowers. This bloodroot pushing up through the leaf clutter speaks of spring to me.
If you can get in the woods in May, go! It's never more alive than spring. Everything is green, there is usually still enough water to go around, and the animal life is showing off for each other and you.
This is a classic case of the photographers' advice to look behind you. I had hiked down to the falls, hoping for a nice waterfall picture. In late June the falls were already just a trickle. I was sitting on the cliffs looking west when it occurred to me that this looked pretty good too! You just don't get the good clouds very often. The other hikers there were puzzled by my shooting in the other direction, but they were listening to music while hiking in a wilderness area. That puzzles me!
This is not a great photograph, but it has a pretty good story. I was hiking pretty far in the back country, foraging for and eating blueberries when I startled this bear about ten feet away from me. It scared both of us! He started to run, but then stopped. I think he must have thought "I'm not the one that's leaving these berries". He was right. I took a couple of snaps, thanked him, and eased down the trail as calmly as I could.
You have to get up early, especially in summer, to get these shots. I probably left the house around four a.m. to get up the drive (35 mph), find the right overlook and set up for this shot. I tried lots of angles and views, but settled on the low perspective. For me the wall and wild grass make the shot. An hour and a half later, while hiking I came across this scene. It's said that for wildlife photography, you want to get behavior in the shot. What could be better than a mama bear bedding down her cubs. I was really close, probably too close, when I saw them below the trail. She heard the camera click and sat up to give me a look, one cub woke to see what was the matter. I thanked her as respectfully as I could and moved on down the trail. You never know when cubs are involved.