Weekly Photo Challenge: Descent

A unique take on an old favorite.

One of my favorite New Hampshire waterfalls is Falls of Song at Castle In The Clouds.

It’s a long descent as the water plunges over the precipice. One wrong step…

Precipitous Plunge

For some reason most people see this wonderful waterfall from below, something more like this.


Maybe it’s because it’s not such a long way down if you lose your footing? I’m not sure.

Have a look at a few more “Descents” HERE

Crop In Your Head First.

Cropping for composition at the time of capture.

Boulders At Sunrise, Marginal Way.


The 2:3 Curse.

Most digital cameras capture images in a 2:3 ratio. Quite often though that ratio of height to width isn’t going to work to give you the best representation of the scene you’re trying to photograph. That’s why cropping is such a great tool.

For me the crop is an invaluable creative tool for achieving the optimal composition. After I’ve uploaded my files to the computer, I’ll regularly play with various crops to see if there is one that really works well. And like most, my cropping is done after the fact, in the computer, when I see the possibility of a stronger composition than the one the original capture provided.

Too Much “Stuff.”

Lately though I’ve been cropping in my head before I ever press the shutter. With a little vision, or pre-vision, I’ve started looking for the best composition within a scene. Better than the one the camera is going to capture, no matter how I frame the shot.

Sometimes, when I’m composing a photograph there is just too much extra “stuff” in the frame, and due to the available shooting position, or the subject itself, I’m unable to eliminate the extra “stuff” at the time of capture. And as a result the photographs aren’t as strong as they could be. Here is where the mental cropping comes into play.

Take these two photos of Glen Ellis Falls in northern New Hampshire.

Actually it’s the same photo twice.

The one on the left is the entire scene as my camera saw it, the one on the right is the final image I envisioned, having mentally cropped it before I pressed the shutter.

For me the one on the right is a much stronger image due to the exclusion of most of the darker cliff on the right, as well as some of the stream on the lower right. Also, since this is a rather tall and narrow waterfall, the tall and narrow crop emphasizes its height as well as my low POV and the great texture in the foreground ice.

Glen Ellis Falls - Winter BeautyGlen Ellis Falls - Winter Beauty



















Not Enough “Stuff.”

There are also times when there isn’t enough “stuff.”

Have you ever gone out for a sunrise hoping for just the right amount of clouds in the sky to reflect the glow from the rising sun?

Only to find once you arrive that the clouds aren’t where you wanted them to be.

Pretty inconsiderate of them, right?

Well rather that walk away thinking you’re not going to get the photo you wanted, this is a great time to mentally crop out that lack of “stuff.”

Here are two versions of a photograph I made along Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine.

In the original image the clouds were too far off shore towards the horizon, leaving too much empty sky near the top of the frame.

Smooth Grey Boulders At Sunrise, Marginal Way.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the way the above photo was going to turn out, but since I knew I was going to be cropping out most of that empty sky for the final image, I pressed the shutter and moved on.

Here is the final image.

(I also decided on B&W for the final image, but that’s a story for another time)

Boulders At Sunrise, Marginal Way.


In the end, you still have to crop the photo in the computer, but think of how much post processing time you’ll save knowing exactly how you’re going to crop before you’ve even uploaded the photos to your computer.

Looking Back – My Favorite Images from 2013

2013 Through The Lens.

The past year has been outstanding for me. Physically, I don’t think I’ve ever been in better shape, even better than when I was racing mountain bikes. I can thank my time hiking in the mountains for that. And running, lots and lots of running.

Photographically, I’m happier with the images I’ve captured than ever before. I find myself shooting less, yet coming back with more. I’m developing a more critical eye towards what I photograph, knowing exactly what I want to capture and how I want to capture it. Fewer images from any given outing means less time in front of the computer too. A trend I hope to continue in the coming year.

Now the hard part.

Trying to come up with 12 favorite images from the past year though, that was tough. Not so much coming up with favorites, but narrowing it down to only 12, that was a challenge. Making the task even harder for me, when I set out to compile this list I had one self-imposed rule –  only one image from each of the last 12 months.

 So here they are, my favorite 12 images from the past year.

What’s Missing?

I purposely didn’t call this a “Best Of” list because that’s all very subjective and I’ll leave it up to you to decide what you feel is my best image from 2013.

So what’s missing? Is there a particular image I’ve shared over the past year that you think should have made the list?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Finally, to all my fans, subscribers, and those just passing through, I’d like to wish you all the best in the coming year.



Creating the shot, literally.A lone red maple leaf rests on a rock in the middle of a cascading forest stream. The background bathed in golden Autumn sunshine.

How far are you willing to go to create a photograph?

How far is too far? 

For my landscapes, the more intimate portraits in particular, I have no problem doing a little light “landscaping” to clean up the composition. Without hesitation I’ll remove a piece of dead wood from a stream, and I even keep a couple of small bungy cords in my bag to hold errant branches out of the way.

 But what about adding something to the scene that wasn’t there in the first place?

*  *  *

Take a good long look at these two photographs, what do you think? Personally, I like them both. But then again, I’m kind of biased aren’t I?

Ok, now let’s assume that you like them, maybe you even really really like them.

Now, what if I told you that in one of them the scene was staged, and the other is just as I found it.

*  *  *

In one of these images the red maple leaf, or leaves so as not to give any clues as to which is the “staged” scene, was placed where you see it. In the other I was lucky enough to find the leaf, or leaves(again, no clues), as you see it/them.

Tell me, do you enjoy either one, or both, any less knowing one of them was staged?

*  *  *

What have you added or removed from a scene to create a photograph?

Would you add or remove anything?

Ripley Falls And Red Maple Leaf










(In case you’re wondering which image has the added props, and which is the way I came upon it, that’ll remain my little secret ;-) )


Weekly Photo Challenge: Patterns

Patterned In Green.

I eagerly await the arrival of the false hellebore every Spring. This extremely toxic plant, with its deeply patterned leaves, is one of my favorite plants to photograph.

Close-up of the deep curves and waves of the false hellebore plant.

Patterned In Ice.

On my way home from a winter photo shoot I took a route I seldom travel. I’m very glad I did. As soon as I saw these wonderful patterns in the ice floes I couldn’t turn my car around quickly enough. In my excited haste, I then nearly tumbled down the snow-covered bank of the river as I searched for a good composition.

Intricate patterns are formed as the ice flows on the Bellamy River form a continuous sheet on the water's surface.

Patterns In The Flow.

This morning (May 10th, 2013) I found myself standing in the middle of the Mad River in Farmington, NH photographing a favorite waterfall. The long white streaking patterns on the waters surface were created by the bubbles on the water flowing towards the camera during the 30 second exposure.

Long exposure image of an unnamed waterfall on the Mad River, Farmington, NH

Portrait, Landscape, Both?

When out photographing landscapes have you ever wondered, “when is a good time to try a vertical composition?”

Horizontal image looking upstream towards Bridal Veil falls at Castle in the Clouds, Moultonborough, NH

The answer: 

Immediately after photographing the scene horizontally of course!

Vertical image looking upstream towards Bridal Veil falls, Castle in the Clouds, Moultonborough, NH

Personally I find that in a scene like this the vertical composition adds more depth to the photograph. Which is also why so many of my waterfall and stream photos captured this way.