It’s been a while…

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…since I’ve made one of these types of photographs. From a recent hike in the Bangor Forest, these images were made by moving the camera up or down and through the scene while keeping the shutter open for half a second. I loved the earthy tones of the scene above, and although it appeared to be nothing special in person, I enjoy how it came out when using this technique. Here are a couple more made using the same technique… the first showcases the carpet of red leaves decorating on the floor, and the second emphasizes the dappled light that was bouncing around within a small copse of trees.

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Fall in the forest…

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It had been a while since we last visited the Bangor Forest, so just recently we scratched an itch to return there, and boy are we glad we did. The fall foliage colors, though just slightly past their peak, were still pretty amazing, and the peace and tranquility we found along the trail made this an awesome family hike. Oliver was invited, and as usual, he was a champ as we eagerly explored our wooded surroundings. Staying on the outskirts of the forest – we hopped onto the West Loop Trail – meant that we saw very few people, so even though we were relatively close to the bustling mall area of town, the solitude experienced made it feel as if we were deep in the woods on an adventure. There were pockets of fall color still to be found, and although I brought the camera with me, I was quite content to keep it slung over my shoulder most of the time while I enjoyed the company of my peeps. Here are a couple more from our fall walk in the forest…

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The Whole of the Moon…

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Using the Photographer’s Ephemeris as my guide, I knew that the full moon was going to rise about half an hour after sunset this evening, and I knew precisely where in the sky it was going to rise. I had grand visions of photographing a huge full moon illuminated against a backdrop of gorgeous pinks, blues and purples from the earth’s shadow, and the timing of sunset/moonrise would be quite close for allowing this to happen… that’s – if – there weren’t any clouds on the horizon.

I was in Portland earlier in the day helping Sam take care of paperwork for his summer internship, and while in town, we stopped for lunch at the Ri Ra Irish Pub on Commercial Street. As Sam scoffed down Shepherd’s Pie and I enjoyed a delicious bowl of Guinness and Beef Stew, a song from the past blared over the sound system, hence the title of this post. The song brought me back to growing up in Ireland… “The Whole of the Moon” by the Waterboys… classic!

Lori and Jack joined me on this little adventure – after we had all enjoyed ice cream at Giffords – and the three of us arrived at the parking lot for the Bangor Forest about half an hour before sunset. There’s a pond at the bottom of a large hill (which is actually an old landfill), and we all spent some time being enthralled and entertained by a frisky beaver swimming and splashing around. Though I was really just killing time until moonrise, I began to notice that as the sun got lower in the sky, nice warm light was beginning to paint the landscape. Scattered clouds were exploding up above, and from my viewpoint, I could see shafts of virga all around being backlit by beautiful colors. With the setting sun getting lower in the sky, I quickly set my camera up and fired off a few compositions.

OK… now for the moon. After the sun had set, I huffed and puffed my way to the top of the hill – I really do have to get in better shape – and I did some figuring as to where in the sky the moon would be rising. Wouldn’t you know… there was a thin layer of cloud hugging the horizon right where the moon was supposed to rise. After doing all of my planning, I wasn’t about to give up just yet though. A wide angle lens would render the moon – no matter how big it was in person – as a relatively small speck, so instead I set my tripod and camera up with a 70-200mm lens attached.

The image above is a composite of two photographs… the overall scene was shot at 70mm, and the moon was shot at 200mm… I then did a little computery-shenanigans to place the correctly exposed and life-size version of the moon back into the scene. Not quite what I had envisioned, but it was VERY COOL to be able to share the experience with Lori and Jack. As we watched darkness fall over the forest, twinkling stars slowly unveiled themselves overhead, and bullfrogs in the pond sounded their deep-throated songs… and even though those pesky clouds delayed the moon show for a few minutes, we did eventually see the whole of the moon.

Practicing

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We all love the Bangor Forest, and Jack especially loves to use the “back” entrance via Kittredge Road where you park and then climb over a huge hill that was once a city landfill. Lush and green in the summer months, on this particular winter day the hill was brown and, for this time of year, atypically barren of snow.

Another reason I like to go to the forest is to practice my photography. And when I say practice, I literally mean practice. I like to press the shutter tons of times as we explore the landscape, and whether or not we have great light, I enjoy trying to arrange the elements found in some sort of meaningful way. Most times it doesn’t work out that well, but every now and then I come home with a photograph that I like. My main goal isn’t necessarily to come away with a knockout composition, but rather to… well… practice, in the hope that when I do find myself in a more aesthetically pleasing scene I am better prepared to take advantage. On this particular morning I had decided to bring only my 50mm f1.8 lens, so rather than having the luxury of a zoom to manipulate compositions, I had to do it the old-fashioned way by moving my feet!

Anyhoo… as I wandered along the path I stumbled on the image below, and although hardly portfolio level, I kinda liked how the remnants of fall color contrasted with the more seasonal elements on the forest floor. And as I said… good practice.

Elements of the forest

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From Sunday morning in the Bangor Forest… can’t resist this type of photograph, and the snow in the cool shadows on the ground contrasted wonderfully with the evergreens and warm sunlight to create a beautiful color palette.

A dusting in the forest

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Living so close to the Bangor Forest is like having a State Park in your own backyard. It is a gorgeous tract of land, and we are fortunate to have it available for public use. We haven’t had a lot of snow in Maine this winter (yet), but this morning the dusting of snow and pockets of ice did wonders for disguising much of the familiar terrain, making it feel as if we were exploring the winding trails for the first time. Low in the January sky, the almost warm winter sun managed to reach through the canopy and into the heart of the forest where it illuminated the snow-covered trails and pointed the way.

Feeling as though I’ve been relying on the distortion it provides a bit too much lately, I left my wide angle lens at home and spent the morning with only a 50mm lens on the camera. Tack sharp when needed, this little beauty offers a totally different (more normal) perspective, and I enjoyed experimenting with the shallower depth of field available. Definitely another Sunday morning well spent…

Sunday morning stroll

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After our early season nor’easter last weekend which dropped a load of heavy wet snow, we were treated this weekend to clear blue skies and bright sunshine. With moderately mild temperatures enticing us outside, we decided to visit a place we haven’t been to in a while, the Bangor City Forest. Even at midday the sun was pretty low in the sky, and despite the evidence of ponds and puddles unsuccessfully trying to ice over, it definitely felt more like fall than winter. Although it is the first week in November already, there were still plenty of pockets where the leaves were brown but still on the trees, and the sunlight streaming through the forest was beautiful. Since we were on the quieter side of the forest away from the more popular Bogwalk, it was incredibly peaceful and it felt as though we could easily have been deep in the wilderness rather than just a few miles from the city.

We meandered along our own little loop which followed the Bobcat, Moose and Grouse Trails, and as we did so, we noticed the noises and smells of a forest which was still vibrant and alive, though definitely getting ready for slumber. Squirrels were busy harvesting for the winter, and many of the birds we would have expected to hear were now quiet. On a couple of occasions we heard voices from people who had obviously decided to stay on the gravel roads, but as we got lost deeper and deeper in our own little less-traveled world, Lori and I both remarked on how invigorating and refreshing it was to be in a place so beautiful… and right in our own backyard too!

Different Seasons…

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One of the most enjoyable things about living in Maine is that we have four very distinct seasons – summer, fall and winter – which is then briefly followed by mud season! In this part of the world we really don’t get much of a spring season… as soon as we hit mid-April the snow should be gone and the sun that is higher in the sky quickly warms the land as we ease toward summer.

These changing seasons provide opportunities to return to favorite scenes… offering a completely different look and feel to places that you enjoy. Getting to know a particular place – whether that is for the first time, or again and again – is what photography is all about to me. I love returning to special places at different times of day to see how the light impacts a scene, or how changing weather conditions can reveal another side to the character of a landscape, and how the diverse and dramatic seasons in Maine can paint a totally different picture of a favorite place.

The scene displayed in this post sits innocently on the side of the road when driving from town to the Bangor Forest. Most people drive right past what might seem like an unspectacular vista, but it caught my eye one day and now I can’t help but stop to see how it looks… in every season. Boy does it look different in the snow compared to what it looked like in mid-October!

Calm Before The Storm

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This morning was crystal clear with a couple of inches of freshly fallen snow and the bluest skies you could ever imagine. To take advantage of the beautiful conditions, we hopped in the car and visited our favorite local place for a short winter hike… the Bangor Forest.

We are bracing for what looks like being a nasty storm blowing in on Tuesday afternoon. Here in Maine we are used to pretty much any amount of snow, but when we get a mix of snow, ice, and rain together… that usually spells trouble. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the weather forecasters are only doing what they always do… scaring us into believing we should be watching their channel every minute for updates. It remains to be seen just how bad the weather will be this week, but today we certainly enjoyed the calm before the storm.

Maine Fall Foliage

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Despite the strong Nor’easter winds and heavy rains that blew through our area these past few days, there are still plenty of leaves hanging on and enjoying the welcome sunshine after the storm. The local fall colors seem to be at their peak this weekend, and on a short visit to the Bangor Forest today, I came across this wonderful little view tucked away along the Kitteridge Road. I was drawn to the classic rock wall and how the backlit branches and leaves framed a natural window out into the field. When I made these two photographs, the sun was high overhead and shining down through the leaves, providing an canopy of intensely vibrant and quite remarkable colors.

 

Biking in the Bangor Forest

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We have spent many wonderfully peaceful Sunday mornings hiking in the Bangor Forest, especially in the fall and winter months, exploring what is an absolute jewel of a local recreation area. However, for some reason we hadn’t been there in a while, and with us still feeling the sting of Sam being gone to college, we opted to get out of the house to keep busy, and decided to take the bikes there last weekend.

It always amazes me how few people seem to know about this place. It is a vibrant working forest with beautiful trails for hiking, biking and cross country skiing – and of course the impressive Orono bog walk – yet every time we go there we usually don’t see more than a dozen or so people. We are of course very OK with that, since before very long you can find yourself exploring what feel like backcountry trails and tracks of woodland that seem to be more remote than they really are.

With a little coaxing and encouragement, Jack soon gained in confidence in riding his bike on the rougher than normal surface, and before long was blazing the trail as our fearless leader. We circumnavigated just about the whole forest, and we all had an absolute blast as we hit the many small hills and dips along the way. Flushed and feeling a little out of breath when we got back to the parking lot, we all agreed that biking on the trails in the Bangor Forest was serious fun and we made a pact there and then to return again soon.