Foggy Cottonwoods and West Coast Autumn, Boulder Canyon, Colorado

East Coast Autumn is the best. I won't apologize, it's true. It's my favorite subject to photograph and my favorite time of year. Cloudy, drizzly days and a tapestry of fiery tones blanketing every tree. My new home in Colorado is beautiful in its own way, too, with golden aspens and bluebird skies. But it's not East Coast Autumn.

I miss East Coast Autumn. And just as my yearning grew to new heights, nature gifted me with 5 consecutive overcast days during the waning days of the season. I was in my element, and all was right in the world. I traveled winding canyon roads in search of golden cottonwood and aspen, set among shadowed evergreens in the damp air. The search was a success.

In this image, I worked with the fog to separate the three distinct types of trees. An explosion of color, a boney structure, and a base of greenish-blue. I loved the way their shapes, colors, and textures mingled. Each balancing each other within the composition. All different, yet all the same.The fog provided the breathing room to showcase each, and the flat light allowed the texture to be studied intimately.

I'll always have a nostalgia for East Coast Autumn, but I think I could get used to this.

“Blaze in the Canyon” - A lone yellow cottonwood glows among evergreen trees during a foggy autumn day in Boulder Canyon, Colorado.

“Blaze in the Canyon” - A lone yellow cottonwood glows among evergreen trees during a foggy autumn day in Boulder Canyon, Colorado.

About the Image: Using my 70-200 lens I zoomed into the different types of trees while trying to arrange them within a pleasing composition. I made sure to leave ample breathing room around the trees on the edge of my frame and placed the bright yellow tree centrally to anchor the composition. I set the aperture to f/16 to ensure ample depth of field, and pressed the shutter.

Techs: Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 78mm. 1/2 second, f/16, ISO 200.

"Autumn Bonsai" - Three Trees on a Foggy Autumn Day, Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia

This autumn I was lucky enough to travel to West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Maine. During that time, I was able to create a lot of images that I'm really excited about. To start things off, here is an image of some beautifully figured trees on top of Dolly Sods during a rainy and cold morning. I've been trying for a decade to get this type of image up on Dolly Sods! It's much harder than it might seem.

"Autumn Bonsai" - Three trees on a foggy autumn day, Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia.

About the image: By putting on my big boy pants and hiking over a mile into the cold bogs of Dolly Sods, where at times, the water was about a foot deep, I found this cluster of trees out in the open. It was just what I needed to create a simple and pleasing composition. The way the tree on the left leans slightly towards the left and the one on the right leans slightly right creates a sense of movement and flow within the composition. Additionally, the bright red blueberry bushes at the bottom of the frame provide a nice anchor. Once I got the composition dialed in, the rest was simple. I used a low ISO of 100 to reduce any noise, an aperture of f/16 to provide enough depth of field to cover front to back, and let the shutter speed settle at 1/2 second, which was fine since there was no wind.

"A New Chapter" - Light Shines Vividly Through Morning Fog, Adirondack Park, New York

This is an image that I've sat on for 2 years. I've always enjoyed looking at the RAW file and remembering that morning. The warmth and intensity of the sun blasting through the morning fog, the way the dew and spiderwebs lit up like little gemstones hidden among the forest, the smell of damp spruce and marshland. Moments like these are so simple, so common in nature, and so completely necessary to experience. I hope that I never take these moments for granted!

"A New Chapter" - Light shines vividly through morning fog in Adirondack Park, New York.

About the image: This image seems straight forward, but there is a bit going on behind the scenes. I took note of the prominent tree tops and ensured that they appeared evenly spaced, while also not coming too close to the edges of the frame where they would have given the image a truncated appearance. I also ensured that the beams of light through the fog started in the top right and shone down diagonally to the left. For the exposure, I made sure to not let the highlights of the leaves clip and blow out, and let the shadow fall wherever it wanted. I increased the contrast slightly during post processing, but otherwise did little to the image.

Techs: Canon 50D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 135mm. 1/40 second, f/13, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Approach of Darkness" - Sunset at Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

I wouldn't lie to you, would I? As promised, here is the second in the series of images taken during that wonderful autumn sunset on top of Blackrock Summit in the southern portion of Shenandoah National Park, Virginia. I actually created quite a few more images in between my previous post and this one, but I chose this photograph to best display the feelings of that sunset. Graceful pink light slightly kissing the edge of a massive storm front, ethereal fog roaming below. The conditions displayed here, as the darkness of night approached, pluck some hidden strings deep within my heart. 

"Approach of Darkness" - Autumn sunset from Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 10-22 @ 12mm. 15 seconds, f/14, ISO 100. Blend of two exposures, one for sky, one for land.

"Idealist's Viewpoint" - Sunset at Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

As I began my travels home from the New River Gorge in West Virginia, I knew the potential for a stunning sunset was high. A massive 1,000 mile long patch of moisture hung overhead, with the east full of clouds and the west (where the sun would be setting) completely clear. Since the cloud pattern had remained this way for almost a full day, I found the nearest picturesque location that sat right in the middle of the transition from cloudy to clear. That spot happened to be at one of my favorite locations, Blackrock Summit. I made my way to the summit a couple hours early and perfected my compositions. As the sun began to set, fog lingered on the ridges to the east, while autumn foliage was backlit by the intense setting sun to the west. The shapes of the clouds lined up perfectly with my composition. It was certainly a great afternoon to be up in the mountains! Up next ... an image taken after this one when the clouds began to turn pink. Keep watch!

"Idealist's Viewpoint" - An autumn sunset from atop Blackrock Summit, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 10-22 @ 10mm. .4 seconds, f/14, ISO 100. Blend of two exposures, one for sky, one for land.

"Falling Leaves" - Fall foliage in a reflection, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

This is the last in my mini series of focus shifted images (for now!). Quite different from the ethereal feeling evoked by my previous two images, this photograph of fallen leaves floating on the surface of a colorful reflection tells a story and contains much sharper detail. By starting my exposure while focused on the upper canopy of the trees in the reflection, and then defocusing my lens as the exposure commensed, I was able to show the sharp details on the tree canopy and create movement and blur in the leaves on the surface. I thought the end result told the story of a tree transitioning from fall to winter, as it appears that I am looking towards the canopy as leaves plummet towards me.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 70mm. 1 second, f/10, ISO 100. Focus shifted during a single exposure.