Aurora Borealis

The other night a friend and I went out hoping to see the Aurora Borealis. There was a recent solar storm that had predicted for strong magnetic activity which results in the “Northern Lights”. We wanted to hike a mountain so we could have a clear view of the night sky and the horizon to the north. Since its ski season at Mt. Wachusett the lights used for night skiing would have washed out any views we had of the dark sky.

After some deliberation we settled on Mt. Watatic, at 1800+ feet in elevation it would get us above much of the surroundings and with an open summit and no major towns or cities to the north, we figured this would be our best shot without having to travel too far.

We arrived the summit and were greeted with clear skies and no wind. But sadly no light show to the north.

Looking north from the summit.

Looking north from the summit.

Despite the cold it was a nice clear night and the half moon made for some interesting photographs. The Milky-way is in the southern hemisphere this time of year so the stars were not too bright, but nevertheless its always nice to be outdoors enjoying the mountains.

Mt. Wachusett lit up for skiing.

Mt. Wachusett lit up for skiing.

The yellow glow on the left of the image above is the light pollution from Fitchburg and Leominster.

No Aurora, but still a nice view.

No Aurora, but still a nice view.

Summit of Mt. Watatic illuminated by the moon

Summit of Mt. Watatic illuminated by the moon

After an hour or so we were starting to get cold and the clouds were beginning to creep in, so we decided to pack up and call it a night. The mountain was a bit icy but we safely made our way down and back to the warmth of our vehicles and headed home.

Clouds starting to roll in over the summit.

Clouds starting to roll in over the summit.

 

Fall Foliage

I’ve waited a while for this! The time year when the days get shorter, the nights get cool, and the leaves start to change.

This year the foliage seems to be particularly vibrant. For a brief science lesson, stay tuned, or you can just skip ahead….The secret recipe to great fall foliage is, cool nights, which start the transition of the tree to their dormant cycle. The photosynthesis of the leaves starts to die, which turns them yellow. That is a naturally occurring phenomena. The tricky part is getting the leaves to turn red. In order for them to turn red, you need bright sunny days the same time as the cool nights. The sun actually causes a chemical reaction with the nutrients in the leaves that changes them to red. This year the weather has been perfect for leaf season!

I’ve headed out early a several times over the past couple of weeks. My first day I was greeted with overcast skies so the shooting wasn’t great. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a quiet walk in the woods and some hot coffee on a cool morning. As the week carried on and the leaves continued their transformation the weather was more corporative.

October came in with an amazing sunrise over a small pond. The cold night allowed for some fog to form on the surface of the water making the sunrise that much more impressive.

Morning fog over the pond

Morning fog over the pond

October's first sunrise

October’s first sunrise

Every sunrise and morning are different, on my way to my next outing I noticed the horizon looked as though it was on fire. I made a detour to the top of a hill at a local apple orchard and took a few photos of the pre-dawn glow.

Twilight and the moon

Twilight and the moon

Once the orange was getting washed out and the sky started getting brighter I made my way to another local spot. I spent a while walking the woods looking for a nice spot with some good color before sunrise. Unfortunately, the location I was at had very few deciduous trees so there was no foliage. On my way back I found a perfect spot that highlighted the colors of fall in New England.

Red, yellow, and green. The colors of fall

Red, yellow, and green. The colors of fall

My most recent shoot was the best of the week. A partly cloudy sky made for some good color in the sky and the foliage is near its peak. I had planned to photograph an old stone church that has some amazing trees, but again, got distracted on my drive and had to make a pit stop at this stunning location. The reflection of the sky in the water stopped me in my tracks. I quickly turned around and fought through some pucker-brush to capture this image.

Worth the struggle though the brush

Worth the struggle though the brush

After getting a couple of images I made my way back to the car and continued on to the church. As I arrived at my location I was once again drawn in a different direction. The calm waters of the Wachusett Reservoir and reflecting red sky made me change my plans, I just couldn’t resist a sunrise over the water!

10 seconds before the sun peaked over the trees

10 seconds before the sun peaked over the trees

Just before sunrise on Wachusett Reservoir

Just before sunrise on Wachusett Reservoir

The sky was amazing for sunrise, however once the sun gained some height in the sky it quickly was obscured by the clouds. It did manage to peak through though, and the dark clouds to the west provided a nice contract of a backdrop. I spent some time photographing the brilliant color of the trees between bursts of sun.

Iconic Autumn

Iconic Autumn

Eventually I made my way over to the old stone church and was able to walk away with an image I’m pretty pleased with. I would have liked the water to have been calmer, but overall it was a great morning out!

West Boylston Old Stone Church

West Boylston Old Stone Church

Fall in New England is an amazing thing. The next week or so will be the highlight of the season. Enjoy the nice weather, take a hike, grab your camera and get out there.

I’ll be in the White Mountains this weekend, from what I’ve seen they are at the peak, hopefully I’ll have some great images to share when I get back. For now, here are a few more local shots!

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Perseid Meteor Hunting

Monday morning my alarm clock start buzzing at 2:00am!

Its peak time for the annual Perseid Meteor Showers, happens every August around this time. The Earth’s orbit takes us through the path of the comet Swift-Tuttle, as the debris left behind from the comet collides with our atmosphere the pieces burn up, displaying as “shooting stars”. This year the moon set early in the night so if you could get away from the cit lights, or even better find a dark sky – which in the Northeast is pretty difficult – you’d have a great view of the Perseids.

The showers was expected to peak in the pre-dawn hours on August 12th, as my alarm was sounding I forced myself out of the comfort of my bed, filled my thermos with freshly brewed coffee and grabbed my gear.

I drove to Wachusett Mountain, just a quick 10 minutes from my house, and started on the trail. I wanted to be somewhere that had a good view of the open sky to I could see as much as possible. The weather satellite showed clear skies so as I was hiking I was keeping an eye to the sky taking in the clear view overhead.

After the quick 15 minute hike to the summit I click off my headlamp and began to let my eyes adjust to the darkness. I was quickly greeted by an amazing meteor streak directly where I was looking.

After my eyes adjusted and I could stumbled around in the darkness I set up my camera to begin the hunt. After the first image I was sadly disappointed by the realization that there was a layer of high, thin clouds starting to blanked the area.

A Perseid and the tail of the Milkyway over the observation tower at Mt. Wachusett.

A Perseid and the tail of the Milkyway over the observation tower at Mt. Wachusett.

Despite the onset of clouds there was still lots of open sky to view the shower. I ventured around taking a few photos, and just enjoying the solitude of the mountain.

View to the southwest

View to the southwest

You can see in this image what light pollution is. The bright yellow area on the bottom of the image is the city of Springfield nearly 50 miles away. The less bright area on the bottom right is either Northampton/Amherst or Greenfield. You can see how the light of the cities reflects off the clouds as they all appear yellow. Despite the light pollution, you can still make out part of the milky way in the top right of the image.

I reach the summit around 3:00am, after a couple of hours of star gazing, the horizon was beginning to glow orange, signaling the start of twilight, with sunrise not far behind. As the clouds thickened and dawn started to approach I took some time to sit, drink some coffee,  and gaze into the heavens before they were to obscured by daylight and disappear from view.

Watching the show

While the clouds made for lousy star view, they were going to make for an amazing sunrise. Unfortunately I could not stay, I wanted to get home to my sleeping family and spend the morning with them before we all had to rush off to work.

Twilight over the city of Boston

Twilight over the city of Boston

While the peak has passed, the Perseids will continue to light up the sky for the next several night, if you are willing to venture out on a clear night you are in for a treat. Find a place with good visibility of the sky, away from city lights. Bring a blanket and some coffee.

For more information of the Perseid Meteor Showers, check out EarthSky.org

 

Acadia National Park

I spent the week of July 4th in Acadia National Park in Maine. This has become an annual trip for my wife and I, despite the fact that it is primarily a family vacation I always make it a point to get out and take some photographs since everything is so beautiful up there. If you haven’t been, you should go!

The forecast for the week started off pretty lousy. Scattered rain, thunderstorms and clouds the whole week…not what I was looking for. The first couple days the forecast was pretty accurate. After that things started to improve, day three was mostly overcast. After that it was hot and sunny the rest of the week!

We’ve made it an annual tradition to hike Cadillac Mountain for sunrise on the 4th of July, Cadillac Mountain is known for being the first spot in the USA to see the sun each new day. This year I wanted to carry a flag with me on our hike and have it be the first flag in the country to be greeted by the sun this Fourth of July.

After waking up at 2:15, we were on the trail by 3:00am and making our way up the mountain. It’s a fairly easy hike – 2.25 miles up – but at that hour your still half asleep so energy levels can be pretty low. Despite the lack of sleep and the 40lbs I had on my back (camera gear and baby) we made it up just after 4:15, right as the orange horizon was getting intense. I quickly set up and took a few photos. Sunrise was at 4:45ish…

Pre-sunrise glow from the top of Cadillac Mountain

Pre-sunrise glow from the top of Cadillac Mountain

After taking some time to capture a few images I planted the flag I brought and took a few photos as the sun was starting to rise. The attention this flag got on the mountain was amazing, everyone around (and there were a lot) was pointing or talking about it, several other people came by to take a picture as well.

My flag - the first in the country to see the sun on July 4th, 2013

My flag – the first in the country to see the sun on July 4th, 2013

I posted this image on my Facebook page as well and have been overwhelmed with the response it has received. I’m honored that so many people shared this photo and am amazed how many people one image can reach.

After sunrise the crowds quickly dispersed and make their way back to their cars and down the mountain. We took our time, finished our thermos of coffee then began the hike back down. The hour before sunset or after sunrise is known as the “golden hour” in photography, this is the best time for landscape photography.

Making our way down the trail

Making our way down the trail

A few quick stops along the way to take some photos and admire the new day that was beginning to unfold right in front of our eyes. But we still had over 2 miles to go and a pancake breakfast waiting in downtown Bar Harbor.

"Golden Hour"

“Golden Hour”

Acadia National Park is located on Mount Desert Island, its about 5 hours from Boston, the closet major city is Bangor, Maine. Because of the remoteness of the park it is an ideal location for astrophotography, or photographing the night sky. I stayed up late one clear night and drove around the park photographing the Milky-way.

The Milky-way seen from the summit of Cadillac Mountain

The Milky-way seen from the summit of Cadillac Mountain

There were a few clouds that got in the way of some shots but overall it was an amazing experience. Countless planets and galaxies millions of miles away, each star representing an unknown universe, a place only suited for the imagination. All this broken down into the simple twinkle of a star.

This is where I find peace; a mountain peak, a rocky coast, a still lake; on their own they are beautiful sights; enhanced by the canopy of lights of the night sky they become much more. An opportunity to look up, wonder, think, and visit with the heavens.

Before & After

Great photography is a culmination of many thing. You need to have the “eye” for it, need to have a technical understanding of how your camera works and what effect each change makes on an image. Beyond that, there is a certain aspect of right place, right time. Photography is after all, an art, so one persons interpretation of what looks visual pleasing might differ drastically from another’s.

But once the image is captured in the camera the photograph is not complete. I edit all of my images using Adobe Lightroom, I rarely use Photoshop and when I do, its usually to a minimal degree. I always felt that Photoshop was too complicated and took too long to learn and use. Lightroom, so far has done mostly everything I need.

Now, not all great images are great because of the post processing, and not all post processed images are great. In fact, there are lots of really terrible images that have been ruined by editing them. This isn’t a post about how you NEED to edit every picture. It’s always best to get the shot perfect in-camera rather than just randomly shoot and hope for the best, knowing that you can always manipulate the image later.

This post is more about the capabilities of todays cameras and editing software.

Recently I was ordering a print for a client, and as always, took a few seconds to double check and fine tune the image in Lightroom. This particular image is one of my all-time favorites, I’ve printed it several times and have a copy hanging on my own wall. It wasn’t until after I ordered this image again that I realized what it actually looked like as an original.

Before

Before

After

After

Again, this isn’t a testimonial that all images should be edited to this degree. I’m simply expressing that what you end up with on the back of your camera doesn’t necessarily dictate what your final image will be. There is so much detail and information stored in the files that can be brought out with the right technique and skill set.

I always shoot in RAW format, this gives you the most flexibility when editing your images, but often does require that you do some degree of editing, nothing this drastic. When you shoot in jpg format the camera has a built in editor that enhances the image a bit so if you compare a strait out of camera jpg to RAW file you will notice the RAW image actually looks worse. This is normal. I wont bore you with the explanation why.

So the final thought, is don’t get discourage if you don’t see what your looking for on the back of the camera, bring the images home, play with them a bit and see what you can get. Most importantly enjoy the experience taking the photos in the first place!

 

Rain Rain Go Away!

The National Weather Service says that as of this morning Boston is already having the 12th rainiest June on record. Lets see how much more we are going to get today.

Well, rain isn’t always bad new. It helps the lawn, gardens, and  trees grow. Adds to the reservoirs, lakes and streams, which, if you are a consumer of water is a good thing. But streams are not only for the frogs, with all this rain streams and rivers are sure to be flowing furiously. Now is the perfect time to turn that boring stale water running through your backyard into something beautiful.

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This picture was taken this morning in my backyard. Tech talk: ISO 100, f/9, 2sec exposure, shot with a Circular Polarizer.

So put on that GoreTex (bring an umbrella for your camera) and get out there. Yes its muddy and gross, but all those little hidden streams in the woods come to life in this weather.

For this picture I used a Circular Polarizer filter to enhance the contrast and cut the glare from the water, mounted my camera on the tripod and used a shutter speed of 2 seconds.

 

Presidential Traverse

I spent this past weekend hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I went with a friend and fellow photographer who also runs Northeast Mountaineering, a local guiding company. We started mid day Saturday afternoon, in the midst of the heat wave. Despite the 90+ degree weather and 50 lb. packs we slowly made our way to the AMC’s Madison Spring Hut just in time for dinner.

After some well deserved food and rest for our legs the light was starting to get really nice so we ventured out for some photos.

View looking down into the valley from Madison Springs  Hut

View looking down into the valley from Madison Springs Hut

Star Lake. A short walk from the Hut

Star Lake. A short walk from the Hut

Madison Spring Hut

Madison Spring Hut

The next morning after breakfast we packed up our gear and hit the trial. We were making good progress after summiting Mts. Madison, Adams, and Jefferson. As we were making our way across the ridge from Jefferson to Washington the weather began to look a bit ominous. The forecast called for afternoon storms, and the threat was becoming more of a reality as we pressed on.

Storms brewing in the distance

Storms brewing in the distance

The Cog on the way to the summit of Mt. Washington

The Cog on the way to the summit of Mt. Washington

We made it to the summit of Mt. Washington with just enough time to snap a few summit photos and head inside the visitors center for a short rest and a snack. As we were sitting inside the sound of thunder filled the room. We looked outside and watched as lightning flashed and hail flew! I check the radar and realized that we were in the middle of a small cell which was followed by a much more intense storm. We figured once the small storm passed we had our window to make it to the Lakes of the Clouds Hut, a 1.5 miles trek down the shoulder of Mt. Washington. Just as the Hut was in our sights a new set of clouds took over the mountain and rain started to fall. We hurried on, just as we walked into the hut the skies opened up and again, thunder, lighting, rain, hail, and 100 mph wind surrounded us. Luckily we were safe inside.

After we dried off and had dinner the storms passed and the sun started to break through. Since we were feeling good after a hearty meal we took this opportunity to make the quick trip to Mt. Monroe and catch sunset from the summit.

Clouds linger around the mountains

Clouds linger around the mountains

View from the summit of Mt. Monroe

View from the summit of Mt. Monroe

The valley after the storms

The valley after the storms

After the sun dipped back behind the clouds we made our way back to the hut in preparation of the final day of our hike. Breakfast was at 7:00am and we needed to be back on the trail by 8:00.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Lakes of the Clouds Hut

The next day we crossed over the summit of Mts. Eisenhower and Pierce before making our way back down to civilization. The skies were mostly cloudy for the first part of the day. But our sun burned necks and legs didn’t mind.

A New Direction

I’m sure you’ve noticed the big changes to the site.

I’m both excited and grateful to announce that I’m transitioning to solely focus on Landscape and Nature photography.

I’m excited to have the opportunity devote my time to something that I’m so passionate about, both photography and nature. They are two things I truly enjoy.

At the same time, I am grateful for everything photography has brought me in the past. I’m grateful for all of my clients who have put their trust in me to capture their important memories and once-in-a-lifetime moments. It has sincerely been an honor and I could not have gotten to where I am today without you.

As I look ahead, I am hopeful that my combined love for the outdoors, and photography, will bring a unique perspective to my work that will display just how passionate I am about each. I feel at home in nature, which allows me to venture to many uncommon, hard-to-reach places. What I love about photography is that I can make the journey to these remote locations, capture their beauty, and bring it back to you. Not only do I get satisfaction from the images I create, but because of my love of the outdoors, the journey for the photograph itself is gratifying.

I encourage you all to follow along in my new adventure. Keep tabs on this blog, follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/EricDarlingtonPhotography), shoot me an e-mail, or give me a call.

Thank you for all of your support.

Turning Two!

A few weeks back I spent the morning photographing this little man.

I’ve known the family for a few years now. I first met them when they contacted me to do their engagement photos, after that it was Bridal Portraits, then Wedding Photos, New Born, a 6 Month shoot, One Year, and now Two  Years. Its been a privilege to be included in their life and and an honor for them trusting me to preserve these important milestones and memories.

This is the reason I starting a career in photography, to have the ability to capture such an important time in someone’s life and to be able to save those memories through photos. It brings me such joy looking back at all the memories that I have help to preserve, not only with this family, but for all my clients.

The past seven months have been a roller coaster for me personally. With everything that has happened, both good and bad, I have come to realize just how important memories can be.

To all my clients, THANK YOU, for trusting me, to everyone, ENJOY, enjoy your moments, enjoy your memories and live in each and every one of them.

Snow in May…?

I had the opportunity to head out to Denver last week. I was very excited about the trip, I’d been to Colorado once before when I was 13, went skiing at Steamboat Springs, but always longed to see more of the state.  Our plan was to fly into Denver and drive up to Boulder for a day, check out the Flatirons, the town and everything along the way. As the time got close and we checked the weather it was becoming more clear that the area was going to get hit with a late season snow storm the exact day we had to explore….

We braved the storm and drove to Boulder anyway, unfortunatly the views were nonexistent, total white out conditions…

Driving through downtown Boulder, CO

With the day a loss, I decited to keep our rental car for an extra day and redo our trip the following day.

The entire drive up was completely different, the previous days snowstorm dropped 6 inches of snow on the mountains makings things that much more beautiful. We went to a few parks, hiked around the Flatirons and explored the town. What a difference a day makes, perfectly clear, blue skies…

Flatirons, Boulder, CO…Day 2

Snow melts from a tree

The rest of the week was spent in Denver, a nice city, lots of parks, even a man-made white water rafting spot next to the REI!

REI, Downtown Denver

In the end, the snow messed up our plans, as it would have been nice to have one extra day of exploring and picture taking, but ultimately it did add a dimension that you typically don’t see in May.