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Relaxing at the Mount Washington Hotel

Traveling throughout New England presents an on-going opportunity for surprise. One of our favorite stops on our visit to the White Mountains was a brief couple of hours at the Mt. Washington Hotel.  Not to sound like I’m pursuing a job writing their brochures, the back of the Hotel really does offer some of the most stunning views of the Presidential Range.  Depending on where you sit and your willingness to get out of the chair and try a different vista, you can easily get a 180 degree view. It was a chilly, overcast day when we visited, making for a spectacular mood.

The Hotel is steeped in history, a history that the proprietors try to keep alive through a sensitivity to space and interior and exterior design.  Love it or hate it, this is where the Bretton Woods Conference took place establishing our current economic order, the World Bank and the IMF.  The documents were signed just to the left of where I was standing when I took this image.


The service fits the decor.  This is time travel indeed.  If we only all treated each other the way the staff treats the guests…  We did ask permission to put down tripods, and were given friendly access to the first two floors.   The quid pro quo: we all had brunch there, which was to die for.  Bad deal?  I don’t think so….

Technical note:  Both images are high dynamic range (HDR) photographs, utilizing Photomatix pro (above) and HDR Efex Pro (below).

The Other Swift River (New Hampshire)

I spend a lot of time on location at the Swift River, which is actually three rivers, in central Massachusetts.  There is another, equally interesting but more mountainous Swift River in New England.  This Swift River runs along the Kancamagus Highway outside of Conway in the White Mountains.  It’s a powerful body of water that cuts a valley through mountains ranging from 2000 to 4000 feet on each side.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

If this image makes the River look powerful, that’s appropriate.  However, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, the River completely overwhelmed the area, and most of what you see here would have been under water.  The Forest Service is now repairing the damage, and the river seems more like its old self.

Powerful, and beautiful with reflections from the fall foliage and tannin from the decaying leaves.

Beautiful Birch Trees

New Hampshire as it turns out is the second most forested state in the U.S., coming in at over 80% forested.  Yes, this figure is down a bit from the peak, due largely to development. Still it remains an impressive resource.  Not surprisingly, the forest there is somewhat different from that in Massachusetts, at least to the eye.  My subject impression is that they’ve got far more birch trees there.  Birch trees make for a most interesting photographic subject, particularly when they are found in a group.  Across the street from the entrance to the Mt. Washington Road (“This car hasn’t climbed Mt. Washington and probably won’t”) is a beautiful stand of birch.  It had rained that day, so an impromptu street cut through the forest.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

The (mostly) white trunks of the trees make for a nice contrast with and framing for the foliage of course.  The trunks aren’t always white, though.  We came upon two older silver trunked birches caressing one another amidst all the white birches.

Brich trees love son.  They live about 70 years and many took root during the reforestation of New Hampshire just after the turn of the last century.  As such, we often see old ones, toward the end of their lives.

There are a variety of ways to try and capture the spiritual feeling of a place.  A birch forest has such nice vertical lines that suggest a multiple exposure, which you see here.  This was ten images with camera movement up just slightly between images. Nikon DSLRs will compile them for you right in camera, a very nice feature.

It would be remiss of me not to report one other observation from this particular forest.  We had a visitor during our efforts.  Not a particularly great shot.  As usual I was prepared for trees when another opportunity happened by, but here he is.

Now all we need is a squirrel.

The Work of the Water

I had the chance to visit the White Mountains of New Hampshire last weekend.  The leaves have already turned, and are near peak foliage.  The weather was so so, but that turned out to be a good thing.  I’ll be posting some imagery from my travels there.  I was once again lucky enough to be working with Tony Sweet and his partner Susan Milestone.  If you have the chance to take one of Tony’s workshops, I’d recommend it highly.  Tony is one of the most creative nature photographers around and the two of them make a terrific team. First stop, Franconia Notch State Park, the Basin more specifically.

The story began thousands of years ago with the retreat of the North American Ice Sheet.  The ice sheet’s departure moved mountains, or at least very big glacial rocks. Working like a sculpter, great gashes were cut in the mountain side, creating an opportunity for the  water, what we now would call the Permigewasset River, to go to work.

What is so striking about the Basin is how easy it is to actually see the water doing it’s work.

The inevitable smoothing that such a constant flow of rather high velocity H2O leaves in it’s way, gives on the impression of walking in an abstract sculpture garden. Outdoor art, set amidst the pines and hardwoods.

This is the Basin itself, described by some as a gigantic pothole.  Wouldn’t want to fill this one though.  More to come.

Then as Now

Over the past year we’ve increasingly been drawn to “character trees,” inside the Quabbin Reservoir.  The typical definition of character tree (it is really a subjective one to be sure) has more to do with it’s shape and the apparent story it tells by the twists, turns and gnarls in its trunk.  I now add a qualifier:  they were planted, by humans.  This highlights for me the idea that we can understand something about a society’s relationship with nature by the way they planted trees.  And, trees last a long time, particularly away from an urban environment (less pollution, fewer dogs). The story they tell can last longer than the communities that planted them, as we see here along the Road to Millington, inside Gate 30/29 at the Quabbin Reservoir.  (Click on the images for a better view.)

We were quite surprised to come upon this carefully ordered stand of trees last December.  What stories can we infer?  It’s fun to image.  This area, a part of North Dana, was relatively prosperous.  There was manufacturing nearby but it was still largely a farming community.  The land owner was trying to make a statement. There is graphic order here, but it’s kind of a friendly order.  After all, these are shade trees.  Just the thing for a hot summer day, pre air conditioning.  The temperature under row of trees on a summer day might have been 15 degrees cooler than the hot sun.  A nice place to stop and rest the horses perhaps.

These rows of trees, along stone walls, are not, however, just an artifact of the past. They are still with us today.  Here’s a recent image from “downtown” New Salem, just a few miles away.

Perhaps this is something like the scene along the road to Millington would have appeared were North Dana here today.