Winter On Hawk Mountain

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  This blog post marks a year since I created my new website and started doing monthly blog entries.  As I look back, I can see they are not all great ones, but hopefully you've found some of them interesting.

It's winter on Hawk Mountain - at least it appears that way!  It doesn't take much snow to turn Hawk Mountain into a winter wonderland.  Hawk Mountain is about ten minutes away from my hometown of Hamburg, PA and is a world class sanctuary for hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey.  On autumn weekends if the weather conditions are right, you can see hundreds of hawks and other raptors circling and riding the wind thermals at the intersection of the mountain ridges.

These photographs were taken almost two weeks ago, and as I left my house there was no trace of snow anywhere.  Just another cold grey 40 degree day in early winter.  As I drove north toward Hamburg I saw traces of snow on the ground.  By the time I was hiking on the lookout trails on Hawk Mountain it was a completely different story.  It was four hours of hiking and photographing where it looked and felt like it was the dead of winter.  When I was back home and reviewing the images, it felt like I had traveled far on vacation.  It reminds me again that photographs carry this perception of pure documentary truth.  But even without digital manipulation, there is the ability to shape the message and tell a story by what you show and how you compose the images.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!


Brian ReitenauerComment
New Gallery - Lassen Volcanic

It's taken a little while, but I have finally posted a gallery of my favorite images from a trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  I took this trip in late July with my friend Rich and it was everything we hoped it would be - maybe more.  Very few national parks have the variety that we saw in Lassen - high altitude hikes, extinct volcanoes of different types, forests of tall redwood trees, wildflower filled meadows, geothermal vents, and amazing night skies - all in a very remote setting.

Because we visited in the summer, we had four straight days of being in the park for 15 hours with a little time for eating and four straight nights of less than five hours sleep.  But it was worth it.  I would go back to Lassen in a heartbeat and consider it one of the top three Parks I have visited.

Click the link to see the full Lassen Volcanic National Park gallery.


Brian ReitenauerComment
My Favorite Place...

Is there a favorite place you have?  A place that no matter how often you go back, it just feels right?  Is it the beach?  Is it some place in the mountains?  Is it far away or close to home?  For me, that place is Ricketts Glen State Park.  I have been going there once or twice a year for many years.  I get excited during the drive, and once I get out of the car, it just feels right.  The look, the sounds, the light, even the smell.  There is just something about the place that appeals to me and makes me feel at home.  I literally spend an entire day there every time I go.  

Ricketts Glen is about thirty minutes north of Bloomsburg PA.  I spent the day there a couple weeks ago in early October hoping to make some nice photographs as the seasons turned.  I was not disappointed.

What's ironic, is that while it is my favorite place and I have gone there many times, I have not yet published a photo gallery from Ricketts Glen.  I have posted a few photographs - several I really like.  But I have not yet published a full gallery.  After every trip I am super excited about the photographs I have taken.  And then I get home and start viewing them and usually I am let down.  Somehow I have not been able to capture this place to my satisfaction - maybe I never will.

One other interesting point - it is the scene of my worst photographic accident.  On one trip I was in the parking lot setting up my camera equipment.  I put the camera on the tripod and started getting other things ready.  I moved the tripod ever so slightly and a very expensive camera and lens fell off the tripod onto the asphalt parking lot!  It snapped the lens right off the camera - a complete loss for the lens.  Needless to say, it put a damper on that trip!

For any of you who live close enough and have not visited Ricketts Glen - I couldn't recommend it more.  And I hope this post inspires you to think about your favorite place and go make a visit.  Spend a day there and enjoy!

Brian ReitenauerComment
It's Really Out There...

Many times I will be asked if I have "processed" or "Photoshopped" the photographs I make. The answer is yes, of course I do. I sometimes crop the image to emphasize the subject matter  or the feeling I want to communicate in the photograph. I may lighten it or darken it to compensate for errors made in the original exposure, and I may add or reduce contrast - all to arrive at the image that communicates the feeling I had when I took the picture. And no, I don't replace skies or clone clouds or trees to add what wasn't there. 

What's interesting is no one ever asks about the "pre processing" or the alterations of reality that happen before I press the shutter. The photographs in this blog post are colorful and symbolic of the height of autumn foliage - walking in forests of golden yellow light that you find in mid October. Yet, these photos were taken yesterday, late September, and where I live 95% of the leaves and trees are still very very green with only a hint of yellow starting to appear. And on this hike, the vast majority of the trees were green - except this one patch of about ten trees that were very yellow. So I positioned myself, zoomed the camera lense, and pointed the camera in a direction that created a photograph that both represents the reality of "what was there" but also something very different. 

I think it's common for people to assume photos are "faked" today for two reasons.  First, with technology it is very easy to fake images.  But second, it's because we're all so busy and moving so fast that we don't see the details in the natural world around us.  We don't see how the yellow light reflects off the water and how the rocks look blue because they are wet and reflecting the sky.  We don't see the filtered golden light created by the sun shining through a canopy of yellow leaves.  How many of you have seen the undersides of green leaves shimmering a silver color from the reflection of the sun off the flowing water in a stream.  My daughter and I stared at this silvery color moving across the leaves until it felt like the trees were dancing around us.  We only saw it because we slowed down and allowed ourselves to see what is really out there.

Autumn is a great time to get out in the natural world and slow down.  Allow yourself to see what is really out there.

Brian ReitenauerComment
Wilderness Is Only 15 Minutes Away

If you have ever travelled to Washington DC and the Northern Virginia suburbs, you know how busy and hectic it can be.  The traffic around the beltway is some of the worst in the country.  In the Tyson's Corner area there are countless office buildings, two large malls, a futuristic new metro system, dozens of restaurants, many hotels - and no safe area to walk.  During the Christmas holidays with mall traffic, it can take 15 minutes just to get out of your parking spot.

But who would imagine that only 15 minutes away from all of this madness is a wilderness setting where the Potomac River goes through a narrow gorge before arriving in Washington DC?  The water rushes over large rocks and twists and turns between canyon walls.  These photographs are from Great Falls, Virginia.  The photo at the top of the blog post was taken about a month ago while my family and I were on a college visit and a weekend trip to the area.  My company's headquarters is located in Tysons Corner and the two photos at the bottom of the blog post are from several years ago on one of my earlier visits.

When I am at Great Falls hiking along the trails that follow the river and gorge, there is no clue that 15 minutes away is the traffic and madness of the beltway.  When I am at Great Falls, I slow down, I breathe deep and enjoy the natural setting.  I forget about many of Life's problems.  And while I know a simple hike does't solve Life's really big problems - you'd be amazed how many of our "problems" are NOT Life's really big problems.  When I am at Great Falls, it feels like I am a hundred miles away from civilization.  And sometimes it is good to be a hundred miles away from civilization - we all need a break from the madness sometime.

So when the stress gets high, or work and life is crazy, or you just need a break... take 15 minutes and find the wilderness that is close to you. 

Brian ReitenauerComment
Lassen - Heaven and Hell

It was an incredibly full day today.  We saw the "heights" and "depths" of Lassen - and both were incredible.  In the morning we did a 3 mile hike to "Bumpass Hell" and yes that is the real name. It is a large geothermal system that is still active and part of what powered the volcanoes in this area.  It looked like we were walking on the moon - but I hope the moon doesn't stink like this did.  If you were downwind of any of the large steam vents, it was gagging!  The photo at the bottom of this post was from Bumpass Hell.

In the afternoon we did an 8 mile hike (up and back) to the summit of the second largest mountain in the park. We gained 2500 feet of elevation on the hike and the summit was at 9,250 feet.  We walked through large pine forests, alongside streams and meadows, and climbed up above the tree line before reaching the summit.  At the summit, we were greeted with this view of several peaks in the park.  If you look closely, you can see how they all formed the ring of a larger extinct volcano.  We enjoyed a 20 minute nap at the summit and then it took a full two hours just to hike down.  As I write this, I have a hard time thinking about putting on my hiking boots tomorrow morning - my feet are just killing me!

Hopefully you enjoy "heaven" and "hell" as much as we did.

Lassen Sunset

The day didn't start that well, but it finished strong.  Due to a planning mistake on my part, we were in the wrong place for sunrise.  Nothing worse than getting up at 4am and driving an hour to the sunrise location only to watch the sun light the up the boring scene behind you rather than the carefully chosen scene in front of you!

And then, since I had been whining about "boring featureless blue skies" since our last trip, I was rewarded with overcast conditions all morning.  :(  

But we made the best of it and changed some plans around a little bit.  And then the sun broke through around 3pm after we had hiked a very steep trail up to Ridge Lakes.  It was about the steepest hike I have ever done - not what we needed after Rich and I both woke up in the middle of the night with leg cramps.

The photo above is of Lassen Peak at sunset.  This is the volcano the park was named after.  It last erupted in 1917.  The planning for sunset was way better than the sunrise planning - and so was the light.  We watched the peak turn from white to yellow to finally a deep red color.

Lassen Sunrise

Our wakeup call was 4:30am today and we left the room at 5am for the first full day of our Lassen NP trip.  There is no finer way to see the sunrise than from a mountaintop and the image above is a view of Mount Harkness from the Park Highway.  

We had a 17 hour day today... leaving the room at 5am and returning at 10pm - after having dinner at one of only two open restaurants in the town of Chester.  These places really do need to stay open past 9pm for people who like to take photos until it gets dark.  

We hiked up Mount Harkness in the morning through a beautiful tall pine forest and at the top we were rewarded with a 360 degree view of the the mountains - we could even see Mount Shasta (14,000 ft) in the distance.  On the way to our next destination I may have lost my driving privileges.  Driving on a dirt road, we went past a photo opportunity and I was backing up the car to get to the spot to take a picture.  I must have focused more on the photo opportunity than the road - we came about 6 inches from sliding the car down a 6 foot embankment.  In my defense, they really should have wider gravel roads and proper shoulders!  

In the afternoon we hiked through Drake Meadow and out to Devil's Kitchen where we saw lots of steaming vents from the geothermal formations in the park.  So it was a great first day - sunrise on the mountain, tall pine forest, 360 degree views of the mountaintops, meadows, and steaming geothermal scenes.  Pretty good day!

Lassen - First Night

It's the first night on my photo trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California.  After flying all day, then battling traffic out of San Francisco, we arrived with about 20 minutes of daylight left.  I took a few photos along the park road but nothing inspiring.  But we did hear that the night sky in Lassen is amazing.  So after a dinner of tortilla chips and cookies, we headed back out into the park.  We set up next to a group of astronomy hobbyists with the biggest telescopes I have ever seen.  Above is a photograph of the night sky showing the Milky Way and a lucky shot of a meteor in the right side of the photo.

It's midnight Pacific time and the wake-up call is 4:45am.  It's going to be a long day tomorrow!  I may post a couple images during the trip.

Spring Creek

In a blog post in January, I mentioned that I like to travel new roads and that I dislike runs or bike rides that are "out-and-back" because I don't like to see the same scenery.  But it's not really true in all cases.  When I discover an area that I really like, I do go back… over and over again.  And it's not that I notice everything all at once.  From years of practice I have learned what areas will likely hold possibilities for photographs and so I return… many times.

The image above is from an early Spring day at the Unami Creek - the same one I visited in January where I made some nice winter photographs.  This time, it was that special combination of warm early morning sun and cool air, with almost no breeze to disturb the water.  The lighting was the open-shadowed light that you get in early spring before leaves are on the trees creating deep shadows.  I couldn't resist the combination of reflections, rock, and grass. 


The image at right is from a nearby spot along the same stream.  I must have fifty photographs of water in my portfolio, each of them with different swirls of color or reflections.  Every time I see one, I stop and photograph.  I just can't seem to get enough of these, nor do I get tired of photographing the water.  Every second it is something new… the movement of the water changes the patterns and swirls, the light changes, and a slight movement of the camera causes something new to be reflected.  If you click on the image you will get a larger version and you can see the swirls of trees and color and all the twisted shapes.  As I was posting this image, I happened to click on the Home Page of my website and was taken to one of my favorite photographs - a water photograph of course!  


Compare the feeling of these two images to the photographs in the January post… A Winter Creek.  Same place, but a different time - and completely different feeling.  I can see a project taking shape here where I do some images from different seasons - all in a short 3 mile section of creek along a road only 15 minutes from my house.  No need to fly to a big National Park to make great photographs.  (Although that is fun too and I have a trip coming up in July to Lassen Volcanic NP!).

Published In LensWork !


I wanted to share some exciting news that my Amusement Park portfolio was published in LensWork Magazine.  LensWork is a black & white photography magazine published six times a year.  Where many photography magazines focus on camera gear, LensWork focuses on images and the creative process of photography.

Each issue features five photographic portfolios of about 10-15 images each.  The Amusement Park portfolio was published in LensWork #112 and includes 14 of my photographs.  The online version includes 35 photographs and an audio interview.  This is the first time I had a portfolio of photographs published and I was pretty excited when I received the notification.

The interesting part of this entire process is the reminder that people respond to photographs in different ways.  I submitted the 25 images that are on my website plus another 15 images I consider to be good, but not quite as good.  Three of the "not as good" images were published in the magazine and three of my absolute favorites on the website were not published!

No matter what, this was an exciting process having the portfolio selected, writing and editing the project statement, and conducting the audio interview with the editor, Brooks Jensen, for the online version.  Definitely a photography highlight for me!

Spring Is Here !!

Thirty days ago I was complaining and whining that Spring would never arrive.  I am very happy to say I was wrong - Spring is here!!

And what flower is more symbolic of early spring than the daffodil?  I spent a couple hours Saturday morning photographing a field of daffodils.  There is a farm about ten minutes from my home town.  A couple years ago, we happened to drive by just as the daffodils were blooming and I've been meaning to go back ever since.  The entire front yard area of the farm is filled with daffodils - some yellow, some yellow and white, and these beautiful orange and white ones.  Finally this weekend, I was able to take some time and go back and photograph.  I left my house at 6am to get there for the good early light and before the wind started kicking up.

I'm always amazed at how fast time goes by when I get lost in photographing something that interests me.  Most of you know I have very little patience.  And if I told anyone who knows me that I spent two hours photographing these flowers in this one area, they wouldn't believe it.  Yet it is true and this happens frequently when I am photographing.  It's one of the reasons my daughters always ask if I am taking my camera when I say "Let's go hiking!".  They know there is a chance we might get stuck in one area for a long time.

Enjoy these pictures of Spring… because Spring is finally here!  

Brian ReitenauerComment
Waiting for Spring!

It's another cloudy, windy Sunday with the temperature in the low 40's and the threat of snow in the coming week.  It sounds like I could be writing this in late February - but it's late March!  And like everyone else, I just can't take this winter anymore - I am definitely ready for spring!  I decided to look through some spring photos from a couple years ago that I haven't published.  I thought I would find lots of photos taken in late March of early flowers, budding trees, and fields of light green grass.  And while I found lots of those photos, I discovered they were taken in late April and early May.  So maybe it's my impatience with this freezing cold winter and maybe spring will be here soon enough.  I hope so!

Enjoy these photographs and by the time I make my next monthly post, I certainly hope we'll be seeing scenes like this in real life!

Brian ReitenauerComment
New Gallery - Amusement Park

I have posted a new gallery on my website.  This is a project I have been working on for a couple years and finally have enough images for a full gallery.  I have always been intrigued with how things look in the off-season.

The photographs in the gallery are from an old family owned and family run amusement park in Pennsylvania.  It is not abandoned - it is still in operation today.  But it couldn't be further, in distance or atmosphere, from the big company parks of today.  It is set in a rural location, far from any major metropolitan area.  It sits among rolling hills and fields and underneath tall mature trees.  A creek runs through the middle of the park with rickety bridges going across in several locations.  There is no fence keeping everyone out since you can pay per ride - the way it was done thirty years ago. I spent several days over the course of a couple years photographing during the off-season.  And while the rides look old, there is definitely pride in the park and the work they do each off season to get it ready for the families in the summer.

You can click on any image in this blog post to see it in full screen mode.  If you are reading this in an e-mail, click on the header of the e-mail to go to the blog post on the website.

You can also see the full gallery here…  Amusement Park


Brian ReitenauerComment
Winter Creek

I have lived within fifteen minutes of this creek for seventeen years and only "discovered" it on a bike ride late last summer.  I was looking for a new long ride and mapped out a route that took me down Swamp Creek Road alongside the Unami Creek.  I wasn't expecting much, just a different ride to change things up.  It turned out to be a beautiful ride along the creek, with large boulders, heavy woods, and cascades alternating with slow moving pools.

I immediately thought this would be a good location to come back, explore a little, and maybe I'd create some good photographs.  I brought my daughters along a couple weeks later in early fall and we explored the area, hiked a bit, and found a deserted boy scout camp in the woods along the creek.  And while I took a few pictures, it was really just practice.

Last weekend, we had a 60 degree rainy day after a week of extreme cold.  I thought there might be some interesting photographs to make and ended up with these three as my favorite.

I've never been a big fan of doing the same drive or bike ride or walk all the time.  I can't stand "out and back" walks or rides.  So if you want to see something new, take a different turn or take a new route completely.  And do it sooner than every seventeen years!

Brian ReitenauerComment