December? El Nino!

The photograph above is from my "Second Annual December Hawk Mountain Hike".  Yes, I know it's a young tradition, but everything has to start somewhere.  Hard to believe this image was taken on a December day - not a snowflake in sight in the air or on the ground.  Compare this to the lead image in the blog entry from a year ago in exactly the same place - the North Lookout of Hawk Mountain!

If you are reading this in the Northeastern part of the US, you know by now that we are in the middle of a strong El Nino.  We've worn shorts in November and December, we've cut the grass in December, and we haven't stopped cooking on the grill or bicycling.  I say bring on El Nino every year!

I grew up about fifteen minutes from Hawk Mountain and over the last five years it has become one of my favorite places to visit, hike, and photograph.  I visit in all seasons of the year and each time it looks different.  The light on the skyline trail in winter with no leaves on the trees is completely different than in spring.  I have a Hawk Mountain Gallery of images posted and will add to it over the coming months and years.  Have a look at the gallery and enjoy some images from all seasons on Hawk Mountain.

This also marks exactly two years of my website and blogging.  Twenty four months without missing a single one.  Some months it gets close to feeling like "work" as the deadline approaches.  But it has caused me to photograph more regularly rather than just occasional trips to far off places.  

I hope you have enjoyed the two years and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

And here is a little extra bit of information. ..

Hawk Mountain recently conducted a photography contest and I thought I would enter just for the fun of it.  Turns out, the image at right won first pace in the Scenics category.

It is shown on their Facebook page and will be printed along with the other winning photographs and hung in a small exhibit at the Hawk Mountain Visitor Center starting late January!

Link to entire Hawk Mountain Gallery here.



Brian ReitenauerComment
Winter Sycamore

I think trees are so much more interesting to look at when there are no leaves on them.  And while I prefer the warm weather of summer for almost everything I do, I prefer winter days to photograph trees.

This is a tree of I have seen hundreds of times.  It is on my normal bicycling loop and every time I pass it, I marvel at how tall it is, how it twists and spreads out against the sky.  And in the winter, the low sun angle lights up the stark white branches of the sycamore against the deep blue sky.  On a recent ride I decided I had to make the time and come back and photograph it.

The day I made this photograph was the best of both worlds - a warm 63 degrees on the day after Thanksgiving.  And while I was photographing I came to learn that others have noticed this tree also.  The man who lives across the street offered to let me photograph from his driveway if I wanted a different angle.  He told me this tree has been in Pennsylvania Magazine multiple times.  A woman in an SUV slowed down along the road and proclaimed her admiration for the tree.  And I could overhear the word "tree" and "amazing" in two conversations among runners taking advantage of the beautiful warm November day.

What word would you use to describe this image of the Sycamore?  Stately?  Majestic?  Grand?  Those words were what I had in mind.  My daughter Amy's first reaction was "creepy".  I guess everyone gets their own interpretation!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Brian ReitenauerComment
Autumn Waters

I just can't help it.  I really enjoy photographing water - and I especially like photographing water in motion.  I spent a weekend in October doing some hiking and photographing in the Pocono Mountains of PA.  I timed the color almost perfectly in the Poconos.  

After a day of hiking I stopped by a stream and waterfalls in Childs Park - part of the Delaware Water Gap area.  It was late in the day but the colors were great, so I decided to come back the next day and get there earlier so I would have more time. My plan was to start in the park and hike upstream and see where it led me.  I never got out of the park.  In fact, I spent about five hours in a section of stream that was probably not more than 100 yards long.  I must have been a good sight too - black rubber wading boots up to an inch below my knees and shorts down to an inch above my knees.

Normally when I photograph water, I include some anchor point, like a rock or leaves.  In many of the photographs that day, I went for a more abstract look and eliminated any anchor point.  And when I took the photographs above, I had in mind the idea of combining three images together with different patterns and a similar color palette.

I didn't expect much from the fall colors this year since it was so dry during the summer.  But I found lots of color, went hiking and photographing five days during the month of October at places like Ricketts Glen, The Poconos, Hawk Mountain, and the Unami Creek - and loved every minute of it.  I have a few more photographs I may share in a final autumn blog post.  

Brian ReitenauerComment
Be Open...

Most people know that I am a "planner" - I seldom leave anything to chance.  It's helps me in my job and it's hard to turn it off when I am not at work.  So it wouldn't surprise anyone to know that I planned my latest trip to Ricketts Glen perfectly.  You need cloudy weather for great waterfall photography, and last Friday was the perfect forecast - cloudy, slight chance of showers late in the day, no wind (can't have the leaves moving) and the thunderstorms were only supposed to form far south of the park.

I'm a bit of a worrier with lightening (I blame my mom) and I'm sometimes concerned about being on the trail, hours from the car and any shelter, when a storm comes.  The showers arrived on schedule and unfortunately so did some thunder.  I cowered under a rock overhang - I mean I stood defiantly under a rock overhang only so my camera gear would not get wet - and waited out the storm.  It wasn't much of a storm.  And when I calmed down a little I started looking around.  And I saw this one leaf - at the very end of a branch - getting pelted by the rain shower.  The background was made by the distant trees with different color leaves and I thought it might be one of the best images of the day.

The lesson... be open to whatever situation presents itself.  Make the best of whatever you have.  If I hadn't had to wait out the short storm under the rock overhang, I would never have seen this leaf or made this image.

Oh, and I learned one other lesson that day.  Never eat Mexican food for dinner two nights in a row before an all day hike - not good!

Brian ReitenauerComment
Late Summer

Summer officially ended about a week ago.  And while it was a long great summer, I really didn't want to see it end.  We didn't travel to far off locations, we didn't even take a family vacation.  But it was a very special summer.  Both our daughters graduated - one from college and one from high school.  While Gina was preparing for college, Amy was studying for the CPA and preparing for work.  We spent a lot of time together, practically lived and ate every meal outside on the deck, and just enjoyed the slow pace of summer as it unfolded for us.

The image above reminds me of the summer that just ended.  It's a simple photograph;  it was a simple summer.  It's a photograph that I enjoy viewing and makes me feel calm; it was a summer that I enjoy viewing in my memory and makes me content.  

Ironically enough, I took the image above on our first weekend as "empty-nesters".  My roommate from college came to visit and it was a throwback to thirty years ago when Rich, Marilyn, and I had just graduated from college and we would embark on weekend adventures.

It was a great summer - and I hope you all had as nice a summer as we had !


Brian ReitenauerComment
Summer on the Unami

It's back to the Unami Creek again.  This is the fourth blog post in three different seasons for this small creek ten minutes away from my home.  You won't find the Unami Creek on any list of National Parks or even State Parks - but this small creek with the large boulders and sycamore lined banks is a great place to explore and spend an afternoon.  I can't wait to do some fall hiking and photography on the creek.

One Saturday earlier this summer, Gina and I packed a lunch and went to the Unami.  We hiked out onto a flat boulder in the middle of the creek and enjoyed our lunch, the sounds of the flowing water, and the view.  A couple weeks later we took a blanket and a book, found a different giant rock, and spent two hours reading on the stream.

A week later my friend Rich came for a visit.  After a bike ride and three hours of kayaking, we hiked the Unami Creek.  We had to climb large rocks, jump from one boulder to another, and backtrack to get from one side of the stream to the other.  We climbed, sat and enjoyed the sounds, took pictures, and hiked some more.  We hiked the rocks up the stream for three hours and what seemed like miles.  Imagine our surprise when we walked back along the road to the car and it took only 7 minutes!

The creek has turned into a local favorite place for me and it proves you can see something different in the same place every time you visit.  Enjoy!

Brian ReitenauerComment
See Home Like a Tourist

When we travel to a far-off place or an exotic location, we change how we see.  We are tuned in to every detail in the landscape - everything seems new, exciting, and fresh.  I remember seeing a farmer thrashing hay in a field at the foot of the Alps on our family vacation to Europe two years ago.  I remember being amazed at the patterns and lines the fresh cut hay made in the field.  And I remember seeing the details of the tractor and the farmer driving it.  I took countless photos.  Earlier this week on my bike ride I went past the same scene 15 miles from where I live (minus the Alps of course).  No photos, hardly a look, and certainly no slowing down the bike!  And perhaps because I was thinking about this blog post, I realized it was exactly the same scene from two years ago - I just wasn't seeing it the same way.

The images in this post are from Hawk Mountain - 10 minutes from where I grew up.  It can't get more close to home than that.  The image at the top is from two years ago and the images at the bottom are from several trips this month.

My goal has been to make repeated trips to Hawk Mountain and see it as if I had traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to get there.  See it at sunrise as I did this past weekend.  See it at sunset waiting for the full moon to rise over the valley like we did three weeks ago (unfortunately too cloudy for the moon!).  See it in the snow, see it in spring with the mountain laurel in bloom.  See it in autumn with the trees turning red and orange and yellow.  See everything there is to see in this relatively small area of wilderness.  See the exciting in the normal.  

Try picking a place that is close to home for you.  And try seeing it as if you traveled hundreds of miles to get there.  I'd be willing to bet you start to see some things you've been missing for years!

A work-in-progress gallery of images from Hawk Mountain is shown here... Hawk Mountain Gallery.


I almost never make photographs of flowers.  I look forward to the colors of spring and photographing at that time of year.  But it's just hard for me to bring a unique view to flower photographs.  Then I started thinking, why don't we ever see photographs of flowers in the later stages of life?

Notice I didn't say dead or dying flowers.  I think back to a weekend when a friend visited and somehow we got into a long discussion of when something transitions from living to dying.  With people and animals we almost never refer to them as dying.  We refer to them as living right up to the last moment and we celebrate living right up to the very end.  But with plants and flowers, we're quick to refer to them as dying.  The first brown blades of grass show up in the lawn after three weeks of no rain - and the grass is dying.  We have a vase of flowers on our countertop in the kitchen - and when that first wilted leaf appears Marilyn is ready to throw them out because they are dying.  The Kousa Dogwood blossom in the photograph above is living - it just happens to be in a later stage of life.

I've always said that one of the reasons I enjoy photography is it shows me (and my hopefully my family and friends) things they wouldn't normally see.  Few people, including myself, look at "dying" flowers.  But when you pause and look closely, you will still see the very interesting shapes and forms and lines that make flowers beautiful.  They just happen to have a few brown spots and some curled edges.  In many ways, it makes them even more interesting.


In early May I made a return visit to Ricketts Glen.  As I wrote in an earlier blog post, this is my favorite place in Pennsylvania.  I hike and photograph at Ricketts Glen about three times a year and have been going there for many years.

This is one of the few times I visited on a sunny day.  Photographing waterfalls in a deep forested setting is usually best done on overcast days.  Because of my schedule, I only had this day open and it was a 72 degree sunny day in early May - what a bummer!  ;)

I had resolved not to take a photograph of moving, flowing water since my friend Bill thinks I have too many of those!  But as I was hiking down the Falls Trail I came to a complete stop when I saw this saturated red/brown branch in the flowing water.  I thought the best way to show this would be with the flowing water around the branch and in reality, that's how I saw it when I was standing there.  I stood still for a few minutes and just watched the patterns the water made around the branch.  The sun gave the water a lightness and shadow that you don't get on cloudy days.

Two lessons on this beautiful early spring day in the mountains...  1) Change things up to see something new, and 2) don't listen to Bill.  ;)


The Spring Palette

Through many years of photography, I notice the changes in light and color from one season to another.  It's not just about the color of the leaves on trees, the color of the grass, or if there is snow on the ground.  The light itself is different and unique.  The angle of the sun changes the appearance of the light.  

The light in Spring is very "open".  There are no dark shadows cast by trees full of leaves.  Hiking on an early spring day in the mountains with no leaves on the trees is a completely different experience than hiking in the summer.  The sun comes through the bare trees easily and the forest floor is very bright and "open".  There is hardly any better time to hike than a Spring day with warm sun, cool air and a bright open blue sky.  In the spring, it is lighter... brighter... more "open".

The color palette is also different.  It too is more "open" - not pale or washed out.  Just lighter looking and lighter feeling.  The sky is a different blue than in summer, fall or winter.  The greens are rich, but also very light and airy.  Maybe it is the unique combination of colors that only happens in Spring - the light browns and tans leftover from winter and the bright greens and blues of Spring.

My daughter and I spent a Sunday afternoon doing a short hike on the Appalachian Trail above Allentown last weekend.  It was one of those days - warm sun, cool air, and bright open blue sky.  Both the photographs in this post were from before and after the hike as we drove through the spring countryside.

Brian ReitenauerComment
Winter's Parting Shot

I know I usually limit myself to one blog post per month, but I couldn't resist posting an image that I hope is Winter's parting shot.  This isn't from the most recent storm - this image is from the smaller storm last weekend.  It was snowing all morning - the kind of snow that just falls straight down - no wind at all.  We took our time getting ready to go out for a winter hike in no big hurry. By the time we got in the car and finally started driving, I could tell it was changing.  The snow was starting to turn into sleet and eventually rain.  We saw this barn and thinking it might be the only snow picture that day, we parked across the street and ran to take a few quick photos.

I did some heavy processing on it to give it a stylized look.  It won't win any awards, but it's a very pleasant image of winter in Eastern Pennsylvania.  And hopefully the last winter image this season!  It will also be a reminder to me that when you see great photo conditions - hurry, they won't last forever.

Titles and Meaning

I never title my photographs.  Many photographers do, but I prefer not to.  I think the photograph should stand on it's own and should not require a title.  Other photographers believe titles provide context and help a viewer appreciate the photograph more.

The photograph above is a new image added to the King Frost Gallery.  This is an annual parade in my home town and for the last four or five years I have spent a couple hours photographing the town and people as they prepare for the big evening.  I posted a blog entry highlighting this gallery last year and at that time there were no titles on the images.  When I added new photographs from the most recent parade in October, some of them were photographs that I really liked - but you couldn't tell they had anything to do with the parade, unless there was a title.  The image above is an example of that.  I really like the photograph, but you wouldn't know it is part of an overall related project without the title and the context it provides.  It shows people and families walking through the town park on their way to claim their parade viewing spots on the streets above.  Without the title, you have no clue it is related to the King Frost Parade.

As I added about ten new photographs to this gallery, it seemed to me that the overall project was more interesting with titles, than without titles.  The titles added context and brought the whole project together.

I also solicited some advance feedback from a (former) friend on these photographs overall and his feedback was decidedly lukewarm.  On the other hand, my family and I like them.  So, a second question is… are these good or interesting photographs to a broad audience or only to people who have a personal experience with the parade itself?  In other words, do we like these images simply because we grew up in this town seeing this parade every year?

PS - If this work isn't your cup of tea and you feel ripped off by me not posting a nice new landscape photograph, take a look at the first row of the Color Landscapes Gallery.  The first and fifth images are brand new postings!

Brian ReitenauerComment
Winter Creek Revisited

It is definitely winter!  I decided to spend a few hours walking along what has become a local favorite place of mine - the Unami Creek.  I first discovered this location about eighteen months ago on a bike ride and wrote about it in this blog post.  When I have a small window of time to photograph, it's a good place to be.

I went with the intention of working on a new project or theme I want to explore called "Looking Closely".  I've become a little tired of the National Park photographs (even though I love going there and will continue) and I have been questioning my photography.  Aside from the enjoyment I get, why do I photograph and why do I share the images?  I've been thinking about this for some time and I have decided I photograph to see more deeply - to see things I otherwise would not have seen.  And to share that with family, friends, and anyone else who may be interested.  The act of photographing slows me down and I notice and see things that I would miss at my normal pace.  I'm hoping that "Looking Closely" will be a good project that demonstrates why I photograph.

The images in this blog post are ice patterns of course.  And 99% of the people who drive along Swamp Creek Road looking at the Unami Creek don't see this.  They may see a frozen creek - but they don't really "see" a frozen creek.  Unless they stop the car, get out, and spend some time Looking Closely.  This kind of art in nature is all around us - if we allow ourselves to slow down and if we allow ourselves to really see it.  It's my hope that these photographs and this blog help you all see more than you normally would as well.  Look Closely!

Brian ReitenauerComment