The First Snowfall

It came on a Saturday morning.  It was a little late and it started slowly.  But it didn't disappoint - it was one of those special snows that falls so gently - straight down because of the complete absence of any breeze or wind.  And even someone who loves the summer and warm weather as much as I do can get excited about the first snowfall of the season.

I headed out to a local wooded area and just started walking in the snow with my camera.  As I walked and watched closely, I became aware of the change that happens as more and more snow accumulates on the trees.  I especially enjoyed the very light, subtle dusting of white on branches that only happens in the first hour of a snowfall.  And as the snow continued to pick up, I would occasionally stop and be still, so I could listen to the sound snow makes when it falls.

I wandered in the fields and into the woods.  And when I turned around and looked back out at the field, I got that feeling of looking into a snow globe.  It wasn't snowing on me because of the canopy of trees.  But ten yards in front of me the snow was streaming down onto the open white field - as if someone had given this small part of the world a shake.

I wandered around for hours - enjoying the sights and sounds of the first snowfall of the season.

See a short photo story here, about The First Snowfall.

Brian ReitenauerComment
Zion Gallery Finished

Ok - this is the last post on Zion National Park.  The full gallery of final images is finished and it can be seen on the On Location - Zion page or on the Zion Folio page.

I have to say, Zion National Park in autumn is something special.  From a distance, Zion is all sandstone, slickrock and cliffs.  It is the desert and canyon country that you expect.  But when you look closely you see the cliffs and canyons are dotted with small clumps of trees.  And in autumn those trees, like their counterparts in the east, turn blazing shades of red, orange, and yellow.  And then the distance deceives you - what appears to be a small clump of trees becomes a full forest when you walk among them - right in the canyon, high up on a cliff wall.  The variety of Zion was completely unexpected.

And then there is the light.  The golden morning light of sunrise throws shadows across the undulating rock landscape.  And as the sun rises, the light changes.  Extra special is the reflected light of one cliff wall against another - it literally causes the rock to glow.  

Light, colored sandstone canyons, vibrant autumn leaves - they all come together in this special place that I will visit again for sure.

Brian ReitenauerComment
Zion Postscript

It didn't feel complete - we hiked four full days in Zion and I only posted three times.  I feel like you all didn't get your money's worth. ;)  So I thought I would post a final small set of images before I process the full gallery.

Everyone expects the canyon views - and they are there for sure.  But what was most surprising were the other scenes we witnessed.  Closer, more intimate views of the beautiful landscape in and around Zion.  The elevation changes create different ecosystems - desert plants and scrub brush in the low elevations, and mature hardwood trees in the higher elevations.  The canyon walls reflect sunlight onto each other and create wonderful glowing light against autumn leaves.

There was more variety in Zion than I remember and more than I anticipated for this trip.  This short post shows a little of that and hopefully when I finish the full gallery, it will convey the variety we experienced.

That's it for now - see you next month!

Brian ReitenauerComment
Autumn in Zion

I wanted to do something different than the expected canyon and cliff scenes - even though we saw more of those today.  But this really is Zion - it's Zion in Autumn.  Nestled among many of the cliffs are washes where the water runs off from spring rains and summer storms.  All along these washes, plant life flourishes. The plant life includes hardwood trees like oaks and maples - they're a bit smaller than back East but they are unmistakable.  And in October we know what happens to hardwood trees - they turn bright colors.  And they do that here right in the canyon too!

We walked through one section that was so large it felt like we were back home.  The unmistakable scent of autumn leaves in a forest was present - steps away from orange and yellow cliff faces 3000 feet tall.

We hiked the West Rim Trail today - 11 hours of hiking and more than 3000 feet of elevation gain. We were very tired by the time we got back, but it was one of the best I have ever done.

We wrap up tomorrow so this will be the last blog post.  Thanks for reading!

Brian ReitenauerComment
Zion Canyon

Once again we started the day early - in the darkness before sunrise.  But today we hiked the East  Mesa and East Rim trail which means we were at the top of the canyon.  We didn't know this meant it was 7,000 feet high and we certainly didn't know this meant that it was 24 degrees out when we started the hike!  Eventually the sun came out and warmed us up and rewarded us with some great views of Zion Canyon from the East Rim.

The temperature would eventually hit 83 - a full 59 degrees warmer then when we started.  There were many photos to choose from, but it was hard to pass up this one from the East Rim looking down Zion Canyon.  Hard to believe that what appears to be a small river carved this out of the cliffs!

Brian ReitenauerComment
Zion Sunrise

Some of you know that I am on my next photo and hiking adventure - this time in Zion National Park in Utah.  We started off our first day in total darkness - leaving the hotel room 2 hours before sunrise, driving up a dirt road so steep the SUV lost traction twice, and practically running up a 2.8 mile hike in the dark wearing headlamps, to get the view above.  It was worth it!  This is a view of Zion Canyon from Eagle Crags Trail

I have been to Zion once before - about 10 years ago and I remember how impressive it was.  But to see it in this light as the sun rose was incredible.  It is truly amazing.

As we hiked back down from the top of the Eagle Crags trail, we were surprised how far the hike was.  In the dark, driven by the need to get to the top for the sunrise light, we must have had super-human strength! ;)   And then we were also surprised about the drive back down that steep rock-strewn road.  At times, we were going 3 miles an hour over the rocks and down the steep dirt road with a cliff to one side.  I think it's good it was dark when we drove up that road!

Brian ReitenauerComment
September Morning

This post is about color and light.  It's isn't really about the chokecherry bush in our back yard. This post is about a time of the year told through the perspective of color and light. 

The color for the last couple months has been nothing but green. It's like someone spray painted green across the entire landscape. The grass was the greenest it has ever been. The corn stayed dark green all summer long. The leaves on the trees, the weeds along the road, the hay fields - green, green, and more green!

But just like that, the greenest summer I can remember is fading away. The first hints were the soybean fields turning yellow. Then the ash trees, which are always the first to go, turned yellow. And now there are dry brown oak leaves on the ground getting mulched as we cut the grass which grows slower each week. And in the distance, where only a short time ago there was nothing but green, hints of yellow and light brown are telling us Summer is being replaced by Autumn. 

But is there any more impressive color than the impossibly blue sky under a clear September morning sun?  The angle of light and the sky on a clear September day look different than at any other time of the year.  And the bright yellow-green leaves and the intense red berries on the Chokecherry bush against that clear blue sky accomplished the impossible - it caused me to get up out of my Saturday morning chair on the patio. 

I often talk about seeing the extraordinary in the commonplace as more rewarding photography than that of exotic locations. It can't get any less exotic than this - I was sitting on our patio early on a Saturday morning, looked to my left and saw the green and red against that great blue sky. And if I had my camera on the chair with me I would not have even had to stand up!

Enjoy Autumn!

Brian ReitenauerComment
A Wet Summer

I know what you are thinking - not another waterfall picture from Ricketts Glen. How many waterfall pictures does this guy need?  But this isn't a picture of a waterfall at Ricketts Glen. This is a picture of what Ricketts Glen FELT LIKE on a July day during the wettest summer in many years. 

By late July in a normal summer, the water flow in Kitchen's Creek is slow and quiet as it stumbles down the many falls in Ricketts Glen.  On a typical lazy late summer day at the Glen, you can walk slowly and almost hear the thoughts in your head. One year a friend and I walked down the middle of the creek for much of our hike - sometimes walking in the shallow slow-moving water and sometimes hopping from stone to stone.

But not this July.  We've had a lot of rain and the creek was roaring - drowning out almost all other sound - especially at the base of each waterfall. The trail was so wet it was hard to tell where the trail stopped and the creek started. There were small waterfalls coming down the sides of the hill where none ever existed before.  These were new waterfalls given brief life as the rainwater came down the hills flowing out of the saturated ground.  Rocks that are normally exposed were completely submerged. And where thin ribbons of water usually fall in slow motion over rock ledges, sheets of crashing water took their place. It was loud. It was new. It was exciting. 

I come to Ricketts Glen often.  And when the alarm goes off at 6am on a summer day it is tempting to stay in bed thinking you have seen it all before. How different could it be?  But as the photographs in this Folio show, Ricketts Glen has many moods.  And on this July day in the wettest of summers, it was exhilarating!  Yes, it's a picture of a waterfall. But hopefully it is also a visual way of communicating what it felt like to be at Ricketts Glen that late July day in a very wet summer. 

See the Ricketts Glen Folio here. 

Brian ReitenauerComment
Witness Tree

They call them Witness Trees - they are trees that were present at the Battle of Gettysburg.  They are the last living survivors of those brutal three days in July of 1863.  While the people have long since gone, about 150 trees that were alive during the battle, remain alive and in place today.  If you stand and run your hands over the rough bark, it's quite possible soldiers from the battle 150 years ago did the same thing.  If the trees could talk, what would they tell us about what happened here?  Is it possible they remember what happened here?  

The tree above is a stately old oak located above Devil's Den - scene of some of the worst fighting in the battle.  Today, it watches the sun rise above Little Round Top and warm the rocks of Devil's Den, before setting over the distant ridge of South Mountain.  Today, it's like any other tree in any other field.  But it is definitely not like any other tree.  

I've had this idea for awhile - I thought of creating beautiful landscape images in fields that have seen battle - beauty where there was horror.  I thought I would start with the Civil War battlefields and start with Gettysburg since it is only about two hours from where I live.  It may become a long term project - or it may fade away.  But I think this is a good start.

Summer Fog

It's a Saturday morning in early summer. It's humid, very cloudy, and we've had several downpours by 9:30am.  A check of the forecast shows the rain is over but it will stay very cloudy, damp and humid all day. Do you stay inside or go outside?  Outside of course - there is no such thing as an "inside day" on a weekend in June!  Seriously, get a rain jacket on and go outside and do something different!

One of my favorite places to go on a cloudy, misty day in the summer is the forest. It just looks and feels totally different than on a sunny day.  On this misty summer Saturday, I decided to hike and photograph at Hawk Mountain. 

I spent four hours wandering the ridge top trails.  I hiked in similar foggy damp conditions one winter day and wrote about it here.  And while there were some similarities, the differences couldn't have been more dramatic. 

Everything was a dark saturated green. The fog was bright and changing, moving among the trees, ferns, and rocks. The mountain laurel were near the end of their blooming, but still a dramatic white and pink among the dark green leaves and pale mist. The tree trunks were varying shades of black and gray depending on distance. The occasional breeze brought the sound (and wetness) of rainwater falling from leaves overhead. It looked prehistoric. I imagined this is what the land looked like hundreds of thousands of years ago. I even think the one tree trunk rising in the right half background of the photo above could easily be the long neck of a Brontosaurus as it looked up from munching some grass!

There were only a few people on the trail with me that day.  Many more should have put on their rain jacket and hiking shoes and gone out there. They would have been well rewarded. 

Other Hawk Mountain images are on the Hawk Mountain Gallery page.  At the bottom is a grouping of the best four photos from this foggy Saturday morning.  


The forecast called for rain and cold - not surprising for a Spring filled with rollercoaster weather patterns - 80's one day and 50's the next.  We had planned the spring weekend in Ocean City for a couple months but with this weather forecast I gently suggested we not go.  Marilyn's answer was pragmatic and strong - we spent the money on the hotel and we're going!  So of course we went.  And of course Marilyn was right and the weather forecasters were wrong.  The rain blew out early Friday evening and left incredible skies and decent weather for much of the weekend.

On a single weekend I was treated to rapidly changing skies and light that only happens during transitions.  We were in the transition between the storm system and calm weather - with the struggle going back and forth multiple times over the two days.  On the marsh it would be sunny while over the ocean the storm clouds were racing up the coast.  I was on the beach just after sunrise photographing under a cloudless sky and a few hours later freezing in the wind and drizzle.  

It got me thinking about transitions.  The best light and photographs are during transitions... the early morning transition when night becomes day or the golden hour transition when day becomes night, the transition where land abruptly meets water, the transition between winter and spring when the leaves are just barely covering trees, the rolling foothills where the flat land transitions into mighty mountains.  Transitions create adventure and interest.  Maybe not just for photography but for life too.  We should seek the transitions!  

In retrospect, it was a perfect weekend - just like I knew it would be!

Seeing Trees

Trees are so plentiful that it's easy to miss them. The forest and the trees virtually disappear into the background - like a stage set that serves no purpose. But this is only because we take them for granted - trees are everywhere, they become commonplace, they'll always be here.

But what if you take the time to look closely and really see trees. See them in different seasons, different light, different weather conditions, different stages of their lives. In the summer the leaves hide the true nature of the tree.  In the winter, the lines and patterns made by leafless branches with directional sunlight is like a charcoal sketch made by nature itself.

Of course to really see trees, we need do the hardest things of all - we need to slow down, walk, stare, stop and think. And if we do, the trees will come to the foreground and we will see them.



For anyone who has followed my photography, you'll know that trees are a recurring subject for me.  So I created a small black & white folio project called "Seeing Trees".  

Click on the link...  Folio - Seeing Trees to view them.  Enjoy!

Brian ReitenauerComment
The Sycamore on Mill Road

Less than a second... that's the amount of time the shutter was open to record the light and make this photograph.  But in many ways, this photo has been a couple years in the making.  This grand sycamore tree is on my normal bike training loop.  I have ridden past it hundreds of times.  In the spring, summer, and fall it is like a thousand other trees I pass.  But in winter, something different happens.  Without the leaves, the white bark catches the low angle morning sun and the twisted branches pop out against the dark background.  I notice it every time I ride by and I think about the best time to photograph it.

I'd like to say this was all planned.  But as is often the case, there was some luck involved.  When I set out to photograph the tree this past weekend, there was still snow on the ground from winter's revenge - a mid March snowstorm after a warm February!  The sunlight reflecting off the snow also lit up the branches from underneath - giving them an extra pop of light.  To me, it looks like the tree is glowing as it enjoys a solo performance in the sun.

Hopefully next month's post will feature a beautiful warm spring image!  In the meantime, pay attention when you are outside - this is the time of year when things change almost daily!

Brian ReitenauerComment
Winter Trees

I like winter trees.  I definitely prefer the warmth of summer over the cold of winter.  And nothing is better than being outside on a warm spring or summer day.  But for me, trees have much more character to them in the winter.  They are more unique, more individual.

I pass by this field often since it's within a five minute drive of where I live.  I see it in all seasons, at all times of day, in all kinds of weather.  And every time I drive by, coming up the hill, this group of five grabs my attention.  But it was a winter day, as the sky was clearing, that the trees spoke most clearly.  

I don't know what kind of trees they are.  I'm sure they are five completely different kinds of trees.  And in other times of the year it's easy to see that one is no longer living.  But on this winter day, the five came together, alive, and communicated a welcoming message to anyone who was there to listen.


Brian ReitenauerComment
Trees, Silver in Light

I had a couple hours free on a recent sunny winter morning.  And because I only had a couple hours, I took my camera and once again went out to visit the Unami Creek - my favorite local wandering place.  I picked a new spot to enter the creek area and started walking along the banks - enjoying the sun, the quiet, and the crisp still air.  Just ahead, the creek rounded a bend and I stopped - I was fascinated by the tracery of the branches and how they caught the sunlight - looking silver rather than the normal color of branches.  As I looked even closer, I was struck by how the trees appeared to be reaching out across the creek.  And with the sun lighting up the grass, I knew it would be a strong photograph.  It captured the feeling I had on that sunny winter morning on the creek perfectly well.

Favorites of 2016

I have seen this on many websItes so it is not an original idea by any stretch.  But I thought it would be fun to choose my favorite 20 photographs from 2016 and put them in one place.  Many of them you have already seen, but several haven't been shown before - including my absolute favorite sunset photo ever.  

The photo at right was taken in the field behind my sister-in-law's home in October.  I happened to have my small camera with me in the car - just in case.  I was outside and saw this beautiful sunset forming but I resisted the urge to grab the camera - how many more sunset photos do I need?  A few minutes later it became too much to resist and I grabbed the camera and ran into the field and spent 45 minutes photographing the sunset that evening.  Glad I did.  See my favorite images of 2016 here!

Brian ReitenauerComment