So I’m back from a week’s vacation in Vermont, a trip home to visit the family, grab the cameras, and finally relax from the constant rat-race that’s otherwise defined this year so far. I grew up in the Green Mountain State and know full well the influence it had on me, both as a person and as a photographer. It’s my childhood there that’s responsible for my love of nature, the love that first fueled my photography years ago, and now continues to drive it in other ways. Which makes the visits special, when I’m able to manage them, as a chance to return to the places that first inspired me. And to find new ones, still.
I have my differences with Vermont, such deep disagreements with politics, business, and those who run both that it made me hate living there as a teenager. But despite all that, the one thing I cannot criticize is the sheer volume, and general well being, of the wild areas left in the state. There is more public land, more parks, forests, wilderness, hiking & jeep trails within 15 minutes of my childhood home than there are in an hour’s drive of Scranton. And with the exception of the state parks, they’re never crowded – many days I’ve hiked for hours without seeing a half-dozen others. Regardless of anything else, Vermont is a state defined by it’s natural assets.
Accordingly, when I am able to visit the problem that arises is not where am I able to go to make images, but rather where do I want to go? Like a kid in the candy aisle, I’m usually dumb struck by the choices and, as a result, start making my list weeks before I even get out the suitcase. It’s a matter of striking balance between the old and oft-visited places, and the new, less explored ones. Am I over thinking this? Perhaps, but with only a few days at my disposal, it pays to figure out where I most want to visit.
I was lucky this time and had excellent weather for nearly the entire trip. True summer weather can be hard to come by some years; prior to my arrival there was much more rain than usual, and I’m fortunate to have missed it. Nothing ruins a vacation – even one that isn’t based around photography – faster than bad weather. As has become my habit, I began in the marsh, a site that I somehow managed not to ever visit while I lived in town, but only after I moved away. The marsh’s primary target is wildlife, but it’s setting, nestled between the mountains, makes it an obvious choice for landscape snaps during the golden light.
The photo above is from Thundering Brook Falls, a site that was completely new to my entire family. My mom read about it in a local magazine article; the article itself listed a half-dozen local waterfalls that are virtually unknown to people, usually despite their easy and public access. True enough, we’d never heard of this one. I was shocked to find a beautiful boardwalk running through a marsh and meadow before meeting the short trail up through the woods to the falls. How we never knew about the falls, I’m not sure. But it made for a great, easy hike in the afternoon and I was very pleased with the images that I came back with.
So did I accomplish everything I had wanted to do while there? Not quite, but I managed more than I expected. I forgot all about checking out the Tinmouth Channel WMA, and after several years still haven’t shot from Deers Leap at sunrise. Nor did I find a moose, despite multiple expeditions in likely places. On the other hand, I got my Virginia Rail in the marsh, as well as a couple other critters that I hadn’t even thought of finding. But I was able to spend time – really good, focused time, out in nature with the camera, making images that resonate with me. And most of all, I was able to spend time with my family, who shares my love of the outdoors and takes any excuse to hit the trails.