Summer Water

Summertime is really a winning season at New England’s waterfalls, they are alive, green, and feel fresh in so many ways. I feel drawn to them for so many reasons, and I don’t think I will ever lose the captivating feeling of photographing liquid in motion. This one below is Crystal Cascade in New Hampshire’s Pinkham Notch, and it sits within one of the most mountainous areas of the New England landscape. It’s simply a gem.

Summertime trip to New Hampshires White Mountains. (Michael J. Clarke)
Crystal Cascade – Pinkham Notch, NH. (Michael J. Clarke)

Aerial Sailing

The boats may be all tucked away for winter at this point, but thats what makes me miss summertime more than anything. One of the neat summer activities in Boston is the very accessible opportunity for sailing along the Charles River and taking in the sights and sounds of the city. As cool as it is to actually do the sailing, it’s also a staple of the city skyline and is a beautiful activity to be happening in any city.

Countless people take pictures of the boats all summer long, and they add a lot of visual activity and interest to pictures of the city, especially those from Cambridge looking over to the Back Bay skyline. The Cambridge view is a great one, but as often as I do those ground level views it feels a lot more special to make a different picture of the boats, and this one was a very different angle than the usual.

Aerial view of sailboats on Boston's Charles River. (Michael J. Clarke)
Aerial view of sailboats on Boston’s Charles River. (Michael J. Clarke)

These are the boats seen while looking down from an altitude of about 1000ft in a Bell Jetranger Helicopter, and its a whole different perspective of the afternoon sailing going on down below. Flying is one of my very favorite ways to make the usual look unusual, and with careful safety measures, timing, and flight planning helicopters can be one of the most useful and effective tools for both urban and landscape photography that we have available in the world.

I usually aim for two different picture types during flights, one being the glorious vista type of perspective that is simply impossible from ground or even building level perspectives, and another being the simplification of the landscape – which is the main goal when working a picture like this one.

A lot of things came together correctly in this image, including the subject matter and patterns below, the dramatic afternoon light, and the altitude and position of the helicopter to get in place for this view. I’ll be sharing more unique pictures and aerial views over the coming months, but it never hurts to look back at some summertime fun during the cold winter days ahead.

Downtown in the Cold

When I work making pictures of the Boston skyline, there are often two different thoughts I bring into visualizing and executing the work. One is to photograph the recognizable scenes that people know and relate two, and the second is to tackle uniqueness and making a picture that provokes consideration and thought.

To bring some unique artistry into my skyline photography, something I often do is isolate sections of the city while glowing with pristine light. This print of the downtown skyline seen from south of the city does that well, and is a view of the city that many people don’t often think of or recognize.

A cold weather view of the downtown Boston skyline. (Michael J. Clarke)
A cold weather view of the downtown Boston skyline. (Michael J. Clarke)

These are the skyscrapers of Downtown Boston and the Financial District on a cold and clear winter night. While Boston is often not recognized for its size in comparison with New York, the city does have quite a bit of vertical strength that can be seen and shown from the right views. In addition to being a different spot than most people view the skyline from, the crisp winter air and last bits of evening sunset that illuminate this frame provide a magical glow to the towers as they rest above the brownstones of the South End.

Sometimes within the realm of cityscape artwork its the unique and lesser known spots that can provoke the most thought and wonder when displaying an urban environment as a piece of artwork, and its for that reason that I work on all different view of the urban landscape throughout many different times of the year as well as weather conditions.

Doanes Falls

Around this time of the year at the waterfalls the water gets cold and the natural conditions take on a new element of change as they wash away the leaves from the autumn months and take on their winter form. The waterfalls of New England are rather unique because they go through such drastic change throughout the year as the seasons come and go, making them truly unique during each and every visit. This here is Doane’s Falls in the Massachusetts town of Royalston, an area of the state that is quite interesting in terms of water features.

The middle tier of Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)
The middle tier of Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)

These cascades sit on the Lawrence Brook which provides a powerful source of water for the cascades that run through this stretch of land. On this visit the water running through the falls was ice cold just like the air temperatures, and had already washed away most of the autumn leave coverage which left behind a more barren but still beautiful formation.

Cold water cascading through Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)
Cold water cascading through Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)

The action and clarity that rivers display during the winter months makes for especially clean forms, and makes the hard work and extra gear worth the effort. The rivers are often displaying their last gasps of motion before ice and snow take over during the long winter.

Icicles forming at Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)
Icicles forming at Doanes Falls in Royalston, MA. (Michael J. Clarke)

As the temperatures dip below freezing the battle between rivers and mother nature is usually an ebb and flow that can fall in either direction, and during the times of transition the rivers and waterfalls are sometimes at their most interesting state. Doane’s Falls and the Lawrence river were having their last few days of smooth flow during this visit, and it was a good chance to witness them before the freeze.

Sankaty Head Light

Nantucket is a place that fascinates me and is a pinnacle of beauty within the New England landscape. The small island is unique in so many ways, and has a feeling of being its own world while tucked away out of sight of the mainland coast. The island is full of character, with a deeply historic old port town and a plethora of interesting and popular spots scattered throughout its many beaches and diverse shorelines. While densely populated in some spots, the island also has quite a bit of open land that also varies in form while looking like the Caribbean in some areas and the jungle in others. This very land is also makes for a treacherous area for boats roaming the Atlantic Ocean waters off of Cape Cod, and because of this several lighthouses have stood throughout the past few hundred years to guide ships towards safer waters. One of these is Sankaty Head Light, and its a beauty within the world of lighthouses.

Sankaty Head Lighthouse on the eastern edge of Nantucket Island. (Michael J. Clarke)
Sankaty Head Lighthouse on the eastern edge of Nantucket Island. (Michael J. Clarke)

Sankaty Head Light sits on one of the more remote edges of the island, high above the ocean on a the sandy plateaus near the town of Siasconset. The shape and form of the lighthouse have become emblematic of the island itself and have stood the test of time and pointed countless ships away from the nearby cliffs. These lands are battered throughout the year by storms and noreasters which are often first seen at Sankaty as the most Southeastern point in all of New England. The brutal conditions of the area have caused the lighthouse to be moved back from its original location, which can be seen here in the foreground. This location is a marvel of New England, and every time a big storm grips the area I always send some wishes for this little piece of land that bears the brunt of so many harsh weather systems.

Leaving Autumn Behind

Fall in New England is a magical time, when the trees fill with colorful hues the cascade into the landscape all around us. The transitional seasons are one of the elements of the area that make the area so unique, and we are lucky to witness seasonal change as striking as any area of the country. The seasons come and go with cyclical character, and even as we head into the winter months I always look back at autumn with a particular fondness. While the seasonal changes are quite apparent within Boston, it’s outside the city and within the landscape that the glorious color really shines.

Autumn colors at Silver Cascade in New Hampshires Crawford Notch. (Michael J. Clarke)
Autumn colors at Silver Cascade in New Hampshires Crawford Notch. (Michael J. Clarke)

Silver Cascade (seen above) was surrounded by glory this year as well as a plentiful supply of mountain water to keep the falls roaring. This trip was a particularly colorful one and I caught some of the foliage at its peak within one of my favorite locations of the area – Harts Location.

Colorful autumn foliage in Crawford Notch, NH. (Michael J. Clarke)
Colorful autumn foliage in Crawford Notch, NH. (Michael J. Clarke)

The mountains of New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont go through a drastic change during the autumn months, and people travel here from all around to witness the fireworks of the forests. I usually travel in search of interesting water formations, and in the fall months those locations are usually combined with colorful drama and make the photographic conditions really spectacular.

Moss Glen Falls during peak foliage season in Stowe, VT. (Michael J. Clarke)
Moss Glen Falls during peak foliage season in Stowe, VT. (Michael J. Clarke)

There is a particular beauty to be found at waterfalls during autumn, as they are both surrounded by the colors beside them but also within them as the fallen leaves scatter into the flow and formations making up the landscape features. It’s really breathtaking when the timing and weather conditions work out perfectly, and can be a photographic dream come true. While waterfalls are a focus that lead me into some of the remote places of the region, they often lead to other foliage views, and shining landscapes become something to smile about.

Trees glowing with fall foliage in Harts Location, NH. (Michael J. Clarke)
Trees glowing with fall foliage in Harts Location, NH. (Michael J. Clarke)

Snow is here to stay for right now, and brings a beauty of its own and also brings some time to look back at the autumn work and share our local colors with the world.

 

Winter Arrives

As winter rolls around just in time for the start of 2016, the past winter that we had is definitely worth a second look as it may be one to remember for a long time to come. The hatred of snowstorms is usually heard loud and clean in these parts, but for me, the unique changes they bring are visually entertaining and I would have to say rather welcomed. I am a big believer that beauty can be found on any given day, whether it be the pleasantries of a spring afternoon or a dreadful rainstorm on a cold December morning… but when a storm rolls into town, its more unique than most other days in the year.

This past year happened to bring several major snowstorms that walloped Boston into a state of emergency with the trains and city streets simply unable to handle the challenges that they let loose on the city. I was one of the brave souls that ventured out during the most extreme of the weather, and the sights and sounds were more impressive than anything I can remember in Boston’s snow history.

A pedestrian walking through Boston Common after a February snowstorm in the winter of 2015. (Michael J. Clarke)
A pedestrian walking through Boston Common after a February snowstorm in the winter of 2015. (Michael J. Clarke)

One thing that impressed me last winter was that as much as the snow kept coming, people kept carrying on with their days, or at least trying their best. Yes, the trains ground to a halt, traffic was nearly unbearable, short commutes turned into hours, but for the most part, people kept on trucking as well as they could. Walking seemed hard enough, but some people even kept pedaling away on bikes almost in spite of how cold it was!

A biker braves the ice and snow in Quincy Market on a cold winter afternoon. (Michael J. Clarke)
A biker braves the ice and snow in Quincy Market on a cold winter afternoon. (Michael J. Clarke)

Making pictures of these street scenes in their snow-altered state is a lot of fun for me as a photographer, and there is always the choice of attempting to capture the misery vs. the beauty of the scene. On some days its either all of one or the other, but oftentimes theres a good bit of both – you have to admit that the city looks pretty amazing under its blanket of snow when seen from above even while the streets below were transformed into a hard to recognize winter wonderland.

The Boston skyline after the heavy snowfall of Winter Storm Juno. (Michael J. Clarke)
The Boston skyline after the heavy snowfall of Winter Storm Juno. (Michael J. Clarke)
Snowbanks in Boston's Back Bay after Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)
Snowbanks in Boston’s Back Bay after Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)

Perhaps the beauty of the snow was lost to many people because of the problems with the trains, which were rather epic with their endless delays and even closures. Many people lost many hours waiting and hoping for transport, or possibly waiting or hoping to be somewhere a whole lot warmer than here!

Commuters walking towards South Station during a snowy evening. (Michael J. Clarke)
Commuters walking towards South Station during a snowy evening. (Michael J. Clarke)
An MBTA B-line train on Commonwealth Avenue in blizzard conditions. (Michael J. Clarke)
An MBTA B-line train on Commonwealth Avenue in blizzard conditions. (Michael J. Clarke)

For a few tips on how to make snowstorms in the city easier do your best to plan for it.

  • stay turned to  the local and national weather channels
  • use transit apps as they can tell you when misery is around the corner
  • get a great pair of boots
  • when it doubt, bring that extra layer
  • be overly cautious when driving, things go wrong much more quickly with snow
  • grab a dunkin’s and don’t look back

We had a little preview of winter over the past few days, and I will venture to guess that a whole lot more is right around the corner. It’ll be cold and slow going, but this is New England, and I say let it snow.

Blizzard conditions along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall during Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)
Blizzard conditions along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall during Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)

 

Another Year in the Books

As 2015 winds towards an end there is a lot to think back on and a lot to look forward to as well. I spent much of this year on pursuits within the city of Boston and the landscape of New England, and it’s been an excellent adventure. I’ll be gathering a year end gallery shortly, but check out this evening frame looking over the city as the lights shine brightly.

Aerial view of Boston at night. (Michael J. Clarke)