Autumn in New York

We went back to Letchworth State Park for a second day of photography, this time focusing on intimate landscapes rather than the grand landscapes I showed in my last posting. The colors of the leaves remained at their peak, creating brilliant displays of the best the season has to offer. Following are some of the images I created. I hope you enjoy them. If so, feel free to leave comments.

The sun backlighting the yellow leaves created brilliant patterns in the dark woods.
The oranges and yellows of the leaves stood out against the dark tree trunks of the forest
There were fewer birch trees than expected, but the ones we found often provided a dramatic contrast to the darker trunks of other trees
Detail from one of the birch trees
Another view of the bright yellow leaves lit by sun coming through the trees from behind
The dark tree trunks point upward toward the wonderful rusts of the leaves
A final image of yellow sunlit leaves

Autumn Colors at Letchworth

This week I’ve been touring Letchworth State Park to photograph its dramatic scenery while adorned with autumn colors. You’ve been where? What’s Letchworth? Let me explain.

Letchworth State Park is located about 50 miles from Buffalo and Rochester in upstate New York State. It consists off a valley with dramatic cliffs overlooking the Genesee River gorge. It is home to several dramatic waterfalls. It has been rightly voted the number one state park in the country, though it has some stiff competition, and also known as the Grand Canyon of the East. In this season, it is gorgeous in fall drapery. I happened to be here, with my wife and good friends, at just the peak time!

What follows are some of the photos I have made thus far while touring the park. I hope you enjoy them. And, if you live anywhere near the park, I encourage you to come and enjoy its beauty!

The northern section of the gorge, with the Genessee River flowing through brilliantly colored cliffs
Farther south, the Genessee River winds through more dramatic scenery
Some dramatic leaf detail viewed from above
Middle and Uppper Falls
A closer view of Middle Falls
A rock formation resembling a face appears in Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York
This delicate waterfall has no name that I know of, but I was taken by its beauty
Upper Falls and the railroad bridge that crosses the gorge; we were not lucky enough to see a train crossing it, though we did hear one from a distance


I was just setting out on what I hoped would be a great photographic venture, a peak leaf season voyage to upstate New York’s Letchworth State Park.  Known sometimes as the Grand Canyon of the east, this large expanse not far from Rochester was carved by the Genesee River.  Here one finds magnificent high cliffs, panoramic vistas, spectacular waterfalls, and—in the autumn—the brilliant red and golden hues of the season.

Along with me was my beloved, relatively new Nikon Z9 camera, the flagship of the Nikon line and a beautifully engineered and crafted creative tool.  It rested safely, or so I thought, on the rear seat, protected behind the tripod I’d stored in a soft carrying bag.

A tractor trailer crash on the Interstate blocked all lanes, so I chose a rural route through scenic landscape to avoid the otherwise inevitable miles-long backup.  A wise choice, but with unforeseen consequences.

Two cars preceded me on the two-lane highway.  Though following at a safe distance, I nonetheless suddenly found my car closing rapidly on the car in front, which had stopped for first car to make a left turn into a tourist trap.  To avoid a collision, I applied the brakes, vigorously.  Too vigorously, as it turned out.

My car lurched to slow speed.  As it did, I heard a clunk coming from the rear seat as things shifted around. I thought nothing of it. 

Only when I arrived at my destination did I discover my camera lying on the rear floor and the damage that had occurred.  As the photos show, the LCD screen was punctured, probably by a sharp point on my tripod.  The screen’s functioning was destroyed, and with it went my chance to put this magical piece of image-making gear through its paces.  My camera was well and truly busted.  And so, my fond aspirations dashed, was I.

Detailed view of my cracked LCD screen

The Bad Old Days

I suppose I was about five or six years old, at a time when my awareness of life was just developing, when I began to notice that on some days things went well and that on others they went badly. In my still infantile way of thinking, I conceived the idea of classifying days as either good or bad. As it then seemed to me, some external force, fate perhaps, was conspiring against me to turn what might have been good days into bad ones.

As I understood it then, when bad days happened, I was powerless to change the course of events. On one of those bad days, things were simply going to go awry. I was helpless in the hands of fate, through no fault of my own, and I could do no more than suffer through until better times came along. And suffer I did. The sense I had that things were out of my control, that I was but putty in some larger hands, was oppressive. I felt as though I was a pawn in someone else’s chess match and that I might easily be sacrificed in a game I could not comprehend.

This was juvenile stuff, of course. As I grew into my teens and throughout my student days, I steadily developed a greater source of personal responsibility for the outcomes of my actions. And I built an understanding that I could manage my responses to adverse events by regulating my emotional response to them.

And so it continued into my adult life. I built up my capacity to better manage events in my life through careful planning and, when things didn’t happen as expected, by absorbing the impact as unfortunate necessities. Gone by then was the sense that a day had to be either good or bad as a whole. Bad things could happen, but they need not spoil an entire day if they were mixed in with good things.

It was not until late in life that I encountered the Stoics and their special form of philosophy. From the reading I did, I began to evolve a different, and more helpful, mode of thinking about how to achieve a balanced life, one freed up from being battered by the inevitable ebb and flow of events.

I read first Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, an easily approachable source of wisdom collected from other Stoic writers, most notably Epictetus, the freed slave turned teacher whose brilliant thoughts were set down by one of his students. I sampled the many letters and essays by Seneca, whose writings are replete with valuable advice on living a good life. And, I read many others whose thoughts, inspired by the Stoics, added to their central messages.

“When you are upset by any external thing, it’s not the thing itself that troubles you, but only the way you are judging it. And you can wipe that judgment out at once.”

Marcus Aurelius

A principal lesson I learned from the Stoics can be easily summed up. While I cannot fully control the flow of events that impact my life, some of which can be bad, I am nonetheless in full control of how I respond to them. While I can plan to accommodate adverse events by anticipating their possibility, some are unavoidable. When they happen, I can take full control of my response to these events by managing my response. I can choose to accept the things that occur as though they happened for the best. It is both my opportunity and responsibility to respond to all things with equanimity.

“Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it already will–then your life will flow well.”


My studies of Stoic philosophy and the work of other writers led me to compile a list of sayings that are helpful to me in reinforcing this practice and keeping it vital. When I’d accumulated enough of them, I had them printed in a slender book titled On Living Well: Reflections on Creating a Good Life. I’ve shared it on Amazon for a modest price. If like me you’ve experienced trouble in managing your responses to life’s ups and downs, you may find this collection of wisdom helpful. For myself, I dip into it daily to refresh my appreciation of this advice.

“Know Thyself”

“Know thyself,” the famous words inscribed on the ancient temple at Delphi, underscore the importance of understanding oneself deeply. Self-understanding can be achieved at varying levels, however. One’s principal likes and dislikes, one’s inclinations toward or away from certain behaviors, even one’s chief virtues or vices lie at one level. These may be easily seen and in a sense tend to be superficially brought to our awareness.

But deeper self-awareness is not only desirable but possible. Many of our character flaws and weaknesses lie beneath our ready ability to see. Others, perhaps, may see what we cannot see or are unwilling to confront. Likewise, we may undervalue our strengths and talents. We may hide them out of fear of failure, or we may be oblivious to their existence at all.

Uncovering those deeper traits can be a difficult and sometimes painful process. It calls for deep introspection. It requires constant attention to the nuanced feedback we get from others. And it demands willingness to admit, at least to ourselves, the errors and failures we commit.

I readily admit to my own imperfections. To help identify and overcome them, I continually try to understand myself, my deeper motives and proclivities, and how they condition the ways I act. To prod myself to dive more deeply into my character traits, I find it helpful to have a source of inspiration. For that reason, I collect quotations and pointed advice from any sources I find helpful. Many of these are collected in a short book I published, On Living Well: Reflections on Creating a Good Life (Amazon).

I wrote this book for me, though others may find it helpful as well. I carry out a daily practice with the book; I open my copy to a random page and absorb the wisdom that’s printed there. This helps me elevate my thinking to a higher plane, above the mundane, and pose probing questions that will help me achieve more profound self-knowledge.

I’d like to share a few of these expressions to illustrate my point. Perhaps you, too, will find these to be meaningful.

Marcus Aurelius, one of the “good” Roman emperors and an incisive practitioner of the Stoic philosophy. His Meditations have been a source of inspiration to millions over the two millennia since their writing,

“It is much harder to judge yourself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself, it’s because you are truly a wise man.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“The only thing that consoles us for our miseries is distraction, yet that is the greatest of our wretchednesses. Because that is what prevents us from thinking about ourselves and leads us imperceptibly to damnation.” Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 33

“A great failing: to see yourself as more than you are and to value yourself at less than your true worth.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Fragments, 476

“Few people have sense enough to prefer blame from which they can benefit to praise which leads them astray.” La Rochefoucauld, The Maxims, 147

“Our evil is not just in the outside, it is within us, it is seated in our vitals–and it is that much harder to attain health when we do not know we are sick.” Seneca, Epistles, 50.3-4

Covered Bridge Photos

I have long had a fascination with covered bridges. A throwback to bygone days, when horses and buggies were the principal mode of transportation, many still survive throughout North America. Though some have been retired from service, many are still in active use. And, because they can be an efficient method for bridge-building, in some areas new bridges are being built and older ones renovated for continued use.

When I have a chance, I like to make photographs of these bridges. I’ve done so in several states, but most notably in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, where significant numbers of these historical artifacts can be found and enjoyed. Shown here are some of my favorite photos of covered bridges.

If you are a fan of these bridges, or like any of these photos, they’re available for purchase in a variety of forms–as framed or unframed prints, printed on coffee mugs, blankets, and a variety of other objects. You’ll find them at

State Road Bridge, a town truss type, is 157′ long and was built in 1983. It crosses Conneaut Creek in Ashtabula County, Ohio.

Henry Bridge, originally built in 1840, it was completely reconstructed in 1989. It is a town lattice type bridge and crosses the Walloomsac River in Bennington, Vermont.
Brown Bridge, built in 1880, crosses Cold River in Shrewsbury, Vermont. It is a town lattice type bridge and is 112′ long.
Snook’s Bridge, built in 1880, crosses Dunnings Creek in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. It is a Burr truss type bridge and is 80′ long.

Intentional Camera Movement

Intentional Camera Movement, popularly known as ICM, is a technique in which the photographer moves the camera in a planned way during a long exposure. The result is an image that’s intentionally blurred and that when well done can create an artistic rendering of a scene. I was recently introduced to the technique in my photo club and decided that it looked like an interesting way to make some different kinds of images.

With that in mind, I set up to create a few test images to see what I could achieve. I’ve posted some of my first photos below. All of these were made with a Nikon Z9, but frankly any digital camera can be used. The lens was a Nikon 24-70mm zoom lens, generally stopped down to a high f-stop number. Shutter speeds were in the 1/4 second to 2 second range. Because the sun was bright, I used a low ISO setting, usually 64, and added a 10-stop neutral density filter to cut down on the light so I could get acceptable exposures.

My first results, the best of the 150 or so that I shot, are below. See what you think.

I had a lot of fun making these images and I’ll be making more soon. In the meantime, I’m watching YouTube videos on the technique and making other studies to try to improve my technique. If I succeed, you’ll see more of my creations here in the future.

This was made in a bed of colorful coneflowers and zinneas. I panned the camera while the shutter was open to get this streaked effect. I took quite a number of shots to get this one, which I think was among the best.

This is the same flower bed, with the camera moved in a diagonal direction to get a different effect.

For this image, I rotated the camera in a semi-circular pattern.

Another streaked image with the camera shifted diagonally while the shutter was open. Because the exposure was short, the camera had to be moved quickly. I think I like this image the best among these streaked photos.

This stand of trees is in a woods not far from my home. To get this image, I shifted the camera from the roots to the treetops. This is a fairly classic kind of ICM image. I think it’s effective.

For this image, I started upward toward the top of the trees so there is little of the trunks showing. I also vibrated the camera during exposure, which resulted in the wavy lines of the green leaves.

Yet another tree photo. With each exposure, since the movement of the camera is not under strict control, different effects result each time.

Some Recent Close-Ups

I’ve not had much time for photography the last couple of months. It’s all due to the usual things: yard work, laundry, cooking (I cook a lot and love making bread), finishing up some woodworking projects, and so on. I think you know the drill.

But I needed to make some photos for my photo club’s monthly competition and of course I left it until the last day. The topic for the competition was limited depth of field. That meant close-up photos. I’ve got lots of them in my Lightroom catalog, but for my club, the images need to be fresh, and that meant getting out with my camera and doing some quick work.

I really didn’t have time for much. I had an appointment in a nearby town so I took my camera with me, along with my ultra-sharp Nikon 105mm Z lens. I left a half hour ahead of my appointment, thinking I could find something in the parking lot to photograph. Well, I was in luck, because right beside the building was a small but colorful garden of flowers, mostly cone flowers and zinneas.

I’m shooting with Nikon’s wonderful Z9, which lets me shoot bursts of up to 20 frames per second. With the camera hand held, I leaned in toward the flowers and began shooting bursts as soon as I thought I had my subject in sharp focus. Some 500 images later, I had what I thought might be good raw material for entering the camera club competition. I’ll share my entries; see what you think.

I’ll share one thing about the process. I was amazed at how many of the images were in sharp focus. I did throw out a good many of the shots, but in the end I kept around 150 for further use.

I don’t know what flower this bud will blossom into; I simply liked the lines and shape of it.
This is a more standard capture of a flower blossom, but I liked the way the light in the background created a halo effect.
I thought the lines and patterns of this bud would work well in B&W.
I edited the insect and blossom in On1 Photo Raw using a retro preset and then making other adjustments in the Effects module. It’s a very different interpretation of a flower blossom. What do you think of it?

New Photos Available for Purchase

I’ve recently updated my site to include a selection of photos of railroad locomotives. Featuring both vintage steam locomotives and modern diesels, the photos are available for sale in several sizes. The larger size, 16 X 20 inches, looks especially good hanging on a den or hobby room wall.

The photos may be viewed under the Photos tab (of course). Click on the small images to enlarge them to see them in greater detail.

Virginia Bluebells

My friend Jeff Fleisher and I drove out along a lonely country road to a spot I know where, each spring, there is an extensive field of Virginia bluebells to be found and photographed. Situated in a lowland woods bordering meandering Goose Creek, these lovely wildflowers inhabit both sides of the river. While they’re easily approached on the near side of the water, the road is seldom traveled and one can easily spend a pleasant afternoon immersed in a sea of blue without being disturbed.

A group of Virginia bluebells. Nikon Z9, Nikkor 105mm Z lens, 1/160 sec., f/8, ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are erect plants that thrive in moist, shady locations. Though named for the Virginia in which I photographed these, they are found throughout the eastern United States as far west as the Mississippi River. Their blossoms emerge as pink buds that soon evolve into the classic blue that is their namesake.

Another cluster of blossoms. Nikon Z9, Nikkor 105mm Z lens, 1/200 sec, f/8, ISO 64.

I did not find these bluebells easy to photograph. In fact, the photos shown are from our second trip to record their beauty. The first day was overcast, and while this can be good for capturing the full color of flowers such as these, the breeze moved the blossoms constantly and the light was too dim for fast shutter speeds that would stop the motion. The alternative was to raise the ISO to levels that generated more digital noise than I wanted. I was not happy with the first day’s shoot and none of those photos are shown here.

The second day was sunny, though the light was filtered through the as-yet leafless trees. In some cases I used a large silver reflector to beam light into shaded places on the flowers to give them full illumination. I used a Stabil tripod, a wooden model handmade in Finland, for most of my images because it let me get the camera down to blossom level.

Getting complete sharpness was a challenge, even so. I had to trade off shutter speed, needed to freeze the constant motion of the blossoms, with the f-stop, a higher number being desired to increase the depth of focus. In the end, what I got was a compromise. To enhance the sharpness of the images, I processed them first in Adobe Lightroom for color and luminosity, the further edited them in Topaz Sharpen AI to make the details a little crisper.

I hope you like these images as much as I enjoyed making them.

Nikon Z9, Nikkor 105mm Z lens, 1/13 sec, f/11, ISO 64, tripod mounted.