This past week I sumitted Old Rag Mountain and spent the night up top with friend and fellow photographer Chris Kayler. This is not the first time I have done this hike to the summit of Old Rag, but was in fact the first time for me to sleep on the summit. In fact, this hike is featured in my book 50 Amazing Things You Must See and Do in the Greater D.C. Area: The Ultimate Outdoor Adventure Guide . In hopes of getting away from the record high temps and humidity crippling the DC area, we picked a day that forecasted a cold front moving in across the mountains in hopes of cooler temps in the mountains and the chance of thunderstorms at or near sunset.
We started the hike in the afternoon and quickly realized just how hot and humid it still was! With the temp hovering around 90 degrees and the humidity at 85%, we knew we were in for a long and hot haul up the trail! As soon as I hoisted my 45 pound pack filled with camera gear, sleeping bag and pad, overnight food, rain gear and 5 liters of water for an overnight on a dry summit, we quickly hit the road on the 1/2 mile approach to the actual trailhead. By the time we arrived, I was already drenched in sweat and decided to take a did in the swimming hole along the river to cool off before tackling the upward climb towards the ridge and the approach to the summit proper.
After about 2 mile of an upward climb through the sweltering heat of the forest, we arrived at the summit ridge and were greeted with the most refreshing breeze sweeping from west to east across the ridge line. It was just what the doctor ordered! In contrast to the cooler temps and great vies now comes the most challenging section of the hike, a .9 mile summit approach across a boulder strewn ridge that involves constant rock hopping, over hand climbing, bouldering, chimneying and in a few spots crawling on your hands and knees through rock cuts and small caves. This is usually a pretty moderate climb with a day pack or just camera gear, but add-on an 45 pound overnight pack and it becomes strenuous and in some cases very difficult. Below are a few shots I snapped of our climb across the ridge towards the summit.
We arrived on the summit of the mountain after a long and exhausting 2 hour climb across the ridge and were greeted with an afternoon thunderstorm raging across the mountains and huge thunder heads to the east. It rained but briefly over the summit followed by strong 30 to 40 mile an hour winds. We had some nice although brief light at sunset. I found a nice composition of a jumble of car sized boulders on the summit with dramatic sunset skies and painted light at sunset. After the light faded, we settled down into a rock depression of the summit for a quick diner of freeze-dried Chili Mac and then a long night under the stars. Myself or Chris did not get much sleep over night due to the constant battering of the wind sweeping across the summit. I awoke around 3am and spent the rest of the night until civil twilight watching shooting stars and the constellations track across the night sky.
After a great sunrise session and feeling really exhausted from lack of sleep and a hard climb the day before, we settled back down at our camp for some calories and bit of caffeine before packing the gear and tackling the summit ridge back down into the woods. The temps were pleasant that morning and we arrived back to the trailhead parking a little before noon. It was a great little adventure and yielded some new images for me! All in all, a great time in the back country of the mountains.
I got lucky on this shot of Turret Arch framed through North Window in Arches National Park. This iconic location is a tough spot to come away with original compositions, but with a little personal vision and a helping hand from Mother Nature anything is possible. First of all, the classic shot is a horizontal composition with north Window filling the frame and Turret Arch in the center. Add in some bold first morning light and you’ve got yourself the classic icon shot. For me, I pre visualized a vertical comp going way wide and a prayed for some interesting clouds above. To my delight, the cloud shape formed a perfect V pushing the eye back down into the image and refocusing the viewers attention on the main subject, Turret Arch framed by North Window. I also included a bit more of the bottom of the arch as well to create a sweeping C curve formed by North Window.
Summer is ending and autumn is beginning to take over in the Appalachian Mountains. This shot is from a favorite location at sunrise in Shenandoah National Park from this past weekend. I took my family camping and hiking on Saturday and Sunday. I managed to steal away for a bit and was rewarded with some great light at sunrise.
This is a manual blend of 2 exposures (Adobe CS4).
Thanks for your feedback! Joe
I got up at 3am and headed over to Cape Henlopen with buddy and fellow photographer Alex Mody this morning. We were hoping for some sick light at dawn with this passing storm coming up the coast. Well, the light never really happened, but the clouds had such a nice texture to them that we came away with some pretty sweet images anyway. I shot the above image about 10 minutes after sunrise and used the Singh Ray Vari ND filter to dial in the needed density to run a 3 minute exposure at f11. The result was pretty amazing with the water turning to a soft brush stroke and the clouds streaking across the sky.
Looks like I will be in the office the rest of the week preparing lesson plans for my Online Abstract Class through NPN this fall as well as writing the first chapter of the new book.
Originally uploaded by Joseph Rossbach(www.josephrossbach.com)
For years I have been attracted to this old snag in Shenandoah National Park and for years the light and clouds never worked out for me. On my last trip into the park on the last day of the workshop, I took the group down to this spot. As the sun rose it illuminated the underside of the clouds floating by. I shot at f22 to get the sunstar and used a 2 stop ND grad to open up some additional detail in the mountains. I cropped this shot to 4:5 ratio to remove the empty space on the right of the composition and better balance the photo.
I just returned from a few days of shooting and leading my “West Virginia Waterfalls” workshop on Saturday in the Potomac Highlands of West Virginia. Good friend and fellow photographer, Alex Mody assisted me on Saturday and we shot together Friday and Sunday morning before I had to leave to get back home.
This shot below is the first of my favorite images from the weekend and was made on Sunday morning after sleeping in the back of my jeep to be on location at first light. Wicked thunderstorms rolled through around 12 midnight and lasted most of the night with heavy rain, thunder and lightning. It provided some amazing light at sunrise.
Click the above image to preview larger.
Don’t forget to check out our website for a full list of workshops and photo classes for 2009! www.josephrossbach.com
Upcoming featured workshops: Shenandoah Fawns and Vistas. Click here for more details and registration information.
Rocky Mountain National Park Summer Wildflowers and Reflections. Click here for more information and registration details.
I just returned form co-leading (with Ian Plant) a photography workshop based out of Cape May, New Jersey. We had a great weekend of shooting coastal scenes, lighthouses, Victorian homes, shore birds and the spawning of the Horseshoe Crabs! On Friday and Saturday nights we were greeted with a peak spanning event and beautiful clouds and light which made it an amazing event.
These were the conditions on Friday Night with thousands of Horseshoe Crabs hitting the beach at high tide for as far as the eye could see. Amazing!
A Laughing Gull takes to flight amongst the flurry of hundreds of Sanderling all lining the beaches in hopes of stealing the eggs from the spawning crabs!.
The pink glow of dusk illuminates the sky and paints a soft light on the thousands of crabs all competing for a mate along Kimball Beach at high tide.
A laughing Gull gets caught up in the commotion of hundreds of sanderlings taking to flight of the beach.
Early morning light and clouds greet the Cape May Lighthouse. I used the steel fence as a framing element to make a more dynamic composition of this often photographed icon.
An old bike and Victorian houses rendered as art using HDR and tonemapped in Photomatix.
Our nest workshop coming this June is the Shenandoah Experience. We will have the chance to photograph new born fawns in Big Meadows, spectacular sunrises and sunsets from Skyline Drive and waterfalls/streams and wildflowers. http://www.mountaintrailphoto.com/workshops_23.htm
For info on more amazing wildlife events, hikes and paddles in the Mid Atlantic illustrated with stunning images and great maps, pick up my new book 50 Amazing Things You Must See and Do in the Greater DC Area
Also get your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Digital Nature Photography!
Finally finished processing most of my A+ images from the past 2 weeks in Shenandoah National Park. The spring conditions were absolutely amazing this year with lots of interesting weather, light and rain. The number f bad rainy days, this equals great conditions for nature photographers by the way, was like 2 to 1. I spent much of time deep in the many hollows of the park during the mid day shooting waterfalls and streams and hiking out to summits and overlooks in search of good light at sunrise and sunset.
Here are a few of my favorites:
This nice little cascade is found deep in lower Whiteoak Canyon. In order to gain the most dramatic perspective on the falls I climbed down the steep slope and got in the water mid thigh. The camera was just about 2 feet away from the cascade and I had to remember to keep wiping off the filter and water was constantly spraying the front element.
On the second morning of my workshop, I got the group on the road at 4am for the long haul down the the southern end of the park to be at the trail head in time to make it onto Blackrock Summit at first light. I found my favorite rock formation and composed this super wide angle landscape. in order to balance the exposure, I used my Singh Ray 3 stop ND grad (hard). Hand holding the filter and moving up and down over the course of the exposure allowed me eliminate the hard grad line which would have showed up in the stack rock.
The zig-zag flow of the water lend-ed itself perfectly to a tight and intimate composition of the falls. The neon green moss reminded me of a scene from the Columbia River Gorge. The western guys are so lucky!
I had photographed this scene about 2 weeks ago and was mostly happy with the results although I felt the comp in the first was not quite a dramatic as it could be. On the last day of my trip in the park it was raining and completely overcast, so I decided to give this image one more try. I got low and close to the fallen log and with the use of my wide angle I was able to really exaggerate its length and size. The leading line of the tree pulls the eyes deeper into the comp and up into the lush woods.
Off to Cape May, NJ for the weekend to lead a workshop that will center itself around the primordial ritual of the annual Horseshoe Crab spawning. This event is like no other in the eastern United States where you have a chance to shoot hundreds if not thousands of crabs storming the beaches for as far as the eye can see. In the morning, the crabs that were not lucky enough to make it back to sea become an all you can eat buffet for hundreds of shore birds. I sight to see! If anyone is interested, we still have 2 openings for this workshop. http://www.mountaintrailphoto.com/workshops_8.htm
Our Shenandoah Spring Workshop kicks of this afternoon but I have been in the park for a couple of days scouting and shooting new images. Here is one from this morning at Buck Hollow Overlook. The light broke for only a few minutes illuminating the scene with soft pink light and really nice glow. It looks like it is going to rain and generally be cloudy for the rest of the day, so we will be shooting waterfalls, forest scenes and streams. Hopefully we get lucky and get some light at sunset!
Please visit my website for a full list of photo workshops and classes for 2009: http://josephrossbach.com/
I had a photo assignment this morning in Tyson’s Corner, so I took the chance to swing over to Great Falls National Park for a quick shoot at sunrise before having to be on location. I hiked up the banks of the river in the dark and waited for the sun to come up. As the light began to crest the hillside to the west it illuminated this section of rushing water. What really drew me to shooting this scene was the warm tones of the direct light striking the waves and the cool tones reflecting the clear blue sky above. I used my 80-200mm to pick out the most dynamic section of water and opened up the shutter for 1/8 of a second at f16. This relatively fast shutter speed froze water splashing off the rocks but was also slow enough to create some soft areas in the image where the water was moving very quickly.