“Can I help you?” The question floated through the car window from the speaker of my local Dunkin Donuts drive through. I was on my way north for five days to photograph New England’s autumn splendor. The Vermont state website map showed peak colors for my southern Vermont destination. It was going to be great. “I’ll have a pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese and a coffee with cream” I said. I would have ordered the pumpkin coffee latte as well, but I had heard stories and didn’t want to be over pumkinated on my road trip.
The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold
Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall.
Johnny Mercer – Originally a French song Les Feuilles Mortes with lyrics by poet Jacques Prevért.
Here’s a lesson….be skeptical of a web site that exists for the purpose of attracting visitors to a state. Of the several bullet points categorizing the status of the colors in the southern portion of the state, the Vermont gov website checked “Peak Color”. Not “Moderate”, not “Past Peak”…but “Peak Color”. Crossing the border into Vermont it was obvious there was no color. I fact, there were no leaves…90% of the trees were bare. Based on my crack observations, I’m sending a note to the website suggesting other more appropriate categories they might have used. How about “Leaves no more” or “Leaves go bye bye” or the Humpty Dumptian “Leaves all fall down”. Any of these probably would have worked.
I set out to make the best of it by finding locations that would be great if there was color so that I could visit them next year. By just wandering around you never know what you will find.
Here’s a perfect example of kismet. The sky was overcast. There was no color anywhere so I drove to a covered bridge just down the road from here to scout it as a possible location for a future trip. I noticed this farm a short way up the road and sauntered up to it. Just as I got there the sky began to turn orange and then red behind the barn and all of a sudden I’m in frantic mode getting my camera out of the bag, setting up the tripod and trying to make sure that something was in focus. The color lasted less than five minutes. This is the magic. I’m walking around rural southern Vermont at the end of a disappointing day, thinking about where to get dinner and something unexpectedly glorious happens
Taken on an overcast day which is the best sky condition for shooting moving water and surrounding color. It provides an even light which promotes saturation of the colors.
I shot this image last year in central Vermont. I wandered around this scene for a while, took a number of shots and then settled into this scene. I set up the tripod and camera and snapped the shutter. Ten seconds later this horse, which had been behind the small structure, moved out into the open and stared at me. I snapped the shutter a second time.
Really all you need for a great New England autumn photograph is to find yourself a white church with a steeple and some colorful leaves. Then you’ve got yourself a postcard.
Taken on the campus of Mt. Holyoke college in South Hadley, MA. The breeze stopped momentarily so there’s a nice reflection of the color in the water. I also like the diagonal lines of the trees leading one’s eye to the back of the image.
“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.”
William Cullen Bryant
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Frank, I grew up on a dairy farm in Upstate NY and these images remind me so much of times long ago. I thought I subscribed to your blog long ago but evidently had a case of senioritis, Your recent article in the Boston Globe refreshed my memory and I’ll look forward to your future posts! Jim
Thanks, Jim. All the best for the holidays.