Autumn Scenes from Southern Vermont (2003)

Come with me on a relaxing photographic journey through the southern part of my home state of Vermont in autumn. Dozens of images in vibrant color showcase Vermont's famous fall foliage: blazing mountain vistas, soothing streams, fascinating leaf closeups, impressionistic reflections, and unique images such as moonlit foliage with star trails.
Blush  Sometimes beauty is found in the most surprising of places... in this case, literally underfoot. I was walking along Somerset Road, happened to glance down, and noticed this beautiful maple leaf -- blushing with shades of yellow, orange and red, and nestled on a blanket of older, dead leaves. The image was taken handheld, pointing straight down. (It was not posed -- I never pose images.)  Of all of the many autumn pictures I have taken in Vermont, this is one of my favorites. I use it as my "avatar" on photography-related Internet forums, as well as on Facebook. Green Mountain Slopes at Sunset  The best time to view (and photograph) peak New England foliage is the first and last hour of the day. The warm golden tones of early and late light really accentuate the blazing oranges and reds of the leaves, and the long shadows create a sense of drama.  This image was taken part of the way up the Mount Equinox toll road south of Manchester, Vermont, just off southern Vermont's Historic Route 7A. Fading Light on Searsburg Reservoir  Searsburg Reservoir is a little-known gem nestled near the bottom of the Somerset Road about five miles west of Wilmington, Vermont. It is one of my favorite places to take reflection pictures, which I enjoy very much -- I've always been attracted to symmetry.  This image was taken late in the afternoon near peak foliage in the area. Rocky Forest Path  An early spring image, as evidenced by the still-abundant green leaves, with yellows and some oranges making it clear that the season was indeed underway. These rocks were placed deliberately to keep car traffic off the beautiful path beyond them.  Taken just off Somerset Road near the Searsburg Reservoir, this simple, peaceful image has been one of my most popular since I started publishing my photographs. Red House by the River  A tranquil early morning scene, taken in mid-October somewhere along historic Route 7A between Manchester and Bennington, VT. Vermont has many hundreds of beautiful bright houses and barns like this one. Unfortunately, I don't remember exactly where I was at the time I took this image. How did we ever survive before GPS? :) Molten Silver  I passed by this small creek while walking near my cottage in the mountains and stopped to take a picture of the peaceful early autumn scene. It's too bad that I can't also let you hear the babbling and gurgling of the water.  The sun had gone down long before and it was quite dark out, so this was a long, 20-second exposure. This blurred the bubbling and frothing of the water, making the stream seem almost like it was filled with flowing, molten metal.
Early Autumn at Mount Snow  Mount Snow is a popular ski resort in southern Vermont, but most people never see it from this angle, viewed from near the Somerset Reservoir. (The ski lifts are on the opposite side of the peak from here.)  Early autumn can be a strange time in the mountains. Even though it is true that overall, leaves change sooner at the higher elevations than the lower ones, there can be wide discrepancies within the higher elevations. Sometimes the mountain valleys get cold before the hilltops do, and so you see more bright colors lower down than near the peaks. Another factor in this is the distribution of tree species; the more colorful maples tend not to grow near the summits. Morning Mist on the Farm  While the foliage is obviously the main attraction of autumn, another reason why the season is so beautiful in New England is the weather. It is common to have warmish days and cool nights, which produces atmospheric fog and mist in the valleys.  I found this lovely farm in the Battenkill River valley south of Manchester, lit up by the early morning sun burning a layer of fog off the valley floor. Vermont Autumn Cliche  Vermonters really enjoy the autumn (although I admit that I love it more than most!) It's quite common to see people put out fall/harvest displays containing typical "cliches" like scarecrows, pumpkins, corn husks and so forth. I was immediately drawn to this scene, with the scarecrow and his requisite pumpkin sitting peacefully next to some brilliant orange and red foliage.  This image was captured near the base of the toll road that goes up Mount Equinox. It's become one of my most popular images (sadly, also one of the ones most commonly ripped off without giving me credit...) Autumn by Moonlight  If the previous image was a cliche, this is the exact opposite: a type of fall foliage picture you've likely never seen before. Does something seem not quite right in this picture? That's because it was actually taken at night. :)  On a clear (and cold) late evening in October I set up my camera in near total darkness on the shore of the Searsburg Reservoir, and waited for the nearly-full moon to rise. This image was a time exposure of several minutes, which provided enough time for the moonlight to illuminate the trees and shoreline. The stars in the sky created star trails due to the rotation of the earth during the long exposure.  This fall season of 2003 was when I first discovered moonlight photography, and I've been hooked ever since. A Spash of Red  In early autumn, the smaller trees are often the first ones to turn colors. This image was taken in late September, when most of the forest was still green, but these two small maples had already turned brilliant shades of crimson. Deerfield River Afternoon  The Deerfield River and its branches wind their way through the heart of southern Vermont. Here's a simple picture taken in early autumn from a bridge in Searsburg, Vermont.
View from Kelly Stand Road  Kelly Stand Road traverses the higher elevations of southern Vermont, from Arlington in the west to Stratton in the east. It's a bumpy ride, but a beautiful one. This is a somewhat well-hidden overlook taken from the road, looking west towards the Taconic Range along the New York / Vermont border.  You can see that the trees in this area had already moved on to "stick season" even though it was only October 7th when I took this shot. The combination of colder temperatures and higher winds often results in foliage season ending early at the higher altitudes of the Green Mountains. aquarelle  Here's another view of fall foliage from what was definitely my favorite location for photographing it in 2003: Searsburg Reservoir. This time, I took this image about 45 minutes after sunset; as dusk faded the lighting became soft and subdued, allowing all the colors to assume soft pastel tones. ("Aquarelle" is a French term for a style of painting done using transparent watercolors.) The water also stilled, creating near-perfect reflections.  This has become one of my favorite images. I even used it on the cover page of a technical book I wrote years ago. Confetti  A different view of fall. I often find myself drawn to abstract images featuring patterns, shapes and reflections. Bennington Valley from the Orchard  A few miles south of downtown Bennington, Carpenter Hill Road rises steeply above the valley floor. The road is flanked by huge orchards and beautiful forested land, and also provides some of the best views of Bennington and the Valley of Vermont.  In this scene, captured near peak foliage in the third week of October, you can see the orchards and trees in the foreground, the town of Bennington beyond, and the swells of the Taconic Range in the distance. Note the distinctive Bennington Battle Monument, visible near the center of the picture. A Simple Fall  I love waterfalls and cascades of all types, shapes and sizes. I had probably passed this small fall dozens of times and eventually decided it was time to capture it. While it's nothing spectactular, it reminds me that there can also be beauty in simplicity.  This hidden gem is located just off a dirt road near the recreation area at Somerset Reservoir. Kaleidoscope  Many photographers consider noon on a bright sunny day to be a bad time to take pictures. They say: "The light is too harsh!" My response is: "Well, be creative!"
Road to the Reservoir  Dirt roads are often not much fun to drive on, but they have much more charm and character than paved ones. And you never know what's around the next bend. Generations  The cycle of life in the forest: the colorful leaves of maple saplings, which may have grown from keys dropped by the venerable maple whose trunk slowly decays in front of them. Rocky Shore at Sundown  Somerset Reservoir is a large body of water in southern Vermont, and a favorite for outdoor enthusiasts such as boaters and fishermen (women too!) Its relatively high elevation makes the water almost always cold, and the leaves start to change color here as early as mid-September, peaking around the first of October.  The reservoir is lined with many colorful boulders, here enhanced by the late day sun. The Burning Bush  One thing that always amazes me about fall foliage is the natural variations I see in the colors of the trees. This tree, located on the east branch of the Deerfield River near the Searsburg Reservoir, turns an almost-impossible-to-believe shade of blazing red every fall; there are many similar trees near it that never achieve its magnificence. Patchwork Quilt  Most everyone can agree that peak fall foliage is a wonder to behold -- but few can agree on what exactly constitutes "peak fall foliage". :) Since trees change at different rates, it is most common early in the season to find some trees peaking while others are still green; late in the season, the slower trees turn colors but the early-turners become bare.  I personally dislike bare trees, and enjoy splashes of green mixed with the yellows, oranges and reds. This is just a simple, colorfull hillside, with a pleasing wave-shaped profile; possibly not quite at peak even by my standards, but with a lovely patchwork of green, yellow, orange and red. Autumn Elements  Tree trunks; leaves (mostly beech) of fading green, gold and brown; a mossy boulder; and a fern clinging to the last vestiges of summer.
Late Day Reflections  Another peaceful afternoon at the Searsburg Reservoir, this time with pleasant high clouds for company.  This is a three-image panorama taken near the dam that creates the reservoir, some of which is routed through a huge pipeline to a power generation station near Wilmington. Strangely, the pipeline is actually made of wood! Only in Vermont... :) Early Autumn Flow  This pretty creek flows down towards Somerset Reservoir, near the picnic area at the end of Somerset Road. I captured it just as the first leaves were turning yellow in early fall.  This is actually a four-image mosaic, as at the time I took this I didn't have a lens wide enough to capture the whole view. Golden Brown  Most of the hardwood forests in Vermont contain a mixture of many different types of trees. Even when there is a stand of many identical trees, they often change colors at different times, which is what causes the typical fall scene of many different colors and shapes of trees. It is perhaps that normal heterogeneity that caused me to be attracted to this somewhat unusual stand of young maples, all of which had leaves turning brilliant shades of gold and brown.  This image was taken off Carpenter Hill Road, in the highlands between Pownal and Bennington in extreme southwestern Vermont. Manchester from Above  Manchester is one of the gems of southern Vermont -- a pretty travel destination featuring numerous recreation opportunities both indoors and out. It's close to ski areas, hiking trails and fishing spots -- and is also a famous outlet shopping mecca.  This image shows a bird's eye view of the heart of town during peak foliage, taken from a popular overlook about a 15 minute hike from the summit of Mount Equinox. The mountain, the highest in the Taconic Range, is a prominent landmark in the area, accessed via a toll road off Route 7A. Ablaze  A simple view of trees in their splendour, taken along a branch of the Deerfield River between the Searsburg and Somerset reservoirs. Drops  Another case of looking for beauty in the mundane... in this case, the sun peeking through to illuminate raindrops on this fallen leaf, taken by the side of a dirt road.
Apple Orchard Panorama  These young apple trees will some day form a productive orchard; even in their youth, they provide a wonderful foreground of shape and pattern to complement peak foliage and a distant view of the Bennington valley and the southern Green Mountains.  This is part of Southern Vermont Orchards, a huge commercial apple grower located in the hills between Bennington and Pownal. They also operate a well-known retail establishment nearby called The Apple Barn. Deerfield Valley Colors  Brilliant peak color in the Deerfield Valley, near the outlet of the Somerset Reservoir and just west of Mount Snow. Dusk Reflections  Another peaceful, still view of the shoreline of the Searsburg Reservoir at dusk, with leaves floating on the water. It was such a nice experience just waiting and watching the character of the light change as night fell. Into the Mist  Fog can be a driver's worst enemy, but a photographer's best friend. And when you live in the mountains, you get to deal with it quite a bit, whether you like it or not. :) As a driver, I can deal with it, and as a photographer, I love it: fog and mist add mystery to images, and help create a three-dimensional look to most scenes.  On this mid-fall morning I was happy to see the mist hazing the end of my driveway. Later in this SceneSet you'll find a few other images that show even better what mist can do to otherwise-ordinary scenes, especially when combined with rays of sunlight. Mount Snow Panorama  A panoramic view of the western flank of Mount Snow and a branch of the Deerfield River valley. The body of water on the left is the edge of Somerset Reservoir, and the mound in the center is the actual dam that creates it.  Note how the colors are more vibrant in the valley than on the mountain; this is actually quite common in this area. The clouds were particularly pretty on this windy day... Taconics from the Battenkill  When most people think of Vermont, the Green Mountains come to mind, and for good reason -- they are the dominant range, running up the middle of the state. In southern Vermont, however, the Tactonics are also important; they lie mainly on the New York / Vermont border. The area in southern Vermont between the Taconics and the Greens is called the  Valley of Vermont . (There are many other valleys in the state, of course!)  This is a simple view of part of the Taconics, taken at peak foliage, from a bridge over the Battenkill, a famous fly-fishing river.
First Light at Lake Shaftsbury  Lake Shaftsbury is a small but picturesque body of water located in a state park just off Route 7A south of Arlington, Vermont. While most of the trees are pines, the few deciduous trees change remarkable colors, especially the bright orange and yellow trees you see here overhanging the water. The best time to photograph here is in the morning. Star Trails and Autumn Colors  Another fall foliage picture taken by moonlight. A long exposure of several minutes was required to illuminate the foliage and the shoreline of Searsburg Reservoir, which created the star trails (and turned the dark sky a pale shade of blue!) Somerset Reservoir Panorama  Somerset Reservoir is the larger wilderness body of water in Vermont, and a popular recreation spot. It's also one of the few areas remaining in the state where loons still nest; boaters are warned to avoid them, and if you are lucky you can hear their eerie calls in the morning or evening in the summer and fall.  Because of its elevation and location in a mountain valley, color changes early here. I took advantage of the nice weather on this day in late September to capture this four-panel panorama of the changing leaves along the cold shoreline of the reservoir. The tall peak in the distant background on the left side is Stratton Mountain, a popular ski area. First Congregational Church of Manchester  The First Congregational Church is a landmark in scenic Manchester, Vermont. I was lucky enough to be travelling through the town on this crisp, blue-sky day, just as color was peaking around the crowns of the nearby trees. (I love it when maples have all the shades from green to red on them at once!) A Peaceful Road  One of the best ways to enjoy the autumn in New England is to get off the highways and spend some time driving dirt roads in rural areas. You don't need a four-wheel drive vehicle for this -- though you often do in the winter and spring! :)  It really doesn't matter much what road you choose... you'll enjoy the peace and quiet, the abundant nature, and the way the trees often close in around the road to create "tree tunnels", like the one here. Traffic Light Trees  Red-, yellow- and green-leaved trees keep each other company along the banks of the East Branch of the Deerfield River along Somerset Road.
Last Light  The reddish tones of first rays of sunrise and the last rays of sunset bring an extra fiery brilliance to fall foliage. This image of field and forest flanking the western slopes of the Green Mountains was taken a few minutes before the sun went down, just off Route 7A near the Bennington/Shaftsbury town line. Song in Red and Gray  This micro-landscape was taken on the trail up Mt. Olga at Molly Stark State Park, east of Wilmington, Vermont. This trail leads to an abandoned fire watch tower that provides spectacular views of much of south-central Vermont. Again, this was shot as found -- I consider it "cheating" to pose elements for my photographs and never do it.  The title of this image comes from "Songs in Red and Gray" by Suzanne Vega, which I had recently purchased before the hike in question. Its lyrics contain a line about a red leaf and gray stone, which popped into mind immediately when I saw this. Woodford Pond Morning  Woodford, Vermont is located at a height of around 2,400 feet in the highlands of the southern Green Mountains. Due to its location, it gets a  lot  of snow, and is one of the most popular snowmobiling centers in the state.  We were driving along Route 9, the main road through southern Vermont, when I spotted the early morning sun lighting up this combination of evergreens and hardwoods at peak foliage. I dont think I've ever seen a body of water more still and calm than this one; it created perfect mirror reflections. (I'm not actually sure this body of water is called "Woodford Pond", by the way... but it's a prominent pond in Woodford, so, close enough! A Time for Maples  Sugaring -- the production of maple products including sugar and syrup -- is an old tradition in New England in general, and Vermont in particular. Despite its small size, Vermont leads the United States in maple syrup production. It was common in years gone by for townsfolk to plant sugar maples along paths and roads, as this made it easier to collect the maple sap for boiling. As a result, one can often find large maples by the roadside, like these golden beauties that line the crest of Somerset Road, about three miles from the reservoir. View from a Bridge  Colors begin to light up a hillside in this simple capture of the East Branch of the Deerfield River, taken from a bridge near Somerset, Vermont. Ovine Morning  Sheep graze in a quiet meadow flanked by a forest nearing peak foliage, as the last wisps of fog burn off in the Valley of Vermont near Arlington.
Pastel Panorama  Peaceful dusk reflections in hues of gold and red during another peaceful evening on Searsburg Reservoir. Caress  For rather obvious reasons, during autumn most people turn their attention to deciduous trees, while coniferous trees get the short end of the stick.  (I realize that I am seriously anthropomorphizing here; I doubt the trees care. But you know what I mean. :) )  Anyway, the pine and other evergreen trees may not change pretty colors, but their consistent green does help contrast the yellows, oranges and reds of the hardwood leaves, as you can see here. Looking North from Mount Equinox  At 3,848 feet, Mount Equinox is the highest peak in the Taconic Range, which runs roughly along the border between Vermont and New York. The mountain overlooks the Manchester area, and has a paved toll road that goes right up to the summit.  Looking north from the top of the mountain, you can see dozens of peaks in the Taconics (foreground and left) and Green Mountains (background and right). From this distance, lit up by the golden late afternoon sun, the colorful trees on the mountainsides blend to form a curving sea of yellow and orange. On the far right of this panorama you can see the northern extent of the Valley of Vermont, including parts of Manchester and East Dorset. Rebirth  The only thing prettier than morning mist in the autumn is morning mist with beams of sunlight breaking through. Fall on the Rocks  "Hey, what's with all the green?" Well, there are some other colors in there too, but yes, this was taken fairly early in the autumn in a year where the color developed rather late. As a huge fan of fall foliage, I am often extremely impatient -- I can't wait for the color to come and have been known to "jump the gun", as it were. Still, I enjoyed the interplay here of the granite boulders, the moss, the greenish-yellow just-turning leaves and the first leaves already on the ground.  This image was taken at Molly Stark State Park, a beautiful place just west of Wilmington, Vermont. A short trail leads to an old fire tower that provides expansive views of the southern Green Mountains. Taconic Reflections  Another view of Lake Shaftsbury on a brilliantly clear, blue-sky day. I positioned myself near the edge of the beach on this cool mid-October morning to capture the reflection of the wonderful yellow and red trees on the water's edge, as well as the wonderful color on the distant hills of the Taconics, and the puffy clouds above (and below).
Triptych  A  triptych  is a work of art that is divided into three sections or panels; the term was originally applied to paintings and sculptures, and then later to sets of three (usually-related) photographs. Technically speaking, this isn't really a triptych, as it's a single photograph. Still, the three distinct elements -- the dead leaves trapped between the two contrasting tree trunks -- immediately brought the term to mind. Even better, each of the three is a different kind of tree: a maple log below, beech leaves, and of course, the distinctive white of birch at the top.  Incidentally, I actually stumbled upon this scene while waiting for the sky to darken so I could take some moonlight shots. Always look around, you never know what is underfoot. :) The Deerfield Valley  The Deerfield Valley is the heart of southern Vermont, nestled among the peaks of the Green Mountains. This panoramic image was taken from a viewpoint that not many people know about, located right on Route 8 just south of its intersection with Route 9 in Searsburg, Vermont.  The body of water visible in the background about one third of the way in from the right is the Harriman Reservoir, located near Wilmington, Vermont. Early Autumn on Roaring Branch  In 2004, when I first published this image, here is how I described it: Roaring Branch runs along the lower portion of the Kelly Stand Road, in Arlington and Sunderland, and is one of the prettiest rivers in all of Vermont. I often come here to admire the beautiful colored rocks, the dark riverbanks and wonderful trees and greenery. This image was taken in late September as the colors were just starting along the water.  Unfortunately, this was before Hurricane Irene blasted her way through Vermont in 2011, causing devastating flooding. The beautiful Roaring Branch was one of the hardest hit waterways, no doubt due to its steepness and the large area of mountainous terrain that it drains. The river's beds were gouged out, leaving huge boulders everywhere, and Kelly Stand Road was destroyed along much of its length. Several unfortunate folks who had beautiful homes near the water lost them to the rushing waters. An effort is underway to rebuild Kelly Stand Road, and special attention is being given to trying to return Roaring Branch to some semblance of its former beauty, but it may be years or even decades before a peaceful view like this one will be seen here again. Layers of Gold  This is a simple image taken in the forest behind my little cottage in the southern Green Mountains. The interesting leaves on the left-hand side are from beech trees, which aren't considered among the better trees for fall foliage since they only turn shades of gold and brown, rather than brilliant fiery orange and red. They do, however, form interesting shapes and patterns because of the tendency for areas near the veins to change later than the rest of the leaves. Autumn Impressions  Viewed with a tight angle, the peak foliage and its reflections on Searsburg Reservoir take on an almost impressionst feel. The ramp on the left is the boat launch. Rapid Turning  I really liked how the yellowish color of the water in this rapid complemented the colors of the leaves above it. Taken along Roaring Branch, Arlington, Vermont.
Scarlet Surprise  While driving in the Londonderry area of south-central Vermont, I spotted a pretty river scene and waded through undergrowth and brush to get to the bank. When I got there, however, the lighting wasn't quite what I hoped it would be, and I couldn't get an image of the river that I particularly liked. As I turned around to go back to the car, I spotted these brilliant leaves, which I believe are red oak seedlings, still covered with morning dew. Beaver Pond Symmetry  If you've looked through this entire SceneSet from the start, you probably already know that I have a bit of a fascination with water reflection shots. What can I say -- I like symmetry. :)  This was taken at the edge of a beaver pond along Somerset Road on a beautiful early October afternoon. Mist in the Valley  Another beautiful view of the Taconics and the Battenkill River from the Arlington area. Smooth Staircase  The Green Mountains are filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of unnamed small streams, like this one. In the spring they can become rushing torrents -- and this can happen after a big rainfall as well -- but most of the time they just form pretty cascades as they wind their way down the mountainsides. The Garden of Eden  No commentary here... just enjoy. :)