Brendan Wiltse is the Science & Stewardship Director for the Ausable River Association and a professional conservation photographer. He holds a Ph.D. in Biology from Queen's University in Canada. While not out on the water studying Adirondack lakes and streams, he is often roaming the Wilderness with his camera and dog. You can view is photography at www.brendanwiltse.com
New York State is one of the birthplaces of the American idea of wilderness. The Adirondack Park stands with Yellowstone and Yosemite as iconic landscapes that helped shape our ideas of the value of wild places. The Adirondacks served as inspiration to many of the early champions of wilderness preservation, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and his compatriots at the famed Philosophers’ Camp to Bob Marshall and Howard Zahniser, who pushed to create a national wilderness-preservation system.
Indeed, the Adirondack Park is of global significance. UNESCO recognized the value of these lands and waters when it established the Champlain-Adirondack Biosphere Reserve in 1989. It is one of just thirty Biosphere Reserves in the United States. » Continue Reading.
Conserving our native fish is a major goal of the Ausable River Association (AsRA). We know the Ausable River watershed, particularly the high elevation tributaries to the East Branch, is one of the most likely places to retain Brook Trout under future climate warming scenarios across their native range. We also know that much of that habitat is fragmented by undersized culverts that serve as barriers to fish passage. Finally, we know that introduced non-native species, such as Brown Trout and Rainbow Trout, threaten our native fish populations. These facts are well documented in the scientific literature and summarized in reports produced by the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture.
When developing conservation strategies to protect our native fish, one of the first things we need to understand is where fish are. Surprisingly, we know very little about where Brook Trout and other native fish are found in the Ausable River watershed. We have a broad sense of their distribution, but when we walk up to a particular reach of a small tributary we are often making “best guesses.” Before doing stream or habitat restoration work, we take the time, with our partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to survey the fish population. » Continue Reading.
This photo was taken just at sunrise from the summit of Wright Peak. I left the Adirondak Loj trailhead at just before 3 am so that I would arrive at the summit well before sunrise. While the sunrise its was beautiful, I found the blue early morning light on the face of Algonquin quite appealing.
When shooting a sunset don’t feel like you need to stick to shooting directly at the sun. Sometimes the more interesting colors and compositions can be found just to one side or the other. That’s the case with the photo above. The light yellows and purples in the sky would be washed out if shooting directly at the sun and over powered by the sun itself. The varying blue tones in the mountains give the landscape depth. The end result is an image that better conveys the feeling across the landscape at sunset than a more traditional shot would have.
Capturing the sunrise from the summit of a High Peak requires a bit of planning and an early start. I always pay close attention to the weather forecast, as it can be a complete bummer to spend several hours hiking in the middle of the night only to arrive to a socked in summit.
This weekend we finally had a break from the frigid temperatures that have been gripping the Adirondacks. It was a great weekend to spend skiing in the Adirondack backcountry. The photo above was taken at Marcy Dam. Taking landscape photos mid-day can be challenging. Often we try to avoid including the sun in a photo because it will wash out the image. Including the sun can often add a very dynamic feel to an image. The trick is to stop down your aperture to get the star burst effect and make sure not to over expose your image.
Skiing the Whiteface Memorial Highway early in the season is a ritual for many skiers in the Lake Placid region. The toll road was skiable from top to bottom for the first time late last week. This photo was taken Friday evening in the fading light.
The fall foliage in the High Peaks region is just past peak color. Reds are turning to browns and leaves are starting to fall around Heart Lake. It is still a beautiful time to view fall colors in the area, but the vibrant reds and oranges that were present in the High Peaks last week seem to be fading. Lower elevations and points south may be better if you want to view peak foliage.
Fall foliage will be at or near peak this weekend in the Lake Placid area. John Warren’s Outdoor Conditions Report, which is issued each week, calls for near peak conditions through this weekend in the High Peaks Region. Couple that with favorable weather and it should be a great time to get out to enjoy the fall colors.
The foliage around Heart Lake was showing about 25% color change this past weekend. The bright reds aren’t showing quite yet but spots of color are showing here and there. The next two weeks should be great for viewing fall colors. Early mornings after cold nights are a good time to see the contrast between frosted peaks and fall colors in the valleys below.
The night sky at Johns Brook Lodge on a clear moonless night is always breathtaking. The lodge is a great place to visit if you enjoy staring into the heavens. It is a backcountry lodge outside of Keene Valley, 3.5 miles into the High Peaks Wilderness. There have been numerous renovations to the lodge over recent years, most recently the sleeping accommodations were upgrade with real mattresses and new bunks. The staff are really what makes the place special though, they make great meals and know the valley inside and out. If you are looking for a nice backcountry accommodation it is definitely worth checking out. The view from the porch on a night like this is always a nice bonus as well.
I headed up Big Slide this weekend to watch the Perseid meteor shower. The full moon washed out most of the night sky making viewing of the Perseids difficult. I saw a few meteors but was more surprised by the show the moon put on as it set over the high peaks. As the moon dipped behind Algonquin it left a faint red glow on the southern horizon. With the moon set the sky became sufficiently dark to allow for the capture of the stars above. The experience was rather surreal and made for a photograph that looks like a sunset or sunrise, but is actually the result of the moonset.
Photographing the Milky Way is both fun and challenging. July and August are the best times of year to view the Milky Way. During these months the bright center of the galaxy is visible in the night sky. While you will see the Milky Way arcing across the sky on a clear dark night, the best direction to look this time of year is to the south.
If you want to photograph the Milky Way make sure your camera is on a tripod and start with these settings: f2.8, 30sec, ISO 6400. Further adjustments may need to be made on your computer, but you should get a good image of the Milky Way, especially in a dark location. Astrophotography images require practice and a bit of knowledge about the night sky and current weather conditions. Regardless of how my photographs turn out it is always a pleasure to spend a few hours staring into the heavens.
Sometimes you just get lucky. Waking up at 2 am to hike Algonquin Peak to watch the sunrise is always a bit of gamble. I’ve done it on several occasions and more than once I arrived on the summit only to find the entire view obscured in clouds. Weather forecasts are only reliable to a certain extent in the mountains. On this particular day the view was clear, except for distance clouds on the eastern horizon. This had the effect of filtering much of the sunlight, allowing one to observe the sun in great detail. I was glad I had brought a short telephoto lens with me this morning as the composition with the hills in the foreground was much more compelling than a wide angle view.
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