My First Dedicated Photography Trip
I did it! I planned and completed my first dedicated photography trip. I had planned to share about it earlier, but better late than never right? I didn't know if it was going to come to fruition early on. Covid 19 and the ever changing restrictions made for a lot of uncertainties, but in the end it didn't have an impact on the trip.
My brother was my companion on the trip, we decided to make camping trip out of it. Camping was something we use to do a lot of when we were kids and neither of us had camped in awhile so it was long overdue.
I had two destinations in mind; Fundy National Park (New Brunswick) or Cape Breton (Nova Scotia). In the end, I settled on Fundy. We would camp there when the Nova East RASC (Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) hosted events. My father was a member and would be invited to speak at the events. The location was used because it's a dark sky preserve, making it a great place for Astronomy, and in my case Astrophotography.
There were two primary things I was hoping to capture on the trip; autumn colours and Milky Way images. During the planning stage, I checked the calendar for moon phases in order to plan the trip around a new moon. One was early September and the other in October. Since we would be camping I opted for the earlier timeframe that should have warmer nights. I have had the experience of camping in unexpected snow, it's not something I want to repeat.
I bought a "new" (to me) lens specifically for this trip. My focal range was very limited with a few prime lenses so I couldn't pass up on a good deal for a used Nikkor 24-120 ƒ4 to round me out my arsenal a bit more. It would certainly be more versatile than just my 20 and 85mm primes!
As the days inched closer to the departure date, the Maritimes received a considerable amount of rain. This came as an added bonus because Fundy has numerous waterfalls, but in the summer they tend to be only a trickle. The down pour would increase the water flow in the rivers and provide ideal conditions to venture to the waterfalls. Unfortunately I noticed that Autumn had not arrived yet. In fact, everything was still almost all green!
Departure day arrived and we set off! We didn't forget anything important either...
The first big stop was Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park. I am unsure if I have ever been there before. I have seen so many pictures that I either created a false memory or it's deep down, my parents couldn't help me out either.
Hopewell Rocks is on the Bay of Fundy which has the worlds highest tides. Added with a high density of flower pot seas stack makes it is a unique area. We arrived near low tide allowing us access to the beach. This is a high tourism area and there were people everywhere. Not my cup of tea so I decided to turn left to avoid the masses. That said, conditions were less than ideal. The sun was high in the sky and there were only a few clouds, making it not ideal for photography, not even from a long exposure perspective. I took a few photos, but they were more to provide proof I had been there! I think that these conditions would have been a neat scene if shooting in infrared, but I don't have an infrared converted camera. The blue skies would be dark and the tress a top the flower pots would be white.
Hopewell Rocks to Fundy Park was a short trip and we arrived with plenty of time to set up camp and get settled in before the sun fell below the horizon. We were cooking supper when we realized that we forgotten a hatchet. We bought firewood at the park, but starting a fire from logs isn't easy. Luckily we were able to locate plenty of dead branches nearby, providing kindling for our fire.
After supper, I scouted out Point Wolf as it was one of my main targets. It has a nice covered bridge that would make a great foreground subject. As kids, we spent a lot of time there enjoying the area and swimming hole. My brother and I decided to go for a dip below the bridge, to say the water was cold would be an understatement. I knew the location would align with the Milky Way as I had done some research ahead of time in Stellarium. It was my hope to capture the water flowing under the bridge along with the Milky Way. The elevation drop in the river was less then I had remembered. I was hoping to capture cascading white water for added interest. The scene was dull compared to what I had envisioned, the dullness was amplified by the fact that the water would be falling away versus shooting head on. However, I did shoot a nice sunset of the twisty river heading out to the Bay of Fundy. The image I titled "Meandering into the Sunset". This all fills in at high tide and the vegetation line gives an idea of the height. Note the clear sky!
My brother and I wanted to visit the old group campground where we had camped as kids, but it was clearly abandoned as the road leading to it was overgrown with trees. I wanted to get a shot with the tent and the Milky Way in that open field.
We headed back to our campsite for another fire and waited for it to get darker before venturing out again. The view was was amazing! I was able pinpoint the Milky Way using the naked eye with ease. It popped in contrast against the dark sky, I had never seen it so vibrant. A clear, cool night with no haze or light pollution does wonders.
The first stop was a detour. I wanted to try an experiment with Astrophotography by using a vintage lens versus a modern one. The two lenses I tested were the Nikon's Nikkor 50mm ƒ1.8 Ai-S (manufactured 1981-1985) and the 20mm ƒ1.8. (2014-2017). There are about 30 years between the two lenses.
On location I could only look at the back of the camera. I knew the outcome, but not to the extent. There are a few caveats to mention. The first should be screaming out and that they aren't the same focal length, I have to work with what I own. I cropped in on my image with the 20mm (having a negative impact on the image quality of this image to match that of a 50mm).
The second is that they aren't shot from the same location (although close).You can see a perspective change if you look closely and movement in the Milky Way. The two images are shot 12 minutes apart. I was on the edge of the water at the Bay of Fundy. The water level can rise quite a bit in that time with the worlds highest tides. I decided to move instead of getting a soaker! Thirdly, the images were proceeded using a similar approach, but not exactly the same because the settings weren't copy and pasted. That said, when looking at the comparison it's night and day (pun intended) between the two. The hindered 20mm image easily being the better image even after being cropped in 2.5 times to match that of the 50mm. Those green rocks are crazy slippery!
It was time to get the shot I envisioned. I couldn't waste the clear skies that were presented on the first night. I got the ordination of the Milky Way with a quick test shot and framed up the covered bridge. I took my sky image and went to take my longer exposure at a lower ISO for a cleaner foreground. I was shooting in the middle of the road, but would have ample time to move if needed, but it got me thinking. I had my brother drive the car through the scene. This would do two things; add more interest with the trails of tail lights, as well as project light into the covered bridge showing the architecture. Another bonus was getting the image with a much lower ISO, meaning less noise. This was the result; titled "Wolfe 1992". My brother had to do a few trips back and forth to allow me to pinpoint the best settings to capture the image I going for. I am very pleased with the result.
Before leaving I moved to the edge of the road and shot the river, the same spot I had previously shot the sunset. The water was much higher now and under the bridge, there is a point where the salt and fresh river water mix, creating layered water temperatures. The water on top is warmer and your feet break into the frigid layer below when swimming. If the Milky Way lined up better with the river, it would have made for a more compelling image and I would have spent more time getting a better foreground image. Ah well!
It was starting to get late and we decided it was time to head back to the tent for the night. I normally have issues sleeping well in a tent and this night was no exception. I ended up sleeping in and missing the sunrise. We decided to spend the day hiking. I initially planned to hike on trails that would lead to good views. The amount of rain that had fallen before arriving I chose to do a 180 and waterfalls became my targets. I do love waterfalls! The first, Dickson falls, it was the shortest hike. There is a thermometer at the top of the trail (although it wasn't working) because the trail drops into a ravine, making a very noticeable temperature difference at the bottom. It was nice to hear the water flowing well before reaching the falls. I was surprised to discover the water flowing through the moss covered rocks!
Venturing further along the boardwalks you come to Dickson Falls. To support the preservation of the ecosystem, people are not allowed to step off of the the boardwalk. This creates an issue when trying to photograph this particular waterfall, as there is a look out close to the falls. If I framed the look out, it would have cut off the edge of flowing water near the bottom which would mess with the balance of the scene. Despite this, I embraced the opportunity and even had my brother model in the scene. I decided to take some artist liberalities with the image, pushing it towards colours that represented autumn giving it an ethereal feel.
Dickson falls was the shortest hike to a waterfall, only a 1.5km loop. The hike provided confirmation that the water was flowing, so we pushed on to reach the largest falls in the park, Third Vault Falls. This particular hike is rated difficult and considerably longer at 7.4kms round trip, hence the conformation hike. The hike progressed and as we were getting close, we dropped into the riverbed. It was part of the trial, but underwater. I feel that this had to be a good sign! Caught off guard as the falls appeared suddenly as the river were were walking along merged with another we were unaware of.
Third Vault Falls is 16m (52 ft) and drops into a pool. The first thing that caught my eye was the rainbow at the bottom. In order to get the rainbow higher in the falls, I needed to shoot from a higher perspective. This was my set up for getting my image titled "The Plunge". It was also a great place to have a snack and a drink before making our way back.
Next up was Moosehorn and Laverty Falls. The two trails can be done as a loop for another 7km of hiking. The falls on the Moosehorn trail were less impressive from a height perspective but it was a neat place to explore as they cut through a large rocky areas. I had a difficult time composing an image that I was satisfied with. It didn't help that it was in the middle of a sunny afternoon. My brother was used as model again here. Honestly we spent more time running around the rocks watching the pieces of wood flow through the drops and helping the ones that got stuck by throwing rocks at them. Something we use to do as kids.
There had been a few spots along the trail where the roots were all above the ground, but nothing like this image I captured. It was like a scene that might be part of a horror film with the tree being alive and its roots grabbing and entangling you. An image I titled "Tangled" oddly enough!
We came across Laverty Falls next and they weren't too photogenic. I think it would have been much better to shoot from the other side of the river, but the water was too high to get across. I went with a more abstract and a near black and white image while we had a snack, before embarking on the final 2.5km hike back to the parking lot.
We decided to push for one more hike trying to hit a spot for a sunset image. After quickly exploring Herring Cove Beach we headed for Matthews Head which was known to have a nice view point. It was a steady climb up, shortly into the climb it was clear we had missed the light, but we pushed on. How far? I have no idea, it's part of a loop and we had no idea where the target view point was with everything now dark. Looking at the images afterwards, it was evident that we wouldn't have seen it. In any event, the hike raised our heart rates and we did most of it in the dark with a decent elevation gain. The return trip was likely close to 5km if not more. It made for a long day of hiking that pushed us past 20km of hiking in one day. It was now time to recharge with supper and a fire .
Unfortunately clouds rolled in after the sun had set and although we did venture out to see if there were gaps before bed, it wasn't meant to be. The next morning we packed up and started our trip back, but first we would hit the large playground near the headquarters. To our surprise, the zip line that was a huge hit as kids was still there. We had some fun before heading back to Nova Scotia.
Although it was a short trip, it was a filled with large amounts of fun. I also came away with some keepers!