Alan Pelletier Photography

Landscape and Travel Photography

Archive for ‘November, 2018’

Looking around Summerville South Carolina

Glorious sun light
Iphone 8+

I spent Thanksgiving with friends in Summerville South Carolina, my third visit since they moved from Connecticut. It’s located about 45 minutes outside Charleston and is one of the more popular communities near Charleston.  I brought my camera gear, but choose not to get a car rental and drive to different photo locations as I have done on previous trips. My decision not to get a car rental was in part due to my short stay only through the weekend and my effort to find images that are readily around Summerville instead of driving to popular photographic locations at one of the great beaches in the state. 


Downtown Historic Summerville
122 mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 400

In doing so I wanted to improve my skills in finding different compositions.  I also wanted to take photos of the Thanksgiving dinner itself, the preparation of the food, the table settings, and other images to capture one of my favorite holidays.  I wanted the photos of Thanksgiving to be creative rather than your typical snapshot.  It would also get me out of my comfort zone of taking landscapes that I typically capture.

Focus on the silverware
190 mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 400
Green Bean Salad
140 mm, f/4, 1/1200s, ISO 1600 

For Thanksgiving, I used my two workhorse lenses a 24-70 mm f/2.8 to capture the dining room and kitchen and my 70-200 mm f/2.8 telephoto lens to isolate subjects within the dining room and to take close-up images of the food. For the dining room shoots, I used a  shorter focal length to provide a sense of size and openness within the dining room.  Being indoors with both strong light and shadows I was frequently changing my manual settings, particularly my ISO settings to ensure a proper shutter speed to get sharp images.  I took photos in both portrait and landscape format to give me different perspectives of my subject.  When working with the telephoto lens I wanted to isolate and compress my subject, selecting longer focal lengths with larger aperture settings. 

Thanksgiving Table
90 mm, f/4, 1/320s, ISO 1600

Taking photos of the food was a new experience for me, which I actually enjoyed and upon reviewing my results may consider taking more photos of food.  My telephoto lens was my obvious selection as I wanted a tightly cropped and compressed image of the food.  I also wanted to use the light and shadows to add ambiance to my images and help emphasize the subject.  Section of a larger aperture to create a shallow depth of field also helped draw attention to the subject by creating separation from the background.

Curving the turkey
200 mm, f/4, 1/500s, ISO 1600
Autumn Decoration
200mm, f/4, 1/400s, ISO 400

The next day was Black Friday and instead of navigating through crowded box stores and malls we decided to browse the smaller stores in the historic district of Summerville.  As my wife and our friends were going in and out of the local shops I set off on my own to find some photos. Walking around the shops and side streets I searched for compositions opening my mind and eyes to potential subjects. Looking for unique items, patterns, and visualizing smaller compositions within larger subjects. It was partially sunny providing some challenges in setting my manual settings depending on the presence of the sun. This provided different images such as back lighting of trees hanging onto their autumn colors or diffused lighting to capture the tonal quality of an image. All my photos were captured with my 70-200 mm telephoto lens. 

Outdoor Seating
200mm, f/3.5, 1/1600s, ISO 400

For the first 30 minutes, I did not press the shutter release but soon started to capture images especially those zoomed in close to focus on certain elements within a subject.  Perhaps it was different location and subjects that presented themselves to me that took time for me to visualize.  It’s easier to visualize sweeping landscape photos or as I like to call them National Geographic photos.  Finding beautiful photos in the smaller details of our surroundings can be more difficult, but we just need to look around because they’re all around us.     

200mm, f/4, 1/200s, ISO 400

Also finding beautiful images in places where we live or work may not be easy or seem ordinary compared to images posted on Instagram of exotic locations around the world, but again we just need to open our eyes and mind to the beautiful images around us.  This experience of looking around and finding pleasing photos was very rewarding and I encourage those new to photography to do the same.  Where ever you are there’s a photo to take and as they say the best camera you have is the one with you, including your phone, which I use myself.  All images posted were taken with my Nikon DSLR camera, except the first photo of the American flag taken with my iPhone, which is my favorite photo.  

Apple Cider and Pushing Myself and ISO

Clyde’s Apple Cider Mill

Recently, I visited  Clyde’s Apple Cider Mill in Old Mystic Connecticut to sample some apple cider and take photographs.  I enjoyed my visit and taking photographs as it was not my typical landscape subject.  First a little more about Clyde’s, it’s the last steam-powered cider mill in the USA that’s been in operation since 1881 according to their website.  It’s listed as a National Historic Landmark that is still family owned and recently featured on NBC world news.  The old cider mill is a very popular destination, especially being located near other attractions such as Mystic Seaport, and the Mystic Aquarium.  The parking lot is usually full, so plan on parking on the side of the street as I did during my visit.  

At Clyde’s, you will find the old mill house where they press apples into apple cider, a store to purchase all sorts of apple products, wine tasting, as well as other vendors providing kettle corn and craft items just to name a few.  They also sell hard cider located in the basement of the old mill house.  One of their main attraction, besides watching them make the cider is trying their apple cider and apple cider donuts at the store.  I indulged myself in a cup of warm cider with two donuts that I enjoyed sitting on the porch taking in the sights and sounds of the place.  

After enjoying my mid-afternoon treat I explored the old mill house to take some photographs.  The apple press was not operating as they schedule breaks in between actually apple pressings, a good opportunity to photograph the equipment inside without crowds.  

Peering into the Old Mill House
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 2500

Peering through some open windows and doors I was fascinated with all the older equipment and the overall feel of the old barn with all it’s exposed roughly sawed wooden timbers, much like the old barn when visiting my grandparents in Maine.  I also was intrigued by all the light and shadows inside the barn and how they played with the old equipment and items hanging on the walls.  Normally I have my tripod with me, but not this trip.  Determined to take some photos I proceeded to challenged myself to get some photos without my tripod or any flashes or lighting.

Shadows and Light
70 mm, f/5.6, 1/800s, ISO 2500

Using my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens with vibration reduction and setting a high ISO, higher than I’m accustomed to using.   I started taking photos of the old metal press first, checking my results and adjusting my aperture to get a soft background while keeping a higher shutter speed as I was hand holding my camera and trying to lower the ISO as much as possible to reduce noise.  I chose to spot meter most of my photos, exposing for the highlights to avoid blowing out bright areas of the scene.  I also bracketed a few sets of photos using 5 shots with 1-stop intervals providing 2 photos overexposed, 2 photos underexposed, and a single neutral exposed photo.

Apple Press 
120 mm, f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 4000
Spiining Wheels
102 mm, f/8.0, 1/320s, ISO 2500

Next was all the piping, valves, flywheels, and belts that look interesting in the lighting, how the black cast iron metal and brass fittings provided a contrasting effect, and the oil sheen on the equipment glistened in the light.  I also visualized how the photos would look like as black and white images.  Some of this equipment, in particular, the flywheel and belts reminded me of my grandparent’s farmhouse where they had an old White engine that turned a sharpening wheel.  I can still remember the old engine sputtering as it turned the sharpening wheel.  

Fly Wheels and Belts
120 mm, f/2.8, 1/320s, ISO 4000

Looking around I noticed all the wall hangings and how the light and shadows were creating interesting images, including these clay jugs hanging from the ceiling.  Using my lens to zoom in and out, capturing different aspects of the interior of the mill.  Then I walked around the other buildings taking additional photos.

Old Jugs 
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 2500

Downloading my photos the next day I was eager to see the results and how the higher ISO would impact my images.  In general, I was shooting with an ISO between 2500 and 6400.  Certainly not that high given that newer cameras can go much higher.  However, as mentioned higher than I typically use and with subjects having lots of detail framed tightly using my telephoto lens.  I processed the photos in Lightroom (LR) and upon inspecting the first few images I was impressed with the quality of the images.  Looking closely and did notice noise in the images, but after making adjustments, including noise reduction and sharpening in LR, I was very pleased with the final results.  While I did take several bracketed shots and processed them as an HDR images, I felt the results were not realistic and preferred selecting a single image to work with that provided more realistic results.  

Valves and piping as B/W
200 mm, f/5.6, 1/1000s, ISO 2500

As for my Black and White photos, again I used LR to convert my color images.  Typically, I make a virtual copy of the color image and reset my settings to start with the flatter image and then convert to B/W photo.  I like to apply different presets, and adjusting the contrast and tonality of the image to enhance the darker and lighter areas as well as the texture in the image.  

Wall Hangings
70 mm, f/8.0, 1/320s, 2500 ISO

An important take away from this experience is knowing how far I can push my camera’s ISO setting and still get quality results, especially without a tripod.  I recommend experimenting with your camera’s ISO setting to determine it’s upper limits and still get acceptable photos.  Please let me know what processing method you use to reduce noise in your images.  Or other tips when shooting in low light situations. 

York Maine and the Seacoast Century

In September I traveled to York, Maine to participate in the Seacoast Century hosted by the Granite State Wheelmen. The event is held each year on the third weekend of September and this year marked the 45th edition of this awesome cycling event. Riders choose from 25, 50, 65, and 100-mile routes, with the 100-mile route navigating along the Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine coastlines. All rides start and end at the Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire with over 1,000 riders registering this year with options to ride either Saturday, Sunday, or both days. I have participated in this ride almost every year and have participated in at least a dozen. I typically ride the 65-mile route with a detour to visit Nubble Lighthouse making it about a 75-mile ride to the lighthouse and back to Hampton Beach. This year my wife Shawn joined me and we left Friday afternoon after work with a car packed with cycling and camera gear. We stayed in York Maine one of my favorite towns in Maine. A beautiful coastal town with a quintessential New England fell, wonderful beaches, and of course the ionic Nubble Lighthouse.

Waiting for sunrise

York Harbor Sunrise

I was up early on Saturday and wanted to take some quick sunrise photos before the ride. Not having a lot of time I quickly drove to York Harbor. Garbing my camera gear I notice a fair amount of high-level clouds on the horizon and quickly scanned the beach for compositions. I was immediately drawn to the rocky coast to the left as I approached the ocean, noting several large buildings part of the York Harbor Inn. Identifying my potential composition I set-up my tripod and camera. However sky was still colorless, so I took some quick photos to frame my image consisting of the rocky coast and the York Harbor Reading Room. Then waited for the sun to make its dramatic appearance, but as the sun approached the horizon the colors only slightly improved. Beginning to think that sunrise was going to be a bust, the colors started to pop and quickly filled the sky. Being patient always pays off. I took several photos with my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens and several with my Nisi filters for some long exposures. I probably spent about 45-minutes taking pictures and finally decided to pack-up to make it to the bike ride. 

Golden Sunrise

As I walked to my car I looked back and notice a family walking on the beach in silhouette against a golden sunrise. My camera was packed, so I quickly snap a few photos with my iPhone and the results were pretty decent, so much for my Nikon.

The Ride

I arrived at Hampton Beach State Park a bit late after 8 AM when all riders are required to be on the road, guess I had too much fun taking photos and most of the riders had already departed.  The weather was mostly clear and a bit cold, low 40’s, but forecasted to rise to the upper 60’s in the afternoon.  After deciding what layers of clothing I needed for the ride, I picked up my registration package, filled my water bottles, and headed out of the parking lot turning right onto Route 1-A to Nubble Lighthouse.  There were only a few cyclists were on the road, but having done the ride so many times I knew the route.  As usual being on the coast, there was a slight headwind to challenge me.  As I approached North Hampton I began to warm up, especially my fingers and ready to enjoy the rest of the ride.

Ocean Boulevard

Entering North Hampton I  passed by the Beach Plum ice cream shop that I typically visit post ride for a well-deserved chocolate peanut butter ice cream.  From North Hampton, the ride proceeds through Rye with awesome views of the ocean where I stopped several times to take some quick pictures with my iPhone.  Continuing along Route 1-A the ride enters Portsmouth taking Route 1-B to the New Castle area.  I particularly enjoy this part of Portsmouth with all the older New England style homes and great views of the harbor.

New Castle

After passing Prescott Park, riders cross the Piscataqua River and enter Kittery Maine.  The route in Maine takes Route 103 passing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and stopping at Fort McClary State Park for a rest stop that provides snacks, water, and other goodies.  A bike mechanic is also available to address most mechanical issues.  Leaving the rest stop we continue north on Route 103 to York passing the Wiggly Bridge, a small pedestrian bridge on the York River.  Riders then turn onto Route 1A passing York Harbor then onto Long Sands Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand and ocean.  The 65-mile route turns back before reaching Long Sands Beach, but I always continue on to reach Nubble Lighthouse, after all, it’s only a few more miles.

Long Sands Beach

Prior to getting to the lighthouse, I took a detour to join my wife and ride together to the “Nub”. At the lighthouse, it was crowded as usual with the parking lot full and at least two tour buses offloading passengers with cameras in hand. We rested for a short time and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and weather and took more photos. Unfortunately, the lighthouse was being renovated and was completely wrapped in scaffolding.  After we proceed to Short Sands Beach looking for lunch, passing the pavilion we looped back around to Long Sands Beach and stopped at the Stones Throw restaurant and got a table directly in front of the beach. After having fish tacos and relaxing, I decided not to head back to Hampton Beach, but cruise around York for the afternoon. I still managed to get in 50 miles for the day. During our exploration, we hike the Cliff Walk at York Harbor a beautiful 1-mile walk out and back along the rocky Maine coastline. We saw plenty of Monarch butterflies fluttering among the flowers along the walk, a common sight during the weekend.

Short Sands Beach


That evening we meet some friend for dinner in Portsmouth,  a fun town with a historic downtown area with plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. I usually make going to one of their great restaurants part of my annual traditions, nothing’s better than having a great meal after a long ride. We meet at the Dolphin Striker on Bow Street and dined on fresh New England seafood. I had Haddock Piccata served with spinach, leeks, tomatoes, and fettuccine. Both the food and conversation was excellent, including a conversation with the owner. For dessert we went to one of the local bakeries, Breaking New Grounds coffee shop and enjoyed some dark German chocolate cake.  Another great bakery  is Popovers serving their namesake large popovers along with other fabulous baked goods.  In year’s past, I have eaten at several other great restaurants such as Jumping Jay’s Fish Cafe and Surf Portsmouth for seafood. Another favorite is the Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro & Bar a very popular restaurant serving very tasty and satisfying dishes such as their pineapple fried rice, which I would highly recommend.

Sunday fun day

Long Sands Beach Sunrise

Sunday morning I got up early again to take photographs of the sunrise this time at Long Sands Beach. So hard to get up before sunrise, but never regret it afterwards. The sky had plenty of high-level clouds, great potential for dramatic, sunrise.  It was fairly windy and the temperature had dropped significantly from the previous day. Parked my car along the seawall and set-up my gear. Sunrise was very dramatic with lots of reds, yellow, and blacks offering great drama and contrast. For my photos, I used my Nikon 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens without filters.  

Sand Piper

I return to the hotel and we went out to breakfast at St. Joe’s Bakery off Route 1 and enjoyed a freshly made bagel egg sandwiches.  After we drove to Long Sands Beach for a walk along the beach.  The temperature was much warmer and the sky was clear.  There were a fair number of others strolling along the beach, some with their dogs, and a lone surfer.  Afterwards, we paid a visit to Stonewall Kitchen conveniently located next to our hotel.  We sampled some of their jams and other products and purchased a few jars of jams.  We also purchased some freshly baked scones with wild blueberries and enjoyed them in the outdoor courtyard with some coffee.  Outside in the courtyard was a flower garden with Monarch butterflies fluttering around, which I spent time taking photographs. 

Long Sands Beach
Monarch butterfly

Afterward, we went to the outlets in Kittery and picked up some bargains then drove to Portsmouth for a late lunch at the Green Elephant restaurant. Before sitting down for lunch we spent an hour walking around Prescott Park taking some photos of the harbor and the beautiful flower gardens. Lunch at the Green Elephant was fantastic as usual and as we started heading home south on Route 95 we witnessed a brilliant sunset. 

Prescott Park
Portsmouth Harbor

Trusting your instincts

Today one of my recent IG posts was featured, which is a pretty good thing to have your photo acknowledged by others.  The funny thing is, it’s a photo that I almost didn’t post. I took the photo as I was wrapping up taking images at Moore State Park in Paxton, MA. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon following a wet morning and the waterfalls were full of water.  I spent probably 2 hours purposely taking photos of the waterfalls and fall foliage.  You know setting up your tripod, checking your exposure, deciding composition, filters, etc..  I took several different compositions and noted the time and wanted to go a different location for sunset.  So I packed my gear and quickly attached my Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens as I wanted to get some last shots walking to my car.  As I passed the old mill house I noted the striking dark shadow of a tree falling on the side of the mill and quickly took a few shots without much thought.  I downloaded my photos the next day and made some basic LR edits and set it aside.  A couple of weeks passed and I opened the photo cropped it and then deliberated on posting it, thinking it was a decent photo but that I had better ones.  I finally did post the photo this past Monday and to my surprise how well it was received.20181013-155651_-_dsc1697

Thinking about it, my hesitation in posting this photo is attributed to forgetting the moment of spontaneity as I pushed the shutter release. During that moment, I was attracted to how the shadow of the tree played with the old mill’s weathered siding and framing the composition to capture the window as well.  That as time passed after taking the photo I over analyze the image when I should have just trusted my instincts.  One of my favorite sayings hanging in my workspace is “Don’t believe everything you think”.  My lesson to myself spend less time in my head and do more from the heart and let go of comparison.  Not every photo is going to be a winner and that’s okay.  Even now I find myself thinking on how to end this blog so I will end by giving thanks to all those that liked my photo and @Style_and_decay for the feature.