My company (CD-Adapco) has some development offices in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and since I was assigned to help on the project, I took a trip to our New Hampshire offices to get to know people. Lebanon is a small town of 12,000 people about two hours northwest of Boston, probably best known for its proximity (10 minutes) to the even smaller town of Hanover. Hanover is known for being home to Dartmouth. Somehow I expected prestigious Ivy League schools to be a little less in the middle of nowhere. I think you can drive by on the freeway without seeing a sign for Dartmouth, although it’s possible that I mentally ignored them because even though I draw an engineering salary, I still can’t afford to go there. You know something is odd when you get of the airplane and there is a college-age kid wearing a sharp, khaki colored suit waiting to get his bags. Most business travellers don’t wear suits on the plane, and unlike the kid, they might actually need one when they get off.

Appalachian Trail
A picture of the Appalachian Trail. If you don’t happen to notice the tree with
the white mark on it, you might wonder where the trail is. Not all the markers
are as obvious as this one, so I spent a good deal of time pondering that question.
During the day I accomplished the business purposes so in the late afternoon and early evening I took advantage of the long summer days to photograph the scenery. I have a deep love for the cool, shady, dim green forest trails, so when I discovered that the Appalachian Trail runs through Hanover, I took off for one of the trailheads. I expected that something as well-known as the Appalachian Trail would be obvious, but it was pretty tricky to find the trail I picked. I had found a web site with topological maps with the trail outlined and I discovered that they give topological maps for a reason—you will walk right by the trail if you don’t know where it is. I persevered and eventually found it and was rewarded with a pleasant hike up a four or five hundred feet mountain.

Unfortunately, it turns out that while the forest is pleasantly cool, damp, and really beautiful to walk in, it is not really all that photogenic. First of all, it’s pretty dark in there. When I bought my digital camera I said to myself, “self, this camera goes to ISO 3200. That ought to be fast enough to shoot handheld anywhere.” Nope. Plan on taking a tripod. (Fortunately, this Boy Scout was prepared.)  Second, it’s pretty green in there. I think people like being surrounded by green, but we seem to mentally put the green in the background and focus on how all those vertical poles, I mean, tree trunks, change position as we walk around. However, the camera only sees a lot of green. Third, everything looks the same, so even if you do find a scene that the camera thinks is beautiful, it will be exactly like the next beautiful scene. So it’s fun to walk in the woods, but you don’t get a lot of pictures.

Tasty Smurf-Shroom
A fine specimen of Tasty Smurf-shroom
I happen to like fungi and since Texas is so hot in the summer than any mushroom spontaneously combusts, I don’t really get to see a lot of them. The advantage of Real forests, with real Water, is that mushrooms live long enough to punctuate the monotonous beauty and get photographed. I did not have a mushroom identification guide handy, but fortunately the species of this mushroom, Tasty Smurf-Shroom is obvious. You mushroom-collecting cooks reading this travelogue might be interested to observe that it will add a pungent flavor to your dish. The edibility is readily ascertained—some animal already ate a chunk out of it, and I did not see any corpses nearby. Furthermore, the bug (the twig-looking thing on lower right side) appears to be enjoying it. The pungent flavor is clear from the fact that the animal did not take a second bite.

The next day one of the guys at the office kindly explained some of the sights to see at which point I discovered that the area had a lot of covered bridges. Classic New England scenery; I was sold. I hopped over to Vermont and by the time I had finished photographing Quechee Gorge (pronounced Kwee-Chee) I arrived at the bridges in time for sunset. Not very good for photographing dark wood bridges, but perfect for capturing sunsets over pastoral scenery. Photographer Ken Rockwell has observed that during sunset the light changes constantly and there is an opportune moment; a couple minutes too soon or too late and the colors are not rich enough. So I set up my tripod on the covered bridge (it was not one of the prettier ones, anyway) and shot away for half an hour or so. Digital is great!

Way too early A nice, idyllic, pastoral scene. Very nice, but way too early. As a passerby mentioned, it wasn’t the best location, either. The colors are not rich enough in the sky.
Still a little too early The sun has just set and the colors are much better. This is a very nice scene, but not as nice as it could be.
Perfect Now that the sun has set for a bit the clouds have a gorgeous purple tint that is reflected in the water. It is a very subtle difference, but clearly superior. Photoshop can fix a lot of small errors, but it cannot fix an unripe sunset.

The previous night I discovered that restaurants closed pretty early in this area; anything after 9 pm was pretty chancy. The sun sets about 8:30 pm at the end of July, so if you get in from a nice day of shooting the eating options are very limited. The Simon Pearce restaurant in the first picture, for instance, closes at 9 pm. Earlier arrivals, however, will find a restaurant poised above the mill pond dam, with the cool evening air and the sounds of the water running over the dam. Should you chance to be in the area with your love, this is an excellent place for a romantic dinner. I highly recommend the fillet mignon.

Quechee Gorge, which I had visited earlier in the day, was an interesting disappointment. Highway 4 crosses 163 feet above the river below, offering a dramatic sight for the pedestrian walking across the bridge. Surprisingly, the picture is not impressive, because you cannot hear the roar of the water falling from the dam upstream and you do not get a proper feeling of being 163 feet up with the picture. If you take the picture to attempt to capture the scene as a whole you get a lot of boring green with a little river. If you take the picture of the river, it does not capture the depth. Oh well.

I also learned a bit about fog and mist. The gorge was naturally rather damp and as the air cooled down, the water began to condense into mist. Very picturesque. Unfortunately, what the camera saw was an image that strongly resembled a blurry image. Live and learn and be thankful that you live in the age of digital cameras!

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