Laurel Hill State Park

This time I was looking for a less rugged camping experience. At Laurel Hill, I stayed in one of eight camping cottages at the north end of the well established camp ground. The cottages were situated within the sight line of one and other, making privacy during the day sparse. Each cottage is furnished with one double bed, three single bunks a few chairs and a picnic table. It is just like camping but without the tent or the rain. At these sites the campfire is still the center of activity, as there is no cooking inside the cottage.

We launched the kayaks from the main boat launch near dam at the south end of Laurel Hill Lake. The kayak trek was easy. kayaked from one end of the small 63 acre lake to the other very easily in the late afternoon. We reached the bridge where the main park road crosses the outlet of the Laurel Hill Creek into the lake. We pulled the kayaks up onto the left shore of the creek and hiked the Hemlock Trail, a loop through the Virgin Hemlock Natural Area, a six acre tract along side the creek with towering behemoth trees rising over one hundred feet into the blue sky. Many of the trees were several feet around at their bases. An easy trail wound up the hill side up and through the old growth portion at the north end. As you reach the end of the tract the trail reveals a newer forest on a demarcation line. The differences are obvious, the old growth forest has virtually no ground cover, only smaller hemlocks and evergreen ground cover. The younger forest has several types of ground cover and small trees including ferns and maples. Hiking along the creek reveals a network of trails etched out between the towering pines providing access for fishing the creek.

The return kayak trip yielded many striking reflections of the tree covered hillsides just hinting at the beginning of the autumn in the Appalachian Mountains.

Allegheny Island State Park

The rising sun exploded the clouds over Pittsburgh with pink and orange highlights and deep blue shadows, but quickly faded to typical gray. The rising sun did reveal itself as a bright interlude between the layers of clouds as I pushed off from the Harmarville launch which is surrounded by busy business district. The launch is bordered by cottages and private launches. Across the narrow channel of the Allegheny River is roadless twelve mile island, one of three Islands making up Allegheny Island State Park. Twelve Mile Island is the only one of the three islands to have structures. Cottages line both sides of the Allegheny River, one right after the other providing a camp feel in an urban and industrialized area. In view to the right is the historic Hulton Bridge between Blawnox and Oakdale. To the left is the bridge carrying the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the railroad across the Allegheny River.

Working upriver between the tips of Twelve Mile and Fourteen Mile Islands lie several shoals which were popping to life with grassy vegetation. The shoals provided a prime habitat for ducks and birds. The shoals are too small and shallow for most trees and remain a clear fly away for birds living on or near the river.

Arriving at Fourteen Mile Island was a trial. The banks of the island were lined with quick sand and mud. My feet sunk nearly to the knees while I attempted to secure the kayak on the bank. The body of the island rises only a few feet, high enough to keep the island dry under non flood conditions. I trekked up the rise into the woods only to find that the entire floor of the island was covered with the invasive Japanese Knotweed. The knotweed, which resembles bamboo but is unrelated, frequently colonizes wasted places. The knotweed overshadowed all native plants on the island floor leaving the island naturally disturbed. As I reached the center of the island it became very clear that there would be no clearing, no open meadows or no picturesque scenes at the island interior. I hacked my way out of the entangled jungle and decided I’d try my luck walking along the shoreline.

The shoreline revealed a plethora of animal activity. Deer, raccoon, fox, heron and coyote tracks abounded. There were several type of mussel shells lining the shore, presumably already having been made part of the food chain.

I got back into the kayak to head to the northern terminus of Fourteen Mile Island where a dam crosses the river. The island was divided into two parts by the Corps of Engineers to make way for the dam, leaving the end as a man made creation. The northern end of the island is a busy place. A new bridge that will carry the Pennsylvania Turnpike is in it’s early stages of construction. Tractors, trucks and cranes dominate the landscape over the towering sycamores that occupy the shoreline.

Semi-permanent camps exist in this area, human activity is a daily occurrence on the island for now. Though the island is remote and not continuously inhabited, it is a very tough place to visit yet is far from wild.

Anders Run- Working Out The Kinks

Working out the kinks is an important step in combining video, stills and audio. The kinks would be your work flow, everything changes. My approach to how I shoot has changed drastically since I have committed to audio and video collection while shooting images.

My work flow at the moment goes like this.

In the field:
Set the audio recorder down in a safe place. Walk away to get rid of the camera shutter sound that will be picked up.

Shoot images, shoot video. I rarely use my Flip video for sound collection. Shoot images, shoot video.

Use a Holga to shoot vignetted macros.

In the office:
Using Image Ingester, download, duplicate and add keyword and copyright metadata to all media.

Using Photoshop edit Photos, HDR, Panos, Animations

Using Premiere rough cut the Video and sound. Save early, save often. Add still images and fine edit.

Post images.

Transfer to permanent archive, duplicated and back-up on DVD-ROM.

I am certain that my work flow will become more efficient as I do this more.

Bill and Hillary Clinton

Dateline: Pittsburgh, Pa. less than 24 hours before the Pennsylvania Primary.

Hill and Bill

Bill and Hillary Clinton meet supporters on the line after the couple spoke to a lunch time crowd in Pittsburgh’s Market Square, Monday April 21, 2008. Hillary Clinton is projected to winn the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary over Barak Obama.

William Jefferson Clinton

William Jefferson Clinton , the 42nd President of The United States stumping for his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the eve of the Pennsylvania Primary.

See more photos on Flickr

Project: From My Back Porch

Project: From My Back Porch

My son and I enjoy sitting together on our deck to watch one of two trains chug by, many river boats tethered to barges coming and going, airplanes all the time. He is one and a half and gets a real kick out of all the activity. The view is somewhat interesting, it isn’t a brick wall or a flashing bar sign after all. Light plays on the hillside across the river all day. In the morning the pink light pillows the fresh green trees. In the afternoon, it accentuates the sky.

After a busy day and putting the kids to sleep, rather than relax like a normal adult, I decided I needed to do something creative for the evening. I decided I would photograph scenes from my back porch. It was easy enough, I didn’t have to go far, I could drink as much beer as I want without worrying how I would get home. I was off the streets and safe.

I wanted to play with the lights that I can see from the deck. I used a small aperture to star burst the normally annoying lights. Normally, I curse four particular lights. Depending on where you sit trees, porch rails, and buildings juxtaposed can eliminate most of the annoying lights. Never these four, never at the same time. They are just way to bright. The dimmer ones don’t particularly bother me. I turned the negative into a positive and came up with what I feel are interesting abstracts.

As well, I Photo Merged my view from the deck. At the left is Sewickley, to the right are portions of the City of Pittsburgh. Eight images in the roughly six mile view.

My son’s curiosity is what inspired me to photograph what I had been taking for granted as mundane. There will be no book project about my back porch, but I did manage to keep myself occupied creatively.

Project: From My Back Porch

Anders Run Cornplanter Forest

Anders Run Natural Area

Just north of Althom, Pa. along the dirt road to the right is the Allegheny River and Thompson Island, part of the Allegheny River Islands Wilderness, to the left is the mammoth sized 14427 acre State Games Lands #86, just ahead on the top of the hill is Anders Run Natural Area. This portion of the Cornplanter Forest is less than 20 miles southwest of Warren and directly across the river from the Allegheny National Forest. Arriving in late afternoon, it is early spring, a perfectly warm day, and I find myself in a tucked away portion of Pennsylvania standing with giants with some the tallest and oldest trees in North America.

The Anders Run Natural Area amounts to only 96 acres but contains a healthy stand of old growth white pine. Some of the pines in the stand are estimated to be over 150 foot tall, four foot around and over 200 years old. Towering over the valley the pines dwarf trees and vegetation in an unprotected area adjacent to the natural area. The difference is striking, The stand of full green white pines is a defiant demarcation between an area of natural beauty and one manufactured landscape. The deciduous trees at the edges of the stand are indicative of a young forest, remain leafless, their full bloom is still about two weeks away.

Flowing through the stand is Anders Run a modest stream flowing with cool clear melt water several inches deep catching and reflecting the near horizontal rays of the setting sun. The natural sounds of the flowing water mingled with the sing-song of early birds indicating spring has arrived.

Anders Run Natural Area