Mount Greylock

On a clear, warm August day, I had the opportunity to hike Mt. Greylock, the tallest mountain in Massachusetts. While moderate size compared to the Adirondacks, Greylock still provides a challenging climb and incredible view on top. Several hiking trails lead up to the summit, including the Appalachian Trail. We took the Thunderbolt Trail up (a steep but relatively short ski trail) and a longer but gentler climb back down via different trails.

Giant Mountain Hike

On June 21, the first day of summer, I jumped at the opportunity to hike Giant Mountain with some friends. While I’ve spent significant time hiking in the southern Adirondacks, I have not ventured into the High Peaks Region too often, primarily because of the longer distance to drive for a day trip. With Giant, I added my second of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks to my accomplishments (Cascade being my first and only other 46’er).

The weather turned out to be perfect for hiking, with a high in the low 70s, and much cooler weather at higher elevation. The sky stayed clear for some incredible views of the other peaks.

While I’ll confess I didn’t lug my DSLR along as I often do on hikes, I managed to capture a number of photos with my iPhone 5C.

Evening over Mirror Lake

While spending Memorial Day weekend at the High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid, NY, I took some time in the evening to set up my camera and tripod along Mirror Lake. Mellow evening light and a partly cloudy sky offered the perfect atmosphere for landscape photography. A canoe and a colorful sailboat added interest to the scenery, as well.

Inman Pond Hike

Even after most of the autumn colors disappear, fall continues as the best time of year to hike in the Adirondacks, in my opinion. Cooler weather means more comfortable hiking, no pesky insects, and fewer people crowding the trails, while the freezing cold winter weather has not yet kicked in. The first weekend in November, many of the leaves had fallen off the trees, allowing for a better view through the woods. We could see out over a ridge during the hike in as well as seeing quite a bit of the pond even before reaching the open areas along the water.

Inman Pond lies in the Lake George Wild Forest area, east of Lake George. The hike in covers a little over a mile with slight elevation gain, but not nearly as strenuous as scaling an actual mountain. Once you reach the pond, you can choose to branch off toward either the left or right side of the water. We chose the left side and found a couple of places to walk right up to the edge of the water. This hike offered a great quick journey to get out in the woods a bit and enjoy the crisp, cool weather of fall.

Hadley Mountain Panorama

In my opinion, fall in upstate New York is the best time of year for hiking, with cooler weather that’s not yet freezing, fewer insects, and less water to make trails muddy and slippery. Most of all, the leaves have turned to their red, orange, and yellow colors. On this mid-October hike up Hadley Mountain, the leaf color had slightly passed peak but still was quite bright, illuminated by sunlight on a cloudless day. Here is a panoramic shot overlooking the southern Adirondacks, stitched together with four images from the top of the mountain.

 

Cat Mountain Panorama

Saturday was a perfect clear day to hike Thomas and Cat Mountains, near Bolton Landing, New York. A loop trail (about 7.5 miles doing the whole distance) allows hikers to access both summits over moderate terrain. A few challenging spots exist, but the hike is not too difficult overall, with a decent portion following an old gravel road. While Thomas Mountain did provide a distant view with part of the lake and a fairly plush (for the middle of the woods) cabin on top, Cat Mountain certainly gave a better view.

The view from the top of Cat offers an incredible panoramic perspective of Lake George from the west, as well as views toward Gore and other mountains in the Central Adirondacks if you walked around to another side of the summit. This shot includes 2 images stitched together (click the photo to see a larger version).

Cat/Thomas Mountain Trail Map

Below, a map of the hike shows the path tracked via the Everytrail app. Note that this includes the full loop of both mountains; however, you could just hike to Thomas with about a 3 mile loop, or go all the way out to and back from Cat on the same trail on one or the other side without looping around. Note that the trail on the east (designated with yellow markers) is much easier as it follows a road most of the way, but the western trail (blue markers) offers a number of glimpses of the mountains in the distance through the trees and a bit more of a rugged terrain experience.

Cascade Mountain July Hike

Here are a number of pictures from a hike up Cascade Mountain on July 6, 2013. In line with the rainy weather of late, clouds hung over the mountain as I started up in the morning. Upon reaching the summit, nothing was visible beyond a few trees in the distance, and hikers could be grateful for the yellow paint marking the way forward. However, on the way down, the clouds began to clear at an overlook area, and I was able to capture a view of the High Peaks area from up high.

Southern Adirondack Day Hikes

Upstate New York contains limitless areas to enjoy nature, and the Adirondack Mountains do not disappoint with countless trails offering incredible views. Here are a few of my favorite hikes in the southern Adirondack region.

Buck Mountain

Buck Mountain is my personal favorite hike in the southern Adirondack region and offers the best view of Lake George I’ve found, with the ability to see the Tongue Mountain Range jutting into the water with the High Peaks beyond to the north, as well as an unrestricted view far down the southern section of the lake.

The trailhead from Pilot Knob is the most popular with about six and a half miles roundtrip of walking over an elevation gain close to 2000 feet. Initially, this trail follows one of the many old roads typical to this area, and then branches into a much steeper climb toward the top. Right before reaching the summit, a vista opens up looking south to the southern point of the lake with a couple of small ponds visible as well. Once you’ve walked a bit further to the top, you can see clearly for miles in multiple directions.

The second trailhead starts from the east side of the mountain off of Hogtown Road. I have not yet personally hiked this route but plan to someday. This route is shorter (about 5 miles roundtrip) with elevation gain of only about 1100 feet.

See my panoramic shot from Buck Mountain.

Deer Leap (Tongue Mountain Range)

Deer Leap offers a short hike with minimal climbing to reach a scenic overlook on the north end of Lake George. Starting from a point already high up on the Tongue Mountain Range, you walk through forest and mountain meadow areas to reach the open cliff area. This is about 3.4 miles roundtrip but can combine with other trails around this area for a much longer trek if desired.

Hadley Mountain

On top of Hadley Mountain stands one of the few restored fire towers in the Adirondacks, offering a commanding view of the Great Sacandaga Lake as well as the High Peaks on a clear day. The summit succumbed to forest fires back in the early 1900s and, as a result, still has a large bald, open rocky area at the top. Besides the fire tower, you can also see a ranger’s cabin, which is now occupied during the summer by a guide who greets climbers at the top instead of watching for fires as once was an important job. Round trip, this hike covers a little over 3 miles, with some steep sections but still suitable for a family trek.

Prospect Mountain

Prospect Mountain is one of the easiest mountains to get to in this area, with the trailhead starting right off a side street within the village of Lake George. The hiking trail covers about 3 miles roundtrip, crossing the Veterans Memorial Highway at a couple of places as you ascend to the top. Once at the summit, you can see the southern portion of Lake George and even look down the Northway to see Albany on a clear day. See my pictures from a late spring hike up Prospect Mountain.

Shelving Rock Mountain & Falls

The trail up Shelving Rock Mountain follows a gentle ascent over an old road; in fact, you can see some impressive engineering from centuries past where the switchbacks were built up. Around 3.4 miles roundtrip, this hike is excellent for families as no portion offers very strenuous climbing. The top offers a decent view of Lake George, although not as impressive as from higher mountains in the area, like Buck.

A visit to this mountain can be combined with a walk to Shelving Rock Falls, off a trailhead starting just down the road from the mountain path, and a path that continues along Lake George if you keep going far enough. The whole Shelving Rock Road area offers a number of trails to explore, but I definitely recommend familiarizing yourself with a map as the many intersections can potentially be confusing and cell reception is unpredictable here. Reference the official ADK/National Geographic topographic map or see this map for the possible routes.

Sleeping Beauty Mountain

Not far from Shelving Rock, Sleeping Beauty Mountain also offers a fairly easy trail with expansive cliffs and a nice view of Lake George at the top. From the main parking area, the trail is around 7 miles round trip; from Dacy Clearing (at the end of a rough road which can be walked or driven), the trail is about 3.4 miles roundtrip to the overlook area. This hike can also be combined with a loop around Bumps Pond.

If you live near, or are planning to visit, this region, don’t hesitate to use a free day for venturing on a mountain hike. Feel free to contact me for more information about trails or to suggest other hikes that you enjoy!

Buck Mountain Panorama

Panoramic shot stitched together from six images taken on the summit of Buck Mountain, overlooking the Tongue Mountain Range in the northern portion of Lake George. Click the photo to see a larger version.

Using Lightroom’s Graduated Filter for Landscape Photography

A problem faced when taking landscape shots is the vast range of light to dark, especially on a bright day. The sky may be incredibly bright, while land, water, and trees may look quite dark in comparison, making choice of the proper exposure difficult. One tool many photographers use to bypass this problem is a graduated filter.

A graduated filter is essentially a piece of plastic that is completely transparent in the bottom, transitioning to dark at the top to filter out some light (see some examples in this post). This can then be attached to a camera for use in the field. You can set it up so the light portion covers the land in the photo, while the dark portion covers the bright sky.

With the advent of readily available post-processing technology, however, this effect can easily be duplicated on a computer. You don’t even have to be a Photoshop pro; Lightroom offers a graduated filter with the ability to adjust exposure, color, and other factors while defining a precise area to cover in a photo. I find this built-in tool incredibly helpful when editing my images after a shoot in the outdoors.

Here is an example of a photo before and after having the graduated filter effect applied in Lightroom. This was taken on top of Buck Mountain in the Adirondacks of New York State, looking toward the Tongue Mountain range in the northern portion of Lake George. In the distance, you can even see the High Peaks covered with snow from a frigid Memorial Day storm.

This first photo is how it appeared straight out of the camera (well, technically RAW converted to a smaller size JPG, but no edits)

This second image is after some editing: sharpening, noise reduction, and color correction, before the graduated filter was applied

This final image is after the graduated filter effect was applied. You can see how the sky looks darker and the hazy area looking toward the distant mountains is a bit more visible.

What tips do you have for using a graduated filter in photography? Feel free to share in the comments below.