Rediscovering the Photo Scenics in Vermont

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Rediscovering the Photo Scenics in Vermont

Postby Andy » Fri Oct 27, 2006 5:04 pm

Some years ago (the most recent copyright is 2003, but he notes that he photographed Vermont over a 40-year prior period), Arnold Kaplan published a book called “How to Find (and Photograph) The Photo-Scenics in Vermont.” That Book memorialized a number of what have, over time, become “iconic” Vermont Scenics. Those same scenes (or most of them) are also documented at the Seven Hills Camera Club website (

During the last two years, I have tried to find and photograph a number of those scenics. I have spoken to other serious photographers about some of the other sites. The narrative that follows is intended to document what have learned about the continuing viability of those scenics. I will also document my search for and attempt to find similar photo scenics in the state of Vermont. In addition to the continuing usefulness of the Kaplan book I have to give a great amount of credit to other sources, including David Middleton, in his Book, “Photographers Guide to Vermont,” and various regular member-posters to the “Scenes of Vermont” forum on the worldwide web ( ), who have given of their local knowledge to assist me in finding and photographing these scenics.

It is important to remember that a significant amount of change has occurred over the years since Kaplan first published his book. A University of Vermont Study on the web notes that when Vermont was first settled, nearly 80 percent of its land area was cleared of timber for grazing and crop raising. Early Vermont farmers primarily raised sheep, who tended to graze the pasture lands much more closely. In more recent times, although still a very significant part of Vermont’s economy, agriculture has, nonetheless, substantially decreased its reach and it is probably that case that today only 20-30% of formerly cleared land remains cleared. The rest is largely re-forested. This new forestation has significantly changed the views and access to them across the whole state. One only has to look at the background behind the church in Kaplan’s photograph of the Waits River Village, and in my photograph taken in 2005, to see this illustrated in a major way.

At the same time, like many areas in the United States, formerly agricultural lands and open spaces continue to succumb to the pressures of development. I have been amazed--in my travels--at how much former farmland is now occupied by housing, and to a lesser extent, commercial development. This development obviously alters the pastoral quality of Vermont landscape. These phenomena has had a profound effect on much of the “iconic” Vermont scenery which has formerly graced magazines, coffee table books, advertisements and calendars.

In October of 2005 and 2006, I traveled extensively in the Northeast Kingdom, the Northwestern part of the state, the central and South Western parts of the State. Much of my travels involved seeking out the famous photo scenics, and trying to find similar scenics of my own. In the rest of this narrative, I’ll report my findings, and where possible, illustrate them.

It is useful to make a couple of observations about conditions which effected those findings. 2005 and 2006 both produced rather “unusual” foliage conditions for Vermont. In 2005, Vermont experienced an unusually dry late summer and early fall, and very unseasonable fall weather conditions. During the week I was in Vermont (October 1 - 7), the average daily temperature with in the mid 80's. We did not have any cold nights or frosts leading up to, or during that week. In 2006, while the weather was more seasonal, with average daily temperatures ranging between the mid 60's to mid 40's during the week (October 7-14), the state had still experienced unusually dry conditions for late summer. This phenomena, coupled with a leaf mold that has plagued Vermont’s Maple Trees over these two years, produced unusual results. In 2005, they remained on the trees, but didn’t turn color. In 2006, the combination of dryness and high winds combined to produce substantial and early leaf drop in the Maple Trees in many parts of the state. One of the things that distinguishes the northern New England states and Northeastern Canada from other parts of the United States is the brilliant reds produced by the substantially higher proportion of Maple Trees. So, even this year, where there was a lot of “color”, I see in my photos, a lot of bare branches, which kind of give the photos a distinctive "haze" look. To the NE uninitiated, the color still looked pretty good. But to natives and those of us who have seen it at its best -- firsthand -- it was kind of a "lackluster" color season. Hopefully, these are temporary conditions rather than permanent changes.

I don't know how to best organize my comments and findings, given that we do not have the capability of "sticky" topics here. However, I propose to make each location a separate "Topic", so that hopefully others who have knowledge and experience about them can add to them. And perhaps can continue in years to come.

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

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