When is it NOT “take a hike” day?

How did I not know this? Once again, Twitter expands my horizons.

National Hiking Day, indeed. Well, every day is a day to hike. I’ve done my best to prove that true.

Now to find a photo to tweet back at the station that posted this. Post one yourself, if you’re so inclined. Maybe we can give each other ideas for the next destination.

Look down


Among the lessons I’ve learned along the trails: look down.

It’s not just that I need to watch the rocks and roots trying to trip me up. Sometimes, there are amazing surprises waiting for me when I shift my gaze.

I came across a certain waterfall on a hike a long time ago, and I started taking photos from this angle and that angle, determined to get The Ultimate Shot. Suddenly, something caught my eye, and I looked down. There, two feet away from me, I saw a butterfly.

Very still, very colorful, it had arranged itself on an equally colorful flower as if it were waiting for me. It’s the centerpiece of the day’s best photo. It’s actually one of my all-time favorites.

I would have missed it altogether if I hadn’t looked down.

Enjoy the unexpected, wherever you go.


A good view from any angle

Another submission for the bad-picture-good-hike file:


One day a couple of years ago, I was trying to set up my camera on a wobbly support and then take a time-delay photo of myself at an overlook. Somehow, the shutter went off before the camera was properly oriented. You know what? I like this picture just as much as the ones from that day that actually came out the way they were supposed to.

Longtime readers who tilt their heads slightly to one side will recognize this as the vista to the east from the Weeks State Park auto road up Mount Prospect in Lancaster, New Hampshire. I have never had a bad day there, not even the day when BB-size hail pelted me for a few minutes on my way down from a visit to the fire tower at the summit.

The mountain that’s shown askew is Waumbek. The rest of the vista is captured in many other photos I’ve taken through the years: the Presidential and Pliny ranges, Mount Martha with its grace-note Owl’s Head, the Pondicherry area. (Search “Weeks State Park” on this site.)

Nearly every visit I’ve made to Weeks has been when the auto road has been closed. Great! That makes walking easier. There are trails up Prospect Mountain, but I like that auto road, and I especially like the overlooks. I’m not the only one. There are area residents who use the auto road for daily walks, weather permitting. If I didn’t live two hours away, I might join them.

Oh, and this is how an intentional shot came out that day. This is Mts. Waumbek and Starr King, with a little bit of the town of Jefferson. Not even a crooked photo could’ve spoiled that day.



Panorama from Weeks State Park auto road: Presidential Range in the center; Mt. Martha at right. All photos in this post  by Ellen Kolb.

My favorite bad photo

I’m not much of a photographer. When my daughter gave me a digital camera eight years ago and consigned my little plastic 35mm Polaroid to the junk drawer, I soon discovered my favorite aspect of digital cameras: the delete button. No more paying to develop film with 24 exposures but only one picture worth keeping.

Even the bad pictures can bring back good memories, though. This is one of my favorites, taken at Bald Rock on Mount Monadnock about ten years ago.

Bald Rock, Monadnock State Park, NH. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Overexposed, lousy lighting, hard to see the intriguing¬†and unexplained inscription on the rock: I didn’t get much right with this shot, except capture a special spot on what is so far the best day I’ve ever spent on Monadnock.

This was the day I realized that I could go to the mountain and not feel like a failure for skipping the summit. I sat by this rock and ate my lunch in regal solitude. I felt absolutely no need to join the crowd I saw on the peak above me. With a breeze and a view and a PB&J, I had everything I needed.

Trips to Monadnock don’t always work out that way for me. Last time I went, I kept moving up the Pumpelly trail despite a sore knee. The pain finally got so bad I had to turn around, hobbling slowly downhill, not getting to my car until well after sundown. On another day, a beautiful December afternoon, I dawdled on the summit and figured I’d make up some time on the descent. Bad move. I lost my footing, fell down hard, and slid on my back headfirst, certain that I was going to crack my skull on a rock. Instead, my backpack took the hit, which was more luck than I deserved. (Learn from my mistakes, folks.)

I’ve had good days to offset those misadventures. The day at Bald Rock beats them all.



Capturing movement

This is a skill I have yet to master. How can I capture the look of the watercourses I see on my hikes? I experimented with my camera at a brook near my house, and abandoned several shots before I was happy with this one.

Baboosic Brook: 1/10 sec., f/11.2. Fairly close to what I hoped to capture.

Baboosic Brook: 1/10 sec., f/11.2. Fairly close to what I hoped to capture.

I did manage to learn that a fast shutter speed without an adjustment to aperture resulted in a nearly-black photo. Thumbnail only; this one doesn’t deserve a featured spot.