New England is synonymous with autumn and it's been on my "to-go" list for a while now. So in October last year I spent some time travelling across the region and photographing its famous fall colours. What I didn't appreciate before was just how much New England has to offer; the sights aren't always obvious but the more you explore the more you are rewarded.
Starting out of Boston, our road trip took us clockwise up through Vermont, east to New Hampshire and then back down the Maine coast into Massachusetts. New England is relatively small by US standards, with plenty of towns dotted about not far from one another. You might not always know exactly where you are here, but you'll never feel truly lost.
Driving through Vermont is like driving through one big, beautiful farm. We took Route 100 north through the Green Mountains - a well-trodden route but there's a reason for that. It is an incredibly scenic drive and plunges you into the heart of what life is like in this rural corner of the US. You can't escape the feeling that time moves more slowly here so while it's useful to have an idea of where you intend to end your day, be flexible as to how you get there.
The rolling landscape is punctuated with tiny communities and it is these features that make Vermont so picturesque. Look out for churches, farms, orchards, homesteads, and agricultural equipment to give context to your images.
The road to Smugglers Notch is a must. Whether you're driving it on the way to a hike or just for the joy of the road, try to time it with the late afternoon sunshine (from around 2-3pm at this time of year) - the light off the leaves is truly golden.
Stowe Pinnacle is a great hike with rewarding views and provides opportunities for light and shadow play on the surrounding hills, as well as offering a full palette of colour beneath you. This was one of the few places I used a telephoto lens to isolate some of the distant houses nestled among the trees.
Get a map of the covered bridges and take the empty backroads to find them. Whether you care for the bridges or not, it's a superb way of forcing yourself off the main roads and enjoying the scenery laid out endlessly in front of you.
Look around and look closely. A fallen leaf on a rock, pine cones, a single red leaf among a sea of orange - the landscape is beautiful but it's comprised of these small details. Grab a prime and shoot wide open to capture these details.
If I had to pick a favourite state based on this trip, New Hampshire would be it. From the White Mountains and its many waterfalls to the hiking trails and railway tracks, there is a lot going on here. No matter what your interests are you will inevitably spend a lot of time on your feet so think about packing light and leaving those heavy lens at home.
Personally I found New Hampshire a bit easier to shoot than Vermont. The scenes are a little more obvious (at least at this time of year) so you won't be short of inspiration. If you were to only pack one lens, make it a wide angle zoom or maybe a 24mm prime if you're feeling bold.
There are lots of waterfalls in and around the White Mountains and Franconia Notch State Park, where we spent most of our time. We're not talking Yosemite levels of grandeur here; they are inevitably smaller but equally beautiful. Plus with there being so many there's a good chance you'll have one all to yourself (for a few moments at least...)
Look out for railway tracks that run through the White Mountains and the impressive bridge trestles that span the rivers. The tracks are usually tree-lined and this make for terrific photography spots (see below) with the leaf coverage creating very soft light.
If you have limited time then prioritise the Kancamagus Highway. The drive itself is lovely but it is also a good gateway for trails to secluded spots. We did a number of 3-4 hour hikes and would often come across just a handful of people, if any.
Being that bit further north, by the time we reached Maine towards the end of October the peak of the fall colour was starting to fade but it was still possible to find signs of the season. Our main purpose for coming out this far east, however, was to visit Acadia National Park - the only national park in New England. Grab the tripod and your filters and double check those sunrise and sunset times; you're going to have some long, amazing days here.
Often overlooked in favour of it's bigger siblings out west, Acadia is a true gem of a national park with an eclectic mix of rugged Atlantic coastline, mountains, forest trails, and meadows. We were only there for a few days but I can safely say it is one of my favourite locations that I have ever photographed.
Get up early for sunrise at Cadillac Mountain. It will be unbelievably busy (and also extremely chilly - someone we saw had actually brought a sleeping bag up with them) but the majority of people depart not long after the sun has peaked above the horizon. Hang around for another hour and the light that is cast on the hills below, which will be teeming with colour, is something special.
If you like your ultra-wide angle shots then head on down to Boulder Beach. As the name suggests, the surface of this beach is made up of thousands of ostrich egg sized rocks. Walking over it can be perilous on the ankles but the whole place is a giant canvas for exaggerated perspectives so get low and get wide.
Much like the covered bridges, it's easy to get obsessed with all the lighthouses on this stretch of coast. There are plenty of them, each having its own character. Bass Harbor Head lighthouse in Acadia is a hotspot for photographers at sunset, as is Portland Head lighthouse (both below).
Keep an eye on the weather reports. Being near the coast means that sunshine is not always guaranteed but don't despair. Fog can sweep in from the ocean and completely change the mood. We had a morning of dense fog in Acadia followed by an afternoon of similar conditions in Portland and while it means you have to get more creative, take advantage of conditions that not everyone will encounter when visiting this part of the world.
It's a push to say that I can give any tips on Massachusetts given 90% of our time here was spent in Boston. So instead here are some tips if you plan to visit Bean Town in autumn.
Walk! Boston is not an especially large city so take the time to walk its different neighbourhoods. I shot exclusively with either my Fuji X100S or a 50mm on my Nikon which made for lightweight packing - just what you want if you're pounding the concrete all day.
But do pack an umbrella. We had almost unbroken sunshine for the entire trip until we reached Boston. But don't fret if it does rain; some of the best photos I took were capturing reflections where the rainfall had made the colours of the leaves really saturated.
If you're a street photographer it's not on the same scale as New York City, but this is not a bad thing. The scenes of Boston have a less familiar feel about them so it won't seem as if every photo you take has already been captured hundreds of time before.