Cloud Iridescence in the Dolomites

Cloud Iridescence is a diffraction phenomenon caused by small water droplets or small ice crystals individually scattering light. The colors are usually pastel pinks, greens, and blues arranged in smudges or orderly bands. The colors can sometimes be very vivid as they were here above Civetta in the Dolomites of northeastern Italy.  

You can learn more about optical phenomena in the sky by clicking Celestial Lights to the right.

You can get to a page that will have links to 5 days of trekking in the Dolomites by clicking HERE. They are amazing mountains, very beautiful with dramatic shapes.

Snowy Owl in Randolph, another visit

I wasn’t planning a second trip to Randolph, VT to photograph the snowy owl, but a friend and great photographer wanted to go, so I joined him. The day was forecast to be sunny, but it was anything but. It snowed lightly most of the day. 

My goal was to get some flight photos. I got lucky. The photo below is not cropped horizontally.

The previous time I visited the owl it was cold but sunny with blue skies. That day the owl barely moved during 3 very cold hours.

This day had mostly white skies with dull light, except for a few minutes late in the day.  I found the owl around 1 PM on a lamppost on the north side of the VTC campus, and when I left it was there again. Fortunately she flew to the ground two times in between.

The contrast between the white sky and the golden light near sunset was dramatic. 


At times the owl can look comical.

Here are some photos of the owl on the ground.


And some more of the owl flying.


While waiting for the owl to do something except sit on a lamppost, which it did 99% of the time, I made a series of photos to show the effect of shutter speed on snow.  Perhaps they will be useful in a future class when I cover using shutter speed creatively. In any case, here they are.


Snow can certainly add to a photo of a northern owl. Here is a Great Gray from earlier this year when a sudden snow squall happened while the sun was out.

My friend’s wife had made a thermos of hot chocolate. That helped keep me warm.  But my hands and feet were cold for a long time after I left the campus.


A Christmas Story from Etna, NH

This is repost of something I posted a bit over a year ago. It includes an audio recording of one of my favorite Christmas stories.

If you blaze through this piece just looking at the pictures and fail to click the link to the audio at the end, you will have missed 95% of the story.

This is the story of three people who lived not far from my Etna, New Hampshire home. Willem Lange, in his earlier days as a contractor, built an addition onto our house. Now in his 80s, he is an writer, storyteller, and TV personality with NH Public TV’s “Windows to the Wild”. A few years ago he moved to the Montpelier, Vermont area.

Will tells a story which is often broadcast around Christmas time of two of his Etna neighbors, Favor Johnson and the “flatlander doctor” who lives on the hill above him, though he does not use their real names. Here is a photo of both their farms on a snowy November 21, 2016. Favor’s house and barn are near the bottom just above the road and trees.  The doctor’s house and barns can be seen in the trees up the hill.


Here is part of the doctor’s farm on November 6, 2016; Favor’s farm is 400 yards beyond the pond.


In the audio I hope you will listen to, the “village” is Etna which consists of a Post Office, Library, and small store. The “brook” is Mink Brook which eventually enters the Connecticut River in Hanover. Will mentions Three Mile Road, a dirt road I hike and bike often. It is so named because it is 3 miles from the Connecticut River.

Favor Johnson had a ramshackle farm where he made maple syrup and raised cattle. He has passed away. Doctor Jennings and his wife still farm the land next door raising sheep and selling wool at the Norwich, VT Farmer’s Market. Here are Favor’s home and sugar house as they looked in late October, 2016. You can see the house and barn uphill from the sugar house in the second photo.



The doctor who bought the land above Favor’s farm also does some sugaring himself. Here is his sugar house in spring when he was inside boiling sap.


Doctor Jennings gathers his sap the old fashioned way. Here are his buckets in Favor’s side yard. You might be able to see my wife in the background walking along the road.


I took the photo below late October of this year standing near the doctor’s sugar house. The arrow points to our house which is barely visible. You can see we live in the woods.


I very much hope you will CLICK HERE and listen to Will telling the story of Favor Johnson. You will be glad you did.

You can buy Will’s illustrated Favor Johnson book HERE. It makes for a wonderful gift for a child. This is a great time to order it. If you click this link you will see the story is set in Vermont, but it happened in Etna, NH.  A disclaimer — Will has no idea that I have written this piece.

Snowy Owl in Randolph

One of my photography students brought a photo of a snowy owl to class Wednesday evening. So I decided I would see the owl for myself Friday afternoon.

I finished photographing an assignment for a magazine shortly after noon and headed toward Randolph. I found the owl with some help from a friendly local. The owl was sitting on a bale of hay wrapped in white plastic. You might be able to spot it in this photo on a lower bale to the left of center.

I slowly approached the owl with my tripod and long lens.

The snowy mostly sat sleeping in the sun. Here is a photo I got after about 20 minutes when it briefly opened its eyes just a bit.

A little later the owl decided to relocate to a different hay bale. I knew it was going to fly because of the preparations it made. But I wasn’t fast enough to catch its flight properly.


Once it settled in on its new perch it went back to sleep. About 25 minutes later it started to stir and I got a photo that appeared to show that the owl might have an injured right foot.

Another 20 minutes or so of sleeping and the owl decided to do some preening.


Here is a sequence of the snowy owl preening.


A half dozen photographers came and went. A couple walked quite close to the owl. The owl seemed to be quite unperturbed by their presences, even fairly close up. Perhaps it has only seen a couple dozen humans in its life.

Eventually the snowy relocated to a much more photogenic perch. It was fortunate that the owl faced into the sun the whole time. Perhaps it was doing this to stay warm, but it also helped photographically. Front light is excellent for photographing birds.


I was disappointed I did not get any decent flight shots. So I pulled one I took over 11 years ago in central VT.

I spent about 2 1/2 hours mostly standing in one place watching the owl sleep. I was alone with it much of the time. By the time I left I was thoroughly cold. The hot chocolate I had when I returned home was an excellent way to warm my body.