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Shooting foliage in Vermont

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  October 1, 2008 12:40 AM

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Our friend Arnold Kaplan, who has written a book about shooting lovely landscapes (he calls them "scenics") in Vermont, has graciously shared some of his inside tips with us. If you're planning to shoot foliage up north this month, you'll find his information helpful.

Globe staff photographer David L. Ryan shot this photo of a barn in Vermont
with fall's colors on display behind it.

By Arnold John Kaplan, APSA-AFIAP

Vermont: A Photographer's Paradise
Vermont is a special place. A photographer's world of perfect compositions. Small picturesque villages with white steeple churches and quaint houses nestled in the valleys. Old farmhouses and red barns on the rolling hills and meadows. A countryside that changes colors and character with the seasons.

The green mountains, hills, and forests of summer change to brilliant hues of orange, red and yellow in the autumn. Next comes winter with deep marshmallowy snow and crisp, clear, cold air.

Everywhere you look, you see photo possibilities and each photo scenic should be visited again and again to catch the various moods, whims, lighting, and designs of nature. All these ingredients add that extra touch for award-winning photographs on your first visit to "Photographers Paradise".

Granted, thousands of photographers come from all over the world to photograph the photo-scenics each year and return home with images that win awards in camera clubs, photographic exhibitions and are exhibited in the International Photo Salons.

Professional photographers come to Vermont year after year, in all seasons, to take saleable photographs for calendars, greeting cards, advertising illustrations, and fine prints.

Vermont is an experience you will never forget. You will return many times in different seasons to improve your photography and try to catch that great prize-winning photo.

If you have never photographed the world famous Jenne Farm in Reading, Vermont at sunrise on an autumn or winter day, then you have not fulfilled your best photographic dreams of shooting that great American photo-scenic.

There are two dozen other perfect compositions ready for you to shoot and take home. Places like Waits River, Placey Farm, East Orange, East Topsham, East Corinth, Tunbridge, Sherbourne Farm, Hillside Acres Farm, Queechee Barns, Gray Farm, Lee Farm, or The Sugar House.

Many people say that that these photo-scenics have been over-done. Yet the same photographers come here year after year and never go home with duplicate photos because each year, each scene and season is different.

Helpful hints for a photo trip to Vermont
Bring all your photo-taking equipment, especially interchange or zoom lenses, polarizing and other filters, front lens accessories, and a sturdy tripod. Plus digital camera storage cards for hundreds of images.

Check your car before leaving home. Have your car checked and serviced and start each day in Vermont with a full tank of gas; auto mechanics and gasoline stations will be miles away when you are on the small back roads. Dress in layers because in autumn, temperatures can go as high as 80 or as low as 20 degrees during the day.

Plan your picture-taking day in advance according to the lighting conditions at each scene. Even if the early morning weather looks bad, you must get up early and be on location at your chosen scenic and hope the weather will change. It usually does. If not, take a few record shots and move on to the next one, for in Vermont, one scenic can be covered with clouds while the next one, a few miles away, is sunny and clear.

Good luck and good shooting.

Jenne Farm in Fall
Jenne Farm in Fall by Arnold John Kaplan

How to locate the famous Jenne Farm and the Sugar House
(From Mr. Kaplan’s book, “How To Find and Photograph The Photo Scenics In Vermont”)

The Jenne Farm is ”Motif No. 1” of all the Vermont photo scenics as it is the most photographed farm in New England. It consists of a red farmhouse with a grouping of red barns with trees around them nestled in a valley. It makes a perfect photo composition when photographed from the correct angles at the top of the hill.

In autumn, peak foliage time can be from Oct. 7 to the 21st, depending on weather conditions during the summer and early autumn. Photographers should plan to be in Vermont around Oct. 12th to the 16th to catch the peak autumn color.

The time of day is very important at this scene. For the most dramatic lighting and best results, the scene should be taken right after the sun rises over the hills to cast its golden light on the landscape. You have to be at the Jenne Farm site, ready to shoot before the sun comes over hills. Check the time for the sunrise. You can get good lighting conditions at the Jenne Farm in the morning until about 10 a.m., as the sun will light up the front of the barns and house. After that time, the front of the buildings will be is shadow.

Directions (both Jenne Farm and the Sugar House are off Route 106 south of Woodstock, Vermont): Set your car’s odometer at 0.0 at Routes 4 & 106 in Woodstock (the Woodstock Inn is at this intersection). Take Route 106 south for 8.1 miles. You will see a small road on the right that leads up a hill, and a small house on the corner. Turn right and drive to the top of the hill and you will be looking down at the famous Jenne Farm. Be sure to park your car well off the road so that regular traffic can get through.

There are several places you can shoot from that will make beautiful compositions. The most popular one is just before the two trees on the left of the road at the top of the hill. Shoot from the extreme left side of the road and take in the trunks and lower branches of these two trees and the road leading down to the cluster of barns and house at the bottom of the hill. Some photographers bring along step ladders and place them at the right side of the road for this shot as it gives you a better angle and more of the farm buildings below.

For another good composition, go down beyond the two trees and take in the large tree on the right side of the road, plus the road and the farm buildings below. Take your shot quickly as you may be blocking the scene from the photographers that are at the top of the hill.

The third spot is out in the field, left of the two trees. You can shoot the farm below with the road or without the road.

Also drive down to the farm itself. There are some good photo opportunities there. Then drive up the road beyond the Jenne Farm and look back for another photo angle.

The Jenne Farm is also a great place to shoot in the wintertime with new-fallen snow.

Directions to the Sugar House: This is an early morning shot, so after you get through shooting at Jenne Farm in the early morning, go back down the road to Route 106. Turn right and go down the road for a half a mile and you will see a small country road leading up a hill on the left. Drive up this road for 3/10th of a mile and you will see the red Sugar House on the left side of the road. Drive past the Sugar House and up the hill for 2/10th of a mile and stop. When you look back down the hill you will see the “S” curved road leading to the Sugar House. This is your shot. Be sure to take in the birch trees on the right hand side of the road.

Arnold John Kaplan has been photographing in Vermont for more than 40 years and is the author of a photo scenic guide-book for Vermont. To buy copies of his book, contact him at

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