Greetings from Virgin Timber Landing

October 12, 2020

Hello, and welcome to my second blog post! I recently went on my annual canoe trip with my father to a place called Lows Lake up in the Adirondacks. Here's a map of the lake:

You park at the Lower Dam (on the right side of the image), and put your canoe in the water there. It's about one hour to the Upper Dam, where you need to portage your gear to the top of the dam - this also takes about an hour. There are some cool sights during the portage, for example:

Overgrown fireplace that is among the remnants of an old hunting lodge

This overgrown fireplace that is among the remnants of an old hunting lodge.

A wasp's nest that looks like a face, built on the side of a dam

And this wild wasp's nest that was built on the side of the Upper Dam and looks like a face.

The previous two trips we were able to stay at Boones Landing, a great campsite that has a little beach which faces northwest and looks out over the lake, making it an ideal sunset/happy hour spot. Unfortunately, it was taken this year, so we kept moving westward. Eventually, four and a half hours in or so to our paddle, we got to an unoccupied Virgin Timber Landing, way out on the west side, and made camp.

Sunset at Boones Landing, Lows Lake
Sunset at Boones Landing, Lows Lake

Sunsets from Boones Landing, 2019

Sunset at Boones Landing, Lows Lake

Luckily, our campsite also had a nice beach, except that it faced south and was open to the east, so it was more of a sunrise/daytime beach, which was nice as the nights were quite cold (in the twenties, days were high forties/low fifties, if you're interested).

Eastern End of Happy Hour Beach

Eastern end of Happy Hour Beach

In the morning I discovered something awesome - there were a bunch of frogs living in a little paradise created by the log against the shoreline.

macro image of frog

My good friend Drippy Drop the Frog - you can see me reflected in his eye :)

Three frog friends with a cute little hand on the back.

Later that evening, after dinner, I walked around the campsite snapping some random photos of plant life.

Green water grass


Blue water grass


It was then that I discovered something as awesome as the frogs, maybe even cooler. I was back on the beach, using my headlamp to look at all these little bugs on the surface of the water, when BAM - something swooped down, grabbed a bug, and flew away. It happened so quickly I didn't get a chance to see what it was, until I got a picture of one (sort of).

Blurry bat flying offscreen stage left


That's right - they were bats! Two or three I'd say, using the light from my headlamp to scoop up bugs on the lake. And let me tell you, these guys are hard to capture. They're so quick, and it's pitch black out so it's very hard to autofocus on them. I had my headlight on, and when they flew into the light I'd try to snag a picture, but the autofocus often wouldn't find them, or focused on something else in frame, like a tree stump. Eventually, I put it on manual focus and focused on a certain distance from me, hoping to lure them into my focus area and get a clear photo. Here are some photos of BATS - SCOURGE OF THE NIGHT:

Bat on Lows Lake
Bat on Lows Lake
Bat on Lows Lake
Bat on Lows Lake
Bat on Lows Lake
Bat on Lows Lake

Another surprise was waiting for me that evening - a beautiful glimpse of our Milky Way galaxy. I've taken a few pictures of stars and the Moon before, but I've never really tried my hand at astrophotography proper. Let's take a look at some early attempts from this evening.

Green colorcast on milky way image

8.5mm, f/4.5, 4 seconds, 16000 ISO

Tilted image of milk way showing foreground

9mm, f4.5, 8 seconds, ISO 16000

Darker image of milky way

15mm, f/5.3, 20 seconds, ISO 6400

The first one is quite grainy and has a big ol' green color cast across the image. The second image was part of a series where I was trying to get the foreground of the beach in the shot, but nothing really looked good. The sky looked better. In the third, I got closer to the sky and composition I was looking for. You can see I significantly extended the time the shutter was open, and thus was able to lower the ISO, resulting in less grain. Here's the image I settled on:

Unedited final milky way image

15mm, f/5.3, 30 seconds, ISO 2500, unedited

And the image I finished with:

The Milky Way featuring Saturn and Jupiter, respectively, @ 15mm, f5.3, 30 seconds, ISO 2500, edited

This was definitely the image I spent the most time on. I started by raising exposure and a few other small adjustments to see what I was working with (as you can see, the original image was quite dark).

Here's the image before I moved it over to Topaz AI's Denoise tool.

You can see how grainy it is, necessitating a bit of denoising. You can also see the light behind the hill is more yellow/green than the red/yellow I ended up with.

After moving back to Lightroom from Topaz Denoise, I did a bunch of trial and error editing, shifting sliders all over the place, trying to get a look I liked. The settings I ended up with (after re-importing from Topaz, the settings are lost from the original copy - not from the image, but from the sliders in Lightroom) are as follows: Texture +65, Clarity +44, Dehaze +79, Saturation +28. Within the tone curve, Lights +26, Shadows +32. HSL (Hue, Saturation, Luminance) sliders are: Yellow Hue -100 (bringing it closer to orange than green), Yellow Luminance -40 (yellow, get out of my picture!). I also put a bit of purple in the shadows using split toning, +21. I also put a gradual filter on the sky: Exposure -0.17, Whites +69, Texture +23, Clarity +33, Dehaze -6. Gradual filters are used so you can affect certain parts of the image, in this case I did not want these changes to affect the trees and water, so instead of global adjustments I used the filter.

Mars and airplane trail

Mars and airplane @ 14mm, f/5.0, 30 seconds, ISO 2500

The next day we took a trip up to Grassy Pond, which, if you'll refer back to your map at the top of the page, is north of our campsite. Before we left, I, being the responsible adult I am, went to the bathroom, and also took a couple pictures of a really cute school of fish at the beach.

Outdoor campsite bathroom

Going to the bathroom in below freezing weather isn't the most pleasant thing I've ever experienced, but at least it was one of the prettiest bathrooms I've had the pleasure of visiting. Also, wet wipes are a bit of a luxury on a camping trip, but totally worth it.

School of little fish

Little fishies :)

I didn't take many pictures I think are worth sharing on that day's trip, except this one:

Black and white reflection of tree in water

Tree reflection @ 70mm, f/7.1, 1/250 seconds, ISO 100

Tree reflection in water, unedited

For your consideration, the before picture.

I did get some pictures I like later in the evening, while my dad and I were on the beach.

My dad taking a picture of the moon between some trees

Pops Photographing the Moon @ 70mm, f/2.8, 1/250 seconds, ISO 3200

The moon between trees against a purple sky

Moon Between the Trees @ 125mm, f/2.8, 1/320 seconds, ISO 3200

That was the last night of the trip, so I'll leave you with a few images of the wonderful loons that are, while not as hard as a bat, still tough to get a picture of. They don't really come close to shore, and the two times they appeared right by our canoe I had my camera away in my waterproof bag. It's a tough call between risking your gear and getting the good shots. I'll also leave you with the sound of a loon's call, as it is quite something, and not altogether unpleasant to fall asleep and wake up to (the first loon of the video, anyway, the others sound insane).

Thanks for reading!

Loon running across water
Loon in water floating
Loon in water flapping wings