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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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For several years now, I’ve had the notion that I should do a driving tour of the fall foliage changes. Each year I look at the peak foliage maps versus date, make a tentative plan. By the time I next check the foliage schedule, I am long past there being any point.

As such, I’ve spent several years building up in my mind a magical journey through northern New England in which I see magical walls of colors and experience life-changing insight and perspective.

Of course, what’s a magical journey without mundanity and things not going as planned? I started the day finishing cleanup work around the condo, a continuation of most of yesterday’s work. This took longer than I expected, and I realized the whole place needed a vacuuming afterwards as well. Several runs to the dumster (and getting bitched at for throwing out too much — “I should be using the dump!”), filled the car with a load, and headed to storage to unload the car of stuff. Realized my storage locker is now more or less full. From storage, grabbed lenses, batteries, CF cards, and monopod, but forgot walking stick/tripod. Forgot ball head too, which would later make aforementioned monopod significantly less useful.

Got in car and drove off. Windbreaker turned into sail and blew out of rear window. Pulled over, retrieved windbreaker, started over.

I decided to take route 7 north because, well, it’s about the only “main” north route through this part of Connecticut. And, because it gets pretty. Eventually.

First, I had to make it through an hour and a half of congestion and construction.

I’d get pockets of speed, but would just run into more congestion, more construction.

Noon already. Definitely way behind schedule, I’m thinking. I wanted to look around and find the perfect spot so I could hang out there when the sun set. According to weather.com’s fall foliage map, peak color should be in northern Connecticut and southern Mass right now.

So, I drove. The leaves at this point were generally not changing too much, though there were occasional pockets of color. I figured based on weather.com’s map that I should be able to hit the awesome color of my magical fall foliage fantasy right about in Kent. This would work ideally, since I happened to know a half dozen great places to take photos in Kent.

In Kent, the color wasn’t that good. I pulled into the Kent Falls state park because it’s usually a good opportunity for photos, and it was packed with people. Unfortunately, the trees were … just green. In fact, the trees were in general getting more green the further I went north.

At this point I was nonplussed. This isn’t the magical journey of my dreams, it’s just a nice drive. And it was a nice drive. I’d already been on several technical stretches of road, and had been enjoying the time alone. Ultimately, by day’s end I drove nearly 400 miles today more or less in silence.

While I still had several places to hit in Kent, I realized the foliage wasn’t here, so decided to burn into Massachusetts. The sky was getting pretty dark and I started to get worried I’d lost my opportunity, but then I realized it was only about 14:30, and it was just cloudy. I sort of lost track of time and of my thoughts and just sunk into the drive. It was calming.

Massachusetts wasn’t any better. Got greener through most of it going north. Decided to burn for Vermont.

Vermont was alright, but not what I was hoping for either. It took me a long while (and a lot of miles north) to figure it out — the deciduous trees were all gray and the hills were full of green conifers. I felt like an idiot when I realized it. I backtracked, and then headed west to Albany. Thinking about it, I probably should have cut west into the Adirondacks, and then took a southeast journey back, but whatever.

Around Chatham things started getting somewhat pretty in New York; sadly, by the time I got there (18:00 or so), it was getting too dark to really photograph anything. It still wasn’t the rich vibrant hues I had built up in my mind, but was probably the best I saw all day. Shame I didn’t come up via 22 instead of 7. A lot of really great roads on the way back, but I was behind people for most of them. I think I passed more people today (on two-lane roads) than I had in the entire rest of my life combined. Still, it was hard to spend much time at speeds where any sort of driving skill was necessary; after dark this was the only real thing to do, so the return trip got sort of boring being stuck in no passing zones behind campers and trailers.

The sky was pretty amazing at times. I realized rather quickly that I need a polarizer for my widest lens (17-40/4L). While pretty sharp for a wide zoom, this lens has the downside that it’s already somewhat slow, and that it accepts only 77mm filters, which are serious money in polarizer land. Unless I’m shooting on a crop body, it also needs to be a sharp cut filter, which is rough for interaction and won’t accept a lens cap. While this lens is a nice walkabout on a crop body, I’d like to supplement it with the brand new 14mm/2.8L II when I actually want to do wide work. And, of course, this begs a full-frame body as well. At some point I want to borrow or rent one of the second generation 16-35 lenses as well. Back when I got my 17-40, the 16-35 was vastly inferior when wide open, and seemed only to offer the f-stop advantage as a selling point, which was a shame.

I have the same problem with my 70-200/4L, whose optics are quite good, but the f/4 and lack of stabilization kills me for hand held shots in all but bright light or grainy ISO settings.

Oh, and I realized I have dust on my sensor again. I’m anxiously awaiting the 5D’s replacement, realizing how nice it would be to have a full-frame body with a integrated sensor clean that doesn’t cost $5000. Still, I’d also have to win the lottery to make it anything I could consider in the near future. So many lenses and gadgets, so little time.

Anyhow, stopped to pick up the cats on the way home and nabbed some chowder. Since my last meal was a kid’s meal at McDonald’s half a day earlier, this was quite tasty. Grabbed Loki and Wiki and brought them back to the condo. Both cats are sort of confused and don’t seem to know what to do, now that there is no furniture and no place in the entire condo to hide.

Tuesday both go to the vet for their checkups and shots. Wiki is sounding a lot more congested lately; I’m wondering if she’s starting to build up a tolerance to her new drugs. :(

Came home to the aftermath of the open house. Namely, the emergency heat was on but the upstairs windows were still open and the bathroom vent was on, so the system was burning the internal core at full power nonstop to try to heat the house when the cold air from the top floor was just pouring down to cool it all over again. Oh, and the upstairs vent was sucking the warmest air out. Oh well. The note left said that about a dozen of my neighbors visited, and four other people, which is about what I expected.

Tomorrow the handyman is coming by to take the first look at what needs to be done to fix the ceiling (and, ultimately, the plumbing). I’m not looking forward to finding out how much this costs.

Anyhow, I get sidetracked. The point of this recap is not that magical journeys that you build up in your mind never work out quite as expected. You already know that. The point is that there is no such thing as that perfect fall foliage moment. I’m convinced it’s all done with filters and does not exist in the northeast.