My first entry for Bren Ryan's, Photo for the Week fun challenge and my entry for Cee Neuner's, Flower of the Day. Daily flower posts will be challenging for me. I have a full-time job (8-5PM), plus the commute (1 hour each direction), and live in the New Jersey. So I don't expect I'll have the subject matter on a daily basis.

I was clearing out my email when I stopped to read one from the Sourland Conservancy. I learned that a new member of their staff, Carolyn Klaube, had a website detailing her hikes along the Sourland Mountain range trails. Carolyn has been hiking the trails - alone or with assistance from her two young boys - through the seasons, photographing items of interest, and sharing random facts and links to learn more.

Tarzia Drift Open Space Preserve —Canon EOS 5D Mark III +EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 41 mmf/4.0 ISO 100—CC BY-NC-SA

Carolyn wrote about her discovery of a new mini-park, Zion Crossing, along Hollow Road on the border with Skillman and Hillsborough. Carolyn’s blog is called, Sourland Niche and I spent almost an hour reading it before I came upon the post that prompted this blog post.

Tarzia Drift Open Space Preserve —Canon EOS 5D Mark III +EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 24 mmf/16 ISO 2500—CC BY-NC-SA

According to the Montgomery Township website:

This land is located directly adjacent to 300 acres of other Montgomery, Hillsborough and Somerset County-owned open space. These new acquisitions will further expand the Township’s “Rock Brook Greenway” project area. Rock Brook, with headwaters in the Sourlands, is Montgomery’s highest quality stream and trout-stocked waters. By preserving these properties, and others in the Sourlands, the Township is protecting water quality and securing contiguous forest canopy. When woodland is cleared for development, a “hole” in the tree canopy is created. Many susceptible species, particularly birds which migrate through the Sourlands, require a certain area of contiguous forest to successfully forage, breed and nest.

Tarzia Drift Open Space Preserve —Canon EOS 5D Mark III +EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 70 mmf/16 ISO 100—CC BY-NC-SA

I was excited to visit Zion Crossing. The day before reading Carolyn’s post, Bhavna and I had visited my favourite spot along Hollow Road. A small patch of gravel on the northern side of the road allows access to a clearing in the trees and a path leads down to the Rock Brook. I told Bhavna about Carolyn’s post and the new park and we agreed to find it the next weekend.

Tarzia Drift Open Space Preserve —Canon EOS 5D Mark III +EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 42 mmf/22 ISO 100—CC BY-NC-SA

It was easy to find. Carolyn provided a Google Map link to the location. We almost drove past the entrance. There is a very small sign to the unpaved roadway to the parking area.

Getting out of the car we could immediately hear running water. A trail leads down from the parking area to the Rock Brook. We saw a picnic table with an umbrella. I made a mental note to come back with a picnic basket when the weather is cooler.

Tarzia Drift Open Space Preserve —Canon EOS 5D Mark III +EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 42 mmf/22 ISO 50—CC BY-NC-SA

Bhavna walked down to the water the area while I looked around taking in the scene and thinking through what photographs I might capture. I set up high on the bank just above the rocks but struggled with the camera settings. I eventually gave up and walked down to where Bhavana was. We could see a small waterfall pouring into a rocky beach. I set up there.

Tarzia Drift Open Space Preserve —Canon EOS 5D Mark III +EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 24 mmf/22 ISO 50—CC BY-NC-SA

I spent most of my time listening to the water, the wind in the leaves, and taking photos. I head Bhavna exclaim in joy at seeing fish in the water. She sat on a rock and waited for me to finish taking my photos. I watched her relaxing.

Tarzia Drift Open Space Preserve —Canon EOS 5D Mark III +EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 50 mmf/22 ISO 50—CC BY-NC-SA
Tarzia Drift Open Space Preserve —Canon EOS 5D Mark III +EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 24 mmf/22 ISO 50—CC BY-NC-SA
Tarzia Drift Open Space Preserve —Canon EOS 5D Mark III +EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM @ 24 mmf/22 ISO 50—CC BY-NC-SA

Two weekends ago I visited the Stokes State Forest a New Jersey state park in Sandyston, Montague, and Frankford in Sussex County. My friends Chris and Walt were camped out near Sandyston so we organised a photo hike. It was originally five of us but two others dropped out the day before. The report called for heavy rain all weekend but we proceeded anyway.

While we were hiking looking for waterfalls we got caught out in the middle of a heavy downpour with our cameras, tripods and camera bag. We packed up and pushed as quickly as we could to get back to the cars. We were drenched by the time we made it back to the cars.

Stokes State Forest Moss—Stokes State Forest—Nikon D5100 + 11-16 mm f/2.8 @ 16 mm, f/4.5

The forest is amazing. I have never seen so much green. The sweet dampness of the air added to the overall experience. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Green trees everywhere. Oaks, hickories, maples, as well as birch, chestnuts, beech, sycamore, cherry, walnut, ash, elm, and other hardwood tree species. I am allergic to most if not all of those trees but because of the rain, I had nothing to worry about. Moss and lichen grow for about a foot up from the base of almost every tree I saw.

Stokes State Forest Waterfall near Stony Lake—Nikon D5100 + 11-16 mm f/2.8 @ 16 mm, f/22

We were in search of waterfalls so we hiked up through the Tilman Ravine Trail. Once we found the waterfall I couldn't decide where to set up. I think places like these are places I need to visit more than once. There is so much one can do. With the threat of rain and very slippery rocks, I picked a spot and started shooting.

Stokes State Forest Waterfalls at Tillman Ravine—Nikon D5100 + 11-16 mm f/2.8 @ 16 mm, f/10
Stokes State Forest bottom of Buttermilk Falls—Nikon D5100 + 11-16 mm f/2.8 @ 16 mm, f/9.0

After hiking around Tillman Ravine we decided to drive over -- the risk of rain drove our decisions that day -- to Buttermilk Falls. It was a very bumpy ride in the car. The road was full of potholes. I took some shots at the base while my friend's daughter climbed around. The change in light between the base and the top of the waterfall made this a challenging exposure for me. There was a lot of patient re-shooting and Adobe Lightroom work to get this one image.

Stokes State Forest—Nikon D5100 + 11-16 mm f/2.8 @ 16 mm, f/16

Finally, we climbed very steep stairs to the top of Buttermilk Falls. Now I know how out of shape I am. And it didn't help that I was carrying a tripod and a camera bag of gear and water.

I didn't get as many images as I wanted and since I was working with a new lens -- Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX-II for Nikon DX -- my setup and composition for each shot took longer than I expected. Plus hiking to each spot took some time. But I had fun and now I know what it's like to hike through a forest during a torrential downpour carrying tripods and camera bags.