Stones, Sourland Mountain Preserve
Tuesday Photo Challenge – Stones (Dutch goes the Photo!)

Welcome to Week 75 of the Tuesday Photo Challenge.
Many of you joined the dark side of the challenge last week with great entries that had creativity to spare! For the 75th installment of the Tuesday photo challenge, I noticed that it’s getting harder to come up with fresh, new themes. But fear...

What is a stone?

It’s a unit of measure. The stone or stone weight is an English and imperial unit of mass now equal to 14 pounds (6.35029318 kg). My bodyweight (Earth) is approximately 11.4 stone.

Stone also refers to a solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids. Rocks are stones.

It may also refer — in the plural — to the assemblage of English musicians into a rock and roll band or the collection of pages and images into weekly periodically about music and popular culture. Was that a pun?

Stone silence on that question. Wait, that was a pun?

My town of Skillman in Montgomery Township lays at the base of the Sourland Mountain, a 27km long ridge extending from the Delaware River in Lambertville to the western end of Hillsborough Township, through Montgomery Township, and into Hopewell Township.

The Sourland Mountain and the area around it are full of hard igneous rock called diabase. The diabase is a highly erosion-resistant stone known as trap rock.

In the sixteen years that I have lived in Skillman, I have photographed many various sections of the Sourland Mountain, including my favourite spot, the Rock Brook. But there are other areas that I wanted to explore for this photo challenge.

Stones, Sourland Mountain Preserve

NIKON D5100 24mm f/4 ISO-5600 1/250sec Khürt L. Williams

On private property along Rileyville Road in East Amwell Township, Hunterdon County, a series of three large rocks sit on top of another boulder large enough to hold them. Legend claims that many years ago three brothers decided to meet the Devil, overcome him and rid the area of his presence once and for all. But, as it turned out, they were no match for the Evil One who surprised them, turning them into stone on the spot where we still see them sitting today at Three Brothers Rock.

The European’s who settled the area shared a penchant for naming areas after the Devil himself, for example, the boulder fields called Devil’s Featherbed and a collection of huge boulders along the hiking trails in the Sourland Mountain Preserve called Devil’s Half Acre.

Bhavna’s was tired of attending the Bruno Mars concert last night. I was hoping she’ll join me in hiking the eight-kilometre (~ 5 miles) Ridge Trail from the trailhead at Eastern Mountain Road in Hillsborough Township, along Maple Flats and up the boardwalks into Montgomery Township toward Roaring Rocks, then continue along the Roaring Brook trail over the Texas Eastern Pipeline toward Devil’s Half Acre before heading back down to the trailhead.

Instead, I contacted my friend Prasanna, who was happy to get out on a hike with me. We hike hikes for just over two hours. We didn't stick to the planned route. We skipped the outbound trail to Devil's Half-Acre and instead returned to the trailhead via the pipeline. It was just a bit too warm and humid for us. We were sweaty and sticky.

Stones, Sourland Mountain Preserve

NIKON D5100 24mm f/4 ISO-4000 1/250sec Khürt L. Williams

Created by photographer Frank Jansen, the Tuesday Photo Challenge is a weekly theme-based challenge for photographers of all kinds to share both new and old photography.

The Changing Seasons by Cardinal Guzman (The Daily Post)

Capture the changing world around you as you hone your photography skills.

April brought more rain but also more opportunity to be outside.

I have picked up my exercise. Though I will admit not as much as I should be doing and I know I need to do much more. The issue is trying to deal with the stress in my professional world, relaxing enough by the time I get home, and then going out for a nice walk o hike sometime after dinner just to let my body relax a bit and get the exercise it needs. However, I also know that the winter months bring cold, wet, and gloomy skies and I will not be motivated for any outdoor activities.

With that in mind, my wife and I agreed to buy an exercise bike. We did some online research, looked at Consumer Reports reviews, visited a store to try out different bikes, and ultimately purchased a Schwinn IC2 Bike from Amazon. I set myself the goal of working out for about fifteen minutes every evening. My goal is to work my way up to thirty minutes, then sixty minutes, and for a stretch goal, bike ride from my home to the local brewery. I am motivated.

Hiking Devil’s Half-Acre Boulders

rocks, sourland mountain, boulder
Ridge Trail

We had some excellent weekend weather for the Easter weekend. On Good Friday, my wife Bhavna and I went for a hike in the Sourland Mountain Range. We drove over to the Sourland Mountain Preserve, located between Hillsborough Township and Montgomery Township in Somerset County. The large parking area near the pond was nearly full. I think local residents wanted to enjoy the incredible spring weather we have had this week. Clear, sunny skies with temperatures in the teens (ºC).

Located in Somerset and Hunterdon Counties, the Sourland Mountain Range is aptly named. The underlying geology, igneous rock from the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic age, was not able to support the farming and living needs of the early Dutch and German settlers to the area. One Wikipedia suggests that the name may be derived from the word 'sorrel' which German explorers used to describe the reddish-brown soils in the area or "sauer landt" because the region was not suitable for farming by 17th-century Dutch settlers.

people, rocks, sourland mountain
We chatted with other hikers along the Ridge Trail
rocks, sourland mountain, boulder, woman
My wife Bhavna.
rocks, sourland mountain, boulder
Ridge Trail

We have hiked other trails in the Sourland Mountain Preserve but we wanted to try something new. I suggested that we hike the Ridge Trail to Devil's Half-Acre Boulders, the most popular bouldering area in the Sourland Mountain Preserve. Devil's Half-Acre Boulders is a fairly open section of the mountain with a cluster of boulders among the trees. There is also a handful of isolated boulders nearby the main cluster which I could not resist climbing.

It took us about 30 minutes get to the boulders of Devil's Half Acre, with the trail winding steeply through interestingly shaped rock formations with trees growing through cracks and crevices. The park is 12.24 km2 (3,025 acres) but we used one of the connecting trails to shorten the trip back from Devil's Half-Acre Boulders. We hiked about half of the 8.0 km (5-mile) Ridge Trail. According to my iPhone, we hiked about 2.6 km and climbed the equivalent of 21 floors. My calves ached from the exercise.

flower, sourland mountain, rue anemone
rue anemone (thalictrum thalictroides) is a herbaceous perennial native to woodland in eastern North America.

The Sourland Mountain Preserve is “home to several rare and threatened plants and animals, including: trout lilies, wood anemones, ginseng, spotted salamander, pileated woodpecker, bobcat, wood turtle, barred owl, bobolink, Cooper's hawk, grasshopper sparrow, Savannah sparrow, upland sandpiper, and the scarlet tanager.”

Along the sides of the trail, I saw a number of wildflowers including Spring Beauty, Rue Anemone (thalictrum thalictroides), and Bloodroot (sanguinaria canadensis).

flower, sourland mountain, Bloodroot
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bhavna was annoyed each time I stopped to focus my camera and take photos. The slight breeze made handheld focusing challenges. I had the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR lens with attached macro extension tubes but even using my miniature Manfrotto PIXI mini tripod required patience and persistence. The smallest movement in the subject (or my hands) was exaggerated and the photos would be blurry. Bhavna felt my photography was slowing us down but in actuality, it gave my body a chance to rest. At one point, my blood glucose fell below 70 and I had to swallow twenty carbohydrate grams of glucose gel. Stopping to take some photos helped my body recover.

We took the shortcut across a boardwalk back to the trailhead and discussed our plans for the next day. We decided that we would return and complete another Sourland Mountain Preserve trail. Bhavna had never visited the Roaring Brook but a few years ago, I hiked that trail with my friend Prasanna.

I enjoyed the walk and it made me realize I truly do want to get back into nature more. It is a way just to be out and moving enjoying the warmer weather but it is nice to get out into nature while getting some exercise with a purpose.

bhavna, board walk, sourland mountain
Bhavna walking the boardwalk shortcut back to the trail head.

Hiking to Roaring Brook

On the Saturday after Good Friday, Bhavna and I decided to hike the other half of the trail to Roaring Rocks Boulders.

The day started cooler and cloudier than Friday. The parking lot at the trailhead was almost full to capacity.

grass, cards, sky, clouds
It was an overcast day but the parking area at the Sourland Mountain Preserve was nearly full.

Some parts of the trail were muddy but mostly it was dry. On the way back, I strained a muscle in my left foot. I assumed the pain was just from pushing my ankle muscles too hard. Nevertheless, the next morning I awoke with pain in the middle of my foot. We iced it for twenty minutes on and off for the whole day. Monday morning there was a little improvement but Bhavna and I agreed it was time to see a doctor. In any case, our hike to Roaring Rocks Boulders was shortened and we took a connecting trail back to the parking lot.

water, pond, trees, clouds
I wished I had brought my tripod and neutral density filter for some long exposure photography of the pond and the sky.

I will let the photos tell the story.

boardwalk, sourland mountain, trees, woods, woman
Some of the trail had boardwalks which made walking much easier.
woods, trees, underbrush
Some of the woodland plants had tiny new leaves. But mostly the trees were bare and the ground was covered with dead leaves. Need we be concerned with fire?
trail, water, sourland mountain, trees, woods, woman
Other parts of the trail wound through the woods.
rocks, water, sourland mountain, trees, woods, woman
Bhavna and I cross some rocks areas where a stream had formed from run-off from the mountain.
rocks, sourland mountain, boulder, woman
My wife Bhavna.
people, rocks, sourland mountain
We chatted with other hikers along the Ridge Trail

When we arrived at a clearing where the Roaring Brook was visible through the trees, we stopped to take some photos. I practiced the Brenziner effect. I chose that photo as the featured image for this post.

shaan, boys, tuxedo
My son and his friends.

Bhavna was quite patient while I found a spot in the middle of the brook from which to shoot. The rocks were slippery and I was at risk of going ankle deep into the water.

Holi Hai

In the latter part of April, we were invited to celebrate the Hindu spring of Holi hosted by an organization at the Bharat Sevashram Sangha in South Brunswick. Around India, Holi is a lunar calendar harvest festival celebrated in March by Hindu’s of all sects. This year’s Holi was March 1 in India. Spring arrives one month later in the North Eastern USA. In March the weather is too cold and dreary for an outdoor festival that signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, the end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet friends and family, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair relationships. My wife’s birthday was the same week and this Holi festival celebration makes her birthday special each year. The first year we attended, the celebration fell right on her birthday.

The Boy is a Man

It feels like it was just months ago when I held him in my arms. He was so small, pale, and helpless. I worried that I would not know what to do as a father, but that morning a piece of my heart (and Bhavna’s) broke off and became this person.

Shaan, Yejin, Luke, Raymond, Josh

That helpless baby grew into a handsome, warm, caring, capable, man who loves his mother and dotes on his sister. My “baby boy” is eighteen next month. He is graduating from the Montgomery Township high school in June and will be attending the Honors College at Rutgers University where he will be studying biology.

shaan, boy, son, tuxedo, blue
Shaan Joshua Aaron Williams
shaan, boys, tuxedo
My son and his friends.

The Changing Seasons Monthly Photo Challenge is a blogging challenge by photographer Max a.k.a Cardinal Guzman. Each month I will post a photo that I think represents the month. It's also a chance to write a narrative of my adventures.

flower, sourland mountain, rue anemone
Macro Moments Challenge #36 by Susan Gutterman (Musin' With Susan)

Congratulations to Khürt, a relatively new participant, for submitting the winning entry to Challenge #35. Khürt’s beautiful photo is called Rue Anemone and he includes lots of information about his settings and taking the shot in his post.

The word bokeh is a Japanese loanword to the English language. The word refers to the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photographic image. Note that bokeh is not the same as blur. Bokeh is the quality of the blur. Visible bokeh is often achieved by shooting at very wide apertures to blur the background.

One of the characteristics of macro photography is that subjects are shot at close distances. While this close camera-to-subject proximity can lead to visually interesting images captured from a unique perspective, macro photography presents unique technical challenges. One of these challenges for macro photographers is achieving sharp focus for all of the subject’s important elements. This is dependent on depth-of-field (DOF).

In macro photography, DOF depends primarily on just two factors: aperture value and magnification. At any given aperture value, the higher the magnification ratio, the smaller the DOF. This is why DOF is so shallow in macro; the magnifications are larger than in any other type of photography.

If the aperture of the lens is too wide, the DOF will be too shallow and many areas of the subject will be out of focus. To increase the depth of field and bring more areas of the subject into focus, the photographer must decrease the aperture of the lens. Aperture is controlled by the f-stop setting on the camera or lens.

You can see an example below where an aperture of f/16 produced a DOF too shallow to bring the entire flower into sharp focus.

flower, sourland mountain, Bloodroot
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
[exif id="26590"]

It was a challenge to execute the bi-monthly Macro Moments challenge. I do not have a dedicated macro lens. I shoot with Kenko extension tubes attached to my AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. It is not an ideal setup but it was the least expensive way for me to try macro photography.

To shoot macro with this lens and extension tubes while getting a depth-of-field that produces enough depth of field, I have to shoot at around 48mm with the extension tubes, at an f-stop between 22 and 32. The extension tubes are the only way I can control magnification ratio. I had to experiment with the various combination of tubes, which meant taking many test shots, removing one of the tubes, re-attaching the lens, etc.

The result is the photo of the Rue anemone in the featured image for this post, which also doubles as my submission for this challenge. The bokeh is noticeable but not as prominent as it would have been shooting wide open.

Macro Moments was created by avid macro photographer, Susan Gutterman, to share the beauty of macro photography and learn from others photographers. A new challenge begins on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month. The winner’s photo may be featured on her blog and used as the banner in the announcement for the next challenge.