Weekend in New Hampshire

This itinerary is based on a trip to (1) photograph fall foliage, (2) eat well, and (3) relax, but it can work any time! It is a busy itinerary, so you can take it for what it is, or for some ideas for your own itinerary. You might decide this is a good week-long trip instead of a weekend.  Depending on where you live and how flexible your schedule is, there’s as much luck involved as there is planning to catch the leaves in their prime.

Starting point: Boston on a Friday morning (you can also start this trip in Portsmouth, NH instead of Boston – this gives you another hour or so to photograph on the first day of the trip).  Take Route 1 north and head to breakfast in Salem, MA at Red’s Sandwich Shop (insert website). If you’re lucky, you’ll find the lobster omelet on the menu. It’s decadent, and you’ve got to do it at least once in your life.  From there, make your way via Route 114 to I-95 and head north. You’ll be on 95 until you reach the Spaulding Turnpike / Route 16 in New Hampshire – and you’ll head north/northwest on that as well to Conway, NH.  You’ll soon enter the White Mountain National Forest.

Your next turn is a left on the Kancamangus Highway a.k.a. Route 112. There will be numerous photo opportunities on your right as you follow the Swift River. There are places where you can safely pull off the highway and make your way to the river’s edge for photos.  Three must do locations are: Albany Covered Bridge, Rocky Gorge Park (don’t think about swimming) and the Lower Falls Scenic Area . There’s also a scenic view near the summit that provides a broad vista.  Once your cross the summit, there aren’t as many opportunities, as the views tend to shift to the south side of the road, which would have you shooting into the sun.

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As you head into Lincoln, it might be time for lunch. While there are probably other great places to eat, we’ve had some great meals at Gordi’s.  If you’re into trains as well as leaves, the Hobo Railroad is in Lincoln.

Your next run is going to be a right: I-93 north.  Consider the following:  Clark’s Trading Post, which has a bear show and the White Mountain Central Railroad, The Flume Gorge (easy hike and well worth it), and the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway if the weather is cooperating.

Take I-93 North to Littleton, NH.  The Frog has been staying at Thayer’s Inn in Littleton for over 20 years.  Thayer’s has been there since before the Civil War.  There’s probably not a square corner or a level floor in the place.  It’s neat, it’s quirky, it’s got stories, history, and some say, ghosts.  Baliwick’s Fine Restaurant features great food and an extensive Martini Menu! Dinner and a beverage followed by a short walk to your room are a great way to end the day.

Saturday morning can be spent wandering through Littleton. One can head to Chutters (world’s longest candy counter) or Fresh Salon and Day Spa for a massage – but start your morning at the Littleton Diner – their corned beef hash is without peer.  Last we heard, the Littleton Grist Mill store had closed (lost their lease) but they still have their website.  Littleton is a great, friendly small town, and a reminder that there is life outside the city.

Once you’ve decided that it’s time to move on, it’s time to head north and east to Lancaster via Route 116 and Route 3 where you can stop in at Fuller’s Sugar House where you can sample maple sugar in the same manner as some do wine! Hint: don’t look down your nose at Grade B maple syrup. Our first perception was it couldn’t be as good as Grade A if for no other reason than it was called “Grade B.” Well, we were wrong, and we left with a half-gallon of Grade B to prove it. It’s thicker, darker, and more dense, and preferred by many for cooking and baking purposes. And, a spoonful once in a while will cure any sweet tooth!

From Lancaster, it time to head southeast to Gorham via Route 2. Along the way, there will be several photo opportunities to capture the Presidential Range. You might even see Mount Washington in snow in early October!

The destination in Gorham is Libby’s Bistro (check days and hours first!) – a fantastic restaurant that you might expect to find in a trendy neighborhood in any major metropolitan area – but not necessarily in Gorham, NH.  Go, enjoy, and indulge. You’ll probably want to stay in Gorham, as driving will not be high on your list of things to do after your dinner.  We don’t have any specific recommendations for where to stay in Gorham, but after our first visit to Libby’s we learned that we didn’t want to have to drive back to Littleton after dinner!  There’s also a railroad display and museum at the old Grand Trunk depot in Gorham.

Next morning, you might want to eat breakfast in Gorham, especially if it is a nice day, as you can spend a lot of time photographing your way south along Route 16 as you head south to Conway to finish your circle trip.

Along the way, you’ll pass the Mount Washington Auto Road on your right – a drive of your life if you’re up to it. If you don’t want to drive, you can be driven up in a van. Either way – a trip to the top of Mount Washington is well worth it!  It’s the highest peak in the northeast, it’s got some of the worst weather in the world, and chances are, the weather will be different up top!

On your left will be the Glen Ellis Falls on the Ellis River in Pinkham Notch.  Well worth the stop and short and sometimes steep hike to the bottom of the falls. If you don’t want to head down to the base of the falls, there are photo opportunities along the river and at the top of the falls. If you do head down, be prepared for both you and your gear to get wet from the spray.

Continuing south, you’ll come to Glen, NH. Make a quick right and head to Glen Junction Family Restaurant for lunch. If they’re still serving breakfast, the pumpkin pancakes with maple cream are well worth the calories, whatever they may be.

From there, check the clock and figure out where you have to be and when.  You’ll continue south on Route 16 to Conway to complete the circle, and head back to your reality.  If you have time, the Conway Scenic Railroad in North Conway is worth the stop if time permits.

And that’s an example of a weekend in New Hampshire.  We’ve done it.  It’s busy, and it’s fun.  If you have never explored New Hampshire and the North Country, you could spend a week there.  But… that’s a separate post.

And, if you can’t make it – you can check out the image galleries and get a picture, a mug, a phone case, or an aluminum print from Laughing Frog Images and tell everyone what a great time you had in New Hampshire (but we’d appreciate you fessing up and referring your friends to the Frog!).

Feather River Express video clips

The Frog shot some short video clips of the Feather River Express and Keddie Flyer / Keddie Dinner Train.

They were taken without a tripod (I know better, but I couldn’t keep it with me on the train, so that explains it for two of the three clips).

What these clips do give you is a brief glimpse of what some passenger trains that ran in the west looked like in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

You’ll see vintage railcars from the original California Zephyr and Santa Fe’s famous Super Chief as they are switched and spotted at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum and at the station in Portola.

You’ll see and hear Western Pacific GP-7 #707 as she switches the cars.  The 707 was build by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in 1952.  (Yes, GM was everywhere…)  She’s got 1500 horsepower put out by a V-16 diesel engine, and weighs about 126 tons.  In other words, she won’t win a drag race, but she can pull the freight.

Check out the videos on the Laughing Frog Images YouTube page and take a trip back in time.

Here’s the rest of the Feather River Express that you won’t see in the video:

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(For the technically curious, the videos were taken with a Lumia Icon smartphone.)



The Feather River Express

Last weekend, The Frog rode the Feather River Express IV, a private train chartered by Trains and Travel International and operated by Amtrak over the Union Pacific Railroad.  The train ran from Emeryville, CA to Sacramento over the rails of the former Southern Pacific Railroad, and from Sacramento to Portola, CA over the rails of the former Western Pacific Railroad.  The timing of the trip coincided with Railroad Days in Portola, complete with a parade!

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The Western Pacific Railroad (“WP”) operated the famed California Zephyr (“CZ”, “Silver Lady”) in conjunction with the Denver and Rio Grande Western (“Rio Grande”) and Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (“CB&Q”, Burlington, or, simply, the “Q”).  The train ran between Chicago, IL and Oakland, CA.  The Q took the train from Chicago to Denver, CO.  The Rio Grande took her west to Salt Lake City, UT.  The WP carried her from Salt Lake to Oakland.   The Silver Lady was the first train with regularly scheduled Vista Dome service.  You can read more about the past and present CZ operated by Amtrak here.

Our train was made up of private vintage railroad cards from several owners.  The Frog elected to do the trip “old school”.  When the CZ was new back in 1949, most cameras had exactly one lens, used film, and most folks photographed in black and white simply because it was cheaper than shooting in color.  So, out came the D-90 and the 35mm lens.  And that’s how the trip was documented – one camera and one lens.  No all-in-one zoom, no mega-zoom, no wide-angle.  Strictly old school.

As the trip ended last Sunday, the images have just been uploaded to the hard drive and the real work is beginning – selection, straightening, conversion and preparation for uploading to the galleries.  Look for three new galleries to be added – Eastbound, Westbound, and the Western Pacific Railroad Museum, which is located in Portola, CA.

Stay tuned for the new posts and galleries, and don’t forget to subscribe to new posts by clicking the link below so you don’t miss a thing!

Thanks for visiting, and remember, Christmas is just four months and 8 days away.  Don’t forget Laughing Frog Images when you’re looking for that unique gift for someone (or yourself!)





Third-Party Camera Lenses: Yes or No?

Some folks swear that the only way to get good pictures is to only purchase lenses from the maker of your camera body.  The Frog begs to differ.  There are some great third-party camera lenses out there!

Some third-party camera lenses are as good as the lenses from the camera manufacturer’s, some are better, and quite honestly, some are just plain bad.  Keep in mind that the lens can be the weak point in your system, so do your research and get the best lens you can!

First, whether your camera body is made by Nikon, Canon, Sigma, Pentax, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, or whomever, they’ve all got good lenses.  Similarly, so do lens makers like Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and others.  Do your research!

Here’s a suggested approach to buying any lens:  First, identify what you want.  Then, check out the manufacturer’s websites (links above), check out Ken Rockwell’s site and Digital Photography Review.  Check out buyer reviews on retailer sites such as B&H and Adorama.

Look at the results, and study the QFLs.  Look at price.  You might find it helpful to keep notes or make a table to track your findings.

In the case of All-in-One lenses, recognize that none of them are perfect, no matter who makes them!  They’re great as long as you know their quirks, flaws and limitations (“QFLs”) – and your work within them.  You might find that the third-party lens that costs half as much as the manufacturer’s lens has some QFLs that are different than the QFLs that the manufacturer’s lens has.  And, for half the price, you can live with that!  (In one instance, The Frog did that and ended up with two third-party camera lenses for the price of one manufacturer’s lens.) That said, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is…

Keep an eye out for specials, rebates, and package deals, especially before major holidays.  You can save $$ if the timing works for you.

And… you probably know what’s coming… don’t forget to check things out at your local camera store!

You know that the Frog is shooting with Nikon DSLR bodies.  So, whose lenses does he use?  Nikon,  and third-party camera lenses from Sigma, and Tamron.


It’s the lens, silly!

As you may be pondering what to do if you’re looking to buy your first DSLR, or if you’re thinking about upgrading your current DSLR, here’s something to remember:


Think about it…

Your image must pass through your lens to get to the image sensor in the camera in order to create your image file that you use to print your picture.

If the lens isn’t up to the task… well…

So, as you’re contemplating what to do, focus (pun was not planned, but it works, so we’ll keep it) your attention on the lens, and if you’re wondering where your money should go, it’s the Frog’s humble opinion that the answer is the lens.  Get the best lens you can afford.  Don’t forget to consider refurbished and used lenses to stretch your dollars.

If you do your research on DSLR bodies, you’ll find that some of the “amateur” or “prosumer” bodies have the same image sensors as the “pro” bodies, or maybe they have the “old” sensor that was the “new” sensor six months or a year ago.  The most significant difference in many cases is that the amateur or prosumer bodies don’t have all of the controls, options, bells and whistles that the pro bodies do – and they’re a lot cheaper.  As was discussed in the Buying a DSLR post, think about what you photograph and what you absolutely need in a body first, then think about what you want.

And now, we’re suggesting that you think about the lens just as much, if not more.  Check out the post on Camera Equipment for Basic Travel Photography, and also the post on All-in-One versus Prime Lenses for more food for thought.

Don’t forget to visit your local camera store as part of the process!  We need small businesses to survive and thrive.



Is VR – IS – OS a must for your lens?

There are a lot of different names out there for lens stabilization features.  VR, or Vibration Reduction.  IS, or Image Stabilization.  OS, or Optical Stabilization.  These are just a few of them.

They all do the same thing.  They help the human condition that is lens shake.  They are fancy devices that can help you take a picture when you don’t have enough light by allowing you to use a lower shutter speed.  You can read more about the technical aspects here – we’re not going to even try to explain the science and physics behind it…

These features can be your best friend in some situations.

They also add $$ to the price of some lenses (new or used).  With some of the newer lenses on the market, you don’t get a choice.  There’s some great used glass out there without VR – IS – OS that can save you a lot of money as you work on filling up your camera bag.

But, do you need them?

After all, most of us lived without these features until very recently and still managed to get some great pictures throughout our lives.

The answer is maybe…

  • Let’s say you’re photographing a soccer game late in the day, and it’s getting dark.  VR – IS – OS will allow you to take a picture at a slower shutter speed – but that’s not going to do you a lot of good, because you’re photographing fast action, and it’s all going to be blurred.  In this case, you’re better off cranking up the ISO as much as possible within the performance limits of your camera.
  • Let’s say you’re in a museum that doesn’t allow flash photography or tripods.  Here, VR – IS – OS will definitely help you!
  • You’re at home, and your pet is sleeping in one of those contorted and twisted positions that defy your imagination and logic, and you know the flash will wake them up.  VR – IS – OS is your friend in this case.
  • Let’s say you’re photographing a scenic valley and you’re using your friends Mr. Tripod and Ms. Cable Release.  Turn your VR – IS – OS off!  In some cases, it will try to work on the tripod and cause vibration.
  • You’re shooting detail in the rocks in a canyon with your telephoto lens and you don’t have a tripod.  VR – IS – OS is your friend here.
  • You’re on vacation and your tripod didn’t fit in your suitcase.  More likely than not, somewhere, sometime during your trip, VR – IS – OS may be your friend.
  • It’s a sunny day and your shutter speed is well above 1/length of lens (for example, you have a 300mm lens and your shutter speed is 1/500).  VR – IS – OS is overkill.

So, now that we’ve established it’s a definite, absolute “maybe”, think about what you shoot most of the time and consider your lens options before you buy that new or used lens.

You might decide that you really need VR – IS – OS.  Or, you might decide that you can live without it and be able to get more bang for your buck.

Some of the Frog’s lenses have it.  Some don’t.  And he does just fine…


Growing the Image Galleries

Growing the image galleries at Laughing Frog Images isn’t happening quite as fast as was hoped.  There are two good reasons for that.  First, this isn’t my day job.  The second is explained in this post.

There are slides and negatives that go back longer that I care to admit, because I can’t be that old!  Over 30,000 of them, as a matter of fact.  There are planes, scenic views, parks and places, trains, and things I probably don’t remember that are waiting to be rediscovered.

We’re scanning slides at 5000dpi and negatives at 7200dpi, and quite frankly, it’s a slow process.  These are archival scan settings to give you the widest range of product choices when you shop at Laughing Frog Images.  If you decide you want that killer shot from the Colorado National Monument as a 30″x40″ print and you found out it was scanned at 2400dpi, you wouldn’t be too happy with us.  (You’re going to have to wait for that gallery, by the way.)

To give you an idea of what’s behind growing the image galleries, here’s a snapshot of the process:

  1. Get the scanner going.
  2. Cat-proof the work area.  This is perhaps the most important step.
  3. Proof the slide or negative and make sure it’s worthy of steps 4-11.
  4. Clean the slide or negative.  While this sounds obvious and simple, we’re looking at them through a loupe and using a fine brush and blown air because it’s absolutely amazing how big that speck you can’t see with the naked eye is once it’s scanned!
  5. Load the slide tray or negative holder.
  6. Each image scan takes 4 to 5 minutes for each slide or negative.
  7. Wait for the software and computer to process the image file ( we’re scanning to .dng format).
  8. Image data is added to the file before the slide or negative is returned to storage.
  9. The image goes into a temporary folder to await the next step.
  10. The image is proofed.  Any final cleaning takes place here, as well as any adjustments or corrections.
  11. The image is then filed awaiting use.

As we intend to post image galleries and sub-galleries that are related to each other as opposed to posting random images here and there throughout the site, you can start to see that it takes a while to make all of this happen.

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This image is part of a gallery that will feature the former Western Pacific Railroad lines from Reno, Nevada to Sacramento, CA.

Obviously, it’s a lot easier when the starting point is a digital image file!

We’re hoping to get some additional galleries up of steam engines that ran in the 1980’s in time for the holidays, because if you don’t love steam engines – you probably know someone who does.  And they have walls.  Or drink coffee.  Or tea.  They might even have an iPhone or an iPad.  And we might have just the image for them!

Be patient with us as we grow the image galleries!  It is happening…

iPhone Case Photos!

I purchased some iPhone cases for gifts and thought I’d share photos of them with y’all, especially since there’s a sale on.

Of all of the photographic stuff I have, none of that stuff includes a copy stand, so these photos were taken with my Lumia Icon phone (more on that someday). They’re not anywhere close to perfect – but they do give you an idea of what could be wrapped around your iPhone (or Galaxy S4 or iPad).  They also make great gifts!

Somewhere out there, someone is saying “Why doesn’t he have a copy stand?”  Well, unless you do miniature photography or similar small subjects, there’s not a need for one.  It would be a toy for me at this point.  But… I do have some other samples to share, so… maybe…

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.

From top to bottom, here are the iPhone case photos:

  1. BNSF Pasadena Subdivision Local Freight.  Glendora, CA.  This was taken in 2013 – Santa Fe merged into BNSF almost 20 years ago!
  2. Union Pacific westbound doublestack train on the former Western Pacific Railroad crossing the famous Keddie Wye in Plumas County, CA.  This one is not yet in the galleries.
  3. The view across Kauai’s Nawiliwili Harbor.
  4. Cape Neddick Light (a.k.a. Nubble Light) in York, ME.  And yes, if you are wondering, I did get wet just after I clicked the shutter.

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If you’ve found that image that you’ve been wanting, and have needed an excuse to buy it, now you have it (at least if we have a case for it)!

There’s a video on the Laughing Frog Images YouTube Channel that shows you how to create your own case, or how to create a gift for someone who deserves something special.

Think of the conversations you can have about your case!  The stories you can tell about where you were and how you took the photo!  (I won’t pretend it doesn’t happen – just remember to tell them you got it from Laughing Frog Images at some point!)

Or, just think of the smile you can bring to someone’s face when they unwrap their case.

Thanks for looking!