Connecticut is primarily known for its seaports, exclusive New York suburbs and big insurance companies, but tucked away in the northwestern corner of the Nutmeg State is a mountainous region offering a landscape full of diverse photographic opportunities. Here, the Litchfield Hills rise up from the banks of the Housatonic River to create the Connecticut Highlands, which feature rolling farmlands, covered bridges, frothy white-water and 50-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Only 90 miles from Manhattan, the region extends east from the Connecticut-New York border for about 15 miles and south from the Massachusetts border for about 40 miles. The major north-south highways are US 7, and CT 63, with US 202 and CT 4 providing the major east-west routes. All four highways provide scenic travel and plenty of potential photo ops. The towns of Kent, Sharon and Salisbury offer typical small-town New England scenery and hospitality.
The Highlands experience the usual weather for the northern temperate zone of the eastern U.S. Expect spring to be in full swing by late April or early May, with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. Trails will be wet and muddy from melted snows and regular rain, but this means abundant wildflowers and vernal pools.
Summer brings hot and muggy days, with temps in the 80s and 90s. Sunny days are the norm with occasional showers and thunderstorms. When the mosquitoes get bad, you can find relief on the open ledges of the Appalachian Trail.
Fall brings alternating stretches of sunny, warm weather with highs in the 70s, followed by drizzly, cool days. Winter is cold and snowy, but without the extreme temperatures of northern New England.
Here, you can photograph small-town, rural New England landscapes, as well as nature-oriented subject matter. Drive-by photo locations include Bull’s Bridge (and the falls below the bridge) and Kent Falls State Park in Kent, the covered bridge in West Cornwall, the clock tower and town green in Sharon, and the farms of hay and corn along CT 41 north and south of Sharon.
For kayaking and fly-fishing action shots, visit the sections of the Housatonic River below Bull’s Bridge and along US 7 between West Cornwall and Cornwall Bridge. Then lace up your hiking boots and head into the woods. Great stream and forest photos can be made from the numerous trails in Macedonia Brook State Park in Kent.
For more sweeping vistas, hike to the open ledges along the Appalachian Trail. Some of the best are St. Johns Ledges, Caleb’s Peak, Bear Mountain and Lion’s Head. Your best bet for good light at these locations is at sunrise, so get an early-morning start for your hike (before dawn with a headlamp is best.)
I’ve photographed landscapes in this area with lenses ranging in focal length from 14mm to 500mm so bring whatever you’re willing to carry. I also find a polarizer and graduated split ND filters to be very useful.
In late summer and fall, the temperatures and mosquitoes are moderate and allow for comfortable shooting throughout the day. Hay bales fill the fields and migrating geese flock to the recently harvested rows of corn. Like all of New England, the fall colors here are stunning, peaking during the last two weeks of October. The forests offer a mix of oak, hickory, maple and birch, with higher ridges dominated by oak forests carpeted with an understory of crimson huckleberry and blueberry bushes.
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