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Rip & Go: West Rim Trail – Tioga State Forest, PA

Chase canyon vistas through stands of old-growth hemlock.
May2012_Hage_WestRimTrail_445x260.jpg(Photo by: Hage Photo)

KEY SKILL: Nab the perfect creek photo
Avoid overexposed or blurry images and score a creative, frame-worthy pic of this route’s tumbling brooks.

Plan for perfection.
» Time it. If it’s sunny, wait for a cloud so spots of light filtering through the leaves don’t interfere with your exposure. Better yet: Shoot early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or on overcast days. Also, avoid wind; it’ll create unwanted leaf blur.
»  Add flair. Use props—feet, a water bottle—to provide a sense of scale and personality.  Balance the shot by placing them off-center.

Use a slow shutter speed.  Exposing the photo for longer will produce water that looks silky, instead of stopping the flow in action. Start with 1/15 of a second and add time until the water looks smooth. Shrink the aperture as you slow shutter speed to get the exposure you want. Consider a neutral-density filter, which acts like sunglasses for your lens.

Use a tripod. With a slow shutter speed, even your breathing or body’s natural vibrations will turn your pics blurry; your camera needs to remain perfectly still. We like the bargain Manfrotto Compact Series ($67, 2 lbs. 9 oz., manfrotto.com).

SEE THIS: Ruffed Grouse
The Pennsylvania state bird lives year-round in Tioga State Forest’s 160,000 acres, but you’re more likely to hear one than see one. When taking flight, the birds sound like a miniature helicopter bursting into the air—and they often do so within 10 feet of the trail. Territorial males also “drum” the air with their wings, creating a distinctive thumping sound to woo their mates (especially in spring). The birds stand 18 inches high, including a small plume of brown feathers rising from the top of their heads. Look (or listen) for them in the bushes along the entire WRT.

LOCALS KNOW
Humans aren’t alone in their salt habit. “Porcupines have a strong seasonal craving for sodium,” explains Tom Hardisky, a biologist with the PA Game Commission. One favorite source: your car’s tires and hoses (rubber and many plastics contain some sodium as part of the manufacturing process). If a rodent gnashes its teeth into your car’s vitals, you could find yourself stranded, unable to drive to your post-hike beer. According to Hardisky, the salt drive peaks in May and June, with a minor resurgence in late summer, corresponding to hormonal changes in females. Protect yourself by placing moth balls around your car (about every two feet) before your hike (Hardisky says this keeps the animals from detecting the sodium).

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