Nauset Light Beach, Cape Cod

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As this wonderful morning on Nauset Light Beach continued to unfold, the pre-dawn light put on a magical show that was both absorbed by the clouds overhead and reflected in the wet sand under foot. From a compositional perspective, I intentionally placed the horizon line in the center of this image to focus on the symmetry and take advantage of the reflection in the wet sand. To enhance the reflection further, I waited until after a wave had washed ashore to soak the sand before I pressed the shutter.

Looking north and south I was treated to what I would consider to be more of a traditional Cape Cod style view of a wonderfully expansive beach with high dunes creating a border between the ocean and the land. As the sun came over the horizon I left Nauset Light Beach and moved on to other locations, but not before capturing some warmer light in the last image in this post of an empty lifeguard chair waiting for the day to begin.

Cape Cod National Seashore

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Over the weekend I had the very good fortune to spend a couple of days on Cape Cod visiting the Cape Cod National Seashore. The weather was excellent, and I was able to spend some time there before the crowds really started rolling in. My first stop was Nauset Light Beach, and as you can see the pre-dawn light was exceptional.

I was able to spend a couple of hours wandering this wonderful beach and exploring the surrounding landscape, and for the most part I had the place all to myself. I find it amusing that so few people are willing to sacrifice a couple of hours sleep to witness a scene like this. I was drawn to the detailed foreground where the patterns and ripples from the incoming tide were illuminated by the colorful light. The wide angle view makes it seem as though the ocean is a long way away, but in reality it was only about 30 yards or so from where I was standing. Combining the remarkable scenery with the noise of the surf crashing on shore was incredibly soothing and a good place to be.

The Cape holds special memories for me, though when I do the math I realize that the three amazing summers I spent there was almost 25 years ago! Crazy… it seems like yesterday!

Egg Rock Lighthouse

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The most famous lighthouse in Acadia – and one of the most photographed in all of Maine – is the one nestled over on the western side of Mount Desert Island at the mouth of Bass Harbor. It is for good reason that Bass Harbor Light is so popular… it is classically New England, and it is relatively accessible to anyone interested in navigating a couple of dozen pretty steep stairs. This post contains a few images of what may be a less accessible Acadia lighthouse, but one that is no less spectacular… Egg Rock Light.

Built in 1875 on the 12.5 acre Egg Rock, this 40 foot high working light is seen here standing guard over the waters of Frenchman Bay with the Schoodic Peninsula in the background. This lighthouse is not open to the public, but you can admire it while rocking in a boat, or as I did by parking myself at one of the many magnificent Loop Road overlooks. I used my 70-200mm lens to reach out and try to capture the essence of how remote this lighthouse is, and although I was shooting toward the sun and into some hazy early morning light, I kind of like how these images turned out.

Long Pond Lillies in Acadia

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It was 22 years ago this July that Lori and I visited Acadia on our honeymoon. It was the first time we had been to Maine, and we both immediately fell in love with the park. We rented bicycles for part of our week there, cycling from inn to inn as we traversed across Mount Desert Island. Other than the fact that it was of course our honeymoon… I can still remember much about our trip… the beautiful weather we had every day, the amazing sights we saw on land and at sea, and the remarkable landscapes we were able to experience for the first time.

I can recall how exciting and exhilarating cycling around the roads of Acadia was, with the anticipation and expectation of what we would see over the next hill or around the next bend always fueling our efforts. On one particularly stunning morning, we were freewheeling down Peabody Drive toward Bracy Cove when we were stopped in our tracks by an amazing view looking away from the ocean and toward Long Pond and Penobscot Mountain. Back in those days I was only carrying a disposable camera with me, but I can remember getting a really nice photograph from this location, and the 4 x 6 print was one of the few images from the trip that I was quite proud of. Over the years that one image has unfortunately become displaced, but I can still vividly see that same scene in my mind’s eye.

I have been back to this location many times since – in fact, any time I am driving along the shore road I can’t help but stop to see the view again. Each time I take my camera with me, and depending on the conditions, I guess have been trying to emulate that shot from 22 years ago. Not until this weekend was I able to capture the scene in a way that really resonated with my memories from our first trip here. The late afternoon sun dropped some nice light and shadow on the pond, and a circular polarizer helped reduce the glare on the water lillies, producing those same wonderful Acadia greens and blues just like I remember.

A Walk in the Woods

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We enjoyed our short walk along the carriage road that skirts Upper Hadlock Pond, making a short diversion onto the trail beside the shore. It was on this trail that we stumbled upon the twisted and exposed tree root system seen above. I cannot imagine how old this tree is, but judging by the reach of the roots, it has been here for a quite some time. The roots looked like they were reaching out, trying to grab hold of the land so that the tree would be safe from falling into the lake that is just off to the right. It had rained during the night-time hours, and the early morning light filtering through the forest canopy gave an incredibly lush and vibrant glow to all of the scenery on our walk.

cadillac sunrise

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From our weekend of camping… I set my alarm for 3:45am and tried to sneak out of the tent in the dark without waking everyone. As is usually the case, I was wide awake before the alarm even went off. Despite tripping over the lip of the tent door and almost taking a major spill, I think I was successful.

Sunrise in Maine comes early this time of year, and when you are perched on the highest mountain on the eastern seaboard it comes even earlier! Took me a while to get going, though as I drove across Mount Desert Island toward Cadillac Mountain I couldn’t help but appreciate that we were staying right there. If I had been leaving from home this would have made for a VERY early start.

Back home in Ireland we have the beautiful Mourne Mountains in County Down that sweep down to the sea, and at 1532 feet Cadillac Mountain too rises up from the ocean making it appear larger than it actually is. There were some hazy clouds on the eastern horizon that on the one hand obscured the sunrise, but on the other hand they helped diffuse the light creating some wonderful pink and purple hues. I plopped myself down on the slope of Cadillac and enjoyed the show. I especially liked how the early colors from the sky were absorbed by the foreground rocks, though after a few minutes the more familiar golden light began to bathe the summit. Not a bad way to start the day. The last image in this post just kind of grabbed me… something graphic about it that I really like.

Seawall, Acadia National Park

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On the western side of Mount Desert Island, Seawall is a naturally formed rocky sea wall that offers protection from the Atlantic and great views of Great Cranberry Island. Neighboring a popular wooded campground, this favorite picnicking spot is renowned for the expansive area of shallow tide pools rich in ocean life that become accessible when the tide is low. After spending time in and around the increasingly busy Bar Harbor and the Loop Road, the peace and quiet of Seawall at this time of year is always a welcome relief.

It had been a steamy 85 degree day, so we decided to spend the early evening enjoying the cool ocean breeze and exploring this gem of a location. Anywhere there are rocks Jack is happy – like most 6 year olds he just loves to throw rocks into the water, and as you can see this place has plenty to go around! The light at the edges of the day in Acadia in the summer are often quite magical, and this evening was no exception. As the sun set to the west we were initially treated to some soft, golden light that slowly turned to a cooler twilight palette as the darkness crept in.

The image below is a ten second exposure where I was drawn to how the colors in the sky were reflected in the typically surf-pounded and smooth Acadia rocks. So many people pack up their gear after the sun sets, but some of the deepest, richest colors appear in that time frame between when the sun goes down and the darkness takes hold. Leaving the shutter open for an extended time to soak in what our eyes cannot see will gather the available light and often result in a more saturated scene.

Looking for Lupine

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I have always looked forward to mid-June when the Lupine in Maine come to life. Serious gardeners often disparage this hardy perennial for its ability to overwhelm a planned garden space. Me… I love the swaths of deep color that appear along the roadside at this time of year, and I have long been searching for a nice composition that includes these beautiful flowers.

On our camping trip to Acadia National Park this past weekend we spent a really nice evening, free from the already increasing crowds in Bar Harbor, along the quiet shore at Seawall. As we made our way past Southwest Harbor and through Manset, this pretty scene presented itself. Needless to say I started drooling, stopped the car and enjoyed the view.

Moonrise and Mount Starr King

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From last year’s visit to Yosemite National Park, this scene was captured on a glorious summer evening spent at Glacier Point. Two exposures were blended to deal with the dynamic range and allow for a properly exposed moon and some detail in the foreground. I had been focusing on Half Dome when the moon rising in the distance over this 9,092 feet peak in the Clark Range literally made my jaw drop. The longer focal length helped compress the scene and go some way toward conveying how impressive the moonrise was. For some reason I didn’t process this image until this week when I was going back through my archives in preparation for the upcoming trip. Less than a month away now…

Bubble Pond Sunset, Acadia NP

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On our way down to Bar Harbor from the summit of Cadillac, we made a short detour to Bubble Pond. I had visited here a few weeks ago in the late morning, and was curious to see how it looked at the end of the day. Lori, Sam and Jack hadn’t been to this pond before, so I wanted to show them one of the more peaceful scenes available right off route 233.

As we made our way from the parking lot to the edge of the pond, we could see spectacular highlights reflecting off the water through the trees. We hurried down to the water’s edge, and we were treated to this beautifully tranquil scene. As the setting sun bathed the opposite hillside in an incredible golden glow, the shadow of Pemetic Mountain to our right slowly reached across the pond. This image was made at about 7:00pm, and we had the place to ourselves… a nice part of the world to share.

Friday evening in Acadia

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What better way to spend a Friday evening than in Acadia National Park. It was Sam who suggested that we shoot down to Mount Desert Island after work for some pizza, and to be honest there wasn’t a lot of opposition in this household. We had been eagerly anticipating the re-opening of Rosalie’s Pizza in Bar Harbor after the winter, and this was the perfect opportunity to pay them a visit. Rosalie’s is good… and let me just say… we understand our pizza. We spend a lot of time in New York and Boston, and every chance we get we sample the local fare. Anyway… trust me, the thin crust of Rosalie’s is as good as you are likely to find anywhere north of Boston, and after the long winter break, tonight’s pie(s) tasted as good as ever!

With bellies filled, Jack and I dropped Sam and Lori off at the bottom of the North Ridge Trail to Cadillac, and we made plans to meet at the summit in about an hour. While Sam and Lori enjoyed their hike, Jack and I explored the somewhat quieter than normal Loop Road. It was a beautiful early summer evening, and as the sun got lower in the sky, we spent some time hopping around on the rocks at Otter Point – always a favorite place to visit. We couldn’t stay too long, since we wanted to time our arrival at the top of Cadillac with when our two favorite hikers made it to the top.

When we arrived at the top of Cadillac there was a cool breeze blowing across the top of the mountain, and with the stunningly clear air we could literally see for miles and miles. The sun was setting in the west, and the shadows scattered across the cap of Cadillac were starting to lengthen. Sam and Lori weren’t quite finished their hike yet, so Jack and I wandered around the summit enjoying the magnificent views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay. Two invigorated and happy hikers soon appeared at the top of the trail, and after pausing for a while to let them catch their breath and soak in the view, we drove down into Bar Harbor for the customary visit to enjoy some ice cream at Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium. What a great way to start the weekend!

Yosemite

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As a family we had the good fortune of visiting the magnificent Yosemite National Park last summer. Yosemite is a place like no other, and even though we had heard tales of the beauty we would see there, we were all totally amazed to witness for ourselves what is a remarkable and spectacular landscape.

Sam just graduated from high school, and when asked what he would like for a present, he was pretty emphatic in his desire to travel west to see Yosemite again. When we left the park last summer I think we each had the feeling we would be back, but little did we know it would be so soon.

Last summer we spent the majority of our time in Yosemite Valley enjoying the icons – and the crowds. We had a wonderful time exploring along the Merced River and bending our necks to soak in views like Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls and El Capitan, but all the while there we couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to escape the hordes of tourists and get up into the high country… this time we will.

On this trip we are incredibly excited to be spending most of our time up along the Tioga Road and especially around the Tuolumne Meadows area. At 8,500 feet, the temperatures at this elevation should be moderate and bearable, but it is the promise of experiencing the higher sierra that has us really anticipating our visit.

The image above with Half Dome standing large in front of Clouds Rest was made on a perfect summer evening from Glacier Point. Looking back up Tenaya Canyon toward the high country, you can’t help but sense the wonder of what must be a spectacular and unparalleled wilderness. Can’t wait to see it for ourselves.

We are currently researching and planning how we can squeeze every last ounce of Yosemite into our trip, so if you know of any must-see hikes to add to our itinerary, please share in the comments.

The Graduate

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Sam graduated from high school today, and we could not be more proud of him. Today’s graduation ceremonies signaled the start of what is likely to be one of the most important transitions in his life, and as parents we can only hope he is ready for what lies ahead of him.

Enjoying school and posting a stellar academic record throughout his career, his motivation to learn has forever been impressive. He has spent considerable time on the practice and game fields learning life lessons and reaping the benefits of athletic competition, though lately he has poured his energy into after-school activities that have tested his intellect, his leadership skills, and his emotions.

As we gathered to congratulate the newly minted graduates and take post-ceremony photographs, we marveled at how Sam has forged friendships that will be strong enough to last a lifetime. We are extremely proud of our eldest son… the young man he has become and the the older brother he will always be. Having family with us to share in the weekend festivities was pretty special, and as Sam prepares for the many changes he will now have to navigate, we are confident that he is indeed ready for the challenge.

Congratulations big man… we are all very proud of you!

Making an Impression

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I love making this type of image. On the one hand I get to experiment and channel my inner artist to create something that is unique and personal, yet on the other hand the technique used is so simple that anyone can make this kind of image.

Similar to traditional landscape photography, choosing what to include in the composition and where each element is placed within the frame in relation to each other is key… as of course is the quality of light. I look for compositions where moving the camera through the scene will define and accentuate shapes, shadows, colors and lines. To me there is almost a painterly feel to these impressionistic scenes, and in some there is a luminosity and glow when the elements all blend together. Trees are a favorite subject of mine for this style of image, and in the one above I returned to a favorite place.

The path leading from the Nature Center past the Wild Gardens of Acadia and toward the Jesup Trail takes you by some beautiful tall grasses and several stands of birch trees that, in the right light, are absolutely spectacular. I choose a shutter speed of 0.5 seconds and let the camera select the corresponding aperture that it thinks will render a correct exposure. I then pan the camera in a vertical movement while the shutter is open, check the histogram to make any necessary exposure adjustments, and then go to work on trying to capture a scene that I like.

The images below were all created using a similar technique – each was captured on a wonderful hike to Bubble Rock earlier on this same day. As I wandered along the trail, the fresh spring leaves on the canopy were being backlit by the morning sun, and the intense greens contrasting with the rain-soaked earthy browns of the trees and trail made for some striking opportunities.

I think a big part of what I like about this style of photography is that every time the shutter is pressed the result is different. I can make a dozen images of exactly the same scene, and depending on the speed and direction of movement employed, each will be unique. Though I realize that these images are not everyone’s cup of tea, I am intrigued by them and that’s what matters most :)


Bubble Pond Bridge, Acadia National Park

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This will be my last post for a while with “Bubble” in the title ;)

Built in 1928, the Bubble Pond Bridge is classic Acadia. Part of the network of carriage trails and bridges financed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and designed by Welles Bosworth and Charles Stoughton, this bridge is a remarkable example of local elements being combined in architectural design.

Though beautiful and incredibly detailed in their construction, each of the bridges of Acadia National Park blends so well into the surroundings that one might be forgiven for not even noticing them. There are 17 bridges scattered throughout the 45 miles of auto-free carriage trails on the eastern side of Mount Desert Island, and they stand as a reminder of why the Rockefellers gifted much of this land for preservation and trust.