Back for more…

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Another early run to Portland for a work meeting, and another chance to stop by the most photographed lighthouse in Maine. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune to spend some time here with local photographer Moe Chen. Moe showed me how to access the rocky shoreline on the opposite side from here, so on this visit I wanted to spend time exploring the more traditional – or at least more photographed – side of the lighthouse.

6:22:16 a.m.

When I left the house at 4:00am, twinkling stars were alternately obscured and revealed by high clouds screaming by overhead, and although I was excited about the possibility of drama that those clouds might bring at sunrise, I wasn’t too thrilled about the effect the wind might have on the temperature. My fear was that the 22 degrees of warmth outside would be further impacted negatively by a biting wind chill… and believe me, it was.

6:35:33 a.m.

I’m going to sprinkle in a few different compositions throughout this post… same scene, but each with a slight variation on the landscape as the morning began. Some people might only include one composition in a blog post… maybe they have the “eye” to visualize the single best composition and create only one photograph… but in a situation like this, I tend to move around, exploring my surroundings looking for a slightly better angle, a more interesting foreground, or a different arrangement in how each of the elements included within the frame interact with each other. Anyhoo… here are a few from what was a cold and blustery morning at Portland Head Light… in the order they were made as the light unfolded, and with actual times attached.

6:37:23 a.m.

By the time I got to Portland there was a soft glow in the sky off to the east. I drove through the darkened downtown streets – probably faster than I should – in a frenzied attempt to get across the bridge to Cape Elizabeth and Fort Williams Park before sunrise. Knowing that the gates to the park might not be open, I was anticipating an additional but fairly brief hike in from the road to the lighthouse which would mean cutting it close for sunrise, but whadyaknow… the gates were open!

6:40:50 a.m.

Stepping out of the warm car and into the darkness told me two things; 1) the crystal clear sky meant that there weren’t going to be any nice clouds to include in compositions; and 2) it was going to be cold… bitterly cold. I usually like to be at a location at least 45 minutes before sunrise to take advantage of the earliest light, but on this morning I had arrived just in time. Since sunrise was now only minutes away, I hopped the fence and quickly scrambled down over the rocks to find a composition I liked. While clouds can certainly add drama to a landscape, I have come to appreciate – and dare I say enjoy – the beautiful pre-dawn gradient of colors in the clear sky seen here.

6:50:19 a.m.

My wooly hat and glove/mitten combo would come in handy, as a northeast wind ripped in over the water and absolutely chilled me to the bone. Strong wind gusts meant that I had to steady the tripod during what were often long-ish exposures, but more importantly, the wind chill and cold air were literally making my fingers ache… not a good feeling. Despite trying to find sheltered spots within the rocks where I could gain some respite from the icy wind, my senses (and my fingers) quickly succumbed to the conditions, and after spending maybe 30-40 minutes total here, I retreated back to the welcoming warmth of the car.

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22 thoughts on “Back for more…

  1. Gorgeous! I love the shots from 6:22 and 6:37! I wish I lived closer to the ocean; until that happens, I hope you don’t mind me living vicariously through you.

  2. Nothing like suffering for your art! I too like the glove/mitten combo the most effective against cold. I also add those hand warmer packets when it is as cold as you describe. I’m not sure they are very good for the environment, but they sure do feel good on mornings like the one you describe. All these shots are lovely, but I think the 6:37 is my favorite. I really liked how you added the times of each shot.

    • David Patterson

      Dangit… I knew I forgot something! I carry hand-warmers with me, but obviously I forgot all about them! I figured it might be interesting to show how the light changes so beautifully and so quickly in the morning… that’s why I added the times.

        • David Patterson

          I think you are probably correct. I try to plan ahead and have everything ready, but there’s usually something I forget. Then again… all those times I headed the ball playing soccer as a kid might be kicking in too 🙂

  3. Thank you much the effort you made in getting those shots. I not only enjoy your pictures, but I experienced with you the effort you made in getting there. My experience has been mostly with sunsets, so this is different. Living in Minneapolis, I don’t get the same shots, however I do have a spot picked out where I will venture to some morning. I can drive only part way; I will have to walk almost a mile to get there, so I will be walking in the dark I suppose. Anyway, I think You are inspiring me to do this–your shot are always so good!

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Stephen. Not entirely sure why I like the sunrise over the sunset… maybe it’s the solitude (most people don’t get up for sunrise), or maybe it’s just the clean and refreshing start of a brand new day that I like so much. Drop me a line when you get that photograph you’re talking about… would love to see it.

  4. Pretty amazing series, David. You must be very happy with these. I love how you documented to color change, lighting up the rocks with progressively different values, and the first shot of the lighthouse is just iconic.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Rick. That’s one pretty impressive lighthouse, and between this visit and my last one a couple of weeks ago I was quite pleased to come away with some images that I feel are all mine.

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