Postcard from Maine (10)

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Finally… as we approach the middle of June, everything around these parts begins to green up, and there’s a special little place in Acadia that I always love to visit this time of year. Bubble Pond, nestled between Cadillac and Pemetic, is a jewel of a landscape location, and as you can see from this image, it comes alive after the winter displaying an array of earthy colors that are pretty sweet to see. Made mid-morning, this photograph always reminds me that even though winter will be long around here, springtime will eventually arrive, and when it does, it will bring with it opportunities to enjoy colors that sparkle.

Postcard from Maine (8)

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Aha. Another favorite place. This is a view from the quieter part of Acadia National Park called Schoodic. A rocky peninsula stretching out into the Gulf of Maine, there are views like this scattered all along the perimeter… grab your camera, enjoy the far-less crowded surroundings, and make yourself a photograph or two.

Off in the distance is a little gem called “Rolling Island” – and then there’s the classic Acadia (Schoodic) foreground. I’ve been to this specific place several times… sometimes I come away with a photograph I like, and sometimes I just enjoy the scenery. On this particular morning I can remember the colorful sunrise seemed to last for ages… it quite literally lasted for at least a half an hour. What better way to start the day!

Postcard from Maine (7)

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Coming soon! I always love when spring finally really springs and the landscape begins to green up. Though it take it’s sweet time to get here, the fresh breath of post-winter life that eventually washes over the landscape is well worth the wait. The greens can be electric, and the smells and sound of new growth are intoxicating. By early June we have an additional bonus where swathes of purple and pink begin to dot the landscape, and I have to admit, it’s a favorite time of mine. If you’re in Acadia looking for Lupine, you’ll of course find it scattered randomly in places all over Mount Desert Island, but there are also several cool places – that I know of – where you can find it in abundance.

There’s a lush and full field of Lupine that grows wild in the heart of Bar Island, just offshore from Bar Harbor. The good news… at low tide you can access this treasure by walking across an uncovered spit of land. Be careful though, the ocean waits for no-one and you need to pay attention to the time and tide. Tread with care and make nice photographs.

Another beautiful example of Acadia Lupine can be found along the Beech Hill Cliffs Road. When coming onto the island, travel south through the quaint village of Somesville and look for a right turn toward Beech Hill. After about quarter of a mile make a left and follow the road toward Beech Hill… at the end of this dead-end route there are some wonderful views from above Echo Lake on some very pretty quiet side trails that also offer ocean views to the south of Acadia – and along the way you’ll see two large fields that will be overflowing with colorful Lupine in June. Enjoy!

Postcard from Maine (6)

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What to do when the weather doesn’t cooperate? I’ve been to this very special location many, many times in search of epic light, but I can honestly say that on the majority of my visits, I usually get skunked with less than stellar conditions. I’ll check the weather forecast, and I’ll plan for favorable tides… but ultimately you’re at the mercy of the light. Sometimes you get lucky, but usually not.

Having said that… less than favorable light can bring “different” conditions, and with those come opportunities to capture images that are more original. Sometimes they’re more unusual simply because others don’t bother making photographs at those times, and sometimes they’re unique simply because instead of making a cover version of someone else’s work you’re making something creative of your own.

Embrace iffy weather. While I have experienced and photographed epic colors and memorable sunrises, some of my favorite images were made in stormy conditions. The color palette in both images in this post don’t necessarily reflect the traditional picture postcard ideal… but I am more proud of them than you might imagine.

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Postcard from Maine (5)

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A favorite of mine. Special conditions when Hurricane Sandy brushed the coast. This is from Sand Beach looking south along the shore toward the Loop Road and Otter Cliffs. Longer lens for two reasons a) for safety’s sake – even on the steps that lead from the parking lot down to the beach it was pretty dangerous with waves as high as my waist, and b) a longer lens compresses the scene compositionally, helping isolate only those elements that add to the strength of the photograph. In this case I used my 70-200mm f4 L at 200mm. For those interested, here’s the EXIF:

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Lens: EF70-200mm f/4L USM Shot at 200 mm
Exposure: Auto bracket exposure, Shutter priority AE, 1/500 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200

Postcard from Maine (1)

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Here’s a little something from my home state of Maine. Hope you don’t mind if I indulge myself with a couple of postcard posts of my favorite photographs of Maine, especially Acadia National Park. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to visit in person, but hopefully as the weather warms up and I start to feel a bit better I can get back down there again soon.

Also, rather than me having all the fun, I’d be happy to post any reader requests for images. Is there any particular place in Maine – or Acadia and Beyond – that you would like to see. I’ll scour the archives and see what I can find, and I’d be happy to share any story – technical or anecdotal – that I have behind the creation of the image.

For example, with the image in this post, I wanted to highlight those incredible round rocks that can be found at this location. The flecked pinkish granite in the foreground is absolutely spectacular, and when the waves rock those boulders back and forth the sound is mesmerizing. The sun had already risen when I made this photograph – in fact I had waited until the warm light had kissed the shoreline hanging above the cove. Classic Acadia.

I choose a fairly long shutter to allow for a degree of texture being created within the foreground water, but I also waited for a breaking wave to help create some mid-ground interest. I hope that helps explain the thought process going on as I made this one… and like I said, it’s one of my all-time favorites… Monument Cove in Acadia National Park.

One of my angels…

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4-13-14 Cadillac debbie3 Cancer is a bad thing. It has obviously struck our family out of the blue, and as it did so, make no mistake that it has rocked our foundation to the core. We’re asking questions and looking for answers… answers that we’re learning aren’t necessarily there for us just yet. Our friends and family are asking questions too, and we’ve been overwhelmed by the desire of others to provide us with help and support. It’s hard… what do you say to help someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer? It’s a frustrating situation for all involved… everyone wants to help, but there’s only so much one can do. Tremendously frustrating for all involved.

4-13-14 cadillac debbie2People want to help, and we want people to know that their encouraging words and support are indeed helping. How do we let our friends and community know how much their support is appreciated… that’s hard too. Hopefully by posting on the blog I’m able to – even in some small way – pass along our gratitude? I mean it when I say that we feed off of that positive energy every day, and we are truly and eternally grateful for the generous outpouring of love we are experiencing every day. In addition to the incredible support our entire local community is nurturing us with, as we navigate this sometimes unpredictable journey, we’ve been especially blessed with the additional and remarkable support of certain individuals.

4-13-14 cadilac debbie1 Here’s one such individual… Debbie. Debbie is one of my angels. Debbie and Jeff have the most beautiful family of three wonderful boys and a gorgeous, black standard poodle named Sidney. I have had the very good fortune to coach one of their boys on my high school soccer team, and in doing so, I have also had the even better fortune of getting to know this wonderful family just a little bit better.

Debbie is a nurse –  wow, that’s such a short word that in no way describes the role that Debbie has helped play in my dealing with this situation – she has meant so, so much more to our family. I’ve had a few hiccups (literally and figuratively) along the way, and as one of the angel nurses on the sixth floor of the Eastern Maine Medical Center who has been trusted with my care on more than one occasion since the diagnosis, I feel as though Debbie has indisputably influenced my very existence.

So… how to thank someone for giving so much? Impossible. But when I’m able to reproduce an image of mine that means a lot to me – this canvas of an early summer morning sunrise from the summit of Cadillac in Acadia National Park – and see Debbie so happy to receive it as a small token of thanks and hang it in her home… that makes me proud, honored and very humble. One of my angels… Debbie. Thank you.

Spending a little time…

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4-10-14 websitecover Lately I’ve been spending some time exploring my portfolio of landscape photographs. Though feeling physically and mentally much better between rounds of Chemo, I still haven’t quite mustered up the energy to spend much time outside, never mind having the oomph to be out early or late capturing any new good light on the landscape with the camera. That leaves me fondly reminiscing about some of the work I’ve already done, and as I do so, I get to spend a little time perusing my web site – and you know what that means… yes, tweaking.

As you can see from the screenshot above – http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com – I’ve abandoned (for now) my attachment to a single strong black and white coastal image in favor of a more eclectic, colorful, and assorted view of what is distinctly Acadia National Park – after all, there is so much to see in Acadia, why not show her off in all her glory?

We’ve had a lot of incredibly generous local support in response to our little medical emergency, and as a way to say thank you, Lori and I have been selecting prints that we think people might appreciate, and we’ve been ordering and delivering them as thank you gifts.

I’ve learned that it’s one thing to conceptualize, experience, and actually create any one of my photographs, but I have to admit, following the process through to where it physically gets printed and held in hand – whether it is printed on canvas, paper, or better yet, on metal – it is quite exhilarating to hold a piece, especially since many of these pieces to date have merely been images on the screen.

I’ve a couple of big pieces being printed on metal on the way as “thank you’s” to our friends, and I’ll be sure to grab a pic of what they look like “in-person” as it were when they arrive. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in purchasing from what I believe is a new and improved web site, please use the discount code “chemo” when in the shopping cart area – despite it’s not-so-nice meaning, it will get you 25% off any purchase 😉

In search of a foreground element…

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*Taking a break from the Chemonotony 😉

Here’s a rare sighting of me in front of the camera! Not from recent times, this is from the fall of 2002… wait, let me go check that. Ayuh, seems like this was made by my friend Monty all the way back on 9/14/2002 – now that’s quite some time ago! This little vignette of a scene gives a good idea of what it takes for me to come away with a likable photograph.

Nice backdrop – check (The Beehive in Acadia National Park)

Nice light – check (I’m in the shadow of Great Head, and as the sun rises from behind it, the Beehive is slowly bathed in warm color)

Nice composition – here’s where the challenge begins! Those are my bare feet in the chilly Atlantic Ocean showing a definite willingness to do what it takes to get the photograph 😉

So… when attempting to create a pleasant composition, one of the first things I look for is an interesting foreground element. For some strange reason, I seem to be drawn to vertical compositions versus landscape oriented scenes. Don’t get me wrong… I always look for – and enjoy discovering – landscape compositions that showcase the width of particular scenes, but there’s something special about the effect that can be derived from using a wide-angle lens in portrait orientation. A wide-angle lens can make foreground elements seem larger than they actually are, and by making them appear closer to the camera than they really are, it can also help create depth from front to back within the scene.

Anyhoo… this is why – when composing a landscape photograph – you’ll likely find me (even in 2002) scouring the ground in search of something interesting that might help introduce the viewer to the scene and hopefully compel them to curiously explore my composition further. In the photograph above, you’ll notice my sturdy tripod plopped apparently randomly right in the middle of a bunch of jagged rocks that are littered across the edge of the shoreline. The boundary of where the ocean meets the land is eternally intriguing, one that uncovers and reveals infinite possibilities. In the shot below, hopefully I was able to unearth some of those wonderful possibilities?

Sand Beach

As the sun rises…

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…it lights up the granite cliffs of Acadia National Park. From a rocky perch high above the Atlantic shoreline, I spent a wonderful, crisp morning witnessing the dawn of another day. Before sunrise, there was a subtle, almost blue hue which bathed the landscape, though I had a feeling, if patient, that some nice light would eventually climb above the clouds that were hugging the horizon, and that the scene would come alive.

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Soft pre-dawn light on the Acadia granite shoreline

A quick glance ninety degrees to the left where the sun was rising presented the scene below… captured in HDR mode with my iPhone, you can see how the clouds on the horizon subdued what might otherwise have been a pretty sunrise. I waited for the sun to get high enough in the sky to peer over those clouds, and the result was a familiar glow on the Acadia granite shown in the last photograph in this post. A high tide – or better still – a high tide that coincides with a big storm – would make this scene much more dramatic, but as with most mornings spent watching the sun come up in Acadia, I can’t think of a better place to be.

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On a day like this…

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… I love my remote release. It was cold when I made this photograph – somewhere in the low single digits or maybe even zero – but when you add the wind chill whipping in off the ocean, I was glad that I didn’t need my camera-operating fingers exposed to the elements any longer than necessary.

A remote release allows me to control the pressing of the shutter without having to fumble with gloves and bare fingers in the freezing temperatures, and it also permits me to trigger the shutter without touching the camera and risking moving my equipment. Even the tiniest of nudges as you manually depress the shutter with your finger can introduce “camera-shake” and ruin a photograph – moving the camera even ever so slightly might result in a not-so-sharp image, especially if you plan on printing big. I usually take my paranoia in this regard one step further and engage the mirror lock-up feature on my camera – one squeeze of the remote to lift the mirror, and a couple of seconds later a second squeeze to fire off the exposure. By using this technique, I’m minimizing the chances of the elements coming together for an epic sunrise in a beautiful place, only to return home with a slightly blurry photograph due to vibration.

So there’s the technical reason why I use a remote release, but it also provides me with a myriad of creative options, one of which I especially enjoy. As the light fades and exposure times naturally lengthen, I like to choose the size of the aperture, set the camera dial on bulb mode, and experiment with the length of the exposure. Adding a 6-stop neutral density filter will lengthen the exposure time even more, so I choose an appropriate aperture size (usually between f11 – f14), and use my remote to trigger the shutter, holding it open for anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes. As colors deepen and movements are condensed through the longer exposure, results can be pretty interesting. Oh yes, and perhaps most importantly, I get to sit back, relax and soak in the scene without having my body hunched over the camera holding the shutter button down by hand.

In the photograph below, the outgoing tide is rendered smoother than it actually was, and the high clouds streaking overhead appear much different than if I had chosen a typically faster shutter speed.

You could spend a lot on either a tethered or a wireless version, but the remote cable release I use is a simple knock-off purchased on Amazon for about $6. Despite the low cost, it has become one of the most used and valuable pieces of equipment in my bag. I love the creative options it provides, but on a day like this, my fingers also appreciated the comfort and convenience it offers. Do you use a remote release? if so, what are some of the creative ways that you deploy this little gadget?

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A different angle

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In this location, I can usually be found hunkered down somewhere back near where the ocean meets the round rocks, since that spot gives you a view of the Atlantic Ocean and majestic Otter Cliffs. On this occasion however, I’m a little further along the Boulder Beach shoreline, looking back over my shoulder at a different angle. Looking in this direction doesn’t give a striking view of the cliffs, but the round rocks this location is renowned for are still there, and I love those steadfast trees standing guard over the scene.

Sights (and sounds) of Schoodic

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A nice place to spend some time. Though a still image can take me back to a place I have visited and sometimes even remind me vividly about that experience, it’s merely that… an image. Here’s a little bonus where I hit the record button for video… the sights (and sounds) from Raven’s Nest in Acadia National Park, Maine.

Soothing…

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This location faces Frenchman Bay and the open Atlantic, and as you can see from the shape of the jagged shoreline, the ocean has definitely left its mark over time. High tide on this particular icy day was scheduled to coincide with sunset, so I was hopeful I might see (and photograph) some big waves in good light. Neither the big waves nor the good light really materialized, but I didn’t mind. I always enjoy time spent in Acadia National Park, and on this occasion, an exposure of 39 seconds helped smooth out both the ocean and the sky to create for me what is a very soothing image.

Stopping off on my way home…

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It was a very cold day as I made my way home from down east Maine after a work meeting in Machias. The light was fading fast, but I decided to try and get myself to somewhere with a pretty view for sunset, and Schoodic was in just the right place. I literally raced here – obeying the rules of the road of course – and arrived in the nick of time about 15 minutes before the sun went down. When I hopped out of the car and started exploring what is considered the quieter part of my favorite National Park, it was extremely cold. At one point I nipped a finger while locking a tripod leg, but because my skin was so cold, I didn’t feel the pain that usually accompanies such an event. Anyone who has ever experienced a hungry tripod lock knows how much it hurts, so you can imagine how cold my fingers must have been! This particular Acadia location, known as Raven’s Nest, consists of a couple of semi-hidden rocky ledges hanging over the Atlantic Ocean. For reference, that’s Cadillac Mountain off in the distance across Frenchman Bay – nothing original here, but quite a view nonetheless, eh?

Distilling the scene

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1-5-14 bass harbor3 BWTake away the color and you’re left with basic elements like lines, shapes, textures and tones. Certain photographs lend themselves well to being converted to black and white and others don’t, and in this case, I kinda liked how this scene looked in monochrome. Distinct and obvious in shape, the jagged granite rocks add drama to an already iconic view, and in each of these compositions, I tried to wed the foreground, mid ground and background together in a cohesive way. Hopefully I succeeded.

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The pick of the litter

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Though proud of the black and white rendition of this scene, I’m going to say that I like the color version slightly better. So, what makes this image the pick of the litter for me? I like the foreground. I like how the rocky shoreline zig-zags as it recedes through the mid ground. I like how the waning twilight-induced longer exposure smoothed out the mighty Atlantic. I like the classic Acadia granite, and I especially like how it looks with a dusting of snow. I like how the local evergreens frame the spectacular and pulsing beacon, and I like how the longer exposure impacted the clouds that were streaking overhead. I like how even the tones are throughout the scene, and I like how, compositionally, all roads lead the eye through the scene and back to the lighthouse. Most of all though, I like how, when I look at this photograph, I can vividly recall the personal and intimate experience of spending time in a favorite place.

Tweaking a composition

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I hope you’re not getting tired of this place? This particular location – at least when perched out on the ice-covered rocks like I was – doesn’t leave a lot of room for maneuvering and making adjustments to a composition. Depending on the tidal conditions, there are only a couple of tight ledges/rocks that can be used to park one’s self and gear. I always enjoy making decisions about which elements to include within the frame and how they should be arranged in relation to each other – in doing so I’m always trying to tell a story, convey what it felt like to be there, display the beauty on show – for me, that’s all part of the fun of landscape photography.

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When confined to this specific location, if interested in including the lighthouse, the rocks, and maybe a breaking wave, then a wide angle lens is a must. Changing focal lengths will give you the ability to make a few compositional adjustments, but this particular scene is definitely one where creative choices are somewhat limited. I’m a sucker for using a wide-angle lens to accentuate the foreground of any scene, and in this particular location, there is no shortage of interesting elements to include. The lines in the rocks can be used to help steer the viewer’s eyes toward the lighthouse, and on this chilly winter day, I wanted to try and include some of the ice-encrusted foreground.

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Once I settle on a broad concept of what I’d like to include, I’ll make some subtle changes within the frame, all the while trying to improve the quality of the composition. Options include raising or lowering the tripod to change the perspective, moving it from side to side, tipping the camera forward or backward, and perhaps making adjustments to the focal length. I typically end up with maybe a half dozen slight variations on a composition, though it’s usually not until I get back home and fire up the computer that I can contrast and compare what I made. This brief visit to Bass Harbor was fairly productive, and it felt good to be breathing in the winter air and making photographs again. I’ll share my favorite image from this trip in the next post.

Behind the scenes…

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Here’s a little peek behind the scenes as it were. When I arrived at Bass Harbor Lighthouse about an hour before sunrise, I quickly realized that the light, though subtle and quite calming, wasn’t going to produce a lot of action in the sky, so I started to look for ways to make the scene before me more interesting. The little white structure perched high above the Atlantic Ocean is obviously the star of the show, and the jagged granite shoreline plays a solid complimentary role, but without a compelling backdrop, it would be hard to make an engaging composition. I needed to get closer to the water.

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The recent sub-zero blast of Arctic air had left the rocks covered in ice, so I had to be somewhat careful as I navigated my surroundings. If you’ve ever visited this spot you’ll likely remember that although some care needs to be taken, it isn’t that difficult to get out onto the edge of the rocks. On this day however, all of those cracks and crevices were filled with either ice or snow, which made traversing the rocky landscape quite precarious. I knew if I could get myself and my camera out onto the rock to the left of the frame, I would be able to include the waves in a composition. In the photograph above, I’ve diagrammed where my camera was set up.

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Two exposures blended: 0.5s for the sky and 3.2s for the foreground

So, despite being a tad unsure of my footing, I used my tripod to provide stability and set out to get that little bit closer to what would hopefully be a dynamic foreground element. I splayed the tripod legs wide so I could get as low to the ground as possible, and when I turned the camera and wide-angle lens to portrait orientation, I was able to include a lot into one frame. I have to admit, laying down on the rocks with my back to the large ocean swells was just a tiny bit unnerving, but I should note, although it looks like I was balanced in a uncertain place, I wasn’t in any jeopardy. I would never put myself in a dangerous position just for a photograph.

Breathing in the ocean air…

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Canon 5D Mk II, 315 seconds, f13, iso 100, 17-40 mm lens at 24 mm

I was determined to get out with the camera this weekend, but the frigid temperatures of late had made me a little gun-shy about making my usual pre-dawn start. Considering that the recent temperatures had dipped as low as minus 15 F with wind chills down around minus 30 F, perhaps you can understand my reluctance to make an early start to go stand on the icy ocean shore? Anyhoo… Sunday afternoon rolled around and it was beginning to look like another weekend would come and go without me getting my backside in gear. That’s when I looked at the most recent forecast – whaddya know, the temperature had risen by a whopping 35 degrees. It was now a balmy 20 F, and that was my cue to jump in the car and take a run down to Acadia National Park.

Most of the good stuff in Acadia is on the eastern side of the island and ideally suited for a morning shoot, but there are some cool places that lend themselves well to a more westerly view and a sunset composition. One such place is this cute little lighthouse that both warns and welcomes the mariners of Bass Harbor. There were some relatively uninteresting dappled clouds moving overhead in the darkening sky, and since the sunset colors I was hoping for didn’t really materialize, I figured it might be worth experimenting with a longer exposure. Not really sure what I would get by keeping the shutter open for a long time, I set the camera to bulb mode, triggered the remote, and waited. There’s nothing quite like being in a spot like this – there wasn’t another soul around, and as darkness enveloped the landscape, I breathed deeply and made sure to truly appreciate my surroundings.