Smelly dog

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Oliver looks forward to his 5:30am daily walk on the golf course… and so do I. We have our pre-walk routine down pat, and he of course knows exactly where we’re going, so there’s no need for any coaxing by me. We have everything timed so as to avoid the not-so-nice dogs we might meet along the way (some are nicer than others), and we usually have the place pretty much all to ourselves. Oliver loves to chase the tennis ball, especially when it rolls through the wet grass and the morning dew spirals off it like a firework. He’s funny though… at first I just thought he was being clumsy when he would take a tumble and roll over after catching the ball, but now I’m not so sure. There are definitely times when he’s moving so fast that he can’t help himself as his momentum keeps him from stopping, but no matter how fast or how slow I throw the ball – and ever since he heard me laughing when he does it – I think he now does his little rollover on purpose every single time. It always gets a laugh from me, and he seems quite happy to put on a show.

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A by-product of Oliver’s acrobatic performances chasing the tennis ball is that he comes back from his walk absolutely soaked. Most of the time he’s just wet, but sometimes he’s dirty as well. Initially I thought about avoiding our playtime activities and trying to keep him somewhat drier and cleaner, but if you saw how much fun this kid has chasing the ball and rolling around on the grass, you would understand how I’ve thrown that logic out the window and now just consider it the best thing ever!

When we get back home, he trots straight to where the hose is attached to the side of the house, and he stands incredibly patiently as I hose his feet and belly down. We then hop up onto the front porch where he lies down and lets me take the towel to him. He’s a hairy dog, so no matter how well I get him dried off with the towel, until we get him brushed out, he’s also a smelly dog. But he’s our smelly dog 🙂

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Morning Frost II

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Actually, this one should be titled Morning Fog. Acting on Tony’s suggestion to return to this location in different seasons and different conditions, I took a look at the tree I photographed previously on a frosty morning. This time the grass is already greener, some of the leaves have bloomed, there’s a beautiful foggy backdrop, and if you look closely, you’ll see a good friend of mine doing his thing and enjoying the wet grass.

Oliver update

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Oliver just turned 7 months of age, so I figured it was time to provide a little update on his progress. These are from a recent late April frosty morning walk on the golf course. Now that the snow is gone, we have to get out before the golfers get going, so most of our visits begin even before the sun comes up. Gone are the days of riding to the course in the car… now we walk there like a big boy, and he just loves when I unclip his leash and let him run. He’s a solid 60 lbs now, and he’s a stocky little thing. I’m not sure how tall he is going to get, but that’s OK… we love him just how he is. He looks redder in these photographs than he really is… the early light did a number on the color of his coat, but he’s more of a lighter, blonde color in reality. By now the familiar snow cover is long gone, and we’re enjoying exploring all the fresh and wonderfully wet smells of spring. He does a super job of coming when called, and when it comes to walking beside me on the leash… he’s a champ. He walks ever so politely, and is an absolute joy to spend time with. I use the Nike app on my iPhone to track our walks, and we’re routinely knocking out walks of 3+ miles twice per day. He and I walk together in the morning, and we’ve been doing family walks in the evening. As an added bonus, I call him my diet dog 🙂

PS. May the fourth be with you!

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Spooky

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I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it… but we have a famous neighbor, and when Oliver and I recently adjusted our morning walking route, we ended up going right past his rather unique and spooky house. As we approached the locked, wrought iron gates, I noticed Oliver taking a second glance at the bat-topped, spider web styled pattern on display, and I could tell that he was a little unnerved. Who could blame him?

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This also happens on Sunday evening walks when people have placed their garbage cans out on the street for pick up the next morning… the big black shadowy shapes that weren’t there earlier in the day seem to make him a tad bit nervous. I always talk him through those scary moments, and to help shift his focus, I offer him a bite of apple. Back to our spooky neighbor’s house… we paused momentarily on the sidewalk in front, and as we sat there enjoying our apple and slowly relieving the tension, I started to tell Oliver the story of a Pet Sematary…

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Can you say chilly!

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So… the upcoming weekend is a big deal.

First of all, it’s my birthday again, though to be honest, as the years fly by I don’t really consider it to be that important anymore. The real significance, however, is in that right around this date every year, the average temperatures in Maine hit a seasonal low, and more importantly, they then start to rise again!

Initially, any change in temperature might not be that noticeable, and I am under no illusion that winter is ending anytime soon, but still, it’s a big deal. This whole week looks like it will be colder than cold, and even as we get ready to transition into February and hopefully “warmer” average temperatures, I have no doubt that we’ll be plunged right back into another deep freeze before long. However, much like how I derive comfort from the ever so slightly longer days after the winter solstice, the fact that the mercury will be on the rise again… that matters!

This morning’s temperature bottomed out at a quite delightful -20 degrees Celsius (that’s -4 F), so as you might imagine, I debated even taking Oliver out for a walk. Pre-dog days, the possibility of me venturing outside in such frigid winter weather was absolutely non-existent, but now… well, who could resist that cute little face and that busy little tail wagging from side to side?

The low-angled sun was bright, though not warm in the least, as we embarked on our arctic stroll up and down a couple of the local golf course fairways. Though much shorter than normal due to the potential for frostbite from the windchill, our walk was brisk, and as always, the kid had a ball. The bitter cold didn’t seem to bother him one bit. Me… I’m looking forward to the weekend and the beginning of the slow but welcome temperature climb toward warmer weather.

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Winter light

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There’s some nice light to be had this time of year. The winter sun is still traveling quite low in the sky, and under the right conditions, the low angled light can be quite beautiful. On a late afternoon walk at the local golf course with Oliver, although the dark clouds above were ominous and there were large swathes of cold snow falling to the east of us, there was a thin ribbon of clear sky on the western horizon which promised – if we were patient – one last glimpse of the sun at the end of the day.

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The warmish temperatures of the past few days were being abruptly replaced by the coldest snap of the year so far, and as the breeze started to pick up, I almost felt guilty about asking Oliver to hang out with me for a few minutes to see if the light would change. Honestly though, I think he would stay outside all day if he was allowed, and when a particularly chilly gust blew across the fairway and cut right through us, I watched as Oliver put his nose in the air and followed the smells being carried on the wind from left to right, and I realized at that moment there was nowhere else he’d rather be.

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Right on cue, as the sun dipped down into that thin sliver of sky between the clouds and the horizon, the good light was delivered as promised. It lasted no more than about 45 seconds, but while it illuminated the landscape, boy was it gorgeous. It raked across the land with an intense and almost unreal brightness, and as you can see, it certainly put the “golden” in our favorite baby golden retriever. Though fleeting, the winter light at the end of this particular day was momentarily special, and I’m glad my friend Oliver was there to share it with me.

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Into the fog…

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The unseasonably warm temperatures we are experiencing of late have brought a temporary January thaw, and with it a dense and spooky fog that envelops the landscape. While accompanying Oliver on his early morning walk today, I used my iPhone camera and the “SlowShutter” app to create this image of a local scene we walk through every day. To make this photograph, I chose a shutter speed of half a second, and then moved the camera in a vertical path while the shutter was open. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I enjoy this type of image where there’s a mystery about what the photograph will look like every time you press the shutter. Significant in my journey to get back to landscape photography… I’m up before dawn, and there’s no dog in this one!

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A landscape photograph… sort of

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So, in case you hadn’t noticed, most of my photography efforts lately have been focused pretty much on one thing… that’s right, Oliver the new family dog. I’ve been enjoying my new iPhone – and all of the camera apps I have downloaded – as I document how quickly Oliver is growing. Until recently, I haven’t had much desire to break out the “real” camera and go in search of any pretty landscape images, and I’ve been more than happy to experiment with the handy dandy little camera that is also my phone. I’m the guy you would think has never owned a camera before now… the guy shooting his food, his dog, his kids… you name it and I’m photographing it!

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Anyway, despite being tempted to visit Acadia this past weekend on a landscape photography adventure, the early start, sub-feezing temperatures, and an additional inch and a half of snow that fell somewhat dampened my enthusiasm. So, instead of spending time in Acadia, we settled for a visit to the local golf course with you know who… and that’s where I made a landscape photograph… sort of. While Oliver was doing his thing, I noticed this solitary tree standing tall in the falling snow. And since I had my iPhone/camera with me… here’s the result.

A local landmark

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Built in 1897 and now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, the Thomas Hill Standpipe stands tall as it watches over my hometown of Bangor, Maine. You can see the big white beacon from just about anywhere in town, and its unique shape and structure make for an interesting photographic subject. Distinct with its white cedar shingle siding and black cap, the 110 ft tall standpipe is still used to help regulate Bangor’s water pressure in the downtown area and to store water in case of a major fire. Although the standpipe is no longer open year-round, the Bangor Water District opens the doors four times per year (once every season), and at that time you can climb the one hundred stairs to take in the impressive view. I’ve yet to make it to the top of this striking local landmark, but perhaps I should add that to my list of things to do.

Going solo…

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Jack loves riding in a go-kart – so much so that lately he and I have been hitting the track at least once per week. Up until recently though, he has always had to ride along with his dad in one of the two-passenger karts that we both swear are heavier and slower than the singles.

I get a big kick out of flooring the accelerator as we scoot around the track, and although Jack seems to genuinely have a good time as co-pilot, I know he has wanted to drive by himself for a while. The minimum age to drive solo at our local track is ten, so you can imagine just how impatient this little eight year old has been getting.

Just the other day though, we decided to try a different track. As soon as we arrived, Jack scoured the landscape for that pesky sign which would say he had to be ten years old to drive solo. Hmmmm… no sign anywhere.

Before he got too excited though, I asked the kid running the track what age you had to be to drive by yourself. “No age limit”, he replied, but “you do have to be as tall as the white pole over by the entrance gate”.

Now… my kid has been growing like a weed all summer, and when he sprinted over to the pole and measured where he stood, his eyes got big and he had a huge smile from ear to ear. Vroom, vroom…

Race for the Cure

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Every year, my team of varsity high school soccer players participates in the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Bangor. We usually get a good number from the JV and freshman teams to join in as well, and this year I think we had 55+ kids running… certainly a record number participating since I have been coaching this team. Jack decided that he wanted to run the race this year too, and here’s a little sampling of me trying to keep up with him…

Playing like you mean it – Keith Urban

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You gotta love it when a performer gets on stage and plays like he means it. That’s exactly what Keith Urban and his band did last week when performing in Bangor at the Waterfront. The energy throughout the show was exceptional, and I don’t think there was ever a moment when Urban didn’t have a smile on his face. From the moment he stepped onto the stage until he played the final song of a nearly two hour set, he honestly and genuinely engaged with the crowd and put on a show to remember.

Although categorized within the genre of country, these guys totally rocked the Waterfront and absolutely got after it on stage from start to finish – I think it’s safe to say that this wasn’t your grandma’s country music. An impressive singer in his own right, he also showed himself to be a phenomenally talented guitar player – and when he and the band got cranking, it was a sight (and sound) to behold. I’ve personally seen some of the more renowned live performers such as U2 and Springsteen… and I’ve even seen the almighty KISS live… and I have to tell you that this Keith Urban show was as entertaining as – and worth the price of admission of – any show I’ve seen.

Opening Day

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Baseball season in Maine has finally begun. For all you warm weather folks who are used to spring coming much earlier, that must be hard to believe, eh? Jack had been waiting (im)patiently for this day to arrive, and it has been fun seeing him experience the rituals associated with becoming a Little League Baseball player. Practicing in the gym during the cold(er) winter months, experimenting with the many legit (and some not so legit) ways to soften up his glove, scouring the stores for the right bat and batting gloves, and then waiting to hear which team he was on… just some of the things that led to a heightened level of anticipation for this past weekend’s big day.

Don’t let that sunshine fool you… though the 30 degree temperatures and biting wind chill did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the local Little Leaguers and coaches as the opening day parade made its way from Fairmount Park to Mansfield Stadium. As Jack and his friends excitedly skipped, bounced, and hopped their way along the parade route, it was pretty obvious that he was in his element, and any doubts we had about signing him up for baseball were immediately forgotten.

He played his first game later that afternoon, and despite the lack of experience on the field, it actually looked like a real game of baseball. Coaches pitching kept the game moving along at a good pace, and most importantly, a welcoming, safe, and fun atmosphere was created for all of the kids. Third strikes were called as foul tips, always giving the batter another chance; while all 8 year olds are competitive, the importance of the score was minimized; and both teams definitely had a blast as they played and learned at the same time. We are lucky to have such caring people volunteering their time to coach, and both Lori and I feel very good about the quality of the experience Jack is going to have.

Back to the game… Jack looked, and played, like a pro. He had a couple of hits, played an awesome first base, and was thrilled to make it around the bases and across the plate to score a run. Like his big brother, he seems to genuinely enjoy baseball, and I have a feeling that we will be spending quite a bit of time at his games in the future… now if only the temperature would warm up!

The Whole of the Moon…

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Using the Photographer’s Ephemeris as my guide, I knew that the full moon was going to rise about half an hour after sunset this evening, and I knew precisely where in the sky it was going to rise. I had grand visions of photographing a huge full moon illuminated against a backdrop of gorgeous pinks, blues and purples from the earth’s shadow, and the timing of sunset/moonrise would be quite close for allowing this to happen… that’s – if – there weren’t any clouds on the horizon.

I was in Portland earlier in the day helping Sam take care of paperwork for his summer internship, and while in town, we stopped for lunch at the Ri Ra Irish Pub on Commercial Street. As Sam scoffed down Shepherd’s Pie and I enjoyed a delicious bowl of Guinness and Beef Stew, a song from the past blared over the sound system, hence the title of this post. The song brought me back to growing up in Ireland… “The Whole of the Moon” by the Waterboys… classic!

Lori and Jack joined me on this little adventure – after we had all enjoyed ice cream at Giffords – and the three of us arrived at the parking lot for the Bangor Forest about half an hour before sunset. There’s a pond at the bottom of a large hill (which is actually an old landfill), and we all spent some time being enthralled and entertained by a frisky beaver swimming and splashing around. Though I was really just killing time until moonrise, I began to notice that as the sun got lower in the sky, nice warm light was beginning to paint the landscape. Scattered clouds were exploding up above, and from my viewpoint, I could see shafts of virga all around being backlit by beautiful colors. With the setting sun getting lower in the sky, I quickly set my camera up and fired off a few compositions.

OK… now for the moon. After the sun had set, I huffed and puffed my way to the top of the hill – I really do have to get in better shape – and I did some figuring as to where in the sky the moon would be rising. Wouldn’t you know… there was a thin layer of cloud hugging the horizon right where the moon was supposed to rise. After doing all of my planning, I wasn’t about to give up just yet though. A wide angle lens would render the moon – no matter how big it was in person – as a relatively small speck, so instead I set my tripod and camera up with a 70-200mm lens attached.

The image above is a composite of two photographs… the overall scene was shot at 70mm, and the moon was shot at 200mm… I then did a little computery-shenanigans to place the correctly exposed and life-size version of the moon back into the scene. Not quite what I had envisioned, but it was VERY COOL to be able to share the experience with Lori and Jack. As we watched darkness fall over the forest, twinkling stars slowly unveiled themselves overhead, and bullfrogs in the pond sounded their deep-throated songs… and even though those pesky clouds delayed the moon show for a few minutes, we did eventually see the whole of the moon.

Practicing

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We all love the Bangor Forest, and Jack especially loves to use the “back” entrance via Kittredge Road where you park and then climb over a huge hill that was once a city landfill. Lush and green in the summer months, on this particular winter day the hill was brown and, for this time of year, atypically barren of snow.

Another reason I like to go to the forest is to practice my photography. And when I say practice, I literally mean practice. I like to press the shutter tons of times as we explore the landscape, and whether or not we have great light, I enjoy trying to arrange the elements found in some sort of meaningful way. Most times it doesn’t work out that well, but every now and then I come home with a photograph that I like. My main goal isn’t necessarily to come away with a knockout composition, but rather to… well… practice, in the hope that when I do find myself in a more aesthetically pleasing scene I am better prepared to take advantage. On this particular morning I had decided to bring only my 50mm f1.8 lens, so rather than having the luxury of a zoom to manipulate compositions, I had to do it the old-fashioned way by moving my feet!

Anyhoo… as I wandered along the path I stumbled on the image below, and although hardly portfolio level, I kinda liked how the remnants of fall color contrasted with the more seasonal elements on the forest floor. And as I said… good practice.

Elements of the forest

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From Sunday morning in the Bangor Forest… can’t resist this type of photograph, and the snow in the cool shadows on the ground contrasted wonderfully with the evergreens and warm sunlight to create a beautiful color palette.

A dusting in the forest

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Living so close to the Bangor Forest is like having a State Park in your own backyard. It is a gorgeous tract of land, and we are fortunate to have it available for public use. We haven’t had a lot of snow in Maine this winter (yet), but this morning the dusting of snow and pockets of ice did wonders for disguising much of the familiar terrain, making it feel as if we were exploring the winding trails for the first time. Low in the January sky, the almost warm winter sun managed to reach through the canopy and into the heart of the forest where it illuminated the snow-covered trails and pointed the way.

Feeling as though I’ve been relying on the distortion it provides a bit too much lately, I left my wide angle lens at home and spent the morning with only a 50mm lens on the camera. Tack sharp when needed, this little beauty offers a totally different (more normal) perspective, and I enjoyed experimenting with the shallower depth of field available. Definitely another Sunday morning well spent…

My favorite photographs from 2011

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As each year draws to a close, I enjoy taking a moment to go back through photographs made during the past twelve months and highlighting those that mean the most to me. I usually choose my favorites based on the physical and emotional experience I have, and it really does feel good to reflect on time well spent in places I enjoy. I have to admit, I also get a kick out of using the camera to technically create something I like to look at… making memories that will forever feed my soul. I hope that as each year passes my photographs get better – whatever that means – or at least that they invoke stronger feelings within me, both while breathing in and out perched on the rocky Atlantic shoreline, or now, as I sit here typing and reminiscing about early morning wake up calls and fingers crossed in anticipation of dramatic clouds and good light. Anyhoo… most of my 2011 favorites are – surprise, surprise – from Acadia National Park and the coast of Maine, although this year I also have a couple from a memorable March trip back home to Ireland with my oldest son Sam. Drum roll…

I had been itching to get out with the camera again, so I decided to visit one of my favorite places and see if I could capture some snow blanketing the famous round rocks below Otter Cliffs. An early start this morning got me here about 45 minutes before the sun was scheduled to crest at 6:36am, and as always, I had the place completely to myself. Though the temperature was certainly chilly, there was little to no wind blowing, and since I was dressed in several layers, the 13F actually felt quite comfortable.

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I spent a very enjoyable late afternoon exploring the area around the Marshall Point Lighthouse in the mid-coast community of Port Clyde. Originally established in 1832, the present lighthouse was built in 1857, and this is the same lighthouse Forrest Gump visited when he was traversing the country. This lighthouse is pretty unique in it’s design, with a 31 ft tall white granite and brick tower perched on the rocks at the end of a narrow walkway. A distinctive and striking black cast iron lantern houses a fresnel light that does not flash any more. The Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum on the first floor of the light keeper’s house was opened in 1990, and the whole area is meticulously cared for and maintained.

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Standing near the ocean as the night rolls in can be a somewhat unnerving experience, especially with the wind trying to knock you over and huge waves crashing in the not too far off distance. At the end of the day, the warm light from the beacon was quite comforting as I made my way back toward the car. I stopped one more time to soak in the scene… that’s when I saw this view of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

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I can remember visiting the Gap of Dunloe some 20+ years ago with Lori and some friends, and on that occasion we traveled in style with Dolly… the farting horse. Locals provide horse-drawn traps for the ride up to the gap, and the day we went we had a wet and windy journey up the hill, pulled by our horse who tooted all the way. This photograph is from when Sam and I visited Ireland last spring, and even though the classic greens associated with the Emerald Isle weren’t yet in full force, this was still a striking scene.

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Every single time I pass over the bridge that spans Marshall Brook I find myself staring at what I consider to be a breathtaking scene. There is something about the view laid out before you that catches my eye every time… no matter what the time of day or the prevailing weather conditions, I find myself always having to pull over. Looking north across the Bass Harbor Marsh toward Bernard (left) and Mansell Mountains (right), the eyes are treated to a snaking river that gently winds its way off into the distance.

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I spent an immensely peaceful early morning perched on a ledge overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and I couldn’t help marvel at how this is a very cool way to start the day. The sun rises before 5:00 a.m. in the summer in Maine, and as you can see from the photograph above, the pre-dawn light on this particular morning was pretty special. When the sun eventually crested over Great Head behind me, it bathed the scene in amazing warm light, with the granite absolutely lighting up with color. This view is looking south along the rugged Acadia coast toward Otter Cliffs, and other than a couple of seagulls who kept me company on the ledge, I was here all by myself.

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So… I wasn’t expecting the conditions to be particularly special on this morning, but as the light slowly climbed from the east up and over my shoulder toward the lighthouse, I started to wonder if I might actually be in for a show? There were some soft, wispy clouds behind the lighthouse, and as the day began to brighten, my jaw literally dropped as I marveled at how the high clouds were being illuminated with a phenomenal pinkish hue. Knowing that the light probably wouldn’t last long, and with a big grin on my face, I worked quickly to try to combine all of the elements within the frame into something I liked. I couldn’t have ordered better weather conditions, and the impressive lighthouse that welcomes returning mariners to Bass Harbor certainly did its part.

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Taking the Slea Head Road further west out of Dingle, we spotted a little harbor tucked into the rocks with a pretty beach. From a distance it was beautiful, and up close… even nicer. Looking over our shoulder though, we saw what looked like a path winding its way up the hillside toward the ocean. Eager for an adventure and the possibility of a nice view, we started hiking. I thought I was going to have a heart attack… too many Irish breakfasts and too much Guinness lately had me struggling to keep up with Sam. When I finally did get to a flat spot, I dropped my backpack and told him to go on ahead… I needed a rest. The headland we were on was called Dunmore Head (I think), and from here you can see Great Blasket Island straightaway, Inishnabro and Inishvickillane off to the left, and to the right is Beiginis and then Inishtooskert.

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There’s something about the fleeting appearance that Lupine make here in Maine which I really like. They explode onto the scene as the weather warms up at the start of June, but by the time July rolls around they are already starting to fade away. They are scattered all over the side of I-95 as I make my way down and back to work, and maybe it’s because they brighten my commute at this time of year, but I love the splash of color they add to the landscape. We went camping one weekend in mid-June… and despite the rainy weather, a good time was had by all. Late on the Friday afternoon we wandered up to the Beech Hill Road to hike the Canada Cliff Trail, and along the roadside we encountered a field absolutely brimming over with my favorite Maine flower… Lupine.

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If you want to discover examples of fall foliage colors in a pretty Acadia location, look no further than the path that runs alongside the Jordan Pond Stream. Starting out behind the Jordan Pond House restaurant, find the stepped trail entering the woods leading down to where the carriage road meets up with the stream, cross the bridge and make a left turn to follow the stream downhill and you will be treated to not only the soothing sound of running water, but also the wide array of foliage colors typically associated with a classic New England fall season.

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I had looked at the weather, and with a forecast of light rain and cloudy skies, it seemed like the perfect time to make a quick run down to Acadia before the fall foliage was all gone. I knew that the overcast weather and foggy conditions would offer nice even light in which to photograph the changing autumn colors at the top of Cadillac and the rejuvenated, rain-fed Jordan Pond Stream. First stop Cadillac… there is something special about being on top of a mountain when it is socked in with clouds and you have it all to yourself, and when that mountain is Cadillac, I’m in heaven.

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Fall foliage season comes and goes pretty fast around these parts, and when you factor in the potential for poor weather and the usual work commitments, chances are I might only have a couple of opportunities to try to make some photographs displaying the changing colors. This was the first photograph I made on a cool, rainy morning spent exploring the banks of the Jordan Pond Stream in Acadia National Park.

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Sunday morning stroll

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After our early season nor’easter last weekend which dropped a load of heavy wet snow, we were treated this weekend to clear blue skies and bright sunshine. With moderately mild temperatures enticing us outside, we decided to visit a place we haven’t been to in a while, the Bangor City Forest. Even at midday the sun was pretty low in the sky, and despite the evidence of ponds and puddles unsuccessfully trying to ice over, it definitely felt more like fall than winter. Although it is the first week in November already, there were still plenty of pockets where the leaves were brown but still on the trees, and the sunlight streaming through the forest was beautiful. Since we were on the quieter side of the forest away from the more popular Bogwalk, it was incredibly peaceful and it felt as though we could easily have been deep in the wilderness rather than just a few miles from the city.

We meandered along our own little loop which followed the Bobcat, Moose and Grouse Trails, and as we did so, we noticed the noises and smells of a forest which was still vibrant and alive, though definitely getting ready for slumber. Squirrels were busy harvesting for the winter, and many of the birds we would have expected to hear were now quiet. On a couple of occasions we heard voices from people who had obviously decided to stay on the gravel roads, but as we got lost deeper and deeper in our own little less-traveled world, Lori and I both remarked on how invigorating and refreshing it was to be in a place so beautiful… and right in our own backyard too!

Ninja candy collector

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I have a sweet tooth… always have. No-one else in the family really cares too much about candy, desserts and all the good stuff, but I do. My idea of breakfast is a Twix and a Diet Mountain Dew, so as we get toward the end of October, I become more and more excited about one of my favorite holidays… Halloween. This year my candy collector sidekick decided to be a Ninja, and as you can see, his haul this season was pretty impressive. Armed with a cute smile and his “Trick-or-Treat”, “Thank You” and “Happy Halloween”, I guided him from house to house on our mission to gather as much candy in an hour as we could. Making sure we didn’t trip in the dark and spill any of it along the way, this little stash should keep me in a sugar coma for at least the next couple of days!

Halloween around these parts is a big deal, and not just because of all the candy that comes into the house. Our neighborhood goes all out for this wacky holiday with almost every house getting into the spirit, and it certainly draws a crowd. Not just the locals either… we are used to getting a ton of trick-or-treaters from surrounding towns, and this year was no exception with cars parked end to end along the entire street. This was probably one of our busiest Halloweens, as kids young and old swarmed the neighborhood in search of goodies. We only give out the good stuff at our house… no pretzels, pencils or tiny lollipops here… chocolate all the way baby… but by 7:15pm our supply of 400+ pieces was exhausted! Reluctantly we had to turn out the lights and retreat inside where we could examine (and sample) the work of the Ninja candy collector… sweet.