Postcard from Maine (3)

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4-20-14 Katahdin

There’s more to Maine than Acadia. Geography lesson: if you were to take a pair of scissors to a paper map of New England and cut out the state of Maine, you could actually overlay all of New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. So, relatively speaking – though nothing like the immense size of some of the vast western US states – Maine is a relatively big state.

So, while you could certainly spend a lifetime exploring the coastline of Maine, there’s so much more to see, including the impressive and rugged Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park. in fact:

The coastline of the state of Maine is only about 370 kilometers (230 miles) from one end to another. However, when measured taking into consideration its irregularities such as inlets and offshore islands, its length increases to more than 5,542 kilometers (3,450 miles)! – Google.

This image was made on a chilly October morning from the Abol Bridge area on the Golden Road just outside the Baxter State Park boundary. To reach this location at first light it takes me about two hours of early driving, and on this occasion I can remember arriving in a hurry and frantically scrambling to find a foreground that might hopefully do justice to the magnificent sight of the sun hitting the roof of Katahdin. Luckily, a carpet of remarkably colorful fall foliage was hiding just around a bend in the river – I plopped my tripod down and worked fast to include the reflection of the mountain in the mid-ground, along with the fast-moving clouds breezing over the summit.

Needless to say this was a pretty tranquil and solitary scene… there aren’t many people this far north in Maine, and there certainly weren’t too many of them up and about at this time of day. I find that solitude often makes for a more powerful and engaging experience. Again… though I came away with a photograph that I like, I’m just as happy with the memory of being there in person to explore what was an almost spiritual scene.

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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I am not a wildlife photographer

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Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy nature and all of her bounty, but when it comes to making photographs of wild animals, I just don’t have much experience (or the gear). So when a young moose cow wandered out from the woods while we were enjoying a gorgeous afternoon picnic at Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State Park, I felt a little out of my depth.

Luckily I had my 70-200mm f4 lens with me, but if ever I was going to have the need for a longer lens, then this would have been the day. I bumped my iso up and opened up the aperture so that I could get a decently quick shutter speed – it wasn’t that the moose was moving fast – quite the contrary – but rather because I was hand holding a relatively heavy camera and longish lens, and I wanted to be able to get a decently sharp photograph without camera shake.

We watched this beauty sunning herself on the edge of the pond for about 10 minutes before she deemed it safe to venture out into the cooler water. There were huge numbers of flies buzzing around her, and I cannot imagine the relief she must have felt when she first dunked her head under the water.

She would stay underwater for about 20 seconds at a time, surfacing with a mouthful of some kind of weed that she obviously enjoyed eating. The local ranger newsletter said that moose can eat up to 100lbs of food per day, and as we marveled at how our moose foraged on the pond floor, it wasn’t hard to see how she might meet that target. Isn’t she a beauty?

How to beat the heat

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Just ask the Dallas Mavericks… ba-boom!

Seriously, the weather lately has been absolutely stifling, and although here in Maine we aren’t dealing with the ridiculously high temperatures that seem to be spread all across the rest of the country, it is still hot… especially since air conditioning is somewhat of an after-thought in these parts.

We decided to head north to Baxter State Park and the home of Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine, to see if we could beat the heat. The number of vehicles allowed to enter the park is limited, but we were lucky enough to snag one of the last 3-hour “Moose” permits, and before long we were in the shadow of Katahdin exploring the bogwalks along the edge of Sandy Stream Pond.

The temperatures were definitely more civilized than back home, and a picnic lunch with a cool lake breeze made for the perfect afternoon relaxing on “the big rock” on the western end of the pond. I was doing my photographer thing facing the wrong direction when Jack got all excited and hurried over to tell me that a moose had just wandered out of the woods and was standing on the edge of the pond behind me. Judging by how hot she looked, and by the huge number of flies chomping on her, she was obviously there for the same reason we were!

More of this beauty tomorrow…

Fall Colors

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The wind is whipping pretty hard and the rain is coming down in sheets as I write this. I have yet to get out this year to really enjoy the changing fall colors, and by the time this storm blows through there might not even be any leaves left on the trees! Traditionally the colors should be peaking down on the coast this weekend, and my plan is to take a couple of runs down to Acadia over the next couple of days.

In the meantime, I am dipping back into the archives to share this image of Mount Katahdin from a year ago. I had a hard time truly conveying this scene with the camera… it was just above freezing as the top of Katahdin became bathed in soft early light. The fast-moving clouds that surrounded the peak also caught some of that light, creating a remarkable sight both around the mountain summit and in the foreground reflection. The grandeur of Baxter State Park and the mighty Katahdin was of course impressive, but in this scene I was especially drawn to the colorful carpeting of fallen leaves that seemed to stretch forever. Here’s hoping there are still some leaves left on the trees when I get down to Acadia National Park this weekend!

Favorite Photographs

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I like taking photographs.

I have recently been reading some blog posts by photographers about the task of paring down all of the images you might have taken in the past year, and presenting your favorites for others to see. These photographers are very active shooters, who have enough images to actually make this a more worthwhile activity. I haven’t really been shooting all that much in 2009, so rather than limiting myself to just the past 12 months, I decided to take on the challenge of creating a collection of favorites from all of my images.

New to the blog are several pages that can be accessed from the menu above under the heading “Gallery” –  from there you can access several categories that I thought best suited the path that my photography has taken.

These are my favorites… not just based on how the final image is presented, but also because of the story behind how each of them was obtained, and the places and experiences I have been able to enjoy along the way. Many of these images were created either early in the morning or later in the day, usually outside of the general population’s tolerance for hanging around. Quite often I am alone in very pretty and peaceful settings when these images were made, and that often means more to me than the making of the actual photographs – though it is nice to empty the memory card and see what I was able to capture.

Here’s one of my all-time favorites to get things started:

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Maine Foliage

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My guess is that 90% of the photographs I make are with a wide angle lens. When I visit a scene my first thought is usually to try to include as much as I can to give a true sense of everything that I see. I love the flexibility offered by my trusty 17-40mm f4 Canon L lens, and the colors, clarity and sharpness are all exceptional. While I enjoy and am often pleased with wider images, I sometimes have to pinch myself to remember to look closer at the details around me.

Fall foliage season in Maine is a time when there is ample opportunity to try to capture the beauty of the changing colors… often in a detailed and more intimate way. Maine is a beautiful state, one with a variety of landscapes that shine regardless of which of the three seasons you are in. We have an amazing summer, the most gorgeous fall, and usually a very long winter… those are our three seasons. Unless you count mud season, Spring doesn’t really seem to happen around here.

On a recent trip to Baxter State Park to shoot the fall foliage, I once again got good use out of my wide angle lens, but on this trip I did remember to pull out a longer lens and pay attention to some of the more detailed beauty that surrounded me.

The image below was shot with my 70-200mm f4 Canon L lens at a focal length of 180mm, and I really like how the backlit leaves are so vibrant and alive with the Penobscot River in the background. I had to be patient and wait for the wind to die down to minimize the movement in the leaves, and I also had to be very careful while hand holding the camera and lens to remain steady enough to render a sharp image at this shutter speed.

Technical data: f6.3, iso 100, 1/100th of a second at 180mm

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