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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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 😉

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.

Making it mine…

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It’s funny how some photographs make their way onto the personal favorite list and some don’t. The photograph above is a screenshot of the refresh I just did to my portfolio site, and as you can see, I didn’t choose one of the iconic and more recognizable views of Acadia for the front page, but rather a more intimate – albeit dramatic – view from Sand Beach during a big storm.

Easily accessible, anyone who has ever visited Sand Beach has stood right in this exact spot looking south along the coast toward Otter Cliffs. Although a very popular vista, chances are that few people have witnessed this scene in these conditions, and for that reason, I’m fairly proud of the degree of originality that this image contains. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of photographs from Acadia National Park that are instantly recognizable – Cadillac Mountain, Bass Harbor Light, Schoodic, Otter Cliffs, Boulder Beach – heck, maybe if you’ve visited Acadia you too photographed similar scenes?

One of the most important lessons I ever learned though when making a landscape photograph – and it happened very early on in the process – was to try to be different… to try and make my photographs truly mine, different from what someone else might make. That process might involve the choice of lens and focal length to be used, the choice of a different physical perspective, or maybe just getting lucky one time with the light and weather conditions. Sometimes I’m successful at pulling that all together, and sometimes I’m not… though when I am, it’s usually because I’ve not only made a decent photograph, but because I’ve also had a memorable experience… and that’s when an image usually makes it’s way toward the personal favorite pile.

It’s that time of year again…

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Someone likes the snow!

…where we reflect on the year that was, and choose our favorite images from the past twelve months. Our family welcomed a new puppy this year, and although Oliver has consumed much of my recreational time, I still managed to spend some time in Acadia with the camera. I enjoy the process of reflection. I also enjoy taking a moment to reminisce about places I’ve been, and sights I’ve seen. I never tire of spending time in my favorite national park, and along the way throughout the year, I made a photograph or two to remind me of what were often personal and intimate experiences. Not as prolific as in past years, I didn’t make the quantity of images I usually do. Maybe there’s a New Year’s resolution to be made which might ensure a more productive 2014? Though there aren’t many iconic and instantly recognizable picture postcard views this year, hopefully my favorite 13 images from 2013 are still distinctively Acadia? Oh yeah, and other than the golden-colored Oliver, my favorites from this year are all in black and white. If interested in seeing some high-quality landscape photography, check out the annual Jim Goldstein curation of imagery – here’s a link to the 2012 edition where you’ll be able to browse some seriously awesome work. Happy holidays!

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Wonderland granite sculpted by the Atlantic

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Withstanding the elements at Ship Harbor

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Cairn on Cadillac

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View from Adams Bridge

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Incoming tide at Schoodic

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A glimpse of Old Soaker

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Mitchell Cove – the quiet side

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The Ledges along the Loop Road

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No way… fog on the coast of Maine?

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Last light on Otter Point

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Shelter from the wind

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Two of my boys enjoying Sand Beach

Revisiting a favorite photograph

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Not every favorite photograph has to be of a grand vista. I’m re-publishing one of my all-time favorite photographs in this post, an image that – at least for me – is quintessential Acadia. This is a more intimate view from the field of round rocks on Boulder Beach located just below Otter Cliffs. No ultra wide-angle, sunrise color-popping, wave-crashing excitement here… just a calm composition that accentuates the wonderfully shaped rocks that are strewn all over a place that is special to me. I can remember spending several hours on a foggy morning experimenting with a variety of compositions before discovering what you see in this frame. Like I said… one of my favorite photographs from one of my favorite places.

A Window to the World

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I’m celebrating the fact that I actually got off my you-know-what and made a new landscape photograph – one that I’m actually prepared to share! I hadn’t visited Acadia in several months, but all that changed this past weekend when local photographer Chad Tracy and I cruised down to MDI for a quick photo expedition. Despite the below freezing temperatures and the biting wind, standing on the rocky shoreline of my favorite national park never felt so good!

I’ll share a few more photographs from what was a beautiful sunrise over the next few days, so stay tuned. After exploring a part of the granite “ledges” along the Loop Road near Thunder Hole, our original plan was to meander back toward Sand Beach to maybe do some long exposures with the surf. We got sidetracked though when I realized how close we were to this unique location, and since the sun was already up, I was excited to visit at a time when I wouldn’t get the willies from it being too dark.

The ecosystem within this sea cave is extraordinarily delicate, so Chad and I were extremely cautious about making sure to walk only on the solid rock. Although not a huge secret, and relatively easy to find, to further protect this little gem I made Chad swear not to divulge the location to anyone else. The approach to the cave – and the floor inside – was quite slippery and tricky to navigate, and to add to the mystique, this location is only accessible at low tide. It was quite an experience to spend some time in here, and as we looked through the window out onto Frenchman Bay, we appreciated the shelter from the chilly winter air. I like this photograph, and I’m going to add it to my portfolio.

If you haven’t seen my full portfolio yet – if interested – you can click on over and check out a selection of my favorite images on Acadia and Beyond (in addition to Acadia, I’ve shared images of Maine, Ireland, Death Valley, Yosemite). If you do visit the site, drop me a line… I’d love to hear your thoughts. If interested in purchasing from the site between now and the New Year, to save some cash be sure to type in the discount code “Acadia” when checking out. A bargain… Happy holidays!

And yes… I’m trying out a new blog theme. Feedback appreciated on that too 🙂

Waiting for the snow…

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It’s that in-between stage of the year when fall foliage colors are gone and the trees are left standing stark and bare. Though there are certainly landscape photographs to be made at this time of year, especially on the coast where the lack of leaves on the trees has minimal impact on potential compositions, I find these last few weeks of fall rather dull and uninspiring. As we make the transition into winter, it’s also becoming much colder, and when the wind picks up like it has been lately, the challenge to get out and about with the camera increases. The carpet of downed leaves loses its vibrancy, and the landscape in general looks (to me) quite drab and thin. That all changes though when the snow comes… and mark my words, here in Maine it will definitely come! A fresh blanket of the white stuff will transform the landscape, covering up the ordinary scenes currently littered with dead leaves, and with it will come renewed inspiration and a rekindled desire to photograph the surroundings. I’ve made a resolution to spend more time in Acadia this winter to try and capture the beauty of my favorite National Park in the snow. In the meantime, as we wait for the snow, from a few years back here’s a famous and iconic Acadia scene blanketed in winter…

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Printing on metal

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I recently splurged and had the photograph above printed directly onto metal. These days you can have a photograph printed on just about any surface – I’ve experimented with different types of paper, and am a big fan of canvas – but this is the first time I’ve had anything printed on metal, and when I opened the package…  it blew my mind.

The color pops like nothing I’ve ever seen, and the detail rendered makes it feels as if you can walk right into the scene. Almost 3-D, the colors are incredibly faithful to the original file, and without a doubt, this is the most impressive medium I have ever seen a photograph printed on.

The price initially made me swallow hard, but when you consider the cost of printing, matting, mounting and framing a similarly sized paper print, it really isn’t that much more expensive… especially when you consider the serious upgrade in product quality, and the no-hassle ready to hang nature of this type of order. I might not be ready to print everything on metal just yet, but I sure am tempted.

Here’s the original photograph made at the base of Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park last fall. Epic sunrise.

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The Loop Road in Acadia NP

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The Loop Road in Acadia National Park offers so much to see, especially the stretch that runs from the fee station near Schooner Head to the jagged granite promontory of Otter Cliffs. This section of the Loop Road is probably no more than a couple of miles long, but it sure does pack a punch when it comes to views of the Acadia shoreline and the Atlantic Ocean. Whether driving in your car or taking a leisurely stroll along the Ocean Path which runs alongside the Loop Road, you’re sure to be impressed by the weathered landscape/seascape. From Sand Beach to Thunder Hole to Monument Cove to Boulder Beach and Otter Cliffs… this spectacular road with amazing views also provides ample opportunity to hop off the beaten path, scamper over the rocks, and explore up close the ruggedness of the Maine coastline. And for those who didn’t already know… it stays open all year round, so if you haven’t yet seen Acadia in the snow… you should! And that’s enough hyperlinks for now!

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A common courtesy

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I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve visited Boulder Beach in Acadia National Park when there have been other people there. I’m still amazed that virtually every time I visit this gorgeous location, I have the place all to myself. Granted, I’m usually there an hour before sunrise – and in the summer months – that can mean a really, really early start. This, however, is the story of a morning where I did not have the place all to myself.

When I view online images of Acadia and read about the photographer’s experience, it genuinely warms my heart to know that others have had an opportunity to see what I see, to feel what I feel, and to make a photograph of a place that I love. I also enjoy sharing Acadia with others, especially those who haven’t had the pleasure of visiting before. Many times I have “guided” friends and family in, around, and through Acadia, and I never get tired of their appreciation for my favorite national park.

On this particular morning though, my feelings of hospitality were sorely tested. As I was setting up to enjoy and photograph what turned out to be a spectacular sunrise, a horde of people came scrambling down the path. A photo workshop of a dozen or so headlamp bearing, tripod clattering people descended on this quiet little scene, and any feelings of tranquility disappeared in an instant.

Honestly though, my first thought was, cool… this was the perfect morning for all of these photographers to be here. I was guessing that most of them were “from away” with limited time to spend in Acadia, and if this was their one and only morning to visit Boulder Beach, they couldn’t have picked a better one. I have spent many, many mornings hoping in vain for good light at this exact location, and right now the sky was showing signs of lighting up in a way that I had always dreamed of. Lucky day!

Then things started going awry… I’m not one to bother anyone while they’re concentrating, but I’ll always say hello to a fellow photographer. Usually a smile or a nod will be reciprocated – I’ve even had conversations that morphed into staying in touch  – but on this occasion, my friendly salutations went coldly ignored. Maybe these folks had spent such a considerable amount of money just to be there, or maybe they were just intently focusing on getting their shot… either way, I realized quickly that they were going to be decidedly unfriendly, and the mood was shot. At this point I should probably have just moved along, but the light was so good I decided to hang around.

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Compositional options for everyone were obviously compromised by the photographers strewn across the landscape, and although I would have loved to have included the ocean more prominently in my own images, I just shrugged my shoulders and positioned myself off to the side. I was totally happy to concede “the shot” to this group – after all, this was probably the only time they would ever be here. That’s when one of the workshop members lifted his gear, and without even acknowledging my presence, moved sideways and plopped himself directly between me and the main subject in this scene, Otter Cliffs. The guy was only about ten yards in front of me, and obviously knew that he was positioning himself smack in the middle of my composition. He never said a word… just went about his business as if I, and every other photographer there, didn’t exist. I shook my head rather incredulously, mumbled a few expletives, and figured it was time to pack up my gear.

I’ve heard horror stories about large numbers of photographers jostling for an iconic shot… Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, and the bridge over the Virgin River in Zion that offers a great view of the Watchman – these locations are all infamous for the crowds that gather to try and capture a landscape photograph. I’m all for people sharing in the beauty of iconic locations (and making their own photographs), though I kind of wished that the leader of this photo workshop would have added one more item to the laundry list of things they profess to offer their eager paying clients… a lesson in common courtesy.

I fell in love…

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…with black and white photography in 2012. No matter the season, visitors to Acadia National Park are treated to an array of earthy colors, colors that I too am drawn to photograph as often as I can. I appreciate the deep blue skies of a long Maine winter, the lush greens of a springtime which seems to take forever to arrive, and the vibrant and rich fall foliage colors signaling the return of the cold. So… why black and white? First of all, I believe that Acadia can match any national park in the country with the beauty of its landscape, and to be honest I don’t really have an answer to that question. Perhaps it’s the simplicity that removing pretty colors brings, or the mystery offered by deep, dark shadows? I haven’t quite mulled that thought around long enough to be able to offer an especially articulate response, but there’s one thing I do know… I love to photograph Acadia in black and white. All made in 2012, here’s a set of my favorite black and white photographs from Acadia National Park. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these…

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The impact of color

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If you take a look at my last post, you’ll notice that the color on this particular morning was pretty intense. In fact, it was probably one of the most impressive sunrises I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing in Acadia National Park. The reds, oranges and yellows absolutely lit up the morning sky, and needless to say, I was totally mesmerized by the incredible sight. The explosion of color seemed to last for ages, and as the vibrant light reflected off the ocean and the round rocks at Otter Cliffs, I worked quickly to try and capture the scene with my camera.

Although I am the first to enjoy a good sunrise, I have to admit I was already thinking about how this scene might translate into a black and white photograph. I hoped that the distinct shape of the round rocks would provide a strong anchor for the foreground, that the iconic outline of Otter Cliffs would hold the viewer’s attention in the middle of the scene, and that the light and patterns in the pre-dawn sky would add an interesting backdrop. With the color, I think this is an interesting photograph, but without the color – I personally – find it even more interesting. I’d be curious to hear your opinion.

One to remember

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This was a sunrise to remember. Despite the weatherman’s best efforts to dissuade me from getting up early on this particular morning to photograph in Acadia National Park, I of course stuck with the plan and forged ahead. The forecast was for clouds with more clouds, and that was to be followed by even more clouds. As I made the pre-dawn drive to Acadia, I scanned the dark sky – like I always do – for signs of promise, and I was quite surprised to catch the odd glimpse of stars peeking out from behind the clouds. This was one time I was quite happy that the weather forecasters got it wrong!

Sharing the love…

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Ever since Lori and I honeymooned in Acadia way back in the summer of 1988, we have always felt a strong bond to the park and Mount Desert Island. On that first visit together, as we hiked and biked our way from inn to inn, we utterly and completely fell in love with the Acadian landscape. Together we explored and enjoyed many of the mountains, coves, ponds and trails… all the while marveling at the striking character of what is an incredibly intimate, yet stunningly beautiful, national park.

In 1995, we made the decision to return and settle in Maine, and to this day, it still feels good to be living as close as we do to a place as remarkable as Acadia. We visit as often as we can and at all times of the year, and we never get tired of experiencing everything that this jewel of a national park offers. We’ve always maintained a personal and private connection with our time spent in Acadia, and despite the fact that nearly 3 million people visit this tiny place every year, we feel as though we can always find a way to make it our own.

Over the years we have always taken great pleasure in sharing our love for Acadia with friends and family as they come up north to visit. We can’t wait to take them to the top of Cadillac to enjoy the sunset, to Bubble Pond late in the afternoon as the water gets as still as glass, or to stroll the Ocean Path as first light washes over the rugged and famous coastline along the Loop Road. Seeing the look of wonder and appreciation on the faces of those witnessing the park for the first time… well, that never gets old. Gratitude is always expressed for the opportunity to experience such a remarkable place, but honestly, we just feel immensely lucky to be able to share this place we love.

More love for the black and white photograph

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The weather man called for cloudy skies all day. I even checked the radar at 4:15 a.m. right before I left the house… yep, cloudy and dull, cloudy and dull. Boy did he get it wrong this time!

I must have visited and photographed Otter Cliffs and Boulder Beach in Acadia National Park at least 25 times, and although I have been lucky enough on several occasions to get a decent sky, nothing compares the the way the sky lit up on this most recent morning.

Where’s the color you ask? I’m working on it. The sunrise was so colorful and vibrant that I will probably have to tone it down a bit it before I present it. It was that good. Epic.

Here’s a not-so-photographed view of Otter Cliffs from Boulder Beach. I love the rocks and shapes that can be found tucked in against the side of the beach here, and as you look along the cove toward Otter Cliffs, the jagged rocks and classic Maine pine tree shapes absolutely steal the show.

My Acadia morning in black and white

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I love experimenting with black and white. There’s something striking and atmospheric about a good black and white photograph, and lately I have become more and more intrigued by this medium. Converting to back and white tends to allow you to see if the composition and the elements within the frame stand on their own merit without all of the pretty colors that sometimes catch our eye. Here are a couple of images from my recent morning in Acadia  – a few that I thought might translate well to black and white. When it comes to black and white, I find myself wanting to boost the contrast between the darker and lighter areas within the photrograph. I like those deep, dark blacks, and in these particular compositions, I really like how the highlights on those famous round rocks of Boulder Beach are accentuated.

My morning in Acadia

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I have probably spent more time in my favorite park this summer than in any other year, but I have definitely struggled with carving out opportunities for early morning adventures with the camera that I enjoy so much. I know it’s no excuse, but the sun does rise awfully early during the summer months in this part of the world, and I just haven’t done a good job at all with making the pre-dawn start needed to catch the good light. However, as my last couple of posts have shown, I recently broke the slump and “forced” myself to obey the alarm clock and experience a classic Acadia sunrise again – and it felt good, very good. This post includes a sampling of photographs I made on my wonderful morning in Acadia (these are the ones I haven’t shared yet).

Back in the saddle again…

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OK… so it has been a while since I’ve been able to get my act together, but just this past weekend I finally managed to rise early enough to make my way to a favorite place with my camera in hand as the sun came up. It felt REALLY good to be standing on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean as the night slowly gave way to a new day, and although I have photographed this scene many times, I was very happy to be back in the saddle again.

The “mighty” Atlantic Ocean

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From a very peaceful afternoon spent along the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in Acadia National Park. The incoming tide was hardly noticeable, and the surf was almost non-existent. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the water in this cove so calm – it was as though I was on the edge of a lake rather than the mighty Atlantic. As I perched myself on a couple of larger boulders to frame the composition below, I liked how the white puffy clouds in the blue June sky mirrored what little surf there was, and who could ignore those beautiful, round, smooth rocks.