Just for kicks…

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4-19-14 Cape Neddick

Here’s an image just for show. There’s no real story to this post other than I like it. It’s of Nubble Light – sometimes called Cape Neddick – a classic New England lighthouse located on the coast of southern Maine in York. I grabbed the opportunity to soak in the start of a new day, and as the sun slowly rose, I just loved the textures in the foreground rocks and the subtle gradient in the sky. The color version is nice, but I especially liked the mood generated by the silvery black and white rendition. Enjoy!

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iPhone panorama

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The ability to seamlessly stitch images together into panoramas has been around for a while, but when a friend recently showed me examples of how he used his iPhone to create amazing panos using the latest iPhone camera software, I quickly got hold of Lori’s phone and downloaded the update. It’s amazing how smart technology can be, and for someone who has always been intrigued with the wider format of panoramic photography, this latest addition to the iPhone camera repertoire is fascinating (and easy to use). You literally point the camera and follow the arrow to keep everything in line… voila.

Stretching the legs

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After celebrating Thanksgiving Day with the extended family in Northampton, Massachusetts, we made the long drive back to Maine this afternoon. The food was better than good, and as always, it was great to have the entire family together. At just over five hours from door to door, this trip isn’t as long as the usual drive to New York, but it’s still a long time to spend in the car. Crossing the Piscataqua River Bridge and into our home state, we decided to take a break from driving and stop off at a pretty little lighthouse along the coast. As we stretched our legs and grabbed some welcome fresh air, the wind was howling and the waves were pounding the shore of Cape Neddick, home to one of the most picturesque of Maine lighthouses.

Working within the frame…

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When I spend time photographing in a particular location I always try to fully explore the scene. I enjoy the exercise of physically wandering around looking for different angles, less obvious perspectives, and interesting elements to include in compositions. More sky, less ground… more ground, less sky… landscape orientation versus portrait… the size of the aperture and the length of time the shutter is open… using a wide angle lens to accentuate certain things or compacting the scene by using a longer lens… just some of the many ways to experiment with what you include within the viewfinder.

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of landscape photography is choosing which elements of a scene to include within the frame and which to leave out. Next comes arranging important elements in relation to how they interact with each other to make a pleasing composition. Sometimes it comes together and “works” better than it does at other times, though of course what I personally like in a photograph might not be what someone else likes… it’s all totally subjective, but isn’t that half the fun? When I became seriously interested in landscape photography a few years back, a pro-photographer friend of mine, Kip Brundage, told me that if I find an interesting subject, I should photograph it every which way I can. He also told me to try to make it mine. While I could certainly learn from another photographer’s interpretation of a particular scene, I should constantly strive try to create something original… this particular piece of advice has always stuck with me.

Here are a few more examples of what I was seeing on the recent mid-February morning I visited Nubble Light in York, Maine. As you can see, I was all pretty random with some of my compositional choices, but since there isn’t any single “right” answer, I got to experiment and try all sorts of ideas. Most significantly for me though, it’s all about actually being there in person to fully employ the senses and appreciate the wonder of this earth we live on. I learned that there is something very special about standing on the tide-soaked rocks below Nubble Light before a winter dawn, and if I can come even remotely close to conveying my personal experiences in a single photograph… then I consider that photograph to be a success.

Time and tide… plus a famous lighthouse

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I was excited that high tide and sunrise would almost coincide, and I had used a cool piece of software called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” to determine that the sun would rise directly behind the lighthouse. I was hoping for some fast-moving high clouds, and I had this vision of being able to capture the early rays beaming out from behind the lighthouse like some heavenly scene. Alas… no clouds, so on to plan B.

As I wandered around the shoreline looking for interesting foregrounds, I came across a couple of what I can best describe as “cracks” where the surge from the high tide would push its way in and then slowly retreat back to where it came from. I perched myself rather precariously on a small rocky outcrop, and waited for the “seventh” wave to roll in with its energy being funneled into the crack below me.

Now… I don’t really know if there is any scientific grounding in the notion of every seventh wave being stronger than the rest, but I do know that if you pay attention and watch for patterns, every so often on a fairly regular basis (maybe even every seventh wave), the swell definitely gets bigger. That means something to patiently wait for when pressing the shutter, and since the ocean can be a powerful thing it is also something to be wary of.

A Nubbly Sunrise…

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At the head of the York River, Nubble Light stands tall as it welcomes seafarers home to the coast of Maine. Most people will be more familiar with the day time scene from here where the classic white and red buildings are framed with green grass, rugged rocks, and the mighty Atlantic surrounding it all… but on this cold February morning I wanted to try and capture something that was a little bit different.

It’s school vacation week here in Maine – and much of the United States – so that usually means a trip south to see granny and grandpa. Often we will drive from Maine to New York in one straight shot, but since Sam was due some little brother time, we decided to forego the usual mad dash down I-95 and stop off in Brunswick to pay him a quick visit. After a scrumptious dinner at Clementine with him and his pal Charlie, we hit the road again and drove another hour or so south before stopping in York for the night. I had been wanting to shoot this lighthouse again for some time, and figured since we were going to be right here in the morning… why not give it a shot. Sunrise was scheduled for 6:37 a.m. on Saturday, so my alarm was set for 5:15 a.m. to allow for an early enough start that would give me time to scout around for compositional possibilities.

Even though our mid-February temperatures have been fairly mild, standing on the edge of the ocean before dawn with a cool winter breeze blowing is sure to wake you up. Unfortunately there were very few clouds to speak of, but there was a nice gradient of color in the eastern sky and a sparkling crescent moon heading toward the horizon. High tide was due at 6:50 a.m., so I wasn’t sure how close I was going to be able to get to the water. A couple more photographers pulled into the parking lot, but since sunrise wasn’t officially scheduled for another 45 minutes or so, they decided to stay in their cars a little longer and keep warm. Me… I know that some of the best light actually occurs before dawn, so I bundled up and hit the rocks looking for interesting foregrounds that might compliment the already spectacular lighthouse just off shore.

I made my first photograph of the morning, posted above, at 6:00 a.m. and long before the sun had made an appearance. The rising tide was washing over and around the ledge I was standing on, and although a relatively slow shutter speed rendered the water as quite peaceful, there were actually a few angry swells that made for interesting moments. I was intrigued by the puddles left behind, and hoped that they would hold enough interest in the foreground to make this as I had intended… maybe just a little bit different?

Nubble Lighthouse, Maine

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Nubble Light, or the Cape Neddick Lighthouse, was built in 1879 and is probably one of the most picturesque lighthouses you are ever likely to see. It proudly stands guard near the mouth of the York River on a large rock just offshore from York Beach in Maine.

The temperatures around here have been anything but balmy lately, with my early morning start to a work trip today registering as a bone-chilling and mind-numbing -11 F… that’s -23 C for anyone from north or east of here… and that’s not even taking the wind-chill factor into consideration!

When I finished up with my work commitment, I had an opportunity to visit this gem of a lighthouse on my way back home. I arrived in the early afternoon with the promise of a winter storm churning out in the Atlantic and maybe some interesting light later as the day progressed.

As you can see, the skies were indeed pretty ominous, providing a striking backdrop the the scene. I had plans to explore the possibilities for capturing something original, but after spending no more than five minutes outside of my toasty warm car grabbing this shot, I quickly realized that there was no way I was going to be hanging around waiting for better light!

The blanket of snow and ice made navigating the foreground rocks pretty treacherous, so I was somewhat limited with compositional choices. More importantly though, even through gloves and a hat, my ears and fingers were starting to seriously ache with the cold, so I decided that this would have to do. Perhaps I can return again when it gets warmer… much warmer… maybe in six months!