From a particularly productive morning… it had snowed on my way from Bangor to Portland. I had a work-related meeting that day in the city, so figured what the hey… I might as well get an early start and see if I could take advantage of the first light.
Take a walk on the path to the left of the lighthouse and you begin to get a completely different view of the scene, especially at low tide since you can scamper down onto the rocks in search of interesting foreground elements. This can officially be called the “blue-hour” – some time before the sun makes an appearance, yet when there is still enough early morning light to illuminate the landscape. There were some fast-moving clouds overhead, and of course the waves washing on and off shore – throughout that, the striking Portland Head Lighthouse beacon illuminated the morning.
I did what I often like to do… experiment with a variety of lengths of holding the shutter open using the remote release… all in the name of trying to capture something unique and different. This exposure was for 61 seconds, and I like how the movement in the sky and tide were rendered. I also like how the white balance rendered the scene so blue… it represents the chill in the air that I felt, and the early hour at which this photograph was made.
Aha. Another favorite place. This is a view from the quieter part of Acadia National Park called Schoodic. A rocky peninsula stretching out into the Gulf of Maine, there are views like this scattered all along the perimeter… grab your camera, enjoy the far-less crowded surroundings, and make yourself a photograph or two.
Off in the distance is a little gem called “Rolling Island” – and then there’s the classic Acadia (Schoodic) foreground. I’ve been to this specific place several times… sometimes I come away with a photograph I like, and sometimes I just enjoy the scenery. On this particular morning I can remember the colorful sunrise seemed to last for ages… it quite literally lasted for at least a half an hour. What better way to start the day!
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.
A favorite of mine. Special conditions when Hurricane Sandy brushed the coast. This is from Sand Beach looking south along the shore toward the Loop Road and Otter Cliffs. Longer lens for two reasons a) for safety’s sake – even on the steps that lead from the parking lot down to the beach it was pretty dangerous with waves as high as my waist, and b) a longer lens compresses the scene compositionally, helping isolate only those elements that add to the strength of the photograph. In this case I used my 70-200mm f4 L at 200mm. For those interested, here’s the EXIF:
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Lens: EF70-200mm f/4L USM Shot at 200 mm
Exposure: Auto bracket exposure, Shutter priority AE, 1/500 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200
Probably the most photographed lighthouse in America, Portland Head Light is a stunner of a location that anyone visiting Maine should experience. It’s not difficult to find, is easy to access from a series of well-maintained trails at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, and as you can see… perched on some seriously jagged rocks it occupies a fantastic location to make a landscape photograph. All you have to do is get yourself there at the right time and in the right conditions!
With an iconic location like this, the biggest challenge is making a photograph that doesn’t look exactly like all of the other ones you see in the local calendars and postcards – unless of course that’s what you’re going for. Nothing wrong with imitating other photographs – good practice I say – but my guess is that there will come a time when you’ll want to create something more personal, more unique. And so you should.
Get there early. Stay there late – good light favors those who patrol the edges of the day. Watch the tide charts and try to coordinate your visit with a big surf, and of course… treat the weatherman like your friend and pay attention to the conditions. Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to include any dramatic skies on this particular morning, I was able to explore the foreground area a bit and include some interesting elements along with the beautiful sunrise gradient of color… all in the name of trying to capture something that I could call mine.
Hope you like it.
(A couple of exposures were combined here to deal with the extreme range of light found at this time of day).
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!
…it lights up the granite cliffs of Acadia National Park. From a rocky perch high above the Atlantic shoreline, I spent a wonderful, crisp morning witnessing the dawn of another day. Before sunrise, there was a subtle, almost blue hue which bathed the landscape, though I had a feeling, if patient, that some nice light would eventually climb above the clouds that were hugging the horizon, and that the scene would come alive.
Soft pre-dawn light on the Acadia granite shoreline
A quick glance ninety degrees to the left where the sun was rising presented the scene below… captured in HDR mode with my iPhone, you can see how the clouds on the horizon subdued what might otherwise have been a pretty sunrise. I waited for the sun to get high enough in the sky to peer over those clouds, and the result was a familiar glow on the Acadia granite shown in the last photograph in this post. A high tide – or better still – a high tide that coincides with a big storm – would make this scene much more dramatic, but as with most mornings spent watching the sun come up in Acadia, I can’t think of a better place to be.