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 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 🙂

Top 10 places to shoot in Acadia redux

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*Based on the analytics produced by the WordPress blog stats, it would appear that lots of people are looking for help in finding good spots for landscape photography in Acadia at this time of year. With this in mind, here’s a re-post from a while ago about just that… some of my favorite places to spend time making photographs in Acadia.

I am sometimes asked by visiting photographers who only have a short period of time to spend in Acadia where the best places to shoot are. While I can certainly offer some specific location suggestions, it should be noted that there is beauty to be found all across Acadia, and this post merely outlines some of my own personal favorite places to shoot. Everyone knows about the familiar and iconic locations you see on picture postcards – and for good reason since they are strikingly beautiful – but there is so much more to Acadia than Otter Cliffs, Cadillac Mountain, and the Bass Harbor lighthouse. Acadia is an absolute jewel of a national park, and for those with time to explore, it is a landscape photographer’s paradise. Anyhoo… for the photographer with limited time to spend in the area, here are some ideas to get you started on the Mount Desert Island part of Acadia… icons and all.

1. Cadillac Mountain – Back home in Ireland we have the beautiful Mourne Mountains in County Down that sweep down to the sea, and at 1,532 feet, Cadillac Mountain too rises up from the ocean making it appear larger than it actually is. On this particular morning there were some hazy clouds on the eastern horizon which on the one hand obscured the sunrise, but on the other hand helped diffuse the light creating some wonderful pink and purple hues. I plopped myself down on the slope of Cadillac and enjoyed the show. I especially liked how the early colors from the sky were absorbed by the foreground rocks, though after a few minutes the more familiar golden light began to bathe the summit. Not a bad way to start the day.

2. Bubble Pond – Nestled between Pemetic Mountain (1,248 feet), and Cadillac Mountain (1,532 feet), Bubble Pond is a glaciated valley that is now home to a beautiful and pristine pond. Using a circular polarizer, I was able to eliminate reflections from the crystal clear pond water allowing views of the rocky bottom. The polarizer also removed the glare of the mid-morning light from the trees hugging the rugged shoreline, and it enhanced the definition in the clouds. The intermittent sunshine breaking through the clouds made the scene sparkle, and in the fall the foliage colors here come alive.

3. Jordan Pond Stream – I had looked at the weather forecast for the day, and it had predicted overcast skies and some light showers… perfect weather for shooting fall foliage and running water. Clouds provide softer, more diffused light which makes getting a good exposure easier, and any rainfall that came my way would certainly help saturate the already vibrant fall colors. Intermittent raindrops and relatively cool fall temperatures did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm as I stumbled upon scene after scene with rich and striking foliage colors complimenting the dynamic water rushing downhill toward Little Long Pond and the Atlantic Ocean. Fallen leaves were scattered everywhere, and the pockets of color and mini-landscapes that I encountered around just about every turn were amazing.

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4. Bass Harbor Light – Bass Harbor Light is quintessential Maine. Part of Acadia National Park, it is a classic New England-style lighthouse perched on jagged rocks overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is a place that I genuinely enjoy being at… whether I am fighting off the summer mosquitoes, listening to the fog-dampened sound of the buoy bell, or fumbling with cold fingers in the dead of winter. Regular readers of this blog will notice that I have been to this spot quite a few times, but seeing the ocean and the impressive beacon watching over it never gets old. This is a great place to shoot at either sunrise or sunset… both can provide spectacular views.

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5. Monument Cove – 
Monument Cove is a little piece of heaven tucked quietly away between Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park. If you have ever walked the ocean path along the loop road you have probably stopped to enjoy the view from the small rock wall atop the 100 ft high cliff looking down into Monument Cove and further to Otter Cliffs. Most people settle for the view from above, justifiably marveling at the beauty below, but I like to get a little closer to the action. Not easy to get down into, this small cove is protected on three sides by steep rocky cliffs, and the Atlantic Ocean does it’s job protecting the fourth side. I love this place… even in summer there rarely is anyone there, and you are pretty much guaranteed to have it all to yourself if you visit first thing in the morning any time of year. Combined with some nice light, the knocking sounds from the round rocks being jostled by the waves makes this a pretty neat experience. As always, first light does a number on the Acadia granite shoreline, lighting it up to create a sight that only the earliest of risers will experience.

6. Boulder Beach – There are a myriad of classic compositions to be had in the area in the shadow of Otter Cliffs, and I have returned often in different seasons and at different times of day in search of light and conditions that help convey the beauty of this location. I feel as if I now “know” many of the elements better… individual rocks among the round boulders, the impressive granite cliffs rising up out of the Atlantic, and the usually hidden algae-covered rocks that become uncovered at low tide. Definitely a sunrise location, both high and low-tides offer many creative possibilities.

7. Otter Cliffs – As winter started to really grab hold of the season, I had been itching to get out with the camera 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 that morning got me there 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 13 degrees Farenheit actually felt quite comfortable. An iconic view for sure, like much of the scenery along the Loop Road, Otter Cliffs are especially spectacular at first light. This view can be obtained by turning your tripod legs about 45 degrees clockwise from the scene above.

8. Thunder Hole and Loop Road – Anyone who visits Acadia National Park probably takes in the grand vista offered all along the stretch of blacktop known as The Loop Road. Surely one of America’s most picturesque roadways, visitors who choose this path weave their way from the park entrance through lush New England forest under the shadow of imposing granite mountains to the ragged and distinctive Maine shoreline that adorns many a picture postcard. Even in midday light, there are photographs to be made along this stretch of road, and on this day strong swell after swell would come crashing onshore, and though it was certainly an impressive sight, the sound and power of the ocean were the real stars of this show.

9. Little Long Pond – It was 23 25 years ago this July that Lori and I visited Acadia on our honeymoon. It was the first time we had been to Maine, and we both immediately fell in love with the park. We rented bicycles for part of our week there, cycling from inn to inn as we traversed across Mount Desert Island. I can recall how exciting and exhilarating cycling around the roads of Acadia was, with the anticipation and expectation of what we would see over the next hill or around the next bend always fueling our efforts. On one particularly stunning morning, we were freewheeling down Peabody Drive toward Bracy Cove when we were stopped in our tracks by an amazing view looking away from the ocean and toward Long Pond and Penobscot Mountain. Back in those days I was only carrying a disposable film camera with me, but I can remember getting a really nice photograph from this location, and the 4 x 6 print was one of the few images from the trip that I was quite proud of. Over the years that one image has unfortunately become displaced, but I can still vividly see that same scene in my mind’s eye. I have been back to this location many times since – in fact, any time I am driving along the shore road I can’t help but stop to see the view again. Each time I take my camera with me, and depending on the conditions, I guess have been trying to emulate that shot from 22 years ago. In this more recent photograph, the late afternoon sun dropped some nice light and shadow on the pond, and a circular polarizer helped reduce the glare on the water lillies, producing those same wonderful Acadia greens and blues… just like I remember.

10. Manset and Seawall – I have always looked forward to mid-June when the Lupine in Maine come to life. Serious gardeners often disparage this hardy perennial for its ability to overwhelm a planned garden space. Me… I love the swaths of deep color that appear along the roadside at this time of year, and I have long searched for a nice composition that includes these beautiful flowers. During one of our many family camping trips to Acadia we spent a really nice evening, free from the already increasing crowds in Bar Harbor, along the quiet shore at Seawall. As we made our way past Southwest Harbor and through Manset, this pretty little scene presented itself. Needless to say I started drooling, stopped the car, and enjoyed the view with my camera. The road along the shore between Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor is home to some quiet, less-frequented places with family-friendly trails like Wonderland and Ship Harbor to enjoy… well worth a visit.

Southwest Harbor, Seawall, Somesville, Northeast Harbor, Sand Beach, Eagle Lake, Pick-a-mountain trail, Asticou Gardens, Bar Harbor, Jordan Pond, Wild Gardens of Acadia, Seal Harbor, carriage roads and bridges, Schoodic, and Isle-au-Haut… you get the idea… there is SO MUCH MORE to see in what is a small but surprisingly stunning national park, and for those interested in spending some time photographing the landscape, you really can’t go wrong!

Do you have a favorite place to photograph in Acadia? I’d love to hear about it…

* I’m updating this post to include a quieter part of Acadia, Schoodic. Just recently I have had the pleasure of exploring this part of the world, and I have to admit, I have totally fallen in love.

Who needs fall colors?

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Maine and New England are renowned for the vibrant, colorful display of fall foliage presented annually by Mother Nature around this time. As the days quickly start to get shorter and colder, trees resolutely holding onto their treasure of red, gold, yellow and brown are certainly left vulnerable to any strong storm blowing through. As the seasons transition and the weather takes a turn for the worse, the spectacular display of color signals the beginning of preparations for what is customarily a long, dark winter. Mine was an overdue visit to Acadia today, and I have to admit I was rather disappointed to discover that the fall foliage colors weren’t all that impressive… methinks I missed the peak by a few days this year.

This is looking across Jordan Pond toward the Bubbles on a cloudy and blustery – but very mild – morning. I’m fond of this view across the pond, and I always enjoy scouting the shoreline looking for interesting rocks to include in the foreground. I added a 6 stop neutral density filter to my camera for this one… I was hoping to render the relatively choppy water more smoothly, and I was also hoping to be able to extend the length of the exposure to allow for the fast-moving clouds to streak across the sky. At 11 seconds, the exposure didn’t quite have the impact on the clouds that I was hoping for, but I did like how the scene took on a monochromatic look… aren’t those rocks amazing?

This isn’t my first time photographing this location, and while I do like to explore new places, I also really do enjoy returning to familiar scenes in different conditions and at different times of the year. One of my favorite photographs of this location was made late last winter when the pond was still frozen over, and as I made the image below, I couldn’t help but think about how this year’s fall foliage season is almost gone already, and that it won’t be long now before the already cold water will begin to once again ice over.

Fall foliage in Maine

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It’s that time of year again. The mornings and evenings are noticeably crisper and cooler, and the colors of fall are becoming more evident every day. The vibrancy of fall foliage in Maine truly can be a sight to behold, and as always, I’m looking forward to visiting some of my favorite locations.

One of those favorite locations for fall color is the Jordan Pond Stream which runs from Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park to the Atlantic Ocean at Seal Harbor. A rich variety of trees scattered along the stream side trail usually makes for a blaze of color that just begs to be photographed. A wide gravel path follows the stream downhill from the Jordan Pond House for about a quarter of a mile, and as you cross a rustic looking bridge, you can then jump off that path onto a trail that hugs the right hand side of the stream. There are many, many opportunities to enjoy amazing – albeit intimate – landscapes along this trail, and if you stick with it for about a mile, you get rewarded with views of Cobblestone Bridge, probably the most picturesque of the many carriage road bridges in the park.

My guess is that up north around Mount Katahdin the colors are already nearing peak, but it usually takes a little longer for the swath of color to stretch down toward the coastline. The image above of Jordan Pond Stream was made last year on October 14th, and in my experience, that’s usually around the time fall foliage in Acadia peaks. I’ll be checking the weather forecast in the next few weeks looking for misty, rainy, dull and overcast days… days when the subdued light and wet leaves make the colors pop even more than normal. If you are out and about with your camera in search of fall foliage colors, here’s hoping you find what you’re looking for.

Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park

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Jordan Pond is one of those places that never seems to get my full attention… it always seems to be somewhere I visit AFTER spending first light at another spectacular Acadia location such as Cadillac, Thunder Hole, or Otter Cliffs. One of these days though I’m going to make this scene the focus of my photo-expedition, and maybe I’ll be able to parlay the superb foreground rocks and the awesome views across the pond toward The Bubbles into a really cool photograph.

The wind was whipping across Jordan Pond as I set my tripod up to make this photograph, and I really liked how it’s effect on the water complimented the earthy tones of the blue sky, the green mountain slopes, and the rugged granite boulders. You really do have an almost unlimited array of rocks strewn along the shoreline to choose from for your foreground, and the famous and instantly recognizable shape of the Bubbles at the far end of the pond make for a nice backdrop. In black and white or color… this is a scene that I keep coming back to.

Sargent Mountain and Penobscot Mountain

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Jordan Pond Trail

Jordan Pond Trail

Sam’s home from college for the summer, and needless to say, everyone around here is happy about that. He has a summer job as an intern for one of the Maine US Senators, so we are all looking forward to having him around. Before he starts work though, he and I tackled one of our favorite Acadia hikes… Sargent and Penobscot Mountains.

Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond

Sargent Mountain is 1,373 ft tall, and depending on the route you take to the top, part of the climb can be quite a scramble. We started out on the trail that hugs the shore of Jordan Pond, much of which consists of a man-made boardwalk. The mile or so we walked on this part of the hike was refreshingly cool, and we enjoyed the intermittent peeks of the water and the Bubbles at the end of the pond. The Deer Brook Trail took us to the East Cliffs Trail, and from there we rather quickly scrambled to the top of Sargent Mountain – Sam quicker than me obviously.

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Rocky part of the Jordan Pond Trail

East Cliffs Trail, Sargent Mountain

East Cliffs Trail, Sargent Mountain

The last time we did this hike we were socked in with dense and damp fog, so it was nice on this occasion to be able to enjoy the traditional and spectacular Acadia mountain 360 degree views. We enjoyed lunch at the Sargent Mountain Pond, and we then climbed back up to the summit of Penobscot Mountain (1,193 ft), before beginning the long slow descent along the south-facing ridge. The views were amazing, and it was GREAT to be back on the mountains of Acadia.

Sargent Mountain

Sargent Mountain

Sargent Mountain summit

Sargent Mountain summit

Glacial erratic, Penobscot Mountain

Glacial erratic, Penobscot Mountain

Penobscot Mtn views of Jordan Pond and the Atlantic Ocean

Penobscot Mtn views of Jordan Pond and the Atlantic Ocean

Sam navigating the steep part of the Spring Trail

Sam navigating the steep part of the Spring Trail

Springtime along the stream

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After spending a wonderful morning at Sand Beach, I headed over to the rain-filled and bulging Jordan Pond Stream. I had visions of photographing the roaring rapids, but the bright sunlight reflecting on the water created blinding highlights making it just about impossible.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen rain water run from high to low so robustly in Acadia, and I know I haven’t ever seen the Jordan Pond Stream running so high. I wandered down the trail toward the Cobblestone Bridge, but the water was so high I couldn’t even walk on the opposite – and more picturesque – side of the stream.

So, instead of the original plan, I decided to play with some abstract ideas and try to take advantage of the rushing water and fresh, lush greens. And yes, despite my recent foray into the darkness of black and white, these are indeed color photographs 😉

Googly+ and inspiration

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I never really “got” the whole Facebook thing. I opened an account a long time ago, but I haven’t ever updated anything, and the handful of friend requests I got (from people I know in real life) are still sitting there unanswered. Just lately though, I have started investing a little bit of time in a similar social media platform – Google+ – and I admit to being quite intrigued by this new world.

The Google+ community seems to be a fertile landscape for photographers, and I’ve recently connected with several people whose work I admire (many of whom you can find in the “Photographers I admire” links on the right hand side of the blog). As always, people are very willing to share their experiences, ideas and expertise, so for anyone interested in learning from top notch landscape photographers, it is definitely a cool place to be. Actually, I find it somewhat incredible to be connected and conversing with such accomplished photographers – from all over the country and even the world – isn’t technology amazing?

To date, I’ve been able to get much of my social media fix from right here on the blog – thanks to y’all – but I think I’m also going to give Google+ a chance to see if it is an online community I can both contribute to and learn from. I’m still going to share right here on the blog as I always have, and of course I’ll bring the inspirations I get from Google+ back here.

Speaking of inspiration… lately I have been engrossed in admiring the black and white work of some fellow Google+ photographers. Some of you will remember my recent dabblings with this medium, and after spending a little time exploring the work of people like Nate Parker and Moe Chen, I finally pulled the trigger and printed a series of my own Acadia landscapes. I’m very much at the beginning stage of learning how to really appreciate and understand the nuances of black and white photography, but I am eager to learn. For this grouping I settled on 11 x 14 sized prints on paper with a metallic finish, and can’t wait to have them in hand. Here are the photographs I included in my mini-series to be printed, framed and hung on a wall at home…

Frozen Jordan Pond

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It was raining pretty hard as I made this last photograph of the morning, and as you can see, the sky was threatening to unleash even more. I hadn’t ever seen Jordan Pond while it was frozen, so despite the inclement weather, this was a treat. I used a 6-stop neutral density filter to hold back some of the light – my goal was to gain a long exposure time to try to render some movement in what were fast-moving clouds in the background above The Bubbles at the end of Jordan Pond. Mostly monochromatic originally, I tried converting the scene to black and white. Am still not sold on the composition, but I did like how the rocks in the foreground turned out in the colorless version.

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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More colors from fall in Acadia

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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. With this in mind, on my recent trip down to Acadia I wanted to take advantage of the morning I had there, so I’m posting a sampling of the photographs I was able to make on the short walk from Jordan Pond down to the Cobblestone Bridge. As you can see, the colors were in full swing, and with the recent rains the stream was running pretty hard. T’was a good day 🙂

Searching for fall foliage in Acadia?

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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 (walk out of the public bathrooms in the rear, and you will be directly facing the trail). 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.

After about a quarter of a mile walking on the carriage path, you will come to a second bridge that crosses the stream again… do not actually cross this bridge, but instead look to step off the carriage road and stay to the right of the stream… there is a rough but discernible trail running all along the right side of the stream.

Within about a mile, you will reach the picturesque and famous Cobblestone Bridge, built in 1917 by John D. Rockerfeller. As you navigate the rustic trail and follow the many twists and turns of the stream as it eagerly cascades over big and small slabs of granite on it’s way toward the ocean, you will see every fall color imaginable, and even though you are never that far from civilization, you will certainly feel as though you are deep, deep within the forest.

Socked in on top of Cadillac, Acadia

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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 give us nice even light in which to photograph our proposed destinations – 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.

My friend Josh and I started our morning out visiting the cloud-covered – and very sparsely populated – summit of Cadillac, and even though we were met with a light rain that was blowing sideways, we were excited to explore the mountain on a day following some heavy rains. Swathes of red groundcover almost glowed in the subdued light, and all of those seasonal visitors who left the mountain entirely to the two of us certainly missed out on seeing Cadillac in a unique way.

Known for expansive and spectacular views of Frenchman Bay and the mighty Atlantic Ocean beyond, Cadillac today presented more intimate landscapes, the beauty of which compared just as favorably with those more familiar wide views you would expect on a sunny day. The wind and rain was blowing from the south and east, forcing us to turn inwards to face the mountain so we could offer a little bit of protection to our cameras from the elements, and so that we would not have a rain soaked lens to constantly deal with.

As we explored the quiet mountainside, we were careful to stay on the solid rock surfaces so as to avoid adding to the erosion that inevitably comes from millions of visitors trampling over the fragile landscape. We also tread quite gingerly because the rain had greased the granite, making it slick and quite treacherous underfoot. On more than one occasion I naively trusted the traction on the soles of my shoes too much, and although I escaped the mountain unscathed, I was not so lucky on the banks of the Jordan Pond Stream later in the day… but that’s another story.

We were literally up in the clouds with visibility down to about 30 yards, and in the eerie silence we were greeted by the sound of lively water quickly making it’s way downhill, and we were thrilled to discover several small, but energetic, temporary waterfalls. Right on the slopes of Cadillac, not fifteen yards from the popular concrete path that circles the summit, we (or I should say Josh) found at least half a dozen cascades of rain water trying to get from high to low, each offering a glimpse of the mountain in conditions that I personally had never seen.

I had a great time trying to photograph in these conditions, and was drawn not only to the obvious, saturated reds and yellows of fall, but also by the tall, fog-shrouded pine trees off the distance and the green lichen on the granite that seemed almost electric when soaked by the rain. We could have stayed on the mountain all day, but the amount of water flowing all around had us excitedly wondering if our next planned destination, the Jordan Pond Stream, had been similarly impacted by the recent rains?

A chill in the air

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Soccer (and coaching) season has started, and what with the whole heading back to school thing for Jack and Sam, I haven’t really had much time to update the blog lately. A rare fall Saturday without a game, however, meant that we could slow down and get back to doing what we like to do best… enjoying the beautiful weather in Acadia National Park.

A nice leisurely walk along the edge of the Jordan Pond Stream as far as the Cobblestone Bridge was the perfect pre-lunch activity. Tranquil and deserted, the trail felt as though it could have been deep in the wilderness, but instead it was within a mile or so of our lunch reservation… The Jordan Pond House. What a view, and the food wasn’t bad either.

Bellies filled, we couldn’t go home without taking a quick run around the island to the Loop Road to see the ocean. We parked down by Otter Cliffs and basked in the warm sun while using the huge granite boulders to gain some respite from what was a rather cool breeze. Even though the sun was shining and the temperatures were quite nice, there was definitely a chill in the air already… a sure sign that fall is just around the corner.

How big is Bubble Rock?

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Since I was doing my part to ease the state budget woes with another furlough day, Sam and I made a quick visit to Acadia for some good food and an invigorating hike. After enjoying an awesome “Cadillac” steak and cheese at EPI in Bar Harbor with our map sprawled out on the table, we decided to tackle The Bubbles (north and south), which lie between Jordan Pond and Eagle Lake, two of the most popular bodies of water in Acadia. There is a famous glacial erratic perched high atop the South Bubble, hanging precariously over the edge of a sheer cliff looking like it’s only a matter of time before gravity has its way. Most visitors who see it for the first time can’t believe it stays put, and to get a sense of scale, that’s Sam standing beside the rock, and he’s a solid 6’4″ tall.

We left the Bubble Rock parking lot and took the gently sloping – and often wet at this time of year – Carry Trail down toward Eagle Lake. We were able to navigate many of the wettest parts of the trail via well-placed bogwalks, and after about 3/4 mile, we made a left turn on the drier carriage road that circles Eagle Lake. Before reaching Conners Nubble, we made another left and started uphill toward the North Bubble. As we climbed the gentle slope of the North Bubble (872 ft), we were rewarded with spectacular views to the north across Eagle Lake and toward Cadillac Mountain.

I always enjoy the classic Acadia hikes where, after making your way through the rich and often thick forest, you climb above most of the trees onto the smooth granite slopes and ridges. This was our first really nice day of the summer, and the 75 degree temperatures and cool ocean breezes were amazing. At approximately four miles in total length, the Tom St. Germain guidebook recommended trail we followed led us down to Eagle Lake from the parking lot, up and over the North Bubble, through the saddle between it and the South Bubble to the classic Bubble Rock itself, and then down a steep rocky slope to the edge of Jordan Pond. From there, a short and gentle climb brought us through the newly energized forest and back to our starting point.

I love this time of year in Acadia with the re-emergence of so much new life bombarding the senses. The forest was lush and vibrant with a canopy of new and perfect leaves displaying greens that looked almost unbelievably neon in color, especially when backlit by the midday sun. This was my first “real” hike of the year, and it felt great to get these old legs going again… just what the doctor ordered.

Top 10 places to shoot in Acadia

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I am sometimes asked by visiting photographers who only have a short period of time to spend in Acadia where the best places to shoot are. While I can certainly offer some specific location suggestions, it should be noted that there is beauty to be found all across Acadia, and this post merely outlines some of my own personal favorite places to shoot. Everyone knows about the familiar and iconic locations you see on picture postcards – and for good reason since they are strikingly beautiful – but there is so much more to Acadia than Otter Cliffs, Cadillac Mountain, and the Bass Harbor lighthouse. Acadia is an absolute jewel of a national park, and for those with time to explore, it is a landscape photographer’s paradise. Anyhoo… for the photographer with limited time to spend in the area, here are some ideas to get you started on the Mount Desert Island part of Acadia… icons and all. If interested in purchasing prints, go to my “real” site at: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com

1. Cadillac Mountain – Back home in Ireland we have the beautiful Mourne Mountains in County Down that sweep down to the sea, and at 1,532 feet, Cadillac Mountain too rises up from the ocean making it appear larger than it actually is. On this particular morning there were some hazy clouds on the eastern horizon which on the one hand obscured the sunrise, but on the other hand helped diffuse the light creating some wonderful pink and purple hues. I plopped myself down on the slope of Cadillac and enjoyed the show. I especially liked how the early colors from the sky were absorbed by the foreground rocks, though after a few minutes the more familiar golden light began to bathe the summit. Not a bad way to start the day.

2. Bubble Pond – Nestled between Pemetic Mountain (1,248 feet), and Cadillac Mountain (1,532 feet), Bubble Pond is a glaciated valley that is now home to a beautiful and pristine pond. Using a circular polarizer, I was able to eliminate reflections from the crystal clear pond water allowing views of the rocky bottom. The polarizer also removed the glare of the mid-morning light from the trees hugging the rugged shoreline, and it enhanced the definition in the clouds. The intermittent sunshine breaking through the clouds made the scene sparkle, and in the fall the foliage colors here come alive.

3. Jordan Pond Stream – I had looked at the weather forecast for the day, and it had predicted overcast skies and some light showers… perfect weather for shooting fall foliage and running water. Clouds provide softer, more diffused light which makes getting a good exposure easier, and any rainfall that came my way would certainly help saturate the already vibrant fall colors. Intermittent raindrops and relatively cool fall temperatures did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm as I stumbled upon scene after scene with rich and striking foliage colors complimenting the dynamic water rushing downhill toward Little Long Pond and the Atlantic Ocean. Fallen leaves were scattered everywhere, and the pockets of color and mini-landscapes that I encountered around just about every turn were amazing.

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4. Bass Harbor Light – Bass Harbor Light is quintessential Maine. Part of Acadia National Park, it is a classic New England-style lighthouse perched on jagged rocks overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is a place that I genuinely enjoy being at… whether I am fighting off the summer mosquitoes, listening to the fog-dampened sound of the buoy bell, or fumbling with cold fingers in the dead of winter. Regular readers of this blog will notice that I have been to this spot quite a few times, but seeing the ocean and the impressive beacon watching over it never gets old. This is a great place to shoot at either sunrise or sunset… both can provide spectacular views.

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5. Monument Cove – 
Monument Cove is a little piece of heaven tucked quietly away between Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park. If you have ever walked the ocean path along the loop road you have probably stopped to enjoy the view from the small rock wall atop the 100 ft high cliff looking down into Monument Cove and further to Otter Cliffs. Most people settle for the view from above, justifiably marveling at the beauty below, but I like to get a little closer to the action. Not easy to get down into, this small cove is protected on three sides by steep rocky cliffs, and the Atlantic Ocean does it’s job protecting the fourth side. I love this place… even in summer there rarely is anyone there, and you are pretty much guaranteed to have it all to yourself if you visit first thing in the morning any time of year. Combined with some nice light, the knocking sounds from the round rocks being jostled by the waves makes this a pretty neat experience. As always, first light does a number on the Acadia granite shoreline, lighting it up to create a sight that only the earliest of risers will experience.

6. Boulder Beach – There are a myriad of classic compositions to be had in the area in the shadow of Otter Cliffs, and I have returned often in different seasons and at different times of day in search of light and conditions that help convey the beauty of this location. I feel as if I now “know” many of the elements better… individual rocks among the round boulders, the impressive granite cliffs rising up out of the Atlantic, and the usually hidden algae-covered rocks that become uncovered at low tide. Definitely a sunrise location, both high and low-tides offer many creative possibilities.

7. Otter Cliffs – As winter started to really grab hold of the season, I had been itching to get out with the camera 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 that morning got me there 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 13 degrees Farenheit actually felt quite comfortable. An iconic view for sure, like much of the scenery along the Loop Road, Otter Cliffs are especially spectacular at first light. This view can be obtained by turning your tripod legs about 45 degrees clockwise from the scene above.

8. Thunder Hole and Loop Road – Anyone who visits Acadia National Park probably takes in the grand vista offered all along the stretch of blacktop known as The Loop Road. Surely one of America’s most picturesque roadways, visitors who choose this path weave their way from the park entrance through lush New England forest under the shadow of imposing granite mountains to the ragged and distinctive Maine shoreline that adorns many a picture postcard. Even in midday light, there are photographs to be made along this stretch of road, and on this day strong swell after swell would come crashing onshore, and though it was certainly an impressive sight, the sound and power of the ocean were the real stars of this show.

9. Little Long Pond – It was 23 25 years ago this July that Lori and I visited Acadia on our honeymoon. It was the first time we had been to Maine, and we both immediately fell in love with the park. We rented bicycles for part of our week there, cycling from inn to inn as we traversed across Mount Desert Island. I can recall how exciting and exhilarating cycling around the roads of Acadia was, with the anticipation and expectation of what we would see over the next hill or around the next bend always fueling our efforts. On one particularly stunning morning, we were freewheeling down Peabody Drive toward Bracy Cove when we were stopped in our tracks by an amazing view looking away from the ocean and toward Long Pond and Penobscot Mountain. Back in those days I was only carrying a disposable film camera with me, but I can remember getting a really nice photograph from this location, and the 4 x 6 print was one of the few images from the trip that I was quite proud of. Over the years that one image has unfortunately become displaced, but I can still vividly see that same scene in my mind’s eye. I have been back to this location many times since – in fact, any time I am driving along the shore road I can’t help but stop to see the view again. Each time I take my camera with me, and depending on the conditions, I guess have been trying to emulate that shot from 22 years ago. In this more recent photograph, the late afternoon sun dropped some nice light and shadow on the pond, and a circular polarizer helped reduce the glare on the water lillies, producing those same wonderful Acadia greens and blues… just like I remember.

10. Manset and Seawall – I have always looked forward to mid-June when the Lupine in Maine come to life. Serious gardeners often disparage this hardy perennial for its ability to overwhelm a planned garden space. Me… I love the swaths of deep color that appear along the roadside at this time of year, and I have long searched for a nice composition that includes these beautiful flowers. During one of our many family camping trips to Acadia we spent a really nice evening, free from the already increasing crowds in Bar Harbor, along the quiet shore at Seawall. As we made our way past Southwest Harbor and through Manset, this pretty little scene presented itself. Needless to say I started drooling, stopped the car, and enjoyed the view with my camera. The road along the shore between Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor is home to some quiet, less-frequented places with family-friendly trails like Wonderland and Ship Harbor to enjoy… well worth a visit.

Southwest Harbor, Seawall, Somesville, Northeast Harbor, Sand Beach, Eagle Lake, Pick-a-mountain trail, Asticou Gardens, Bar Harbor, Jordan Pond, Wild Gardens of Acadia, Seal Harbor, carriage roads and bridges, Schoodic, and Isle-au-Haut… you get the idea… there is SO MUCH MORE to see in what is a small but surprisingly stunning national park, and for those interested in spending some time photographing the landscape, you really can’t go wrong!

Do you have a favorite place to photograph in Acadia? I’d love to hear about it…

* I’m updating this post to include a quieter part of Acadia, Schoodic. Just recently I have had the pleasure of exploring this part of the world, and I have to admit, I have totally fallen in love.

If interested in purchasing prints, go to my “real” site at: http://www.acadiaandbeyond.com

Jordan Pond Stream Again

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One more from my personally invigorating morning spent exploring parts of Acadia National Park. I had hoped this little stream would offer opportunities to enjoy the fall foliage, and it did not disappoint. This is a more intimate view of Jordan Pond Stream (again), where I was drawn to the vibrant and colorful fallen leaves that were littered all over the scene.

Jordan Pond Stream, Acadia National Park

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After leaving the top of Cadillac Mountain where I had been socked in with fog, I made a quick stop at Bubble Pond where the colors were already past their peak, before heading off to my planned destination… the Jordan Pond Stream.

I had looked at the weather forecast for the day, and it had predicted overcast skies and some light showers… perfect weather for shooting fall foliage and running water. Clouds provide softer, more diffused light that makes getting a good exposure easier, and any rainfall that came my way would certainly help saturate the already vibrant fall colors. We had a Nor’easter blow through these parts last weekend, so I was optimistic that the heavy rains which doused the area might translate into a decent amount of water flowing in the stream. I have been here many times in the past when there has been barely a trickle, but this time I wasn’t disappointed.

Once I reached the first wooden bridge along the gravel path, I made a right turn to follow the rough trail hugging the stream as it meanders toward the Cobblestone Bridge. Intermittent raindrops and relatively cool fall temperatures did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm as I stumbled upon scene after scene with rich and striking foliage colors complimenting the dynamic water rushing downhill toward Long Pond and the Atlantic Ocean. Fallen leaves were scattered everywhere, and the pockets of color and mini-landscapes that I encountered around just about every turn were amazing – and once again, I had this jewel of a place all to myself.

Based on the available light, I experimented with several different lengths of shutter, each impacting the degree to which the water was either “frozen” or “smoothed” as seen in the images I ended up preferring. Our eyes cannot freeze time like a camera can, neither can they allow us to see movement beyond what exists momentarily and in a very linear way… part of what intrigues me about photography.

After getting home and editing I find that I choose – as I usually do – way more vertical compositions than landscape images… not sure why I tend to like portrait oriented photographs so much? Here is a sample from my VERY enjoyable morning spent exploring the Jordan Pond Stream.

Cadillac Mountain Fogged In

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As I made the early morning drive to Acadia, I couldn’t help but be excited about the potential for some nice light. Weather was definitely rolling in, but the forecast didn’t call for rain until later in the day. On the road between Bangor and Ellsworth the pre-dawn skies had clouds scattered everywhere, but I could still see some stars peeking out… partially clear skies with some nice clouds to have the early morning light reflect off… things were looking good!

My initial destination on this particular morning was Cadillac Mountain. Lately I have been especially drawn to getting back there to see the wonderful red ground cover that blankets parts of the summit of Cadillac every fall. So my plan was to head there first, and then embrace the incoming weather and cloud cover to explore a couple of streams I hoped might have some nice fall colors dotted along them. The overcast skies would reduce highlights and glare on the water, making it easier to get a decent exposure on the streams.

Not for the first time though, as I approached Acadia and Mount Desert Island, the clouds and fog started to thicken considerably. By the time I was on the Loop Road I realized that there was a VERY good chance my sunrise plans atop Cadillac might very well be skunked, but as I was always told… stick to the plan and things will likely work out for the better.

There were about four cars in the Cadillac parking lot when I arrived about half an hour before the sun was scheduled to rise, and as I looked out of my car window I noticed that everyone was bundled up pretty well. I eagerly loaded up my gear, and headed off to explore the south face of the mountain where I hoped there might be some compositions to enjoy.

All in all I spent about an hour on top of Cadillac, and in that time I never did see the sun. The clouds were moving pretty fast across the summit, and the winds must have been gusting to at least 40 mph. I had to physically hold onto my tripod to make sure it remained still… this was especially important since some of my exposures were relatively long, and I obviously wanted to record images that were as sharp as possible.

Anyway… there is something magical and almost mysterious about being on any mountain in Acadia National Park when the fog rolls in, but Cadillac is pretty special. The huge swathes of granite seem to both absorb and reflect the light at the same time, producing colors that are both subtle and remarkable. I found my patches of red ground cover all right, and the fog that was determined to hang around created a wonderful atmosphere of soft, diffused light. Every now and then I would catch a glimpse of the ocean and islands off in the distance, but usually within seconds the fog had raced up the mountainside again and staked its claim.

As I made my way back toward the car, I realized that the conditions (and lack of a classic sunrise) must have driven those who I had originally been sharing the mountain with away… there wasn’t one other car in the parking lot… and I couldn’t help but feel almost privileged that the mountain had been all mine… at least for a little while.