Postcard from Maine (3)

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4-20-14 Katahdin

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

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

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

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

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

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Man-made landscape

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I recently headed north to Aroostook County for a work-related event, and on the way back home I slowly meandered through the local landscape looking for opportunities to break out the camera. I had been hoping to photograph the mighty and still snow-capped Mount Katahdin, but the gloomy weather and low clouds put an end to that idea.

Just outside the town of Millinocket, I stumbled on this old but still active structure bridging the Penobscot River. The track and bridge looked to be in decent shape, and as I straddled the lines to make this photograph, I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like if a working engine were to pass by.

The leading lines in this scene are obviously what caught my attention, and even at the time I pressed the shutter, I was eager to see how this one would appear in black and white.

I am not a wildlife photographer

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

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

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

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

How to beat the heat

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Just ask the Dallas Mavericks… ba-boom!

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

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

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

More of this beauty tomorrow…

Fall Colors

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

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

Favorite Photographs

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I like taking photographs.

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

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

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

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

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Maine Foliage

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

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

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

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

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

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