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 🙂

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St. Patrick’s Day

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March 17 holds significance for me in two ways. First of all, and most obviously, it is Saint Patrick’s Day. Growing up in Ireland I can remember many a day spent very unproductively celebrating whatever it was we were celebrating… usually from an early hour too! Last year Sam and I were lucky enough to be in Dublin to join in with the locals as they did what they do best… great experience. If you want a quick fix from the Emerald Isle, check out my gallery of Ireland photographs, including the one below from Dunmore Head looking out toward Great Blasket Island.

Secondly, as I check the weather forecast for the coming week, I am pleased to notice that we are expecting a brief spell of almost 70 degree temperatures here in Maine. While definitely abnormal for this time of year, March 17 and St. Paddy’s Day always spell the end of winter for me. The clocks have just sprung forward, we are in the throes of March Madness, and in a couple of weeks we get to enjoy the dogwoods of Augusta during The Masters golf tournament. For me… this is a good time of the year, so cheers!

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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Shiny and silver…

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Every now and then I get the urge to print something, and I figure if it’s worth printing then it’s worth printing BIG! I just sent this one off to be printed on metallic paper at 24 x 36, and I have a feeling that when it comes back I will like it. I love how landscape photographs appear almost 3D when printed on metallic paper, and the black and white processing should make this one really pop.

If I ever got serious about this whole photography thing I would love to spend some time learning about what goes into making a really good print… but in the meantime, I will trust (and pay) those with the ability and resources to take care of such a task. I am definitely developing an attraction to large prints, and I can’t wait to see this one up close 🙂

From Dunmore Head near Coumeenoole, you can see Great Blasket Island straightaway, Inishnabro and Inishvickillane to the left, and to the right is Beiginis and then Inishtooskert – just off the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland.

Toward the highest mountain in Ireland

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Another from the Ireland stash… this is from our last evening in Killarney before we headed north toward Galway. There is a path just to the right of where I planted my tripod that leads toward the highest mountain in Ireland… Carrauntoohil (3406 ft). Carrauntoohil itself isn’t actually visible in this photograph, and I’m not entirely sure what the correct name for this path is, though I think it is either Lisleibane or Cronin Yard Loop. It was a spectacularly beautiful way to spend time as the early evening shadows stretched across a landscape that is known locally as Hags Glen. Can you imagine what this looks like when everything has greened up?

The moment was better than the photograph

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This is one of those instances when the moment of actually being there was better than I was able to represent with the camera. Sam and I had arrived at Ross Castle in Killarney with plenty of time to spare before the sun was scheduled to rise, and as we walked from the parking lot toward the castle, I couldn’t help but notice this scene.

The morning air was cool and damp, and I never get tired of that feeling of expectation and excitement you get when exploring somewhere new in the pre-dawn light. An almost eerie mist on the water off in the distance helped create a mood of tranquility and peacefulness like you wouldn’t believe, and there wasn’t a soul around as we stood on a little bridge admiring this scene and listening to the sounds of the wakening morning. The reflections on the still as glass water were remarkable, and as the sun slowly climbed in the sky, I was once again reminded of why it is important to get up at this time of day.

In the photograph below I broke out the longer lens (70-200mm f4) and  tried to bring everything good about this scene a little closer. The two-dimensional world of photography can be somewhat limiting when it comes to truly representing an experience, but at least I have these two images to serve as a reminder of a wonderful morning shared with Sam… in a place and at a time only he and I experienced… pretty neat.

Torc Waterfall, Killarney

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I was planning to take a run down to Acadia National Park this weekend to see how spring was coming along, but the kidney stone I am dealing with kind of put the kabosh on that idea. I don’t mind admitting that this kidney stone has totally kicked my butt… I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. So… instead of Acadia in the springtime, here’s another from my Ireland trip stash.

This is the impressive and dramatic Torc Waterfall in Killarney National Park. When reviewing photographs made on the trip, I initially passed by this one. Being there in person was really cool… the water was running hard and the area was intensely lush and green, however this photograph just seems a bit too chaotic for me. I tried several compositions while there, but I just couldn’t find anything that really worked for me. Maybe I should have been a little more discerning… perhaps less would have been more in this case, and I could have focused on smaller parts of the scene rather than trying to get the whole waterfall into the frame?