Postcard from Maine (9)

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5-14-14Portland Head_61seconds 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.

Postcard from Maine (8)

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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!

Postcard from Maine (7)

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Coming soon! I always love when spring finally really springs and the landscape begins to green up. Though it take it’s sweet time to get here, the fresh breath of post-winter life that eventually washes over the landscape is well worth the wait. The greens can be electric, and the smells and sound of new growth are intoxicating. By early June we have an additional bonus where swathes of purple and pink begin to dot the landscape, and I have to admit, it’s a favorite time of mine. If you’re in Acadia looking for Lupine, you’ll of course find it scattered randomly in places all over Mount Desert Island, but there are also several cool places – that I know of – where you can find it in abundance.

There’s a lush and full field of Lupine that grows wild in the heart of Bar Island, just offshore from Bar Harbor. The good news… at low tide you can access this treasure by walking across an uncovered spit of land. Be careful though, the ocean waits for no-one and you need to pay attention to the time and tide. Tread with care and make nice photographs.

Another beautiful example of Acadia Lupine can be found along the Beech Hill Cliffs Road. When coming onto the island, travel south through the quaint village of Somesville and look for a right turn toward Beech Hill. After about quarter of a mile make a left and follow the road toward Beech Hill… at the end of this dead-end route there are some wonderful views from above Echo Lake on some very pretty quiet side trails that also offer ocean views to the south of Acadia – and along the way you’ll see two large fields that will be overflowing with colorful Lupine in June. Enjoy!

Postcard from Maine (6)

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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.

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Postcard from Maine (5)

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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

Postcard from Maine (4)

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Color. It can make or break a photograph, and for those of you who have been following my photographic journey over the past couple of years, you’ll know that I have become more and more intrigued with removing colors and distilling a scene down into the most important of elements… lines, shapes, contrasts, textures and how they all interact compositionally within that little rectangle that is the view finder… in black and white.

All concepts around trying to create a good compositional scene apply, as does my mantra of trying to make any scene your own and not just a mimic of someone else’s photography. As suggestions to help achieve this, I’d recommend experimenting with placing important elements nearer the edges of the frame, using the rule of thirds where appropriate, and if you latch onto something interesting… leverage it… go for it. Really try to accentuate what you find… just look at those incredible textures in the striated rocks of Pemaquid Point, and depending on when you visit, you might just get a chance to shoot some cool reflections.

This is a remarkable location… one that I’d highly recommend spending some serious time exploring. It’s one of those places where someone interested in practicing their craft has ample opportunity to spend time on a variety of compositional choices. I’ve spent a whole day here feeling like a kid in a candy store – there are all sorts of textures and elements that can be used to create a variety of compositions. This place can be shot wide, tight with a telephoto lens, and of course… in unique conditions and with a little imagination it can really shine. In the color version I used a long shutter to help streak the clouds a little and add another element… maybe it helps and maybe it clutters? It’s OK to question.

Color in the first and a more simple black and white composition in the second… I’d be curious if you’ve shot this location, and what you think about the different impact each has. If you have shot Pemaquid, drop a link in the comments and show us what you got!

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Postcard from Maine (3)

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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.

Postcard from Maine (2)

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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).

Postcard from Maine (1)

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Here’s a little something from my home state of Maine. Hope you don’t mind if I indulge myself with a couple of postcard posts of my favorite photographs of Maine, especially Acadia National Park. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to visit in person, but hopefully as the weather warms up and I start to feel a bit better I can get back down there again soon.

Also, rather than me having all the fun, I’d be happy to post any reader requests for images. Is there any particular place in Maine – or Acadia and Beyond – that you would like to see. I’ll scour the archives and see what I can find, and I’d be happy to share any story – technical or anecdotal – that I have behind the creation of the image.

For example, with the image in this post, I wanted to highlight those incredible round rocks that can be found at this location. The flecked pinkish granite in the foreground is absolutely spectacular, and when the waves rock those boulders back and forth the sound is mesmerizing. The sun had already risen when I made this photograph – in fact I had waited until the warm light had kissed the shoreline hanging above the cove. Classic Acadia.

I choose a fairly long shutter to allow for a degree of texture being created within the foreground water, but I also waited for a breaking wave to help create some mid-ground interest. I hope that helps explain the thought process going on as I made this one… and like I said, it’s one of my all-time favorites… Monument Cove in Acadia National Park.

Just for kicks…

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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!

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 😉

In search of a foreground element…

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*Taking a break from the Chemonotony 😉

Here’s a rare sighting of me in front of the camera! Not from recent times, this is from the fall of 2002… wait, let me go check that. Ayuh, seems like this was made by my friend Monty all the way back on 9/14/2002 – now that’s quite some time ago! This little vignette of a scene gives a good idea of what it takes for me to come away with a likable photograph.

Nice backdrop – check (The Beehive in Acadia National Park)

Nice light – check (I’m in the shadow of Great Head, and as the sun rises from behind it, the Beehive is slowly bathed in warm color)

Nice composition – here’s where the challenge begins! Those are my bare feet in the chilly Atlantic Ocean showing a definite willingness to do what it takes to get the photograph 😉

So… when attempting to create a pleasant composition, one of the first things I look for is an interesting foreground element. For some strange reason, I seem to be drawn to vertical compositions versus landscape oriented scenes. Don’t get me wrong… I always look for – and enjoy discovering – landscape compositions that showcase the width of particular scenes, but there’s something special about the effect that can be derived from using a wide-angle lens in portrait orientation. A wide-angle lens can make foreground elements seem larger than they actually are, and by making them appear closer to the camera than they really are, it can also help create depth from front to back within the scene.

Anyhoo… this is why – when composing a landscape photograph – you’ll likely find me (even in 2002) scouring the ground in search of something interesting that might help introduce the viewer to the scene and hopefully compel them to curiously explore my composition further. In the photograph above, you’ll notice my sturdy tripod plopped apparently randomly right in the middle of a bunch of jagged rocks that are littered across the edge of the shoreline. The boundary of where the ocean meets the land is eternally intriguing, one that uncovers and reveals infinite possibilities. In the shot below, hopefully I was able to unearth some of those wonderful possibilities?

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Where I’d like to return to one day…

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The depths of winter have me reminiscing about a warmer place… Death Valley National Park in California couldn’t be any more different from Acadia, and probably because of that, I am very much drawn to it. When it comes to raw beauty, it certainly gives my favorite and more intimate national park here in Maine a run for its money. Sam and I visited this vast and wonderful national park a few years ago, and when looking back at our travels, I think it’s safe to say that we had ourselves the trip of a lifetime. In rather unusual conditions – it had rained in the desert about a week before we arrived – we experienced, among other things, the depths of the desolate salt-pan area known as Badwater, the iconic beauty of Zabriskie Point, and the incredible Mesquite sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells. And yes… that’s Sam silhouetted in the first photograph below.

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The recent rains had made some of the more desirable and remote locations within Death Valley inaccessible, so to make up for our disappointment and add to the adventure, we took a two-day detour out of the desert and cruised up CA 395 in the shadow of the Eastern Sierra. We marveled at the imposing height of a snow-capped Mount Whitney, we explored the unique the surreal landscape of the Alabama Hills, and we shared the incredibly still and tranquil area of Mono Lake with a pack of yelping coyotes. I, of course, made some landscape photographs along the way… as did Sam. Like I said… this is an area rich in opportunity for any landscape photographer, and it’s another area I would one day love to return to. Enjoy the original Jack-created soundtrack to the video 🙂

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Enough already…

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2-13-14 tree2It’s been a snowy winter so far, and that trend doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of changing soon. I don’t like winter to begin with, but when it stretches out this long with so much cold and snow, I REALLY don’t like it. FYI… here’s a record of the past week or so… we got 8 inches on Friday, 5 inches on Sunday, 6 inches on Tuesday, 3 inches on Wednesday, and we’re expecting sleet/rain on Friday… joy.

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The good news in all of this is that Oliver can’t seem to get enough of the snow, and since he needs his exercise, at least I’m getting out in the fresh air too. I’m posting a couple of simple photographs of a stark – but I thought beautiful – tree from our walk together during one of the recent snowstorms. And then there’s my handsome boy – I say roll on springtime and enough of this winter nonsense already!

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As the sun rises…

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…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.

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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.

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On a day like this…

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… I love my remote release. It was cold when I made this photograph – somewhere in the low single digits or maybe even zero – but when you add the wind chill whipping in off the ocean, I was glad that I didn’t need my camera-operating fingers exposed to the elements any longer than necessary.

A remote release allows me to control the pressing of the shutter without having to fumble with gloves and bare fingers in the freezing temperatures, and it also permits me to trigger the shutter without touching the camera and risking moving my equipment. Even the tiniest of nudges as you manually depress the shutter with your finger can introduce “camera-shake” and ruin a photograph – moving the camera even ever so slightly might result in a not-so-sharp image, especially if you plan on printing big. I usually take my paranoia in this regard one step further and engage the mirror lock-up feature on my camera – one squeeze of the remote to lift the mirror, and a couple of seconds later a second squeeze to fire off the exposure. By using this technique, I’m minimizing the chances of the elements coming together for an epic sunrise in a beautiful place, only to return home with a slightly blurry photograph due to vibration.

So there’s the technical reason why I use a remote release, but it also provides me with a myriad of creative options, one of which I especially enjoy. As the light fades and exposure times naturally lengthen, I like to choose the size of the aperture, set the camera dial on bulb mode, and experiment with the length of the exposure. Adding a 6-stop neutral density filter will lengthen the exposure time even more, so I choose an appropriate aperture size (usually between f11 – f14), and use my remote to trigger the shutter, holding it open for anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes. As colors deepen and movements are condensed through the longer exposure, results can be pretty interesting. Oh yes, and perhaps most importantly, I get to sit back, relax and soak in the scene without having my body hunched over the camera holding the shutter button down by hand.

In the photograph below, the outgoing tide is rendered smoother than it actually was, and the high clouds streaking overhead appear much different than if I had chosen a typically faster shutter speed.

You could spend a lot on either a tethered or a wireless version, but the remote cable release I use is a simple knock-off purchased on Amazon for about $6. Despite the low cost, it has become one of the most used and valuable pieces of equipment in my bag. I love the creative options it provides, but on a day like this, my fingers also appreciated the comfort and convenience it offers. Do you use a remote release? if so, what are some of the creative ways that you deploy this little gadget?

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A snowy lighthouse in Maine

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Park the car, walk 25 yards, and you’re able to enjoy this view. Easily accessible, this unique and striking lighthouse can be found guarding the rocky Maine coast just below the town of Thomaston. It protects those who depend on the ocean for their livelihood and call the working harbor of Port Clyde their home. A recent snowstorm had blanketed the landscape with about 8-10 inches of fresh powder, so I decided to stop off for a brief visit to admire what has become a familiar view. I was the first person to leave tracks in the broad expanse of snow, and with the cool ocean breeze and the sparkling blue sky laid out before me, I breathed in deeply to fully appreciate a scene magically transformed by winter’s grip.

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A different angle

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In this location, I can usually be found hunkered down somewhere back near where the ocean meets the round rocks, since that spot gives you a view of the Atlantic Ocean and majestic Otter Cliffs. On this occasion however, I’m a little further along the Boulder Beach shoreline, looking back over my shoulder at a different angle. Looking in this direction doesn’t give a striking view of the cliffs, but the round rocks this location is renowned for are still there, and I love those steadfast trees standing guard over the scene.

Soothing…

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This location faces Frenchman Bay and the open Atlantic, and as you can see from the shape of the jagged shoreline, the ocean has definitely left its mark over time. High tide on this particular icy day was scheduled to coincide with sunset, so I was hopeful I might see (and photograph) some big waves in good light. Neither the big waves nor the good light really materialized, but I didn’t mind. I always enjoy time spent in Acadia National Park, and on this occasion, an exposure of 39 seconds helped smooth out both the ocean and the sky to create for me what is a very soothing image.

Ghosts…

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On our regular walk to the golf course, Oliver and I always pass a large stand of pine trees located opposite a graveyard. Depending on the time of day, the light, and the current season, these trees present a variety of interesting opportunities for photographic compositions. The sun had already set when I took the camera out one last time on this particular walk – I set the shutter speed to half a second, and started moving the camera up and down through the scene. I knew that the strong lines of the trees would contrast well with the cool carpet of snow that covered the ground, and it only took me a couple of tries to get something I liked. As twilight washed over the scene, I feel as though the low level of light combined with the dark tree trunks made for a ghostly impression.

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