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.

Making it mine…

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It’s funny how some photographs make their way onto the personal favorite list and some don’t. The photograph above is a screenshot of the refresh I just did to my portfolio site, and as you can see, I didn’t choose one of the iconic and more recognizable views of Acadia for the front page, but rather a more intimate – albeit dramatic – view from Sand Beach during a big storm.

Easily accessible, anyone who has ever visited Sand Beach has stood right in this exact spot looking south along the coast toward Otter Cliffs. Although a very popular vista, chances are that few people have witnessed this scene in these conditions, and for that reason, I’m fairly proud of the degree of originality that this image contains. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of photographs from Acadia National Park that are instantly recognizable – Cadillac Mountain, Bass Harbor Light, Schoodic, Otter Cliffs, Boulder Beach – heck, maybe if you’ve visited Acadia you too photographed similar scenes?

One of the most important lessons I ever learned though when making a landscape photograph – and it happened very early on in the process – was to try to be different… to try and make my photographs truly mine, different from what someone else might make. That process might involve the choice of lens and focal length to be used, the choice of a different physical perspective, or maybe just getting lucky one time with the light and weather conditions. Sometimes I’m successful at pulling that all together, and sometimes I’m not… though when I am, it’s usually because I’ve not only made a decent photograph, but because I’ve also had a memorable experience… and that’s when an image usually makes it’s way toward the personal favorite pile.

It’s that time of year again…

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Someone likes the snow!

…where we reflect on the year that was, and choose our favorite images from the past twelve months. Our family welcomed a new puppy this year, and although Oliver has consumed much of my recreational time, I still managed to spend some time in Acadia with the camera. I enjoy the process of reflection. I also enjoy taking a moment to reminisce about places I’ve been, and sights I’ve seen. I never tire of spending time in my favorite national park, and along the way throughout the year, I made a photograph or two to remind me of what were often personal and intimate experiences. Not as prolific as in past years, I didn’t make the quantity of images I usually do. Maybe there’s a New Year’s resolution to be made which might ensure a more productive 2014? Though there aren’t many iconic and instantly recognizable picture postcard views this year, hopefully my favorite 13 images from 2013 are still distinctively Acadia? Oh yeah, and other than the golden-colored Oliver, my favorites from this year are all in black and white. If interested in seeing some high-quality landscape photography, check out the annual Jim Goldstein curation of imagery – here’s a link to the 2012 edition where you’ll be able to browse some seriously awesome work. Happy holidays!

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Wonderland granite sculpted by the Atlantic

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Withstanding the elements at Ship Harbor

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Cairn on Cadillac

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View from Adams Bridge

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Incoming tide at Schoodic

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A glimpse of Old Soaker

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Mitchell Cove – the quiet side

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The Ledges along the Loop Road

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No way… fog on the coast of Maine?

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Last light on Otter Point

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Shelter from the wind

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Two of my boys enjoying Sand Beach

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 🙂

The Loop Road in Acadia NP

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The Loop Road in Acadia National Park offers so much to see, especially the stretch that runs from the fee station near Schooner Head to the jagged granite promontory of Otter Cliffs. This section of the Loop Road is probably no more than a couple of miles long, but it sure does pack a punch when it comes to views of the Acadia shoreline and the Atlantic Ocean. Whether driving in your car or taking a leisurely stroll along the Ocean Path which runs alongside the Loop Road, you’re sure to be impressed by the weathered landscape/seascape. From Sand Beach to Thunder Hole to Monument Cove to Boulder Beach and Otter Cliffs… this spectacular road with amazing views also provides ample opportunity to hop off the beaten path, scamper over the rocks, and explore up close the ruggedness of the Maine coastline. And for those who didn’t already know… it stays open all year round, so if you haven’t yet seen Acadia in the snow… you should! And that’s enough hyperlinks for now!

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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.

Stormy Acadia sunrise

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I dipped back into the archives for this one… a spectacular sunrise from the rocky shoreline of the Loop Road in Acadia National Park – and one that doesn’t include our new puppy Oliver! On this particular morning there was a pretty heavy bank of clouds hanging out over the eastern horizon, but the sun was still able to find a sliver of a gap to poke through and illuminate the landscape. Even though this photograph was made a few years back, I can still remember the thrill I felt from being so close to the edge of the ocean.

The Ocean Path, Acadia National Park

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The Ocean Path along the Loop Road in Acadia National Park must surely be one of the prettiest trails anywhere. With no significant gain in elevation, and a relatively smooth surface, this is one of the easiest walks in the park. The views all along the path are spectacular, though the curious hiker also has plenty of opportunities to leave the trail and explore the huge swathes of granite separating them from the Atlantic Ocean.

The landscape assumes a more active personality at high tide in so-so weather, and to be honest I think it can be a much more interesting time to be there. On this particular morning, fierce waves were breaking onshore, and a low-hanging mist only added to the atmosphere. In the composition above, I opted to switch out my ever-faithful wide angle lens for my 70-200mm so that I could isolate the amazing surf crashing on the rocks all along the shore of Newport Cove.

My growing love of black and white

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Have I mentioned lately how taken I am with black and white photographs? I’m finding more and more that I want to remove the color from certain scenes and distill the image down to important compositional elements. I’ve actually started printing and framing some of these to hang at home. A simple, black frame with a white mat looks pretty classy, as does a rich, dark brown frame with an off-white mat. I’ve been printing at 11×14 and then framing at 16×20, and although I do love bigger prints, I’m finding that this is a good size for most spaces on a wall, especially if you want to group a couple of photographs. Here’s a quick sampling of recent black and white images from Acadia… anyone missing the normal colors?

Moving pictures…

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While any photograph is certainly capable of telling a compelling story, it can be quite a challenge to try and capture the essence of the landscape in a single frame. As the sights, smells, and sounds of the world go on around us, attempting to freeze that critical moment in time as one still image can be a formidable exercise. Sometimes moving pictures can bring more life to a scene, with the combination of movement and noise providing a different sense of place, so here – for a slight change of pace – are a few short video clips I grabbed from a recent trip to Acadia National Park.

The rhythmic sound of the powerful crashing waves is music to my ears, and if you listen carefully during the last scene, you will hear what I consider to be a very special sound… the famous round rocks on Boulder Beach knocking together as they get jostled and shaped by the incoming and outgoing Atlantic waves.

Don’t forget to crank up the volume 🙂

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…

Draining the color

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Here’s a similar scene to one I posted recently, but this time I am including the “normal” version so that you can see what it looked like before the colors were drained out of it. As you can see, there wasn’t much color to begin with. The overcast sky and damp winter air were doing a very nice job of rendering the scene as almost monochromatic, so rather than fight it, a little voice in my head told me to embrace the conditions and see if I couldn’t come away with a pleasing photograph – one that meant something to me, and one that would ultimately end up as a black and white. Perhaps I shouldn’t show both the color and the black and white photograph side by side… perhaps I should claim to have exclusively envisioned how this would ultimately look without color… perhaps by showing both the color and non-color versions of this image I am “watering down” its impact… but for me, at this moment, and with this image, that’s a little too deep, so I’m comfortable displaying them both so that you can see the differences.

We do not naturally see in black and white, and while I absolutely love the classic work of famous past masters, photographing without color is not something that comes easily to me. I did my usual search for compositional lines, patterns, and shapes, and I tried to arrange the elements within the frame in relation to each other in a way that I thought looked somewhat interesting. I stepped back from the camera and breathed in the air… then I pressed the shutter. I’m no expert in converting photographs from color to black and white, and I’d be interested to hear your response to both of these images, and to the concept of removing color from photographs in general.

Is it grey or gray?

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Growing up in Ireland I’m familiar with a few differences between the Queen’s English and the Americanized version that I have become accustomed to, but I still get tripped up when trying to spell the word “grey” or “gray” – a word I want to use to describe the less than ideal light that prevailed on a recent weekend expedition to Acadia National Park.

What started out as a promising sunrise quickly deteriorated into a raw early March morning where the clouds thickened, the breeze stiffened, and a cold rain then started to fall. I briefly considered cutting my adventure short and heading home early – especially when I got back into my car and turned on the heat. However, when I reached my favorite place along the Loop Road – Boulder Beach – I figured that I didn’t have anything to lose by stopping for a quick peek, so I pulled over, parked the car, and wandered down to the beach. I’m glad I did.

The scene was quite monochromatic, and the distinct lack of color – but obvious beauty – immediately had me thinking black and white. Fading patches of snow were scattered around, and I liked how they contrasted with the famous round rocks and the churning ocean. No early morning golden light to work with, but it just goes to show… you don’t always have to have spectacular light to make a decent photograph. Just recently, Lori had asked me about doing some kind of black and white series for the house, and looky here, I think I might just have pulled it off. Stay tuned for a couple more non-color photographs using only shades of grey… or is it gray?

Sometimes, less is more…

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Here’s a wide version of the landscape I was enjoying on Sunday morning at 5:53 a.m. Lots going on in the scene, eh? While I love the wide point of view I can get using my 17-40mm lens and the full-frame Canon 5D Mark II, often you have to make tough decisions about what to include in the frame and what to exclude. And sometimes… in the name of creating a pleasing composition… less is more.

Here there is the powerful surf below the ledge, a gentle color gradient on the horizon, some funky high clouds in the top right of the frame, an amazing coastline running along the left hand side of the frame, and a pesky pine tee standing tall over toward the top left corner. Add the precarious vantage point I was perched on overlooking a potentially pretty steep fall, and you can see that some compositional choices needed to be made.

Sticking with the 17-40mm zoom lens (looking back I wish I had used a longer telephoto to zoom in on the waves as they rolled in against the shoreline rocks), I experimented with a variety of compositions. Landscape versus portrait orientation, 17mm versus 40mm and everything in between. Tipping the camera up or down to include more sky or more foreground… all of these choices can lead to quite different photographs… and I have to admit, I really do enjoy the creative process of making sense of these choices and how they impact the scene.

Here’s a vertical-oriented composition from around the same area. This one was made about half an hour (6:20 a.m.) after the previous photograph, and as you can see, simply turning the camera on its side can have a dramatic impact on the composition. For some strange reason I tend to initially get drawn to vertical compositions, but I always try to remember to shoot something I like in landscape orientation too – that way I can take look at all options when I get back home.

As much as I like the two compositions above, neither of them would make the cut if I were asked to pare the collection from this particular morning down. I think I am happiest with the composition shown below where I zoomed in to 39mm and tried to focus on just a couple of the many elements on display. Although I admittedly enjoy the wide angle effect (and might even be guilty of over-using it), in this photograph I think the composition benefits from the tighter focal length. So, yet another example of that well-worn phrase… sometimes, less is more.

Acadia’s winter shoreline

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I had enjoyed a pretty nice sunrise on Boulder Beach below the always impressive Otter Cliffs but rather than heading home right away, I decided to make the most of my time here and enjoy my favorite national park some more. Despite being so low in the sky, the winter sun was actually warm-ish and comforting as I wandered along the stretch of Loop Road coastline in Acadia National Park between Otter Cliffs and Monument Cove.

Ice scattered all over the rocks made me rather cautious at times as I clambered around for pleasing compositions, but the distinct lack of snow from what has been a mild winter so far at least made my shoreline explorations navigable. I have been here in the past when deep snow blanketed much of the landscape, prompting you to be very careful so as not to fall into any of the deep and often dangerous cracks between granite slabs. Not first light and all the drama it helps unfold, but I thought this little series from my mini-hike was still worthy of sharing. Again… notice the distinct lack of company I had… a big reason why I like to spend time with my camera enjoying nature.

All is quiet on New Year’s Day

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I was humming the title of this post all day (U2, 1983)…

I’m usually not that big on making New Year resolutions, but if there is one thing I would like to do more of in 2012, it is visit Acadia National Park. So, wanting to start the year off just right, we took a quick New Year’s Day drive down to our favorite national park today where the sun was shining brightly and the temperature was an unseasonably balmy 45 degrees. We’re still waiting for winter to arrive here in Maine, so our time spent in Acadia today felt more like late fall than what should really be a dark and dreary time of year. No significant snow to speak of yet – hope I don’t jinx things by saying that – and it hasn’t become that cold yet.

Sand Beach was it’s usual amazing self and, based on previous experiences here in the winter, we were actually surprised that on this occasion we had to share it with a few others. I always enjoy seeing the impact of winter storms and tides that constantly shape and change the landscape here, though with the mild winter we have had so far, at this point in the season the beach still looked very familiar. Swimming at Sand Beach in the summer means tackling a frigid ocean, so when we saw a couple of brave? souls taking a January 1 dip, we were quite impressed indeed! Though if you have ever gone swimming here in the summer, you will probably wonder how much colder could it possibly be?

The rocks along the Loop Road leading from Monument Cove to Otter Cliffs were deserted, so we took the opportunity to enjoy the variety of rugged terrain that stretches all along the shore of Newport Cove. Even though we have spent considerable time exploring this area on many, many previous occasions, there always seems to be something new to discover. The detailed lines and shapes of the weathered granite are a sight to behold, and even though this area is traditionally considered a morning location photographically, it is still quite something… even in the late afternoon shadows.

As the winter sun dipped behind the mountains to the west and the temperatures became a bit more familiar for this time of year, the lengthening shadows forced us to reluctantly retreat back to the warmth of the car. Despite being disappointed about having to pack up and go home, we were at the same time extremely grateful to be able to enjoy the beauty of such a jewel of a national park right in our own backyard.

Looking forward to many more visits to Acadia… Happy New Year!

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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A road with a view

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The Loop Road in Acadia National Park is probably one of the prettiest stretches of roadway in America, and during the summer months it is also probably one of the busiest stretches of roadway. In the winter however, much of the road is closed due to the typical Maine winter weather that we can expect soon, but part of it – the stretch between Schooner Head and Otter Cliffs – stays open all year round. Many people don’t realize this, but if you know how to access it via the Schooner Head Road, then you will get to see what is probably the most striking part of the Loop Road in a totally different light. Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Monument Cove and the rocks at Otter Point are all accessible with spectacular views. There wasn’t any snow yet when I was there earlier this week, but when it does come – and it will – you should really consider exploring this part of the park during winter. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Quick Pic

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I haven’t been out with the camera in a while, but I’m excited to be heading back down to Acadia in the morning. I keep getting drawn to the round rocks at Boulder Beach below Otter Cliffs, so that’s likely where I will start the day. Sunrise is officially at 6:49am, and with a high tide listed at 4:58am there might be some good conditions. Our fall and early winter this year have been relatively mild, though the forecasted 31 degree temps at dawn will probably be a shock to the system! I have an idea in mind about using the ND filter for a long exposure… something about streaking clouds over Otter Cliffs with spectacular sunrise colors… we’ll see how it works out.

In the meantime, here’s a quick archive pic made from the shore at Boulder Beach when forest fires burning up north in Quebec had enveloped the area in a thick haze…

Panoramic views of Acadia

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A few years back when I first started really digging photography, it didn’t take me long to feel somewhat constrained by the little box you looked through when composing a photograph. Especially in a place as beautiful as Acadia National Park, I couldn’t help but try to show what was beyond the confines of that rectangular viewfinder, and these are a couple of photographs which represent my attempts to create wider, panoramic images of what I was seeing. In each of these composites, I turned the camera vertically and made anywhere between 5 – 10 photographs, making sure to overlap each part of the scene slightly so as to allow for an easier task in stitching them together. Panoramic images like these are meant to be viewed large to show off the detail within, so these little blog-sized images probably don’t do them justice.

All three of the photographs in this series were made on the same date (9/24/02). The first is of Sand Beach and the Beehive as seen from high up on the Great Head Trail which climbs above what I think is one of the prettiest beaches in the world. Perched on this ledge, I can remember how peaceful it was as the sun came up behind me and over Great Head to light up the Beehive and Gorham Mountain beyond. The second photograph below is a more intimate and later-in-the-morning view of Sand Beach as seen from the far end of the cove. At low tide there are some pretty interesting rocks and boulders exposed, and in this scene I was attracted by the still relatively early morning light hitting the pink granite on the opposite shore of Newport Cove, and I especially liked the effect that having the shutter open for a longer time had on the advancing tide. I was also drawn to the vibrant reflections in the wet sand, and as you can see… I had the entire beach to myself.

Probably one of my favorite photographs ever, the panoramic composite below is of the round rocks in Monument Cove. This wasn’t made in especially favorable light, but rather it was made in the early afternoon – but with some awesome clouds. Setting just about all of my camera controls to manual, I can remember sweeping across the scene making probably 10 – 12 photographs, and when I got home and lined everything up in the computer I was quite pleased. Not necessarily one of my best photographs, but certainly one of my favorites. Originally captured on Fuji Velvia film, each of these approximately 30MB scanned and composited panoramic images were at one time thought of as being quite large in file size – makes me smile when I think about how large a single 5D Mark II tiff file rounds out at! Still drawn to these type of images, I have often wondered what it would take to get into using a dedicated panoramic camera… but then I would be back into the world of film… not necessarily a bad thing, but in many ways I do enjoy the conveniences of using a digital camera. Hmmm…