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.

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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.