In the light of day…

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On our way back home from New York today, it just happened to be around lunchtime as we crossed over the Piscataqua River from New Hampshire into Maine, so we stopped in York for sandwiches from a local deli. When I sheepishly suggested that we enjoy the unseasonably warm weather and have ourselves a picnic at the lighthouse… I was thrilled when both Lori and Jack were in total agreement – they are so patient with me and my camera! I know I said no more photographs from this location, but before I do a refresh of the blog, I wanted to share a couple more from our brief return visit today. Besides, in most of the photographs from my last visit, all you could see was the silhouette of the lighthouse!

On my previous visit I had arrived before dawn, but because we were in a hurry to continue our journey on to New York, I only stayed until about 20 minutes after sunrise. The light was obviously very different then, and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring a darkened landscape which was somewhat unfamiliar to me. This afternoon though, as the bright sunlight played hide-and-seek from behind the clouds, I was obviously able to recognize much of the terrain. My previous sunrise visit had coincided with high tide, and what do you know… it was high tide again when we arrived this afternoon. If anything though, today’s tide was even higher, actually making it impossible for me to get to some of the ledges and rocks I had used as shooting locations on my last visit.

We all know that the softer light of the early morning or late afternoon often makes for more dramatic landscape photographs, and truth be told, I live for the peacefulness and solitude that you can experience at these times… but there’s no rule that says you can’t shoot in the middle of the day, especially if the conditions are just right. Blue skies with puffy clouds, high tide breaking fiercely over a rugged coastline, and a striking subject that is pretty much one-of-a-kind… I’d say the conditions were just right!

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When plans go awry…

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Last one from my stop by Nubble Light last weekend… I promise 🙂

I had originally been hoping to use tidepools along the shoreline to frame a reflection of the lighthouse, and although they were there as advertised, my plan didn’t quite work out. As I lowered my tripod all the way to the ground, I splayed the legs as far as I could. I lay on my belly to see through the viewfinder to frame a composition, but at that point I realized my plan wasn’t going work out. Sure enough, there would have been a nice reflection to include in the frame… if it weren’t for one problem… the water in the tidepools was frozen! No worries… I settled for using the tidepools as interesting foreground elements, and I went on to thoroughly enjoy the rest of my morning spent exploring this wonderful place.

Working within the frame…

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When I spend time photographing in a particular location I always try to fully explore the scene. I enjoy the exercise of physically wandering around looking for different angles, less obvious perspectives, and interesting elements to include in compositions. More sky, less ground… more ground, less sky… landscape orientation versus portrait… the size of the aperture and the length of time the shutter is open… using a wide angle lens to accentuate certain things or compacting the scene by using a longer lens… just some of the many ways to experiment with what you include within the viewfinder.

For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of landscape photography is choosing which elements of a scene to include within the frame and which to leave out. Next comes arranging important elements in relation to how they interact with each other to make a pleasing composition. Sometimes it comes together and “works” better than it does at other times, though of course what I personally like in a photograph might not be what someone else likes… it’s all totally subjective, but isn’t that half the fun? When I became seriously interested in landscape photography a few years back, a pro-photographer friend of mine, Kip Brundage, told me that if I find an interesting subject, I should photograph it every which way I can. He also told me to try to make it mine. While I could certainly learn from another photographer’s interpretation of a particular scene, I should constantly strive try to create something original… this particular piece of advice has always stuck with me.

Here are a few more examples of what I was seeing on the recent mid-February morning I visited Nubble Light in York, Maine. As you can see, I was all pretty random with some of my compositional choices, but since there isn’t any single “right” answer, I got to experiment and try all sorts of ideas. Most significantly for me though, it’s all about actually being there in person to fully employ the senses and appreciate the wonder of this earth we live on. I learned that there is something very special about standing on the tide-soaked rocks below Nubble Light before a winter dawn, and if I can come even remotely close to conveying my personal experiences in a single photograph… then I consider that photograph to be a success.

Time and tide… plus a famous lighthouse

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I was excited that high tide and sunrise would almost coincide, and I had used a cool piece of software called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” to determine that the sun would rise directly behind the lighthouse. I was hoping for some fast-moving high clouds, and I had this vision of being able to capture the early rays beaming out from behind the lighthouse like some heavenly scene. Alas… no clouds, so on to plan B.

As I wandered around the shoreline looking for interesting foregrounds, I came across a couple of what I can best describe as “cracks” where the surge from the high tide would push its way in and then slowly retreat back to where it came from. I perched myself rather precariously on a small rocky outcrop, and waited for the “seventh” wave to roll in with its energy being funneled into the crack below me.

Now… I don’t really know if there is any scientific grounding in the notion of every seventh wave being stronger than the rest, but I do know that if you pay attention and watch for patterns, every so often on a fairly regular basis (maybe even every seventh wave), the swell definitely gets bigger. That means something to patiently wait for when pressing the shutter, and since the ocean can be a powerful thing it is also something to be wary of.

A Nubbly Sunrise…

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At the head of the York River, Nubble Light stands tall as it welcomes seafarers home to the coast of Maine. Most people will be more familiar with the day time scene from here where the classic white and red buildings are framed with green grass, rugged rocks, and the mighty Atlantic surrounding it all… but on this cold February morning I wanted to try and capture something that was a little bit different.

It’s school vacation week here in Maine – and much of the United States – so that usually means a trip south to see granny and grandpa. Often we will drive from Maine to New York in one straight shot, but since Sam was due some little brother time, we decided to forego the usual mad dash down I-95 and stop off in Brunswick to pay him a quick visit. After a scrumptious dinner at Clementine with him and his pal Charlie, we hit the road again and drove another hour or so south before stopping in York for the night. I had been wanting to shoot this lighthouse again for some time, and figured since we were going to be right here in the morning… why not give it a shot. Sunrise was scheduled for 6:37 a.m. on Saturday, so my alarm was set for 5:15 a.m. to allow for an early enough start that would give me time to scout around for compositional possibilities.

Even though our mid-February temperatures have been fairly mild, standing on the edge of the ocean before dawn with a cool winter breeze blowing is sure to wake you up. Unfortunately there were very few clouds to speak of, but there was a nice gradient of color in the eastern sky and a sparkling crescent moon heading toward the horizon. High tide was due at 6:50 a.m., so I wasn’t sure how close I was going to be able to get to the water. A couple more photographers pulled into the parking lot, but since sunrise wasn’t officially scheduled for another 45 minutes or so, they decided to stay in their cars a little longer and keep warm. Me… I know that some of the best light actually occurs before dawn, so I bundled up and hit the rocks looking for interesting foregrounds that might compliment the already spectacular lighthouse just off shore.

I made my first photograph of the morning, posted above, at 6:00 a.m. and long before the sun had made an appearance. The rising tide was washing over and around the ledge I was standing on, and although a relatively slow shutter speed rendered the water as quite peaceful, there were actually a few angry swells that made for interesting moments. I was intrigued by the puddles left behind, and hoped that they would hold enough interest in the foreground to make this as I had intended… maybe just a little bit different?