12 from 2012

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6-10-12 Lupine jack-david

Me and my boy Jack (8) photographing Lupine in Acadia

It’s that time again. Time to reflect on another year spent making photographs and telling stories about family, friends and the landscape here in Maine. As always, during the past twelve months I had the good fortune to be able to spend some quality family time enjoying Acadia National Park, but we also got ourselves a new puppy this winter. I mention this because as regular readers of this blog will know, the puppy has absolutely captured our hearts (and time), and I haven’t been out with the camera much since the fall.

Much of my photography activity this year was spent exploring and experimenting with black and white imagery, though for this post, I’m only going to include twelve of my favorite color photographs. Maybe I’ll do another favorites post after the turn of the year, this time with black and whites only.

* I added the black and white favorites from 2012 post here: https://storiesfromhome.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/i-fell-in-love/

Anyhoo… if interested in seeing more of my work, check out my “official” site at Acadia and Beyond. Thanks to all of you who spent time reading and commenting here on the blog this past year. I’ve enjoyed “getting to know you” and look forward to what will hopefully be a peaceful and safe 2013. Happy holidays to you and yours, and best wishes for a wonderful New Year!

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An icy morning spent at Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park

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Frigid temperatures in Acadia

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Acadia wave and shoreline

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Schoodic – the quieter part of Acadia National Park

3-9-12 Portland Head (1)

Portland Head Light pre-dawn as a storm moves through

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June Lupine in Acadia National Park

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The night sky from Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

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Stormy morning at Otter Cliffs, Acadia National Park

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Raven’s Nest sunset on the Schoodic Penninsula, Acadia National Park

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Otter Cliffs sunrise, Acadia National Park

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Fall sunrise from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

12-15-12 Oliver at Green Acres 1

And finally, our baby… Oliver

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The most photographed lighthouse in Maine

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Standing sentinel over Casco Bay, and the most photographed lighthouse in Maine, Portland Head Light is one of those places where I don’t think it is possible to take a bad photograph. Instantly recognizable from any angle, the striking white pillar contrasts wonderfully with the rocky headland it protects against.

Though the conditions on this visit were vastly different from when I made one of my favorite photographs, I never get tired of seeing this picturesque and photogenic Maine landmark. We were spending a relaxing family weekend in the Portland area when we visited on this occasion, and as we wandered along the coastal path away from the lighthouse, we got a true appreciation of the reason why this magnificent beacon was created in the first place.

A double edged sword…

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Using a wide angle lens can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand you can create some unique perspectives by placing important compositional elements prominently in the foreground of the frame. On the other hand though, depending on how much you tilt the lens, your photographs can also be susceptible to distortion, especially near the corners. You can see how the lighthouse above appears to be leaning quite distinctly, though that might also be because I was a considerable distance below it and actually quite low to the ground. In order to fit everything into the frame as I intended, I had to accept that there might be some wide-angle distortion – in this case though, I don’t really mind it.

When I made this photograph, a large cloud bank from a clearing storm had parked itself just off shore casting soft, filtered light over much of the scene. I was perched rather precariously on the rock you can see in the foreground, with the legs of my tripod splayed as wide as I could get them while still maintaining a solid base. I had a blast waiting for wave after wave to break and wash on shore and all around me, and I made several exposures in an attempt to get a composition that I liked. If there was one thing I learned from this particular morning though…  it was that I need to invest in a pair of big rubber boots!

Despite the effect of the wide-angle lens, you might still just be able to pick out another lighthouse in the distance… the somewhat isolated but striking Ram Island Ledge Light which stands sentinel in Casco Bay… more to come about that lighthouse later.

The most photographed lighthouse

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First lit in 1791, Portland Head Light stands guard over an extremely jagged and rugged shoreline in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Classic New England, I think it is safe to say that this is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world! Spend some time here and it’s not hard to see why.

I had heard rumors about how the gates to Fort Williams Park where the lighthouse is located might not be open before dawn, so rather than make a wasted trip, I went right to the source… local photographer Moe Chen. Moe is a very talented photographer who lives next door to Cape Elizabeth in Scarborough, and he very generously shared his knowledge about this wonderful place with me. He confirmed that it was indeed pretty random as to whether or not the gates would be open so early in the morning (luckily they were open at 5:15am), and he also showed me how to access some of the better shooting locations. Moe is a great guy, and if you like awesome landscape photography, I would highly recommend checking out his work – you won’t be disappointed.

In the meantime, here’s the portrait-oriented version of a similar view. I had “jumped the fence” to get to this location, and even though the best light had already faded, I was intrigued by the incredible rocks leading from the foreground. After stopping here for a few moments to enjoy the view, I slowly made my way down toward the rocky beach and the breaking waves… more to come 🙂

61 seconds

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That’s how long the shutter was open when I made this photograph. I find it interesting how a long exposure condenses time into one frame, and as you can see, the effects can be quite striking. During the 61 seconds between when the shutter opened and closed, the path of several waves washing in and out was rendered as a mist, and the fast moving clouds appear to streak across the pre-dawn sky. All the while, the famous lighthouse maintains its place, perched high above the rocky shoreline to warn mariners of the imminent danger that approaching too close would bring.

When first arriving on a scene like this, I like to experiment with longer exposures. I usually switch my camera to bulb mode – where I can keep the shutter open for as long as I want – and I use my remote release to shoot several exposures, each of a different length. The LCD on the back of the camera gives me an idea of how the length of exposure is impacting the photograph, and a peek at the histogram confirms any adjustments I might need to make.

A sturdy tripod is a must in this type of situation, as is a remote cable release. With exposures of this length any vibration of the camera can cause a blurry image, so I will make sure to solidly anchor my tripod, I’ll flip up the mirror, and then use the remote release so that I don’t have to even touch the camera. While the exposure develops, there’s not much more I can do, other than get out from behind the viewfinder, take a few deep breaths, and truly soak in the scene – these are the moments that mean the most to me. I don’t say it that often, but as with the photograph I made last weekend in Acadia… I like this photograph.

The blue hour

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Every morning as the dark night sky slowly loosens its grip and yields to the start of a new day, light that is soft and cool in color stretches across the wakening landscape. On a day that begins with more clouds, this peaceful period of time can produce light that is distinctly blue in color, and is often referred to as the “blue” hour. In fact, this wonderful twilight period can be experienced both in the morning and evening; it’s that time when we are in between daylight and darkness.

Last Friday meant an early start to attend a work-related one-day conference in Portland, so I figured why not set the alarm even earlier than I needed to, and build in a brief photo adventure a little further south than I usually get to explore. I considered a variety of options to stop and shoot between here and Portland, but the more I looked at the schedule I had to keep, the more I realized that wherever I finally decided to photograph, it was going to have to be close to Portland.

The late winter paints much of the Maine landscape with stark and still leafless trees, dull dormant grasses, and streams and rivers covered in thin and often dirty ice. While I appreciate that seasonal changes bring new opportunities for landscape photography, I just can’t seem to get excited for this type of scene. The ocean however, consistently displays its most basic elements steadfastly and regardless of season, so I devised a plan to visit what is a very often-photographed location… Portland Head Light.