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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Sights (and sounds) of Schoodic

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A nice place to spend some time. Though a still image can take me back to a place I have visited and sometimes even remind me vividly about that experience, it’s merely that… an image. Here’s a little bonus where I hit the record button for video… the sights (and sounds) from Raven’s Nest in Acadia National Park, Maine.

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.

Stopping off on my way home…

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It was a very cold day as I made my way home from down east Maine after a work meeting in Machias. The light was fading fast, but I decided to try and get myself to somewhere with a pretty view for sunset, and Schoodic was in just the right place. I literally raced here – obeying the rules of the road of course – and arrived in the nick of time about 15 minutes before the sun went down. When I hopped out of the car and started exploring what is considered the quieter part of my favorite National Park, it was extremely cold. At one point I nipped a finger while locking a tripod leg, but because my skin was so cold, I didn’t feel the pain that usually accompanies such an event. Anyone who has ever experienced a hungry tripod lock knows how much it hurts, so you can imagine how cold my fingers must have been! This particular Acadia location, known as Raven’s Nest, consists of a couple of semi-hidden rocky ledges hanging over the Atlantic Ocean. For reference, that’s Cadillac Mountain off in the distance across Frenchman Bay – nothing original here, but quite a view nonetheless, eh?

Couldn’t resist the pull of black and white

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Though I really enjoyed how the changing light impacted the colors in this scene, I also liked how this particular image appeared when converted to black and white. The sky has lots of character, and I love those deep shadows and strong textures within the cliff face. I’ve added this one to my “Shades>Acadia” gallery on www.acadiaandbeyond.com

The changing light in Acadia

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So, there I was…  perched on this little ledge in the Schoodic part of Acadia National Park enjoying the view and my wonderful Dysart’s turkey and cheese sandwich. I’m studying the light, trying to anticipate if sunset is going to be epic or a bust, and all the while I can’t help but smile and appreciate the opportunity I have to just sit back and relax. The location I chose for the evening is quite limited with compositional possibilities, and when you combine that with my fear of heights, I wasn’t going to be moving around too much on that small and precarious ledge. So, rather than frantically running around looking for more than one shot, I placed my camera on the tripod, figured out a composition that I liked, and I sat back and chilled.

Looking back over my shoulder to the west toward Cadillac Mountain and the rest of Acadia, a rather large cloud slowly positioned itself directly between me and the setting sun. Realizing that the epic sunset I hoped for probably wasn’t going to materialize, I kept my fingers crossed that some of the high wispy clouds overhead might still be painted by the fading light before the sun dipped too low behind the clouds. In pretty much the same composition each time, the series of images below shows how, over the period of about an hour, the light bathing the scene changed and evolved. Needless to say, I was quite content to enjoy the front row seat to what was an incredible show.

6:30:24 p.m.

6:57:20 p.m.

7:30:48 p.m.

Me and my awesome sandwich

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One of my favorite spots in Acadia – “Raven’s Nest” – is almost secretly tucked away in the much less crowded but ever so beautiful Schoodic portion of the park. I saw a grand total of one car in Schoodic tonight, and for those of you who have frequented the more popular Mount Desert Island part of Acadia in August, that might be hard to believe! Despite a large cloud bank near the western horizon, some high wispy clouds did their best to make me smile. Me and my fine deli sandwich were perched on a pretty small ledge about 60 feet up for about an hour as the light slowly faded, and although the surf tonight was rather benign, I can’t think of a better way to spend some quality time in my favorite national park.

PS. For those of you interested… from Dysarts… turkey and swiss cheese on homemade white bread with mustard, mayo and green peppers… yummy.

As the light fades…

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After making a few photographs, I flipped on the video camera and I sat down to pause and reflect. I’ll see you all in a few days 🙂

Needing to breathe…

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Needing to breathe, I headed to Acadia tonight. I feel quite melancholy about a recent loss and wanted some time to think and try to come to terms with things. As I arrived, my mood matched the dull grey clouds, and then the light unexpectedly turned nice. That made me smile.

Why I’m a morning person…

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7:41 p.m.

There is nice soft light to be found at both the start and the end of the day, but my preference for making landscape photographs always seems to be the morning (though the one above was in the evening). I’ve been somewhat curious as to why I prefer to get up at early o’clock, and despite actually spending time trying to come up with a definitive answer, I have never really been able to put my finger on the true reason… until now.

Some theories I have considered include:

  1. Since I’m on the right-hand coast, and considering that the sun generally rises in the eastern sky, it makes sense that to take advantage of that warm, golden light hitting the majority of east facing landscapes, I would need to plan accordingly for an early start.
  2. While technically I find it just as difficult as the next person to get up at 4:00 a.m. to leave the house in time to arrive at a particular location for the best light, I genuinely don’t seem to mind getting up early… besides, I have learned that the payoff can be worth it.
  3. While I have no problem sharing a gorgeous vista with others, I also enjoy (prefer) the solitude of being in such a place all by myself. So, if sunrise is at 6:00 a.m., and sunset is at 6:00 p.m., which of these times do you think people are more likely to be around?
  4. I’ve heard there is some scientific mumbo-jumbo about how the light at sunrise and the light at sunset are different… err, OK… but none of these are the true reason why I like to make photographs in the morning.

Looking across toward Turtle Island and Cadillac Mountain, the photograph above was made from Raven’s Nest on the Schoodic peninsula within Acadia National Park, and it was while making this image that my suspicions about why I prefer to shoot in the morning were confirmed. The image above was made at 7:41 p.m. and the one below at 7:47 p.m. – that’s about 45 minutes after the sun had set. It was only when I had finished making these photographs – standing on the edge of the ocean – that I truly comprehended how dark it had become.

Though I’m quite accustomed to arriving at a morning location while it is still dark out, I’m also used to the day then getting progressively lighter as I go about my business, so as I stood on a high cliff overlooking the ocean, I’m not afraid to admit that the unfamiliar darkness began to make me a little uneasy. Of course I was never in any danger, but getting a sense of where the trail was and which tree roots I shouldn’t trip over posed a challenge in itself, and I also quite suddenly and acutely became aware of the heightened sounds of nature all around me – both the deadly silence and the strange, random noises that I hadn’t even heard five minutes earlier – and I admit to getting a little spooked.

7:47 p.m.

Luckily I had my Petzl headlamp to illuminate the path back to my car through what had now been transformed into an eerie, shadow-filled, and creepy forest. It was only as I hurriedly ditched my gear in the back seat of the car and quickly drove off (before anyone or anything could knock on my rolled up window) that everything clicked… I’m a big scaredy pants when it comes to being alone in the woods after dark… and that’s why, when it comes to landscape photography, I’m definitely a morning person!

Raven’s Nest

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6:45 p.m. - 17 minutes before sunset

It is very easy to miss an amazing little stretch of Schoodic that is tucked away out of sight – unless you know where it is of course. Previously oblivious to its location, I have driven by an area known as the Raven’s Nest many times, but with a bit of sleuthing by Chad Tracey, directions were obtained and a visit planned. Ever since a recent trip to Schoodic, I can’t seem to get the place out of my mind. Feeling restless, and not having the patience to wait for the weekend, I hopped in the car mid-week and made the trek to the coast.

A short walk through a gnarly and wind-sculpted forest brings you quite quickly to this rather dramatic overlook. The NPS doesn’t seem to publicize this location, and I can sort of see why. Though some care has obviously been taken in the curation of the thin trail around the craggy headland, this place definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, and I certainly wouldn’t bring my kid here. Tree roots and coarse vegetation – both interested in snagging your every step – abound all along a narrow trail which is at times mere inches from a precipitous fall. I’m not so good with heights and taking risks, so let’s just say I was leaning heavily to one side with my center of gravity pretty low as I explored this gorgeous area!

There are many more compositions to discover in this one tiny part of Schoodic, so this is a place I will definitely be returning to. The two images in this post are from just before, and just after, the last light of the day. In the first, warm light on the classic Acadia granite before sunset was truly remarkable, and despite the absence of any clouds, I loved the view and especially the color reflected onto the ocean. With the horizon so clear, I was hoping to capture the subtle colors of the earth shadow in the second image, but instead, as the night rolled in I settled for some incredibly deep blues. I’d love to hear your thoughts on both of these…

7:32 p.m. - 30 minutes after sunset