Enough already…

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2-13-14 tree2It’s been a snowy winter so far, and that trend doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of changing soon. I don’t like winter to begin with, but when it stretches out this long with so much cold and snow, I REALLY don’t like it. FYI… here’s a record of the past week or so… we got 8 inches on Friday, 5 inches on Sunday, 6 inches on Tuesday, 3 inches on Wednesday, and we’re expecting sleet/rain on Friday… joy.

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The good news in all of this is that Oliver can’t seem to get enough of the snow, and since he needs his exercise, at least I’m getting out in the fresh air too. I’m posting a couple of simple photographs of a stark – but I thought beautiful – tree from our walk together during one of the recent snowstorms. And then there’s my handsome boy – I say roll on springtime and enough of this winter nonsense already!

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A snowy lighthouse in Maine

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Park the car, walk 25 yards, and you’re able to enjoy this view. Easily accessible, this unique and striking lighthouse can be found guarding the rocky Maine coast just below the town of Thomaston. It protects those who depend on the ocean for their livelihood and call the working harbor of Port Clyde their home. A recent snowstorm had blanketed the landscape with about 8-10 inches of fresh powder, so I decided to stop off for a brief visit to admire what has become a familiar view. I was the first person to leave tracks in the broad expanse of snow, and with the cool ocean breeze and the sparkling blue sky laid out before me, I breathed in deeply to fully appreciate a scene magically transformed by winter’s grip.

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Experimenting

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12-30-13 oliver14I usually only carry a 70-200mm lens when I take my “real” camera to the golf course to make photographs of Oliver as he plays, and I like the reach it provides for my fast moving friend. The longer focal length is a significant departure from the wide angle approach I usually take when shooting landscapes, and it provides ample opportunity to practice and experiment with a different perspective. The sun had already gone down for the day, and although there was still some warmth on the horizon, the snowy fairway was engulfed in the blue hues of the reflected darkening sky. The longer lens compressed the scene considerably, and I had some fun experimenting with a variety of compositions. Here’s one I liked.

A snowy abstract…

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12-30-13 oliver15So far, we’ve been getting our fair share of snow this winter. The temperatures have dipped down pretty low too, making it a little challenging to spend any kind of quality time outside. New Year’s Eve brought us a cozy – and record low temperature of – minus 13 degrees F (that’s -25 C!), so it’s fair to say that it’s been chilly around these parts lately. After a fun walk to the golf course with Oliver, I spotted this little scene while making our way home. The sun had already dipped below the horizon, and almost reluctantly, I pulled my frozen fingers out of what were warm and toasty mittens to shoot the cool shadowy blue of this snow bank contrasting against the sunset sky. I used a long-ish lens (70-200mm) and a large aperture to isolate just the elements needed, and although a rather simple and abstract composition, I kinda like it. Oh yeah… and this one makes for a “cool” (pun intended) iPhone home screen.

Like glass…

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12-30-13 oliver16We still haven’t managed to lose any of the recent accumulations of ice received during the holiday ice storm. Instead of warming up, the temperatures have taken a dive for the worse, and that means the landscape is still covered in a glaze of ice. At any other time of the year, this little tree isn’t something I would even think of photographing, but with a coating of glass, it glistens magnificently in whatever kind of light we have. Returning from a walk with Oliver, I was intrigued by the beautiful colors in the sunset sky and grabbed the quick photograph posted above. Several days apart, below is the same tree in very different light…

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A foot of new snow…

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…so away we went to the local golf course. Oliver loves the snow, and he also loves being off leash. We recently spent a few days visiting Granny and Grandpa in Northampton, MA, and although I’m sure there are places we could have let him run, we aren’t too familiar with the area just yet, so it had been about a week since he ran free like this. A foot of fresh powder overnight meant some serious digging out this morning, but it also made for a perfect winter playground – and needless to say, Oliver made the best of his opportunity. I like to think he’s genuinely smiling in the photograph above, and even if he’s not, I KNOW he had himself a blast! Happy New Year!

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Ice

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So, we had ourselves a little ice storm here in Maine. It’s amazing how much trouble a half an inch or so of ice can cause, and although this storm wasn’t on the same scale as the one in 1998, its impact was still felt pretty hard all across the region. The actual event of ice falling isn’t what creates all of the havoc, but rather it’s the ice accumulating on tree branches and then being frozen in place as a coating of glass. Tree limbs are heavily bowed – and in many cases broken – with the added weight, and if electrical wires happened to be in the vicinity, well there’s a good chance they came down too. We were some of the lucky ones. Other than a few intermittent outages, our power has stayed on. Many people were not as fortunate though, and I can’t imagine what kind of holiday they had. The cold temperatures have hung around for the past week, and without a noticeable warm up, the ice is still laying heavy on the landscape. We’re bracing ourselves for another 6-10 inches of snow this evening, with more ice, sleet and freezing rain mixed in for good measure. Although it makes for a winter-wonderland landscape, I’m about ready for some of those balmy mid-thirty degree, ice-melting temperatures. And yes… that’s a very happy dog in the last photograph – he’s exploring along the edge of the woods where all the good smells are 🙂

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Surviving the storm…

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You gotta love how the Weather Channel names every storm these days, even winter ones. It used to be if a storm was named – remember Hugo, Andrew, Katrina – that it needed to be of hurricane force strength, and if named, it was most likely going to be a big deal and wreak havoc. Somehow, giving these weather phenomena a name made them even more formidable… doing so made them not just any old storm, but now something to fear. Once named, we have to keep watching the latest news to see what’s in store for us, and in doing so, we feed the monster that is TV advertising. At best a clever entertainment ploy, but at worst, disingenuous reporting.

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Well… fast forward to Sunday morning and the latest named storm – Electra – has already scooted up the east coast and hit us here in Maine. She – I assume it’s a “she” – has dropped about 8 inches of snow in our area so far, though there might be another inch or two to come. Needless to say, Oliver is a very happy dog when romping in the deep snow – he’s already had his quality time outside this morning… and then there’ll be this afternoon’s big nap.

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The good news about this latest storm is that it brought only light and fluffy – the reason why the snow is light and fluffy… the intense cold temperatures we’ve been enduring these past couple of days. The cold (11 degrees F and -12 degrees C) isn’t going to stop our fur-coat wearing Oliver from getting in his daily walk, though on this occasion we kept it short, just in case.

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I always keep an eye on him to make sure he isn’t showing any signs of being bothered by the cold, and if there’s snow on the ground I regularly check between his toes to clear out any snowballs that might have accumulated. The cold weather genuinely doesn’t seem to bother Oliver – truth be told, it’s usually me who cries “uncle” first and has to head back home, especially if I’ve had the camera out with freezing, gloveless fingers needed to trip the shutter. Here are a couple more of him enjoying the calm before the latest storm… Electra!

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Waiting for the snow…

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It’s that in-between stage of the year when fall foliage colors are gone and the trees are left standing stark and bare. Though there are certainly landscape photographs to be made at this time of year, especially on the coast where the lack of leaves on the trees has minimal impact on potential compositions, I find these last few weeks of fall rather dull and uninspiring. As we make the transition into winter, it’s also becoming much colder, and when the wind picks up like it has been lately, the challenge to get out and about with the camera increases. The carpet of downed leaves loses its vibrancy, and the landscape in general looks (to me) quite drab and thin. That all changes though when the snow comes… and mark my words, here in Maine it will definitely come! A fresh blanket of the white stuff will transform the landscape, covering up the ordinary scenes currently littered with dead leaves, and with it will come renewed inspiration and a rekindled desire to photograph the surroundings. I’ve made a resolution to spend more time in Acadia this winter to try and capture the beauty of my favorite National Park in the snow. In the meantime, as we wait for the snow, from a few years back here’s a famous and iconic Acadia scene blanketed in winter…

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Oliver’s Ridge

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There’s a little piece of land behind the first green, and before you reach the second tee, on our local golf course that Oliver absolutely loves. We know how much he likes to visit this spot, so when out for an early morning walk, we always try and work it into our route. It’s really no more than a piece of waste ground where dirt has been piled up and left to be reclaimed by mother nature. It’s a forgotten area that becomes overgrown with long grass in the summer, but throughout this past winter, it has been like catnip to Oliver. As soon as he gets close, he charges off and runs up and over and around it like a madman with his nose on high alert. There is definitely something in the grass that sets him off, and it’s quite comical to see him react the way he does. I guess it’s the retriever in him, and boy does he enjoy chasing through the brush and longer grass. It’s a nondescript location to most everyone else, but we call this special little place Oliver’s Ridge.

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A dog running around in the snow

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I’m probably tempting the weather gods by saying this, but hopefully I won’t be posting many more photographs with snow in them until next winter. Well… at least that’s what I’m hoping, as I gleefully sit here and watch the last of the latest 15 inches or so from a recent storm melt away. As much as I have enjoyed having Oliver experience a snowy winter, I’m past ready for some warmer temperatures.

Despite my desire to see the end of the snow, there’s nothing more fun to watch than a Golden Retriever puppy bounding through a foot of fresh powder. So without further ado… here he is… Oliver the snow-loving, glove-stealing, still needs-lifted-into-the-car after a long walk puppy dog! And as a special bonus… a rare sighting of me in front of the camera (with my handsome dog of course).

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Snow Day x2

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It’s been a snowy winter so far, with 75+ inches of snow having fallen locally already. Despite the higher than average totals, up until recently, neither Jack nor Lori had enjoyed any snow days yet. That all changed however, when the latest mid-March snowstorm dropped an additional 12-15 inches of powder. Timing is everything, and with this storm bridging the end of one day and the start of another, we actually had back-to-back snow days… something we haven’t seen since the infamous and deadly Ice Storm of January, 1998. Consecutive snow days meant lots of shoveling, watching movies in the middle of the day, and long family walks with Oliver.

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Springtime? Hold on a minute…

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It’s mid-March. That’s right, mid-March, and we just got walloped with another foot plus of snow! Despite the fact that 7:02 a.m. on this particular morning (3/20) heralded the official start of spring in the northern hemisphere, I’m beginning to wonder if warmer weather is ever going to come our way. Oliver… he doesn’t care. He joined us in late November when it was already winter, so all the little guy has known so far is snow and more snow. As you can imagine, he was in his element when we took him for a family walk to the local golf course to check out the new snow. The powder was at least a foot deep, and more like double that in most places, but that didn’t stop Oliver from doing his thing. As much as I enjoy seeing him romp in the snow, I’m about ready for spring summer to arrive so we can go hiking in Acadia and watch him swim in the water. Bring on the warmer weather!

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Signs of spring

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The days are getting noticeably longer, and as winter starts to slowly loosen its grip, we’re starting to see signs of the landscape coming back to life. The sun is rising higher in the sky, and as long as there’s no wind blowing, you can actually feel some welcome warmth on your skin. As we walk, Oliver will cock his head curiously to the side when he sees some black crows foraging on the fairway, and even though I think he knows he can’t catch them, every now and again he’ll chase and give them a scare – I think he does it just to hear them make noise. A crisp carpet of new snow will reveal the activity of little critters from the night before, and although I’m not exactly sure what made the tracks below, Oliver’s nose is always on high alert. One of these days he’ll catch sight of a live animal that he’s going to want to chase, and when he does… oh boy! I’ve also heard that a Coyote has been prowling the golf course lately, and although we haven’t seen him, somehow I think he might have seen us! Yikes.

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Post Nemo

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Nothing much to see here. Move along now… unless you’re interested in seeing photographs of Oliver playing in two feet of snow! Winter storm Nemo breezed through Maine yesterday leaving behind a solid layer of snow with drifts that went as deep as three or four feet. Due to a lack of snowshoes, and a lack of leg length on the part of Oliver, our familiar walk on the local golf course was changed dramatically since we couldn’t get very far in the deep, fresh powder. As you can see, the kid is totally in his element when playing in the snow, and although this visit was shorter than normal, the conditions exhausted him to the point where he is now blissfully sleeping the afternoon away.

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Man’s best friend

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No… not the dog… the snowblower… at least it is when you get hit by a snowstorm the magnitude of Nemo. Here in Maine, the storm is finally clearing out, having provided us with 24 hours of heavy wind and blowing snow. Luckily we didn’t lose power, though I’m sure there are lots of folks who weren’t so fortunate. We all pretty much just hunkered down for the day and waited for the worst to pass.

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I believe we ended up getting a solid 15-20 inches, though because of the significant drifting, it’s quite hard to tell for sure. We have patches of ground that are barely covered, and then we have huge swathes of snow where the strong winds have built drifts that are more than five feet high. I’ve not seen this type of result from a storm before… it truly did bring blizzard conditions where, depending on which way your door was facing, you might have had some trouble even getting outside!

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How much snow did we finally get? Though difficult to determine accurately, there is one standard measurement I can always rely on… that’s by how deep the city plow truck buries us. We live on a corner lot, so by the time the plow has swung around to where our driveway is, there’s usually quite a heaping of snow that gets dumped. The deposit from this storm was at least four feet high and what would have been a back-breaking fifteen feet deep… if it wasn’t for my best friend. Even with the snowblower cranking though, it still took more than two hours to clear the driveway and the sidewalk. Speaking of best friends… Oliver is once again in his element enjoying the snow – and then a warm cuddle on the kitchen floor.

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Hook, line, and sinker…

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I’ll admit it now. Despite the apparent love-fest we’ve had with this little guy over the past 6 weeks, there have been times when we seriously questioned if we’d made a good decision to bring a dog into our home. We did our homework. We researched the pros and cons of dog “ownership” probably more than most, but still, as reality set in, those first few weeks of caring for Oliver were definitely challenging.

Lori and I both had dogs in our lives when we were much younger, but that was when we were kids and our parents were the ones responsible for taking care of the family pet. We’ve had cats of our own – incredibly self-sufficient cats I might add – since we were married almost 25 years ago, but that experience did little to prepare us for sharing our home with a baby dog.

From day one though, Oliver has been the perfect puppy. He was potty trained in two days, and he now rings the bell hanging on the door when he wants to go to the bathroom. He has slept through the night from day one, and he brings nothing but joy and happiness to our family. He is remarkably smart, and a very quick learner. But still… caring for a puppy is a huge commitment, and despite those early doubts about whether or not we could handle raising him (and my ongoing probable allergy to his hair), it’s time to admit it… we have fallen 100% hook, line, and sinker for this little guy.

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Somebody likes the snow!

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The snow at the local golf course had drifted so deep in places that it was up to my thigh, but that didn’t stop our little adventurer. Oliver is still light enough on his big padded feet where he doesn’t always sink down into the snow. We humans… not so lucky. On a picture postcard winter day, I grabbed a few shots of Oliver enjoying the most recent snow.

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Lately we’ve been working on teaching Oliver to “come” on command, and when indoors where there’s no danger of him running away, he’s the perfect student. Today though, we gave him a much bigger test, one that I’m proud to say he passed with flying colors. We waited until any distractions from other dogs, cross country skiers, or the snowmobiler grooming the trails were gone, and about halfway down the fairway of the first hole, we let him loose!

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I would wade through the snow to a spot maybe 30 yards or so from him, and then Lori and Jack would let him off the leash. Camera in hand and aiming at his yumminess, I would call him to come to me… and boy did he ever! He energetically bounded toward me through the immaculate snow, and any concerns we had about him running away soon vanished as we realized that – at least in these conditions – his little legs weren’t going to get him too far.

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Three or four runs later and the poor little guy was gassed, and even though it was sunny, we didn’t want to keep him out in the 25 degree temperatures too long. His gorgeous hairy coat was covered in balls of ice, and he was definitely showing signs of slowing down. He is fast becoming a hefty little guy, and trust me… there’s no better way to confirm that than by carrying him back to the car while sinking knee deep in powdery snow!

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Oliver seems genuinely happy to be a part of our family, and trust me… we all feel the same way about him. He’s really growing into himself, and who can resist that sweet smile. The past two winter storms have coated the Maine landscape in a wintry blanket… one that Oliver obviously enjoys. Happy New Year!

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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.

Brass Monkey Cold!

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Growing up in Ireland I recall a phrase used to describe when the weather got really cold… something about how a certain piece of an ornamental brass monkey’s anatomy might be impacted negatively by icy temperatures. Usually by mid-January we would have experienced some of those bone-chilling, brass-monkey cold temperatures, but winter this year has been relatively mild… until this morning that is. Below zero temperatures have finally arrived in these parts though, and as someone who appreciates, but doesn’t particularly enjoy, the deep-freeze of Maine winter, the beginning of the countdown toward springtime and warmer temperatures now begins in earnest. And yes… for my friends across the pond who enjoy the warming benefit of the North Atlantic Drift, that is -20 degrees C.

Let me make one thing clear… I have no problem with winter and all the beauty it brings… it is the cold I can’t deal with. Considering my aversion to cold temperatures, there are a couple of dates that hold particular significance for me. The winter solstice is a big day… even though it occurs relatively early in the season, the switch back to lengthening days doesn’t go unnoticed around here. I also have a birthday coming up, and though the novelty of merely celebrating another year has long worn off, since moving to Maine my special day has assumed much more significance as it’s the day when average temperatures reach their coldest and once again begin to rise.

Every year I resolve to take advantage of winter conditions to photograph my favorite national park with a fresh perspective, and every year I usually let those well-intentioned plans fall by the wayside, especially when I wake early and take a peek at the outside thermometer reading of -20 degrees C. Feeling brave and despite the cold, for the past few weeks I have been trying to talk myself into an early morning photography adventure to Acadia, and maybe tomorrow’s 5 F (-15 C) MLK holiday forecasted temperatures won’t be so bad? I am still trying to talk myself into it… OK, I’m going to seriously bundle up and head down to Acadia to witness the 7:09 am sunrise tomorrow… I am. In the meantime – and just in case I decide to forego the brass-monkey cold – here’s a photograph of Bass Harbor Light from a couple of years ago with more than just a dusting of snow. It might be hard to pick out in this small web version, but that’s a lobsterman zipping by offshore… can you imagine how cold it must be out on the water at this time of year?