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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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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Silver skies…

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Winter skies can be remarkable. The sun arcs lower in the sky – and when combined with interesting clouds – the result can be quite striking. I’m very much a summer person – or at least warmer weather person – and I love that time of year when the trees begin to fill in again with a burst of fresh, lush green. However, now that I’m outdoors walking Oliver, I’m also becoming an almost reluctant admirer of the stark shapes and contrasts that this time of year brings. On one of our recent walks together, these high cirrus clouds framing the dark silhouetted branches caught my eye. I had my “real” camera with me this time with a 70-200mm lens attached, and I used that combination to make an image of what appeared to be silver skies.

Can you say chilly!

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So… the upcoming weekend is a big deal.

First of all, it’s my birthday again, though to be honest, as the years fly by I don’t really consider it to be that important anymore. The real significance, however, is in that right around this date every year, the average temperatures in Maine hit a seasonal low, and more importantly, they then start to rise again!

Initially, any change in temperature might not be that noticeable, and I am under no illusion that winter is ending anytime soon, but still, it’s a big deal. This whole week looks like it will be colder than cold, and even as we get ready to transition into February and hopefully “warmer” average temperatures, I have no doubt that we’ll be plunged right back into another deep freeze before long. However, much like how I derive comfort from the ever so slightly longer days after the winter solstice, the fact that the mercury will be on the rise again… that matters!

This morning’s temperature bottomed out at a quite delightful -20 degrees Celsius (that’s -4 F), so as you might imagine, I debated even taking Oliver out for a walk. Pre-dog days, the possibility of me venturing outside in such frigid winter weather was absolutely non-existent, but now… well, who could resist that cute little face and that busy little tail wagging from side to side?

The low-angled sun was bright, though not warm in the least, as we embarked on our arctic stroll up and down a couple of the local golf course fairways. Though much shorter than normal due to the potential for frostbite from the windchill, our walk was brisk, and as always, the kid had a ball. The bitter cold didn’t seem to bother him one bit. Me… I’m looking forward to the weekend and the beginning of the slow but welcome temperature climb toward warmer weather.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

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Growing up in Ireland, I don’t remember ever having a white Christmas, in fact, I can hardly even recall getting much snow at all. Winter weather in Ireland usually meant cold, grey and wet… almost always in the form of rain where the dampness would literally chill you to the bone. On the rare occasion when it did snow, there was usually no more than a dusting, and if you didn’t get outside to enjoy it right away, it’d be gone again within hours. When it comes to winter precipitation here in Maine though, things are a little different, and even though the temperatures dip way lower than what I was used to growing up in Ireland, the cold somehow doesn’t feel as bad… unless of course we get an especially frigid blast of arctic air from way up north of Canada. So, even though a white Christmas might be rare in Ireland, here in Maine the probability of there being snow on the ground come late December is pretty good.

Another tradition from my “growing up in Ireland Christmas” days was putting up a tree in the living room. Ours was never real… trees in Ireland aren’t quite as plentiful as they are here in Maine, though I have to admit I always looked forward to the time when that fake and twinkling little tree was dug out of storage every year, and I can still remember what it looked like balanced precariously on the sideboard. Sideboard… now there’s a word I haven’t used in a while. When we moved to Maine a few years ago we started a family tradition of cutting down our own tree. Not quite a Griswold-ean adventure, but it is nonetheless a highly anticipated day when we visit one of the local farms to harvest our seasonal tree.

This year we decided to change things up a little, and instead of going to Piper Mountain, we headed north toward Dover-Foxcroft and “The Finest Kind” farm about half an hour outside of Bangor. Perched high up on a hillside with panoramic views of the Piscataquis River Valley, the quality of the trees on this farm was exceptional, and we had a grand old time wandering around the expansive property sizing up which tree we were going to bring home. We trekked to the furthest corner of the property just to explore and enjoy our surroundings, and as we made our way back toward the road, we weighed our options and made a decision.

The nice dusting of snow covering the landscape certainly added to the atmosphere, and before long we had settled on the perfect tree. We missed big brother Sam who was busy studying for finals at college, but Jack helped choose and then cut down this year’s tree. He was also fascinated by the rings of freshly cut tree stumps scattered all over the hillside, and he was eager to count and share his findings with us. We talked about what each ring meant, and why some of them might have been larger in some years than others… the poor kid is the son of teachers after all! Just like Sam, Jack loves holidays and the traditions they bring, so he couldn’t wait to get the tree home to decorate it. Didn’t he do a great job? I know that it’s still a little early, but here goes anyway… happy holidays to all 🙂

Snowy Otter Cliffs

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I have been itching to get out with the camera again lately, so I decided to visit one of my favorite places and see if I could capture some snow blanketing the famous round rocks below Otter Cliffs. An early start this morning got me here about 45 minutes before the sun was scheduled to crest at 6:36am, and as always, I had the place completely to myself. Though the temperature was certainly chilly, there was little to no wind blowing, and since I was dressed in several layers, the 13F actually felt quite comfortable.

When the morning sun did eventually rise above the horizon, it bathed the granite coastline of Acadia in a beautiful, warm light, and I spent a good three hours shooting here. As I work through my stash from this morning, I will post more from what was a very productive and enjoyable visit. In the meantime, these were the first images I made this morning… pre-dawn at 6:11am (bottom image), and 6:18am (top image) on Sunday, February 13, 2011.