Sunset over Camden, Maine

Sunset as viewed from Camden Hills State Park, Maine

The sunset erupted this night and is shown as viewed from Camden Hills State Park

Camden, Maine

Camden, Maine as viewed from Camden Hills State Park

As we worked our way back down the coast toward Portland, there were a few places we wanted to visit. One of those was Camden, Maine. We had stopped there briefly on our way north, but that day was overcast and rainy. We hoped for better weather on the way back south.

The whole area of the mid-Maine coast is beautiful. I have some friends who had mentioned that they stay in Camden for a week or two every summer. Until this trip, I really didn’t understand the allure of the region. After spending some time there, I can see why people would want to vacation there. There is boating, hiking, shopping, dining, and loads of other things to do. The weather in the summer must be a huge improvement over other parts of the country. With the sea breeze and northern location, summers must be very pleasant. I’m not yet convinced about winter, though. This southern boy would have a tough time with winter stretching from November through April or May.

On our way up the coast, we noticed Camden Hills State Park and Mt. Battie that looms over the village of Camden. It seemed like a great spot to take in the vista of Penobscot Bay and Camden. So, we checked it out mid-day and decided to come back in late afternoon hoping for a great sunset.

On our arrival that afternoon, we poked around looking for the best vantage point atop Mt. Battie. There is a stone tower at the summit and it didn’t take long to realize that the best point of view would be from the tower. So, we set up shop on the small platform at the top of the tower. There was probably room for six or eight people up there and we were taking up at least our share of the space with our tripods and camera gear.

As the afternoon progressed, an assortment of people made their up to the top of Mt. Battie and to the tower itself. We talked to one and all but most just moved on after a few minutes. After a while, a couple of other photographers showed up and it was clear that they were there for the sunset as well. We began to talk with them and picked up some good information about other spots to shoot and how conditions were this fall compared to normal. It turned out that our suspicion that the leaf season was running one to two weeks late was correct. Both of the locals rated the conditions around Camden as sub par. I would dearly love to be there in a year where they thought conditions were above average!

As we watched the sun move toward the horizon I began to think that sunset would be either a total bust or awesome. There was a cloud formation that was hovering overhead but was not reaching down to the horizon. It appeared that *if* the sun dropped below the cloud layer and above the horizon, the whole cloud mass could turn color brilliantly. But, the longer we waited the less I could tell if it would happen or not. I did know that if it did turn, it wouldn’t last long.

At the same time, the late afternoon light was being blocked from the landscape to the south and east. Our hope was that brilliant soft light would flood the landscape below us and create a memorable view of Camden and the bay beyond. I just hoped that we would get the beautiful sunset or the Camden shot. As we neared sunset, it became obvious that the latter would not occur. So, I settled for taking some long exposures that showed some of the lights in the town of Camden while also keeping the detail of the buildings and greens at twilight.

Then, I turned my focus to the sunset. One problem was that the hills in the distance were blocking our direct view of the horizon. I knew that we were near sunset but the scene hadn’t yet changed dramatically. However, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that the best conditions for a sunset often happen ten or twenty minutes after the sun sets. That was the case this night. Slowly, the clouds in front of us began to light up. Over the course of the next ten minutes, the show just got better and better. Ultimately, the entire cloud formation was lit up and resembled a volcano erupting from the mountains in the distance. Virtually ever cloud in the formation had some tint of color by the peak of the sunset.

The scene you see here is created from a sequence of seven images shot one stop apart for each image. The longest exposure is 1/3 of a second and the shortest is 1/200. The images were opened as RAW files in Aperture and blended using the Exposure Blending tool in Photomatix Pro. Without blending I would have lost the color in the row of trees in the foreground and the detail in the brightest clouds.

Considering some of the sunsets that we missed earlier in the trip, it was a real treat to have such a perfect one emerge at the end of our trip. This is one of my five favorite images of the entire week. Enjoy.

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