acadia national park


Stonington Harbor

Early morning light on the lovely little fishing village of Stonington, Maine

Truth be told, this post is more about the trip to Stonington than it is about Stonington itself. Now, don’t get me wrong. Stonington is a lovely little fishing village, but it wasn’t all that it was built up to be. Let me explain.

Part of my research for the trip was accomplished by purchasing a couple of books on the Maine coast and Acadia National Park. The author was spot on in most of his recommendations regarding locations to visit. In fact, he was so reliable that we began to take his word as gospel. That was the case with Stonington. You see, the primary target for our trip was Acadia National Park. We wanted to make sure that we spent enough time there to ensure that we captured all of the sights properly. Everything else was secondary. Based on our dear author’s recommendation, Stonington rose to the top of the list of other sites to photograph on the Maine coast. To read his review Stonington was the be all to end all harbor on the Maine coast. The Camelot of our journey. The shining light on a hill.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. We left our hotel just outside of Acadia and began the drive to Stonington. Our plan was to make it to the harbor at daybreak and see the lobster fleet heading out for the day. Sadly, we misjudged the distance to the town and the quality of the roads. What looked to be a 30 to 45 minute trip actually took us two hours. The sunrise was indeed spectacular, but on the particular stretch of road we were on, we simply couldn’t find a vantage point to photograph it. Still, we thought, Stonington is ahead. Everything will be better when we get to Stonington.

Along the way, we saw coffee shops and bakeries that we could have stopped at to assuage our hunger and thirst. No, we can’t stop though. We must make our way to the mythical Stonington. So, on we drove through beautiful countryside and along winding roads. Finally we arrived at Stonington. There was only one problem. The sun had risen. The fleet had made its way out to sea for the day. All that was left was a lovely little village around a nice little harbor. One lonely fishing boat remained in the harbor. Had it broken down? Was its captain sick that day? We’ll never know. Fortunately, the morning light was still soft and lit the boat up nicely. The water was still calm enough that a bit of reflection remained as well. So, I got a lovely photograph for my efforts, but not the target-rich photographic environment that I had anticipated. In fact, I was disappointed. Stonington, though lovely, was not nearly as pretty as Corea or Rockport.

As I said at the beginning, the real story was the road to Stonington, not the village itself. As is frequently the case, it just means that Stonington is on my list of places to visit again in the future. Hopefully, the next visit will yield more results.


Winter Harbor Lighthouse at Sunset

Winter Harbor Lighthouse at Sunset

Winter Harbor LIghthouse with the glow of a beautiful sunset in the sky above

Winter Harbor Lighthouse 2

Winter Harbor Lighthouse at twilight

One of the primary reasons for our visit to the Schoodic Peninsula was the chance that we might see an epic sunset over Mt. Desert Island. Having been on top of Cadillac Mountain looking toward the peninsula at sunrise, it seemed like a different angle that might not have been captured often. So, as is often the case, I found myself scrambling toward a sunset location without really knowing where I wanted to end up. We had seen a lighthouse in the bay earlier in the day, so I had some inkling of an idea about putting the lighthouse in the foreground of an awesome sunset.

Unfortunately, we lingered too long in Corea capturing its pastoral beauty, further down the peninsula shooting crashing waves, and stopping periodically to take just “one more shot”. That’s usually the way it is when I am in some beautiful place that I have never been before. I never seem to leave enough time to shoot as much as I would like.

In any case, we were cruising down the highway watching the sunset becoming more promising by the minute. By the time we turned down the coast road, it was obvious that we would need to stop as soon as we found a decent foreground. Fortunately, the aforementioned lighthouse came into view just a couple of miles down the road. Once we found the right spot, we stopped quickly and set up the tripods. The good news was that a dynamite sunset was forming. The bad news was that it was mostly blocked by Cadillac Mountain and the truly bright colors were hovering near the horizon. We could tell that the sunset at Bass Head Light was fantastic. We were unfortunately a day early. That is where we had spent our sunset the night before and had only a slight bit of color in the sky.

So, I turned my attention to what I had available – the lighthouse. The lighthouse appears to be referred to as both the Winter Harbor Lighthouse and the Mark Island Lighthouse. Even though the truly gorgeous sky was twenty degrees or so to the south, there was still some color beginning to show near the lighthouse. I began to visualize a shot with the lighthouse on the horizon with a cherry red sky above. That never materialized. In fact, the sun set and the ambient light began to dim. But, as is often the case with sunsets, the longer I waited, the more color appeared in the sky. I decided to bracket some exposures and see if I could create a usable image of the lighthouse without totally blowing out the much brighter sky. Both of these images are a result of that process.

They are both shot at f/5.6 and varying speeds. I used my 70-200 2.8 with a 2x teleconverter which pushed my aperture to 5.6. I didn’t need that much depth of field for this shot since the lighthouse was probably a half mile away. I wish there had been enough reflected light to illuminate the lighthouse a bit more. I don’t like how dim it is in either image. I do like the composition and the sky above. My favorite of the two images is the first because of the pink, rosy sky and the slightly brighter white of the lighthouse. However, I prefer the composition of the second image even though the atmosphere rendered the clouds and the entire scene a bit too blue for my taste. I’d love to get some other opinions about which image you prefer.

Acadia Coast

Acadia Coast

The rugged coast of Acadia National Park

Today’s image may or not be that special to you. For example, if you live on the coast in the Pacific Northwest or in Maine, you see this sight frequently. As for me, I’ve grown accustomed to the white sand beaches of the Gulf coast or the wide flat beaches found on the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to Florida. The rugged coast of Maine is just beautiful to me.

The back story of this image is what you can’t see. This image was taken from the top of Otter Cliff on the southeast edge of Mt. Desert Island. I don’t know how far the drop is from the top of the cliff, but it appeared to be a hundred feet or more. And, the drop was straight down! I had to steady myself a bit to get close enough to the edge to keep the top of the cliff out of the foreground of the image. As I looked straight down, my view was of waves crashing into the base of the cliff and the rock pile that had formed from the waves’ relentless pounding.

This image would have been so much better if I had a dramatic moody sky or an approaching storm front in the image. I do like the puffy white cumulus clouds, though. They add some interest to what was effectively a beautiful blue sky day. Of course, photographer don’t love beautiful blue skies. Fortunately, the Maine coast is the real star here. The hills you see in the distance are the interior mountains of Mt. Desert Island including Cadillac Mountain. The beach visible in the righthand background is Sand Beach, the only sandy beach in the park and for many miles around.

Jordan Stream

Jordan Stream - vertical

Acadia National Park's Jordan Stream surrounded by foliage at the peak of fall color

As I did research for the Maine photography trip, I kept running across images and commentary about Jordan Pond and Jordan Stream. Having never fully explored Acadia, I could only get a vague understanding of how these two bodies of water were related. I assumed that Jordan Pond was formed by Jordan Stream and that, based on the topography, the stream emptied from the pond. As it turned out that was a correct assumption.

In fact, Jordan Pond is a manmade lake formed by damming Jordan Stream. The series of carriage paths that I have described in earlier posts run around and across the pond and the stream. What I had no context for understanding was how easily accessible and intimate both would be. In the Smokies, I’m used to streams that form deep gorges forming steep banks making access difficult to impossible. At Jordan Pond, trails ran around the entire pond with frequent access points to the shoreline. Jordan Stream had paths on both sides of the stream and could easily be hiked from beginning to end. Well, I’m not certain about all the way to the end since it likely dumped into the Atlantic and I didn’t follow it that far.

In any case, access was easy and there were many vantage points to set up my tripod. Unfortunately, the color around the stream wasn’t quite at peak and the variety of trees wasn’t nearly as wide as I would have liked. I had seen images of red maples at the peak of their fall color contrasted against the quaint stream. Either those trees were well before or after their peak or I didn’t see all of Jordan Stream. In addition, there was a lot of deadfall in and around the stream that cluttered up the images that looked promising. As I started our short hike, I hoped that the whole length of the stream wouldn’t have the same conditions.

As it turned out, there was exactly one spot that had the conditions that I hoped to find. The image above is one version of that spot. As you can see there is one perfectly placed red maple, other trees with yellow leaves in the background, a nice view upstream of the water, a small cascade in the foreground, and a fern turning color itself to add further interest to the foreground. As I set up my tripod, I realized that this was the shot I had formed in my mind’s eye. I was excited to say the least. I must have shot a hundred images of this scene varying exposure and composition. This shot is one of my favorites. I really couldn’t decide if I preferred the vertical or horizontal version. Perhaps I will post the other soon and let you decide.

This shot was shot with an exposure of 1.3 seconds at f/22. It was shot with a polarizer to pop the colors a bit and a neutral density filter to allow the long exposure. Other than that there isn’t a lot of post-processing involved. I had to wait for the wind to die down to minimize leaf blur. I also had to pause a bit as the sun came out from behind the clouds that generally covered the skies. The high overcast and cloud cover helped to even out the scene overall.

When I think of Acadia National Park, this is one of the images that pops into my mind. Acadia can be symbolized by rugged coastlines and crashing waves, but intimate images like this are prevalent as well. Enjoy.

Sunrise at Otter Cliffs

I told a bit of the story in my last post about arriving at this beach early only to find it already crowded with photographers. Now, I don’t mind standing cheek to jowl with other photographers. I’ve generally found photographers to be kind, generous, friendly, and willing to share lots of useful information. After all, if you are going to stand next to someone for sometimes hours on end, you might as well have a good time with them.

Now, what I can’t abide is the rogue photographer who just won’t play by the rules. For example, a couple of years back I was at Mesa Arch to shoot the sunrise. I was the second person there and moved into a position that was good for me, but didn’t interrupt the other guy who got there first. As we waited more and more people arrived and began to set up. That was no problem. It was a big problem when one guy decided that his ideal location was virtually on top of Mesa Arch and in all of our shots. Fortunately, he quickly moved back to another position.

On this cold, windy morning more and more photographers arrived after the first batch of us were set up. I think there were two different photography tour groups along with many other independent shooters. Other than a few people almost taking a tumble on the damp, round rocks almost everyone played well with others. Unfortunately, not everyone could abide by the unspoken but inviable rule that you never ever set up your tripod in another photographers shot. One guy decided to set up 100 feet in front of the entire group so he could have the shot that he had envisioned. And, to make matters worse, he did so just as the sky was brightening and the sun was about to rise!

Now, remember what I said about photographers being the friendly, genial types? Well, that only applies if everyone is abiding by the rules. Once this guy set up in a spot that would ruin all of our shots, things became less than friendly. There were some isolated calls to him to move – just in case he couldn’t see fifty other people behind him. When he didn’t respond to those, the isolated calls became a chorus of boos and catcalls letting him know who had arrived first. There were even a few who let him know that the escalation would be to begin throwing a few well-placed rocks in his direction if he didn’t decide to move. Finally, after some gesturing and retorts, he got the point and moved back in place and out of our shots. Photographer harmony was restored and we could get down to business.

You can see the layer of clouds that is hovering just above the horizon. The sun rose in that space and warmed the underside of the cloud layer, the surface of the water, the cliffs, and even the smooth rocks on the beach in front of us. I took frame after frame of the scene trying to capture the beauty of the moment. It was apparent that the glow would last only as long as it took the sun to rise from the horizon and until it passed behind the cloud layer. As it turned out, that window was about fifteen minutes.

This image was made early in that window. It is a composite of five different images shot at one top apart and blended with Photomatix Pro’s Exposure Blending tool. By gaining the extra four stops of light I was able to hold the shadow detail in the rocks and trees while not overexposing the warmly lit cliffs. I really love how the entire series of images came out. This one is my favorite from that memorable morning.

Pre-dawn light at Boulder Beach

Pre-dawn light at Boulder Beach

The view from Boulder Beach in Acadia National Park just before sunrise

The morning this image was taken was my favorite morning of the entire trip. I had read extensively about places to photograph in Acadia. One spot that came up over and over again was the boulder beach below Otter Cliff. This was the morning that I would be able to experience a sunrise at this magical spot.

We rose early because we had only read about the actual location we wanted to shoot from. We had scouted out a parking spot and thought we knew how to reach our desired destination. But, the weather had been so lousy when we were scouting that we didn’t want to get soaking wet looking for the exact location we would need. That could have been a big mistake. Fortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. We arrived on location about an hour before sunrise. We made the short walk up the road to the entrance to the boulder beach. Unfortunately, it was too easy to find. Once again, we were preceded by a large group of photographers. I’ll talk more about that in the next post. Let’s just say that *most* photographers are good people. As always, though, it only takes one bad apple to ruin the whole barrel…

We weaved our way down the beach and once again took up inferior positions because the best ones had already been taken by earlier rising photographers. I wedged my way between some rocks at my feet, a large boulder as a backrest, and a friendly photographer from Connecticut and her boyfriend to my right. I was sitting on rounded boulders about the size of bowling balls. They were a bit damp and very hard, but I had a good spot. Then, the waiting began. Eventually, if the clouds and sun cooperated, the cliff in front of me would light up as the golden rays of sunrise warmed its face. In the meantime, there was little to do but wait and watch to see if the sunrise would be visible. Fortunately, the clouds were hanging just off the horizon leaving a small window for the sun to be visible as it rose over the horizon.

As I waited, I noticed that the pre-dawn light show was becoming more and more attractive. Finally, I couldn’t resist shooting the opening act of the morning. The sun had illuminated the morning clouds and the glow was even reflecting on the ocean’s surface. I pushed myself out of my contorted pose and set up my tripod on the boulder that had been acting as my backrest. I snapped off a few quick frames attempting to capture the beauty of the moment. Hopefully this image does the scene justice.

This shot is a single image shot at f22 for one second at ISO 200. The long exposure caused a bit of blur in the ocean’s surface and in the clouds as they were moving along at a healthy clip. I used the shadows tool in Aperture to bring out a bit of the detail in the rocks in the foreground. I love the resulting image. But, my favorite image of the morning was shot in the next few minutes. Stay tuned…

Bass Harbor Head Light

Bass Harbor Head Light

This lighthouse is located in Acadia National Park near the town of Bass Harbor

One of the unique aspects of Maine is the variety and quantity of lighthouses that are found all along her coast. Although we saw plenty of lighthouses on the fall excursion to Maine, Bass Harbor Head Light is the most scenic lighthouse within the boundaries of Acadia National Park.

The problem with a pretty lighthouse is that just about everyone wants to look at it and take a picture of it. That problem was exacerbated by the fact that we were in the park during the peak fall color season and loads of other photographers wanted to take a shot of a lighthouse as well. We arrived about an hour and a half before sunset and there were already two dozen or so photographers present. To take this shot, you have to crawl out on the rocks near the surf line and find a decent spot to set up your tripod. In this case, that was difficult because the early arrivers (as if an hour and a half isn’t early enough!) had take the prime locations. I had to fiddle around quite a bit to shoot just over the heads of the other photographers and still end up with a foreground to my liking.

After getting set up, we basically stood our ground and waited for the light to get better. A few intrepid photographers tried to move to some unoccupied locations close to the water and ended up getting soaked by the rising tide and crashing waves. One stepped into a tide pool and soaked his trousers up to his thigh. A few people tried to tuck into spots that weren’t really big enough for another person and only ended up irritating those who had been there early. At one point someone counted over fifty of us clinging to the rocks like a pod of lobsters!

Finally, the sun moved close enough to the horizon to create some golden light. There weren’t nearly enough clouds in the sky so shooting into the sun created a huge latitude of exposures in the scene. I had to shoot seven images bracketed by one stop each in order to capture the highlights in the water and on the lighthouse along with the shadow detail in the rocks in the foreground. I blended the images together with Photomatix Pro’s Exposure Blending tool. I didn’t capture all the detail of the sun and the rocks are perilously close to being underexposed, but I like the image overall.

As luck would have it, we were a few miles away the next night, and a brilliant sunset ensued. I couldn’t help but wish that we had been at Bass Harbor Head Light on that afternoon. At least in my mind’s eye, I would have had an altogether different and better image to share. But, that didn’t happen. That is the kind of thought that keeps a photographer returning to the same scene over and over again.

Somesville Bridge

Somesville Bridge

This beautiful arched bridge is located in the lovely village of Somesville - the first town established on Mt. Desert Island

Mt. Desert Island has a very interesting history and the village of Somesville is intimately involved in that history. Although frequented by native Americans, there is little evidence of long-term settlement by them on the island. When the French arrived in the 1600s they attempted to establish a colony here, but were pushed out by the British. The area remained contested for the next 150 years or so. When the British defeated the French in Quebec in 1759, French influence ended and the area opened to English settlement. The Somes and Richardson families moved up from Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1760 to live on the island. They sailed to the head of what is now known as Somes Sound and settled in the area that is now known as Somesville.

This unique and lovely bridge is found by the main road leading through town and is by no means difficult to access. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful structure and demands to be photographed. We were fortunate to pass by while some brilliantly colored foliage was still on the trees surrounding the bridge. It was a windy day when this image was taken, but the banks of the stream helped block the wind and allowed a reflection to quickly reform once the breeze died down.

This image is a blend of five files shot with one stop of exposure between each. This was necessary to capture the extreme latitude of light between the highlights in the sky and the shadows near the tree line. In an ideal world, there would have been some high clouds and little wind. However, those weren’t the conditions and the multiple exposures were necessary. Although an overcast sky would have generated much more even light, I love the way the bright sunshine makes the reds and yellows in this scene pop. The contrast of the white bridge with the brilliant fall colors makes for a lovely image.

Hadlock Brook and Waterfall Bridge

Hadlock Brook and Waterfall Bridge

Hadlock Brook flows under a carriage road and Waterfall Bridge surrounded by beautiful fall foliage

In my last post I described the carriage roads and bridges found in Acadia National Park. The photo in the last post was of the only naturally occurring waterfall found in the park. Now, I always love to photograph waterfalls, but in this case the bridges were often as beautiful as the streams they crossed.

That certainly is the case here. We were standing atop Waterfall Bridge to take a photo of the falls and surrounding foliage. Considering the beauty of the granite bridge, I had to figure out a way to include the bridge in an image along with the waterfall. Fortunately, most of the bridges have some form of path allowing a relatively easy descent down to the streams or gorges they cross. I worked my way down that path looking for an unobstructed view of the bridge that also allowed a view of the waterfall through the bridge’s arch.

I couldn’t find a perfect angle that matched the image I had in my mind’s eye. There were trees and shrubs growing up along the relatively steep banks of Hadlock Brook. At one point I moved up virtually into the arch and used my 14-24 wide angle lens. I could see the waterfall and surrounding foliage but the arch was distorted from its actual graceful curve. Although there are some foreground elements that I wish were not in this image, I like this perspective. You can see the texture of the stone work. the design elements of the bridge, the arch, and the some of the waterfall on the other side of the bridge. It was quite a windy day and you can see some blur in some of the foliage, but I don’t think that distracts from the image.

Hadlock Brook Waterfall

Waterfall and Colorful Foliage

Hadlock Brook drops near brightly colored foliage to form the only naturally occurring waterfall in Acadia National Park

One of the goals of our fall excursion to Maine was to visit the carriage roads and granite roads located in Acadia National Park. John D. Rockefeller owned large tracts of land on Mt. Desert Island and used the island as his personal retreat. When cars became prevalent, the locals decided to create roads for automobiles on the island for their own use and to promote tourism. Mr. Rockefeller was not keen about the intrusion on his lifestyle and potentially his property. So, he created fifty or so miles of carriage roads. Horse drawn carriages were apparently his preferred mode of transport when on Mt. Desert Island.

Those carriage roads have survived and have been incorporated into Acadia National Park. They are still serving Mr. Rockefeller’s original purpose. No auto traffic is allowed on them. Only hiking, biking, and horse-drawn carriages are allowed on the roads. In some places, not even bicycles are allowed. The roads are well maintained and have gentle grades. They make great hiking trails and allow access to points all over the island.

Of particular interest are the eighteen granite bridges that were constructed as part of the carriage road system. Most of them are Rockefeller’s original design and are used to cross over roads and streams found throughout the park. The bridges are works of art themselves.

Two of those bridges that we wanted to explore were located near each other. They crossed two different streams, Maple Brook and Hadlock Brook. This photo is taken from the Waterfall Bridge – aptly named because it is adjacent to this waterfall that is formed by Hadlock Brook. Interestingly, this is the only naturally occurring waterfall in Acadia National Park. With the steep terrain and numerous streams, it would seem likely that other waterfalls would be found there.

The morning that we chose to hike to the bridges was an ideal fall morning with crisp, fresh air and abundant sunshine. The fall colors were peaking all around us making for beautiful scenes everywhere we looked. We arrived at Hemlock Bridge first and shot it for quite a while. We took some nice images there, but we didn’t realize what waited for us just up the path. Imagine my excitement seeing this beautiful tree at it peak of color standing immediately adjacent to this beautiful waterfall. Fortunately, the rain that we had experienced the past two days worked in our favor and was filling Hadlock Brook ensuring abundant water to flow through the falls. I literally couldn’t take enough exposures. I wanted to ensure that I captured the scene as I was experiencing it.

This image was taken at f22 with an exposure of 0.6 seconds. I had to use a neutral density filter to add three stops in order to get the water as silky and smooth as I wanted. We had to wait for the wind to die down occasionally, but we were fortunate to experience many windows where the air was still allowing for crisp images. There’s a bit of leaf blur here, but nothing that detracts from the image – I hope.