Portland Head Light on a Foggy Day

Portland Head Light on a Foggy Day

Portland Head Light and the boiling ocean beneath it in the gloom of a foggy day

One of my primary objectives on the Maine trip was to capture an iconic image of Portland Head Light. We had flown into Portland and would fly out of there as well. As it turned out, the lighthouse was only twenty minutes away from the airport. So, I would have three shots at photographing the lighthouse. I thought that would surely be enough and I certainly would get good conditions on at least one of my visits. As it turned out, I needed to learn a thing or two about the weather in coastal Maine.

On landing we headed straight to Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth hoping to catch a break in the weather and to capture a decent image of the lighthouse. Even though the conditions were gloomy while landing, we still took the trip over. We had no luck although we did capture a good image of the lighthouse then. As it turned out, this image was the best one of the lighthouse on the entire trip.

We returned the next morning only to find even worse conditions. It was neat to hear the foghorn and bell, smell the salty air, and experience the Maine-like conditions. It just wasn’t the photograph I had envisioned. I left disappointed but hopeful because I knew that I would have another shot at the image at the end of our trip. Surely conditions would change by then.

And conditions did change. After a deluge the following day and evening, the weather turned clear, crisp, and beautiful. We had wonderful conditions for photographing Acadia and on our way back down the coast toward Portland. But, on our last day, the weather turned against us once again. The rain moved back in and fog settled along much of the coast. The good news was that this weather system was supposed to be short-lived. The bad news was that it wasn’t supposed to lift until a few hours before our plane took off.

So, in order to have one more shot at the jealously sought after iconic image of Portland Head Light, we headed there as the last stop of our trip. We had an hour or so to kill before we had to be at the airport. The weather forecast showed that we should now be experiencing clearing skies. However, this image shows what we actually experienced. The ceiling wasn’t quite as low as it had been at the beginning of the trip, but it still wasn’t the brilliant sunrise or sunset I had hoped for. It wasn’t even a partly cloudy sky to make for an interesting background to the shot. So, I took this image from the trail on the opposite side of the lighthouse from where the original image was taken. I like the way the ocean is bubbling and boiling below. But, alas, it wasn’t the image I had hoped for.

Having squeezed out as much time as we could and not be in jeopardy of missing our flight, we left Cape Elizabeth. We made our way back to the airport, returned our rental car, checked in, and headed for the gate. Have you been to the Portland airport before? It’s a really neat small airport with modern architecture and neat artwork hanging from the ceilings. It also has huge floor to ceiling windows that allow you to take in the surrounding views. And what did I see? Yes, the elusive blue skies were lifting from the coast and beautiful sunshine began to flood the airport. We had only missed ideal conditions by an hour! I was totally bummed and more than a bit frustrated. I wanted to head back out right then and take my shot. But, I couldn’t.

All things considered, it was a brilliant trip. Maine was everything I had hoped it would be. The conditions had been as good as I could have hoped for. I had captured some amazing images – and I had a perfect excuse to return.



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.

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.

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.