Atlantic Ocean

Slea Head Drive

Slea Head Drive

Slea Head Loop Road follows the coast of Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula

While staying in Dingle, our favorite pastime was to circle the peninsula on the Slea Head Drive. Of all the places we visited, the Dingle Peninsula was the most like the Ireland that I had envisioned. It was full of low rocky walls, small verdant pastures, picturesque houses, and views to the sea from around every corner. As a photographer I found myself stopping every 500 yards – or feet! – to compose another picture.

This shot is from near the westernmost point of the peninsula, Slea Head. I had to park our car several hundred yards up the road and walk back to this spot. As we drove around the corner I wanted to stop in this location but that would have been impractical and a bit suicidal. The roads in Ireland are very narrow and in this spot don’t even have a centerline. When two cars meet head to head it’s basically every driver for himself. So, I parked the car in a relatively wide spot in the road and dodged cars on the way back to this location.

I love the way that the low rock barrier wall leads my eye into the scene toward the lush green hills in the distance. The contrast of the blue seal with the green hills and blue-white sky makes for some great pops of color. It’s also apparent from this angle how steep the hills are and how precipitous the drop to the ocean below is. It’s a great visual representation of the beauty of this part of Ireland. Enjoy.

Folly Beach Pier Sunrise

Folly Beach Pier Sunrise

The pier at Folly Beach, South Carolina at sunrise

Deciding on sunrise locations is much easier than choosing sunset locations when in Charleston. Since the Atlantic is due east of Charleston you want to be somewhere where you can see the ocean. You don’t have to worry about distracting elements taking attention away from the main attraction – the rising sun.

So, when I visited Folly Beach at sunrise, what did I do? I put a distracting element in my image of the sunrise. And I like it.

I shot for a few minutes on the other side of the pier getting some colorful sky shots with interesting blurry ocean waves using long exposures. But, I quickly realized that those shots could have been taken anywhere there is a direct view from the beach of the rising, or for that matter, the setting sun.

I realized that the star of the show could be the pier itself. So, I found myself composing the pier into my shots in as many ways as possible. Given the length of the pier, any shot showing it in its entirety made the sun almost an afterthought in the image. Ultimately I compromised with a short section of the pier acting as a frame for the rising sun. The pier, its reflection in the wet sand, the ocean waves, the orange sky, and the sun itself make for a pleasing combination of elements. I really like the shot. I hope you do as well.

Edisto Island Sunrise

Edisto Island Sunrise

Sunrise paints the sky over Edisto Island, South Carolina

I probably had unrealistic expectations for my time at Botany Bay and Edisto Island. My hope was for a brilliant sunset that filled the sky with red, orange, and pink tinted clouds reflected in a calm sea with the perfect skeleton oak tree standing against the tide. And, even though there was a pretty sunrise, it wasn’t the one I had hoped for. Then, the clouds that could have been lit up beautifully by the rising sun actually obscured the sun shortly after it rose over the horizon.

I stuck around because I was still engrossed in my work, but I began to lose interest as the light flattened. So, I packed up my gear and began to slowly walk back toward the trailhead. As I walked, though, I kept checking the view behind me and toward the ocean. I suppose I hoped that the sun would reappear and create incredible conditions for a window of time.

As I walked along the beach this tree caught my eye. Although it wasn’t far out in the water, it was far enough out that the tide occasionally pushed past it. The receding water left enough moisture on the surface on the sand to create a bit of a reflection. Even though the sun was obscured by clouds it still was creating an orange glow on the horizon. I decided to stop and make a few images of the scene.

Interestingly, the longer I shot the more the scene appealed to me. I tried vertical and horizontal compositions, cropped the tree tightly and included mostly sky, and played with longer exposures. Finally, this composition emerged. It’s shot at f/16 for 1/20 second. I also used a polarizer and did some post-processing with Color Efex Pro to simulate the look of a graduated neutral density filter. As always, I processed the RAW file with Apple’s Aperture and did some spot removal as well.

I’m not sure if this is my favorite image from the trip, but it’s certainly one of the top five. And it’s only whetted my appetite for Botany Bay. I’m already looking forward to another trip to the Charleston area and another shot at a brilliant sunrise from Botany Bay. Enjoy.

Edisto Island Sunrise

Dawn at Edisto Island

A tree in the boneyard off Edisto Island under a colorful dawn sky

Sunrise at Edisto Island

The sun crosses the horizon over the Atlantic Ocean and the skeleton trees of Edisto Island

I mentioned earlier in a previous post that I had several shots in mind during my trip to Charleston and the South Carolina low country. High on my list was an area on Edisto Island that I hadn’t visited before, Botany Bay Plantation.

On an earlier trip I had visited the Edisto Beach State Park where a boneyard similar to the one at Botany Bay Plantation is located. Those trees, however, are mostly at the shoreline and are difficult to isolate as photography subjects. At Botany Bay, some of the trees are still standing much further away from the wrack line.

I thought I had scouted the location enough since I had visited the island before and I knew when sunrise would occur. Unfortunately, my GPS was very confused about the route to take and told me that a thirty minute drive would take more than an hour. Being a slave to GPS, I got up forty-five minutes earlier than necessary and found myself sitting at the entry gate before the gate had opened. To add insult to injury the gate didn’t open on time so I spent about an hour cooling my heels that I could have been sleeping!

The gates finally opened, but only about thirty minutes before sunrise. By the time I drove to the parking lot where the trail head to the beach was located the sky was already turning some pretty awesome shades of pink and purple. Tempted as I was to stop, I hiked double time in order to make to the beach and find a decent scene to put in front of the colorful sunrise.

When I made it to the beach it was high tide. The good news was that lots of trees were in the water and could make great subjects. The bad news was that there was precious little beach real estate available to stand on without getting my feet and my gear wet. My compromise once I found my subject tree was to scramble up another tree a bit away and shoot while perched there. It was probably a pretty funny sight to see a large man balanced in a tree with gear hanging off various tree limbs in the vicinity.

I got my shot, though. Actually I got quite a few. I posted two of those here just because I couldn’t decide which one I liked best. The pre-sunrise shot is beautiful to me because of the pastel colors in the sky and the long exposure I was able to utilize which yielded a silky ocean around the base of the tree. The second shot is attractive for obvious reasons. Seeing the sun hanging on the horizon while casting its first warm rays of the morning on the ocean and the boneyard trees makes for an interesting shot.

I hope you enjoy one or both of them. Thanks for stopping by.

Live Oak and Cooper River

Live Oak and Cooper River

This ancient live oak hangs over the Cooper River on the grounds of Mepkin Abbey

I don’t often process images in black and white, but this one seemed well suited to it. This ancient live oak is on the grounds of Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. The abbey is on the grounds of a former plantation and is filled with beautiful old trees, a cemetery, and of course the monastery. The property is on the Cooper River which winds its way through the lowcountry of South Carolina to join the Atlantic Ocean in Charleston.

It’s a fun exercise to follow the roads near Charleston and Savannah looking for ones that parallel rivers. Since the original settlers used the rivers for navigation, that’s the easiest way to locate old plantation locations. My son Matt and I found this place a few years ago in just that way. Matt was so enchanted by the place that he wanted to go back on our recent exploration of the lowcountry.

We had hoped for a partly cloudy day with beautiful blue sky and passing clouds. Instead we found ourselves in a deteriorating weather situation. It became obvious that heavy rain would fall on us while we were at Mepkin Abbey. Fortunately for our photography purposes, the rain and gloom made for some very interesting images. I’m particularly fond of this shot of a live oak that has developed a distinct lean toward the Cooper River. I don’t know if the weight of the tree in the soft soil has caused the lean or if trees sometimes actually lean toward their water source. I suspect the former is the case rather than the latter. In either case, the tree dipping gracefully into Cooper River’s surface dappled by raindrops makes for a beautiful image. There’s more to come from Mepkin Abbey. Enjoy.

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 from Cadillac Mountain

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

The sun creeps over the horizon and the Atlantic Ocean as viewed from the summit of Cadillac Mountain


Cadillac Mountain Dawn

Early morning light warms the granite and vegetation atop Cadillac Mountain

When we reached Bar Harbor on Friday evening, the rain was still pouring down. More was forecast overnight. However, it was supposed to be clearing at dawn. Knowing how unreliable weather forecasts can be, I didn’t want to plan on the weather being clear, but I didn’t want to sleep through a potentially beautiful sunrise. Ah, the life of a photographer. So, I dutifully set the alarm for an hour and a half before sunrise. Fortunately, we were able to scout out the summit and determine that we were only a fifteen minute drive from the summit itself.

When I woke up, I stepped out onto the small balcony of the hotel room wondering if I would see stars or get soaking wet. Unbelievably, I could see some stars and the faint beginnings of dawn on the eastern horizon. Clouds were still streaming by overhead, though. And, they were moving quickly. The clearing storm was giving way to a cool front and the wind was picking up.

Now, at this point in the story, I should interject that watching a sunrise from Cadillac Mountain is a big deal for a lot of people. The mountain isn’t that high – only 1600 feet or so – but it is so close to the eastern most point in the US that it is purported to be the first spot in the country to see the sunrise. A lot of people for varying reasons find that spiritual or just cool and want to be at the summit at sunrise. Add to that the ease of getting to the summit in a car, and you aren’t likely to have the place to yourself unless the weather conditions are truly awful.

After the ritual shower and cup of coffee, we made our way up to the summit. It was windy in Bar Harbor, but there was a full gale blowing on top of Cadillac Mountain. As expected, tons of people were gathering to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately for all of us, the wind was blowing at 60 or 70 knots. If I had been wearing a baseball cap instead of my wool hat, it would certainly have blown off the edge of the mountain. We began scouting for a location that would give us a good foreground and a clear view of the sun rising over the horizon. We actually moved a hundred feet or so down from the summit, partially to shelter us from the wind that was whipping over the summit. At one point, one of tripods – without a camera on it, fortunately – blew over in a wind gust. To say the least, the weather conditions were challenging. I honestly didn’t think that any of my long exposures would come out because of camera shake. I hung my backpack from the center column of my tripod just to it some extra weight and minimize vibration.

The good news about the weather conditions was that the passing storm was clearing the sky and allowing us to view the actual sun rising over the horizon. The first shot is taken as the sun makes its appearance out over the Atlantic. In the foreground you can see Champlain Mountain and some of the islands in Frenchman Bay. The second shot uses a crack in the granite of Cadillac Mountain to lead through the image to one of the pink-hued clouds that was passing by near sunrise. If you look closely at each you can see that the vegetation is blurred because it was moving in the heavy wind.

We shot the sunrise and passing clouds until a bank of clouds obscured the sun for quite a while. By then, we were ready for a second cup of coffee, some hot food, and to get out of the wind and cold. Perhaps it wasn’t the idyllic Cadillac Mountain sunrise that I had anticipated, but it certainly was memorable!