Cadillac Mountain

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.


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!