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Before I moved to Maine, one of my favorite places to visit was always the Old Port in Portland. The mix of old architecture, restaurants and boutiques made it a must whenever I traveled to Maine for business or pleasure. The centerpiece of the old port for over 100 years the United States Custom House, straddling the area between Fore Street and Commercial Street, right on the waterfront.
The Custom House was built between 1867 and 1872, designed by Alfred B. Mullet, who was the Supervising Architect of the Treasury from 1865 to 1874. There was a need for a new Custom House after the Great Fire of July 4, 1867. The fire had destroyed 1800 buildings in the center of Portland, including the Exchange Building, which had housed the customs office, post office, and several other federal offices.
While I had often admired the building from the street, I had never photographed it. I could never find the right angle, or find a time when the street wasn’t filled with cars parked at the curb. Just by chance, I was in the Old Port one day and happened to park in a parking garage and noticed that I had a clear line to the building with no wires overhead. The next step was picking the right time of day.
From the angle I had on the roof of the parking garage, the waters of Portland Harbor and the islands in Casco Bay were plainly visible. I also knew that the sunrise would be visible behind the building on a clear day, and I assumed the streets would be relatively clear early in the morning. I arrived just as the parking garage opened and made my way to the roof and set up. All I had to do was compose, and wait.
I decided a graduated neutral density filter would help balance the exposure between the sunrise in the sky and the darker foreground of the Custom House, so I used a a Benro 4-stop Hard Edge Graduated Neutral Density filter, and placed the transition exactly on the horizon in the background. This allowed me to open up the shadows on the face of the Custom House and still maintain the orange glow that was present in the sky, that the camera would have lost on its own without some help.
I had planned to also take some images from street level, but by the time I completed my work on the roof of the parking garage, a truck had parked itself in front of the building, making it impossible to get a clean shot, so I called it a successful morning and headed to find some breakfast!
As much as I’ve explored the Maine coast, there is still plenty I haven’t photographed yet. I’m continually amazed at all the beautiful corners I keep finding. I’ve spent some time up in the Rockland area, especially at Marshall Point, but hadn’t spent much time at Owls Head. The main reason being that the lighthouse there isn’t all that dramatic; it’s a stubby 30 foot tower at the top of a bluff overlooking Penobscot Bay. It’s also a difficult spot to photograph. There’s not much room at the top next to the lighthouse and the best way to photograph the lighthouse from a distance is from a boat on the water, which I don’t have ready access to.
Regardless of these obstacles, I like lighthouses and it felt like a serious omission to have not photographed this one yet. So I got out of bed at 4:30am (ouch) and made my way out to Owls Head State Park. Despite promising weather reports, I arrived to overcast skies and intermittent rain. The sunrise I had hoped for never materialized, but I set about making the most of my time, since I’d gotten up so early and had a meeting in Rockland at noon, which meant I couldn’t just call it a morning and head for home.
Frustrated that the weather wasn’t cooperating, I decided to try the beach at Owls Head State Park. From the beach, you look across the bay toward Rockland and in the distance can see Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park. All I saw was a series of gray tones. I had some rocks on the shoreline, a vast expanse of water,and then the hills in the distance. I decided right then that I wanted to capture an image with strong graphic elements that highlighted the tones. I figured a long exposure of several minutes would flatten out the water and give me a series of gray transitions that would allow the foreground rocks to stand out in contrast with the sharp textures they provided, and in the distance the darker hills would be the end the transitions of gray, white, and black against the light colored misty sky.
I used a Benro Filters 10-stop neutral density filter to give me a four minute exposure, which was more than enough to give me a flat look on the water, and a misty look around the rocks in the foreground. The rising tide ended up covering the rocks more than I expected, so there were fewer rocks in the final exposure. It’s surprising how fast the tide comes in in just four minutes!
Once I finished on the beach, I made my way to another beach on the other side of the peninsula, a short walk away. There, the light started to change and the sun made an appearance. The clouds began to thin out a little bit, creating more drama. I made one image on this beach and then decided to go redo every shot I’d taken of the lighthouse, but this time with better skies.
Completing that task, and with more time to kill before my meeting, I decided to head over to Marshall Point Lighthouse, about a 20 minute drive away. I didn’t have much time there but made two images, including the one that closes this post. All in all, a productive day for me at a place that I hadn’t photographed before.
Once I had determined I was relocating to Maine in September of 2016, I was told by several people that I simply had to visit Vaughan Woods and Homestead in Hallowell. They kept calling it “Hobbitland” and said that I would love photographing there.
They weren’t wrong. The path through the woods is calm and peaceful, and all along Vaughan Brook are so many picturesque corners that it’s easy for me to spend hours there, my eye to the viewfinder, or looking at the scene and determining how I can find one more unique composition to capture.
I find Vaughan Woods absolutely sings in Autumn, when the leaves are changing, the air is cool and crisp, and the brook is murmuring softly as it bubbles along under the charming stone arch bridges that span it. There’s a warm, inviting feeling as you meander down the trail and come up one of the bridges, a waterfall cascading down the rocks that line the brook.
When I photograph in these woods, maybe it’s the reference to Tokien’s shire from the Hobbit series, or maybe it’s just the peacefulness that I feel there, but I like to give the scenes a dreamy quality, using longer exposures to blur the water. I use Benro Master Filters to manage my exposure. It’s difficult to know what the light will be like once I get to the location I’m shooting, and if I have more light than I need to achieve the shutter speed I want, I won’t get the image I see in my head. Using a Benro 4-, 5-, 6- or 10-stop neutral density filter, I know I can always achieve the effect I’m looking for when it comes to longer exposures.
Normally when I walk through Vaughan Woods, I follow the trail down to the dam first, where a small stone arch bridge and cascade lies. For the photographs in this post, I had decided I wanted to capture the falls at the High Arch Bridge because it had been raining a few days earlier and they would be running full. Last year when I visited, the weather had been much dryer and the falls were just a trickle.
There is also a small cascade upstream that I wanted to spend some time photographing as well. After capturing the falls near High Arch Bridge, the sun began to shine directly on the falls- never a good thing for photographing waterfalls, so I headed upstream, where I knew this small cascade wouldn’t be getting any sun for some time. I ended up spending about three hours at this spot.
I’ve now visited each autumn since I moved to Maine. I guess Vaughan Woods in the fall is becoming a tradition.
Though I’d visited every other state in New England, I hadn’t been to Vermont before last February. That trip is covered in this post. But since that visit, I’ve been eagerly anticipating returning to see Vermont in something other than a white blanket of snow. Originally, I intended to visit sometime during the spring, but unfortunately other obligations took precedence. With autumn beginning, I had a couple of days free in my schedule. I checked the foliage maps and they looked promising, so I returned to the Woodstock area in search of farms and color.
Sadly, the multiple New England Foliage maps I consulted were either overly optimistic, or just plain wrong, as I was mostly presented with a green (but no less beautiful) landscape. I did manage to find a few pockets of color which I tried to use as best I could in my images. On this trip, in addition to the most popular spots such as Jenne Farm and Sleepy Hollow Farm, I managed to find Moss Glen Falls in Granville, and several covered bridges. It was a quick but fun trip. Now I’m just trying to see if I can get back before the leaves fall to the ground completely!
I recently had the opportunity to visit South Korea for a week. While South Korea was never on my short list of places I had to visit, I jumped at the opportunity when it arose. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew South Korea was at the leading edge of technology, so when I visited Seoul and saw the huge LED billboards and screens similar to Times Square, I wasn’t surprised. I also knew South Korea had a rich history, but given the trials of the Korean War in the 50’s, I wasn’t sure how much of their history remained.
I was thrilled to find a mix of the old and new. Seoul is a bustling metropolis, stretching for miles in all directions, nestled in the valleys created by the hills and mountains of the region. While there are many modern buildings and amenities, there are also villages, palaces, and shrines that date back 600 years. The region is rich in tradition but also at the forefront of tomorrow’s technology. It was exciting to see.
My favorite spot was at the top of Namsan Mountain, where Seoul Tower is located. After taking the cable car to the top, we were treated to a spectacular view of the city, which seems to stretch for miles in all directions. I couldn’t believe how vast it seemed! We waited for sunset while drinking German beer (Weihenstephan!) in the beer garden at the top, taking in this breathtaking view. Not to be missed!
While my travel list is so long I will likely never get back to Korea, I’m glad I was able to take advantage of the opportunity to visit. Well worth the trip!
Most tourists who visit Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, tend to stick to Bar Harbor and the Park Loop Road and visit the most heavily trafficked sites in the area. Unfortunately, this means they miss out on some of the most beautiful scenery on the east coast of the United States. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore that most people never get to. On a recent Hunt’s Photo Adventure to Acadia National Park that I was an instructor on, we visited some of the lesser known areas of the park, in addition to the tried and true destinations.
This fall, I will be teaching on the Hunt’s Photo Adventure to Solon, Maine. Located in Central Maine, Solon is the perfect location to capture the beauty of autumn in Maine. There are still some seats left, so register now!