Favorite Places: Montauk Point

Sunrise Over The East End
Sunrise Over The East End

Much as I’ve made my disdain for most areas of Long Island well known, I always enjoyed photographing at Montauk Point. The combination of rocky shoreline, the lighthouse standing high atop the bluff, looking out at the sea, and the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the rocks, always makes for some beautiful images.

The series of shots shown in this post were taken on a December morning in 2015. It was a warmer morning and I only needed a sweatshirt.  A friend of mine was up visiting from Florida, and had never been to Montauk before so I told him I’d take him. The catch was, he had to be awake at 4am so we’d be there for sunrise.

Light and Dark at Montauk Point
Light and Dark at Montauk Point

The weather report called for “partly cloudy” but when we arrived, we were greeted with a very heavy cloud cover. But looking at the horizon, I could see a faint glow, indicating a break in the cloud cover. If that break held, I knew we might get a few moments of magic.

We walked down to the beach and scoped out a spot and I began taking some pictures.  The first few were a bit gray and dreary from the cloud cover, but all of a sudden, the sun got to the horizon and there was an explosion of color there.  The clouds stayed dark and gray above, making for an interesting combination of dark and stormy and bright and hopeful. The effect lasted about 5 minutes before the clouds moved in again.

Montauk Storm Clouds
Montauk Storm Clouds

I tried a variety of approaches that morning. First, I just wanted to capture the water rushing over the rocks, so I simply used a graduated neutral density filter to help darken the sky a bit, and then a moderately long shutter speed to capture the movement of the water. After a while I decided to try a few really long exposures and came up with one that’s a bit more haunting, with the rocks appearing to disappear into the mist.

I think one of the reasons I love photographing at Montauk is that it’s the one place on Long Island that’s very similar to Maine, which I’ve loved since my first visit and finally moved to last year.  The rocky shoreline and boulders on the beach are similar to some of my favorite spots here. One of these days I’ll visit again.

Montauk Point and the Milky Way
Montauk Point and the Milky Way
Late Autumn Storm at Montauk Point
Late Autumn Storm at Montauk Point

More Montauk Point images here.

The North Fork

The Bug Light
Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, the Bug Light, as seen from Orient Beach State Park

I suspect I’m not unique in this, but I often find myself lamenting that I can’t get somewhere truly exotic to photograph every time I want to.  I’m several hours from any of the more grandiose national parks, with Acadia nine hours and change away, and Shenandoah about 8 hours away. So there are some days, when I have the itch to make a picture, that I have to look closer to home. And like many others, I sometimes take local locations for granted.

This past week, I found myself with the time to go exploring, so I hit up some spots that are within about an hour of my home. On Monday, I went to Orient Beach State Park. I’d never been there, and wasn’t sure if I was missing anything or not. Honestly, at first glance, it’s not much to look at. It’s a beach on the North Fork of Long Island, that pokes into Gardiners Bay.  But if you’re willing, and strong enough, you can walk down the beach about two and a half miles, to the very tip of the park, which sticks into Gardiners Bay where it meets the Peconic River. There, you will find the Bug Light, a lighthouse built on a caisson about 50 yards out in Gardiners Bay.

The Bug Light at dusk.
The Bug Light at dusk.

Generally, the bay is pretty calm, but this day, the wind was churning the water pretty good, creating some nice choppy waves. I had some nice puffy clouds in the sky, and the sun was creating some nice color off in the west. While I was still feeling the hike several days later, the images I captured were well worth the effort.

The next day, I still had the itch, and I found another spot close by I need to explore some more. Wildwood State Park is also on the north shore of Long Island, featuring a beach on Long Island Sound.  The first time I went there was July. The warmer weather and the later sunset kept the beach crowded late, and it was difficult to get shots without people in the background. This time, being early March, I had the entire beach to myself.

Wildwood Beach State Park
Wildwood Beach State Park

The sound was as peaceful as I’d ever seen it, almost glass like. The beach is dotted with huge boulders left behind from the ice age when Long Island was under a glacier. These boulders create a lot of visual interest, making it worth several visits to really work the various options. Since wave action was nonexistent, I decided to use a Vü Filters ND10 filter. This 10-stop ND filter allows me to get super long exposures, allowing me to smooth out the water and blur the movement of clouds. It was so peaceful, that using the long exposure accentuated the calm, allowing me to create images that really communicated the peace and solitude I was feeling at that moment.

If you’re interested in joining me for some photography, visit Worldwide Photo Tours to see what we have coming up.  Next September, we’ll be visiting some of my other favorite places on the east end of Long Island. Hope to see you there!

Wildwood State Park at dusk.
Wildwood State Park at dusk.

Staying Local

Sunset at Horton Point, NY
This was the last shot I took. I was walking back to the stairs to go back up the cliff and spotted this composition. When I viewed the three shots on my camera's LCD, I was pretty sure I had a winner.

So I love to go to exotic locales- specifically US National Parks- as much as anyone.  They are my favorite locations to shoot.  But sadly, I don’t live anywhere within 3 hours of a true National Park.  So when I’m just itchin’ to make some pictures, I have to look closer to home. Thankfully, living in New York, specifically on Long Island, offers me a few opportunities.

I do get bored with Long Island tho. I’ve scouted out my favorite locations, shot them countless times, and quite honestly, I’m scared I’ll get stale.  So last night I went to a location I’d been to before, but had never truly photographed properly. This spot is a sunset spot, thanks to the high cliffs, on the the north shore of the North Fork of Long Island.  At sunrise, the entire area is in shadow.  The location? The beach at Horton Point, looking out onto the Long Island Sound, in Southold, NY.

Thanks to the bright sky and some backlighting, the huge amount of contrast put these scenes well out of the dynamic range of the camera. A Neutral Density Grad helped some, but was an imperfect solution.  Still too much contrast, and the rocks got a weird gradient on them.  So, the next solution? HDR.  I have slowly gotten more and more into HDR, as I seek to find ways to render the scenes more as I saw them, rather than simply as the camera is capable of.

Long Island Sound at Dusk
Horton Point at Sunset

For these shots, I took 3 images. One at even exposure, one at -3 stops, and one at +3.   I was using the EOS 5D Mark II, and EF 24mm f/1.4L II lens.

For some more great Long Island Photos, click here: long island photos

For this one, I knew it was going to be tough, thanks to the sun being directly behind the rocks. But I wanted the color in the sky, AND detail in the rocks, so again, taking three shots, with a range of plus/minus 3 stops, I was able to get this. I'm using Nik HDR Efex Pro to blend the exposures.