2018 in Review, Part 1

As 2018 inches closer to the finish line, I always find it interesting and enjoyable to go back over the year through my photos, and remember who I was with, where I was, what I was doing, and what else was going on in my life at that moment.  My images are very much a part of who I am, and while they may evoke different meanings for others, based on their own experiences at the places I photograph, for me, they are reminders of the accomplishments, challenges, and big moments of the past year.

2018 has been no different. Overall, 2018 was an incredibly good year for me. I did more exploring of Maine, found some new spots, revisited some old ones. Crossed Vermont off the list of states I hadn’t visited yet, and taught some workshops at some of my favorite locations.

This year, I found I had more photos than usual make the cut.  I also wanted to give each photo some love and give a brief explanation of the image, so this edition covers from January through June. Stay tuned for part 2, which will be posted next week.

As always, all of my images can be purchased as prints at my website.  Without further comment, here is 2018 in review, in chronological order:

Icy Morning at Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse
Icy Morning at Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. New Year’s Day, 2018. Easily, this was the coldest day I’ve ever been out photographing. The temperature was -14°F with a wind chill of -24°F. Somehow I came away with several good shots of this day, but this one, where the sun broke through briefly and gave the sea smoke a pink and purple tone, is my favorite.
Winter Freeze At Marshall Point
Winter Freeze At Marshall Point. This image was taken one week after New Year’s Day. The temperature was a slightly warmer -4°F. There wasn’t any sea smoke this far into the harbor, but the ice that glazed the rocks made for an especially interesting foreground.
Newfallen Snow At Pemaquid Point
Newfallen Snow At Pemaquid Point. It had been snowing the night before but was expected to clear by morning. I got up early for sunrise and drove an hour to Pemaquid Point, hoping that one, I could make it there without getting stuck, and two, the snow would be as good as I hoped. I was very careful not to walk anyplace I felt might be in the photo, making a big circle around the area I expected to photograph. For two hours, I was the only person there, enjoying the sound of waves crashing on the rocks, the peacefulness of the snow-covered landscape as the sun rose, and natural beauty before me.
Barns At Jenne Farm In Winter
Barns At Jenne Farm In Winter. Jenne Farm is one of those iconic locations everyone needs to photograph. I haven’t had what I would call “ideal” conditions there yet, but I’ve gotten some good shots each time I’ve vistted. This shot was my first time there, as I scouted locations for a workshop I was teaching.
Winter at the Maple Sugar Shack
Winter at the Maple Sugar Shack. Visiting this quintessential Vermont location was an experience I won’t forget. As one of the instructors on a workshop, it was amazing to see the students come up with different images from a single, simple location. I just love the bright red maple sugar shack against the stark white of a freshly fallen snow.
High Tide at Cape Neddick
High Tide at Cape Neddick. This was an early March day, and I was hoping to see some color in the skies for sunrise. It wasn’t to be, but a storm at sea provided some dramatic wave action.
Afternoon Reflection at Portland Head Lighthouse
Afternoon Reflection at Portland Head Lighthouse. There is simply so much to see at Portland Head, that the compositional opportunities are endless. Yes, it’s a heavily photographed lighthouse, but if you’re willing to explore and find a different point of view, it’s very easy to capture interesting images. This pool is a case in point. At low tide, it’s easily accessible, and creates a beautiful reflection of the lighthouse.
Gathering Clouds at Pemaquid Point
Gathering Clouds at Pemaquid Point. The sky put on a show on this evening at Pemaquid Point. While it wasn’t a colorful sunset, the dramatic clouds made it a beautiful evening.
Windows Of The Lobstermen's Shop
Windows Of The Lobstermen’s Shop. I saw this scene in Friendship Harbor, and must admit another photographer showed it to me first (Thanks Janie!). I love the textures of the weathered old building, the repetition of the three windows, and the brightly colored buoys that indicate exactly what the building is.
Spring Morning at Marshall Point
Spring Morning at Marshall Point. I was teaching a workshop along midcoast Maine the morning I made this image. The tide was low, giving us a unique angle on the sunrise behind the lighthouse. It was gratifying to have my students out on the rocks with me, as everyone was able to capture stunning images of the scene- even those who a day or two before would not have ventured out on those rocks!
Doubling Point Lighthouse
Doubling Point Lighthouse. Visited this lighthouse for the first time in the late spring. It’s a quiet little spot on the Kennebec River, just south of Bath. While it lacks the drama of some other lighthouses, it was a fun shoot with lots interest on the banks of the river.
Dory in Bernard Harbor
Dory in Bernard Harbor. I was assisting on a workshop in Acadia and we were photographing what appeared to be a somewhat bland sunset in Bernard Harbor. Suddenly the light turned magical. The lead instructor called to me and pointed out this white dory with bright yellow paddles moored to the dock. He used a tripod to push it out a bit away from the dock, and some of the students took a few shots. When they were done he asked if I wanted to grab a shot. I took a few shots and then we called it a day. The warm afterglow of sunset with the darker water and the dory in front of the fishing shacks and stacks of traps make this a magical image for me.
Young Barred Owl in Acadia
Young Barred Owl in Acadia. While walking the paths at Sieur de Monts in Acadia National Park, I came across three barred owls in the trees near the path. Two were juveniles, while the mother watched them from a distance. I’m not usually one to go searching for wildlife to photograph, but I had added the Tamron 100-400mm lens to my bag for occasions just like this one. That lens earned its place in my bag that day.
Fern Layers
Fern Layers. I’m not one for photographing plants much. But once in a while it can be fun to turn my lens towards flowers and plants. This fern was in Asticou Azalea Gardens, near Acadia. I liked the different layers created by the leaves, and, I liked the play of light and shadow coupled with the shallow depth of field.
Dusk at Schoodic Point
Dusk at Schoodic Point. On the last night of the Acadia workshop I assisted on, we headed to Schoodic Point and were treated to a spectacular sunset. I used a Benro graduated neutral density filter to help balanxe the exposure in the sky with the foreground exposure. This puddle on the rocks reflecting the sky provided the perfect foreground interest. The perfect ending to the workshop.
Advertisements

Owls Head

Penobscot Bay Tranquility
Penobscot Bay Tranquility

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.

Clearing Storm at Owls Head
Clearing Storm at Owls Head

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.

Autumn Morning at Owls Head in Black and White
Autumn Morning at Owls Head in Black and White

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!

Owls Head Lighthouse In Black And White
Owls Head Lighthouse In Black And White

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.

I will be leading a workshop in the Rockland area in May 2019 for Hunt’s Photo Adventures. If interested, visit the Hunt’s Photo Adventures website for more information.

October Morning At Marshall Point
October Morning At Marshall Point

Another Autumn in Vaughan Woods

Autumn Waterfall in Hallowell
Autumn Waterfall in Hallowell

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.

Fall Morning at Vaughan Brook
Fall Morning at Vaughan Brook

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.

Autumn Cascade in Vaughan Woods
Autumn Cascade in Vaughan Woods

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.

As always, prints are available at www.rickberk.com

Fallen Oak Leaf in Vaughan Woods
Fallen Oak Leaf in Vaughan Woods

Alaska

Alaskan Dream
Alaskan Dream

It’s been eight years since I was last there, but Alaska is a place that has stayed with me every day since I’ve left. I was lucky enough to spend 10 days there in 2010, with 5 of those days spent camping in Denali National Park.  We camped at Wonder Lake, and I remember how magnificent the view was as we rode the park bus all the way in to Wonder Lake Campground. The sun was shining with lots of clouds hovering around Denali like a crown on its head.

The Road To Denali
The Road To Denali

As we made camp, I was shaking with anticipation of the beauty that awaited us the next day. I had planned to hike the tundra, amongst the kettle ponds, grabbing shots of Denali reflecting in the glacial waters.  The next morning, we took a flight over the mountains where I captured some of the most spectacular images of my life. However, shortly after our flight ended, the rains moved in and remained for two days.

Mountain Peak in Black and White
Mountain Peak in Black and White

The third day, the rains let up and we got some hiking in, but clouds continued to shroud the mountain and keep Denali in hiding. I was able to make a few images I liked, but it wasn’t what I had originally planned, so there was a level of disappointment. As a landscape photographer, you don’t always get to dictate the weather so I made the most of things.

Hidden in Denal
Hidden in Denali

The next day, we boarded the park bus around sunrise for the six hour trip back to the park entrance and four hour drive back to Anchorage. As we were riding along the park road, the skies began to clear and Denali showed her face through the clouds. It was still heavily cloudy, but the little peeks through the clouds made for some interesting images of the mountains.

Returning to Denali is definitely on my list, but the images I captured allow me to relive the last visit each time I look at them. To see more from my trips to Alaska, visit my website.

Alaskan Peak In The Shadows
Alaskan Peak In The Shadows

Upcoming Workshops

I’ll be an instructor on the following workshops in the next few months. There is still space available in these.

Sunrise in the Smokies
Sunrise in the Smokies

Springtime in the Smoky Mountains

Tuesday April 24th – Sunday April 29th

Gatlinburg, TN

Featuring scenic landscapes, plant and wildlife

In the beautiful Great Smokies

Instructors: Don Toothaker & Rick Berk

Recommended prerequisite: Basic Knowledge of your Camera

All Skill Levels Welcome

Group Size: Limited to 10 attendees

To register, visit http://edu.huntsphoto.com/great-smoky/

The Smokies are an amazingly beautiful location to photograph, featuring grand vistas with the mountains layered one on top of the other, mist hanging in the valleys, as well as intimate landscapes as water from a mountain stream cascades over rocks as wildflowers grow on the banks.  Wildlife roams the park and it’s an excellent opportunity to capture the various species at home in the Smokies.  I’ll be assisting Don Toothaker on this one. Don and I have over 50 years combined experience as photographers, and years of experience teaching photography to others. Join us in the Smokies and experience what a magical place it can be in springtime.

Autumn Glow
“Autumn Glow” A tree stands in the meadow in Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee.
Cataloochie Elk
“Cataloochie Elk”

 

Midcoast Maine & Pemaquid Point

Sunset at Marshall Point
Sunset at Marshall Point

Wednesday May 16 to Sunday May 20

Mid-Coast, including Bristol, Maine

Featuring lighthouses, harbors, and the shore

Instructors: Rick Berk

Recommended prerequisite: Basic Knowledge of your Camera

All Skill Levels Welcome

Group Size: Limited to 10 attendees

To register, visit http://edu.huntsphoto.com/pemaquid-mid-coast/

Midcoast Maine is glorious any time of year, but can be especially fun in the spring. Since relocating to Maine in 2016, I’ve spent plenty of time exploring as many of the little nooks, coves, and villages of the midcoast. We’ll explore New Harbor, Pemaquid Point, Marshall Point, Port Clyde, and more. There will be opportunities for wildlife, featuring osprey and eagles preying on alewife as they make their spawning run.  We’ll also explore some night photography if weather permits.

Skiffs in Tenants Harbor
Skiffs in Tenants Harbor

 

Winter In Vermont

Barns at Jenne Farm in Winter
Barns at Jenne Farm in Winter

Last week I had the pleasure of being one of the instructors on a Hunt’s Photo Adventure in Woodstock, Vermont. We had a full class of attendees of varying abilities, and a beautiful area of the country to use as our subject. Workshops like this are fun because of the exchange of ideas that goes on between experienced photographers, and the numerous lightbulb moments that happen with the less experienced photographers when explaining various principles of photography, or helping them get past a specific challenge.

Winter Evening on Cloudland Farm
Winter Evening on Cloudland Farm

We based ourselves in Woodstock, Vermont, and visited several landmarks, such as Jenne Farm, Cloudland Road, and a maple sugar shack. Unfortunately, Mother Nature chose not to cooperate fully. While we had some fresh snow when we awoke Saturday morning, skies had been gray Friday afternoon when we started, and remained after the snow Saturday morning.  Well, photographers nutty enough to get up before dawn and spend hours outside in the cold aren’t about to be deterred by a little flat light and gray skies! So we got out there and made images with the light we had.

Winter at the Maple Sugar Shack
Winter at the Maple Sugar Shack

I always enjoy seeing how different people see the same subject differently.  It helps me to look deeper into a scene, look harder for a shot besides the obvious,  and makes me a bit envious when someone sees something I didn’t! At the same time, I enjoy when I saw something differently than others did, and can help them see it as well.

Dusk at Sleepy Hollow Farm
Dusk at Sleepy Hollow Farm

The other challenge for me is the technical help people need with their cameras and lenses.  This is less fun than the creative side for me, but just as important. When you have a group of 10 or 12 photographers, you can potentially get 12 different cameras. Not everyone needs assistance but you never know who will. Thankfully, I’m familiar with most brands to one degree or another, having put in seven years working for Canon, shooting Nikon for the past three and a half, and a Fuji kit for a year as well. I can pretty much find any setting on most cameras given enough time.

Winter Afternoon in New England
Winter Afternoon in New England

I’ll be teaching on 3 other workshops this year for Hunt’s Photo Adventures. In April, I will be in the Great Smoky Mountains. May will find me right at home in Midcoast Maine, and in October I will be in Solon, Maine for an autumn adventure. For all of these I will be assisting Don Toothaker. Would love to see you there!

My Best of 2017

Winter Morning at Cape Neddick
“Winter Morning at Cape Neddick”
Cape Neddick, ME
January 8, 2017
Dawn On Wells Beach
“Dawn On Wells Beach”
Wells Beach, ME
March 2, 2017
Sunrise At Wolfe's Neck Woods
“Sunrise At Wolfe’s Neck Woods”
Freeport, ME
April 18, 2017
Sunrise at Bald Head Cliff
“Sunrise at Bald Head Cliff”
York, ME
May 8, 2017
Spring Morning In Acadia National Park
“Spring Morning In Acadia National Park”
Bar Harbor, ME
May 19, 2017
Sunset At Marshall Point
“Sunset At Marshall Point”
Port Clyde, ME
June 16, 2017
Bailey Island Coastline
“Bailey Island Coastline”
Harpswell, ME
July 2, 2017
Lower Falls On Kancamagus Highway
“Lower Falls On Kancamagus Highway”
North Conway, NH
July 3, 2017
Sunrise Under The Pier
“Sunrise Under The Pier”
Old Orchard Beach, Maine
August 2, 2017
Dusk On Littlejohn Island
“Dusk On Littlejohn Island”
Yarmouth, ME
August 14, 2017
Tumbledown Pond
“Tumbledown Pond”
Franklin County, ME
September 17, 2017
October Sky At West Quoddy Head Light
“October Sky At West Quoddy Head Light”
Lubec, ME
October 6, 2017
Shining Through At Portland Head Light
“Shining Through At Portland Head Light”
Cape Elizabeth, ME
November 27, 2017
December Sunrise In Ogunquit
“December Sunrise In Ogunquit”
Ogunquit, ME
December 3, 2017