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:
The Nubble Lighthouse, in Cape Neddick, Maine, is a favorite for photographers, tourists, and locals alike. I first visited the Nubble 20 years ago on my first trip to Maine. It was a cold night in December and the full moon was up. There was snow on the ground and the Nubble was lit up for Christmas. It was magical, quintessential New England coast.
I took a few photos that night, on film, as I was three years from getting my first digital SLR, and unfortunately, I have no idea where those negatives are. But now that I live in Maine, I try to visit the Nubble every so often to try and capture something new.
It’s almost impossible to make a bad photo here. My preference is to photograph at sunrise, with the sky aglow and some color in the clouds, and when the tide is high to get dramatic waves crashing on the rocks. On this particular morning, the sky didn’t cooperate as I’d have liked, but the tide did. One of my favorite things is capturing water rushing over the rocks, so I tried a few compositions with varying shutter speeds to change the movement, and these were my favorites.
Ok… so… maybe I’m not the best at this blog thing. I’ve written here intermittently since about 2009, but haven’t really been consistent with it. The past two years I’ve tried to post more regularly, with varying degrees of success depending on what’s going on in my life. For the past few weeks, I’ve been going through images from 2018 trying to choose the best for my Best Of post to recap my year photographing. It’s fun for me to go back and look at images I made over the past year, and remember what life was like at those times.
As I was reviewing this year’s images, I realized that I hadn’t done a post reviewing 2015. 2015 was a pivotal year for me in my photography life. My career was totally turned upside down- I had left Canon USA the year before to join Lytro. For the first half of 2015, I criss-crossed the country training camera stores on Lytro’s cutting edge refocusing technology. While I was excited about this new tech, and their camera, I also still saw a place for traditional stills, so my Nikon (you read that right) was always with me as I traveled. In March 2015, Lytro threw up its hands, deciding that they didn’t have what it took to bring their ground-breaking technology to the photography world at large. I was kept around to help get rid of stock, but my time there was done by July.
So a good portion of this portfolio represents time when I was on the road for Lytro. And the rest is what I did after Lytro gave up and cut all us photo types loose, thinking they could make more headway developing for virtual reality instead. Spoiler alert: They didn’t.
2015 became a crossroads of sorts for me. My landscape work took noticeable steps forward. I saw a lot of personal growth, stemming from personal trials and tribulations. But I’m still here, still clicking, still growing. It’s amazing how much things can change in three years.
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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!
The first time I visited Maine, in 1998, the first place I visited, other than the bed and breakfast we stayed at, was Cape Neddick lighthouse, otherwise known as the Nubble light. The Nubble is a small rocky island about 100 yards off shore in the Gulf of Maine. The view of the lighthouse from the shore, evokes romanticized images of a lightkeeper diligently keeping watch, keeping the beacon illuminated to assist ships at sea. I found myself immediately drawn to the Nubble, as so many other photographers have been- Cape Neddick Lighthouse is among the most photographed in the world.
It’s been a while since I saw a truly spectacular sunrise at the Nubble, so on Monday I decided to head out and see if something would materialize. Unfortunately, the clouds hung around longer than the weather report I was following predicted, so I ended up with a gray morning without much color. Thankfully, the clouds moving through were dramatic, so I decided to think in terms of some dramatic black and white imagery. The surf was churning due to a storm at sea that had left the area the day before, so I knew the waves washing over the rocks would create interesting patterns as well, which would also render nicely in black and white.
For the main image in this post, I decided I wanted to try a long exposure. I’d been getting exposures of about 1/3 of a second and knew I wanted at least one minute. I had already been using a Benro 4-stop soft edge graduated neutral density filter to hold down the exposure in the sky, so I pulled out my Benro 10-stop neutral density filter to give me a dramatically slower shutter speed. My shutter speed for this exposure was one minute and 18 seconds. This allowed me to get dramatic movement in the sky and caused the water get a softer, misty look.
Since most of my work usually consists of more vibrant color, working in black and white tends to be a rare occasion for me. I did manage to get a few color shots as well. As the morning wore on the sun poked out from behind the clouds and added a little warm light to the scene. Then, I ventured back on Wednesday and sunrise was slightly more colorful. Just slightly. So after months of not having photographed the Nubble at all, I spent two mornings this week trying to capture new images there. I still haven’t gotten my spectacular sunrise there, but I’ll keep trying.
Winter in Maine is both a magical and arduous season. While the cold can be bitter and yes, even deadly, Maine’s natural beauty shines even in the winter, especially after a fresh blanket of snow has fallen. This winter, I have found myself photographing in temperatures as low as -14°F (with a wind chill of -24°F), but have captured some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve come across in the state.
The roads to Pemaquid Point weren’t too bad, and the fresh snow was beautiful on the evergreen trees along the roadsides, and the temperature, at 18°F, wasn’t as bitterly cold as I’d experienced earlier in the month. I arrived at Pemaquid Point lighthouse to find that while the entrance to the park had been plowed, the lot itself had been untouched, and no one else had been there. I parked and didn’t see a footprint in the fresh snow anywhere. Perfect.
Not wanting to disturb the pristine blanket of snow, I thought for a moment about how I wanted to plan my images. I didn’t want any footprints in my images, and I knew I wanted to get down on the rocks below the lighthouse to get the snow covered rocks in the foreground and the lighthouse in the background. I made my way to the far end of the parking lot and walked towards the rocks along the edge of the property. I knew there was a path down onto the rocks there and I could work my back to where I thought my images were going to be made. The big question was going to be how treacherous the rocks would be with fresh snow and ice.
I made my way down, slipping once or twice but not too badly, and found the scene as I’d pictured it in my mind. Fresh snow covering the layered rocks as the sky began to glow with the rising sun. It was perfect. I made a few exposures and moved along the rocks to a couple of other spots, before climbing back up and making my way to the other side of the lighthouse for some images there. As the sun rose to my left, the undulations of the ground cast shadows and revealed the textures of the fresh snow. Still, no one else had been to the park except for one car that pulled in, got out and took a cellphone shot, and left as quickly as they came. I eventually saw some footprints other than mine- presumably those of a fox or other small mammal exploring the rocks.
It was exactly the type of morning that restores peace to my soul, and refreshes my mind. And exactly the type of morning that makes it worth it to get out of bed at 4:45am and bundle up for a few hours outside.