One Year In Maine: A Look Back

One year ago, due to a variety of circumstances, I made the decision to pick up and relocate to Freeport, Maine. On September 1, 2016, I became a Maine resident. Living in Maine had long been a dream of mine, and despite the turmoil I endured in getting to where I felt a relocation was necessary and possible, it has been worth it. The Maine landscape long called to me and inspired me in my work as a photographer. What follows below is a retrospective of my first year of exploration of my new home.

Sunrise at Portland Head Lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
September 5, 2016: This was the first morning I was able to get out and photograph after moving in. I was greeted with a spectacular sunrise and watched a cruise ship enter the harbor. It was a morning of fresh starts and was a great way to start my new life in Maine.
Muscongus Bay Sunrise
September 13, 2016: When I was in Maine in August looking for a place to live, a friend told me about Laverna Preserve in Bristol. This preserve, tucked away on the Pemaquid Peninsula, is a beautiful area with breathtaking views of Muscongus Bay. Areas like this are why I love Maine and love getting out and exploring with my camera.
Dawn Over Pemaquid Point
October 16, 2016: Pemaquid Point has long been one of my favorite places to photograph in the midcoast area of Maine. On this morning I went with the intention of photographing something other than the lighthouse there. It was a crisp fall morning with a stiff breeze blowing. There wasn’t a ton of interest in the sky but there were a lot of small pools formed on the rocks that created foreground interest.
Autumn in New England
October 16, 2016: When I first moved here, I was told I should visit Vaughn Woods in Hallowell. The stone arch bridges and rushing waterfalls, combined with the gorgeous autumn colors, made for a peaceful morning photo walk.
The Nubble and the Full Moon
November 14, 2016: The full moon in November was what’s been called a super moon, where the moon appears larger than normal. I positioned myself on Long Sands Beach in York, and used a 600mm lens to compress the perspective and capture both the lighthouse and the moon in a single shot.
Spring Point Ledge Light Station
November 15, 2016: I first photographed Spring Point Ledge Light from almost this exact spot in 1999, on film. While the sky was a bit cloudy, it was perfect for a long exposure. This three minute exposure captured the cloud movement beautifully and made the lighthouse stand out.
Dawn at Marshall Point
November 28, 2016: I’d never been to Marshall Point before, and didn’t realize it wasn’t really that far from me. I finally made it there in November and photographed a gorgeous sunrise.
Holidays Aglow
December 11, 2016: Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens hosts a Christmas light show every holiday season, with the gardens aglow with lights. It’s amazing to see, and well worth a visit.
Winter Morning at Cape Neddick
January 8, 2017: Well into January I still had not photographed any snowfall. Knowing we were going to get about six inches overnight, I made plans to get up and photograph sunrise at Cape Neddick lighthouse with the freshly fallen snow. The lighthouse was still lit up for the holidays and it was so cold steam was rising off the water.
Sunrise Over Wells Beach
March 2, 2017: Wells Beach was another location I visited on one of my earliest trips to Maine in 1999. At high tide, the entire sand is covered, but once the tide recedes, tidal pools remain and the sand is covered in ripples left by the water. At sunrise, the low, angular light catches the ripples and creates patterns around the pools. One of my favorite spots to photograph in Maine.
Cape Porpoise
March 29, 2017: I’d stumbled across Cape Porpoise on my 1999 visit but at the time was too much of a landscape photo neophyte to do it justice. On this brisk March afternoon, the sky dazzled as the lobster boats danced on the tide.
Sunrise at Wolfe's Neck Woods
April 18, 2017: Five miles down the road from my home in Freeport is this beautiful state park known as Wolfe’s Neck Woods. I decided to photograph it at sunrise one April morning and spent several hours photographing Googins Island and along the shoreline as the sun rose.
Spring Sunrise at Portland Head
April 23, 2017: A friend was visiting me in April and I wanted her to experience a sunrise at Portland Head. I wanted a different angle than the usual one from the other side of the lighthouse and we were greeted with this view.
Sunrise at Bald Head Cliff
May 8, 2017: I’d never heard of Bald Head Cliff in York, and came across a photo and knew I had to photograph there. This was my second attempt there as my first try was a flat great day.
Spring Morning in Acadia National Park
May 19, 2017: By mid-May, I’d been itching to get to Acadia for some photography. I wasn’t able to get a prolonged period of time, but I headed up for sunrise and spent a peaceful morning in the park before heading to breakfast at Jordan’s in Bar Harbor.
Spring Flow at Smalls Falls
June 6, 2017: I’d always been in love with the Maine coastline, but there is tremendous beauty inland and I’m really enjoying exploring it. Smalls Falls was the first waterfall I visited in Maine and I’m definitely looking forward to finding more.
Sunset at Marshall Point
July 15, 2017: Decided to revisit Marshall Point for sunset, as I’d never been here for sunset before. I was rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
Camden Harbor from the Summit of Mount Battie
June 22, 2017: Explored the midcoast a bit this day and drove to the top of Mount Battie for this breathtaking view of Camden Harbor.
Stonington Harbor
June 22, 2017: I met a photographer from Tennessee who’d mentioned he was staying up in Stonington. I’d never been there so I decided to head up there to see what it was like. It’s such a cute little town and definitely a place I need to explore some more.
Bailey Island Coastline
July 2, 2017: I’d been told soon after I arrived in Maine, that Giant’s Stairs on Bailey Island was a place I needed to photograph. It took me a while but I finally got there. While the skies were gray and the shoreline was foggy, the high surf created some dramatic images.
Sunset at Spring Point Ledge
July 2, 2017: I’d first visited Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in 1999. I hadn’t discovered this view until this summer when I ran into a photographer from one of the Facebook groups I belong to. The leading lines of the fort out to the breakwater make this image for me.
Celebration in Boothbay Harbor
July 4, 2017: I celebrated my first Independence Day in Maine in New England style. Met up with some friends, had a lobster roll and a beer, and photographed the fireworks over Boothbay Harbor.
Steaming Past the Giant's Stairs
July 7, 2017: My first time shooting at the Giant’s Stairs was a mixed bag- I had dramatic waves crashing on the rocks, but the sky was flat and bland. This time, I had a more dramatic sky, but the waters surounding Bailey Island were much calmer. A beautiful place for a walk along the shore.
Tied Up
July 9, 2017: I caught this image in Tenant’s Harbor after staying up all night and (unsuccessfully, due to clouds) photographing the night sky. Something a little different for me but I enjoy finding these little snippets of Maine.
July Sunrise at Portland Head
July 30, 2017: I had scheduled a session with a model for the park around the lighthouse on this morning, and decided to get up early and catch the sunrise. There’s just something about capturing the start of a day that is both calming and exhilirating. I can’t do it everyday, but those days I get out of bed before the sun rises are well worth it.
Dawn on Old Orchard Beach
August 2, 2017: Old Orchard Beach is a place that takes me back to summers when I was kid at the Jersey Shore. The pier reminds me of the boardwalk at Point Pleasant Beach, with the fried food, the games, and other attractions. I knew I wanted to photograph the pier but it took me some time to get around to it. Once I did, I was not disappointed.
Height of Land
August 4, 2017: The Rangeley Lakes Region is an area that I had often been told I needed to go see. The area is breathtaking and I plan to spend a lot more time with my camera there. On this morning, I’d planned to shoot at sunrise at Height of Land, overlooking Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Nature had other ideas and instead I was treated to the drama of a fog bank moving through the valley.
Dusk on Littlejohn Island
August 14 2017: In searching for places a bit more off the beaten path, I came across Littlejohn Island Preserve in Yarmouth. While not as dramatic as places such as Giant’s Stairs, there is a peacefulness here that I think I captured nicely in this sunset image.
High Tide at Portland Head Lighthouse
August 16, 2017: Portland Head Lighthouse is a big draw for photographers, with good reason. I’d been waiting a long time to catch it with a high tide caused by a storm at sea. While the tides this night were bigger than normal, they weren’t the epic tides I hope to see one day here. On this night, I climbed out on the rocks with a friend to capture the sunset.
Rockland Breakwater Light
August 19, 2017: I’ve tried to photograph Rockland Breakwater lighthouse several times since I’ve moved here. I am represented by Gallery 440 in Rockland so I’ve made several trips up and always stop here to at least walk the breakwater. Each time I’ve gone with my camera, however, I’ve been met with gray skies. One day I’ll catch it with some beautifully warm sunlight shining down!
Great Falls Balloon Festival
August 20, 2017: Decided to head to the sunrise launch at the Great Falls Balloon Festival in Lewiston and Auburn, Maine. It was something different and I’d always wanted to shoot a sunrise balloon launch. The winds didn’t quite cooperate so the shot I’d envisioned never came to pass, but I still managed to capture a few I was happy with.
Coos Canyon
August 22, 2017: While the Maine coast has always been my first love, I am quickly finding that the Rangeley Lakes Region may be my second. The beauty of some of the waterfalls, mountains, lakes, and canyons is simply amazing. While normally I prefer to use vibrant color in my images, black and white felt best for capturing the textures of Coos Canyon.
On Penobscot Bay
August 24, 2017: In late August my son came up for a visit. We took a sunset cruise from Camden Harbor on Penobscot Bay. As we were returning to the harbor, I suddenly heard the sound of a buoy bell. I quickly raised my camera just in time to grab this shot as the sun set behind Camden Hills.

Maine Art at Fine Art America

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Exploring Maine

Dusk on Littlejohn Island
Littlejohn Island Preserve in Yarmouth, Maine is a small preserve on Casco Bay. I discovered this spot while looking for a new place to photograph. The rocky shoreline and quiet woodland path leading to it were perfect for the afternoon I spent photographing there.

When I first discovered Maine for myself in 1998, I fell in love with many of the things most people think of when they think of Maine: lighthouses, the rugged coastal landscape, lobster boats, lobster rolls, and the New England charm that permeates the various towns dotting the coastline. And while the coastline is still what draws me, there’s so much more to this gorgeous state than lighthouses and lobster (lobstah?) rolls. There are little hidden preserves, that  once found, envelop you in the calm of the bay and the shade of evergreens growing right up next to the rocky shoreline. Drive a little north, and there are waterfalls tucked away in the hills, waiting for someone to come take a swim.  There are mountain vistas with views that stretch for miles. And yes, head up the coast and there are quaint fishing villages and harbors around every bend.

Sunset at Spring Point Ledge
I’d been to Spring Point Ledge Light in South Portland a few times since I moved to Maine, but never had I seen this vantage point, with the wall of the fort leading to the breakwater.

My point is, after nearly a year here, I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of places to photograph and explore. And it’s a small scratch at that. I think nothing of getting up at 3am to catch a sunrise somewhere 2 hours away, as I did with the photo below of Height of Land. There are new ways to see places I’ve been before, such as I did with the image of Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse by climbing the hill overlooking the lighthouse. And less than 20 minutes from my home is Littlejohn Island Preserve, a small preserve as peaceful and quiet as it gets, with a short easy hiking trails and beautiful views of Casco Bay.

Height of Land
Height of Land, on top of Spruce Mountain in Rangely, is one of those lesser known spots that is well worth the visit. I arrived for sunrise to find a thick fog moving through the valley, obscuring Mooselookmeguntic Lake. So now I need to go back so I can get a shot of the lake from here.

Still so many places I need to see: Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument, West Quoddy Head, Machias, more of the lakes region, and the mountains. I feel like it might take me the next 20 years to see it all. So stay tuned. There will be pictures.

Smalls Falls
Smalls Falls is a waterfall in western Maine, formed by a series of cascades on the Sandy River in Township E, West Central Franklin.

 

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Dawn On Old Orchard Beach
Dawn on Old Orchard Beach

In my eleven months of living in Maine, I’ve tried to do as much exploring of my new home state with my camera as possible.  There is still so much I haven’t seen yet that I’m dying to photograph.  One day at a time. This morning, I was able to get to Old Orchard Beach, which honestly, I should have photographed long ago.

Old Orchard Beach is the classic beach town. You’ve got the boardwalk, the pier, the sandy beach waiting for sunbathers and ocean swimmers.  There are plenty of shops catering to tourists, with boardwalk snacks ranging fron hot dogs, to pizza to fried dough.  Top it all off with a century old amusement park and Old Orchard Beach reminds me very much of my childhood spent at the Jersey Shore on the Point Pleasant boardwalk.

Sunrise Under The Pier
Sunrise Under The Pier

For this outing, I decided my goal was going to be to photograph OOB’s iconic pier as the sun rose behind it. Before I went to bed, the weather was calling for partly cloudy skies, and I went to sleep with visions of glowing pink and orange clouds above the pier.  Unfortunately, in the five hours I spent sleeping, the weather changed and the skies were clear at sunrise. There was a soft marine layer of fog present, which added a bit atmosphere to the scene, but overall the sky was flat, with a soft orange and pink glow on the horizon as the sun rose.

Under The Pier at Old Orchard Beach
Under The Pier At Old Orchard Beach

Thankfully, the pier was an easy subject to minimize the sky with, The wet sand created some interesting reflections and the waves of the Atlantic ocean added plenty of interest as well.  The soft warm light of a summer sunrise finished the scene for me. I spent about two hours photographing the pier from various angles.  While I’m very happy with what I captured, I can’t wait to go back for sunset and photograph it with the lights from the various attractions coming up and the sky glowing orange, pink and purple with a summer sunset.

As I was packing up to leave, I looked down the beach and noticed a fisherman surf-casting. I changed lenses to something a little longer and made my way to where I could line up the fisherman with the sun behind him. I’d already decided a silhouette was in order so I adjusted my exposure accordingly and tried a few different compositions.  Satisfied I had what I wanted, I packed my gear and headed home, already wondering about where I could photograph sunset.

Fishing at Sunrise
Fishing at Sunrise

 

Sunrise

Sunrise at Wolfe's Neck Woods
The sun breaks through the trees on Googins Island in Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park in Freeport, Maine.

I like photographing any time there is good light, be it midday, afternoon, evening, or morning. My favorite time of all though, is sunrise. There is soemthing magical about sunrise- that change from dark, to light that happens. But more than that, there is a peace and calm in the air that isn’t there later in the day.  The air hasn’t been disturbed by people going about their business. There aren’t many cars on the road, there aren’t many people walking around.

Sunrise Over Wells Beach
Sunrise Over Wells Beach

When I get to a location for a sunrise shoot, there’s always a bit of trepidation on my part. The calm and quiet is almost unsettling.  You hear the birds beginning to stir, maybe some of the nocturnal creatures in the underbrush. You step a little more carefully.

Dawn at Marshall Point
Dawn at Marshall Point

When I get to my shooting spot, often times it’s a place I’ve been to during the day, so I have some idea of what it will look like as the light comes up. But it’s always different in the dark; more mysterious somehow. As the light slowly comes up, everything changes. The glow on the horizon becomes more intense, the sky is revealed, and the trees and rocks begin to take on more detail and definition.

My favorite part of shooting at sunrise is the solitude. There’s so much overload these days- cell phones, computers, people at work, people we meet during the day.  It’s nice to get that hour or two to myself, to enjoy the birdsong, the sunrise, that start of the day. It’s a reset, in a way. And it gives me something to talk about to those people who may not have been able to tear themselves away from their blankets at such an early hour!

Sunrise at Bald Head Cliff
Sunrise at Bald Head Cliff

Bald Head Cliff, Maine

The tide rushes in at Bald Head Cliff in Cape Neddick, Maine.
The tide rushes in at Bald Head Cliff in Cape Neddick, Maine.

One of the great things about the times we live in, as a photographer, is the abundance of information being shared about where we go to photograph. I often enjoy discovering a place on my own, but many times, there are hidden gems we just don’t know about that we only discover when someone else mentions them to us.

Such was the case when, this past Saturday, I was browsing one of the many Facebook photography groups I belong to when I came across a photo someone shared of Bald Head Cliff, in Cape Neddick, Maine. I’d been through the area many times before, but this location is a bit hidden, as it is right behind a hotel and restaurant known as The Cliff House. It had never occurred to me that such a beautiful location existed beyond the views of the Atlantic Ocean afforded by the rooms of the hotel.

Waves pound the rocks at Bald Head Cliff in Cape Neddick, Maine.
Waves pound the rocks at Bald Head Cliff in Cape Neddick, Maine.

As you walk behind the hotel, there is a walk along the rocks that jut out into the ocean. These rocks lend a lot of interest to the foregrounds of photos and the southeast facing shoreline is perfect for capturing sunrise. Once I found the location I scrambled down onto the rocks to find a good vantage point for the sunrise, as well as a good foreground for my shots. Unfortunately, the sunrise never materialized, hiding behind a thick gray wall of clouds. But the Atlantic Ocean put on a display of its fury as the previous day’s winter storm was churning the ocean, and large waves pounded the rocks.

The ocean was more than a bit intimidating, so I was careful where I set up, and though I desperately wanted to get closer to add some drama to the images, I chose to stay at a safe distance.  I still almost got wet once or twice, but managed to avoid any catastrophes.

The images you see here are the result of my morning at Bald Head Cliff.  I definitely plan on visiting again, to try and get a more dramatic sunrise, but even though the sunrise was a bit on the dull side, the ocean gave me plenty to see and photograph.

A wave breaks over the rocks at Bald Head Cliff, in Cape Neddick, Maine.
A wave breaks over the rocks at Bald Head Cliff, in Cape Neddick, Maine.

Behind the Shots: Cannon Beach Sunset

Day's End in Cannon Beach
Day’s End in Cannon Beach

Over the years, as I became more interested in landscape photography, I would look at other photographers’ work for locations I wanted to photograph myself. One of the places that stood out to me fairly early was Cannon Beach, Oregon.  Dominated by Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach is a flat, sandy beach with lots of driftwood, seaweed, and water that seems to go on forever.  Visitors start small campfires and spend the cool Pacific Northwest summer evenings watching the sunset by the fire.  When I first saw photos of Haystack Rock reflected in wet sand, I knew I had to add Cannon Beach to my list.

My first visit was in 2013. Then, in June 2015, I had an opportunity to visit again briefly while traveling on business. I made it a point to get there when I found two open days in my schedule. The first of the open days I traveled south to Cape Kiwanda, and spent sunset there.  But I knew the next day was reserved for Cannon Beach.

Sunset at Haystack Rock
Sunset at Haystack Rock

I had spent most of the day just exploring, waiting for better light. But I had an early dinner and headed to Cannon Beach in plenty of time for sunset.  Walking along the flat sandy beach brought back memories of my 2013 trip as I took in the view and tried to plan where I wanted to be.  I knew that from a certain angle, the sun would be setting almost directly behind Haystack Rock, so I knew as I made my way across the beach that when the sun finally kissed the horizon, I would want to be in a spot that lined up the sun with the giant seastack.

For the images you see here, I used a Vü Filters 3-stop soft edge ND filter to hold the sky exposure back and better match it to the foreground. I also knew I’d want a somewhat slower shutter speed to allow the water to blur slightly as the waves lapped at the shoreline. Once I found the settings I wanted to use and had my exposure right, I set about finding compositions that were interesting to me, trying not to copy what I’d done three years earlier.

Sunset on Cannon Beach
Sunset on Cannon Beach

On this day, Mother Nature did not disappoint. A soft, cool mist formed in the distance, creating an air of mystery on the beach, while the sun glowed a warm orange, and the sky remained a deep shade of indigo. Clouds moved in just enough to catch the color and add texture to the sky. Now all there was to do was to click my shutter and enjoy the sounds of the Pacific as I took in the amazing show.

One of the coolest things about photography for me is the way it has enabled me to make new friends. On this night, there were several others out photographing as well, and I struck up a conversation with a woman about my age named Heather. We each went about our business of finding images to capture and in between, traded some stories and small details about ourselves. It was a great way to spend the evening.  We ended up becoming Facebook friends, and while we don’t talk much directly, we share similar political views and will “like” and comment on the goings on in each other’s life. One of the many benefits photography has brought into my life.

So as the night moved in and we packed it in, I walked back to my car and found myself stuck in traffic heading back to Portland for my business event the next day. After completing the event I flew back to NY, and went about my business. But this sunset in Cannon Beach sticks with me. I can’t wait to get back there.

Behind The Shots: Boneyard Beach

Carolina Lowcountry by Rick Berk
Carolina Lowcountry

Over the years, my career has led me into teaching more and more, and in 2016 I began leading a few workshops. I enjoy working with other photographers, teaching the techniques I’ve been using, and learning from them as much as they learn from me. Last year, one of the first workshops planned was to Charleston, SC. I took a trip to Charleston to scout my planned locations and do some personal shooting. One of those locations absolutely blew me away.

The boneyard beach at Botany Bay Plantation, about an hour south of Charleston, almost seems like another world. As you walk from the parking area, through the salt marsh, and onto the beach, the scene you are presented with is starkly different from anything I’d ever seen before.

Reflections Erased by Rick Berk
Reflections Erased

The boneyard beach is the result of shifting tides and erosion, which over time ate into what was once a vibrant forest of trees. With root systems exposed, many trees toppled over or washed away, while others continue to hold on as the waves crash around them. Seeing the husk of a dead oak tree being buffeted by the surf was just incredible.

On my first morning there, I was disappointed that the sky was virtually cloudless, meaning flat backgrounds with little visual interest.  I used a Vü Filters polarizer and ND and ND grads to help keep the sky in check, and was able to capture some of the sunrise color.

Alone In The Water by Rick Berk
Alone In The Water

On my second morning, I was faced with a heavy cloud cover. However, you could see that there were several breaks that might reveal some color, and I wasn’t disappointed there. After about an hour and a half, the sky began to show some real drama and color. I again used my set of Neutral Density grads from Vü Filters to make sure I could balance the exposure between the sky and the foreground.

Between the two mornings I photographed at Botany Bay, I spent about seven hours exploring the boneyard beach.  I don’t think I even scratched the surface of what’s possible there, photographically. I can’t wait to get back there and see what else I can find.

The Lowcountry - Botany Bay Plantation by Rick Berk
The Lowcountry – Botany Bay Plantation