Autumn In New England

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Autumn in Hallowell

Autumn has always been one of my favorite times of year. The crisp, cool air, coupled with the smells of leaves burning, fireplaces burning logs, and the smells of seasonal baked goods (pumpkin spice, anyone?), as well as the vibrant colors, just make fall a cornucopia of sensory stimuli. Since adopting Maine as my home last year, I’ve made sure to enjoy all that autumn in New Englad has to offer visually, by getting out and exploring just a bit.

Last year, I’d discovered Vaughan Woods, in Hallowell, Maine, after a friend suggested I check it out. I wasn’t disappointed, so of course, I had to go back this year.  The stone bridges and Vaughan Brook with its waterfalls, are quintessential New England. When the color is exploding in the trees, there is no place in New England that is more picturesque.  This year, my return was in the form of a photo walk with several other photographers. The brook was flowing nicely, with small whirlpools forming in certain spots, and good color in the trees.

Vaughan Brook And Arch Bridge
Vaughan Brook And Arch Bridge

There are two stone bridges in Vaughan Woods. When you start down the trail, the first bridge you come to is a smaller one, with a small three foot waterfall flowing just in front of it. A pool had formed with colored leaves in the bottom of the pool. I used a Benro Master Filters circular polarizer to minimize the reflection on the surface of the pool and allow me (and my camera) to see into the water and let those leaves on the bottom come through.

The second bridge, known as Arch Bridge, is much taller, and spans a taller waterfall on Vaughan Brook. I scrambled down the rocks along the brook and found an angle I liked that allowed me to show the rocks, the bridge, the foliage, and the brook.  I again used the polarizer to help deepen the blue of the sky, along with a Benro Filters 4-stop ND filter to slow down my shutter speed and allow the water to blur a bit and get that creamy look.

Autumn Glow In The Woods
Autumn Glow In The Woods

A couple of weeks later, on another photo walk, I ventured down to Newburyport, Massachusetts, to Maudslay State Park. There was still good color on the trees, and while I captured several shots I liked, the two I’m sharing here are my favorites. As we walked along the trail through the park, this scene caught my eye.  There was soft warm sunlight hitting this orange tree, causing it to appear to glow. It was a beautiful scene and I spent several minutes capturing it before the light changed and the tree stopped glowing.

Autumn Sunset Through The Trees
Autumn Sunset Through The Trees

Further along the trail, as the sun was getting lower in the sky, I came upon another tree. This one also showed orange leaves, and with the sun shining through them, they also appeared to glow. The sun slowly moved down and I was able to capture a sun star as the sun shone between two branches. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Another day also ended perfectly, just a few days before. I’d been driving around looking for somewhere to photograph at sunset. I instantly thought of Bowdoin Mill in Topsham, Maine. This mill had intrigued me since the first time I’d seen it so I decided to go and try to find an angle to photograph it from. I found a spot, but the skies were heavily clouded. Soon, the clouds moved and for ten minutes I was blessed with this incredibly soft warm light. The mill glowed as it was reflected in the Androscoggin River, and the clouds picked up a warm tone from the late afternoon sun.

Bowdoin Mill
Bowdoin Mill

It’s scenes like this that make me look forward to autumn every year.

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Lubec, Maine

October Sky at West Quoddy Head Lighthouse
October Sky at West Quoddy Head Lighthouse

In the 18 years I’d been visiting Maine, prior to moving here last year, I’d never been anywhere past Schoodic Point, just past Bar Harbor, in a slightly less trafficked area of Acadia National Park. After moving here, I had made a sort of mental list of places I wanted to explore- places like Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin, Rangeley,  and Lubec, the easternmost point in the continental United States. In the past year, I managed to do quite a bit of exploring, but Lubec eluded me, as it was just about the furthest away from my home and I’d decided I need at least two nights there to really even begin to see it.

At the beginning of October, I finally made that happen. I had the unfortunate occurrence of the cancellation private photo tour I was leading, so I took the two days I would have spent on the tour, and headed to Lubec to see just what there was so far downeast.  The first thing I found? AT&T’s cell service is AWFUL. Not of major importance, but when I DID have a signal, half the time it was from Bell Canada, which  meant I had no data. No text messages, no Facebook, no email. So I found myself disconnected from civilization. Not a terrible thing, but I’d prefer to plan when I will be disconnected.

The Compass
The Compass, photographed on the Coastal Trail in Quoddy Head State Park

Connectivity aside, Lubec was much like the rest of Maine that I’d explored so far – rugged, beautiful, simple, and just plain stunning.  My first stop was Quoddy Head State Park and West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. I had arrived late the night before so, on just about four hours sleep, I dragged my butt out of bed, dragged my friend Beth from her bed, and we headed to Quoddy Head State Park.

As we arrived, the horizon was glowing a deep red. Sunrise was going to be incredible. A local photographer had guided me to a couple of different spots, but we opted for the classic view of the lighthouse on the cliff, since it looked like there would be a great sky, and I had never been there before.  I set up and immediately started photographing.

As the clouds moved across the sky behind the lighthouse, the sun came up to my left, and lit the eastern sky on fire. While there wasn’t much of a foreground to work with facing the sunrise, the soft, warm glow of the rising sun on the lighthouse and the cliff and grasses in the foreground was perfect.

Sunrise on Passamaquoddy Bay
Sunrise on Passamaquoddy Bay

After finding breakfast and going back to the motel to clean up and grab our stuff, we headed back to Quoddy Head State Park to explore more. The coastal trail offered several great opportunities for photos. I could find a different spot for sunrise there every day for a month.  As I only had two days, I had the make the best of what I had. On my first day there, I came across a lobster pot buoy that had washed up against the rocks. The day had turned gray, but I decided at that point that this spot was my next day’s sunrise location. I wanted the buoy as my foreground with the sun rising behind it. Unfortunately, the sky was a lot less interesting on this morning, but I was able to find a composition that worked and I was still able to use the soft warm light of sunrise, just as I had visualized the day before.

Misty Morning on Johnson Bay
Misty Morning on Johnson Bay

After my second sunrise, we were heading back into Lubec when I noticed the mist was still hanging around. We made a beeline for the harbor, which was shrouded in fog as the sun fought to burn it off. It created an ethereal glow that seemed to envelop the lobster boats sitting in the harbor. Everywhere I turned was another photo opportunity, from the fogbow I captured as it arced over some lobster boats, to Mullholland Point Lighthouse on Campobello Island, shrouded in mist. It was an amazing morning.

We explored a bit more that day but soon had to head back home. The more I explore, the more I continue to be enchanted by coastal Maine, especially downeast Maine.

Baxter State Park

Katahdin Reflections
Katahdin Reflections.

Since moving to Maine last year, Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin have been on my list of places I need to explore.  I could really use at least a week there, but a few weeks ago, when I found a free 36 hours, I decided to jump in the car and drive the four hours up to Millinocket, Maine, to get my first taste of Katahdin.  I met a friend up there and spent the day hiking and photographing.

After checking in at my motel, I headed to a spot I’d heard about that I was told would be good for sunset, as well as possible night sky photos. So I made my way down the Golden Road to Abol Bridge and waited for the right light.  As the sun went down, the light on Katahdin’s peaks glowed a warm orange, while the mountain was reflected in the waters of Nesowadnehunk Deadwater.

I set up on the bridge, which was problematic because the bridge bounced when anyone walked on it. Any long exposure would be ruined simply by me moving, or someone else stepping onto the bridge. Something to be aware of as the light went down.  As the sun set to my left, I used a Benro Slim Circular Polarizer to help deepen the colors in the sky, and a Benro 3-stop soft-edged graduated neutral density filter to help equalize the exposure between the sky and the foreground.

I waited for darkness to see about shooting the night sky, but hikers coming off the Appalachian Trail were continually crossing the bridge, making long exposures for stars difficult. In addition, the sky had a heavy haze, making stars faint and difficult to focus. I decided to call it a night and head back to the motel so I could be ready for sunrise.

Katahdin Sunrise
Katahdin Sunrise

The next morning, not having had the chance to scout many spots and also feeling that my location for sunset would also make an idea sunrise location, we headed back to Abol Bridge for sunrise.  As the sun came up, clouds moved across the sky and danced around Katahdin’s peak, glowing in the warmth of the rising sun and reflecting again in the water below the bridge.  I again used a Benro circular polarizer and a Benro 3-stop soft edged graduated neutral density filter to help equalize the sky and the foreground exposure.

After photographing sunrise, my friend and I went back into Millinocket and visited the Appalachian Trail Cafe for a good breakfast and to plan what we would do next.  Unfortunately, we wanted to hike the Chimney Pond Trail but when we got into Baxter State Park, were told the lot was full.  We selected the Hunt Trail as a backup and hiked along Katahdin Stream to Katahdin Falls.

Katahdin Stream
Katahdin Stream

We stopped several times along the trail to photograph the stream, and some of the plants along the way. It was a gorgeous early autumn day and we enjoyed every second of it. After reaching the falls, we turned around and headed back to the car to see what else we could see. We decided to head to Dacey Pond.

Mushrooms on Katahdin
Mushrooms on Katahdin

Dacey Pond provided us with a beautiful alpine lakeside setting. We set up near a cabin labeled “The Library” and photographed the sky reflected in the lake. I stepped up onto the porch of the library and found a nice composition with canoes lined up near the shoreline.  It seemed a fitting final shot for the day.

Daicey Pond Campground
Daicey Pond Campground

There’s so much more of Baxter State Park I need to explore, and I need more time to do it. But I’m happy for the time I had last month.

More images from Katahdin here.

 

Sunrise to Sunset: Why I love Maine

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
-John Muir

Ogunquit Sunrise
Ogunquit Sunrise. I used a 3-stop ND Grad from Benro Master Filters to maintain the color in the sky and the detail in the foreground rocks, and a 3-stop ND filter to slow the exposure enough to get the water to blur as it crashed over the rocks.

Yesterday I had the type of day that reminds me why I love Maine so much.  I started the day before dawn, driving to a seaside walkway in Ogunquit known as Marginal Way. It’s called Marginal Way because it is situated on a slim margin of land between the town and the Atlantic Ocean.

Morning Calm on Marginal Way
Morning Calm on Marginal Way. Here I used a 10-stop ND filter to make a long exposure of 4 minutes to allow the water to blur so much it becomes smooth. It’s essentially the same composition as the image above, but the use of a long exposure completely changes the scene.

Arriving shortly before sunrise, I began walking the path at Marginal Way in that soft blue light before the sun breaks the horizon and the sky turns pink. There were hundreds of spots to choose from, but I settled on a small cove created by several large rock formations, where I noticed waves occasionally crashing over the rocks on an otherwise calm morning. There was a thin haze in the air, hanging over the water, filtering the light as the sun rose. The sky turned pink and even a bit red as the sun finally broke the horizon and waves washed over the rocks in front of me. It was just enough to show the motion of the Atlantic washing over the rocks, but not as violently as during a high tide or a storm. It was a perfect morning, worth getting up early for and the best way I know to start a day.

Dawn on Marginal Way
As the sun rose higher in the sky, I wanted to capture the soft, warm light on the rocks. I decided to again use a long exposure, again, for four minutes, to smooth the water and allow the warm light to paint the rocks.

Next, I needed to take care of some personal business- car inspection and registration.  After quickly dispatching of that, I went home and edited my images from sunrise. It was just barely 10am, so I still had all day to spend and no idea how to spend it. I wanted to go out photographing, but I didn’t know where. Not that I was bored with the coast, but I really wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been before. I was glad I did.

Afternoon on Tumbledown Mountain
As I cleared the trees, this was the scene that I was presented with. It was so serene and peaceful. I added a Benro Master Filters Slim Circular Polarizer to help manage reflection and to darken the blue sky some more.

I settled on Tumbledown Mountain, two hours north of me. I wanted a hike, but I have requirements for where I’ll hike. It must be picturesque, with great views and some photographic interest. I’d Googled Tumbledown and saw enough that I decided it was worth a visit.  So I made my way up to Tumbledown and hoped my GPS wouldn’t lead me astray.

Tumbledown Mountain has an elevation of 3,054 feet at its highest point. The easiest route is about a two-hour hike and climb to the top.  I chose this route, being out of shape and really not caring how I got up there. While the climb is important, for me, it’s about the views. I really wasn’t prepared for what I found when I got to just below the summit.

View at Sunset from Tumbledown Mountain
I didn’t have as much time to explore as I’d normally like. With the sun setting I needed to at least get back to the trail beneath the field of boulders. I took one last look at the view before heading down.

After a long hike up an old logging road, a climb over a rocky trail, lots of cursing myself for undertaking this climb, and finally, a more vertical scramble over rocks and boulders, I made it to a ridge and some trees.  As I followed the trail, I came through the trees and was presented with a scene straight out of a Disney movie. Instantly I knew the climb had been worth it and I would be back again.

At the top of Tumbledown Mountain, just below the summit, is an alpine lake. The water is clear, the air is fresh and sweet. It is as inviting a scene as I’ve ever been witness to.  As the sun began to drop just below the peak, I began to photograph, knowing I had to work fast and get back down over the rock scramble before total darkness hit. I figured I could handle the footpath in the dark but the rock scramble I needed light for. I quickly explored and made plans to return soon.

The top of Tumbledown instantly became one of my favorite places in Maine, and it only took me 20 years to find it.  But the true wonder of yesterday was the fact that I could start my day watching the sun rise on the coast, and finish it watching the sun set in the mountains, and it only took me two hours to get from one to the other. Maine is the perfect place for me.

Dusk on Tumbledown Mountain
As the sun went behind the peak, I set up for a long exposure, again using the Benro Master Filters 10-stop ND, along with a 3-stop ND grad, to help control the wide range of contrast between the sky and foreground. This was another four minute exposure that smoothed the water and allowed the cloud in the sky to blur.

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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.

 

Harpswell, Maine

Bailey Island Coastline
Waves crash against the rocky coastline of Bailey Island, Maine.

As I continue to explore my new home state of Maine, I am continually blown away by the natural beauty I find. And the different personalities some places seem to exhibit depending on the weather. A perfect example is Harpswell, Maine. I had been told several times this was an area I should visit but had only ever gotten to a spot on the southern tip of Bailey Island, known as Land’s End. While it’s a pretty spot, it didn’t really speak to me photographically.

Misty Dawn at Giants Stairs
Before the sun rose, while the fog was still thick, I made my way down into this gully to photograph the waves washing over the rocks.

Another spot that was mentioned to me was Giant’s Stairs, also on Bailey Island. I had no idea what I’d find, but earlier this month, I finally got there for a sunrise.  Unfortunately, while the weather report was “partly cloudy”, which generally means a colorful sunrise, Bailey Island was covered in a dense fog. I decided to give it a shot anyway. In the past, I’ve seen fog burn off as the sun rose, giving way to glorious color.  I hoped that would happen again.

As I waited for the sun to rise, I tried to get some haunting images of the rocky coastline and crashing waves as the fog enveloped the area. I never got the color I was hoping for, but I did get some interesting light as it filtered through the mist. One shot in particular, Bailey Island Coastline, captured exactly what I love about the Maine coast. The fury of the ocean, the mystery of the fog, and the ruggedness of the rocky shoreline.

Steaming Past The Giant's Stairs
As I watched the sun illuminate the Giant’s Stairs, a lobster boat came along. I was taken by how the clouds transitioned from steel blue to a warm golden hue just at the point where the boat was in the water.

While I was happy with what I had captured on that foggy morning, I decided I wanted to go back and capture a more colorful sunrise. So several days later I watched the weather reports and went back when things looked good. While I got some color in the sky, and nice warm sunlight, the ocean itself was more calm. It was low tide and the waves weren’t nearly as dramatic as they were several days earlier. While on the previous shoot, the mood was angry and mysterious, the mood this time was calm and peaceful. Another example of why it can be good to revisit locations again and again.

Lobsters
Cook’s Lobster and Ale House sits across the harbor on Bailey Island as lobster boats wait at anchor.

On my way back from the sunrise shoot, as I approached Bailey Island Cribstone Bridge, I looked left and noticed several boats at anchor in the harbor. I also noticed the sun creating a beautiful golden color in the clouds, and lighting up the lobster shack across the harbor. I quickly pulled over and grabbed my camera and framed up a few shots. What I ended up with was kind of a quintessential Maine image. Lobster boats in the foreground with a lobster restaurant in the background.

I continue to find these little corners of Maine, just waiting for me and my camera. I can’t wait to find the next one.

Morning on Bailey Island
Waves crash against the rocky coastline of Bailey Island, Maine.

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