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
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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

The Quiet Side of Acadia

Most tourists who visit Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, tend to stick to Bar Harbor and the Park Loop Road and visit the most heavily trafficked sites in the area.  Unfortunately, this means they miss out on some of the most beautiful scenery on the east coast of the United States. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore that most people never get to. On a recent Hunt’s Photo Adventure to Acadia National Park that I was an instructor on, we visited some of the lesser known areas of the park, in addition to the tried and true destinations.

Watching Through The Trees
“Watching Through The Trees” I photographed this juvenile barred owl in the Sieur de Monts area of Acadia National Park. Sieur de Monts lacks the drama of the Maine coastline, but its peaceful walk through the forest allows for the viewing of wildlife, flowers, and various trees.
“Dory in Bernard Harbor”
Bernard Harbor is a picturesque fishing village on Mount Desert Island. Across the water from Bernard Harbor, looking east, is Bass Harbor. I spent an evening photographing the harbor at sunset, during which the most exquisite light of the golden hour bathed the harbor.
Fern Layers
“Fern Layers”
I photographed these ferns in Asticou Azalea Gardensm in Northeast Harbor, Maine. These gardens feature a variety of plants, including rhododendrons and azaleas, but on the morning I visited, these ferns, and the way the light was playing on them, captured my attention.
“Cascading Tide at Schoodic Point”
Located an hour from Bar Harbor, most people never visit the section of Acadia National Park located on the Schoodic Peninsula. It is every bit as dramatic and beautiful as the better known areas along the Park Loop Road, and the perfect spot for some late afternoon and evening photography.
Dusk at Schoodic Point
“Dusk at Schoodic Point”
As I mentioned, Schoodic Point is outstanding for late afternoon and evening photography. At sunset during the summer, you watch the sun go down behind Cadillac Mountain. On this particular evening, Mother Nature put on a show with a spectacular sunset and afterglow.

This fall, I will be teaching on the Hunt’s Photo Adventure to Solon, Maine. Located in Central Maine, Solon is the perfect location to capture the beauty of autumn in Maine. There are still some seats left, so register now!

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

New Year’s Chill

Winter Morning at Portland Head Lighthouse
Winter Morning at Portland Head Lighthouse

One of the things I love about Maine is the climate.  Some may say I’m crazy, but harsh though it may be, Maine winters offer every bit as much beauty as the other three seasons. Yes, it’s a bit more difficult to photograph in the elements, but it’s no less rewarding.

For the past week or so, Maine has been under a deep freeze, with temperatures below 20° for the better part of 10 days or so. Lows have been in the negatives during that time. While those conditions are daunting, they create some spectacular visuals. In our case along the coast, one of the most beautiful phenomenon the frigid temperatures bring is known as sea smoke. Sea smoke (also known as frost smoke or steam fog) is formed when very cold air moves over warmer water. It is common in the Arctic, and happens in Maine and New England during a particularly cold spell.

New Years Morning at Portland Head Lighthouse
New Years Morning at Portland Head Lighthouse

On New Year’s Eve, looking at the weather conditions for the next day, I decided I would get up at sunrise to capture the sea smoke as the rising sun filtered through it, creating this warm and spectacular light.  So the night before, I planned my excursion, setting out 2 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, wool socks, boots, heavy jacket, fleece hat and facemask, and gloves. Then I dug out hand warmers (thanks Mom!) and toe warmers (Mom again) to put inside my gloves and boots.

I awoke at 5:30am on New Year’s Day to a temperature of -14°F. While the urge to stay under my warm blankets was strong, I forced myself to get up and head out. My first stop was Portland Head Lighthouse.  I’d always wanted to photograph it in winter, with snow on the rocks, and the warm glow of the morning sun. Upon arriving at the lighthouse, I met a few other photographers of similarly questionable sanity, noting that the temperature was still -14°F.

Ice in Portland Harbor
Ice in Portland Harbor

I made my way out onto the rocks, careful to watch my step as there was snow and ice everywhere. I wanted an angle a bit different from the usual shot most people get from the fence at the top of the bluff. I hopped the fence and tried a few different locations on the rocks, first with my Nikon 24-120mm lens, but I wasn’t really thrilled with the composition I was getting, so I switched to my Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art lens and suddenly the scene came alive for me. I love the look of ultrawide angle lenses, and the Sigma 14mm is superb. Wide angles force me to consider foreground interest in the composition, making for more interesting compositions.

After I felt I’d gotten what I wanted out of Portland Head Light for the day, I decided to head over to Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland. I had seen other photographers’ images from the previous few days, and was incredibly jealous that I couldn’t get out due to my work schedule, so this was my chance to create a few of my own.

Icy Morning at Spring Point Ledge Light
Icy Morning at Spring Point Ledge Light

While I did get one image with the 14mm lens that I liked, here the 24-120mm lens was more appropriate. So I once again switched lenses and went back to work. With the tide coming in at Portland Harbor, the huge chunks of ice began to float out a bit, creating an interesting foreground as the lighthouse emerged from the fog into the bright morning sun. It was a breathtaking sight to behold.

All told I spent about two and a half hours outside in sub-zero temperatures photographing the sea smoke around two lighthouses.  After we got back into the car- I had my girlfriend braving the cold with me- we headed to Becky’s Diner for an amazing New Year’s Day breakfast. And to thaw out a bit.

Winter Morning at Spring Point Ledge Lighthoue
Winter Morning at Spring Point Ledge Lighthoue

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

 

Sunrise at Portland Head Lighthouse

Shining Through At Portland Head Light
Shining Through At Portland Head Light

Last week, I had planned to go out and photograph at sunrise. Originally, I had planned to photograph at Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland. When I arrived, I noticed the sky was setting up to be one of “those” sunrises, where the clouds filled the sky just enough that they would pick up some color and add interest. I then also realized that if I wanted to make the most of it, Spring Point Ledge was the wrong place to be. It faced the wrong direction to really see all the color and get the sun in the shot. I quickly made the decision to head to Portland Head Lighthouse instead.

Dawn on Casco Bay
“Dawn on Casco Bay” Before the sun came up, the sky was more gray than anything, with just a hint of color on the horizon.

I’m not unique in the fact that Portland Head Lighthouse is one of my favorite places to photograph in Maine. But I’ve found that it’s like every other oft-photographed icon: no matter how many photos there are of it, every individual can put their own stamp on it and make a photo they can call their own. On this day, I got to Portland Head just in time to find a spot and get set up before the show began.  And I noticed there wasn’t another photographer in sight.

Autumn Sunrise In Cape Elizabeth
“Autumn Sunrise In Cape Elizabeth” As the sun came up, the sky suddenly exploded in color.

After a few false starts, I found a spot I was happy with and started making images. At first, a huge dark cloud had moved in and I wondered if the sunrise would be a bust. But as the sun continued to rise, the clouds continued to move and soon they began to turn a bright pink and then finally, the sky exploded into oranges and red, contrasted with purple in the darker clouds.  It was one of the most amazing sunrises I’ve seen.

As the waters of Casco Bay pounded the rocks just below me, I continued making exposures as the light continued to change.  I was splashed by the occasional wave and watched the sun break the horizon, the clouds changing colors. The whole show lasted maybe five minutes.

After the sun came up, I moved over to the other side of the lighthouse and used the soft morning light a little more. I finished up and headed out to find breakfast.

November Morning At Portland Head Lighthouse
November Morning At Portland Head Lighthouse