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.
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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

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

 

Photo Workshop: Letchworth State Park

Lower Falls of the Genesee River
Lower Falls of the Genesee River

Letchworth State Park, nestled just south of the Finger Lakes Region in Upstate New York, is a photographer’s dream. Known as the Grand Canyon of the East, and recently voted the best state park in the country in a USA Today Reader’s Poll, Letchworth offers a variety of subjects to keep any photographer busy for days.

Any discussion of Letchworth begins with its three dramatic waterfalls, created as the Genesee River flows north through a deep gorge. The three main falls, located in Portage Canyon, provide the centerpiece to the park. The Upper Falls are straddled by the Portage Bridge, a railroad trestle which is now in process of being replaced further upriver, but is still traversed by freight trains several times a day. The Middle Falls, just downriver, is the highest of the cascades, while the Lower Falls are located near the only trail that crosses the Genesee River in the park, spanned by a picturesque stone bridge.

Autumn at Wolf Creek
Autumn at Wolf Creek

In the fall, Letchworth State Park explodes in color, with the leaves changing brilliant shades of orange, red, and yellow. The fall foliage provides a spectacular backdrop for waterfalls, providing a fantastic opportunity for photographers to create a variety images of the landscape around the gorge.

This October, I will be leading a photo workshop in Letchworth State Park, as I explain my approach to landscape photography in general, and fall foliage and waterfalls in particular. Space is limited so register early to be sure you won’t be left behind. If you have questions, be sure to contact me or Worldwide Photo Tours. Hope to see you out there!

Autumn on the Genesee II
Autumn on the Genesee II
Autumn on the Forest Floor
Autumn on the Forest Floor
“Painted Autumn” was created by using a slow shutter speed and moving the camera during exposure to create an impressionist feel to the image.

letchworth art for sale

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

 

Sentinel Dawn

Behind the Shots: Sentinel Dome

Jeffrey Pine Dawn
Jeffrey Pine Dawn

After some encouragement from a friend, I’ve decided to start writing more about the images I’ve made, not just from a technical or an artistic standpoint, but also a personal one. My first post in this series was Sunrise at Portland Head Lighthouse. The images highlighted in this post were taken two years ago this month.

In March 2015, I was just beginning what would become the roughest period of my life. I didn’t quite yet know what was coming, but there were enough harbingers of the coming tribulations that I was rarely at peace during this time. In late March, I found myself on a business trip in the East Bay area. I had an event Saturday morning, but the event that was planned for Sunday had been cancelled the day before due to lack of interest, so I quickly adjusted my plans and drove the 4 hours to Yosemite National Park to be there in time for sunset.

Sentinel Dawn
Sentinel Dawn

After shooting sunset, I headed to my hotel to plan for sunrise. As I was driving I had heard that the road to Glacier Point had opened early for the season, the day I arrived. That helped make my decision easier. I had heard that sunrise from the top of Sentinel Dome was spectacular.  It was a mile hike from the parking area to the top, so I allowed some extra time and was awake at 4am. I was at the top of Sentinel Dome by 6am. Sunrise was 6:48, but already the sky was starting to glow.

There’s something about being alone, on top of a mountain peak, with nothing but the sounds of nature filling the air, Yosemite Valley stretched out below, and the Sierra Nevada range all around you. Despite the rumbling of thunder from the oncoming storms in my life, the mountain air, low rumble of three waterfalls- the Nevada, Vernal, and Yosemite-, and the soft light that was beginning to come up brought me complete peace.

Sunrise on Sentinel Dome
Sunrise on Sentinel Dome

The top of Sentinel Dome is bare granite.  Once a famous Jeffrey pine grew there, but it died in the drought of 1976 and eventually collapsed in 2013.  There are a few other trees on or around the peak. I set about making some photos, focusing first on the husk of the Jeffrey pine, just as some wispy clouds were passing behind them. As the sun began to edge closer to the horizon, the clouds glowed a bright pink and orange, lighting up the sky.

I used a Vü Filters 3-stop soft edged ND grad to hold the brightness of the sky in check, and my Induro tripod to steady my Nikon D810. My go-to lens for shots like these is my Nikon 16-35 f/4. I just love the wide angle view and being able to get close to my foreground subject.

I spent about two and a half hours at the top of Sentinel Dome that day, and then another few hours hiking to Taft Point and back again. On that morning, everything was perfect.

Yosemite Morning
Yosemite Morning