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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Want to win a free signed print by yours truly? Join my email list HERE. One winner will be selected on September 30th to win a free 12×18 print of the image of their choice, signed by me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Much as I’ve made my disdain for most areas of Long Island well known, I always enjoyed photographing at Montauk Point. The combination of rocky shoreline, the lighthouse standing high atop the bluff, looking out at the sea, and the Atlantic Ocean crashing against the rocks, always makes for some beautiful images.
The series of shots shown in this post were taken on a December morning in 2015. It was a warmer morning and I only needed a sweatshirt. A friend of mine was up visiting from Florida, and had never been to Montauk before so I told him I’d take him. The catch was, he had to be awake at 4am so we’d be there for sunrise.
The weather report called for “partly cloudy” but when we arrived, we were greeted with a very heavy cloud cover. But looking at the horizon, I could see a faint glow, indicating a break in the cloud cover. If that break held, I knew we might get a few moments of magic.
We walked down to the beach and scoped out a spot and I began taking some pictures. The first few were a bit gray and dreary from the cloud cover, but all of a sudden, the sun got to the horizon and there was an explosion of color there. The clouds stayed dark and gray above, making for an interesting combination of dark and stormy and bright and hopeful. The effect lasted about 5 minutes before the clouds moved in again.
I tried a variety of approaches that morning. First, I just wanted to capture the water rushing over the rocks, so I simply used a graduated neutral density filter to help darken the sky a bit, and then a moderately long shutter speed to capture the movement of the water. After a while I decided to try a few really long exposures and came up with one that’s a bit more haunting, with the rocks appearing to disappear into the mist.
I think one of the reasons I love photographing at Montauk is that it’s the one place on Long Island that’s very similar to Maine, which I’ve loved since my first visit and finally moved to last year. The rocky shoreline and boulders on the beach are similar to some of my favorite spots here. One of these days I’ll visit again.