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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December 2018, The Nubble

High Tide At Cape Neddick December 2018
High Tide At Cape Neddick December 2018

The Nubble Lighthouse, in Cape Neddick, Maine, is a favorite for photographers, tourists, and locals alike. I first visited the Nubble 20 years ago on my first trip to Maine. It was a cold night in December and the full moon was up. There was snow on the ground and the Nubble was lit up for Christmas. It was magical, quintessential New England coast.

I took a few photos that night, on film, as I was three years from getting my first digital SLR, and unfortunately, I have no idea where those negatives are.  But now that I live in Maine, I try to visit the Nubble every so often to try and capture something new.

Tidal Cascade At Cape Neddick
Tidal Cascade At Cape Neddick

It’s almost impossible to make a bad photo here. My preference is to photograph at sunrise, with the sky aglow and some color in the clouds, and when the tide is high to get dramatic waves crashing on the rocks. On this particular morning, the sky didn’t cooperate as I’d have liked, but the tide did. One of my favorite things is capturing water rushing over the rocks, so I tried a few compositions with varying shutter speeds to change the movement, and these were my favorites.

As always my work can be purchased at my website.

December Morning at the Nubble
December Morning at the Nubble

The Custom House

Early Morning in the Old Port
Early Morning In The Old Port

Before I moved to Maine, one of my favorite places to visit was always the Old Port in Portland. The mix of old architecture, restaurants and boutiques made it a must whenever I traveled to Maine for business or pleasure. The centerpiece of the old port for over 100 years the United States Custom House, straddling the area between Fore Street and Commercial Street, right on the waterfront.

The Custom House was built between 1867 and 1872, designed by Alfred B. Mullet, who was the Supervising Architect of the Treasury from 1865 to 1874. There was a need for a new Custom House after the Great Fire of July 4, 1867.  The fire had destroyed 1800 buildings in the center of Portland, including the Exchange Building, which had housed the customs office, post office, and several other federal offices.

While I had often admired the building from the street, I had never photographed it. I could never find the right angle, or find a time when the street wasn’t filled with cars parked at the curb.  Just by chance, I was in the Old Port one day and happened to park in a parking garage and noticed that I had a clear line to the building with no wires overhead. The next step was picking the right time of day.

United States Custom House
United States Custom House

From the angle I had on the roof of the parking garage, the waters of Portland Harbor and the islands in Casco Bay were plainly visible. I also knew that the sunrise would be visible behind the building on a clear day, and I assumed the streets would be relatively clear early in the morning. I arrived just as the parking garage opened and made my way to the roof and set up. All I had to do was compose, and wait.

I decided a graduated neutral density filter would help balance the exposure between the sunrise in the sky and the darker foreground of the Custom House, so I used a a Benro 4-stop Hard Edge Graduated Neutral Density filter, and placed the transition exactly on the horizon in the background.  This allowed me to open up the shadows on the face of the Custom House and still maintain the orange glow that was present in the sky, that the camera would have lost on its own without some help.

I had planned to also take some images from street level, but by the time I completed my work on the roof of the parking garage, a truck had parked itself in front of the building, making it impossible to get a clean shot, so I called it a successful morning and headed to find some breakfast!

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

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.