Taken back in June, the water levels were low enough to expose a ring of algae around each boulder, making them appear to almost be floating on the water's surface.
Last month, over ten years of planning finally paid off when eight photographers joined me for several days of photographing the foliage and coastline in Acadia National Park. In the group, we had a Scotsman, a Mexican, and an Australian, and travelers from Louisiana, Alabama, Massachusetts, Minnesota, California and Missouri. Our photography experiences ranged from a professional architectural photographer to advanced amateurs; some had travelled extensively to take pictures and for some, it was their first time doing a trip like this.
The workshop started off well, with a sunset trip to Jordan Pond. Although we didn’t have any nice skies to shoot, we did photograph the beautiful reflections of the foliage lining the shores of the pond in the soft overcast light of the cloudy sky. And we were fortunate to have still waters, so we could see all the way to the bottom of the more shallow parts of the pond and see the submerged boulders under the water.
The next day, we all met up at 5:15am and headed for the coast in the hopes that the skies would clear and we’d be blessed with a beautiful sunrise. Alas, it was not to be and instead we waited in a light rain. But as I told everyone, a bad day in Acadia is often better than some of your best days in an office, so instead of planning for puffy pink and orange clouds at sunrise, we changed our mindset to black and white, to see if we could photograph some of the drama of a bleak, but moody daybreak on the coast. Slow shutter speeds brought out some of the rich, silky smooth waves that poured over the rocks at Boulder Beach.
Next we visited one of my favorite spots, near the Kane Path and Canon Brook trails to photograph a still, small pond in the mist. The sky was still overcast but the colors and reflections were fantastic.
The rain continued for most of the first day, so we used some of that time to talk about Lightroom and Photoshop how to process digital pictures. By mid afternoon, I was getting cabin fever so a small group of us trekked out to Jordan Stream and hiked down to Cobblestone Bridge for some photos.
The next morning brought more of the same overcast skies, though thankfully, not the rain of the previous day. But that’s all part of being a landscape photographer– you learn to make the most of whatever weather conditions you’re dealt with. After all, you can’t change the weather, so you photograph its strengths.
On the way back from the coast to the hotel for breakfast, we spotted a stunning line of maples at their peak. Literally, we could’ve just stayed in the van and photographed them without stepping outside, they were right alongside the road and very easy to photograph. I’m not sure if we saw any more intense colors than that for the rest of the trip.
The next few days were filled with plenty of color- but not much sunshine, though we did have a brief few seconds up on top of Cadillac Mountain, which was just enough to photograph some nice shots of the clouds lighting up and the wild blueberry bushes sparkling in the light before the cloud cover took over again (see picture at the top of this page). I think everyone enjoyed the chance to be some of the first ones to see the sunrise in the US that morning.
I think for me, my favorite images came from the time spent at Bubble Pond after we came down from Cadillac. The pond was completely still and the reflections were among the best I’d ever seen there or anywhere in the park. Sprinkled among the dark green evergreens along the shoreline were splashes of reds, yellows and oranges, which were also mirrored in the water below. I could’ve stayed for several more hours, but we had other places to visit. I didn’t plan on being there for more than fifteen minutes, but surprisingly, we stayed for over an hour and a half.
We finally had some beautiful skies the afternoon we climbed up Bubble Mountain to photograph the sunset overlooking Jordan Pond. The clouds and sun were in our favor and we were treated to a beautiful sunset with the sky lighting up pink and orange at the “appointed time.”
Our final morning saw us back at the coast, where we did have full sun, but few clouds. But we made some nice images of the coastal granite lighting up orange and pink, then made our way over the to Tarn for our last excursion, to see the side of Door Mountain lit up in the reflections among the reeds. As an added bonus, we had hundreds of runners jog past us, as the Tarn is along the course of the annual Mount Desert Island marathon, said to be one of the most beautiful courses in the country. Still, we were surprised when some of the runners, in all seriousness, asked us what we were taking pictures of, and how come we weren’t photographing them? Perhaps they didn’t realize that their route skirted alongside one of the most beautiful national parks?
Judging by how many people asked me to let them know about the 2019 workshop, I think it’s safe to say everyone went home happy with their time in Acadia. Sure the rain was a bit of a damper on photography, but like I said earlier, in landscape photography, you deal with whatever conditions you’re given and I think we did just that.
If you’re interested in joining me next year, send me a message and I’ll make sure you’re notified when registration opens up.
This is the picture that almost got away. In color, I didn't think much of this image and almost deleted it, but I worked with it for about an hour, converting it to black-and-white, then making it into a duotone, and adjusting the contrast. I like the results so much, I put it in my book, Under October Skies. More than one person has told me this is their favorite picture of mine. And just yesterday I sold another print of this through Artemis Gallery (@artemisgalleryme) in Northeast Harbor, the second print of this image they've sold. I think this picture also proves the point that autumn foliage doesn't always have to be photographed in bright, blazing color.
I wrote about this image a year ago- click here to learn more about the prices involved in creating it.
Some photographers don’t know what these are, but experienced landscape photographers wouldn’t go out without at least one graduated neutral density filter in their bag. A common problem in landscape photography is that the sky is usually two to four stops brighter than the ground below.
That leaves you with a quandary... should you expose for a correct exposure in the sky (and have the ground appear too dark), or expose for the ground (and end up with a blown-out bright sky)? This is when you need a graduated (or split) neutral density filter.
These rectangular filters are made of optical-grade resin and are held in front of the lens with a filter holder, usually a piece of plastic that attaches to the front of your lens and grips the sides of the filter. The top half of the filter is coated with a dye that darkens that part of the image.
Expose for the sky, or the ground? By using a graduated neutral density filter, you can obtain the perfect exposure for both. No filter was used in the first picture, and the sky is washed out with no detail near where it meets the water. In the second picture, a two-stop graduated neutral density filter was used to bring down the brightness of the sky and some of the water.
By sliding the filter up or down, you can position the darkest part over the sky and bring the brightness levels down to match the brightness of the bottom half of the picture. Neutral destiny refers to it the fact that it doesn’t add any color tint (it’s neutral) to the sky, just density (darkness). In the 1980’s, it was all the rage to have filters that added a tint– like blue to add color to a dull sky, or ‘tobacco’ which acted as a fake ‘sunset’ filter. Personally, I prefer the natural look from my neutral filters.
There's still time to sign up to be a part of the inaugural Images of Acadia photography workshop; I have space for 2-3 more people. We'll be immersing ourselves in Acadia landscape photography from October 10-14th, five days of photographing the coast, lakes, ponds, mountains, trails, streams and of course, the foliage. Learn from me, learn from each other. This will be a trip you won't forget.
For more information, click here.
I first published the Photographer's Guide to Acadia in 2014. Over the years, I've been keeping notes about places in Acadia that photograph really well. Some locations are better photographed in the early morning, others in the afternoon, and some are best seen while the sun is going down. It took me years of visiting these locations again and again, at all times of the day, to realize this.
I found some places in books or on postcards. I asked locals and other photographers for suggestions. I pored over maps to discover where the light might be extra special at a certain vantage point. Some locations were great and I came away with beautiful photos. Other places sounded good, but photographically, I came away with nothing. But all the while, I kept making mental notes about where the best places were.
Eventually after eight years of exploring Acadia this way, I sat down one winter to write a book where I could share my extensive knowledge of Acadia with other photographers– so that they could spend their time in the park well, not searching fruitlessly with nothing to show for their labors. OK now... I'm all about wandering through the landscape with no agenda, observing purely for the sake of enjoying nature. But I also know most visitors have little time to wander aimlessly. They want to leave with iconic images, beautiful prints that they can hang on their walls or show friends.
The new, second edition of the Photographer's Guide to Acadia gives you my Top Ten suggestions of places to see and photograph in Acadia. But I also tell you when to visit them- the best time of day– and how to photograph them. I share with you the camera settings I used, what kind of lens is best in any given location, and any other extra gear I used, and what filters might be appropriate. I also talk about how to use your camera more effectively, and how to creatively use aperture and shutter speed to be more artistic in your photography.
Best of all, every photo in the book is tagged with a link to Google Maps, so that you only have to touch a photo on your screen and you'll be taken to the exact location where I made the photo, and be given directions how to get there. You can't do that with a printed book; only an ebook has this advantage!
If Under October Skies is my ultimate book of fine art landscape photography in Acadia, the Photographer's Guide to Acadia is the book that gives away all my secrets. You'll read how I made many of the images, the gear I used and what I was thinking when I made the photo. If you're planning to visit Acadia National Park this year, download your copy of the book and start planning your trip now. It's only $12.99.
I always get out of bed early when I'm in Acadia, with the eternal hope that there'll be a stunning sunrise with the sky lighting up in a brilliant show of fiery reds and oranges over a beautiful Acadian landscape. Unfortunately it doesn't always happen that way. Often, the sun remains hidden behind a veil of clouds and at the appointed time, all you see is dull, heavy cloud cover.
This was one of those days. But fortunately, there was a misty fog this morning and as the weak sun tried in vain to pierce the gloom, I knew there would be no good color to photograph that day. So instead, I decided to think in monochrome.
The image here is all about the line of the coast, and the weak sun straining to cut through the fog. When color is an integral part of your image, photograph in color. But often a photo is more about shapes, textures and form, and color might only distract from your image. When doing landscape photography, ask yourself if color is important to the image. If not, think in black and white and pay more attention to contrast, and the subtle differences between light and dark.
Of course, if you're using a digital camera, you're already shooting in color (hopefully your camera is set to shoot in raw), and you'd plan to convert the image to black and white back home anyway. But I find if I think in black and white while I'm shooting, I tend to think more in terms of contrast, and shades of gray. Always have your end product in mind while you're shooting.
For years, I've been working on putting together my own photography workshop in Acadia. For one reason or another, I've never gotten it off the ground, though I've had interest from several people all over the country. Well, that's all about to change.
Autumn is the best time to visit Acadia. The colors are sublime, the air is clear and the scenery is second to none. I'll take you to see many of my favorite locations in the park. As a veteran of eighteen visits to Acadia, I know my way around and will show you the best places to be given the weather and lighting conditions. I wrote The Photographer's Guide to Acadia and can guarantee you'll have great scenery to photograph.
I'll be running my first Acadia photo tour/ workshop, from October 10-14th. This will be a small group, probably 4-8 people at the most. You'll be staying at my favorite hotel in Bar Harbor and spending each day out in the national park, visiting some of my favorite sites, shooting from dawn 'til dusk and receiving personal instruction from me. In the evenings we'll get together to look over the day's pictures, and I'll teach you some of my favorite techniques for processing your images in Lightroom and Photoshop. If you're interested in joining me, send me an email and let me know you're interested. I'm anticipating these few spots will fill quickly.
Images of Acadia Photo Tour/ Workshop... $1895
Price includes accommodation as well as transportation around the Park each day. If you look at most other Acadia photo workshops, accommodation and transportation are an additional cost, so this is one of the most affordable photo workshops in Acadia. Hotels near Acadia are not cheap, so several days' lodging can easily add $1000 to your total cost. Breakfast is included at the hotel, but you'll need to cover your lunch and dinner expenses. I want this to be a trip where you don't have to worry about all the extras, but where you can concentrate on your photography and creating art with your camera.
I'll have a van or car to get us around to all the sites. You're free to bring your own, or rent one, but I'll be driving us around to take the burden of transportation from you if you choose. And by traveling together, I'm hoping we can build camaraderie and learn from each other as we compare notes, pictures and 'talk shop.' The idea is to learn not just from me, but from each other and our different backgrounds and experience in photography.
A typical day will start about 6am when we head out for our first sunrise location (the sun comes up at ~6:55am). We'll go back to the hotel for breakfast then return to the park until we break for lunch in a nearby town. After the sun goes down around 6pm, we'll head back to Bar Harbor and have dinner together at one of the town's great restaurants. Then you can wander around the town for a while– Bar Harbor is full of souvenir shops, bookshops and more– before we return to the hotel for the night. If you're still awake and there's interest, I can go through some of the techniques I use to process my images and answer any questions you have.
What sort of camera do I need to have?? I would say any D-SLR (interchangeable lens) camera is sufficient. You don't have to have the latest, greatest camera or lenses. But a camera that can be set manually is a big plus. I'll teach you how to use manual exposure for most of your pictures, and how to use aperture and shutter speed to create art with your camera. A tripod is a must too. Recently, I've begin using my iPhone for simple grab shots and have been enjoying that- I can share some of my insights with you. I'll be sending you a list of what gear I bring and some suggestions for any extras you may want to purchase before the trip, like filters and even appropriate clothing to bring.
What's the weather like at that time of the year? I generally find it to be pretty comfortable in mid-October. I've seen it get into the 70's but I've also been bitterly cold waiting for the sun to rise on top of Cadillac Mountain, with wind chills probably in the low 20's. But typically, the temperatures are in the 50's or 60's during the day. I generally see rain only once or twice a week during October, though if it rains more often, we'll just have to deal with it!
Is there a lot of hiking? Generally speaking, no. Most locations are pretty close to the road or parking areas, though we'll probably walk into the woods a little or maybe take a carriage trail into the heart of Acadia. But we will definitely be climbing over rocks along the coast. Nothing strenuous, but bring sturdy hiking boots- street shoes won't cut it here.
If you have any other questions, let me know, and I'll also be adding to this page as I think of additional things to include.
I hope to see some of you in October!
PS If you think you're interested in joining us, fill out the form below with your name and email address and I'll send you a registration form.
I've never been a painter. But I wish I could paint. I envy those who can convey the sense of a scene in oils or watercolor, or artists who can conjure up scenes in their minds and commit them to paper or canvas. But instead, I use a camera to create my art. But unlike many photographers, my goal is to create a sense of a place (its essence), not just a snapshot of what it looked like. I want my viewers to see what it felt like.
I could've photographed this pool of water along Duck Brook the way it looked when I came upon it– deep water, littered with fallen leaves and surrounded by the rocky edges of the brook. But to me, I saw it differently. I noticed how the colors of the bright autumn foliage lit by the sun reflected in the water, if viewed from the right angle. And, even though it was almost imperceptible, the pool was slowly revolving, so I brought out that movement by using a slow shutter speed.
I think my interpretation of the scene is an image of the colors, movement and beauty of the scene. This is what the Impressionists in the late 1800's were trying to accomplish. Not a literal transcription of what they really saw, but more an artistic image of the feelings they had when they painted a scene.
I haven't picked up a paintbrush in many years, but instead I use my camera to paint scenes. Not all the time– occasionally a scene just photographs well with little artistic interpretation on my part; natural light paints its own beautiful images without any help from me. But I love the opportunity to use my camera to paint the landscape, and be an artist, not just a photographer.
Fallen birch leaves, near the Great Meadow.