Autumn Abstract, Birch Trees and Fallen Leaves, October 2017
Time's running out for gift buying! Every year, my family always asks what to get me for Christmas and I never know what to say. But in the last few years, I've asked for coffee table books by photographers whose work I admire. One day I'd like to buy an original print from some of those photographers, but for now, I have the next best thing- a curated collection of their best work in a high quality beautiful photography book.
And that was my aim when I published my Acadia National Park book– I put all my best photos of Acadia into a professionally designed beautiful book. If you're looking for a unique gift to give someone special (or yourself), you can get a signed copy of my book, Under October Skies (Autumn in Acadia), directly from me at this link.
FREE SHIPPING for all orders shipped to a US address. I'll sign your book, package it up myself and send it out via FedEx today. For a limited time, use the promo code "Christmas2017" before December 24th and get $10 off your order.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
One of the most beautiful drives you can do in Acadia is along Park Loop Road in the Autumn. Colorful foliage lines your way, sometimes arching over as an autumn canopy of yellows, reds and oranges. Along the way, you'll see hundreds and hundreds of "Rockefeller teeth," the rectangular slabs of granite that act as guard rails.
I used a small point and shoot camera, held out the window of my car, as I drove down Park Loop Road from the start of the one-way road near Cadillac Mountain, almost to the Great Meadow. Enjoy.
After a visit to Acadia, it can take weeks for me to review, edit, then process all my pictures. It took more than six weeks this time round, but I finally finished going through my pictures from my two October trips to Acadia. I took 1700 photos all together. To me, that's almost embarrassing. I don't need to make so many images. Ansel Adams once said he was happy to create twelve masterpieces a year– I like that idea. Especially in these days of digital photography, we take way too many pictures. We should slow down, shoot less and create better images.
Having said all that, I spent a lot of time photographing water this Autumn. Water, as you know, changes constantly. And I spent a great deal of time photographing waves at Schoodic Point and reflections in Duck Brook, which, even if I set my camera to continuous shooting mode, would have given me a different picture with every frame. Hence the reason for 1700 pictures. It was hard to come home and delete so many good images. But I had to weed out a lot of really good images in order to allow the most stunning ones to rise to the top.
I don't like to race all over Acadia, collecting as many pictures as possible before my week ends. I'm continually looking, observing and watching weather conditions, to see what subjects present themselves to me in their best light. Often that means returning again and again to the same location as the conditions improve, whether that means better lighting, more intense colors or better weather.
Duck Brook was one location I had never been to before this Autumn. Normally, the small stream flows quickly, ruling out the possibility of getting some nice reflections in the water. But water levels in Acadia have been lower than normal for the past two or three years, and Duck Brook flowed quietly and gently, making it ideal to photograph abstract reflections of the colorful foliage along its banks.
I stopped by the brook four times in three days in order to hone my images of the reflections. First visits are always more of what the English call a recce (short for reconnoitre)– I didn't even bring my camera with me. The next trip is like visiting a new friend again, and by the third visit, it's like seeing an old friend. You feel the spirit of the place and become familiar with everything around you.
I spent several happy hours here, sometimes lying on my stomach along the edge of the brook in order to catch the right reflections. I wandered downstream past the beautiful (and high) Duck Brook bridge to photograph swirling leaves in the water, at one point my glasses slid off my head and landed in the brook- fortunately only a few inches deep.
I'm hoping the water levels rise by next Autumn, but I'm grateful that I was able to make some images that might not normally be possible. Enjoy.
I’ve already said it, and I’ll say it again. Landscape photography is all about light. If you want to improve your pictures, one of the easiest ways to do so is to pay attention to the light and make your images when the light shows you its best side.
In this image, taken looking out across the Great Meadow towards Sieur de Monts, there’s a colorful line of trees in the meadow, lying in the shadow of Dorr Mountain. On this day, with the sun occasionally peeking through thick cloud cover from time to time, the trees lit up beautifully for just a few seconds while the mountainside beyond lay in shadow.
When I first arrived, I noticed the clouds moving quickly across the sky. Everything was still in shadow but I could see a hole in the clouds off to the right. As I watched them, I knew that if I waited long enough, the sun would eventually shine through the hole in the clouds, light up the line of trees while keeping the mountainside in shadow, which is just what it did in the end. But it took time, about twenty minutes all together.
While I waited, dozens of people came by. Everyone looked at the scene– covered in shadow– took a picture, then moved on. I wanted to tell people to just wait. If they only looked up at the sky, saw the break in the clouds and realized the possibilities, some of them might have stuck around to see the beautifully lit trees I did.
Patience. It’s what you need for truly great landscape photography. Luck plays a part too, but if you watch the weather conditions and realize the possibilities, then wait for them to happen, you can get dramatically better photos. I realize we don’t all have twenty minutes, or an hour, or three hours to wait, but when you do take the time to wait for the light, the rewards can be great.
[this blog post originally appeared in the 2017 edition of the Photographers Guide to Acadia. All rights reserved.]
It was nearing the end of a long week, and I found myself alone in my favorite woods near the Great Meadow and Sieur de Monts. My creative juices were running low as I wandered through the woods with an 85mm lens on my Canon 5D Mark 2 camera.
I always spend a week in Acadia in October every year. The first day or two are exciting, full of exploring the island, finding out where the best color is, getting up early, staying up late, eating very little and generally having a great time. Then I start to explore areas where I haven't been before. Sometimes I find great new things to photograph, other times it's more of an exploratory trip to check off my list.
By the end of the week, I'm still enjoying myself, but I'm drained– physically and often emotionally. It's hard to keep up that intense search for good photography, always searching for the next image, or planning where to go next, not to mention always watching the weather and keeping an eye on the skies. Occasionally, I'll leave my camera bag in the car and set off on foot down a trail, or up a mountain, not planning on taking any pictures at all (but bringing a long a camera and one lens... just in case).
So on this occasion, I found myself in the woods, walking around, leaves crunching under my boots, half searching for things to photograph, half just enjoying the solitude and beauty of the woods. I took a few photos, but nothing that I thought would be all that good; I'd probably delete most, if not all, when I got back home.
So eventually– a month later– I had some time to go through the images from my trip, and I came to this one. I have to say here that all my pictures are shot in color, even those I plan on converting to black and white later on. The color information is stored in the digital files. With this particular image, the lighting was nothing special, though I liked the way the leaves seem to glow against the backdrop of the woods. But in color, it still seemed dull and uninspiring. I was about to delete it along with dozens of others I was getting rid of that day. But I had a few minutes so I decided to convert it to black and white and start to adjust the tones of the trees and leaves. I lightened the yellow leaves to stand out against the background. And because I had taken the picture with a very wide aperture (f/2 in this case) with a telephoto lens, everything with the exception of just a few crisp leaves was soft. I added some vignetting to the photo to draw the viewer into the leaves and added a sepia tint. Suddenly the dull color image became a beautiful black and white piece of art.
Since I made this image in 2012, it has featured in my ebook (The Photographer's Guide to Acadia) and my coffee table book (Under October Skies) and several people have bought prints of this image. Recently, it was the first print I sold from my new relationship with Artemis Gallery. I know at least a couple people who say it's their favorite images of all my pictures.
I have no idea when I take a picture if anyone will actually ever see the finished print; I have thousands of images that no one has ever seen. But this one has risen to the top and been appreciated by many people. It's a satisfying feeling.
It's hard to keep up with all the social media channels- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. I make my living in photography and have a hard time keeping up with everyone- amateurs and professionals alike- who posts to social media regularly. After all, I plow through 500-5,000 photos a week and it's hard to find the time to update my blog, post to social media, as well as spend time with my wife and kids. There has to be balance in life. It's not all about photography...
But while I've resisted Twitter (do I really need to tell you what I'm doing in 140 words or less?) and Snapchat (why?), I bowed to the pressure and jumped into Instagram a few months ago. While my posts have been sporadic until recently, I've got a wealth of images to share and plan on posting on a regular basis now. I'll also occasionally be posting discount offers for my books and large prints.
Having just returned from two recent trips to Acadia, I have plenty of new images to show you. Stay tuned, and follow me on my new Instagram page:
If you've been a regular follower of my blog, you'll know I visited Artemis Gallery in Northeast Harbor (Maine) this past summer and showed them some of my prints. This lead to me being part of a four person photography show which is currently on now at the gallery until September 29th.
The Thursday evening opening reception was well attended, with the gallery space full of visitors, as well as an outdoor space with wine and hors d'oeuvres and live music. All four photography artists were able to attend– one from Florida, two local Mainers and myself.
If you're in the area, I'd encourage you to check out the show. Located in an old home, tucked behind Sam Shaw Gallery, the gallery rotates exhibitions every two weeks from June to October.
Otter Cliff is one of Acadia's most beautiful and iconic locations. Above a wide rocky beach, the cliff juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, pounded by waves (on a windy day) and topped by thousands of pine trees. Viewed from the beach along Ocean Drive, the east-facing site lights up with the first rays of daylight, making it one of the best locations to see an Acadian sunrise. But, like most beautiful places in the world, it suffers from an overabundance of photographers, all trying to repeat the same picture they've seen someone else do before them.
Don't get me wrong, I've spent valuable time on the Boulder Beach, waiting for the sunlight to kiss the granite sides of Otter Cliff. I was even really disappointed one year (2008) when I arrived at the beach early, only to see a large crane rising a hundred feet above the cliff, forcing me to think fast and seek another place to photograph the sunrise. (It turns out they were shooting the latest Martin Scorsese film, Shutter Island, on the cliff face and had commandeered the cliff-top parking lot for several days with their trailers, cars and the large crane. But I digress.)
It's been a few years since I've photographed a sunrise at Otter Cliff now. Not that it doesn't look great, but because of the sheer number of photographers who line up to photograph the same scene. I just refuse to stand in a line to make the same image everyone else is. Not to mention it sometimes gets nasty. The unwritten rule of landscape photography is whoever gets there first has the right to set up anywhere they choose. All others will have to work around that first photographer. But I've seen people show up 'late' and walk in front of others who've been set up for over half an hour, and they just don't care. Angry words are exchanged and everyone leaves with a sour taste. The same thing happens at Bass Harbor Head lighthouse at sunset. And my time in Acadia is just too valuable for that.
I was visiting Acadia with a friend in 2012 and making pictures up above the beach, when I made this image above. There are over fifteen photographers here, all lined up along the beach. They're possibly still getting some nice pictures, but it just seems too much like an assembly line production to me. And Acadia, to me, is about peace, being alone with the elements and experiencing nature and creating expressive art. I just can't do that when everyone around me is doing the same thing.
So what are we to do? Well, if you have your heart set on photographing Acadia's most iconic image, by all means, go for it. It's a beautiful location, especially when the light cooperates. But try visiting out of season when you'll have the place to yourself and you're more free to move around as the light changes. Landscape photography is best when you're not mimicking someone else's photo and instead, you're thinking about how best to photograph the scene around you, in the conditions you find right then and there.
One of my favorite images from this location came because I looked behind me early one morning and noticed how beautiful the light was on the rocks and water, before the sun had even come up. Otter Cliff was at my back but I had discovered an even more beautiful scene. I'd never seen anyone else make an image like this in Acadia so it was unique to me. And that's the whole point of this- don't settle for what everyone else is shooting. Go ahead and photograph the iconic Acadia scenes, but try to open your eyes wider and be looking for beauty everywhere, at all times.
Back in June, I stopped in at Northeast Harbor to visit Artemis Gallery and show them some of my prints. But I arrived early and had a few minutes to kill before my appointment, so I headed down to the harbor to have a look around. If you've never been there, the harbor is a peaceful, but busy place with fishing boats, yachts and ferries coming and going, and plenty of lobster traps stacked on the edge of the boat ramp.
But what drew me that morning was the rusty chains lying around the rocks. I took note of them and went off to my meeting. Later that day, I returned to spend about an hour photographing the chains. It was overcast so I had nice soft light to work with. I thought the dry chains would look better wet though so I poured water over them, then realized I preferred them dry (pictures 2 and 3).
All images were made with a Pentax 645Z medium format camera, ISO 100, and a carbon fiber tripod.