I just sold another copy of this print through my gallery in Northeast Harbor, Artemis Gallery. This image is consistently my best selling print of Acadia. It’s a hybrid of abstract art and straight photography. People look at it and are never sure what they’re seeing at first, but then they ask questions – what are the black lines, where does the color come from, what am I seeing? Once they figure it out, they always seem pleased with themselves, that they had to think a little before they knew what was going on in the image. I like that in photography- it’s a very satisfying reaction to get.
A neutral density filter is basically a dark piece of glass you put in front of your lens, for no other reason than to darken the scene, which in turn means that you’ll need a longer exposure to get a decent image. But why would you do that, you ask? Well, mainly for artistic reasons. Read on to learn how and why.
Let’s say you’re photographing a stream and you want to make the water look smooth and creamy. If you make a straight picture of the scene, the water will generally appear pretty bland and uninteresting. But if, by putting a neutral density filter in front of your lens, you have to use a longer shutter speed, the water will become blurry and give you a nice, soft appearance, specially if you can slow down your shutter speed to longer than a couple of seconds.
In the image below, I used a three-stop (.9) neutral density filter and a twenty-five second exposure to blur the water and make it stand out against the darker rocks. Without the filter, the water wouldn’t have been as interesting; it would have blended with the rocks and all but ‘disappeared’ into the composition.
In the image below, I used a ten-stop filter, which means I needed ten times the exposure to take the picture. In this case, it took a 93-second exposure, or one and a half minutes. With such a long exposure, the choppy waters of Newport Cove were reduced to a milky smooth surface, almost like frosted glass. Is it realistic? No, but it’s an artistic interpretation and as artists, we’re free to make these choices when we create art with our camera.
I’ve also used a neutral density filter to photograph trees. In the image below, it was a breezy day, and I decided to use a really long shutter speed to accentuate the movement of the leaves, so that they became a colorful, soft blur of motion. I used the 10-stop filter again to lengthen my exposure to 162 seconds, rendering the grass and most of the leaves as soft blurs.
The Graduated Neutral Density Filter
As photographers, it’s our job to get the exposure right. If it’s too dark or too light, the photo’s ruined. In landscape photography, it’s even more crucial that we get the exposure right. If the shadows are too dark (underexposed), we lose a lot of the subtle details. If the sky is blown out (overexposed), we lose the subtlety in the clouds and the sky becomes a blob of white. Fortunately for the landscape photographer, we have graduated neutral density filters to help us solve, or at least minimize, the problem.
Where neutral density filters really come in handy is when you’re photographing a scene with a bright sky and a darker foreground. In this scenario, you’re either left with exposing for the sky (which will give you a dark foreground) or expose for the ground (which will give you a blown-out, overexposed sky). A graduated neutral density filter will add some darkness to the upper part of your scene, thereby lowering the brightness of the sky more to levels that match the foreground. Graduated ND filters are usually rectangular and fit into a filter holder that screws onto the front of the lens. Then you can slide the filter up or down to match the horizon line in your composition.
In the picture on the left, no filter was used. Notice how the sky has ‘blown out’ to pure white, with no detail near the horizon. We’re missing any detail here. In the picture on the right, I used a 3-stop graduated ND filter, which has brought down the light levels in the sky (but not on the rocks, which were covered by the clear glass portion of the filter). Now we can see the band of orange at the horizon and nothing is blown out. Notice however, that the darker part of the filter (which covered the top 40% of the picture), has darkened the cliff on the right. It doesn’t ruin the picture, but that is a consequence of using graduated filters– some areas may become darker.
Without a graduated neutral density filter covering the upper half of the picture, the sky would’ve come out too bright and dull. The filter darkened the sky enough to retain the vibrant colors and clouds that my naked eye saw when I made the image. In the end, that’s the really useful thing about graduated filters- they help you photograph a scene as the naked eye sees it, without the limitations of what your camera’s sensor can capture.
You know Autumn is coming closer when the Maine Foliage Report comes out. Today the first dispatch for Fall 2019 came out. This report is put out each Wednesday by the state of Maine, letting us know how the foliage is spreading down throughout the state… or if it’s all done.
Acadia typically doesn’t peak until the 2nd-3rd week of October, so you have plenty of time still. But this is the first sign that things are stirring in the state of Maine.
This is the second in a new series about the gear I use to make my images. I’m a firm believer in the idea that the photographer makes the image, not the camera, or lenses, or any other gear. It starts in the mind and it takes experience and knowledge to translate an image into a photograph.
But having said that, the gear I use is certainly an important aspect of my image making.
I bought my first tripod in the early 1980’s- a Slik Gazelle. It was a good, lightweight tripod that held my small Canon AE-1 Program and my little Super-8 movie camera, but it didn’t take long for the head to fall apart and it wasn’t able to handle my small telephoto lens very well, so I eventually bought a Bogen (Manfrotto) tripod, which could handle my heavier lenses. But being made of steel, it weighed a ton. I carried it around on trips road the world for almost twenty years, but I finally bought a carbon fiber tripod in 2008 and have never looked back.
Carbon fiber, if you’re not familiar with it, is very lightweight yet strong enough to hold some very heavy cameras and lenses. It’s the ideal landscape tripod if you’re going to be trekking in the wilds for hours and hours and are trying to minimize the weight you’re carrying.
I chose the Manfrotto CX190PRO3 because I liked its small size, but also its flexibility and ability to get my camera very low to the ground with its spreading legs. It also has a center column that extends parallel to the ground and allows me to shoot straight down without getting the legs in the picture… in this configuration, I learned early to use my camera bag as a counterweight after breaking an expensive lens when the whole rig tipped over one day. Lesson learned.
The tripod also has a built in bubble level which often comes in handy when I’m setting up to do panoramas and want to not only level the camera (with its electronic level), but level the tripod too. The Manfrotto CX190PRO3 has three leg sections and extends to about five feet- too low for some applications. I don’t like extending the center column for added height (the whole rig becomes too unstable), but I often need to. I’ve considered buying a taller tripod but then I’d have to deal with the additional weight, so I’m sticking with this one for now.
The tripod has a rated weight limit of about 15lbs but I’ve put far more weight on it without a problem. I’ve got an Arca Swiss monoball head which has a load capacity of 132lbs- I’ll never come near to testing its limits! But the tripod has handled my 400mm f/2.8 lens (about 15 lbs) with a 1DXM2 camera (another 4lbs) plus the 1.5lb ball head without a problem.
This is the only tripod I use in Acadia, but I also use it for all my commercial shoots, as well as many video shoots (with a video fluid head), so it gets a lot of use.
Manfrotto CX190PRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod
Uses: Everything- I almost never take a photo with a tripod
My Rating: 8/10
Cost: this tripod is not sold anymore, but the newer CX190PRO4 is $350 without a head
P.S. Just to be clear, I’m not sponsored by Manfrotto or any other manufacturer- these are just my honest opinions, from a professional photographer who uses this gear, day in and day out.
This is the first of a new series about the gear I use to make my images. I’m a firm believer in the idea that the photographer makes the image, not the camera, or lenses, or any other gear. It starts in the mind and it takes experience and knowledge to translate an image into a photograph.
But having said that, the gear I use is certainly an important aspect of my image making. I’ve been a professional photographer for almost thirty years and I spent many years honing my craft with film cameras (all of which I still own, about fifteen all together). Since 2002, I’ve been using a succession of better and better digital cameras (only six at last count). But the camera I use now for my fine art and landscape photography is the best I’ve ever owned.
In the 1990s, I used two Pentax 645 medium format (referring to a film format that’s about four times larger than 35mm film) cameras for weddings. Then digital came along and for several years, I didn’t use the cameras much, though I knew the lenses were incredibly sharp- much better than my Canons. Then in 2014, Pentax introduced the 645Z, 51-megapixel digital camera and I jumped in and bought it.
It’s a very different beast from my Canons, but I’ve enjoyed getting used to the camera’s layout, and love the sharp, big files, as well as the wide dynamic range of the images (the ability to show details in the shadows and highlights). I used to make a lot of HDR (high dynamic range) photos, where I’d combine 3-8 images of varying exposures together to make one image with good details in the highlights and shadows, but with the 645Z, I’ve stopped making HDR images– I can do it in one image rather than several now. I’m not going to try to do a camera review here; there are plenty of other websites doing that, but I’ll just say that this is the only camera I bring on my trips to Acadia now.
Just don’t ask how much it costs. Seriously, I get that question all the time- how much did your camera (or lens) cost? The bigger the item, the more people want to know. It’s a bit like walking up to someone in a swanky sports car and asking about the price tag. Or walking over to your neighbor and asking how much she paid for her house. If you really want to know, look it up, then add 25% (I did buy it when it came out and the price tag was higher, after all). :)
Pentax 645Z Camera
Uses: landscape, fine art, architecture, any time I’ll need to make a big enlargement
My Rating: 9/10
P.S. Just to be clear, I’m not sponsored by Pentax or any other camera manufacturer- these are just my honest opinions, from a professional photographer who uses the camera. Hey Pentax, if you’re reading this, how about making me one of your brand ambassadors? ;)
It takes a while to update a website, and today I’m ‘unwrapping’ a whole re-vamp of the Gallery section. All the pictures are larger, several new images are making their first appearance, and older favorites have been re-processed to be sharper and larger.
I’m now using a 5K (5120x2880 pixels) 27-inch monitor and have really noticed how much the quality of the images matters. The previous gallery images were 900 pixels wide and are now 1500 pixels wide, with panoramas being 2500 pixels. The result is a collection of images that are bigger, sharper and higher quality, with more detail on display than ever before.
Registration is now open for the October 2019 Images of Acadia photography workshop. Check out the details at this link. The trip is first come, first served, so if you’re planing on joining us, send me an email for a registration package and get your deposit in.
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 nineteen 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 the Acadia photo tour/ workshop, from October 8-13th. This will be a small group, only eight 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.
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 to get us around to all the sites. You're free to bring your own car, 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 5:30am when we head out for our first sunrise location (the sun comes up at ~6:50am). 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!
I love the coast around Acadia; I could spend all day just watching the waves- the explosive power of the ocean right in front of your eyes. The bigger the better!
I remember visiting Bubble Pond on my first trip to Acadia in October 2006. Everything was new to me back then and I took a few pictures on my first morning out, but they’re nothing to look at now. Over the years, I visited Bubble Pond from time to time, but I never saw anything worth photographing.
Fast forward to last October (2018) when I brought my workshop group to Bubble Pond. It was a very still morning and the pond was mirror-like; the reflections in the water were just stunning. Although I’d only planned on spending a few minutes there, we kept shooting for over an hour and half. The feeling of peace and serenity was overwhelming.
I focused mainly on the flecks of foliage sprinkled among the evergreens, which were then reflected in the silent waters. It seemed like everywhere we pointed our cameras, the compositions kept getting better and better. I made a series of panoramic images, as well as these more conventional compositions.
A few days later, after the workshop was over, I visited Bubble Pond again, but this time, the water was choppy, some of the colorful leaves had fallen and the atmosphere was completely different.
Today, only ten minutes ago, I found out that one of my images had been nominated in the 13th annual Black and White Spider Awards. Over 6,400 entries were received from photographers in 77 countries. This is the third time I’ve been nominated or won in the Spider Awards. View my winning entry here.
The winning image is one of my favorites from Acadia. I titled it, “Monster Wave” and it was taken on Schoodic Point in 2016. Read more about my experience photographing waves here at this link.