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photography workshops

The Gear... Neutral Density Filters

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The Gear... Neutral Density Filters

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.

Cobblestone Bridge and Jordan Stream, Acadia National Park, Main

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.

Sunrise along the east coast of Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

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.

Birch trees near the Great Meadow, Acadia National Park, Maine,

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.

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.

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.

Seal Harbor sunset, Mount Desert Island, Maine, USA

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.

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The 2019 Images of Acadia Photography Workshop

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The 2019 Images of Acadia Photography Workshop

Bubble Pond, taken during the 2018 Workshop

Bubble Pond, taken during the 2018 Workshop

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.

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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.

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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!

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Serenity at Bubble Pond

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Serenity at Bubble Pond

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.

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Images of Acadia on Instagram

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Images of Acadia on Instagram

My top nine Instagram images of 2018.

My top nine Instagram images of 2018.

I joined Instagram just over a year ago, thinking I’d give the photo-based social media site a shot and see if there was any interest in my work. It’s taken me a few months to figure out how it all works and build a small following, but just before Christmas, things blew up… and my images are regularly attracting 2-3,000+ likes, with more followers joining me every day. I don’t understand why, but it’s been very gratifying to read the comments and see how my images are inspiring photographers and others around the world.

Instagram has become the easiest way for me to regularly post my photos of Acadia. I still post to the Images of Acadia Facebook page, but if you want to see new pictures every two or three days, follow me on Instagram @imagesofacadia.

When I posted this image of a sunrise on Cadillac Mountain on my other Instagram page, @mikehudsonseye, it quickly became my most popular image on the internet- ever.

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The First Workshop

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The First Workshop

Me, Brad (Alabama), Jay (California/ New York), Colin (Illinois), Mark (Louisiana). Front row: Patrick (Massachusetts), Markos (Mexico) and Bill (Minnesota). Not pictured, Don (Missouri)

Me, Brad (Alabama), Jay (California/ New York), Colin (Illinois), Mark (Louisiana). Front row: Patrick (Massachusetts), Markos (Mexico) and Bill (Minnesota). Not pictured, Don (Missouri)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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?

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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.

Photographers Gallery

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October 2018 Photo Workshop

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October 2018 Photo Workshop

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.

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2018 Autumn in Acadia Photography Workshop, October 10-14

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2018 Autumn in Acadia Photography Workshop, October 10-14

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.

Small Pond on the Canon Brook Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine

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.

Dawn at the Boulder Beach, Otter Cliff, Acadia National Park, Ma

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!

Mike Hudson

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.

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Early morning mist hanging over Upper Hadlock Pond, Acadia Natio

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