Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Photo quote for today: "Let us first say what photography is not. A photograph is not a painting, a poem, a symphony, a dance. It is not just a pretty picture, not an excercise in contortionist techniques and sheer print quality. It is or should be a significant document, a penetrating statement, which can be described in a very simple term - selectivity." -Berenice Abbott

How does one standout in a crowd? With flowers, such as these Lupines, it would be easy to loose the impact of the three individual stems if everything was in focus. So in this image I opened up the lens, and let the rest of the field go soft against the main subjects.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tiger Swallow Tail

Photo quote for today: "I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don't like to arrange things. If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself." -Diane Arbus

When I looked out the window this morning I noticed the new buds on the Lilac bush. With that in mind, I remembered back to an image I had made of a Tiger Swallow Tail on that Lilac bush.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Spring in the Garden

Photo quote for today: "The virtue of the camera is not the power it has to transform the photographer into an artist, but the impulse it gives him to keep on looking." -Brooks Anderson

The first flowers to make an appearance in our garden every spring are the Pulsatillas. So last weekend, while cleaning up the beds, I dragged around my camera and macro lens and made these two images. I'm attracted to both the fuzzy texture of the new blooms and colorful centers, which in macro appear to me like an explosion of color you'd see a fireworks display. Once they've past the seed heads make for great abstract images.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lone Sentinel

Photo quote for today: "No place is boring, if you've had a good night's sleep and a pocket full of unexposed film." -Robert Adams

When does ordinary become something special? On this day it was when the light and fog turned an ordinary field into a rather interesting composition. As a boy I grew up a five minute walk from here. As an adult I've driven past this field every morning on the way to work for twenty years, never giving it a second look until that day when it all came together.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Destination Little Whaleboat Island

Photo quote for today: "You learn to see by practice. It's just like playing tennis, you get better the more you play. The more you look around at things, the more you see. The more you photograph, the more you realize what can be photographed and what can't be photographed. You just have to keep doing it." -Eliot Porter

This weekend's images are from a day trip that John Theberge and I took out of Harpswell Neck, which is located in the northern end of Casco Bay. Our plan that day was to paddle south to Little Whaleboat Island.

We started our trip at a place called Lookout Point. Off on the very distant horizon to the right is Shelter Island, which was to be our first stop of the morning. With a clear blue sky, we were able to navigate this leg by line-0f-site, and not have to spend time looking down at the compass or GPS. We put in at around 8:00 am, and if we caught all the lights, figured we'd make it to Whaleboat around mid-day.

Roughly and hour out of Lookout Point, we were on the approach to Shelter Island. The ledges in the foreground seem to be a favorite spot for various sea birds. The granite shoreline made the landing a little challenging. The island turned out to be totally tree covered and fairly steep, so after a quick break it was back in the kayaks. Because Little Whaleboat Island was still somewhere over the horizon, the next leg of the trip would need to be navigated by chart and GPS. The next group of islands on route would be The Goslings. The challenge with finding your exact location in Casco Bay is that there are three-hundred and sixty-eight islands to choose from. If you miss your target island you end up wasting time getting back on course.

This area of Casco Bay is dotted ledges, which is great for the birds, and keeps the boat traffic to a minmum.

The Goslings is a grouping of three small islands, with the larger of the three below a favorite destination point for boaters. On this day we decided to pass on a landing and paddle through to our final destination point.

After about fours hours of paddling we beached the kayaks on Little Whaleboat Island. 

On the back side of the island we observed another kayaker who had paddled in from the south.

On our way back to Lookout Point we chose a more westerly route with more favorable winds. The image below is from the west side of Lower Goose Island. Once we cleared this island the wind came up strong, so the cameras packed for the day, and we had to focus on keeping the kayaks on course.

Bas Harbor Headlight

Photo quote for today: "Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter." -Ansel Adams

What would Maine Coast week be without the obligatory lighthouse photo? This is the sunny-side-up version of the reflection I posted earlier this week. Even though this lighthouse has been photographed more times then anyone can count, and that I was using the same tripod holes as the previous five-hundred photographers, it was still worth my time. All things being equal, if you were to put a group of photographers in the same location, it should be no surprise that no two images would be alike. An image first starts to come together (to quote an old cliché) "in your minds eye", and as one continues to grow their photography, their style starts to emerge.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bass Harbor

This morning while sorting through my work desk, I came across a collection of photo quotes that I have on occasion re-visted whenever I've felt the need to jump start my creative juices. So starting today, I'd like to share some of this food for thought. This first one is my favorite.

"What we do during our working hours determines what we have: what we do in our leisure hours determines what we are." -George Eastman

Sunrise at Bass Harbor. Located on the souteast end of Mount Desert Island, this working harbor sits in the shadows of Acadia National Park and the more well known Bar Harbor. Whenever I go to a location I try my best to explore every corner to make sure I've made the most of the trip.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kayaking Camden

Here's a view few tourists get to see. Curtis Island Light sits outside of Camden Harbor but is only visible from the water, or the top of Mt. Battie in the background. A small portion of Camden Harbor can be seen on the left. My wife had dropped me off at the launch site them went off to go shopping, while I made my way to Rockport just a few miles down the coast. My wife often expresses concern when I'm out in the open water by myself. I kind of feel the same leaving here alone on main street in Camden with the credit card; at least I have a life jacket.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reflections from Bass Harbor Head

Bass Harbor Headlight is popular with both tourists and photographers. While vacationing on Mount Desert Island, I visited the headlight and came across this reflection while climbing along the shoreline rocks, and found the view from this angle rather interesting. I displayed this image in a physicians office and was told by the manager that by the end of many a work day they would find the frame had been rotated by patients, thinking it was up-side-down.

Sunset on Cadillac Mountain

With summer fast approaching I thought I'd spend this week posting scenes from the Maine Coast. This first image was taken on the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A taste of Italy

Thought for the weekend I'd take a break from my usual nature images and give you a little taste of Italy with some photoshop thrown in.

Street artist at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome

Shoppers and Artist in Rome's Piazza Navona

This image and the next 4 below were taken in Florence in Piazza Di Santa Croce

Sky Watch Friday

This is an image of the lunar eclipse from February 13th. Shot in single frames then layered back together in PS. The night was cold  and crisp, and the lunar detail was at its best.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Water Lily

Water Lilies are a somewhat of a challenge to photograph because they only open from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, which is not considered prime time for photography. Took these using a circular polarizer to control the glare and increase the saturation.

On the Wing

While I was out exercising the dog this morning I could hear the geese honking up a storm in the open water. Reminded me of an image shot from the kayak in the backyard.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Angel Falls

These two images are from Angel Falls. The bottom one is more about composition then color, while in the broader landscape color plays a bigger roll in the final image. When I find myself in an interesting area I like to work the subject from as many different angles as possible.

This is one of those places that I almost never made it into to photograph. Using my Gazetteer to help locate these falls, I had driven my 4X4 a couple of miles down a rough logging road to the trailhead parking lot. My wife and I then harnessed the dog and packed the gear for what should have been a short hike, but after searching the area for over an hour we were unable to locate the trailhead. Frustrated by the effort I was ready to call it a day, when my wife suggested we take a break, garb a bite, and then try it one more time. While we were snacking we heard the sound of a large vehicle driving down the logging road. When I went to check it out I was suppressed to see that it was a full-size tour bus filled with out-of-state visitors. When I asked the guide where they were headed she replied Angel Falls. I took note of the direction they were heading, and after they made their way back to the bus I followed in their footsteps. I know what some of you may be thinking, but technically I wasn't really asking for directions.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Atlantic Puffins, a Down East Adventure

I was sitting in my office earlier this week trying to think of something different to post on my blog that would give both the reader and viewer a better feel for Maine, and decided that sharing my experiences traveling to Machias Seal Island and photographing the Atlantic Puffins would be as Down East as it could get. So here we go, hang on to your L.L. Bean boots. Oh! In case you were wondering why I was sitting in my office daydreaming about my blog post, the reason is that part of my daily routine requires I read the boiler plate language in commercial contracts to make sure everything is in order. The only people I know of who find this interesting are the same ones who think watching paint dry is exciting. If you know someone, pass on their name; I may have a new career for them.

My trip to Machias Seal Island started the day before I was to set sail with a scenic ride along the beautiful Maine Coast to the fishing village of Jonesport, where I met up with the charter captain to discuss our departure time, then settled into my room at a local inn for the evening. Lying in the shadows of Acadia National Park, Jonesport is located about ninety minutes north of Ellsworth, Maine on U.S. Route 1. People from away don’t generally wander that far Down East unless they’ve missed their turn for Bar Harbor. If for no other reason, its geographic location has allowed Machias Seal Island to remain relatively unknown, located about ten miles off the Maine coast. It’s not the end of the world but you can see it from there, and if the boat captain misses the turn you could find yourself sipping Bordeaux with a Parisian named Pierre somewhere along the coast of France (you may want to dust off your beret just to be on the safe side). The island is approximately fifteen to twenty acres in size, its rocky granite shoreline provides a striking contrast to the higher parts which are covered by a lush green meadow and lighthouse. To preserve the vulnerable seabird nesting colonies, it was established as a federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary by Canada back in 1944, and during the summer a member of the Canadian Wildlife Service is on duty, monitoring island activities and helping preserve that delicate balance between man and nature. Today the island supports a breeding colony of around 3000 birds. It’s one of the few islands where visitors can actually land to observe and photograph Atlantic Puffins. For serious birders this is a must see place. On one of my trips, the group included visitors from as far away as Europe and Australia. If someone is interested in making the trip, you need to consider booking well in advance, and hope for the best. The Canadian government only allows a limited number of people per day on the island, and with charters running from both the U.S. and Canada, space is limited.

It was the morning of July 4th, and the charter captain wanted to make it back to the mainland in time for the “lobstaah” boat races (ayeah, took a while to convince spell check I had that one right), so we set sail at around 5 am. A combination of the early morning wake-up call, and the threat of rain kind of thinned out the crowd that day to only the true diehards and me. I was there because two weeks earlier the processing lab totally destroyed the film from my June trip. So I was waiting on stand-by for a cancellation when the call arrived at my home to either be there for the 4th or wait until next season. So I packed my bags, kissed the wife goodbye, patted the dog, and out the door I went (I believe that was the order of events, regardless, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). To reach my final destination I had to leave the car behind (unless you’re one of the few remaining proud owners of a 1963 Amphicar), and board a specially modified 40' open air lobster boat (spell check liked that one ok), for my voyage to the island. Depending on your departure point, you’ll be on the water one or two hours each way. Keep in mind that tides in that neck of the woods run around 40 feet. So what you say, it’s not like the boat is going to drag bottom on the way out, and you’d be right. But if the dock you departed from was fixed, like it was on my first trip, you could find yourself climbing a three-story ladder with your camera gear in tow on your return, or if you’re not in a big hurry, wait for high tide and the boat to rise.

As we were heading out to the island, I thought back to my first trip, which was with a group from the Audubon Society and University of Maine. The sea conditions were perfect, blue skies and flat water. During my follow-up trips into the Bay of Fundy, including the one I was on that day, I learned that good weather and flat seas were the exception, and also that I was not immune to being seasick (not pretty). The weather I experienced during my first trip has never repeated for me since that time. The weather is critical because the sea needs to be flat enough to anchor the boat off-shore and allow for your dingy to off-load you onto an access ramp, which is carved out of the granite shoreline. You make landfall by riding a wave into shore with the dingy (body surfing is not encouraged; the salt water is not the best for a camera). If the weather is too rough you’re stuck observing the birds from the boat, which is not all that interesting if you had planned on taking photos.

Because these birds are sea birds, the season to observe them on the island is rather short, June & July, and once beyond the mating season, they loose their colorful bill. They make a rather unique sound when they're in their burrows. For those of you who ever heard someone running a chain saw in the distant woods, you've got it. I know that first hand because on that first trip I was lamenting to the Audubon guide about some idiot running a chain saw while we were trying to photograph the birds from our blind. He got a big chuckle out of that comment (duh), and I added one more bird sound to my knowledge base (add that to the Blue Jay and I’m up to two).

From the moment you set foot on the island you can't help but notice that there are birds everywhere, in the air, on the water, all around you. The most numerous, and distant traveler to these nesting grounds are the Arctic Tern, which logs an amazing 25,000 miles annually from its home in the Antarctic Circle. If it were not for the Terns on this island, which are very territorial, the Puffins would have a hard time of it with the Gulls. These little guys don’t care who they go after. One of the first warnings you receive when you’re getting out of the dingy is to stay on the path and wave your hands over your head as you make your way to the lighthouse for a briefing. Ignore that caution and you’ll need to be doing laundry when you get back to the mainland, or in some cases I’ve seen them peck an individual on the forehead and draw blood. Common Terns, Common Murres, Razorbill Auks, and the Leach's Storm-Petrel are among other inhabitants. However, the most popular species on the island is the Atlantic Puffin, and this colony is one of the most southerly in its Atlantic breeding range. What makes the island such a great place to photograph them from are the boulders they use as nesting sites. In the daytime when not out gathering food, the boulders are used as roosts, and their close proximity to the blinds affords great photographing for everyone.

Photographing these birds can be somewhat challenging, and there are several things to consider in preparation. Bring your own food and water; you’re not sailing on the QE 2, and there are no Quick Stops on the way. Because of the potential for a difficult landing, the photo equipment you carry onto the island should be kept to a minimum, with thoughts of keeping your hands as free as possible. A photo backpack is probably the best choice . There are four observation blinds located on the island, and depending on the size of the group, trying to shoot from a tripod can become nearly impossible (lesson learned from my first trip over). A monopod is ideal for these conditions, it also allows you to quickly adjust for the different blind openings. Lenses in the 200mm to 300mm length will be sufficient for groups and singles shots. When photographing wildlife, selective focusing along with a shallow depth of field work well in making your subjects standout among the sometimes busy backgrounds. For those accustomed to shooting landscapes, this represents a departure from the norm, where it is usually preferred to have everything in sharp focus. Focusing on your subject’s eye will generally give you the result you desire.

Sometimes referred to as a "sea parrot", this portly seabird boasts a distinctive yellow and red striped bill. Achieving flight underwater similar to that of a Penguin, Puffins gather their food, mainly small fish like Capelin, and carry as many as a dozen at a time without losing those caught previously in their bills. The birds usually arrive in late April, but remain in the water around the island for some time until choosing a foggy or rainy day; they suddenly fly as one flock to their nesting sites. A simple nest is established among the large granite boulders which provide shelter and concealment. The female lays a single egg which is incubated by both parents.

Careful planning and preparation will leave visitors with a great sense of accomplishment, and images that can be cherished for years. My trips to this small Migratory Bird Sanctuary have left me with an enlightened understanding of the complexities of nature, along with an appreciation for the efforts being made by those dedicated individuals who preserve it. After a hard day at the grid, spending the summer on a small Maine island watching and listening to these sea birds sounds better all the time.

Enough said I’ve run out of paper.

Spring Birches

Came across this stand of Birches on the way to the Bear River in Grafton Notch State Park. It was one of those situations where the lighting was diffused and just right. I've printed this image in both b&w and color, with equally good results.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Today I thought take out the long lens and focus it on flowers instead of wildlife. A long lens does a great job compressing the subject, and this field of Sunflowers was a prime location for just that type of photography.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


This sunrise was photographed from my kayak, and was made just shortly after leaving my home for a morning paddle. The early morning fog and the reflections of the sky onto the water gave the scene the feel of a painting.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blue Flag & Ferns

I took this image in a large cove across the river from my home. They like it wet as you can see from the surrounding ferns so they tend to grow near the shores of the river, making them easy to find when I'm out paddling. In my area Blue Flags peak around Father's Day.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring Stream

This is the time of year I get excited about photographing moving water. If you look at my bio. photo, you'll notice that this is the composition I'm focused in on. The bio. photo is courtesy of John Theberge. This is a seasonal stream located about a mile paddle, and ten minute hike into the woods, across from my home.