Maine’s Rocky Coast

What would a photo trip to Maine’s coast be without including a focus on its rocks? You’ve seen these in numerous photos where they look great from a distance, but I decided to literally focus on them up close. This is also an exercise in capturing form and texture, which it quite useful for developing a “photographic eye.”

Like our own bodies, our planet undergoes constant change. What appears as a permanent Earth is only temporary. According to a placard installed in Two Lights State Park by Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands, there is an interesting  story associated with these rocks. They are about 440 million years old. They formed:

. . . when sand and mud eroded off the continent and into the bottom of an ancient sea. Over time, the sediments hardened into layers of the sedimentary rocks called sandstone and shale.

As if in a giant vise, that ocean basin was being gradually squeezed between the ancient edge of North America and a micro-continent geologists call Avalon. As Avalon advanced toward North America, those sedentary rocks were folded, faulted, and subjected to a prolonged period of pressure and heat. This process changed the sandstone and shale into light brown quartz and dark gray phyllite, the metamorphic rocks that we see today.

About 400 million years ago, Avalon finally collided with North America. This collision destroyed the ancient ocean, lifted these rocks, and formed the northern Appalachian Mountains, which were several miles high [author’s note: much like portions of the Rockies today]. This was a geologically active time of massive earthquakes and erupting volcanoes. Within the next 150 million years all the Earth’s continents merged into one giant landmass called Pangea (“All Earth”).

Then about 200 million years ago, Pangea began to break apart. Great fissures spewed forth molten rock, and earthquakes shook the landmass as it broke up along fault lines into the continents of North America , Eurasia, and Africa.

Of course, change is not over, yet. The earth will continue to undergo dramatic change for the next 15 billion years, when our sun becomes a red giant.

You can see how the rocks have folded back on to themselves in the following photo as a result of being pushed up to the shore.

Folded rock
Folded rock
Snails anchored in the rocks

Nooks and crannies in the rocks provide homes to snails and resting places for gulls.Watching the boats go by

The rocks also work for humans.

As I said previously, the rocks continue to be reshaped by erosion caused by the sea, sun, and air. The three full-size photos, below, offer a close-up view of these effects, that just fascinate my eye. I suspect the cracks which appear so geometrical are the results of alternating heating and cooling that caused breaks at the rocks’ fissures.

IMG_5334 IMG_5317Here, it almost looks as though someone cut the rock with a saw.

IMG_5344Stepping back for the “big picture” is even more interesting as the crags in the rock invite the viewer to scan down the scene.IMG_5351Just as mollusks find the rocks a good place to live, so do some of the moss and lichens, below.

IMG_5354As I travel around looking for some good foliage scenes during the next two weeks it’s becoming evident that these will not be as dramatic as the classic Vermont and New Hampshire scenes. Maine, particularly along the coast, has far more conifers and Oak tress (the latter going mostly from green to brown) so the concentration of color will be more dispersed. Even so, Maine’s colors are beginning to pop, the Maples up first manifesting their bright reds.

Lots to do yet!

-From Portland and the mid-coast

On to Rockland

I drove up to Rockland earlier this week to decide if it might be a good area to spend a few days during peak foliage. It is a “come back” town. Formerly a run-down fishing community, today it has a museum of American art, about a dozen art galleries, coffee houses; and upscale, independent stores. It has more windjammer cruises than its neighbor, Camden. Rockland also has a huge ferry terminal operated by the State of

Rockland Harbor
Rockland Harbor

Maine. From there you can make relatively long voyages to North Haven, Vinal Haven, Matinicus, and Ragged Islands.

After looking around Main Street, I walked to the harbor for a few shots. Gone were the large yachts such as those of Belfast, Camden, and Portland but this could be due to the season—some boats now being in dry dock, others sailing south.

Owls Head Light
Owls Head Light

I was anxious to go to Owls Head Light, as it overlooks Penobscot Bay and Rockland. Although the park was quite nice, the lighthouse was not impressive. It was small, and given the terrain, there was no way to get a really artistic shot. Unlike most other lighthouses, you literally had to stand next to it to shoot, as shown in the accompanying photograph.

There was a beach at Owl’s Head that provided a nice view toward the north end of Rockland where I caught a nice scene with two sailboats on outbound courses.

Outbound from Rockland

From here I was off to Birch Point Beach where, like Portland Head Light, artists abounded. I figured this had to be a pretty good spot to photograph. Here are but a few shots, including some of the artists. Maine’s coast continues to inspire artists and attract tourists. As urbanized as most of us are, nature continues to be something we need.

Artists (and dog) at Birch Point Beach
Birch Point Beach, looking Southwest

All in all I decided Rockland would indeed be a good spot for photographing the northern part of the mid-coast so I reserved a room at a local motel. Not only will I be there to capture the fall colors at peak, but I’ll be able to get dawn and dusk shots when lighting is best since I won’t have to content with ferry schedules.

By the way, if you double-click on any of my blog images you will see far more detail.

-From Portland and the mid-coast

The Celebration of Surf

Ahh, surf. I love its sound—it roars in, then pounds and crashes onto the beach. It’s even better when it hits the rocks! It’s loud, yet relaxing. Of course, as we all know, the Beach Boys popularized surf. I grew up with surf at Horseneck Beach in Westport, Massachusetts (

My sister and I loved going there. With the approach of high tide and perhaps assisted by swells from a distant sea storm, one could be battered by waves IMG_5187 IMG_5186 IMG_5188 IMG_5189 IMG_5190 IMG_5191 IMG_5192cresting to as much as six or more feet. Although West Coasters and Hawaiians would scoff at such small waves, this was a pretty big deal to us East Coast kids. We would body surf. The great fun was watching a swell approach, then become a wall and curl before it broke over you. We quickly learned to take a deep breath because if you were caught under the break it would keep you down for several seconds (it seemed like much longer) until its energy petered out towards the shore. Wow!

No one in Maine is swimming now, but I always see people at beaches, sometimes sitting in beach chairs, just watching and listening to the waves. How cool they are. Living on an island, I don’t have to go too far to see surf. You just have to look for shoreline that faces the open sea. So, again, it was back to the backshore. Now that I have a Portland tidal chart, provided by my friend Debbie, I knew high tide would be at 6:56 PM at 9.1 feet on the day of the shoot (the tides run at their highest, over 11 feet, when the moon is at its fullest). Since sunset was at almost the same time, I got to the shore around 5:00 PM when the waves would be better lit (all these things to think about when composing naturescapes). Fortunately, bright sunshine prevailed.

Maybe the best way to present my photo surfin’ safari is to show some wave sequence shots (on the left). Actually, they are all like mini tsunamis, beginning as gentle swells (though they don’t travel at 500 mph). Then, as they approach the shore, the shallower depths compress the wave’s energy so that it rises up to create that curl, which then breaks as the water’s depth further decreases. An undertow resultsas this mass of water begins to recede.

The larger photos, below, show what happens to these waves after they hit the rocks. I played around with shutter speeds so some shots freeze the action while others blur the action.

As you can see, surf has a lot of energy. Given enough time, these rocks will be ground to sand. The tides also contain tremendous kinetic energy. Just imagine what it takes to move up to 30 feet of the sea (at the Bay of Fundy). The Scots, still part of the U.K., are implementing tidal power technology to generate electricity.

But as powerful as the sea is, in some ways we are more powerful. IMG_5007 IMG_5034 IMG_5071 IMG_5086 IMG_5221Global warming is proceeding faster than predicted by prior computer modeling. Scientific data show that this is due in great part to our burning of fossil fuels.

According to a recent news report, the Gulf of Maine is warming at five times the rate of the rest of the seas ( This is bad news for lobsters that require cold water, and those who eat them, not to mention all the other known and unknown environmental implications.

-From Portland and the mid-coast

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve only read Carson’s The Sea Around Us this past spring, and Silent Spring in August. It was Silent Spring that changed our thinking about the environment and led to the Wilderness Act of 1964. Although the Carson refuge extends for about 25 miles along the coast from Wells, Maine, North, only Wells provides parking and boardwalk access to humans.

The first two scenes show just a tiny portion of these wetlands._DSF1042 _DSF1045 I attached my 2X converter to my 100-400mm zoom lens to provide an 800mm look at Great Egrets off in the distance.IMG_4836 They had two young with them, as shown the following photograph.IMG_4833 We are about half way through the fall migration, these birds will be soon on their way to the Everglades or elsewhere along the Gulf coast.

I drove a couple of miles up the road to Parsons Beach which adjoins Rachel Carson. It’s privately owned, but open to the public. As you can judge by the homes, the coast is occupied mostly by the wealthy._DSF1048 _DSF1049 The beach wasn’t too populated. Of the sunbathers there, no one was going into the water. _DSF1056

-From Portland and the mid-coast

Full Moon Over Casco Bay?

What would a celebration of an astronomical event such as a full moon rise be without the turnout of some of the local residents? Here we see some of them bobbing offshore and perched on the rocks.IMG_4827As I reported last month, we attempted to photograph the rise of the super moon in the Adirondacks. That didn’t work out so well, due to clouds. But this month was to be different. First, I was now on the coast, so we had a true horizon (i.e., we would see the moon at the time published—6:41 PM), second, the weather was forecast to be clear. Alas, at 6:57 PM the second photograph shows what we saw—no moon!IMG_4821 We should have seen the moon to the right of Jewell Island. Unfortunately, that nice red haze you see turned out to be a developing fog and cloud bank. So we didn’t get our first glimpse of the moon until it cleared a layer of clouds at 6:57 PM. As you can see, the third and fourth photos show the drama to be gone—the moon doesn’t have that red cast. IMG_4823 IMG_4824

The only reason it looks as large as it does is because I shot it using my 400mm lens. A few minutes later it slipped away into another layer of cloud.IMG_4825

However, looking towards the west, the sunset really lit those clouds, so all was not lost.IMG_4829

We have another chance next month. I’m cautiously optimistic, given that we are in the nicest weather of the year.

-From the mid-coast

Stonehenge (On Peaks)?

The other day I was whizzing along Seashore Avenue when I spotted a field of cairns (artistically stacked stones) along the shore, shown in the following two photographs.

The cairn field
The cairn field

I couldn’t believe it. These would have taken forever for someone to build, and given that they were delicately placed in most cases they would not last through winter storms. These clearly haven’t been around for thousands of years.
I decided to return late in the afternoon when shadows would be more pronounced. As I was photographing I met a woman and her daughter who were also photographing. I asked her if she knew who built these. She said it’s kind of an annual

The cairn field
The cairn field

community effort, starting each spring. People just come down and build something artistic looking. Before you know it, the whole place is an art gallery. I shot about 80 frames, here are but a few.

The largest of these is the cairn, shown in the upper right of the second photograph. Here it is up close in the following photo.

The great cairn
The great cairn

A competitor of the great cairn is the structure, below, with the great cairn in the background.

Close second
Close second

This next photograph shows one of two structures that I found with an arch-like design–very nice. All of which illustrates the artistic focus of the mid-coast. It is loaded with artists and galleries of all sorts. I’m not sure if the ocean and mountains attract artists, or they inspire their residents to become artists–perhaps it’s both. In any event, it would seem that coasts and mountains are good for our mental health and general inspiration.

Sailing through the "arch"
Sailing through the “arch”

There were so many other fascinating pieces of art work, but there just isn’t room to display them all in this post. More of these, along with the best of my growing number of photos, will appear in my online gallery later this fall.

-From Portland and the mid-coast

Around Peaks Island

Well, here I am, pretty much settled on Peaks Island. I repositioned my car off-island at one of Portland’s garages on Labor Day. Although most of the Labor Day week-end involved unpacking and food shopping, I did manage to take a few shots “down front” on the island where "Down front" leading to the ferry.

“Down front” leading to the ferry.

people were coming and going (the first photograph shows the downhill to the ferry dock). Walking along the back shore I saw an interesting composition with waves breaking over the wonderful rocky coast (second photo).

As summer wanes Labor Day eve saw heavy rain and thunderstorms. When my clock radio went off at 5:30 the following morning I checked to see if there was any fog. There was! I threw on some clothes and walked the quarter mile to the island’s east shore. I set up my tripod and camera on a rocky beach and took a few fog shots. I then moved further along the island’s perimeter and took several more. There, I caught a wonderful mix of granite, fog, and island shoreline (third photo). A few photographs from this series will likely end up as black and white prints.

Waves breaking on te back shore
Waves breaking on the back shore
Fog meets granite.
Fog meets granite

Although I was planning to head up the coast on Route 1 today, there was heavy fog this morning also so I decided to stay on the island. Again, I headed for the back shore where I photographed several more scenes. I particularly like the fourth photo showing Great Diamond Island shrouded in fog with one of the Casco Bay ferries off in the distance to the far left, and a somewhat closer unidentified boat to the ferry’s right (i.e, starboard).

The photograph of the cormorants shows what they do after diving for food, they hold their wings out to dry (good luck to them in this fog!). There were several boats moored nearby. They looked so lonely just sitting there in the fog. In any event, here’s my rendition of the G. Purslow in the sixth photo. I should mention that these photographs are unprocessed JPEGS from my cameras, which means they don’t have the cropping and polishing that can only be done on my home desktop using Lightroom.

Beach, fog & boats
Beach, fog & boats
Cormorants in a fog (through the 400mm super-telephoto)
Cormorants in a fog (through the 400mm super-telephoto)
Moored sailboat
Moored sailboat

Tomorrow’s weather “promises” drier air so my plan is to travel up the coast to check out photo sites and camping accommodations.

I have no internet connection in my cottage so I have to rely on public access at the local library—just a 10 minute bike ride away. Given the constraints of limited internet access and island/mainland logistics, I’ll likely post but once a week. I do, however, have email via my smart phone. Speaking of bike rides, the bike is courtesy of island friends, Ralph and Jeanne. Thanks so much guys!

-From Portland and the mid-coast

Rise of the Super Moon

Friday July 11, 2014
Friday July 11, 2014

I’m always drawn to the mountains, first, to the White and Green Mountains of New England, and the Adirondacks over the past twenty years. Hiking in the mountains requires that you be in reasonably good shape. My mountain watch words are: food, water, energy, and weather (along with  protection from the latter). Failure on any of these can result in serious consequences. Most people know this, which is at least one reason why the trails are not crowded (though the trail head parking lots certainly are on summer week-ends).

After a five-hour ride and checking in, we went off to explore the South Meadows area of the High Peaks. It turned out to be a real dud for photography–too many trees.

July 12, 2014
July 12, 2014

Although I didn’t realize it when I planned the trip, this week-end would include the rise of a super moon on Saturday at the reasonable hour of 8:30 PM. We knew the moon would rise at 112° shortly after sundown on July 11 so the local cemetery seemed the perfect place. Unfortunately, there were a few trees in the way (the Adirondacks are loaded with them), as you can see in the above photo.

We picked a better place on Saturday. Unfortunately, it was cloudier than expected. Forty-five minutes after moonrise we saw nothing. The mosquitoes were vicious so we packed it in. Just as we were leaving, we saw the moon break the ridge! We jumped out, set up, and I got one shot before the moon became almost completely obscured. My friend set up a minute earlier than I, and he got the better shot!

Back track to dawn of that morning. We managed to get to Chapel Pond where we got a number of shots, here are two, one in B + W and one in color.

Looking Southwest
Looking Southwest
Looking Northwest
Looking Northwest

Shooting the Falls South Meadows FallsAfter shooting, we went back to the local diner and got some breakfast. Thereafter we headed to the Adirondack Mountain Reserve Club. These are private lands that allow hiking on designated trails. We hiked portions of its East and West Ausable River trails where upon we came to the South Meadows Falls. That’s my friend, immortalized in the red hat.

Beaver PondA little further down the trail we came to a beaver pond, complete with beaver hut. Boy, these guys were busy, but I guess . .  . .

We continued on and finally came to the Lower Ausable Lake, as shown in the photo, below. Thereafter, we returned to the trail head via the club’s dirt road. This hike was sentimental since it was my wife’s and I last hike together. We never finished that hike, because my back was bothering me. My friend and I easily finished.

Looking Southwest
Looking Southwest

Cutting the Stone

Aside from light, photographers are always thinking about how to use form and texture to advantage in their photographs. As I pondered this, I got the idea to go and photograph a quarry. I located an abandoned quarry since most working quarries are fenced off and hidden for a variety of reasons.

A few mornings ago I managed to get up at 4 AM so I could be in position to photograph at dawn. You can see my subject in the following photos that I panned starting at ENE and ending at SSW.Dawn Light As with strip mining, there’s not much that can be done with quarries once their resources are exhausted. Unfortunately, one thing you can do is illegally dump trash into them, as shown by the debris in the second photograph. What you can’t see is a refrigerator, chair, and other items that were at the bottom of the ledge where I was standing.

Dumping Ground

Blurred Reflections

The sun broke completely free of the clouds as it rose for the shot, immediately above, showing that quarries can also provide aesthetic views. Note the stratified layers in the rock, each layer likely taking thousands of years to develop.  To better see this I zoomed in for the shot, below, where the blurred water reflections meet the sharply delineated rock and trees above.

Rock and Water

There was a moon present so I also set a shot showing it. It took some time since the camera was tripod mounted. Every time I wanted to make this shot the clouds moved in front of the moon. Finally, I decided to leave the camera set for this shot and just waited.

Morning Moon

Just a bit further down the road, across from the main entrance of the working quarry I spotted an old steam shovel, seemingly set out for exhibit. This was probably state of the art equipment in the 1930s.

Retired Steam Shovel

As with so many things in industrial life, quarries pose a conundrum. We want the rock to meet all sorts of construction needs, but quarries permanently scar the earth. As time goes by there will be ever more scars.


Hike to Avalanche Pass and Lake in the Adirondacks

After a hiatus of several months I’m ready to resume blogging, though my environmental focus will be more on landscapes.  This past February a friend of mine and I snowshoed up to Avalanche Pass and Lake from the Adirondack Club Lodge, a round trip distance of 11 miles with about a 1,000 foot incline. The high for the day was about 8º, though it might have been colder at high elevation. At these temperatures it was almost impossible to operate the camera, even while wearing photo gloves. My finger tips, which had to be protruded, became numb within two or three minutes of touching the camera. Nevertheless, I managed a few good shots.

The area is so named due to a major avalanche that drastically redefined the mountain sides and the lake many years ago. According to Wikipedia, “A large avalanche occurred on August 20, 1869, that created a number of the landslides on Mount Colden, the rubble from which substantially raised the level of the lake. Another avalanche in 1942 caused further slides that raised the lake level by 10 feet (3 m).”

Our hike’s first stop was Marcy Dam, where we were the first to arrive that morning, as shown by absent foot prints in the following scene. Mountain Snow ShowersIt’s a desolate but beautiful landscape. Multi-layers and warm, quick-dry synthetics were the dress of the day!

A couple of hours later we reached the pass and lunched on the lake’s edge, protected from the wind. While on the lake, I took the following photos. The first shows the trail left by four hikers, seen in the background, as they headed southwest down the lake. The second photo is the face of the mountain where we had lunch, showing windblown pockets of snow on the craggy edges of the face.

Frozen Trek The Face In Line

I photographed the hikers in the third photo as they hiked northeast on the lake back towards the pass. It’s really something to see so many people deep in the mountains under such inhospitable conditions. Of course, like us, I’m sure they knew the forecast was for sun and light winds all day.  Still, mountain forecasts are prone to abrupt change. Hiking was also made more critical due to the short period of daylight during early February.

On the way back I shot the following photo, which shows a set of tracks from folks venturing on up the mountains.

Trail Up

The next day we made a quick hike up Giant Mountain to photograph Keene Valley from the top of the falls. The water was frozen solid, allowing us to stand on the part about 25 feet away from where it went over the ledge (yikes!). Here’s what we saw, shown in the following photo (the dark straight line is highway 73 running through Keene Valley).High Peaks Winter

So much of our modern environment consists of chemicals, power lines, buildings, roads, parking lots, radio energy, and others. Although these are things upon which we all depend, our bodies, that have evolved over the millennia in nature, are not designed to work effectively in these settings, since they expose us to pollution and make proper diet and exercise less obtainable for many.