Maine’s Rocky Coast

Originally posted 10/1/2014: Occasionally I revisit past posts that I find particularly interesting.

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 is 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 5 billion years, until 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

Sunset at Boothbay Harbor

I finally got to the Boothbay Region and its harbor a couple of weeks ago. I visited once in IMG_5442my twenties, and again about 14 years ago. It’s certainly an upscale spot on the mid-coast—several tour buses were still bringing people into town to shop and sight-see.

After getting some local maps from Visitor Information I headed to the Ovens Mouth Preserve. Although the birds were gone, I was hoping for some good fall foliage shots, even though it was pre-peak. Too bad, the colors were modest. Unlike the roadsides and town centers where Mainers have planted various maples that blaze red early in the fall, most of the trees along the coastal area are conifers and oaks. Not much color there.IMG_5447

As I walked the Eastern shoreline loop along an inlet between the Black and the Cross Rivers, I found a number of picturesque scenes where I caught the first image. I liked the contrast between the geometry, neutrality, and rigidity of the rocks against the relatively fragile, and diffused pastels of the trees.The second shot shows where the inlet joined the meeting of the two rivers.

IMG_5457On the shore of the Cross River I set up for a shot of lobster buoys when I noticed an approaching lobster boat. I waited until it passed so I could capture its wake in the foreground to add a little relief to the scene.


Afterwards, I went down to the harbor and town of Boothbay where I DSCF1303took several shots, three shown here.

Later in the afternoon I drove to a public parking area on the east side of the harbor where I took a series of shots to the west towards sunset.

Boothbay Opera House
Boothbay Opera House

I really like the shot of the two lobster boats returning at the end of the day.


I took a series of shots prior to sundown, with two of the more interesting, below.

IMG_5470IMG_5475As I’ve traveled the mid-coast I see a greater dichotomy of boats than elsewhere—working versus pleasure boats. There are far more working boats in Maine compared with Massachusetts, where I grew up, due to lobstering. Massachusetts harvests far fewer lobsters, so a greater proportion of boats tend to be pleasure craft.

With one week left in Maine I’ll be photographing on Peaks and Portland since my car is now on-island.

-From Portland and the mid-coast

Maine Events

Common Grounds grounds

Although my blog’s focus is the natural environment, here I make an exception to focus on the social environment. My friends have invited me to several events here on the coast. The first was the Common Ground Fair, held annually up the coast in Unity Maine. It features the produce of Maine’s organic farmers and other locally produced goods. There is a lot of publicity in Maine encouraging people to buy local. We were in stop-and-go for miles getting to the grounds. Once we got through the gate the fair had the feeling of the sixties, except instead of fields populated by concert goers, there were now food and goods producers. There are about 900 local farms in Maine, and about a third of them are organic certified.


There was a lot of livestock. One of the crowd pleasers were the alpacas. They are really cute. Their fur is one of the warmest and used to line winter coats–something to begin thinking about.

There were simply too many exhibits to completely see. However, one that many folks did not want to miss _DSF1109was the border collies exhibition. These working dogs are bred to work in teams and trained to understand many verbal and hand commands. They follow instructions to herd sheep and goats, as desired by the farmer. A couple of fair goers in the photo to the left are checking to confirm when and where this demonstration will take place.

And who could forget the brass band from Providence, RI that came to play at the Fifth Marine Museum on Peaks Island? It was a beautiful day, ensuring a good island turnout. What the band might have lacked in its budget was more than made up for by their diversity and enthusiasm, as you can see in the following shots.

_DSF1154Although they had no uniforms, they did have two tubas! Beyond that, each player looked like they were from very different backgrounds._DSF1166

They got people dancing and one of the short people topped a rock for a better view of the activities._DSF1184_DSF1196

Then, this past week-end it was the Maine Marathon, attracting about 3500 runners. There was also a DSCF1206half-marathon, and a relay. All began at the same time and shared the first 6.5 miles of the course before splitting off.

DSCF1242Here they are, just after the gun went off. Having been a runner for nearly 40 years I was a bit envious of this crowd (now I mostly swim for my aerobics). Among one of the notables in the half-marathon was my long-time friend, Black Dog Davey, DSCF1222seen in the pre-race photo to the right. Unfortunately, he was “nosed out” by Moninda Marube with a winning time of 1:08:13, seen DSCF1279approaching the finish line in the next photo. By the way, the full marathon winner was Rob Gomez, burning across the finish line in 2:34:42 (that’s an average of 5:13 per mile–wow–but nowhere near the world record of 2:02:XX just set in Berlin–these guys must be cyborgs).

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be focusing on the foliage scenes, particularly in the Rockland area.

-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

Maine’s Lighthouses

Strictly speaking, lighthouses are not part of the natural environment since they’re human-made. Nevertheless, they occupy a special place in our collective psyche. Everyone loves lighthouses—they always have onlookers on nice days, particularly on week-ends and holidays. They are one of the few things we have built that just seem to fit in with the natural environment, so I include two here.

The first three photographs show Portland Head Light at Fort Williams Park on Cape Elizabeth. I’m told this is the most photographed lighthouse in Maine. It’s certainly has to be one of the most sketched. I counted about half a dozen artists working from a range of vantage points.


By the way, this is an active light, as you can see by its lit beacon. Many lighthouses across the U.S. are no longer in service, due to “better” means of navigation. They have either become museums or they are privately owned—some converted into seaside housing.

I made these shots about an hour-and-a-half before sunset to take advantage of shadows. They’re okay, but perhaps they would be better shrouded in a light fog. What do you think?
I then moved to the opposite side of the lighthouse and captured the following scene. This, I think, is the better view of the light. The small craft returning to port also added a bit of interest as it appeared between the rocky ledge.

The next day I drove further down Cape Elizabeth to its lighthouse of the same name. It overlooks the Atlantic Ocean at the southern entrance to Casco Bay. This day I decided to take a different tact and photograph the lighthouse from daylight to dusk.

The first shot shows the lighthouse at 6:24PM, followed by shots at 6:58PM and 7:07PM. These latter two shots lend a bit of surrealism to the scenes.

IMG_4947 IMG_4959

In the near future I’ll be heading up to Penobscot Bay to photograph Owl’s Head Lighthouse and the Bay.

-From Portland and 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.

-From Portland and the mid-coast

Scoping Out the mid-Coast

The past couple of days has seen me traveling up and down the mid-coast, racking up

Approaching the Portland car ferry dock from Peaks Island
Approaching the Portland car ferry dock from Peaks Island

about 400 miles. So far I’ve haven’t seen much except for the usual touristy stuff. What’s that Johnny Cash song? “I’ve been everywhere man,  . . . .” The trip, of course, begins with the ferry crossing (actually, it begins with the walk to the ferry). The photo, above, shows us getting ready to dock in Portland. After that it’s a 15 minute walk to the garage to get my car.

The Pemaquid shot, below, is not that artistic, but couldn’t you see yourself sitting on one of those boats with a summer drink?

Pemaquid Harbor
Pemaquid Harbor

Then there’s Belfast, another pretty nice setting. The town has a funky side to it, as shown by some of the interesting business facades._DSF0957 _DSF0958

Belfast harbor at low tide.
Belfast harbor at low tide.

The photo, above, shows its harbor. Unfortunately, I showed up a low tide.

Further down the road was Camden, home of the windjammer cruises. A bit larger and more upscale than Belfast, it is a pretty nice town.

Main St., Camden, ME
Main St., Camden, ME
Sittin' pretty in Camden
Sittin’ pretty in Camden

Well I haven’t been everywhere (man) around here, yet, but it feels that way.  I’m looking more for where people don’t go (which is really the down east part of the coast. Unfortunately, that’s way out of range unless I stay a few nights in a motel. I’m told they get cheaper as you go east. What I have seen so far is Reid State Park for wildlife. Next week I head up to Owls Head which overlooks Rockland and Penobscot Bay. It looks promising for several waterscapes at dusk.

What I see emerging is locating about six good locations within a day’s roundtrip that I can photograph under a range of lighting and weather conditions. These settings will be contextualized with town and people scenes. But don’t hold me to this, my thinking could change tomorrow!

-From Portland and the mid-coast

%d bloggers like this: