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A Slight Detour. October 13, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
Tags: , , ,

This past Thursday morning I set out for Northern Vermont, with the intention of getting some Autumnal photos.

Well, part way there, an employee of the State at a visitors’ center told me that Northern Vermont had turned brown and been blown clean by high winds, and unless I was looking for bare branches, I ought to look elsewhere.

So. “Elsewhere,” eh? Where might thatΒ  be?

I recalled my housemate Lizz saying that the Maine coast was usually behind the rest of New England in its rotation through the seasons, on account of the moderating effect of the ocean. So…

…off to Maine!

I charted a course across interior New England, which wasn’t entirely straight-forward – there are, apparently, no major roads making that journey.

Still, ten hours of driving later, I arrived at Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, the first place in the nation to receive that designation. It was evening, and I barely had time to check in and buy a pass before it was time to head up Cadillac Mountain for some sunset shots.

The drive up afforded me views of Bar Harbor, the tourist town people come to from all over. And they’re not wrong to do so; there are a hundred fine restaurants and fascinating shops full of local arts and crafts, most at a premium price, but all worth considering. It’s one of my favorite little towns, though I’m economically relegated to browsing.

Anyway, the ride into the Park afforded an overview of the town below:

…and the world which comes from afar to see it:

My immediate destination, though, was Cadillac Mountain, the first place in the nation to see the sun rise.

I got up there in plenty of time to wander around in the light, but a distressingly high wind at first kept me from doing much beyond taking snapshots of the geology of the nearly-bare dome:

Sorry, no filters to balance the earth and sky, just a shell-shocked wandering in search of a subject.

As the light waned, the wind dipped slightly, and I got a grip. The long rays of the impending sunset painted prominent boulders red, and I took the opportunity to get my customary self-portrait:

The actual sunset was screened by a higher swatch of boreal forest to my west, so I opted instead for captures of the local flora…

…looking eastward, out to sea, toward the rising Earth-shadow.

The Wind, bane of us photophiles, was relentless. I searched for hollows in the landscape which might escape the brunt of the tumult, and found this scene:

That’s from Elliot, with five or six degrees of swing to plant the plane of sharp focus right up the middle of this scene, giving me the details of the foreground granite, the tuft of golden grasses and tall white flowers in center field, and the more distant trees. The trees looked capable of telling their own separate story, but in the fading light I didn’t get to explore that.

The coast seems to beg a curved interpretation of this Earth we live on, andΒ  sometimes it even becomes visually apparent:

…thanks at least in part to the curved dome of granite I was standing on to take these photos.Β  πŸ˜‰

Night fell, and I began the sketchy task of finding a place to sleep for free in a place which makes its money off of visitors. There are a lot of people here whose solvency depends on a lively influx of tourist dollars, but I don’t have any of those dollars and intended to sleep in my car (hey, it’s big enough to be comfortable!)

I found an off-the-beaten-path picnic area and tucked myself into the bushes, then sat until well past sunset before breaking out the kit again for some loooong exposures of the night sky.

It was cold and clear, and the Milky Way was alight above the firred forestscape:

I shot for a while, then got into my sleeping bag for a few hours of sleep.

I got up just after five and hiked down to the shore in time to see the sun warming the Eastern horizon:

This was a nice spot, perhaps less overrun with photographers than the Island’s more iconic spots like Otter Cliff, where I’d originally planned to spend sunrise. In fact, there was no one in sight as I caught the geometry of the cove solidifying in the rising light:

I switched lenses to get Elliot’s perspective on things – he’s particularly adept at interpreting planar scenes, and wanted a shot at this rocky coastline.

I like what he did here, seeing the nearby granite as a path toward the rising sun, with a subtle hook directing one’s attention to the spit of forest on the left which balances this scene.

Thanks, Elliot. Your way of seeing things informs and enlarges mine.

As the sun came up the clouds came in, and the light changed from the clear air of twilight to a hazier brew. I headed around to the windward southern coast. There the waves were rolling in and breaking on a coastal shelf of granite, spreading over the rocks as they sought their own level:

Getting this shot was really fun for me. Driving to the Coast is always a trudge, but the MaineΒ  coast is an especially long drive, and getting what I came for was a real thrill and a great relief. Taking this photo tipped me over the balance point of effort and reward, and I finally knew the trip had been worth the cost.

The walk back to the car was through an expanse of coastal forest draped with moss and carpeted with lichen. I’d rushed in past this section in the dark, but my more leisurely retreat allowed me to stop and take some shots.

At first I thought I’d switch to my macro lens and get some details at ground level, but the light was a bit harsh for that – I’d have gotten better shots just before sunrise, if I hadn’t opted for a view of the shore. So instead I kept Elliot on and looked for planar subjects, like the weathering granite which underlaid everything.

Here some displaced blocks seem to delineate a tableau of trees:

As I set up to shoot along the textured surface of this next boulder the sky obligingly turned angry. I love this look, and felt blessed by its unanticipated appearance:

The change of light provided some needed saturation to the scene. Thank You, Father Sky.

I snagged a few more shots of details in the moss-draped forest:

…then beat feet as the clouds lowered and portended rain.

Sure enough, by the time I headed for the park exit by way of Jordan Pond, the skies had opened up and shooting was limited to occasional breaks, like this moment when I passed the North Bubble:

Park rangers say this area is just moving into peak foliage season, so if you’re in these parts, this might be a great time to visit.

This trip was totally unplanned; I didn’t even have my maps of the area with me. I’d intended to be in Vermont, after all. But despite the 18 hours round trip drive and my 5pm-11am window of being there, I was glad I went.


1. Peter G - October 14, 2012

Thanks for the leg work. I enjoyed this unplanned visit to MDI. Nice shot of curved beach/cove

2. notakidding - October 15, 2012

I love this series! All of the pics were great but that long exposure of the night sky really got me. Thanks so much for sharing your vision of nature with us! πŸ™‚

littlebangtheory - October 15, 2012

You’re most welcome. πŸ™‚

3. emdoyle - October 15, 2012

I am in awe of what you can do with your camera and lenses – and in such a short span of time. I heard recently that Maine was really pretty this year in particular. The night sky, yes, that was beautiful. I also loved the beach with the really cool angular shot of the beach and Eliot pulling us in. It must be so cool, working on a scene and being rewarded with something spectacular. Great shots, all.

littlebangtheory - October 15, 2012

Eileen, your comments are always salient – you have a photographer’s mind and eye, which will serve you well as you get deeper into capturing and sharing the world around you.

I got really lucky here. (Well, OK, I’m getting the hang of it and can dial things in more quickly now, if Mother and Father give me something to work with.) Like most photographers in the Digital Age, I’ve fallen into the trap of taking a zillion shots (hey, they’re free, right?) …and then spending endless hours reviewing and culling in front of this damned monitor, then processing what remains and culling again to get the “keepers.”

As time goes on, though, I’m learning to rein in my trigger finger. Where I previously might process one shot in ten, this fast-paced shoot gave me little time for excess. I was presented with really nice scenes (which came, BTW, from driving like a mad fool, staying up way too late, getting up in the pitch darkness and hiking by headlamp and blind intuition) and bracketed each scene with perhaps three variants, sometimes including different filters, sometimes different exposures or, in the case of Elliot, slight variations in tilt.

The result was that in most cases I picked the best of three good shots to process instead of panning through endless files to find the gold.

I’m telling you all of this (at the risk of sending everyone else packing) because you have The Fire, and soon this will be using it to good efect.

And I need to apologize to you for not responding to your request for a workshop. I hadn’t previously thought about doing that and had to do a lot of thinking about how to structure such a thing (I’m working on that now.) As time passed other obligations intervened, and I got distracted.

I’m thrilled that you’re now taking a course, and hope it gives you lots of basic knowledge you can share with me when we finally meet… I totally lack a foundation in The Basics. πŸ˜‰

4. Mary - October 16, 2012

Wonderful shots! I used to live in Maine, your photography brought back great memories and a little homesickness. Mary

littlebangtheory - October 16, 2012

Mary, welcome to Little Bang Theory, and thanks for your kind appraisal of my work. I’m happy to inspire longings, and simultaneously sad to say I get to Maine far too infrequently. Perhaps I’ll go again soon, though I’m struggling with the cost of gas, which was close to $200. 😦

5. susancrow - October 21, 2012

Strangely enough, for this still fairly new inhabitant of Nova Scotia, has been the fact that our colorful autumn lasts much longer than I would have expected. Of course, I don’t go out and take marvelous photographs such as these but yours do evoke much of what we see around here without even having to venture too far away.

It’s hard to pick a favorite but I was stunned to see the picture of the Milky Way. Just amazing. All the rest are equally beautiful even as I lean towards the seascapes.

Nice work once again.

littlebangtheory - October 22, 2012

Susan, the weather in the Maritimes seem to be moderated by their oceanic connection. Enjoy it while it lasts, as I understand their connection to winter is equally evident. πŸ™‚

And I love that night shot almost as much as I like the ones taken by the sea!

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