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Sunday, 28 October 2012 08:49

Looking Down from the Desert

We should all be so glad that Samuel de Champlain got it wrong. From his ship he looked up at the rocky crests of the island hugging the coast of what is now Maine and in his journal declared it so bare and bleak that he was going to name it "Iles de Mont Desert" - Islands of Barren Mountains. I think about this each time I look down from Beach Cliff, one of the most beautiful of the many granitic uplifts that rise above Pemetic, the "Sloping Land" that was home to the Wabanaki peoples for thousands of years. From the heights of Beech Cliff, to look out over the low-bush blueberries in an autumn blaze of fiery red in early morning sidelight, down five hundred feet into the lush and deeply forested watershed of Echo Lake, is to see Acadia's fall hues at their finest. I wanted to let the line of the cliff be a diagonal through the frame in a roughly 60-40% proportion, cliff and blueberries-to-valley below. The red-yellow-green color combination brought together a dynamic of complements that was particularly appealing. Using a focal length of 51mm to give the desired proportions, I chose an aperture of f/22 to maximize depth-of-field. This gave me a shutter speed of 1.0 second at ISO 100 for an overall medium exposure. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012 07:26

On the Way to Great Head

The 1.7-mile Great Head Loop Trail is the quintessential walk along the Maine Coast. If you travel seaward (clockwise) where the loop begins you will soon encounter one of the most incredible rocky-outcrop beaches anywhere. Looking north toward Oak Hill Cliff and the slow initial curvature of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay you come face-to-face with the juxtaposition of the mighty Atlantic Ocean and the incredible geologic forces that lifted the ancient rocks skyward in igneous profusion. The granites here are gray and brown, almost black and rusty orange, among which quartz veins can commonly be seen to flow. In a small alcove, unseen at my feet, are cobbles as if in a bowl in which they have been so regularly washed by the sea that they have rounded over the millennia into bowling balls and loaves of artisan bread, unlike the sharp crags that rise above the waves. I saw the diagonal lines of the rocky outcrops as they led toward Oak Hill Cliff and concluded with the cliff itself. I wanted to stand as high as I could above the rock so that I could create as much separation as possible in the various receding outcrops. The tide had recently turned out, so the wave action was minimal; but I waited for a small breaker so that some surf was present in the image. A focal length of 27mm was wide enough to take in the angle of view I wanted without admitting too much sky. An aperture of f/22 gave me all the depth-of-field I needed, and a shutter speed of 1/4th second at ISO 100 gave me an overall medium exposure. The dark gray sky evened out the dynamic range and made the use of a GND filter unnecessary. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012 22:18

Once Upon a Windy Marsh

Duck Brook is one of the most accessible free-flowing streams in Acadia National Park. It drains an extensive wetland on the northwest shoulder of The Whitecap before skirting Great Hill to the west as it flows north into Bar Harbor east of Hull's Cove. Earlier this week, as I scouted the area, I was drawn to the beauty of the marsh that forms New Mills Meadow Pond as Duck Brook flows through it, but the wind was gusting at 15-25 mph and there was no way to freeze the motion for a sharply focused scene. The solution seemed simple: photograph the wind. I used a focal length of 255mm which allowed me to zoom into the marsh and isolate the patterns of the blowing grasses that were outlined by the darker stems where the stream flowed more openly. I waited until the gusts seemed at their most frenzied and used an aperture of f/22 to give me the longest shutter value possible in the existing light for a medium-toned exposure. In this case 1/6th second at ISO 100. Since the moderate telephoto focal length offered a fairly shallow depth-of-field even at f/22, the softly out-of-focus areas in the front and rear of the image added to the perception of motion throughout, which was exactly what I wanted. And the wind took care of the rest.  

Saturday, 06 October 2012 20:31

When the Gales of November Come Early

To the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) people it is Kitchi Gami, the Big Water; to the early French explorers it was le lac superier, the Upper Lake; and for the English it became Lake Superior. It is the largest fresh water lake by surface area on earth and the third largest by volume. It is the second deepest body of water in the United States. By any estimation it is amazing. Storms can happen any time of the year, but when fall begins to turn toward winter, the gales that brew over the Big Water have a ferocity that inspires awe.Twenty-foot waves are not uncommon and thirty-footers are regularly recorded. Rough water predictions have become uncannily accurate, so when I learned that the waves on the day of October 6 were predicted to reach 13'-19', I was prepared with a location that I thought would present the breakers in all of their might. Between Miner's Beach and Mosquito Falls there is a rocky bench that juts into the big lake for a short distance, and is high and wide enough to offer a haven from the pounding water. However, the sky had been spitting rain and sleet for most of the day, and so the 30-mph winds were driving the spray and the precipitation into my face and onto the glass of my lens whenever I moved my hand from in front of it to make an exposure. Determining a proper exposure and executing it were real challenges, and I was constantly covering the lens with one hand and wiping the glass off after each release of the shutter, while operating the cable release with the other. While doing this I was gaugeing and timing the on-coming waves to determine when to release. It was like a big game of hydro-meterological chess; and I was glad to come away with exposures that work for me. What fun! A focal length of 48mm was wide enough to show a portion of the turbulent lake and the waves as they crashed into the rocks before me, as well as the distant cliffs of Mosquito Falls. I chose, also, to include a small portion of the shelf on which I stood as a foreground. F/16 gave me enough depth-of-field and at ISO 100 a shutter speed of 1/20th second produced a slightly darker than medium exposure.

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