Our photographer Benjamin Williamson highlights some of his favorite shots from around the state.
This is my playground, my sandbox. More than any other location, even more than my beloved Lookout Point, this is where I feel the most creative. I love having new experiences and finding new expressions here. I love refining my vision and trying to distill the elements into the most effective visual communications I can. I love the challenge of working with conditions that many would consider to be poor, although on this morning, I think most would agree that the conditions were anything but poor. There was some of the best light I’ve seen on this morning, and I took advantage by applying what I have learned from those many experiences.
Take advantage of the dark background of clouds by running up to the cliffs on the left. Compose the image to create the strongest way of seeing what was in front of me. Include the sweeping line of surf crashing against the rocks below as a strong diagonal, so effective at giving a sense of dynamism in 2d images. Take advantage of the warm light on the cliffs and in the sky and balance it with the cool tones on the opposite sides in each. Exclude the sun because it would only distract from the scene. Catch both the surf and the rotating beacon at the decisive moment when they are both at peak interest. Process the RAW image in a way that does justice to the emotion and impact of the experience.
I am still learning how to do all of these things, and still looking forward to my next visit.
I love images that make me wonder. When you look at as many photos as I do, it’s rare to be surprised, but this photo is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It took some unusual atmospheric phenomena to make it possible. First, a temperature inversion caused low fog to form over the water, and then the fog rose just enough so only the Nubble Light tower and the top of the keeper’s house peek out. Haze and smoke from forest fires out West dimmed the sun, so it appears as a red orb. Rob tied these together beautifully in this composition, as the lighthouse barely eclipses the sun, and the structure and island below are totally obscured. This strong graphic presentation is so effective. The magenta tones are pleasing and feel natural considering the low angle of the sun and heavy atmosphere. I wish I had been there to witness these amazing conditions. I’m glad Rob was.
Maine’s beauty isn’t just in the natural landscape; it’s also in our relationship to that landscape. I especially like places where nature and people intersect — landscapes that are serving the people who live, work, and play there. Don’t get me wrong, I love nature; it’s just that I love people more.
In this photo, Chris Lawrence captures a moment in one of the more distinctive aspects of our relationship to nature here in Maine: lobstering. The sternman leans over the side of the boat, reaching into the trap he’s holding on the gunnel. The captain is framed in the window next to him. A lobster buoy bobs in the water below. What makes this photo unique among lobstering images is the incredible setting. Look at the massive pink granite headland, with the lighthouse perched on top, just behind the boat. Beyond it, there appears to be a high mountain. The spots of red on the boat trim and the lighthouse draw the eye, and contrast nicely with the blue water and sky. Then there’s the fun in guessing the meaning behind the boat name: Teacher’s Pet. Chris found two great subjects — lobstermen and a beautiful natural setting — and this wonderful image tells a story about their interaction.
It’s well known in landscape photography that many of our best images are made in “the golden hours” around sunrise and sunset, when the angle of light is low, creating long shadows and accentuating textures and shapes. The warmer spectrum of colors helps a lot too. The problem with this logic is that we tend to ignore the rest of the day for other opportunities for image making. Bob Dennis doesn’t subscribe to this restricted mindset. He made this beautiful image in the late-morning light, when the sun was high and sky was blue. It worked perfectly for this scene. Of course, he was helped by calm water, which created the reflections that are the image’s most attractive feature. I love how the red and white paint on the boat is mirrored in the red and white buildings behind it. The splash of yellow in the traps stacked on the boat doesn’t hurt, either. Framing the image vertically worked well here, and Bob pulled the edges nicely around the boat and buildings, eliminating most of the sky above the trees and filling the frame with what’s important. I’ve followed Bob’s work for a long time and feel his love for Cape Porpoise and Kennebunkport comes through his images. He captures what makes this community special.
Puffins are a great subject for photography. They are very charismatic, with their colorful beaks and expressive eyes. Even folks who aren’t obsessed with birds can appreciate their whimsical appearance and understand what the fuss is all about. They congregate in large groups to nest on barren offshore islands, making them easily accessible to photograph, that is, once you go through the trouble of getting there. That is no easy task, and reservations for the prime viewing spots, from blinds on Machias Seal Island, fill up very early in the season. Colin Chase made the best of his opportunity and got this wonderful image of a puffin in flight. The fact that it was a blue sunny day could have been frustrating due to the harsh light and shadows, but I think that actually played in his favor by providing the awesome color contrast of orange on blue, as well as the light reflecting off the white rocks and water nicely illuminating the underside of the puffin. The slightly longer shutter speed didn’t freeze the puffin completely, which I think is nice due to the slight blurring of the wingtips giving a sense of motion. Colin also filled the frame with his subject and nailed focus, which can be extremely challenging in these situations. The inclusion of the horizon at the top of the frame places it in space, and the color and contrast are bold without being overdone. I just love looking at this image.
Michael Blanchette combines artistic vision with serious technical skills to produce some of the most beautiful imagery being created in New England right now. Night work has been his longtime focus, and he’s created some of the most compelling night images I’ve seen. He’s been at the forefront of technology, producing the kinds of images that have become readily accessible to photographers only in the past few years with advances in prosumer camera bodies. Here, Mike put a patch of rosa rugosas in the foreground to add interest and complement Pemaquid Light and the night sky. The final image is a blend of photos taken from twilight to dark, a technique that reduces the need for extremely long exposures in dark conditions and captures more flattering light on an unevenly lit foreground. Mike has always been an inspiration to me and a wonderful partner leading workshops across New England for the past three years.
When teaching composition to students, I talk a lot about telling a story using juxtapositions and contrasts. I could use this wonderful image as an example. Two of Maine’s favorite subjects, loons and lupines, combine to tell a story of early summer serenity. By zooming in on two towering bunches of lupines so they fill the frame, Darylann has turned the traditional view of a field full of flowers on its head. Unexpected turns like these show true creativity, and I know from having seen many of her images that Darylann has that in spades. The calm water reflecting green foliage harmonizes wonderfully with the purple flowers, and the loon’s reflection adds a lot as well. The simplicity is striking: the scene has been distilled into three points of interest, yet details, such as water droplets on the lupines and very soft ripples on the surface of the pond, are not lost. This provides a reward for looking closely and creates interest across the frame. The full effect leaves me feeling peaceful and warm. Who wouldn’t want to be here?
It was an incredible experience standing in this field last night, all alone for over an hour while the sun set and the light changed around me. Yes, there were dense clouds of mosquitos, but it was more than worth it. I’ve never seen a prettier field than this one.
It’s hard to believe that I haven’t picked a night-sky photo until now. This one, by my friend, Jon Secord, caught my attention. Jon and I have photographed together many times, and we correspond extensively. He’s my go-to guy when I’m excited about something, because we experience the same joy about landscape photography.
Jon takes his work seriously, and as a result, his images are very high quality. This image stood out from the moment I saw it because of its excellent design, contrast, and subject (that subject, a photographer silhouetted on a high cliff at Acadia National Park, is none other than Jamie Walter, whose images of a winter ski trip to Katahdin appeared in the February 2019 issue of Down East). I also like the restraint in editing that Jon exercised. A lot of times, photographers, myself included, brighten the foreground in landscape astrophotography. This can be compelling, but it looks unnatural. Jon allowed the cliffs to remain dark, but not completely black, so the scene as a whole retains better contrast. This makes the outline of the rocks from the shoreline up to the subject stand out wonderfully. The Milky Way and the cliffs form strong diagonals that intersect at the subject and lead the eye across and up and down the image. The photograph evokes feelings of awe, wonder, and, because Jamie is close to the cliff edge, maybe even the thrill of danger.
Adam Woodworth is one of the most successful landscape photographers New England has produced in the last 10 years. He’s a Nikon ambassador and a regular contributor to Down East and Outdoor Photographer magazines, and he’s traveled extensively across the U.S. and into maritime Canada. Originally based in southern New Hampshire, Adam recently moved to Lubec after falling in love with the community.
It’s no secret that I love looking at images of colorful sunrises and sunsets. They shift the color spectrum, and therefore the mood of the image, from cool to warm. Warm tones generate a positive response in the viewer, especially in northern climates. I like to see more than just a pretty sunrise, though. Standing on the shore in Lubec and looking across the narrows toward Campobello island, your attention is immediately drawn to Mulholland Point Light, a striking white octagonal tower with red lantern. Did you know that the fact that lighthouses are painted white is in part what makes them great subjects simply because our eyes go to the brightest spot in an image first? Adam paid careful attention to the design here by capturing a great reflection, zooming in fairly close, and centering the subject. Often, a centered subject can feel static and boring, but in this case, with perfect reflections and a symmetrical subject, it works! (Also, some rules are meant to be broken.) I’m glad that Adam is in this part of the world, sharing images like this with us.
Although much of my focus here has been on scenic landscapes, I also enjoy portraits, lifestyle, and street photography. These types of subjects are much harder to pursue, but they’re potentially more rewarding. The photographer must read the situation, chose the decisive moment, and get in close to give the viewer a sense of being there. Because of their intimate nature, many of these situations require no small amount of courage and care. It’s an approach honed through lots of practice. Success is defined by an image’s ability to stir emotion — a hallmark of a great photograph, no matter the genre. This image by Dave Dostie certainly does that. In the curious faces of the sheep I see a reflection of my own curiosity. I also feel an affinity for these domesticated animals that is probably instinctual, speaking of an ancient bond.
Here’s what Dave had to say about making the image: “My heart is so full after photographing these 2-week-old lambs as they curiously peeked out from behind an open barn door. I’m excited to be working to document, through imagery, the beautiful sheep of Get Wool: Seacolors Yarnery at Meadwocroft Farm here in Maine.” Kudos, Dave. Your full heart has spilled out through this wonderful image.
My latest assignment for the magazine took me way Down East to to the fishing community of Lubec. Although West Quoddy Head Light wasn’t on my itinerary, you can’t come this far without stopping here. It’s a true Maine treasure, and I view those those candy-cane stripes as a badge of honor: Hey, I traveled all the way to the easternmost point in the US! I also see this light station as a fitting tribute to the U.S. relationship with Canada, which you can almost reach out and touch here. Canada’s lighthouses often have some red on them so they stand out in the snow.
I was lucky to have my brother and his fiancée along with me with me on this trip. It’s always fun to see the joy of discovery when someone visits a place for the first time. As we approached the lighthouse, we were immediately taken by the beautiful view of Sail Rock poking out of the water just offshore and, in the near distance, New Brunswick’s Grand Manan Island. The sun was going down and sky was filled with puffy white clouds. We walked around, checking out all the angles, when suddenly a good-sized brown mass appeared in the grass. It was a porcupine! Now, the lighthouse was great, but we found this creature to be just as interesting, and we were able to get fairly close. It was focused on eating and not minding us at all. I used my cell phone to get low and include the lighthouse in the frame, and thought of how fun this would be to share. My guess is that barring any catastrophe, this guy will be a frequent visitor to this very yummy patch of grass throughout the summer. Say hi to him for me!
Seascapes are one of the most challenging subjects to capture effectively in landscape photography. Our coastline is beautiful to be sure, but it’s also rugged, messy, and sometimes downright chaotic. It helps to make sense of the chaos when you’re trying to communicate visually. Charles Cormier did that masterfully here. I’ve followed Charles for a long time now, and have always been impressed by his creativity and passion for image making. This image immediately grabbed my attention with a very strong composition, subject matter, and attention to details, such as timing and shutter speed. The cascade in the center of the image provides an excellent focal point, and the rest of the image is built to draw the eye towards that center, but also to provide interest and move the eye around it. The mushy, filtered overcast sunrise sky works well and doesn’t draw too much attention away from the foreground, which is delightfully complex, but also carefully balanced. Details such as the bubbles on the lower left, texture and colors in the rocks, and silky smooth water created by shutter speeds over 3 seconds all please, and the alternating warm rocks and sky/cool water color palette is rightly subdued and not oversaturated. It makes me want to be there, and that’s always a nice feeling to get from looking at a photo.
When I saw river-flooding forecasts last week, I knew a drive along the Androscoggin was in order. On my way out of Brunswick, I wanted to photograph the Swinging Bridge connecting Brunswick and Topsham. I hoped to capture a certain very resilient tree that grows below the dam at Lisbon Falls. And I wanted to see Great Falls in Lewiston/Auburn in all its glory. Everything else you see here are the sights that caught my eye along the way, mostly along Route 136, between Durham and Lewiston. I chose to convert each image to black and white because the colors felt like a distraction, and a monotone presentation simplifies the images and allows the shapes and lines to come through in a stronger way. I’m also making a point lately to share series of images rather than single images, something I was inspired to do by Brooks Jensen and his excellent podcast Lenswork, as well as by Paul Cyr. We’re trying to tell stories, and it’s always easier to do that with more than one sentence. What stories have you been drawn to lately?
I took to the skies over the Boothbay area last week to capture some unique vantage points of four beautiful lighthouses that lie just offshore. I viewed this mostly as a scouting mission for future shoots, but the surf was going and there was some nice mist in the air that added atmosphere to the images. My goal was to find the best compositions of each light, and the fact that there wasn’t a dramatic sunrise or sunset to consider including in the frame actually helped. What I mean when I say that is, by eliminating the concern for the sky, I was able to better focus on composing for the main subject, the lighthouse. There are many opportunities to take advantage of the access afforded by using a drone, and I feel like I’ve just started to scratch the surface.
I have been a fan of Betty Wiley’s images since I discovered them just a year or two ago. It was one of those situations where I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of her sooner. She has done amazing work on Cape Cod and is one of the most published scenic photojournalists in New England. Anyways, enough gushing! This image caught my eye initially because of the incredible framing of Nubble Lighthouse with two windswept waves. The moment is just perfect. Digging deeper, you can see that the waves are the brightest objects in the image, and therefore grab the most attention. Betty deftly balances this with an expanse of moody sky above. Placing the horizon line on the lower third is a bold move, and this shows her experience in resisting the temptation to show us a big gaudy foreground full of waves. The long lens perspective from what I’m guessing is Long Sands Beach shows us an entirely different view of Nubble than the often photographed scene from just below the light, and allows her to compress the waves, squash the depth, and pull in the lighthouse. Finally, the overall dark treatment of the image fits the mood along with the soft blues tones throughout. You have to stand out from the crowd when you tackle such a well documented subject, and this image certainly does that.
This one stopped me dead in my tracks. We have all seen an oak leaf before, right? But can we say that a simple oak leaf has ever left such a deep impression? See what I did there? This is just SO COOL! Yep, Edward admitted to me that he took this with a cell phone. Does that detract from the image? Not one bit! This is a beautiful take, and the fact that the actual leaf isn’t even present, all you can see is ice, makes me so happy. I don’t know that I would notice something like this. I like to think I would, but maybe not. Would you? I’m so glad that he did and that he turned his impression into art, and shared it with us.
I admit that I haven’t been as active chasing sunrises and shooting for myself lately. My excuse? I’m parenting a 1 ½ year old. That said, I was able to get out on Sunday morning last week and capture this incredible sunrise from Popham Beach. When considering where to be to impart a sense of place, I knew I wanted to include two familiar landmarks, the pilings in the water and the old lifesaving station on the shore opposite. I also wanted to give the viewer the feeling of being there and anchor the scene by putting the water-line directly underneath me and using the break of the waves to create a leading line into the scene. The amount of color in the sky was almost overwhelming. I know that Popham is a place people hold dear. I have loved coming here long before I had interest in photography. My hope, and my goal with my imagery, is to make you feel what I felt, standing there with the water lapping at my feet, enjoying a beautiful moment in a beautiful place. Thank you for looking.
We all know Maine’s working harbors make great photo subjects, but Colin Chase does something special with this beautiful portrait of Cutler, on the Down East coast. What first caught my eye was the palette. The soft magenta sky, green land, and blue water are punctuated by classic white and natural-shingled buildings and the white fishing boats in the harbor. The warm glow of the setting sun is particularly attractive, hitting just a few of these objects at a low angle. Notice the name of the boat in the foreground, "Sundown". Chase pays attention to the edges of the frame — see how the boats are all neatly included inside, not overlapping. And the elevated perspective makes for good separation between the boats and the land — always worth paying attention to when you’re photographing harbors. Finally, the rule-of-thirds composition and the strong focal point in the bottom center of the frame creates an image that just holds together splendidly. Who wouldn’t want to be enjoying this view on a warm summer evening, listening the the water lap upon the shore?
"After weeks of not shooting, it was nice to finally get out. After a heavy snowfall throughout the entire day, the clouds lifted just before sunset to reveal some beautiful winter light and I managed to barely capture one of my favorite images to date. There was a composition, good light, fresh snow, and high tide matched with sunset. It’s these times where everything seems to fall in place perfectly that keeps me shooting," Freddy says.
Canon 6D with 16-35mm f/2.8
1.3sec, f/16, 22mm, ISO 50
A strong image can stand alone, but as many visual artists know, a good accompanying story can add greatly to a viewer’s appreciation. I was initially drawn in by Maine Mountain Media’s strong composition and beautiful tones. The shapes work together masterfully and the front-to-back lineup creates tremendous energy that draws your eyes through the photo. The subject, familiar to anyone who has visited the fort side of Popham, doesn’t overpower the design — this is a hallmark of a great image. So often, we are drawn to photos because of the subject, not the skill of the photographer. All of that made me want to read the story that accompanied it. Spencer Austin Mendell’s thoughtful narrative brought me closer to what he was feeling when he created the image, and it reminded me of so many of my own similar experiences. We are all telling stories in our photos, intentionally or not. The best photographers are usually great storytellers and know how to connect with their audience.
“Leaving the house this afternoon I was not very optimistic about capturing a great photo. I have been wanting to shoot more photos of these old piers that litter the Maine coast, but upon arrival at Fort Popham, I was not very inspired. Watching the tide go out and my original photo idea disappearing, I was observing these large chunks of ice floating out from the Kennebec River into Sagadahoc Bay. Because of the receding tide, a few of them floated near the shoreline and proceeded to beach themselves. As the waves splashed over them I knew I only had a short amount of time to be able to capture the water streaks that I wanted. I set up the tripod, put the camera on, tried not to get my feet wet, and worked as furiously as I could to get just the right composition. Sometimes you see beautiful elements but are not able to arrange them in a cohesive manner, this was one of those times. But I was able to overcome some of those challenges and create what is by far my favorite photo of 2019.” - Fort Popham Beach, Phippsburg, Maine. 2.6.19
This image by Dean Bugaj is a fantastic example of a seascape. Maine’s shoreline can be challenging to capture, but Dean handled it well by paying close attention to detail. First of all, the composition is wonderful. By placing the horizon near the top of the frame, he’s eliminated a flat expanse of sky above the sunrise and brought our attention to the arrangement of rocks. I love the way the water flows through the scene. This is a great example of using a slow shutter speed to your advantage. Finally, the color contrast between the burning orange sunrise and slightly cool blue water adds another layer of interest to this great photo.
The Androscoggin Swinging Bridge was featured in our March 2018 Where in Maine? Ben was able to fly the drone over the bridge in November to capture this beautiful view of fresh snowfall.
This image was sensational from the moment it arrived on the scene to ring in the New Year. Full moon images were becoming popular, and Chris really took it to the next level in finding the perfect corner of Portland to showcase what makes these so exciting. The working waterfront with a tall masted ship and lobster boat, a touch of arctic sea smoke on the ocean, snow-covered brick buildings with windows reflecting the light of the rising sun, and the moon perfectly positioned behind a beautiful church steeple all work together brilliantly to tell the story of an idyllic city, Portland at its best. Timing is everything, and Chris chose the right moment with the moon being neither too bright, or washed out with the light of day, to capture this. This one is worth repeated views.
When gathering images for this post, I was trying to stick to 2018, but this image from October 2017 was just too good to pass up. Bass Harbor Head Light is a popular location to photograph. In fact, it’s probably the most popular location to photograph in Maine, even beating out Portland Head Light and Nubble thanks to its location in Acadia National Park. Standing out from the great number of images I’ve seen from here is hard to do, but this does just that! Extreme weather is one of my favorite subjects, and this has to be some of the most extreme conditions I’ve ever seen someone capture. The sunset looks like it almost didn’t happen, but a small window on the horizon allowed the sun to come through and light up the foreground in the most spectacular way. I can just imagine all of the water in the air and the intensity of the moment of being in this very exposed perch, capturing one of nature’s finest moments.
Another great storm image, this taken just a few miles from the previous, comes from Logan Hoover. I was floored by the careful attention paid to finding a perfect foreground to showcase this display of atmospheric beauty. The dock creates an incredibly strong lead-in to the scene with strong diagonal lines pointing directly into the center, giving it a great sense of depth and involving the viewer in a powerful way. This is really well balanced from left to right, with the storm being right at the moment of overtaking us. Notice the spots of the first raindrops on the wood, a really nice detail. The ominous texture and detail in the clouds is very well handled with this exposure, and the colors are attractive without being over-saturated. Just an awesome image.
Do you see a pattern here? Yes, I’m a weather nut. I was lucky enough to be standing next to Jack with my friend Jon when he captured this beauty. We were all totally giddy with excitement at the incredible display of light unfolding. A thunderstorm had just passed overhead, and the cloud structure was just like nothing we had ever seen. The setting sun was casting beautiful light onto them, and below, a rapidly thickening mist was forming over the ocean. It all came together in Jack’s stunning composition, where he made the creative decision of pushing the iconic fishing shacks of Willard Beach and Portland Head Light into the lower right corner to keep our attention instead on the bank of clouds. This is the mark of a true photographic artist, knowing how to respond and react to a rapidly changing situation with thoughtfulness and poise. Nice work, my friend.
Here we’ve moved from amazing weather events to pure design brilliance. This distillation of lobster boats and the coast of Maine is perfect in my eyes. The boats are perfectly arranged, the seaweed-covered rocks provide a well-known transition to land, and an unbroken monoculture of fir trees provides an amazing texture. There are three distinct zones, and three corresponding tonal values that also work very well together, blue-green, muted orange, and green-blue. And, to provide the pop and wonderful detail that really makes this sing, you have a spot of red in the lobster boat at the top of the frame. Design, design, design. This has it.
This is such a cool image. I can’t imagine Evan knew exactly what he would see when the sun rose behind Boon Island Lighthouse, over 7 miles offshore. Thanks to the wonders of technology, he did know where to stand. I imagine he had in mind the opportunity to capitalize on the thick smoke that was filling the air from wildfires out west at the time, and boy did he. The gradation of light as the perfect disc of the sun comes off of the ocean makes an incredibly attractive frame for this majestic pillar. The small bar of rock across the frame does not detract, but actually adds to the image with the few seagulls fortuitously perched directly in the center of the frame. Many of us had been trying similar ideas with the moon, but Evan had the great frame of mind to try something different here, with a rising sun that would not have been possible without the obscuring smoke in this very unique image.
Another example of impressive design, this image by Frederick Bloy captures coastal Maine geology in a beautiful way. Our weathered, smooth granite stones are a defining feature of the coast around here. We also have over 4,600 islands in Maine, and I don’t think I’ve seen more photogenic ones than in this capture. Freddy ties it all together with a brilliant composition, highlighting the split between the stones, and placing the foremost island perfectly in the line with these features. I also love the tones he’s chosen, with a harmonious color palette of warm pink highlights smoothly transitioning to deep cool purples. Such a beautiful image.