Ben's Picks

Our photographer Benjamin Williamson highlights some of his favorite shots from around the state.
A red lobster boat sits in her mooring with Rockland Breakwater Light in the background, both surrounded by sea smoke in the frigid air this morning.

Cold Morning

PHOTOGRAPHED BY BENJAMIN WILLIAMSON

A red lobster boat sits in her mooring with Rockland Breakwater Light in the background, both surrounded by sea smoke in the frigid air.

Center of Gravity

Center of Gravity

PHOTOGRAPHED BY BENJAMIN WILLIAMSON

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.

good morning maine

Good Morning

PHOTOGRAPHED BY ROB WRIGHT

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.

Lobstering off Vinalhaven by Chris Lawrence

Lobstering off Vinalhaven

PHOTOGRAPHED BY CHRIS LAWRENCE

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.

Sunday Morning by Bob Dennis

Sunday Morning

PHOTOGRAPHED BY BOB DENNIS

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.

Puffin in Flight

Puffin in Flight

PHOTOGRAPHED BY COLIN CHASE

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.

Pemaquid Point, Maine - Milky Way

Pemaquid Point Milky Way

PHOTOGRAPHED BY MICHAEL BLANCHETTE

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.

Loon-in-the-Lupines

Loon in the Lupines

PHOTOGRAPHED BY DARYLANN LEONARD

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?

Lupines in Maine

Field of Dreams

PHOTOGRAPHED BY BENJAMIN WILLIAMSON

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.

Otter Point Milky Way by Jon Secord

Otter Point Milky Way

PHOTOGRAPHED BY JON SECORD

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.

Lubec Narrows Sunrise

Lubec Narrows Sunrise

PHOTOGRAPHED BY ADAM WOODWORTH

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.

Heart is Full by Dave Dostie

Heart is Full

BY DAVE DOSTIE

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.

West Quoddy Head

West Quoddy Porcupine

BY BENJAMIN WILLIAMSON

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!

Marginal Way Sunrise

BY CHARLES CORMIER

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.

Great Falls and Lewiston

Along the Raging River

BY BEN WILLIAMSON

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?

The Black Bridge, Brunswick Topsham
Burnt Island Light
Ram Island Light
Cuckolds Lighthouse
Hendricks Head Light

Boothbay Lighthouses

BY BEN WILLIAMSON

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.