Dec 102014
 
In the Storm

Day 1: “In the Storm,” waves roll into the Schoodic Peninsula’s rugged western coastline in Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

If you have spent any time on Facebook in the last several months, chances are high you have run across the “Black and White Challenge” making its way from photographer to photographer.  For those unfamiliar with this social media experiment, it goes something like this:  Post a black and white photograph on your Facebook page each day for five days.  Then, challenge someone else to do the same each of those days.

Although I enjoy viewing monochromatic images (both in general and during the recent Facebook challenge), I had not thought about black and white processing for my own work for quite some time.  About 11 years to be exact…

Wheels in Montana_CGCC

Humble beginnings: I made this image in the fall of 2001 (from my 7th roll of film). I knew little about light or composition at the time, but I really liked how the light illuminated the logging wheels while the fog cleared from the hills in the background at my husband’s childhood home outside Missoula, Montana.

To escape the stresses of intense corporate life, I began taking photography courses at the Chandler-Gilbert Community College in September 2001.  Through my five semesters of classes (until the end of 2003), I learned what an aperture was, how to slow my shutter speed, ways to compose effectively, and many other foundational techniques.  I also vividly remember learning that a black and white image should possess a bright white tone, a rich black, and a nice range of greys in between (the lack of such combination being one of the reasons some high dynamic range, or HDR, images fail, in my opinion…but I digress).

Eager to expand my photographic repertoire, in late 2003, I tried my hand at color slide film.  I instantly found shooting in color helped me better express what I loved about what I saw and experienced in the outdoors.  Despite the lingering and unforgettable fumes of stop bath and fixer trying to tempt me back to the darkroom, I chose to pursue my work in color…and as a result, the few remaining rolls of black and white film I owned aged well beyond their expiration date in my refrigerator.

Fast forward to this past October.  During the Black and White Challenge on Facebook, my good buddy and talented photographer, Floris van Breugel nominated me to participate.  Since then, I have scanned my collection of images, experimented with many in the digital darkroom, and finally selected five to offer to the challenge (and in the process, remembered just how fun it was to watch your photograph come to life in the darkroom trays while chit-chatting with your photographer friends.  It was kind of like sitting around a warm campfire, only without the s’mores and tequila…). While I am a little late in joining this party, as the idiom goes, “Better late than never.”

With that, my first contribution to the Black and White Challenge is “In the Storm” (image atop this post) from the Schoodic Peninsula in Acadia National Park.  This past February, while making my standard rounds along the western shoreline in the late afternoon light, I reconnected with one of my favorite views.  I had high hopes that the fast-moving winter storm would break into a magical fiery sunset just after the sun disappeared behind the horizon.  As I waited, I played.

Specifically, I experimented with various shutter speeds to render the waves kissing the rugged cliffs into an ethereal mist.  To do so, I slowed my exposure settings down as much as possible:  ISO 50, f/22 at 30 seconds.  I also added a three-stop graduated neutral density filter over the top portion of my frame, so as to darken the clouds and to pull some additional texture out.

When I looked at the results on my camera’s LCD, I enjoyed the composition and the idea of moving water.  I felt, though, as if the motion effect (even at 30 seconds) was still too fast for what I envisioned.  I turned to my Lee 10-stop Big Stopper neutral density filter to help me slow my shutter speed even further.  I set the final exposure to ISO 50, f/22 at 502 seconds while using the Big Stopper filter in front of my lens.  Here is the original color image (post continues after the photo):

Maine_Acadia National Park_00226_original

The original color image of “In the Storm”

When processing the photo on the computer, I decided the colors were not important to me conveying my desired message for this scene.  On top of that, the even, diffused lighting lacked contrast and perhaps a little shape.  In technical terms, it looked blah.

As we review in many of my workshops, if it’s not helping your story, take it out!  I eliminated the color tones and increased the contrast through a series of spot-specific Level adjustments (like burning and dodging to achieve “a bright white, rich black, and a range of greys in between” in the traditional darkroom).  While blue hues typically feel cold, I believe the image took on a sharper, even colder feeling, once I dropped the gloomy color out.  Also, the increased contrast the black and white image displays offers the illusion of greater dimension and shape than the color version.

Do you agree?  Which version of this image do you prefer and why?  I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts in the Comments section below.

To fulfill the requirements of the challenge – and in honor of my Chandler-Gilbert Community College days – I nominate my dear CGCC friends on Facebook to participate:  Mona Burato, Patty DeBermuda, and Lynn Welter!  Let’s see what you’ve got, ladies!

Until tomorrow – Day 2!

~Colleen

Dec 042014
 

Rebecca Wilks was one of four students on a private CMS Photography workshop to Acadia National Park held in mid-October 2014.  This blog post features her thoughts and images from her experience.  I hope you enjoy, as I so very much have, seeing Acadia through her eyes (and if you do, please leave her a comment on her post!).  More of her work can be viewed on her website www.skylineimages.net and her blog at theviewfromtheskyline.blogspot.com.

I didn’t know what I was missing.  Last year, that is, when Colleen valiantly invented a workshop “around” Acadia National park because the government had shut down and the park was closed.  It’s just as well, because I would have been terribly disappointed if I had known what I know now.

Acadia is a really special place.  From the historic carriage roads with their stone bridges to the classic rocky Maine coastline, I’m hooked.  I’ve rarely had as delightful a group of traveling companions, as well.  I’m looking forward as only a naive Arizona girl can to a trip in winter 2016.

Some images from the trip:

Sometimes I’ll be intrigued by something other than the main attraction.  We’d stopped to shoot a bridge and Stanley Brook called to me from  the forest.  I loved the repetitive s-curves and the (very different from my desert home) mossy forest.

Honestly I had no idea what this image would look like, because the wind was blowing 50-60 and my eyes were watering so much that I couldn’t see anything.  I may not have been the only one who was tempted to hike back to the vehicle and get off Cadillac Mountain, but Colleen the intrepid talked (shamed) us all into staying, and in the end I was pleased.  The light seems otherworldly to me.  That being said, we all agreed that we’d had about enough of this mountain and it didn’t make the short list of places to visit on our last two days, after Colleen had gone home.

Rain and fog in its fabulous moodiness.  The voice in my head wants to stay cozy in bed, but I’d so glad we got out this day.  Layers, colors, fog.  I loved it.

I really wanted this one.  We all did.  We shot here mid-day and then on a densely overcast morning.  We gave it yet another try on our last morning in the park and we saw this incredibly beautiful (no less so in its subtlety) treat.  Ahhh.

Thanks for everything!!
Rebecca Wilks

Dec 032014
 

Amy Minton was one of four students on a private CMS Photography workshop to Acadia National Park held in mid-October 2014.  This blog post features her thoughts and images from her experience.  I hope you enjoy, as I so very much have, seeing Acadia through her eyes (and if you do, please leave her a comment on her post!).

Regarding my overall experience in Acadia, it was AWESOME!  Getting some nice pictures to frame or put into a book or calendar to share is a bonus to me.  The real pleasure for me was experiencing Acadia National Park and doing so with others who were just as excited about seeing the park.   What a great way to spend time off – learn/experience nature and photography.

Some highlights from this trip include:  50 mph wind gusts atop Cadillac Mountain; sitting and listening to the water flowing down Jordan Stream after a night/morning of rain; hearing the sounds of the woods as you walk along a carriage road; enjoying popovers at the Jordan Pond House; and observing the groves in the rocks created by the glaciers or other geological marvels.  Also there were plenty of photography learning experiences.  For example, Colleen showed me how to bracket for exposure and I subsequently merged post-processing (see Eagle lake carriage road and bridge photo below).  I learned about creating abstract images by moving my camera after releasing the shutter, and Colleen talked/showed me how to set up and take images to later merge as a panoramic photo.  Additionally, she made me think and ask questions of myself as to why and how I wanted to capture what made me stop and admire a scene in nature.

First, a little why I selected these three photos to share:

(1) Abstract motion blur Sieur de Monts Jesup Trial.  Although I generally do not think – abstracts (no shock there), I have been intrigued by abstract motion-blur images I have seen in magazines, books, and online.  Yup, I wanted to give it a try and had thought there would be an opportunity to do just that during the workshop.  The types of trees as well as the colors from the grasses and leaves seemed to me to be screaming make an abstract image via your camera.  I think it surprises folks at work as well as my family when I have shared this picture and another one (also taken from the boardwalk).

(2) Eagle lake carriage road and bridge.  After reading about Acadia’s Carriage roads and bridges, I really was looking forward to seeing them.  All the care, time, and effort that was put into creating and preserving the idea/concept of the carriage roads is rather remarkable.  As I look at this picture, I am able to see JDR Jr’s concept fulfilled – people enjoying nature without the interruption of cars (road travels above the carriage road).  It makes me smile and I am able to imagine myself walking along the carriage road admiring nature and being at peace.

(3) Persistence pays off Newport Cove.   When I look at this image, I am reminded of the effort that went into having the opportunity to make it.  We scouted the location with Colleen before she headed back to  Arizona (after the workshop ended), and thank goodness.  I don’t think we’d have found it in the dark nor would we have as confidently negotiated the path as we did (twice).  Saturday morning was beautiful in its own way – Moody Maine (possible title for my photo book) but did not live up to the promise we all knew was possible if there was good morning light.  We were rewarded for our decision to return on our last day in Acadia.

I have many fond memories from this trip and find myself looking back upon them and smiling.   It was a fun and awesome adventure.  I can definitely see why Colleen keeps going back to Acadia and wrote Photographing Acadia National Park guide book.

Keep Shooting!
Amy

Dec 022014
 
What Lies Ahead?

“What Lies Ahead?” Jesup Path, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

Last October, I kicked off an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to help me cover the cost of printing my guidebook, Photographing Acadia National Park:  The Essential Guide to When, Where, and How.  One of the perks I offered was a three-day photography workshop in Acadia National Park for up to four people.

Not long after the campaign went live, I received a note from a previous workshop student, Rebecca Wilks, who expressed interest in this Acadia workshop.  She had been a student on the October 2013 Arizona Highways Photography Workshop that started off as “Autumn IN Acadia” photography workshop and ended up being the “Autumn AROUND Acadia” photo workshop, thanks to the government shutdown.  The park closed a mere six days before the workshop started and lasted the entire duration.  I can’t express in words how difficult emotionally this was for me:  to have a group of twenty people eager to see and photograph the beauty of this coastal park – a place I’ve completely fallen in love with – and not be able to show them any of it.

With much assistance from my friends out there, though, we put together a wonderful new itinerary that showcased other beautiful places around Mount Desert Island like Little Long Pond, the Thuya Garden, Cooksey Overlook, and Lamoine State Park.  It was enough of a taste of Maine to convince Rebecca, as well as three other women from this first trip (Amy Minton, Gwen Williams, and Jen Bookman) to book a return trip to see and photograph Acadia National Park.  With much gratitude for their support of my book and Indiegogo campaign (why their names are in bold on page 215 under “Valued Individual Contributors” in my book), we immediately began planning their workshop for mid-October 2014.  I could not wait to show them Acadia and see what photographs they would create there given this second chance!

To kick off what ended up being a four-day workshop (three days simply wasn’t long enough!), we naturally began with the traditional stop at Tim Horton’s for coffee and donuts.  We then headed directly into the park, specifically Duck Brook Bridge, where we snapped a commemorative “YES!  We’re finally IN the park!” photograph.

“We’re back! Take THAT, U.S. government!”  From L to R: Gwen, Jen, Rebecca, and Amy on Duck Brook Bridge

Over the four days, these hearty women sampled classic and off-the-beaten path spots within the park.  As we endured 50+ mph winds atop Cadillac Mountain, fog so heavy we couldn’t see 50 feet in front of us at Otter Cliff, and a glorious colorful sky over Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, I encouraged (as I do on all my workshops) mindful observations, connecting with what each person saw and responded to emotionally, refining the technical execution of personal visions, and fully exploring a scene.

We even had a tremendous amount of FUN together, as you might be able to tell from our group photo time lapse from the Otter Cliff parking lot (From left to right:  Gwen, Rebecca, Colleen, Amy, and Jen):

Their persistence paid off in the form of a fabulous experience, camaraderie, and a new portfolio of meaningful photographs at the height of fall color in Acadia.  After the trip, as I looked through some of their images, I couldn’t help but recall a quote from Maya Angelou to describe their journey: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Amy and Rebecca have graciously offered to write a Guest Blog about their experience and to share a sample of their photos from the trip, which will follow in the next two days.  I hope you enjoy, as I so very much have, seeing Acadia through their eyes (and if you do, please leave them a comment on their post!).

Keep shooting!
~Colleen

Feb 192014
 
The Sol of Winter

Winter sunrise at Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park in Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order yours!)

Last night, the Acadia National Park area received about five inches of fresh snow. The fluffy and light powder created a smooth fondant-like coating over the top of the granite ledges and boulders.  A glorious sunrise greeted those who ventured out early enough to see the winter spectacle.  I welcomed the new day with a smile (and a sunburst!) along the granite headland called Schoodic Point.

Despite the weather forecast suggesting partly cloudy skies would quickly turn to mostly cloudy cover, the sun still shone brightly after I consumed my breakfast. I decided to pack my camera gear and head back to Schoodic Point for a little more fun.  Specifically, I wanted to record me digging a snow angel against the backdrop of Cadillac Mountain (hat tip to my friend and fellow photographer, Olivier du Tre for the idea!)

At Schoodic Point, I danced though the blanket of snow to find a safe place among the wind-swept granite ledges. After composing my frame with a little extra room on the bottom right hand corner for my snow angel, I set my intervolometer to fire my shutter at 5 second intervals following an initial 20-second delay (to allow me enough time to walk into the frame and start moving snow around). After I made several outtakes, I walked out of the scene and back to my camera to stop the automatic trigger.  I reviewed the results on my camera’s LCD, made some minor adjustments, and then tried the process again. (Lather, rinse, repeat for about 20 minutes.)

Snow Angel on Schoodic Point

Colleen making a snow angel on Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park, Maine

All went according to plan until I finished the third set-up. After creating a sequence of photos for a time-lapse video (a new skill I am practicing), I carefully stepped from one exposed granite ledge to another to avoid stepping on my winter creation and to return to my camera.

I traveled about three-quarters of the route back with no trouble. Then suddenly, I plunged from a solid granite boulder into a large snowdrift about four feet below. After my feet stopped in their unexpected descent, my momentum pushed me forward, causing me to land face first and hands out in the soft snow. Instantly, I started laughing hysterically. After a few minutes contemplating the hilarity of my situation, I pulled myself out of the snow, brushed off, and returned to my camera to stop the intervals.

My tumble had occurred outside the frame on camera right, but when I glanced at the imprint in the snow, it looked just like an animal shape. I had an idea! Without hesitation, I recomposed my camera on the fall area, set the self-timer, and then performed a re-enactment of my face plant.

And with that, I introduce to you my “snow lobster!”  Along the Maine coast, that’s apparently how we “roll!”

The Snow Lobster

Colleen demonstrates the new “Snow Lobster” on Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park in Maine

For more stories about my photographic adventures in Acadia National Park, pick up a copy of my new guidebook, Photographing Acadia National Park:  The Essential Guide to When, Where, and How In addition to the 12 “Making the Photo” stories, you’ll also learn about my favorite 50 locations in the park so you can plan your own fun in this magical place.  And, 10% of the book’s profit goes to the Schoodic Education Adventure program to help kids learn about science and nature in Acadia!

Or join me in Acadia this fall with the Arizona Highways Photography Workshops!  Limited seats remain, so get more information and register at  ahpw.org/workshops/2014/2014-Acadia-National-Park-Photo-Workshop-2014-10-09/.

Dec 292013
 

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing “
Helen Keller

Happy 2014!  As we celebrate the final days of 2013, I can only think, what a big adventure this year has been for us!

It was certainly a year of transition for us, one my husband, Craig, and I affectionately refer to as “Suitcases, Sticky Notes, and Tacos.”  Because of our temporary move to Hillsboro, Oregon in May (to support Craig’s temporary job assignment for Intel Corporation) and our travel schedule to maintain our commitments, our clothes often went from a suitcase to the washing machine, only to be put right back into the same suitcase. Occasionally, we had multiple overnight bags packed for different trips within trips (i.e. one by airplane to one city followed immediately by another one by car).  Long strands of connected sticky notes with messages reminding us of everything from flight schedules to grocery lists helped keep our heads on straight as we tried to figure out where we were going, when we needed to be there, and what we were supposed to do when we arrived.  We found ourselves eating an abundance of tacos along the way, perhaps because we missed our home in Arizona. Or perhaps because it was the only type of food establishment open and convenient during half-hour airport hand-offs and tiresome late nights.

Amidst the whirlwind and chaos, I ironically found 2013 to be a year of clarity and focus for my photography and writing.  When we learned in late 2012 of our relocation, I blocked my schedule from any new commitments to allow me time to explore our interim home in the Pacific Northwest with few interruptions.  However, all plans for the year changed quickly in late January, when I decided to write a printed book – not just an eBook – about photographing Acadia National Park while on my third Artist-in-Residency with the park.  I now joke that I spent much my time in Oregon writing a book about Maine.  That said, between the trips that originated in either Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine,  I found just enough time to explore the coast, water, geology, and oceanography-subjects that excite me–in more depth than ever before.

Now that we’ve returned to our Arizona home, I joyfully bring all these experiences into next year, which represents my lucky 7th year as a full-time freelance photographer and writer.   Each year, when Craig and I discuss my business plan for the following year, I wonder what could possibly top the fortunate journey I’ve already had.  Then, I ponder all the new exciting opportunities ahead in the next 12 to 15 months, and I realize the adventure is only beginning.

I also acknowledge quite humbly, that I could not do what I love to do each day without your continued support.  As always, I thank you for your help, for your friendship, and for the unique stories, perspectives, and laughs you bring to each of our meetings, whether it be in the field or via the internet.

In celebration of a wonderful 2013 and a cheers to an even more thrilling 2014, I’d like to share my favorite 13 photos from the year.  In chronological order:

1.  Ice Explosion, West Pond Cove, Acadia National Park, Maine (January 2013)

Ice Explosion

“Ice Explosion,” West Pond Cove, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

2.  Fade Into You, Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine (January 2013)

Fade Into You

“Fade Into You,” Sand Beach, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

3.  Ice Hoodoos, Ocean Drive, Acadia National Park, Maine (February 2013).
Ice Hoodoos

“Ice Hoodoos,” Ocean Drive, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

4.  Spring Emergence, Ecola State Park, Oregon (May 2013).  Read more about the making of this photo on my previous blog post, “The Constancy of Change.”
Spring's Emergence

“Spring Emergence,” Ecola State Park, Oregon (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

5.  Hang On!, Ecola State Park, Oregon (May 2013).  Read more about the making of this photo on my previous blog post, “The Constancy of Change.”
Hang On!

“Hang On!” Ecola State Park, Oregon (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

6.  Moved by the Sea, Cape Blanco, Oregon (May 2013).  Read the story behind the photograph on a previous blog post at “Making the Image:  Moved by the Sea.”
Moved by the Sea

“Moved by the Sea,” Cape Blanco, Oregon (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

7.  Summer’s Gift, Olympic National Park, Washington (July 2013)
Summer's Gift

“Summer’s Gift,” Olympic National Park, Washington (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

8.  Summer’s Celebration on Steens Mountain, Oregon (August 2013)
Summer Celebration on Steens Mountain

“Summer Celebration on Steens Mountain,” Oregon (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

9.  Autumn’s Symphony, Mount Desert Island, Maine (October 2013)
Autumn's Symphony

“Autumn’s Symphony,” Mount Desert Island, Maine (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

10.  Another World, Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park, Maine (October 2013).  Read the story behind the photograph on a previous blog post about “Making the Image:  Another World and Floating in Time.”
Another World

“Another World,” Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

11.  Tranquility at Long Pond, Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park, Maine (October 2013)
Tranquility at Long Pond, Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park, Maine

“Tranquility at Long Pond,” Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

12.  Eye of the Storm, Isle au Haut, Acadia National Park, Maine (October 2013)
Eye of the Storm

“Eye of the Storm,” Isle au Haut, Maine (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

13. Storm Remnants, Red Lake, Arizona (December 2013)
Storm Remnants

“Storm Remnants,” Red Lake, Arizona (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

Thank you for stopping by the “You Can Sleep When You’re Dead” blog!  Wishing you the very best in the new year, in hopes its a time of much success, learning, friendship, and of course, laughter! We’d love to hear what you’re looking forward to next year, so leave us a comment below about what you’re excited about in 2014!

~Colleen

Nov 052013
 
Another World

“Another World,” Eben’s Head Trail in Acadia National Park, Isle au Haut, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

NOTE:  This blog entry will appear in our new book, Photographing Acadia National Park:  The Essential Guide to When, Where, & How as “Behind the Photo #12:  Looking for Answers.”  In addition to this post, I’m featuring 11 additional behind-the-scenes stories from my experiences in the park.  If you’d like to pre-order a copy, head over to our Indiegogo campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/photographing-acadia-national-park-book until November 30, 2013.  Thanks for your interest and support!

Looking for Answers

“There’s more than one right answer.” ~DeWitt Jones

Gaelic Storm–a Celtic band which makes toe-tapping, knee-slapping music I enjoy tremendously–produced a song titled, “Don’t Go for the One.”  The lyrics tell of a gentleman going to buy snails to impress his house guests, but gets talked into having a single beer at the bar.  One brew becomes two, three, four, and what was supposed to have been a quick chat turns into an all-night event.  As the title and chorus hilariously suggests, one should not expect to enjoy only one beverage with your friends.

While it may seem like a stretch, this philosophy can apply to photography as well.  Don’t go for the one photograph!

Very rarely am I fortunate enough to get everything to come together perfectly in a first frame.  Even after I have spent ample time observing, analyzing, and visualizing an intriguing subject to define a clear vision, more often than not, I will also explore the scene through recording a series of frames with my camera.

Assuming the lighting conditions are not changing quickly, I contemplate an abundance of “what if” scenarios to determine how I will accomplish recording my visual message before snapping the shutter.  What if I only included this section of the scene?  What if I positioned my camera lower to the ground?  What if I used side light instead of backlight?  What if, what if, what if?  I continue tapping into this iterative evaluative process as I begin photographing, as it helps me refine what my eye is seeing and how to share that through a photograph.

Not only does this process enable me to achieve my creative vision, but it also helps me fully appreciate the subject from a variety of perspectives and find the many right answers a scene possesses, as Dewitt Jones’ quote suggests.  If I have spent the time and money to travel 3,000 miles (4,828 km) from Arizona, hopped on a passenger-only ferry to the remote Isle au Haut, biked six miles along a bumpy, single track dirt road, and then walked a mile uphill with a heavy camera backpack to get to a location, you can be sure I am not going to snap only one photo and head home.  Instead, I want to challenge myself to see how many right answers I can discover.

On the first day of our visit to Isle au Haut, my parents and I ventured to the Eben’s Head Trail well before sunset to allow extra time for wandering and discovering along the unfamiliar trail.  After a short meander through the forest, we emerged on the rocky coast and scrambled to the top of Eben’s Head, where a breathtaking 180-degree panoramic view of the isle’s western shoreline and open waters of Isle au Haut Bay greeted us.  We noticed the receding tide leaving behind small tide pools on the volcanic ledges surrounding the cobble beach directly north of our perch.  Eager for a closer look at the momentary glimpse into the typically hidden ocean world, we hiked the short distance to the seashore.

After only a few seconds of exploring, the fine, hair-like seaweed floating in the tide pools fascinated me.  A few steps ahead on the black boulders, my mom, Jacque, spotted a slightly larger saltwater puddle and called to me, “Hey Colleen, you have to see these bubbles!”

When I gazed into her find, I did not just see tangles of seaweed and floating bubbles.  The scene immediately transported me to outer space, where planets swirled in a distant galaxy.  I knew I had to create an image of precisely that subject!

I walked around the small pool to begin the visualization process, first noticing how the backlight from the late afternoon created a dark backdrop in the deep pool.  Then, I settled on a vertical orientation based on the bubbles’ arrangement.  I knew I needed to keep my lens (positioned to look down upon the scene) parallel to the surface of the water so that the face of the bubbles and the top layer of seaweed remained in focus.  A small aperture on my 100mm macro lens would provide the depth of field necessary for my tight composition.  I needed to remember to twirl my polarizer to get just enough reflected light on the water, but not so much that it overshadowed the primary scene.

With this vision in mind, after diligently setting up my composition and exposure, I snapped the frame and immediately reviewed the image on the back of my camera’s LCD.  Shockingly, on the first try, I managed to record an image that matched my vision–a right answer!

Despite being pleased with my first snap, I continued exploring the scene for 45 more minutes.  After a number of frames, I picked out an odd reddish tint occurring across the image.  It was the reflection of my red jacket!  I experimented keeping the extra color in the frame by hovering over the scene.  I also eliminated it by stepping a short distance away from the scene and triggering the shutter with a cable release.  Contrasting with the rich greens and blues, the additional color made the scene look even more other-worldly–a second right answer!

I tried turning the camera to the left slightly and then to the right slightly, utilizing a Dutch tilt, to play with the composition as the bubbles appeared, disappeared, and then reappeared, changing the visual balance entirely from image to image – more right answers!

Then, I used extension tubes to allow me to get a closer perspective (see the time image titled, “Floating in Time,” at the bottom of this post).  I felt the broader perspective better conveyed my initial notion of “planets swirling in a distant galaxy,” but I enjoyed the results of this more intimate view–another right answer!

During the process, I felt my photographic message and my confidence strengthening with each additional frame.  Had I gone for “the one” and packed up after my first shot, I would have missed the chance to see all the possibilities this magical scene had in store!

Which of the two images presented here do you prefer?  Why? Remember, there are many right answers so share your thoughts in the Comments below!

Floating in Time

“Floating in Time,” Eben’s Head Trail in Acadia National Park, Isle au Haut, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Oct 242013
 

Reserve your copy of our new guidebook, Photographing Acadia National Park:  The Essential Guide to When, Where, and How through my new Indiegogo campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/photographing-acadia-national-park-book.

Now through November 30, 2014, not only can you pre-order one or more books at discounted price (which won’t be available after the campaign concludes), but you can also purchase prints from Acadia for your home at a special price, get your name listed in the book forever, and even reserve an all-inclusive 4-day photography workshop extravaganza with yours truly as your guide in Acadia National Park!

The money raised during this campaign will help me bare the cost burden of printing the book (I’m not just the author and photographer, I’m also the publisher!). In addition, I am proudly donating 10% of this book’s profits to the Schoodic Education Adventure residential program, an unsurpassed educational opportunity for children to learn about science and nature in Acadia National Park.  Finally, I also donate 10% of the profit back to the National Park Service for every photograph purchased from Acadia National Park.

So not only will your contribution get you a helpful guide and help me produce this book – my dream – but also together we can make a difference for our future generations!

So don’t delay – pre-order your copy today!  We’ll ship you the first books hot off the truck in early February 2014 when it arrives!  For more information about this guide, please visit the book’s website at photographingacadia.com.

And then help us spread the word by sharing this newsletter and/or the Indiegogo campaign link (www.indiegogo.com/projects/photographing-acadia-national-park-book) with your family, friends, and camera clubs!  We’ve started a Referral Contest, where I’ll award the person who refers the most amount of funders (# of people) with a FREE 16″x24″ ready to hang metal print of the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

To participate:

  1. Log in to your Indiegogo account.
  2. Cut & paste the URL in the “Share This Campaign” section to share your the personalized link on your social media (e.g. Facebook, G+, LinkedIn, Twitter), email, and websites.
  3. Track your referrals – when someone clicks on your shared link and contributes to this campaign, they will appear in your referrals (under My Profile beneath your name when you login)

I’ll share the top three contenders each week until the campaign closes to keep you informed of the status.

Thank you for your support!

Mar 212013
 
UMEAC-00032_c

Ride With Me,” Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Of all the images I’ve created thus far, the one I get questioned the most about is, by a landslide, “Ride With Me” in Acadia National Park in Maine.  I’m frequently asked, “Where was the camera?” and “And how did you snap the picture with both hands on the handlebars?”

Though I captured the image above during my second Artist-in-Residence with the park in October 2010, my visualizations for this image started almost a year earlier in November 2009 during my first residency.  In the months leading up to my first visit, I read a wonderful book by Ann Rockefeller Roberts titled, “Mr. Rockefeller’s Roads:  The Untold Stories of Acadia’s Carriage Roads.”  Concerned the “new” automobile would threaten the natural beauty and affect the quiet, peacefulness Mount Desert Island provided him, his family, and fellow community members, John Rockefeller, Jr. envisioned setting aside land to establish a network of carriage roads limited to only carriage riders, drivers, and pedestrians could utilize for recreational purposes. By 1940, a 57-mile system of carefully designed and developed carriage roads existed for exactly that purpose.

Inspired by this story,  as I turned each page, I started to piece together the kind of photograph I wanted to make when I arrived and experienced the phenomenal carriage roads for myself.  As soon as I made it to Acadia in November, I hit the carriage roads on foot or by bicycle, traveling almost every length of the 45-miles within the park boundaries.  Occasionally, I stopped to make a photograph or two or ten or fifty.  I felt I was capturing “nice,” technically acceptable photographs along the way but never truly felt I had captured something that did this unique feature within Acadia justice.

Poor Carriage Road Shot - ExampleThe photo to the right was honestly the best I brought home.  Does this inspire anyone to go to Acadia and see the carriage roads for themselves?  I’m guessing a resounding NO!!  This shot is just, well, really sad…

Now once you have a spark of enthusiasm or even a semblance of an idea, don’t give up on it!  I had the fortunate opportunity to return to Acadia in October 2010, so I had precisely 10 months to analyze what went wrong in the first attempt and design an approach that would yield the type of image I wanted to capture on the carriage roads.

I wanted to share how much fun it was to hike and bike along these paths, so I decided I would show myself in motion.  I’m not a fast walker, and so help me, I do not run ever (unless someone is chasing me or is giving away free cameras across the field…) so I planned to create the image while on a moving bike with a slower shutter speed to imply movement and speed.  I could hold the camera in one hand up to my eye while keeping one hand on the handlebars to render an OK image, but that approach seemed doomed for certain disaster for clumsy ol’ me.  I needed both hands on the handlebars, but how would I trigger the shutter?

I mulled my idea over with my husband, who promptly suggested I research what skydivers do to trigger the shutter when they throw their crazy selves out of planes with both hands free.  Hmmmm, yes…I found a company online, Conceptus, who made switches for just this reason!  So I traveled to one of their distributors in Eloy, Arizona to pick up my tongue-switch, a cable-release that would plug into the camera and would allow me to trigger the shutter hands-free with my tongue!  After just a few clicks, I knew this tool would certainly help me capture my vision!

With fresh enthusiasm for my idea, I returned to Acadia and started biking the autumn-kissed, tree-lined carriage roads with my camera strapped to my mid-section with a basic strap, my camera manually focused at infinity, my lens set at 16mm for a wide-angle perspective, and of course, my tongue switch in my mouth!  I’d bike as fast as I could downhill, experimenting with various shutter speeds to render just enough motion but not so much it looked like the stars when the Millennium Falcon went into hyperspace mode.

Six-hundred shots later- only four of which turned out to my liking – and I can confidentially say this photograph, “Ride With Me” is exactly how I felt about enjoying the carriage roads and perhaps more importantly, it conveys exactly what I wanted to share with my viewers about that special feeling.  I hope this photograph does inspire you to go to Acadia and see the carriage roads yourself!  Truly, as the title expresses, I wanted you to ride with me.

Whether you’re photographing from a bike, an airplane, or with your two feet solidly planted on the ground, remember to look at your image on the back of your LCD before you move yourself or your tripod to be sure what you’ve captured is exactly what you envisioned and wish to share with your audience.  If you don’t, you’re cheating yourself and your audience out of something very important you have to say about the scene in front of you.  Work the scene by moving your position, changing lens, using light differently, modifying your exposure settings, applying filters, or whatever else you can do to ensure you capture that vision. And like I suggested earlier, once you have an idea pop into your head or you see something in the field that excites you, don’t walk away or give up until you’ve recorded it with your pixels!

Technical info:  Canon 5DMII, 16-35mm at 16mm, ISO 50, f/20 @ 1/5th of a second, polarizer, triggered by Conceptus tongue-switch, basic post-processing.

Mar 142013
 

The Artist-in-Residence program within the National Park Service offers professional visual and performing artists, writers, and composers an unprecedented opportunity to explore and create their art in inspirational locations across the United States.  Though each park operates their individual programs separately and differently, almost all of the participating locations request the artist donates a single piece created during their residency.

With my third Artist-in-Residency in Acadia National Park in Maine completed as of late February, I needed to make a decision as to which of the thousands of frames I snapped in my month-long stay would be THE chosen one.  It was important to me that the selected image clearly expressed what winter was like for me in this coastal park – full of cold, ice, fleeting moments, and beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  Given that criteria, I’ve selected “Ice Hoodoos” to be my donated print for my winter residency!

“Ice Hoodoos,” Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available – click on photo to order & use coupon code 0313POTM01 to receive your 30% discount now thru March 31, 2013!)

I’ve also selected this print to be our print of the month for March 2013, which means now thru March 31, 2013, visit our website and use coupon code 0313POTM01 to receive 30% off any size or style of this print. As with each Print of the Month within the collection, in addition to your print, you’ll also receive a one-page write-up on the story behind the photograph, which will include specific location information, technical details, and photography tips to help encourage you to get outside and enjoy nature.  As an added bonus for this print, we donate 10% of the profits from all prints sold from the National Park Service via the National Park Foundation.

Blog readers will recall the story I shared when I first posted this photograph on February 12“This bizarre and spectacular sunrise landscape happened yesterday morning [February 11] along Ocean Drive near Boulder Beach. The peak of the recent blizzard, “Nemo,” occurred almost simultaneously with a higher than normal high tide on Saturday, causing monster waves to pound the granite-lined coast and create a wall of spray almost up to Ocean Drive! This, combined with frigid temperatures well below freezing, plastered rocks and plant life alike with a coating of salt spray along this section of coastline, creating these amazing small desert hoodoo-like formations. As if that find wasn’t enough, the glorious sunrise was one of the most colorful I’ve seen in all my days in the park!”

This print will join my two previously donated prints – “Lighting the Way” of Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and “Season of Change” from the Schoodic Peninsula – in the Acadia National Park collection.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can participate in the rewarding Artist-in-Residence program at Acadia National Park, please visit their website at www.sercinstitute.org/education/artists-residence-0. Though the application process is now closed for the 2013 season, mark your calendar to apply starting this October for the 2014 season!

“Lighting the Way,” Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse at Acadia National Park, Maine, which was my donated print from my first Artist-in-Residence in November 2009 (Prints available – click on photo to order!)

Season of Change

“Season of Change,” Schoodic Peninsula, Acadia National Park, which was my donated print from my second Artist-in-Residence in October 2010. (Prints available – click on photo to order!)