Isle au Haut » You Can Sleep When You're Dead: Blog by Colleen Miniuk

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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!


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 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!)