October 15, 2014

Columbus Day Trip - Bar Harbor, Maine

As I mentioned in my last post, I was in the process of making plans for a little get-away trip, to meet up with some of my camera club friends in beautiful Bar Harbor Maine for the Columbus Day weekend. 

As luck would have it, Scott Kelby’s 7th Annual Worldwide Photowalk was happening that same weekend and a local photographer was leading one in the area, so I was able to sign up for that weekend also.

If you enjoy photography, you know that one of the best ways to improve your photo skills is to get out there with your camera and practice, practice, practice. It also helps to shoot with other people who also enjoy photography. If you’ve ever read any of my posts you know that I belong to a fairly large camera club and for the last three or four years, a group of our club members have been making a trip up to Acadia National Park in Maine for the Columbus Day holiday weekend. Because of personal work obligations I’ve never been able to go with them but this year I was determined to go and I started making plans in early July. 

Acadia Park has miles and miles of carriage roads, perfect for walking or riding a bicycle, so I figured I’d put my bike rack on the car and take my mountain bike along with me on my trip. My bike is set up with a basket on the back perfect for carrying  my camera gear, so I could cruise around the lakes inside the park while I was up there if the weather was decent. 

Columbus Day weekend here in New England is great for photographers because it falls in the second week of October and that is usually the peak time for foliage and colors. Bar Harbor is located on Mount Desert Island which is well known for its beautiful scenery and rugged shoreline. In fact, over 2 ½ million people visit there every year. For photographers this place can be a real photo-paradise.  Fortunately, I live in New England, and I can get there by car in about 6 hours.

These trips were originally started by one of my camera club members, Denise. Now Denise is not only very familiar with the area, but also a very serious photographer herself.  She knew from personal experience the best places to photograph (with driving directions) the best times to shoot, and even the best places to eat and stay while up there. For several years, she has put together a PDF itinerary coordinating the weekend for anyone interested in going.  

I was pretty excited that I was finally going to go up with my group because I had wanted to visit (and photograph) Bar Harbor for many years. Just about anyone who’s ever opened a magazine or watched TV has seen some of the beautiful sights in that area, places like Cadillac Mountain, Acadia Park, Otter Cliffs, Bass Harbor Lighthouse and many other popular locations. 

I actually arrived in Bar Harbor on Friday morning and the rest of my group were arriving at various times the next day, and we planned a group meeting later in the afternoon. The Photowalk was scheduled for Saturday morning and because I wasn’t familiar with the area, I had to cruise around for a while until I found the place the Photowalk was starting from. It turned out to be only about 5 or 6 miles from my motel and like every other year, the Photowalk turned out to be a good time. I got a chance to meet some really nice people from that area and get out with my camera for a couple hours. After the walk, we all met up at a local restaurant for some food and drinks which usually proves to be a lot of fun.

(Bass Harbor Light)
Personally, one of my main interests in the area was the lighthouses. The state of Maine has over 50 active lighthouses and because of the rugged shoreline around Mount Desert Island, there are quite a few lighthouses right in that general area. What I wanted to do while I was up there was to get some photos of the lighthouses from the air and some from the water if I could.  Before I had even checked into my motel, I had stopped by the local airport to speak with the owner. The owner and I had spoken on the phone and exchanged emails previously and he had told me that if I couldn’t find someone else to go up with me I could go solo, but I’d have to pay for two seats because it wasn’t cost-effective for him. 

That got me kind of bummed out, but the next day when my group arrived, I asked if anyone might be interested in going up and luckily a member from my club said he’d like to go, so I called and booked a plane ride for Monday morning. The weather was perfect that day but the images I ended up taking from the plane weren’t the greatest because we were shooting through foggy plexiglass windows. It was a good time anyhow because the views of the area and all the colors were fantastic.

I had also arranged a 3 hour narrated Lighthouse Cruise aboard a jet-powered catamaran for Sunday morning, but it ended up being standing room only. Being October in Maine, it was pretty cold out on the ocean on the top deck of the boat, especially when it got up to cruising speed, (about 35 knots ) Also, because it was so crowded it was very difficult to get any really decent shots. There were people trying to take photos with point and shoot cameras, cell phones and even iPads. But all-in-all I thought the lighthouse trip was still very enjoyable, although I would definitely have enjoyed it more in warmer weather.  

The only lighthouse on Mount Desert Island is Bass Harbor light (see aerial photo above) and I thought it would be nice to shoot it at sunset. Unfortunately when I got there I found out that a lot of other people had the same idea because the parking lot was packed. The place was flooded with tourists and other photographers carrying cameras and tripods. I knew that even if I could have found a parking spot, I wouldn’t have gotten any decent shots of the lighthouse by itself anyhow. So I went cruising around rather quickly trying to find another place to shoot before I lost my light. I was hoping I might find a nice little marina with some boats or something but I ended up photographing a secluded little bay.   (see image below)

All the while I was up in the plane and out on the boat cruise, the rest of my group members were out shooting places on Denise’s itinerary and having a good time themselves. I really didn’t get a chance to hang out with my group members too often that weekend, but I did get to shoot a sunset from the top of Cadillac Mountain on Saturday with them and the sunrise at Otter Cliffs the following morning before I went on my boat cruise.

After a very busy weekend, my friends and I decided to meet up for breakfast before the trip home. We were all sitting in the restaurant after placing our orders and talking about our weekend, and Denise asked me if I had had a chance to get out on my bike that weekend.  I told her that I hadn’t and she told me the paths around Eagle Lake were really nice.  I knew I wasn’t in a hurry to head home yet and I still had time on my park pass, so after breakfast I decided to take my bike out for a few hours around Eagle Lake.  I was very glad I did because I got some shots I was happy with and got a chance to check out some more awesome scenery. 

(Pemaquid  Light)
While out riding my bike around Eagle Lake, I decided I was going to take the long way home and cruise Route 1 along the coastline down to Portland. The drive from Bar Harbor to Portland was about 165 miles total and about a third of the way down the coast there was one particular lighthouse that I wanted to see, Pemaquid Light. I knew it was about an hour out of the way, but I was able to stop there and get some shots that I was happy with. 

The trip down the coastline ended up taking about 7½ hours but the views made it worth it.  I had left Bar Harbor about 11:30 that morning and I finally made it home at 10pm that evening. The whole trip was 6 days long and I drove around 1200 miles total, but I can’t wait to do it again!

Remember, as always, keep shooting and have some fun!
© D. Gould Photography