I’m blessed to live just a mile from the Maine Coast and it’s mix of rocky shorelines, bird-filled tidal marshes, and working harbors (though we have those things in my home state of New Hampshire too, albeit only 17 miles of coastline versus Maine’s 3000.) Summer is my favorite time to shoot on the coast. Sea breezes regularly moderate temperatures, bringing relief to the humid, warm air found just a few miles inland, as well as keeping the bugs at bay. Those breezes also bring with them an intoxicating smell of salt air from the deep and cold waters of the Gulf of Maine. My reasons for enjoying shooting on the Maine Coast will seem obvious to those of you have been there, but if you’ve never made the trip to Maine, here’s what you’re missing:
1) Thousands of miles of compositions. The glaciers of the last ice age carved out so many nooks and crannies on the coastline and left so many offshore islands, that the coast of Maine totals around 3000 miles of shoreline. Most of this shoreline is worthy of a photograph, giving the landscape photographer endless opportunities to make photographs that are new and fresh in any kind of light.
2) Acadia National Park. There’s an incredible diversity of scenery on the Maine Coast, and Acadia National Park packs it all into a relatively small area. In Acadia, you’ll find cobblestone beaches, ocean-side cliffs, glacially striated rocky ledges, starfish and anemone-filed tidal pools, bald granite peaks, lichen-draped spruce forests, authentic fishing harbors, and quiet off-shore islands. Except for those off-shore islands, it’s all accessible to the casual photographer, making it easy to shoot a variety of subjects in just a few days.
3) Beautiful morning light. If you can manage to be up and shooting at 4 a.m. on the Maine Coast in the summer, you will regularly be treated to some of the sweetest natural light around. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I really believe the morning light in Maine has more color than other places I shoot. This seems especially true in summer, when warm air sucks moisture out of the cold waters of the Gulf of Maine (which barely reach 60 degrees at the warmest). This extra moisture in the air adds color to the light and helps that color last a little longer.
4) Fog. Few elements add mystery or mood to a landscape photo like fog, and those same conditions that create beautiful light in Maine, create fog as well, which moves from the open ocean to the shorelines with the lightest of sea breezes. If you can get above the fog at sunrise in places like Acadia or Camden Hills State Park, you can find great compositions of hills or islands rising above a sea of fog. Foggy shots of harbor scenes create an authentic mood where your viewer can practically smell the salty sea air.
5) Working harbors. Thousands of families in Maine still make their living from the sea, and the entire coast is dotted with small harbors where you will find all of the authentic gear, docks, boats, and people that are just screaming to be photographed.
6) Islands. Tourists can crowd the more popular places on the Maine Coast, such as Acadia, though like in most places, getting out early and just stepping onto a hiking trail usually means you’ll have a little solitude. You can always leave the crowds behind by getting on a boat and making a trip to one of the state’s offshore islands. Experienced kayakers can island hop, following the Maine Island Trail and spend the night alone on remote islands from Portland’s Casco Bay to Lubec and the border with New Brunswick. There are also several islands where you can take a ferry and either camp or spend the night in an inn or B and B, including Isle au Haut, Monhegan, and Vinalhaven. Island photography provides many of the same subjects as on the mainland, but with far fewer people.
7) Rock. There are sandy beaches in Maine (my favorites are Popham Beach in Phippsburg, and Sand Beach in Acadia,) but the majority of the shoreline is clad in a beautiful diversity of rock, from ledges of crystal-laden coarse granite, to hidden coves filled with bowling ball-sized cobblestones, to stretches of beach filled with smaller pebbles and skipping stones hosting colorful collections of sea glass. It all provides ample subject matter for making classic landscape photos, abstract interpretations of rock and moving water, and close-up photos of the details found on and among the rocks.
8) Salt marshes. Numerous rivers and streams drain the big woods and mountains of northern Maine, creating rich estuaries filled with salt marshes from Maine’s border with New Hampshire to it’s border with New Brunswick. By mid-summer, the marsh grasses transform the brown, muddy estuaries to a beautiful green scene filled with wildlife and providing great contrast to the rocky coast.
There’s plenty more that’s great about the Maine Coast, including lighthouses, great locally grown food, micro-breweries, and of course the best lobster in the world. If you’d like to take a guided photo tour of the Maine Coast, check out my Acadia Photo Workflow Workout, scheduled for August 9 -12.