Acadia National Park, Maine

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Acadia National Park is a little more than 160 miles up the coast from Portland, Maine. Covering 47,000 acres, the bulk of the park is located on Mount Desert Island. The park is home to the highest mountain along the East Coast all the way down to the Yucatán Peninsula, Cadillac Mountain, whose towering 1,527-foot pink granite summit is the first location in the U.S. to see the sun's morning rays during the fall and winter seasons. Once in the park, you can follow the Park Loop Road by car or via an extensive system (nearly 50 miles) of carriage trails by bike or by foot. Park Loop Road has several scenic overlooks and will deliver you to wonderful spots for seascapes, landscapes and nature shooting. For those who don't mind putting in a little more effort, there are also 125 miles of hiking trails, ranging from the very easy Jordan Pond Nature Trail to the challenging Precipice Trail, an exposed and often nearly vertical 1,000-foot climb up the east face of Champlain Mountain. (The Precipice Trail is generally closed from mid-March through mid-August due to the nesting of endangered peregrine falcons.) The closest major airport to Acadia, Bangor International Airport, is about 50 miles away.

Because of its proximity to the ocean, Acadia stays a little warmer in the winter and a little colder in the summer than most of Maine. But this is still Maine, so winter temps easily can plummet to below zero. Although the Park Loop Road closes, the carriage trails make for excellent cross-country skiing. Winter in Acadia is a beautiful time, and a nice layer of freshly fallen snow on top of one of the many stone bridges makes for stunning black-and-white imagery. Summer is very comfortable in Acadia and also popular. The best bet is to get up early and find a good location, but be forewarned—in the middle of June, the sun rises before 5 a.m., so don't forget to pack your alarm clock!

Photo Experience
What you carry for equipment can vary greatly depending on the location in the park. With its rocky beach and 110-foot headland, Otter Cliffs, for instance, is a favorite for many photographers looking for seascapes. I'll bring my 16-35mm ƒ/2.8 wide-angle zoom to this area, alongside a good selection of split graduated neutral-density filters for working with the surf and sky, a good polarizing filter, a cable release and a sturdy tripod. For years I've been using a Manfrotto aluminum tripod. Although big and heavy, it's plenty sturdy. As I'm often in the saltwater when shooting, it soon will need to be replaced. Two medium zooms (a 24-105mm ƒ/4 and a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8) and a longer zoom (a 100-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6) fill out my backpack for hiking.

Best Times
Just like the rest of New England, fall is spectacular in Acadia. It's also not as busy as the summer months. Get off of the road and follow one of the many streams that run through the park where you'll find old stone bridges, clear flowing water and fall foliage, which is always a great combination. If you have more than one day to photograph Acadia, you could spend a day driving the Park Loop Road and the next day hiking the strenuous trails. Peak autumn colors can range from late September through mid-October. Timing is important here. You want to be in Acadia after the leaves come out, but before the black flies and tourists arrive. Plan it right, and you could have the whole park to yourself!

Contact: Acadia National Park, See more of Dave Cleaveland's photography at

Essential Gear...
When working on uneven terrain, a big concern is getting the horizon level as you compose. Leveling bases allow you to perfectly align your shot even when the tripod legs are extended to alternate lengths. Leveling bases are also ideal for panoramic work because they allow you to pan while staying level. Among other leveling bases, Really Right Stuff produces the Universal Leveling Base for all tripods with 3⁄8" threads. List Price: Begins at $180. Contact: Really Right Stuff,


    The photo of Bass Harbor lighthouse looks a bit over-cooked and a quick crop/transform would fix it so it isn’t “falling” into the ocean. The curved horizon is a distraction too.

    Is this an HDR photo, or did you just use filters? It looks unnatural and much too saturated. The colors are beautiful, but if you’re going for realism you missed the mark. I’m increasingly concerned at the spread of photos like this and how they’re becoming featured over more natural-looking photos.

    Nikoner, I don’t understand why photographers don’t have the same freedom to express their vision as painters do. How many times do you ask about a painting if it really looked like that? You don’t have to like our visions, but saying that “more natural-looking photos” should get priority seems strange to me.

    Who is the rule-maker for photography?

    …ergh. Way overprocessed. Agree with Nikoner about the prevalence of this style. Sure, photographers can manipulate their vision or whatever you want to call it, but this psychedelic stuff is taking over & more natural styles are not even getting a look-in anymore.

    Just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

    Wow. Nit pickers or what? This is a Fine Art image. Critique the technical aspect, sure. (slight distortion) The artistic inspiration, for what? It’s not arguable, if you just don’t love the guys product, move along quietly! Natural styles DO get looks and I make MANY sales of natural looking images. Seriously, Nikoner does it look like Dave was looking for realism with this?

    I have to agree whit Nikoner, this is photography magasine and website and not a general art publication. It a bit too much, I try to keep my retouch photo in possible side. In this case, the light on the rocks vs the sky, same for the light of light house and the nice green grass. The photoshop artist is good but he fail in keeping it a photo. I now more a art work then a photo.

    It’s not arguable? Since when is art not arguable/debatable? My concern is less with this particular image and more with the overwhelming amount of this style of image being featured in magazines, contests, and even stock photography now. When you look at the contests on this website now, it’s filled to the brim with submissions that look totally unnatural and manipulated. If that’s what you want to do, fine. But I don’t think it’s not worth talking about. It’s also not nit-picking to want to discuss something. And obviously, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood the purpose of HDR; I thought originally it was to capture a range of light and colors you see with your eyes that does not necessarily translate to the camera. However, it seems to me that it’s turned towards creating images that are so unreal they don’t even relate to what you actually see.

    Nikoner- I’m happy you cleared that up then. My point exactly- take it out on the magazine and not the individule. There is not enough room here for me to expound upon ALL of my personal likes/dislikes. I am not a fan of garish, overbaked images. The purpose of hdr-maybee a better way to say it would be the benefits of hdr allow you to capture a wider range of tonality. Absolutely! How the photographer wants to use it to express themselves is up to them. I’ve seen Tony Sweet experiment with hdr in this manner, he post this stuff up on his flickr page. I don’t see anyone running over to critique the guy on his work.

    BTW, you are correct about art being debatable. I should have clarified myself and said it’s not a winnable argument. Not everyone will like everything, thats the nature of it. I often wonder why with humans particularly a negative reaction somehow manifest itself into a passionate shout out.How many people quietly admired the photo and quietly went about their day?

    Seb, yep it is more artistically inspiring than a strait photograph. (my comment was too long to include with my last post) I just wanted to say that many of OP’s regular featured photographers over the years have published their own books, within the covers they all tend to drill home the point about the final image being more than simply a dynamic composition. I’ve still got copies of OP dating back to the 1980’s when Galen and Art Wolfe managed about every cover shot (it seemed) Op’s never backed off the “gallery shot”

    Dave, You seem to have started a firestorm of comments. You had the article published and you can only please some of the viewers. Good article! One of your students.

    I just found out about these comments yesterday while I was doing a show. Wow! Is the image pushed too far? Probably. Could I have adjusted the lens distortion? Of course. But there’s something you should know about this image. It was taken in May of 2009. How many of you knew about HDR back then? Maybe a few. But it was new to me. There weren’t any magazine articles about it. It was a new technique (and yes, I know it has been around longer than 2009), and as I was just learning it, I was pushing the boundaries a bit. Would I process for the same look today? Maybe, but probably not. Lens distortion correction is available in LR now, so I’d definitely correct the lighthouse “lean”. But it’s just an image, and one that’s done pretty well for me. And I’ll tell you something else… I still like it! So thanks for the comments, good and bad. I believe that having images critiqued is a great way to learn, and to grow, as a photographer.

    While not a professional photographer with a professional opinion on the photo, I find the photo a little jarring because the colors and perspective don’t seem natural. That’s just a personal take. But I can see how others might like the contrast and angles. Though those on the Outdoor Photographer site who are also fans of Acadia might want to know about our blog post about winter in Acadia, where we share such information as the grounds of Bass Harbor Head Light being open in winter:

Leave a Reply

Main Menu