Acadia National Park, Maine

This Article Features Photo Zoom


Bass Harbor Lighthouse is located off of Route 102A on the western side of Mount Desert Island, just outside Acadia National Park in Maine. Built in 1858, the lighthouse features an observation deck that’s great for watching sunsets and trails that lead down to the rocky coast below. Acadia National Park itself provides abundant photo opportunities, from quaint fishing villages to coastal vistas. You’ll find wildlife such as deer, puffins, bald eagles, whales and the occasional moose.

Fall temperatures can range from the 60s during the day down to the 40s at night. In the winter, temperatures often vary from the 30s to below zero, with an average of 61 inches of snow annually. Spring sees daytime highs in the 50s and 60s, with nightly temperatures as low as the 20s and 30s. The spring and summer months are known to produce a lot of fog throughout Mount Desert Island, which can set a great mood for photos, but also can make driving difficult at times due to the low visibility. Summer daytime averages are in the 70s to 80s, with nightly lows in the 50s and 60s. Dress in layers since the temperature can easily drop, especially when you go outdoors to photograph sunset.

Photo Experience
I’ll be hiking most of the day, so I pack light. I use a Tamrac backpack because it holds all of my essential gear, evenly distributes the weight and is water-repellent for the beach and occasional rain. My lens of choice is a wide-angle zoom to telephoto, which saves me on the weight of additional lenses and allows me extended compositional flexibility. I pack a Nikon 60mm ƒ/2.8D Micro-Nikkor for close-up shots of flora and fauna, as well as a flash for lighting up foregrounds. I also bring a circular polarizer to reduce reflections from the ocean and graduated ND filters of 0.6 and 0.9 strengths to slow down my shutter speed in order to capture motion blur of waves or, in the case of this image, to give me a slow enough shutter speed to capture bolts of lightning from an approaching storm.

Best Times
Although summer is my favorite time to visit Acadia and the surrounding area due to mild temperatures, autumn brings the changing of leaves, which reaches its peak around mid-October. The state of Maine has created a website that’s updated every Wednesday and provides a foliage color key for the state, Contact: Acadia National Park,

Essential Gear...
Knowing the exact time of sunrise and sunset is key to getting dramatic nature images. Several apps are available for iPhone and iPod Touch users that offer detailed information for best determining how to plan shots. PhotoBuddy ($1.99) includes a sunrise/sunset calculator and moon phase graph, plus other functions like a depth-of-field calculator, flash distance estimation, common color temperature settings and more. Focalware ($9.99) displays sun/moon rise and set times, azimuth and elevation graphically or as a list, or you can manually create and save custom locations. The Helios Sun Position Calculator ($29.99) offers an internal database of 30,000+ locations with longitude, latitude, time zone and daylight savings information, plus you can add favorite locations and GPS data. Contact: iTunes App Store,


    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:

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