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Baxter State Park occupies about 210,000 acres of beautiful and rugged Maine wilderness. Stop at Lake Millinocket for a wonderful shot of Mount Katahdin, and popular Moosehead Lake lies only an hour to the west where you can hike the shores to find loons and other wildlife. Moose, deer, bear and other animals abound throughout the area, and there are 10 campgrounds ranging from lakefront to rustic cabins or lean-tos and remote tent sites. My favorite is Roaring Brook for the access to Roaring Brook and Sandy Stream Pond, as well as its proximity to the trailheads leading to Katahdin. Sandy Stream Pond is a favorite location for moose photographers. For the brave at heart, follow the Helon Taylor Trail straight up Mount Katahdin to the Knife Edge Trail. It's 1.1 miles of very narrow trail with steep dropoffs and cliffs on both sides. Don't attempt this trail without a serious gut check first! Other stops of interest include the Great Pond in the Belgrade Lakes region for birding or the college town of Farmington with its small-town feel.
When spring arrives and the ice and snow disappear, look for wildflowers amidst the groves of ash, maple, elm and oak. Temps rarely get into the 80s, even in August, while summer nights average in the 50s, so bring a sweater. Fall is a beautiful thing here, and Baxter State Park and Moosehead Lake offer some of the prettiest scenery around. As this area is the start of the North Maine Woods, weather can change quickly. Peak fall color is in late September and early to mid-October. You can expect long winters, and it's not unusual to capture snow and fall foliage in one shot here. Bring your snowmobiles and ride Maine's Interconnected Trail System or break out the cross-country skis or snowshoes. Be forewarned, more often than not, I need to be in four-wheel drive to navigate these "roads."
For most shots, a circular polarizer is a must for eliminating reflections and adding a little saturation. I usually shoot early in the morning, so I easily can get one- and two-second exposures of waterfalls and moving water with the filter. When I really want to stretch out exposures for silky smooth water, I'll add a B+W two-stop ND filter or even a six-stop ND for exposures that last six minutes or more. My go-to lens for any landscape shooting is the Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4L; it covers a lot of options. I carry a 16-35mm ƒ/2.8L to go really wide with landscapes and a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8L to get closer to wildlife and birds. I pack a 100-400mm zoom for flexibility when a moose or other animals suddenly appear. Equally important is my Manfrotto tripod and 054 magnesium ballhead. The tripod combined with a Canon TC-80N3 Timer/Controller allows me to shoot "hands off" for maximum sharpness and long exposures.
Unless you're a skier or enjoy winter sports, the best time to visit is in summer and fall. With more than 5,000 miles of coastline, summer is ideal for canoeing, hiking, rock climbing and exploring the state's many lighthouses. If moose are on your checklist, keep in mind they drop their antlers in winter and grow a new rack during summer. Fall is a great choice for catching this area in all of nature's colors. Follow Chimney Pond Trail along the Roaring Brook for a shot of clear, birch tree-lined water, which provides long-exposure enthusiasts with plenty of ops to shoot smaller waterfalls. And, don't forget to pay attention when driving! Hitting a moose surely will ruin your trip.
Contact: Maine Office of Tourism, www.visitmaine.com.
Binoculars are a great tool for previewing compositions while searching for wildlife or looking for the next amazing vista. Sony DEV-50V digital binoculars are an ideal choice for long hikes with features like autofocus, built-in geotagging, Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, 0.8x-25x magnification, 20.4-megapixel still photos, full HD video and a 3D video mode. The DEV-50V is splash- and dust-resistant, and the binocs can be used in low-light situations with the Hyper Gain function for boosting brightness. Contact: Sony, (800) 883-6817, www.sony.com.