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Coastal Areas, Maine

This Article Features Photo Zoom

If you could draw a relatively straight line that followed the Maine coast from Kittery to Lubec, you’d end up with a length of about 230 miles. But if you include all of Maine’s islands and tidal areas, this number jumps to over 3,400 miles of coastline, which ranks Maine as having the fourth-longest coastline in the United States! Throw in 57 active lighthouses, 30-plus miles of white sand beaches, and thousands of miles of rocky shoreline and tidal inlets, and you have one of the best places in the world for shooting beautiful seascapes. Most of the beaches lie to the south of Portland, a small city of 66,000 people, which started as a working waterfront in the 1600s and continues to be one of the largest seaports on the East Coast. There are six lighthouses within seven miles of Portland, including possibly the most photographed lighthouse in the United States, Portland Head Light. Thirty-five miles to the south of Portland Head Light is another easily accessible lighthouse called Nubble Light. North of Portland lies mile after mile of rugged coastline that’s dotted with the occasional beach. Or head south to Popham Beach and Reid State Park, beautiful beaches located on either side of the mouth of the Kennebec River. Both are great spots for some stunning seascapes! Do you think Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park mark the end of the Maine coast? Think again. Route 1 continues for another 100 miles through some of the most wild and rugged shoreline Maine has to offer, finally ending in the little town of Lubec, where you can find yet another easily accessed lighthouse, West Quoddy Head. Sitting on a bluff overlooking Quoddy Narrows, with its bold, red horizontal stripes, it’s located on the easternmost point of the contiguous United States, looking across the narrows into Canada.

Summer in Maine averages a comfortable 80º F along the coast, with the cooler nights often contributing to the formation of heavy fog. Maine is home to some cold winters, however, with lows sometimes reaching 20º F below zero! In the winter, this makes it the perfect place to capture shots of sea smoke as it wisps across the water around lobster boats. Maine also averages about 50 to 110 inches of snow each winter, with more snow falling in the mountains than along the coast.

Photo Experience
Shooting along the coast offers opportunities to utilize every lens in your bag. A quality tripod is important for me, as I’m often in places where I’m shooting in water or getting hit by the occasional wave. I’ve been using Manfrotto tripods for years and currently have four sets of legs with both still and video heads attached. In warm months, I usually have my Canon 100-400mm zoom. The long reach the lens provides is perfect for the abundant wildlife along the coast of Maine, which includes eagles, osprey, seals, herons and egrets. The long lens is also great for shooting lobster fishermen as they work their traps in the early-morning light. And while many of today’s cameras and lenses come with the promise of “water resistance,” having a small towel and microfiber cloth in your bag is a good idea. And one last word of warning: Whether you’re visiting Maine in summer or winter, the water here is cold, the tides are powerful, and the rocks are slippery, so take particular care when shooting close to the water’s edge!

Best Times
Seasonally, summer is my favorite time, as I’ve always been drawn to the ocean. Getting up early and being on (or near) the water well before dawn is a zen-like experience for me. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself alone at that time of morning anywhere along the coast. (If you’re not, go say hello, as that person obviously shares your passion for photography!) Every photographer worth his or her salt has heard of the “golden hour,” the hour after sunrise or before sunset. I prefer the hour preceding or following the golden hour, the “blue hour,” as there’s almost always some interesting light happening. Full of warm, soft, wraparound light, the minutes before sunrise or just after sunset are the best.

Contact: Maine Tourism,

Canon 16-35mm wide-angle zoom; Hoya ND, B+W Graduated filters

Essential Gear
For seascapes, I usually stick to my Canon 16-35mm wide-angle zoom with an array of hard split grad filters. I’ve had good luck with the Formatt Hitech line of resin filters, as they seem to be a good balance of quality and affordability. I also have a collection of Hoya ND filters, as well as a B+W 10-stop ND filter for when I really want to stretch exposures. Frequent longer exposures of between one second (to capture flowing waves hitting the rocks) to several minutes (to capture a lighthouse painted by moonlight) mean you’ll need a solid foundation for your camera.