Kicking Off an Amazing Week in Acadia National Park

Author:  Ken Brown

AHPW Trip Leaders, Amy Ganske, Christina Heinle, and Ken Brown arrived into South Portland in time to get ready for the arrival of 15 participants for a 5 day workshop shooting the most iconic scenes in Acadia National Park with Pro Photographer Colleen Miniuk-Sperry.  Colleen has served as Artist-in-Residence several times in Acadia, so you could say she knows her way around here !
Since we arrived a day ahead to get ready for the workshop, the three Trip Leads decided to go out on our own sunrise shoot, you know just to make sure the vans were ok and such  With a little bit of research, we discovered that we were within 30 minutes of the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine – Portland Head Light, built in 1791, in Cape Elizabeth.
Arriving before dawn we found a beautiful vantage point to shoot from and waited until we had the most beautiful light.  The concept for this photo was to capture the sunrise just kissing the lighthouse and the surrounding rocks.  Casting some shadows to make clear the time of day, direction of the light, and some of the beautiful features of the lighthouse and surrounding scene.
 Since this is a workshop, we also wanted to highlight an important technique for this type of shooting situation – the use of a Graduated Neutral Density Filter.  Looking at the two images below, besides the change in composition, you can see the results of one with the Filter and one with no Filter.  This filter transitions from a darkened (but optically clear for shooting) area to a light, totally clear area.  Correct placement of the filter over the lens allows the photographer to dramatically reduce the exposure of the brightest portion of an image like this, the bright sky, and regions in dark shadow.  More light can get through the filter where it’s clearer, and less light through the filter where it’s darker.  While the photo without the filter is not terrible, it completely lacks the drama, intensity, and visual contrast of the image that was shot WITH the Filter.
 In addition to using the Split Neutral Density filter, both images were shot with an added FULL neutral density filter (yes – you can also stack filters !!), this was done so that the image could be shot with an exposure time over multiple seconds, giving the water a nice, smooth, appearance of flow – also being targeted for this photo.
Finally the last item to mention is composition.  Now putting aside the lighting for a moment, there is a very clear difference in composition between these two images, and it makes all the difference in the world.  It’s the fence…  The first instinct was to capture some of the green low shrubs in the foreground.  But after looking at this a bit, it became clear that a much more important feature was that fence, leading to the lighthouse.  It brings the viewers eyes through the image to the central theme – the Lighthouse.  Now also add in the lighting and filters, where the brighter, more reflective features (like the fence) pick up more of the light, and the features in shadow remain a little darker, and we’ve got a wonderful leading line for the eyes.
We’re off to a good start for our week in Maine and we haven’t even officially started yet
Ken Brown is a Trip Leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.