Favorite Places – Bass Harbor Lighthouse
One of the favorite places I have had the pleasure photographing is the Bass Harbor Lighthouse in Maine. Admittedly, it is one of the most photographed lighthouses on the planet – but as they say, it isn’t a cliche if you haven’t shot it yet. Lighthouses hold a particular appeal to me, probably because they are in short supply here in Kansas. In 2008 I was lucky enough to visit Acadia National Park and surrounding areas, including this lighthouse. There are two main places to shoot from, one on the west side looking back east (good for sunrise), and one to the east looking west (good for sunset). We were there for sunset on this occasion, so east it was.
You climb down some steps, which stop at a small level area above the rocks. To actually get a nice foreground in your frame you have to then climb down onto the rocks, which is easier said than done. The rocks here are very big and very tall, (OK, I guess that would make them boulders) and generally a pain to navigate. To make matters more interesting, you get to jockey for position with at a minimum 3 or 4 other photographers for the same limited real estate. Level spots big enough for a tripod appeared to be at a premium, although I suspect regular visitors might have some inside knowledge on the layout. There was a guy close in front of me just to the right, and another guy set up on a large flat rock behind us. We were trying to stay out of his shot, which was tricky because as he informed us, he was “shooting wide” . This was before sunset. As it grew closer the late arrivals started flooding in, frankly it was quite a circus and I fully expected someone to break a leg as people were jumping and staggering around the rocks. You had everybody from serious shooters with tripods, to people with little point and shoot cameras.
I was firing off bracketed sets for HDR, the guy behind me in the prime spot was using an old school (but still good!) graduated neutral density filter. Eventually he decided the sunset was not spectacular enough and left, so I moved back to his position. As the sky darkened, eventually everyone else left and I was able to get some nice silhouette type images of the lighthouse and trees against the blue sky. I thought the sunset itself was pretty good and was pleased with the resulting HDR images.
Once everybody had left, I was alone in this iconic location with the ocean, the sky, the rocks, the rising moon, and of course the lighthouse, and it was one of those experiences I will not forget.