As the maximum temperatures slowly drop below 40 F (6 C), the ephemeral autumn silently gives way to a long winter in New England; but not before weaving its colorful magic yet again. This year, I was fortunate to witness this magic from up close during a weekend camping trip in Acadia National Park in Maine. Colors in Acadia usually peak around mid-October, which roughly coincided with my trip and I found the foliage in good shape: either peaking or just past peak. Moreover, the forecast called for cloudy skies and occasional rain with breaks both in morning and evenings, which meant I can photograph all day: golden light at the fringes and soft, overcast light in between. My equipment was a Nikon D610 and a Nikon F100 (loaded with Velvia 50) along with the a host of Nikkor lenses (with polarizers): Nikon 24mm f/2.8 AI, Nikon 24-120 f/4G VR, Nikon 18-35mm, Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIs, Nikon 85mm f/1.8G and Nikon 70-200mm f/4G VR.
The Park Loop Road inside Acadia runs in a clockwise fashion around the Cadillac Mountain and other hills (essentially from Bar Harbor to Seal Harbor and back). The stretch along the Atlantic coast is a one way drive (north-south) with parking allowed in the right lane. This meant I could stop whenever I found something of interest, take my time refining compositions and further explore the area. My first stop was at Beaver pond where the hillside was a mix of orange and yellows, glowing in the soft overcast light. After spending around 30 minutes at Beaver pond, I drove further to find beautiful bare birch trees standing out prominently from the reds and yellow leaves. In the afternoon, this stretch of the road is in the shadow of Cadillac Mountain and as a result light remains soft throughout, which suits intimate compositions highlighting color and texture.
Being next to the Atlantic, this side of Acadia receives the early morning light and boasts some of the best locations for sunrise shooting e.g. Otter Cliffs, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole etc. I used the afternoon to get acquainted with the area and scout for the sunrise shoot next day. It was around sunset at Sand Beach, when the clouds lit up with the last light of the day and I made a memorable, unique image at this well photographed location.
Cloud bank and waves at sunset, Sand Beach, Acadia NP (Fuji Velvia 50)Driving back to the campground, it was well past sunset into the blue hour and just past Otter Cliffs, I was moved by the clouds and reflections in the Otter Cove. A 20 second exposure at ISO 400 (Nikon D610) really captured the moment and colors (emotions) as I perceived that evening.
It rained during the night and by next morning, the sky had cleared towards east with some lingering clouds (promising a colorful sunrise). At Otter Cliffs, after clicking the clichéd wide angle composition, I switched to a 70-200 mm lens and zoomed in to isolate the golden cliffs with floating clouds painted by morning light.
After the sunrise shoot, I quickly drove around to start again from the Northern end of the park loop road (remember it is a one-way). The idea was to photograph the coastline in low angled morning light but by the time I was again at Beaver pond a cloud bank had moved in resulting in overcast conditions. Immediately, I switched gears and once again focused my attention on the interesting juxtapositions of color and texture, accentuated by overnight rain. I spent quite a while photographing and exploring the region, including the rocky Maine coastline. Overall, it was a good morning for photography.
It was around 10 in the morning when I wrapped up my camp site and ventured on to explore the west side of the Cadillac Mountain accessed by the south to north stretch of the Park Loop road. Here the sound of ocean waves crashing on the rocks is replaced by the rhythmic ripples of Jordan Pond, Bubble Pond and Eagle Lake. There are plenty of hiking trails as well as over 40 miles of carriage roads that take you deep into the park. The latter can be explored only by carriages, bikes or on foot. Unfortunately, I didn’t have long enough to explore the carriage roads this time around and it is something I look forward to do during my next visit to Acadia.
I spent couple of hours around Jordan and Bubble ponds and found some nice fall hues. Additionally, I found some exceptional patches of color along the Park Loop road near Bubble pond. However, this stretch of the road is not a one-way and it is very hard to stop except at marked turnouts. I parked at one such turnout and walked about half a mile on the edge of the road to finally find a spot, from where I could make a photo capturing the kaleidoscope of colors in the woods. By the time, I was content, it was well past mid-day and I had two more locations on my agenda: Dear Brook Road and the Cadillac Mountain summit. The former is further west and the foliage there was well past peak with many bare trees. I climbed down couple of rocks along the swift flowing stream and found a nice contrast of water and color.
Next, I drove up the Cadillac Mountain road, the highest of the park and as I gained height, the vast expanse of this beautiful island unfolded in front of me. From the summit, I got a bird’s eye view of colorful hill slopes I was driving through towards east. After a long overcast day, the sun was finally breaking towards west, which prompted me to act rather quickly. I scouted around the summit, converged on a composition and then waited braving the cold wind. Finally, about 30 minutes before posted sunset time, the sun broke free albeit briefly but long enough to press the shutter and freeze the striking moment.
After enjoying about 28 hours in Acadia National Park, it was about time to start the long drive back to near Boston. While still in the park, I kept scanning the sky, ready to stop at the slightest warning of a colorful sunset, which came fairly quickly. On a hunch, I took a detour to a turnout on the road towards the visitor center, from where I had spotted vivid foliage in the valley below, the day before. It proved to be a good call and I arrived in time to make one of my favorite images from the trip, which graces the top of this article. It was very windy and instead of fighting the wind by boosting ISO, I made a conscious choice of using a slow shutter speed (Velvia ISO 50) and capture the motion blur to add a bit of vitality to the composition. It was a tiring 5 hours of drive back and dinner was really late that day but I couldn’t care less. I hope you like the images.