Tunk Mountain Trail, Maine

Tunk Mountain Trail, T10 SD

It’s been an unusually warm fall and winter in Maine, as evidenced by above freezing temperatures on January 1, 2012 when I went on a short 7.5km hike (round trip) with my 6 and 10 year old daughters. We hiked up Tunk Mountain, which has a fabulous view of the surrounding terrain. Tunk Mountain is just outside Franklin, ME, but is in T10 SD (I think that’s Maine speak for Township 10 South Division). There are few enough people living here that it’s apparently not worth forming a proper town.

Click on the image for a full size view.

The biology of seeing

I came across this lone maple leaf on a vast lawn of seaweed at low tide. To me this image is about texture and contrast. Not a gorgeous scenic, but an intimate pleasing composition. My eye is drawn to the bottom third of the image where the rock is peeking out amidst three waves of seeweed, and then my eyes naturally wander to the maple leaf and the dark upper patch of seaweed.

On page 78 of her book, “Vision and Art, The Biology of Seeing”, Margaret Livingstone talks about work done by A. L. Yarbus, a Russian psychologist who put trackers on contact lenses on subject’s eyes and monitored where their gaze fell while they looked at a series of pictures. What he found was that people tend strongly to look at portions of the picture where there is fine detail and high-contrast. There is a striking picture on p. 79 of Livingstone’s book where she shows the results of Yarbus’ work. You can see superimposed on the painting exactly where one person looked.

I’ve never forgotten this, and now I try to pay attention to exactly where I look in a scene. A photographer I know (Richard Newton at Univ. of Massachusetts) once told me that a good photograph naturally leads one’s eyes around the image in a pleasing manner. I think this is good advice and Yarbus’ work tells us that we can use contrast and detail to help assist in making pleasing compositions.

Isle Au Haut, Maine #1

Recently, my wife and I spent a day (sans children) hiking on Isle Au Haut, a 10 km ferry ride from Stonington, ME. Isle Au Haut has about 45 year-round residents, and much of the island is part of Acadia National Park. Due to it’s remoteness, it’s the least visited part of Acadia (actually, I don’t have any data on that, but I’d bet you a nickel it’s true). There are only two rangers on the island and part of their job (aside from being incredibly friendly and knowledgeable) is to make sure everyone that entered the park in the morning leaves at the end of the day on the last ferry.

This will be the first of several posts on the trip, and I’ll include a photo or two with each post.

Today’s photos, the ferns (A) and the beach rocks (B), are taken at Duck Harbor (southwestern part of the island), and Squeaker Cove, respectively.

Duck harbor was where I first noticed that Isle Au Haut has some of the largest uninterupted fields (except for large boulders and occasional trees) that I have ever seen. These fields are so densely packed with ferns (I believe in this case, hay-scented ferns) that they seem to have crowded out many other species of plants. The visual effect is amazing, and the soft overcast light made photographing the fields quite pleasingly simple.

After a short hike up and over Duck Harbor Mountain, we arrived at Squeaker Cove. Beautiful smooth granite stones line the beach, which inevitably prompts people to create little cairn scultpures, many of which you can see here.

Incidently, when we arrived at the next beach at Deep Cove, which is populated by similarly smooth granite stones, my wife stepped in such a way that two of the polished stones slid against each other and produced a noise we both spontaneously described as a squeak, hence our theory that this is behind the naming of Squeaker Cove.

I have no idea if this theory has any truth to it, but it’s a good sounding theory. So there.

I hope you enjoy the images. More about hiking on the island in the next post.

Focus Stacking

On a Thanksgiving Day family hike in Brooksville I came upon this bend in the trail and realized while photographing that even at 24mm, I am not not going to get a sharp focus across the image (at least not without a tilt shift lens), so I set up my tripod and cable release and made two exposures; one with focus in the foreground, and the other with focus farther back in the frame.

Once home, I opened the two raw images using PhotoAcute and combined them using the focus stacking feature. This is the first time I’ve used this feature, and it worked remarkably well.

The three f’s of Photography

A few weeks ago, I visited the two Maine Huts that the August MaineSight workshop will be located at. I had the good fortune to meet John and Cindy Orcutt, who were caretaking at the Flagstaff Lake Hut. John is an Architect (and excellent Photographer!) and Cindy is a Landscape Architect, and together, they designed the Flagstaff lake hut and its grounds. John gave me a personal tour of the good photographic spots in and around Flagstaff Lake. John and Cindy also told be about a funny but true aphorism they called the “three f’s of Photography”.

These are the three things (that begin with the letter ‘f’) that get in the way of outdoor photographers: Food, Family, and Friends. As nature photographers, we want to be outside when there is the best light—sunrise and sunset—and this is usually around the time we want to eat some food: breakfast and dinner. Getting up early, means that if your family is along, taking care of kids also interferes—or at least means that your spouse has to be willing to take over that role. And friends, well, they want to stay up and visit with us, and you’ve got to go to sleep early to get up before sunrise.

Fortunately, sunrise is pretty darn early in Maine at this time of the year, and breakfast doesn’t really interfere. Here’s a photograph I snuck at 6 am this past weekend when my family was up ¬†visiting family and friends in Blue Hill, Maine: