This was one of the first photography tips we got as eight of us clustered around Ranger Bob Thayer, who would lead the three-hour program “Focus on Acadia,” an offering of the National Park Service at Acadia National Park in Maine.
From mid-May to mid-October visitors to Mount Desert Island join park rangers on walks, campfire programs, hikes, and boat cruises to learn more about Acadia and build knowledge as naturalists. Ranger-led programs range from tidepool school to birding for beginners.
This rainy October morning was the last time this season Ranger Thayer would be teaching his photography workshop, but neither that fact nor the drizzle that would turn to steady rain before we left the Sieur de Monts Nature Center impaired his enthusiasm.
Our group included a retired couple with tripods in tow, a point-and-shoot mom accompanying her daughters who were definitely “off auto,” and another park ranger who admired Thayer’s skills. Fred and I were the novices.
The photography lesson began. Think about light and composition. You must know your equipment. Anticipating the format in which you will present your photographs is an important first step.
Starting our field work, the park ranger helped us think through our first shot, as he set up his own camera on a tripod. We were on Jesup Trail where a “cathedral” of golden foliage covered a new boardwalk.
Then we looked through his viewfinder and realized this wasn’t any ordinary park ranger walking us through some canned curriculum. We were in the company of someone genuinely talented.
Bob Thayer, it turns out, is a naturalist, photographer, and author of three books, including Acadia’s Carriage Roads, which I had bought years ago. And here we were, taking it all in, courtesy of our National Park Service.
The instruction continued. Walking alongside the Wild Gardens of Acadia, Bob Thayer pointed out potentially interesting shots and convinced us that, despite the many “must see” spots to photograph in Acadia National Park, some of the best are the simplest.
Then we jumped into our respective autos and the caravan moved to our next destination. The rain thwarted the customary stop at Sand Beach, which was an acceptable trade-off because this bad weather was giving us terrific light that made the foliage pop. Our next stop was Monument Cove, where Fred took these shots.
In three hours each of us had received individual instruction and encouragement. The “lecture” was informative for participants at every level. I had even discovered parts of the park I’d never seen, despite my explorations during the last eight years.
We said our thanks and goodbyes. As some headed to the Jordan Pond House for popovers, Fred and I walked back to the parking lot with Bob Thayer. I told him about my Web site to help people plan trips to Acadia, a hobby; I do marketing for a living.
That reminded me that the most powerful word in the marketing dictionary also applied to this workshop, which had been substantive, customized, and inspiring.
It was also free.