This October Take a Fall Photo Workshop in Maine’s Acadia National Park

 Photography, travel  Comments Off on This October Take a Fall Photo Workshop in Maine’s Acadia National Park
Sep 152013


Bass Harbor Lighthouse Maine

Bass Harbor Head Light Photo by Les Picker

Last March I got to go on a Lindblad/National Geographic expedition to Costa Rica that had a photography emphasis.  One of our guides was both a well-educated, local naturalist and certified photography instructor.  That combination of talents in the field—and Costa Rica is so amazing both close in and from afar—made the trip unusually satisfying.

If you’ve always wanted to participate in a photo workshop in Maine, I recommend you consider the upcoming Acadia National Park Photography Adventure that Lester Picker is offering  October 10-14, 2013.  It is conducted in conjunction with the Nikonians Academy, which is dedicated to teaching photography through hands-on practical workshops.

But I recommend it because Les Picker possesses that rare combination of environmental education and photographic know-how that I experienced on my National Geographic expedition.

Les received his doctorate in ecology from the University of Maine and used Acadia National Park for his research. Having lived in Maine for ten years, he knows the intricacies of Acadia in a way that’s rare for those offering photo workshops in Maine, and there are plenty of them.

Fall Foliage Photos

Photo by Workshop Participant Dave Soderlund

One of his students, Thomas Wilson of North Sandwich, New Hampshire, emphasized this in his review of the workshop, “Les’ knowledge of the history and flora of Acadia enriched the experience.”  Another student, Dave Soderlund of Ithaca, New York, echoed, “His depth of knowledge of the landscape, history and biology of the island informed our photography and took us to places that most other workshops just don’t see. Les provided itineraries that were well-balanced between iconic locations (Cadillac Mountain, Bass Harbor Lighthouse) and out-of-the-way gems.”

Les’ itinerary also includes The Bubbles, Jordan Pond, Ocean Drive, Sand Beach, and Cadillac Cliffs, as well as the villages of Bar Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Somesville, and Northeast Harbor—all places every visitor wants to see.

Each evening Les offers an optional image review and critique—an excellent opportunity since the workshop is limited to ten students.  Another Acadia workshop participant, Dr. Lew Rothman of New York City, said, “He offered solid and comprehensive shooting tips geared to our individual needs and provided insightful feedback after each shoot. Perhaps most important he provided additional opportunity to review and improve our images after we returned home from the workshop. He was genuinely interested in our progress and it didn’t end with the workshop.”

To find out more, visit the Nikonians Academy site, but  do it now.  When I was last in touch with Les, there were only a few spots left.

Related Stories:

17 Great Ways to Experience Acadia National Park

Why Visit Acadia National Park in the Fall

Why I Hope My Daughter Chooses Mount Desert Island in Maine for Her Wedding

 Food and Dining, Photography, travel, Weddings  Comments Off on Why I Hope My Daughter Chooses Mount Desert Island in Maine for Her Wedding
May 182013

maine destination weddingsApril showers bring May flowers, then June graduations and weddings.  And, although my daughter graduates from college in June, she’s pretty far from a wedding (although she has been dating a great guy for three years).

I was the one who began thinking about weddings recently when my online browsing introduced me to Maine wedding photographer Brea McDonald.  Her work would convince any couple to choose Mount Desert Island as the destination for their wedding!

During the last ten years destination weddings have skyrocketed like love on a starlit night. Today they represent one out of every four weddings.  Says Laura Cave of The Knot, “Our families and our friends are so far flung throughout the country.  It makes total sense that a bride and groom would want to choose a wedding site that’s beautiful for them and a lot of fun for their friends.”

Mount Desert Island fits those criteria.  Brea McDonald, whose home base is York, Maine, has photographed weddings in Maine, New Hampshire, Nantucket, Cape Cod, and Boston.  According to Brea, Mount Desert Island is a great location for a New England wedding because “it has it all — boating, fishing, hiking, shopping and, of course, eating.”

That’s particularly because Mount Desert Island is home to Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi.  Its granite-topped mountains, rocky coastline and glacial lakes attracted 2.4 million visitors last year.  And these distinctive geographical features make a stunning setting for wedding vows, whether anchored by spruce or birch…

wedding acadia national park maine

maine wedding venue harbor

…or enclosing the couple in an autumnal tunnel of love.

maine weddings fall

Charming villages are located throughout Mount Desert Island.  Their harbor-side classic inns and elegant gardens are the kind of venues brides dream about and cherish through their photographs for years to come.

asticou inn northwest harbor maine

maine wedding venue garden

One couple Brea photographed opted for the ceremony aboard a four-masted schooner and the reception in a harbor-side meadow.

maine wedding venues boats

maine wedding venues harbors

Couples who have a bent toward the casual seem to gravitate toward Maine for their weddings.  They may start with their topsiders on, but are likely to kick up (and off) their heels before long.

maine wedding venues casual

maine weddings casual

And they’re not afraid to be caught in a wedding photo tasting a lobster leg.  In fact, that’s part of the instructions.

wedding menus lobster

maine weddings lobster

That brings us to food.  Mount Desert Island is home to fishermen (including lobstermen) and farmers (including wonderful organic growers), so the culinary delights at a Maine wedding are great.  What floats your boat – clams or oysters?

Maine wedding menus

maine weddings menus oysters

A lobster bake makes a memorable menu.

maine wedding lobsterbake

So, if my daughter gets engaged and asks me what I think about a wedding on Mount Desert Island, I’m going to say: “A beautiful setting? Check.  Great food for the reception?  Check.  Fun for your friends? Check.  Memorable?  Check.”

And did I mention her boyfriend is graduating from Harvard Law in June?

Related Stories:

Brea McDonald Photography

The Knot’s Maine Wedding Albums


7 Stunning Scenes You Must See When You Visit Acadia National Park

 Photography, travel  Comments Off on 7 Stunning Scenes You Must See When You Visit Acadia National Park
Jul 162012

Before you go to Acadia National Park in Maine, you’ll research all of the best things to do on Mount Desert Island.  You’ll drive the Park Loop Road.  You’ll be sure to stop to see Otter Cliffs, Sand Beach, and Thunder Hole.  You’ll stroll down the Main Street of Bar Harbor.

But I want to share with you seven stunning sights to see that may be off the beaten path or require a little extra effort.  And some of these are manmade!  Bring your camera.

1.  Start with Acadia’s most well-known site, Cadillac Mountain.

Porcupine Islands and Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

At 1,530 feet, it the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard and the perfect place to survey the spectacular beauty of Mount Desert Island.  But, believe me, it’s worth it to get up to see the sunrise and view the Porcupine Islands in Frenchman Bay at dawn.

2.  Visit the famous Stone Barn Farm in Bar Harbor.Stone Barn Farm Bar Harbor MaineBarns, bridges, and churches are as much a part of the Maine landscape as some of its natural wonders.  Add to your itinerary the cobblestone barn on Norway Drive, built in 1820, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

3.  Walk, bike, or carriage-tour Acadia’s carriage roads.

Carriage Roads Rockefeller Acadia National ParkJohn D. Rockefeller, Jr. oversaw construction of 45 miles of carriage roads available to you today that weave around the mountains and valleys of Acadia.  They will bring you to some spectacular sites and sightings, which may include David Rockefeller himself taking a drive.

4.  Let Jordan Pond and The Bubbles take your breath away. Jordan Pond Bubble MountainsJordan Pond House visitors not only take in tea and popovers, but this iconic view.  I urge you to explore Jordan Pond’s shoreline and see if you prefer the views from a point slightly more west, as my husband does.  The 3.2-mile walk around the pond is delightful.

5.  Be charmed by the Somesville Bridge.

Somesville Bridge Mount Desert Island

The village of Somesville, founded in 1761, is Mount Desert Island’s oldest settlement.  The bridge, often cited as one of the most photographed spots in Maine, will get your attention first, but then you should focus on Somes Sound, the seven-mile-long fiord that divides Mount Desert Island.

6.  Behold the boats on Bass Harbor at dusk.

Bass Harbor Mount Desert Island Maine

A highlight of the so-called “Quiet Side” of Mount Desert Island is the working fishing village of Bass Harbor.  When you visit this quiet community, you’ll certainly also want to see the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, built in 1858, and to have dinner at Thurston’s Lobster Pound.

7.  Find inspiration at Little Long Pond in Seal Harbor.

Little Long Pond Seal Harbor Maine

Charles Eliot, the influential president of Harvard University, in 1901 founded an entity on Mount Desert Island to acquire lands for public use, setting the stage for the establishment of the national park eighteen years later.  His son and views like this one – which he felt to be the most beautiful on the island – were his inspiration.

It’s hard to limit this list of must-see scenes to just seven!  Comment below and share your favorites!


Great Itineraries for Three Days, One Week, and Two Weeks in Acadia National Park– On and Off the Beaten Path

Best Bike Routes for Kids in Acadia National Park

Five Favorite Hikes in Acadia National Park

Best Bar Harbor Breakfasts: 2 Cats Cafe

Oct 212011

Steal a shower cap from your motel to cover your camera in the rain.

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. 

Jesup Path Sieur de Monts Nature Center

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.

Monument Cove Acadia National Park MaineAfter another stop along the coastline, we concluded at Jordan Pond, where we learned a “painterly” technique created by moving the camera on a slow shutter speed. 

Jordan Pond Foliage

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.




Include Mount Desert’s Celebrity Barns Among “Must See” Sites Near Acadia National Park

 Photography, travel, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Include Mount Desert’s Celebrity Barns Among “Must See” Sites Near Acadia National Park
Jul 242011

London paparazzi have Kate Middleton.  In LA they have Lindsay Lohan.  But in Maine cameras focus on celebrity barns.

As we were driving from Somesville to Bar Harbor on Norway Drive, we passed the famous Stone Barn on Crooked Road.  A red mini-van was pulled up front, and its owners, like increasingly bold pigeons in a park, got closer and closer to the barn as they snapped away until they were right outside the barn door.

Stone Barn’s 85-year-old owner Harry Owen doesn’t seem to mind, however.  He’s proud of the 128-acre farm on Mount Desert Island that is now permanently protected against development.  “I’ve always felt I was put on earth to protect this land,” Mr. Owen told Maine Coast Heritage Trust back in 2001 when the farm became protected by a conservation easement.  The cobblestone barn, which was built in 1820, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“To honor their historical importance and raise interest in preserving these impressive structures,” the Mount Desert Island Historical Society periodically offers guided tours of historic barns in Somesville and Bar Harbor.  Stone Barn, of course, is on the tour.  Nearby is the Peterson Barn on Norway Drive, which has also been featured.

Here is a view of the Parker Farm just outside of Somesville village from Somes Harbor.

Create your own tour to see the barns of Mount Desert Island.  Their appeal certainly extends beyond the historic.  Their simple forms attract painters and photographers, who count them among the special sights to see on Mount Desert Island.  For all of us, they link us to the land and remind us of values deep in our culture.

So, include Stone Barn on places to see when you visit Acadia National Park.  You can find more things to do by visiting OUR ACADIA.

And don’t be surprised if Harry Owen looks up from his mowing to give you a wave.


Apr 302011

While spring brought snow to New England, we took ourselves to Florida.  We figured a few days kayaking, eating clams, and bird watching would hold us over until Memorial Day in Maine.

And the price was right.  We found a $540 Jet Blue JFK/Tampa round-trip and a $600 six-night rental of a waterfront house on Cedar Key that had a wraparound deck, screened-in porch, and great views from all rooms.

Cedar Key is a sleepy islet, part of a string of twelve or so, across a short bridge in the Gulf of Mexico.  About 2-1/2 hours north of Tampa, it’s an easy trip if you take Route 589 from the airport.   Otherwise, expect  lots of traffic lights, which provide ample time to take in the signs for personal injury lawyers, wholesale trailer parts, and Hooters as you stop and go along Route 19.  If you want to fit in, save your Lily Pulitzer for your next trip to Palm Beach and pack camouflage gear.

The first day of our trip to Cedar Key we visited my sister who was carriage driving at the Black Prong Equestrian Center in Bronson, about a half hour east into Florida’s interior.  She took us for A+ burgers at Willard’s, where alligator hunters come to play pool after a hard day.

Cedar Key has more fishermen than alligator hunters, since, in addition to tourism, farming clams is the primary industry of this community of 650 to 900.  These hard-shelled clams, which are shipped throughout the Northeast, are the main culinary attraction of Cedar Key. 

In fact, the New England-style clam chowder at Tony’s Seafood Restaurant is a two-time world champion at the Annual Great Chowder Cook-Off in Newport, Rhode Island.  Very flavorful and full of clams, it was served with a choice of sides (I selected fried oysters and baked beans ) and tested my loyalty to all things Maine.

Oysters, blackened grouper, smoked mullet (delicious in a dip home made at Robinson’s Seafood), andouille sausage, omelets stuffed with fresh crab (Cook’s Cafe), and key lime pie (best at the Island Hotel Restaurant) were all fantastic.  Otherwise, I fussed a bit about “everything being fried or sautéed in butter.”

But wildlife viewing was the chief attraction of this trip and we were amply rewarded.

After all, it was on Cedar Key during a three-month recuperation from malaria that John Muir had the epiphany that nature is valuable for its own sake, not only because it is useful for man.

In fact, my stated goal for the trip was to kayak with the manatees.  We rented kayaks at Crystal River Kayak Company and paddled directly out from their docks past Three Sisters Spring to Kings Bay, where we began to look for manatees around Buzz Island.  Locals had lowered our expectations because it was late in the season.  But I soon spotted some of the so-called sea cows surfacing for air. 

Unlike the dolphins we saw another day, the manatees seemed to enjoy our company and we paddled with a group of six of them for almost an hour.  There were a few exciting moments, as shown on this video, that reminded me that manatees weigh between 800 and 1200 pounds.

Birds also captured our interest.  Through the tripod-mounted binoculars in our living room we could see Great Egret, White Ibis, Blue Heron, Brown Pelican, and Osprey, which had built a giant nest on a nearby house.  Great sightings – including Bald Eagle and White Pelican – continued when we took a boat cruise with Captain Doug’s Tidewater Tours.   In addition to loons and cormorants on the water and kildeer, whimpets, sanderlings on beaches, I spotted dolphins, as we toured around the islets that John Muir said looked “like a clump of palms, arranged like a tasteful bouquet, and placed in the sea to be kept fresh.”

Back at the dock I watched the cormorants spread their wings to dry and bought a Smithsonian handbook on the birds of Florida.

Captain Doug also shared some Cedar Key history.  It had been a thriving commercial center in the late 1800s after David Levy (the first member of the U.S. Senate to have been a practicing Jew and after whom the county is named) built a cross-peninsula railroad and before a major hurricane, rampant lumbering, and competition reversed its good fortune.  Today, as I said,  fewer than a thousand people live there.

But the live-oak dripping moss are still there.  And, as John Muir said, “The climate of these precious islets is simply warm summer and warmer summer…” 

You can visit natural fresh water springs. 

Do comparative sunset studies from your porch.

And take home suitcases of conch shells and memories of Old Florida.

To find out more about where we kayak in Maine and why Acadia National Park is also a wonderful place for paddling, visit OUR ACADIA.

Mar 132011

Fly rod?  Skis?  Bikini?  Snorkel mask?  What’s the essential vacation gear you won’t leave home without? 

If it’s a camera, then Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine should be someplace you consider visiting this year. 

The 46,000 acres of this storied national park offer rugged Atlantic coastline, glacial lakes, and mountains whose wonders are laid open to photographers by miles of carriage roads and hiking trails.  Iconic New England villages, dating back to 1761, add postcard-perfect images of working fishing harbors and white church steeples to the portfolio. 

Plus, it’s the first place to view sunrise in the U.S. 

As a quick visit to the forums on TripAdvisor will show, Acadia has spawned a particularly collegial group of amateur and professional photographers who openly share techniques and favorite spots.  Just ask and you’ll get plenty of tips on filters, shutter speed, and remote release techniques for Acadia’s different venues.  Among the locations they name as “don’t miss” are: 

Bass Harbor Headlight 

Sunrise from Thunderhole 

Jordan Pond and The Bubbles 

The Bridge in Somesville

View Atop Cadillac Mountain

Lobster Boats in Bass Harbor

Views from Ocean Path

Margaret Todd Schooner

Among those offering photography workshops in Acadia National Park is Canon.  Led by award-winning photographer Tyler Stableford, Canon bills its session as “A Seaside Photography Adventure.”   The two-day weekend workshop, held August 6th and 7th, is based in Bar Harbor and priced at $750 (excluding hotel).  It starts with classroom instruction and gear handouts, then heads out to explore coastal landscapes and the Bass Harbor Headlight through sunset.  Sunday morning is spent photographing working lobstermen in Bass Harbor, with instruction emphasis on lighting, composition and getting the most from your models.  Lightroom processing and printmaking instruction follow back in the classroom.  Limit: 16 students.

Robert Rodriguez, Jr., a Hudson Valley based photographer, offers his Downeast “Beyond the Lens” workshop at autumn’s height.  For six days (Sunday, October 9th through Friday, October 14th), eight serious photographers, whether beginner or advanced, get to work side-by-side with Rodriguez.  Based near Seawall in the island’s southwest section, this workshop is about 25 minutes closer to the Bass Harbor lighthouse and harbor than Canon’s base in Bar Harbor and utilizes accommodations at the Seawall Motel that are thriftier at $80/night than Canon’s $239 rate at the Bar Harbor Regency, which has a swimming pool.  With an $849 price tag, the curriculum is in-depth, providing both classroom and field sessions daily.  The video about the photo workshop beautifully showcases Acadia’s scenery.

Another option is to explore Mount Desert Island with Ed Vatza.  An advertising executive based in the Lehigh Valley, Ed has been visiting MDI since 1999 and is now a Destination Expert on Acadia for TripAdvisor.  Ed says, “It seems every workshop tries to get to the same places. The key is to know other places, less well known, where you can get the shots that you want. That’s what I strive to do.”  His five-day workshop to Acadia is also offered at the height of foliage season, October 11th through 15th, costs $750 and is limited to ten participants.  It promises to take photographers off the beaten path.  For example, he captured the image featured above of the sole kayaker at sunrise on Eagle Lake.

All of these workshops, depending upon their length, offer free time for you to explore Mount Desert Island.  To learn more, especially about the island’s wide range of restaurants, visit OUR ACADIA.