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Blog

96 Hours for 15 Minutes of Great Light

Joe Rossbach

Just recently I spent four days in Portland, Maine leading a private workshop for a client from Montreal. We were originally scheduled to spend our time exploring Acadia National Park, many more options for creative landscape and nature photography than Portland, but due to my clients travel schedule we had to settle on Portland. Lucky enough, Portland is home to Cape Elizabeth and Portland Head Light, without a doubt the most iconic landscape on the coast of Maine. In addition to shooting the lighthouse, we also spent a great deal of time doing classroom work (it rained and was socked in 90% of the time) as well as exploring some of the fishing villages and coastal life on Harpswell and Bailey’s Islands.

My client was mostly frustrated due to the crappy weather and lack of shooting opportunities due to the foul conditions. I understood his frustration and felt for him, but as far as I was concerned it was par for course, especially in Maine on the coast where the weather can literally be terrible for days at a time. He learned a valuable truth about landscape photography, the majority of the time we spend in the field is spent waiting out the weather, often terrible weather or blue-bird blue skies (even worse), waiting for that moment when the light and the landscape join in a special dance and the “real” photographs are born.

Portland Head Light Sunrise, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

The first morning of the workshop was awesome. Dramatic light, clouds and solitude at the Cape. We worked many images, exploring different compositions, chasing the ever changing light and moving clouds. Five minutes after I shot this image, the fog rolled in and it began to rain. It would be cloudy, foggy and raining on and off for the next two and a half days!  Nikon D800, 14-24mm, single exposure RAW, Singh Ray 3 stop ND Grad (soft), 1/4 second at F11, ISO 200 

Soft Twilight on Cape Elizabeth with Portland Head Light, Maine

On the last day of the workshop, we found ourselves on Bailey Island, 90 minutes from Portland to the north.We had been shooting coastal lobster shacks and other fishing relics when a thick fog bank rolled in completely killing any hopes of good sunset shooting on Mackerel Cove.  I suggested that we hastily make the drive south to Portland in hopes that the storm would roll off the coast in time for sunset. As we drove south, the rain went from a steady drizzle to a complete down pour. As we pulled into Cape Elizabeth Park my hopes were far less then high, but a small break in the clouds above provided us with just enough inspiration to set up and pray for light. Our prayers were answered in a dramatic show of storm light at sunsets most dramatic moment if color. It felt great to be able to end the workshop on a high note! Nikon D800, 14-24mm, single exposure RAW, 2 seconds at F14, ISO 100.