Shooting An Icon

Bass Harbor Light at Sunset ISO 50 / 28 mm / f18 / 1/5 sec

Bass Harbor Light at Sunset
ISO 50 / 28 mm / f18 / 1/5 sec

When I signed up for Out of Chicago's Out of Acadia workshop back in the spring, I knew that Bass Harbor Lighthouse would be a must stop.  Living and shooting in New England I had yet to make my way to this icon and I knew that this would be my opportunity.  

The Bass Harbor Light at sunset was the first excursions I signed up for.  When I saw that it would be led by Nick Page, it became a no-brainer.  I have been a fan of Nick's for several years and know I was going to learning from him was a big reason I chose to attend Out of Acadia.  Nick is relatively new to the landscape photography game, but his growth has been astounding, so to check off a bucket list shot with him was too good to pass up.  

We arrived at the lighthouse 90 minutes before sundown and found a traffic jam.  We considered leaving and finding another location, but a quick recon of the area showed that many people were coming and going, so parking would be available soon.  However, finding a traffic jam along the coast of Maine was a sobering reminder of why these locations are considered icons: everyone wants an image of Bass Harbor Light in their portfolio.  Much like it's sisters to the south, Nubble Lighthouse and Portland Head Light, Bass Harbor Light is a must get for all New England landscape photographers, a fact that we were quickly reminded of when we tried to pull into the already full parking lot.  

The difference between Bass Harbor and other lighthouses though, is that Bass Harborhas a much smaller footprint upon which to shoot.  Where Nubble and Portland Head Light each have tons of space and multiple angles allowing photographers to spread out, Bass Harbor really has just one area from which to shoot... and it's not very big.  On our evening, there were 150+/- photographers vying for the postage stamp sized area to shoot.  We were lucky, though.  We were able to find a location that our group could share when the time came to capture the moment.  Here are images by Alex McClure and Nick of the area we claimed and the viewpoint we were shooting (that's me in the first orange shirt):

Bass Harbor Crowds Credit: Alex McClure

Bass Harbor Crowds
Credit: Alex McClure

Bass Harbor Viewpoint Credit: Nick Page

Bass Harbor Viewpoint
Credit: Nick Page

What you can't see in either of these images are the individuals found in between the rocks, crouched in crevices and stationed on the other side of the large boulder from which Alex captured his iPhone shot above.  As I mentioned above, I would estimate that there were 150 +/- people in the area, all trying to stay out of the composition of their neighbor.  

So, yeah, it was busy.  We were shooting an icon, with the hoards.  But as the sun set and blue hour set in, the others left our group behind.  Alone on the Maine coast with the icon to ourselves, Nick turned to the group and said, "this is when the image gets interesting". 

If you take a look at the shot of the group from above, you will note a lone photographer down on the rocks by the water.  That is Mark Denney, one heck of a photographer in his own right.  Mark positioned himself on a tiny rock outcrop that got smaller and smaller as the tide rose.  He had the best angle of all of us and, once the crowds left, blue hour set in, and the red light on the lighthouse became more visible, we all took turns shooting the icon from that vantage point.  With a tide pool just in front of the outcrop providing a nice reflective surface, that location, at that time, made our last shots of the iconic Bass Harbor Light the more interesting ones.  

Bass Harbor Light ISO 1000 / 28mm / f11 / 1.6 sec

Bass Harbor Light
ISO 1000 / 28mm / f11 / 1.6 sec

And another interesting composition was found when we explored a small puddle on the rocks:

Bass Harbor Reflection ISO 1000 / 27mm / f11 / 30 sec

Bass Harbor Reflection
ISO 1000 / 27mm / f11 / 30 sec

Like other icons, Bass Harbor Light requires some planning, and perseverance to get "the shot" for your portfolio.  But with patience, and a willingness to stay to "when the image gets interesting" you can not only get that iconic shot, but more interesting images as well. 


Gear used for these shots
Camera:  Canon 5D Markiii
Lens:  Canon EF 16–35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens
Tripod:  Manfrotto MT055CXPRO4 055 Carbon Fiber 4-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column
Tripod Head:  Really Right Stuff 055 Ball Head
Camera Bag:  Pro Trekker 450 AW Camera Backpack From Lowepro
Filters:  LEE Filter System