The Many Faces of Portland Head

Normally, I try to avoid shooting at Portland Head Light so much.  It's not that I don't like the place. I love it there. But being a member of the Maine photographic community, I'm keenly aware of just how heavily photographed Portland Head Light is, and sometimes, it just feels too easy to decide to photograph there. I've been there on plenty of days when the light was kind of mediocre, and on plenty of days when Mother Nature decides to sing. On those days, it's an invigorating place to go and work and make images.

This past week, Portland Head Light acted as a muse of sorts. On Monday, a friend of mine, a fantastic portrait photographer named David Angel, (he took my headshot on the About Rick page), asked to join me on my next local landscape shoot. I hadn't had anything planned, as I'm awaiting the turning of the fall foliage, but decided we should do a sunrise at Portland Head Light. We settled on Monday morning and met up there.

It was still dark when we arrived, so we headed down to the cove to the north of the lighthouse and I started showing David a few spots. It was low tide, so I knew the reflection pool you see in the first image would be visible. We set about making some images there. I had shot at that spot before but came away thinking I could do better. This time, with a slight tinge of pink in the skies, and and the rocks just picking up a hint of light, while the lighthouse was at full brightness, I finally got an image that I think really captures the scene.

After I got the reflection shot, I wanted to get some waves crashing with the colorful sky and lighthouse in the background. I moved to a spot where I thought I'd get a touch of water, and just then the waves got a little more forceful. It was still low tide, but suddenly I was knee deep in the Casco Bay! The image you see above is the image I made. I loved the way the white water of the crashing waves reflected the colors in the sky. To me, it's a magical shot that is different from a lot of the typical Portland Head Light photographs.

Tidal Reflection

All week I'd been hearing reports of higher than usual wave heights on Friday due to some storms at sea. So I planned to make my way to Portland Head again, as I have long wanted a shot of the lighthouse with big waves crashing against the rocks.  I got there nice and early and made images from several different vantage points. It wasn't until almost sunset, as I was shooting on the rocks to the south of the lighthouse, that I began to wonder if I could safely get down to the rocky beach just below the lighthouse. 

I carefully watched the waves from my perch on the higher rocks, and saw that there was a section of the beach that was still perfectly dry. I picked my way down the rocks and stood there in the "dry zone" just watching the action, wondering if I was going to be sorry I was standing there. Then I slowly made my across the cover to the rocks where the waves were crashing.

Here, the rocks were wet, but I had been watching and had seen it was just residual from the splashing, not direct hits from the waves. I got several images from this spot, but when I saw this pool of water in the rocks, I quickly began contorting myself to try and get a reflection in my image. I found the best reflection I could, and then I waited. I watched for a good wave splash and then pressed the button to take several shots in succession to get just the right moment. This shot, "Tidal Reflection", was what I felt was the best splash from the sequence.

After making "Tidal Reflection", I decided to head back up to the higher rocks, as the sun was setting and I wanted to catch the last of it from up there. I climbed back up and set up for this image, "Rising Tide". The waves seemed to be getting bigger, and as they curled over the first of the rocks and splashed on top of themselves, the last sunlight of the day just kissed the splash. With the rest of the water in the shadows, it was beautiful to see the golden glow atop the blue-green water, violently crashing into rocks the size of houses. I waited for a good wave and again shot a few frames in sequence to make sure I captured the best part of the splash. The image you see above is the last one I took that evening.

Portraits at Sunset

I may have mentioned, Portland Head continued to put on a show all week. And while the final piece is a bit different from my usual work here, I thought it would be a good time to show what else I do with my camera. On Saturday, I taught a class on portraiture using available light and flash and we used the park around Portland Head Light as our backdrop.  This particular image, I noticed the soft warm light hitting the face of one of the abandoned buildings of Fort Williams, so I positioned our model so the light would illuminate her nicely and the window would frame her well. I love these buildings for portrait settings. They provide such character, and when the light is right, it's very easy to make some magical images there.

I am available for portrait sessions. Contact me if interested.