Location Spotlight: The Giant's Stairs

April 11, 2022  |  Harpswell, Maine

Just about the point where Maine's Midcoast Region begins, south of Brunswick, lies the town of Harpswell. Harpswell is made up of land contiguous with the mainland, known as Harpswell Neck, and then over 200 islands. One of those islands is Bailey Island, one of the three largest islands to make up the town. There are several well-known photographic "hot spots" on Bailey Island, including Mackerel Cove, Land's End, and my focus today, The Giant's Stairs.

Waves from Casco Bay pound against the rocks on the shoreline of Bailey Island and the Giant's Stairs Trail.

Bailey Island Coastline

Waves from Casco Bay pound against the rocks on the shoreline of Bailey Island and the Giant's Stairs Trail.


The Giant's Stairs

The Giant's Stairs gets their name from a formation of rocks that leads out into Casco Bay, resembling a staircase. It's a neat attraction to see, but photographically, I've had a hard time doing it justice. It's a tough angle, with the "stairs" receding into the sea. The space between the stairs is tight, and there is a ledge, but after that is a pretty big drop to the rocks and water below. The photo to the left is one of my favorites of that formation, but for me it still feels like it's lacking something.

Guess I'll just keep trying.


A soft glow warms the sky over Bailey Island in Harpswell, Maine on an early spring morning.

Timeless

A soft glow warms the sky over Bailey Island in Harpswell, Maine on an early spring morning.


Just south of the stairs, huge rock formations poke out into Casco Bay. I've spent a lot of time climbing on these and exploring different photographic compositions. There's a lot to point a camera at here. In "Timeless", above, I'm standing nearly at the top of one of the biggest formations, which ends at Pinnacle Rock, in the distance. There's a small inlet just to the left where waves crash with incredible violence against the rocks, especially at high tide or when the seas are stormy. On my last visit, I decided to take a larger vista of the scene, in long exposure, to let the water smooth out, but also to give a sense of all of the nooks and crannies to be found along the shoreline.

Pinnacle Rock on Bailey Island, Maine, stands against the incoming tide on a spring morning.

Against the Tide

Pinnacle Rock on Bailey Island, Maine, stands against the incoming tide on a spring morning.


After I captured "Timeless", I decided I wanted to get closer to Pinnacle Rock. I ended up scrambling over the rock formation, climbing to the point where I captured "Against the Tide", above. I'd never been this close to the rock before, and I was standing just above where the the waves were crashing at their most violent with high tide coming in. I always take great care in choosing where to stand. I watch the wave action for several minutes to ensure that I won't be swept off the rocks I choose for my platform. For this photo, I knew high tide was all the way in, and shortly the tide would begin receding again. The rock I was eyeballing for my position was completely dry, so it was a pretty safe bet it would stay that way. Every now and then a series of waves would come in and make a lot of noise, and a big splash, and thankfully I was able to capture this one.

Waves crash on the rugged, rocky shoreline on Bailey Island in Harpswell, Maine.

Morning Glow on Bailey Island

The sky glows a soft pink and orange as sun rises over Casco Bay as waves crash against the rocky shoreline of Bailey Island near Giants Stairs.


"Morning Glow on Bailey Island" was captured on a brisk January Morning in 2021. It was warmer than most Maine January mornings, and I used the opportunity to use a slightly different perch to capture wave action crashing against the rocks. This is one of my favorite photos of that spot.

If you ever decide to visit Bailey Island, it's worth spending a day, or at least an afternoon! There are a few good restaurants on the island. Cook's Lobster & Ale House is one of my favorites.