Trip Report: Spring in Maine 2022 Photo Workshop
After a year and a half of putting off any large-scale photo workshops, last week I was able to finally get together with a great group of photographers for my first workshop since October of 2020. I'd held a handful of half-day photo walk type events in 2021, but I find I have the most fun teaching when I have a group ready to immerse themselves in photography for several days. So it was with great excitement that I met with a full group of eight awesome people and took them exploring the Maine coast.
A lot of planning goes into a workshop: where will the attendees stay, what will we photograph, when will be photograph it? To be honest, the most stressful part for me is the planning. I worry about whether or not my attendees will be happy with my choice of lodging, my selection of locations, and my instruction. Then I worry about whether or not the weather will cooperate, providing us good conditions to photograph in. My worst fear for one of these workshops is that a 3-day long monsoon will show up and make it miserable for everyone. These workshops tend to be rain or shine type events, making the most of any conditions we get, but no one wants to spend the time soaked to the bones!
In this case, the easiest part of the planning for this workshop was selecting the lodging. Two years ago as I was putting this workshop together for the first time, I spoke to my friends Mark and Nancy, the owners of the Kendall Tavern Inn in Freeport, Maine. I'd first met Mark at Hunt's Photo in South Portland shortly after I moved to Freeport, and to find he was right across town from me made life easy when it came to planning the workshop. The Kendall Tavern Inn dates back to 1820, when the Kendalls, one of the first families in Freeport, lived in the house and operated a tavern in the basement. Mark suspects the house dates back as far as the 1770's, but the historical records in town don't back that up. Certain aspects of the construction point to the 1770's however. I thought it would be a great place to host workshop, as with 8 workshop attendees, I could just about fill the Inn for 4 nights, and know that Mark and Nancy would provide the kind of personal attention you just don't get from a hotel.
They were very willing to schedule breakfast around our early morning sunrise excursions, which worked out great for everyone, as we all returned to the inn hungry for a meal. Nancy is an amazing cook, serving up incredible three course breakfasts that included delicious muffins (banana one day, blueberry another), a homemade breakfast sandwich featuring bacon, eggs, and cheese on a home baked croissant, Belgian waffles another morning, fresh fruit, and more! Nancy even prepared some go-bags for us to take every morning so we wouldn't go hungry while out photographing! Bottom line, the inn was comfortable, had plenty of room for us to work, and provided a great launch point for our daily adventures.
We went out photographing the first evening, Wednesday, and were rewarded with a pleasant sunset that showed off Portland Head Lighthouse and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse nicely. The next morning really kicked things off though! I had everyone awake and ready to go by 4am. I know, I know. Sounds harsh, but any landscape photographer knows that early light, especially on the Maine coast, is just magical. So we made our way to Popham Beach in the dark. I knew the tide would be going out, and when the tide is out, the beach is filled with amazing patterns and pools in the sand. A blazing sunrise glowed over the beach that day, as storm clouds moving in glowed with reds, pinks, and oranges as the sun approached the horizon. Things were starting off very well.
If I take people out to photograph at sunrise, I always give a late morning to early afternoon break. Besides the fact that the light is not great at that time of day, I'm not looking to wear anyone out. So a good five hours or so break is good to nap or just rest. On Wednesday we headed out to the Old Port in Portland, and got a little bit of photography done, but unfortunately, the skies opened up and the storm clouds that moved in early in the morning finally let loose. We collectively decided to get out of the rain and headed back to Freeport, where we grabbed dinner at Jameson Tavern, which also happens to be the oldest tavern in Maine, and the birthplace of Maine as a state.
On Friday morning we headed to Portland Head Lighthouse again, and were met with a pretty heavy fog that ended up sitting along the coast all weekend. We then headed to New Harbor and Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. The image of Pemaquid Point above is what we hoped for, but ultimately we got the fog that moved in Friday. You can see it in the images from Reid State Park, our stop on Saturday afternoon. Now, when I looked at the weather earlier in the week, it had said to expect partly cloudy skies all week. When I checked Friday night, I was horrified to see cloudy skies all day. Yes, good images can still be made, but it's always more fun when you have a burner of a sunrise. I was stressed that my group would be bored with the flat light.
That soon changed however. On Friday when I saw the weather report, I canceled the early morning wakeup for Saturday. We headed to Five Islands Harbor around 10am and photographed that gorgeous harbor in the fog for a while. Then we headed a few miles down the road to Reid State Park. I've had a lot of success photographing for myself there, and it seemed many in my group were yearning for rocky coastline photos. It turned out to be perfect! The fog added a moodiness to the scene that is quintessentially springtime in New England, and with the passing storm, the waters were churning, sending big waves against the rocks. It was so good, in fact, that I decided to skip two other locations I'd planned, and stay at Reid for the afternoon. Nobody complained about that!
All in all, my workshop attendees may have gotten off just a bit easy! We had the late wakeup Saturday, and then, with Sunday morning looking much the same, I decided to push back the wakeup time a bit. I wanted them to get the early morning light at Giant's Stairs, but since it was still expected to be foggy, I decided it didn't have to happen before sunrise. But off to Giant's Stairs in Harpswell we went, and finished up the workshop with some awesome waves in a misty fog. Everyone seemed very happy.
When all was said and done, the workshop was very successful. Considering it was two years in the making, I was hopeful it would come off without a hitch. Mark and Nancy at the Kendall Tavern Inn played a huge role, making my students feel welcomed, comfortable, and at home. And while it wasn't the weather we wanted, I think we got the weather we needed in that magical fog. I'm looking forward to doing it again!
I'll leave you with one last image. Sheepscot Dawn, below, was taken Tuesday morning, two days after the workshop ended. It has the colorful skies we all hoped for, but the water was calm and there were no waves to speak of. So I was able to get a peaceful image. It's just amazing how the weather can make a spot seem completely different from one day to the next.
Next, I'm off to Oregon for a workshop there. Can't wait to report back on it!