Portland Head Light

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There’s an iconic lighthouse in Portland, Maine I’ve been wanting to photograph.

As with anything ocean-related (like Atlantic coast sunrises), it’s challenging to get the kind of sky that would make for an optimum image. The ocean is like a huge vacuum cleaner, sucking all the clouds out of the sky.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood on the shoreline looking at a sky filled with clouds to the north, west and south…yet to the east? Nothing.

Since Portland Head Light is an hour-and-a-half drive, it’s not the kind of location to which I can just “pop over” to see how things look. This is a little more of a commitment.

I’ve been watching the skies – and the forecast – for the past couple weeks. Yesterday, it rained early. Then the skies turned milky white. Great flat light for close-up work, water, and any subject matter that doesn’t involve the sky. Not so great for this composition.

By early afternoon, though, the sun poked through, some blue sky began to appear, and the clouds took on a nice appearance. Since storms were forecast for evening, I thought I might get lucky and have a good window of opportunity to see a mix of sky, cumulous clouds – and eventually – darker storm clouds. Perfect! So I jumped in the car and headed north.

I nearly turned back twice since conditions were changing for the worse. Rather than nice, puffy cumulous clouds, the sky was filling back in with way too much flat white. No storm clouds, either. Dangerously close to ‘blah’ once again. However, I’d gone a fair distance already so decided to stick with the plan; at the very least I would scout the location for a future shoot.

As I exited at Portland and began working my way toward Cape Elizabeth, the massive cloud cover gave way to…nearly empty blue skies. Darned if that ocean vacuum cleaner wasn’t at it again! 🙂

This was not exactly what I had in mind. (Story of the outdoor photographer.) Clear blue skies may be pretty, but they’re not nearly as interesting as a mix of blue sky and nice puffy cumulous clouds. Or a dark, stormy sky – with high tide and crashing waves.

Still, I spent an hour or so shooting the lighthouse and making mental notes for future reference. I’ll be back!

Portland Head Light ~ Cape Elizabeth

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