Early Arriving Crowd

October 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

While visiting Acadia National Park in Maine, I planned to photograph the sunrise from the peak of Cadillac Mountain. During most times of the year, Cadillac Mountain is the first location in the United States to be touched by light from the rising sun.

When I photograph sunrises, I like to get to the location at least 30 minutes before sunrise. This gives me time to set up, and I usually prefer the quality of light before the sun actually rises.

Another thing I try to do is to scout the location in advance. The day before my photo shoot, I drove to the top of the mountain and selected my vantage point. The classic photograph from Cadillac Mountain includes slabs of granite in the foreground with the bay and islands in the background.

To reach the top of the mountain in time, one needs to leave very early in the morning. Sunrise was at 5:07 am, so I left the campground at 4:15 am--and that was cutting it close. To my surprise, the traffic became congested as I approached the road that leads to the summit! A caravan of cars, nearly bumper to bumper, worked their way up the winding mountain road.

When I arrived at the summit's parking lot, there were only a few open spaces left. Before long, the lot was filled and people were parking along the road. To my disappointment, there were so many people at the summit that I couldn't set up my tripod on the spot I selected during my scouting. There were hundreds of people scattered around the summit by 4:45 am! My conservative estimate is that at least 500 people were there, but I wouldn't be surprised if the number was closer to 1,000 people. It amazed me that there were so many people out and about at 4:45 am, including numerous families with small children. This is not the type of experience that we envision as landscape photographers.

I moved forward to a new vantage point that eliminated all of the tourists from the frame. Unfortunately, that meant sacrificing the granite foreground. But, I was still pleased with this image that I titled "First Light":

First LightFirst LightSunrise over the Porcupine Islands and Frenchman Bay from the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Mount Desert Island, Maine on August 2, 2015.

Later that morning, I was taking pictures in the nearby town of Bar Harbor when a couple of people approached to ask me if I had been on the summit for sunrise. They shared the following picture with me--a rare photograph where I'm the subject! This is an image of me moving from the spot that I scouted the previous day to the area where I captured the "First Light" photograph displayed above:


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