Haystacks at the Lighthouse

March 28, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I'm a long-time admirer of impressionism in general and Claude Monet specifically. Monet's "Haystacks" series, in which he painted the same subject many times to show variances in light, season, and weather, is a beautiful demonstration of how a particular scene never looks exactly the same.

Those "Haystacks" opportunities abound for the landscape photographer, since it's not unusual to visit certain locations over and over again.

For me, the shore is one such example. I've worked at a handful of areas along the Atlantic Coast at daybreak steadily over the past five years. While I'm visiting the same spots at the same time relative to sunrise (45 minutes prior) over and over, the sessions are never duplicated. The point where the sun is going to come up moves; the tide is changeable (which means the shoreline itself can look significantly different from one shoot to the next); the sky can be painted in a variety of ways; the ocean might be rough and in constant motion - or calm and still as glass; based on what's happening overhead, the water is tinted differently. And so on.

Over the course of the past year, I've spent quite a bit of time at Nubble Light in Cape Neddick, Maine. After having captured it in a variety of different conditions, I made a photograph in late November that I was especially happy with. I began to think it would be wonderful if I could transform that specific scene into my own version of the "Haystacks."

Morning GloryMorning GloryIn autumn and winter, the spot where the sun first appears in the morning shifts significantly further south - creating opportunities to compose images featuring Nubble Light and colorful skies at daybreak much differently than during the longest days of summer. (Cape Neddick, Maine) There was one caveat: this composition is only possible during the shorter days of the year, when the sun rises much further to the south. Therefore, my shooting window would be confined to only the autumn/winter months - and I'd be making just two images: one with grass, and one with snow.

The lighthouse sits out on the water in an open area that can receive a lot of wind. Would the snow stick to the ground or be blown away before I could make my photo?

I needed a "big sky" for this composition. They don't occur with great frequency. Would I get one before the sun moved too far back to the north?

Would I be able to make the photo I had in mind during the winter of 2014/2015....or would it have to wait for a year?

One morning in late February, I got what I'd been seeking.

We had been inundated with show during the course of the month, so even at this windswept location, the ground remained white.

Speaking of which, snow was forecast for later in the day - so I knew there was a chance for "red sky in the morning." That said, when I got up to Sohier Park, the skies were mostly empty and pretty "blah." Quickly, however, wispy clouds began to move in. They were so thin and high that they were difficult to see at first - until they began to take on some faint color. Then it became apparent that they were rapidly filling the sky. Soon, everything lit up and even the sea turned pink. Unbelievable!

As is often the case, the show was fleeting: as quickly as it arrived, the color faded. Within 45 minutes, it was totally overcast.

I got my "haystacks" - and in just three months! Mission accomplished.

Sailor Take Warning...Sailor Take Warning...Red skies just before sunrise at Nubble Light signal snow on the way. (Cape Neddick, Maine)


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