Photography Guide to Acadia National Park – Part 1

Acadia National Park, located in the state of Maine and reachable via a 5 hour drive from Boston or 3 hours from Portland, was one of the first national parks created in the USA. It’s a wondefrul location for enjoying  Acadia National Park photography. Until now it remains the only one in the Northeast. Acadia is one of the smallest in size but ranks in the top 10 for popularity and visiting outdoor nature lovers.

Acadia National Park photography, Maine: Rocky shoreline at sunrise by Juergen Roth - Photography Guide to Acadia National Park
Glorious Maine – Acadia National Park; Camera settings f/22, 6 sec., ISO 100

Acadia National Park Photography – Recommended Locations

The main park is located on Mount Desert Island and nearby are smaller areas like Isle au Haut and the Schoodic Peninsula. It is a destination for tourists from all over the world and provides the outdoor photographer with plenty of photography opportunities.

Bar Harbor is the heart and soul of Mount Desert Island and provides plenty of accommodations, restaurants, shops and entertainment from May through November. Cruise ships dock in the harbor from May through October.

Bar Harbor is only minutes away from the main entrance to the park and provides easy access to Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond House, the Park Loop Road, and on into the wilderness areas. Other towns on Mount Desert Island to visit or consider for accommodations are Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Sommesville, Bass Harbor, Bernard, or Tremont.

Acadia National Park, Maine: Main street of Bar Harbor showing lignts during twilight by Juergen Roth.
Main Street Bar Harbor; Camera settings f/5.6, 3.2 sec., ISO 200

Acadia is a paradise for every outdoor photographer and enthusiast. Take the Park Loop Road to reach many of the iconic photography subjects; Monument Cove, The Beehive, Sand Beach, Jordan Pond and the Bubbles, Bubble Pond, and Otter Cliff, just to name only a few along the way.

The carriage roads (no cars allowed) and hiking trails provide further access to more remote locations where the park continues to inspire and unfold its true magic. Acadia is a heaven for macro, seascape, and landscape photography. The light of the golden hours around dawn and dusk paints the sky in beautiful hues and unleashes its natural beauty.

One of my favorite times to visit is October when the New England fall foliage is in full glory, but spring, summer and winter are beautiful seasons to consider and will not disappoint your own photo endeavors.

Let’s start our journey.

Acadia National Park, Maine: rugged granite coast along the shore by Juergen Roth.
Maine Granite Coast Sunrise; Camera settings f/22, 6 sec., ISO 100

The Towns of Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Bass Harbor, Bernard, Seal Harbor, and Southwest Harbor

Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Bass Harbor, Bernard, Seal Harbor, and Southwest Harbor are picturesque villages where harbor and island life can be explored and photographed. Fishing boats, sailboats and dinghies make for fantastic photo objects. Early summer fog makes for exceptional and moody photography.

For some great Acadia National Park photography, don’t forget to bring your long lens to explore a wide array of nautical details. Bass Harbor Lighthouse is a prime location in this area and it is a mob scene at sunset. Arrive early to claim your spot and be prepared to share the place with many other photographers.

Acadia National Park, Maine: two dinghies floating on the water at Bar Harbor by Juergen Roth.
Bar Harbor Dinghies; Camera settings f/6.3, 1/40 sec., ISO 100

 

Acadia National Park, Maine: Bass Harbor Lighthouse silhouetted at twilight by Juergen Roth.
Maine Bass Harbor Lighthouse; Camera settings f/5.6, 1/3 sec., ISO 100

PHOTO TIP:
Mist or fog beautifully diffuses light and provides the outdoor photographer with a giant softbox. The camera is easily fooled by it, so make sure to exposure compensate appropriate: +1 f-stop is a good guidance and I often use exposure bracketing in +/- 1/3 increments to capture my nature vision.

Acadia National Park, Maine: rocky seacoast image made in the fog and mist by Juergen Roth.
Misty Acadia National Park Seacoast; Camera settings f/11, 2.5 sec., ISO 100

Park Loop Road

Most visitors are introduced to Acadia by enjoying the 27 mile ride along ocean cliffs and through mountain forests, stopping at scenic pullouts and iconic attractions along the way. The Park Loop Road from Sand Beach to Otter Cliff is one of the most pristine areas for seacoast photography.

Morning light paints the granite coast beautifully in pink and warm hues. Park your car at Sand Beach, Thunder Hole or Otter Cliff and walk the ocean path. It is a flat and easy walk along the Atlantic Ocean with breathtaking views and photo ops at every step.

Before starting our walk along the ocean I recommend exploring Sand Beach and its photographic subjects. Arrive early to photograph the rocky shoreline at sunrise. When the beautiful morning twilight has faded, one can explore macro photography of blue clamshells, blue mussel shells or a stream that cuts through the beach.

Alternatively one can climb the granite steps from the beach to the top of Great Head where one is awarded with breathtaking views of Sand Beach, Gorham Mountain and the Beehive that make for great photography on foggy mornings or during fall foliage season.

Acadia National Park, Maine: Evergreen trees and creek in a haze near Sand Beach by Juergen Roth.
Evergreen and Creek near Sand Beach; Camera settings f/7.1, 1/200 sec., ISO 100

From Sand Beach start your walk along the Atlantic Ocean that will lead to Monument Cove. Explore the pebble beach at this beautiful cove, incorporating the pebbles as beautiful foreground features. Further along the ocean path, shortly after Thunder Hole one can enjoy wonderful views of Otter Cliff.

There is another pebble beach between these 2 attractions that makes for a great foreground when photographing Otter Cliff. Try using your polarizing filter or neutral density filter to extend exposure times and create silky ocean water effects from the incoming waves. Spectacular views and sunrise photography is possible from Gorham Mountain at the end of the Ocean Path near the Otter Cliff parking area.

PHOTO TIP:
Get up early and get to bed late to make most of the amazing New England light. Midday is for catching a nap or scouting locations.

Acadia National Park, Maine: rocks, evergreen trees and shore of Otter Cliff at dawn by Juergen Roth.
Otter Cliff at Dawn; Camera settings f/16, 1 sec., ISO 100

Jordan Pond

The Park Loop Road eventually will lead to the Jordan Pond House. It is famous for its fresh, warm popovers. The lawn has beautiful views of Jordan Pond and the Bubbles. Make your way down to the pond shoreline that is covered with rocks.

They make for fabulous photo subjects that scream to be included in the foreground of your composition. Sunset and twilight has always been my favorite time of the day to take pictures here since the sun sets behind the South and North Bubbles providing ample lighting.

Make sure to bring a split neutral density filter to overcome the high contrast of dark foreground and the bright sunset light of the sky. South Bubble itself makes for a great morning and sunrise destination. The steep but short hike up South Bubble awards fantastic views of Jordan Pond, the Atlantic Ocean and Porcupine Islands.

Acadia National Park, Maine: clear waters of Jordan Pond with the Bubbles (hills) in the background by Juergen Roth.
Jordan Pond and the Bubbles; Camera settings f/7.1, 1/80 sec., ISO 100

PHOTO TIP:

To guarantee better photography results, be sure to have a solid support to stabilize your camera gear when shooting at low light or at twilight. Ideally a tripod works best, but other supports, like one of the rocks at the shoreline, might do just fine to minimize camera shake during those long exposure times.

Acadia National Park, Maine: silky water effect of Jordan Pond with the Bubbles (hills) in the background at dusk by Juergen Roth.
Dusk at Jordan Pond and the Bubbles; Camera settings f/29, 10 sec., ISO 100

Hope you enjoyed part 1 of this Acadia National Park photography guide

In Part 2, we’ll travel around more of the interior of the island and visit Bubble Pond, Cadillac Mountain, Eagle Lake, the back roads off Route 102, Wonderland, the carriage roads and hiking trails of Acadia NP. I’ll also provide you some more photography tips to make those Acadia images great. Last we’ll talk about the best time to visit and what gear to bring when photographing in Arcadia National Park.

by Juergen Roth
All text & photos: © 2013 Juergen Roth. All rights reserved.

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