A Crowded Bass Harbor Light

There are several things in life one should not do if one has a specific requirement for solitude and peace. Never go to Disney World during spring break, never visit Las Vegas (unless it's Las Vegas NM), never visit Yellowstone NP during foliage season . . . . and never, ever go to Maine's iconic Bass Harbor Lighthouse unless it is in the dead of winter.

On this late August evening a group of us had gone out to dinner in a nearby landmark restaurant when I asked if anyone was interested in seeing Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Knowing better but still doing it anyway, we followed the hoards of tourists down the narrow roads to the coast. Again, knowing better but still not stopping myself, I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed down to the rocky shoreline hoping beyond hope I might find a small spit of land to set up and shot the sunset.

So what do you do when you are on a 200 square foot patch of rocky shoreline with 150 other people, most who are also trying to get the iconic shot? You zoom in, tighten the crop, make use of the assets in front of the lens, bracket your shots and then rely on your photo editing skills.

By the time the sun hit the horizon, I had one person set up just to the left of my lens, with 18 inches! He was incredibly polite and kept making sure he was not in my shot.

The woman on the rock in my image actually stood about eight feet in front of my lens for a few minutes. At that point I gave up, put the lens cap back on the camera and unplugged my shuttle release, all before she chose on her own to climb up on the boulder and watch from there. This serendipitous act I feel is what made this image.

In the original shot there are five people that had positioned themselves in the composition I had formed in my camera. As mentioned above, one became an asset. I just had to make sure I did not capture any identifying features since I am not good about carrying around model release forms. The other four all appeared on the left side of the image, and one had a bold striped shirt that in no way would work with the shot I wanted.

Bracketed shots that were later merged in PhotoShop to create the final image seen at the beginning of this blog. If you look closely you can see the four people on the left of the image that had to be removed in post process editing.

Bracketed shots that were later merged in PhotoShop to create the final image seen at the beginning of this blog. If you look closely you can see the four people on the left of the image that had to be removed in post process editing.

My solution: Zoom in a bit closer with my 24-70mm lens, take five bracketed shots (one over exposed for the shadows, one normal and three under exposed), close up shop and start climbing back up the bank before everyone else.

Once back home I was able to bring the images into PhotoShop and selectively mask out the undesirable components of each picture using a combination of gradient and luminosity masking. I then used the clone stamp to remove the trash and four of the five people from the scene. Once the maintenance aspects were complete I started working on the tonal qualities of the image; lightening the highlights in the trees and the woman’s hair, darkening most of the “shadow” components to give the image more of a silhouette effect and then sharpening the details for output.

Thanks for spending a few minutes with me today. If, like myself, you have found yourself attempting to capture and image at this location, let me know you experience in the comments below.