Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter in Maine

It has been some years since I have been back in Maine during the winter. School break during the summer months were the best time to go, and truthfully, a very pleasant way to spend time in the gorgeous surroundings of the most northeastern state. This time it was necessary to go in January, when most shops along the tourist coast are closed, the coastal villages slow their pace, and snow birds head south.

As a photographer, I have always known, at least for myself, that there is no "bad" time to venture out to capture images in nature or of people going about their business. It is a challenge at times, but my resolve and patience are usually rewarded with beautiful images to share, despite the predictable discomfort. Maine has an advantage, of course: its rugged coastline and thick forested mountains are stunning at all times of the year.

I set out on photo safaris during the second week in January and came away with the following scenes etched into the digital innards of my new Nikon (I hadn't bought a new camera in 40 years). Here they are. (All images are by the author, all rights reserved. Do not use without permission).

An apple tree sleeps in the foggy snow of South Blue Hill

View of Blue Hill Bay

Woods on Parker Point Road, Blue Hill. During the winter, the snow melts and evaporates into the cold air, producing fog.

Early morning fog, Blue Hill

On dreary, overcast days, it is not always possible to get a pleasing shot. But by using time exposure in this case, it turns a drab scene into an interesting one. I like time exposures, as they show us what happens, even though we cannot see it. Reversing Falls, South Blue Hill.

This cemetery is across the road from the school in Brooklin where I once worked. However, I never noticed this very Hitchcockian tree until this time as I was driving by. Perhaps it was the nature of the type of day that caused me to see it. I took several shots of the scene, and this was the only one whose image was not blurred by raindrops. I didn't know until I worked on them. How lucky I was to salvage one!

The sides of this building have been weathered by repeated harsh winters and sunny summers. It looks out over Eggemoggin Reach between Brooklin and Deer Isle.

Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park from U.S. Highway 1 in Sullivan

Iconic scene of Stonington on Deer Isle. Bustling with tourists during the summer, it is very quiet in winter. Yet lobstermen go out on the ice-cold North Atlantic to haul lobster from great depths, 400 feet or more.

Stonington lobster pound. This young lobsterman explained that only nine boats were bringing in lobster, compared to hundreds during the summer. Lobster move way offshore in winter and lobstermen spend 30 straight hours once they get to the traps, about a two hour trip from Stonington. Lobster are then sold to pounds at the pier, and may be kept in salt water tanks until demand drives up prices.

A Buddha sculpture sits through another winter, layers of paint peeling each successive year, giving it an abstract look. Note the moss growing in the upturned palms. Milbridge, Washington County, U.S. Highway 1.

Pine needles captured in ice at McClellan town park in Milbridge.

Crashing surf at McClelland Park, Milbridge. This stunning piece of land is a well-kept secret 4 miles off Highway 1. The geography is similar to Acadia National Park, but I have never seen more than four or five people here, even in summer. There were none this day.

The pounding surf smashed large underwater boulders together, creating a crash that sounded like thunder on this brilliant winter day; A magical experience.

Typical New England church, bright against a darkening sky near sunset. Milbridge, U.S. HIghway 1.

Milbridge from U.S. HIghway 1.

No, not Sasquatch. One must dress for the weather.
I love Maine. Everyone who ventures here is captivated. Even in winter, I might add!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The People of Bhutan

The trip of a lifetime is how we describe it. Fortunate to have friends in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan--often called Shangri-La--act as sponsors, we were able to avoid the steep mandatory fees and tours. Bhutan allows 22,000 vistors a year--by contrast, 23,000 enter Thailand each day. A week's visit was not nearly enough time, but it was deeply satisfying to be able to experience this mysterious and remote country, which is wedged between India and Tibet. To view our overnight stay at a mountain monastery in October 2009, see my post, "Visit to a Bhutanese Monastery":

Following are selected portraits of the people of Bhutan. They are digitized photos from 100 ASA Kodak negative film. For more information about Bhutan, including the national dress, visit Next post: Scenes and scenery in Bhutan.

(Photos by the author. All rights reserved. Do not use without permission.)

Many Bhutanese wear traditional clothes. Men wear a "gho", tied at the waist and with an inner pouch for carrying items such as betel nuts that a great many Bhutanese chew seemingly continuously. I tried it. I think one has to develop a taste for it, or enjoy the "buzz" that ensues. Or both. Women wear "kiras", ankle length dresses. All are from hand woven fabric and are quite colorful.

The swirl of colors are everywhere: in the clothing, the ornate and brightly painted storefronts, in the temples and altars. Here a woman with her baby strolls by storefronts in Paro.

This woman wanted me to wait until she had arranged her clothing just right for her portrait. Taken along the main street in Paro.

Many Bhutanese Buddhists carry prayer beads, as this woman has. Photo taken in Paro. The deeply lined faces of the elders in Bhutan reflect life in the sun-drenched high altitudes.

This baby and her father exude much of the enjoyment we saw in Bhutan, whose well-being is measured in what they have coined "Gross National Happiness".

A monk rests at a temple in Paro. The ornate painted carvings that enhance the architecture are enchanting.

A young monk at a lakhang, or temple.

At a mountain monastery school, students make ornaments for altars.

Monastery students practice Buddhist chants and songs with traditional mountain horns.

Two of the elders at the monastery. The young man on the right was a student, and is now a teacher at the school.

A young storekeeper peers out as a customer with her sleeping baby looks over the merchandise. Paro.

A curious boy peers at the foreigners in Thimphu, the capital city.

I have found that one of the best places in any country to meet people and to watch their interactions is at the local market. Below are scenes from the fresh market at Paro.

Men examine the quality of ceremonial cymbals.

People bring their home-grown produce to Paro's market and simply spread it out on a sheet. A simple scale is to the right of the vendor.

As in many towns throughout the world, the local market is also the center of the community social scene.

Here vegetables are weighed using a traditional balance scale. The counterweight can be seen in the dish in the foreground.

Smoke from vendors' charcoal grills rises in the early morning mountain air.

A woman keeps warm against the chilly October air.

Customers choose the best quality vegetables and place them on the scale held by the vendor.