Kathy & I are thankful for our friends near and far, and hope everyone has a holiday full of joy, laughter and fond memories.
“Three weeks ago, I found myself sitting on the banks of Hudson Bay, a stone’s throw from the Arctic circle, waiting for a polar bear to wake from his slumber. One can wait a long time for a polar bear to awaken. Several times, our group of photographers asked whether we should move on, and several times the answer was, “You don’t leave a bear to go look for a bear.””
Most followers of this blog are already familiar with David duChemin. He gets a little preachy sometimes, but more often than not his words of wisdom are quite wise. In his most recent blog post, For Stronger Photographs: More Time, he writes about the difficult but valuable need to be patient. To take the time for something to happen. To make the time to be in the right place for something to happen. Its a lesson for all of us, photographers and non-photographers alike.
I’ve said numerous times that the most valuable thing I have learned from photography is that it is nearly impossible to be in the perfect spot at the perfect time. For that to happen even once is unimaginable, but to expect it over and over again is foolish and unproductive. There is always a better sunset, a better wave, a better expression, somewhere. But we don’t know where or when, so the best we can do is be where we feel we need to be, or make the best of wherever we are.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not generally a patient person. But in waiting for a cloud to cover the sun, or for a wave to crash on a rock, or for shadow to spread evenly over a waterfall, there are times when patience is rewarded. Slow down, look around, and don’t leave a bear to go look for a bear.
When Kathy & I were planning our journey through New England, we knew we would want to spend plenty of time in Maine, and most of it along the coast. But we were pretty sure we didn’t want to spend all of our time in Acadia.
Boothbay Harbor is the current home of photographer Bob Krist and his wife Peggy. Bob frequently writes and posts photos about Boothbay and the surrounding area on Facebook and Instagram, and his descriptions of the people and places caused us to look seriously at staying there. One of his posts shared a promotional video he made for Capt. Fish, a cruise operator in Boothbay. Another profiled a long-time boat builder, another a painter. It looked like the kind of place – people, pace and atmosphere – that we enjoy visiting.
I corresponded with Bob several times before our visit, and while he was off on assignment during the time we were there, he made a number of recommendations of places to go and even places to stay. He actually suggested that we stay somewhere more centrally located than Boothbay, but his suggestion was based on the assumption that I was there to photograph all of the “iconic” landmarks such as the lighthouses and coastline. But Kathy & I enjoy the charm and character of small towns, and the more we looked and researched, the more we thought that Boothbay Harbor would be a good place to spend a few days.
As an added bonus, we arranged to meet up with our friends Joe and Katherine in Boothbay. Joe & I spent a little time photographing, and we enjoyed a nice seafood dinner at Harborside 1901, a local restaurant. It was an excellent meal, so good that we went back a second time!
One of the notable features of the harbor in Boothbay is the wooden pedestrian bridge that connects the “downtown” with the quieter side of the water, which is where we stayed, at the Boothbay Harbor Inn. The bridge is strung with lights that illuminate the way at night, and it made for a nice scene.
Boothbay Harbor turned out to be a good place to call home for a few days. We had a nice stay at the Boothbay Harbor Inn, with a waterfront room that allowed us to enjoy the harbor, located close enough to everything that we could walk to breakfast and dinner. One morning we got to see a lobsterman servicing his traps that were scattered around the bay. We took a coastal tour on Capt. Fish’s “Pink Lady” and it was a delightful way to see some lighthouses and coastal spots you wouldn’t otherwise see. We drove to a few other lighthouses, visited a few small towns and even happened upon a photo shoot for LL Bean that was happening near the Marshall Point Lighthouse. They have more assistants that either Bob or I do! The model we saw is one that we have since seen in catalogs and on the website!
It was nice to enjoy the quieter pace of that part of the Maine coast before heading off to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. It was just a bit busier there! I’m working on those photos now and hope to have some posted later this week.
Well, not literally. But I couldn’t think of a better verb to use, so that’s whatcha get! 😉
Our introduction to the state of Maine actually began while we were still in Massachusetts, when we decided to take a quick trip to Bob’s Clam Hut and Wiggly Bridge Distillery. We had read about Bob’s in a New York Times article about coastal Maine and decided we needed to try it. And a distillery named Wiggly Bridge was just too cool to pass up! Both places are about an hour’s drive from Rockport, and we had originally planned to stop at both places on our drive from Rockport to Boothbay Harbor. But Bob’s doesn’t open until 11:00 and the distillery not until noon, and we didn’t want to wait so late to start our drive from Rockport. So we made it a stand-alone trip, even though it meant a little bit of duplication.
Bob’s is just one of those legendary places that attracts locals and tourists alike. Bob’s has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, was named a “Great American Lobster Destination” by USA Today and took a spot on Thrillist’s list of “50 Essential Restaurants Every American Should Visit.” Coastal Living has also recognized the lobster roll at Bob’s as one of the best in the state and Yankee magazine spotlighted the clam hut as having one of “The 10 Best Fried Clams in Maine.”
Bob’s has been in business since 1956, and it gets pretty busy and the lines start as soon as they open at 11:00! I had a lobster roll and Kathy had fried clams – both were delicious and worth the stop, but the unexpected delay made us late for our tasting at the distillery!
Luckily (for us) the crowds were a lot smaller at Wiggly Bridge. We were the only people scheduled for a tour at 12:00, so they didn’t mind waiting. The distillery is family-run and so small that when we called to tell them we would be late, the owner/distiller/boss man answered the phone! They’ve also got an interesting history. Started by a father and son as a result of a discussion during a family dinner, they basically taught themselves how to build a distillery, including learning to weld so they could build their first still! The spirits are pretty darned good too, and made up a sizeable portion of our souvenir collection. 😉
Once we were ready to enter Maine for real, we met up with Joe and Katherine at a(nother) lobster shack, this one out on Cape Elizabeth near Two Lights Lighthouse, named, appropriately enough, The Lobster Shack at Two Lights. 🙂 I always knew that the Maine coast is rocky, but seeing it in person was absolutely amazing. The rocks looked a lot like petrified wood, but it is really rock!
After lunch, a bunch of gab and a few photos, Kathy & I and Joe & Katherine headed toward Boothbay Harbor and the hotel we had arranged to stay at. On the way, Kathy & I stopped at Portland Head Lighthouse, one of the most picturesque beacons on the Maine coast. Once leaving there we headed on toward Boothbay ourselves, which was going to be our base for the next 4 nights. More on Boothbay and beyond in my next post.
As a photographic aside, I’ve been working over the last couple of weeks with the new masking tools in the latest version of Lightroom. While it is much more powerful, I’m finding it a bit less intuitive than the prior version. I use luminance masking a lot, and it has been a bit frustrating to me. But the more I play with it the better I get. I hope! 🙂
To the casual observer, and likely to most tourists, the quaint, red-sided fishing shack with lobster buoys along the side is just another – albeit very nice – old fishing shack. It’s identity goes a bit deeper than that, however. According to Wikipedia:
“Motif Number 1, located on Bradley Wharf in the harbor town of Rockport, Massachusetts, is a replica of a former fishing shack well known to students of art and art history as “the most often-painted building in America.” The original structure was built in 1840 and destroyed in the Blizzard of 1978, but an exact replica was constructed that same year.
Built in the 1840s as Rockport was becoming home to a colony of artists and settlement of fishermen, the shack became a favorite subject of painters due to the composition and lighting of its location as well as being a symbol of New England maritime life. Painter Lester Hornby (1882–1956) is believed to be the first to call the shack “Motif Number 1,” a reference to its being the favorite subject of the town’s painters, and the name achieved general acceptance.
In the 1930s, painter John Buckley used the shack as his studio. He sold it to the town in 1945, dedicated “In 1945, the town of Rockport purchased the Motif as a monument to Rockporters who had served in the Armed Services.” The town, recognizing its iconic value, has taken pains to preserve both its structure and appearance, finding a red paint which appears weather-beaten even when new, and keeping the area clear of overhead wires, traffic signs and advertising.”
For me, Motif #1 was a primary reason for deciding to visit Rockport. Going out early in the morning virtually assured no tourist traffic, and if another photographer happened to be wandering around, we likely wouldn’t be in each others’ way. Over the course of several mornings and evenings the only people I saw were the few fisherman that were up and about even earlier than me.
I don’t think I came up with anything special or unusual in my compositions, but just like photos of the gondolas in Venice or the famous views of the Taj Mahal or Machu Picchu, if you’re there it’s just something you have to do. And I’m very glad I did!
After our time in Hyannis we headed toward Rockport, Massachusetts. On our way there, we decided to stop in Plymouth to see Plymouth Rock and Mayflower II. I’m pretty sure the rock is just a rock that someone carved a date on, but the Mayflower II is quite impressive. We didn’t go aboard, choosing to not take the time or pay the admission fee. So I just took a few photos from outside. We also stopped by train stations in Easton and Stoughton, and visited the Minute Man National Historical Park in Lincoln where we learned about the opening battles of the Revolutionary War.
Continuing with our small coastal town theme, we looked for a place to stay in a town that was walkable, scenic and situated in a location that was close to other things we wanted to do. We liked the Cape Ann area of Massachusetts, as it looked to be fairly quiet but located in an area with lots of choices. We eventually settled on Rockport.
The town of Rockport is situated at the end of Cape Ann, on Sandy Bay. When I saw photos of the iconic fishing shack called Motif #1, I was instantly drawn there as a photographic destination. It’s about as cliche as you can get, often referred to as “the most often-painted building in America.” But what the heck? I’ll do a separate post on Motif #1, because there is a lot more to Rockport than just one building!
As we planned our trip, I realized that we would be arriving in Rockport on the day before a full moon. A little research led me to identify several good spots to catch the rising moon over the town, on the night before the official full moon. As it turned out, the inn we selected for our stay there was directly across the street from one of those places. Sweet!
While we were on Cape Ann, and one of the reasons we chose to stay there, we booked a whale watch cruise out of Gloucester. Gloucester is a much more commercial-oriented town, likely due to it having a more protected harbor area as compared to Rockport. That’s part of the reason we chose not to stay there. There are a number of places we could have chosen, but the more laid-back vibe of Rockport suited our needs better.
One of the great things for me about Rockport was the ability to get up and out before sunrise, walking around the town to take advantage of the many photographic opportunities. Besides the full moon and Motif #1, there was plenty of other subject matter. Mostly boats and boat stuff, but that was perfectly OK with me.
The one surprising and perhaps disappointing thing about our stay in Rockport was that many of the businesses had gone to off-season hours or closed completely. This was purportedly due to the lack of staffing, and while most places we visited appeared to be struggling a bit but managing, Rockport seemed to be impacted more by the lack of seasonal help.
It was most irritating that businesses did not keep their signage or their websites up to date. One restaurant we wanted to visit said they were open, but on the day we wanted to go they were closed. But the next night they were supposed to be closed, we walked by and they were open but full. We stopped at a restaurant on another night nearly an hour before closing time, but were turned away because they were understaffed. Across the street, another restaurant that was open was still welcoming walk-ins an hour after they were supposed to have closed.
One morning while I was out walking around I had planned to stop at a shop that was known for its strudel, hoping to surprise Kathy with a little treat for breakfast. Their website and sign on the door said they would be open, but they were not. So we had to forego the strudel and make other plans. First world problems, I know. 😉
Rockport is a nice little town. Now that we have “done” it I probably wouldn’t need to stay there again. There just isn’t that much to do, and maybe that’s the point. 😉 After our stay in Rockport, we headed north to spend 9 days in Maine. I have a lot to say about Maine! 🙂
When choosing where to stay and what to do in Massachusetts, we decided to keep with the smallish coastal fishing village vibe as much as possible. We wanted to avoid the larger cities with their traffic and congestion, understanding that even though we were past the peak travel season, anywhere we went was likely to be busy. We really want to visit Boston, and in fact were scheduled to spend some time there last year before a cruise that was cancelled. It’s a destination in itself, and this trip was already shaping up to be a long one!
We wanted to stay near or on Cape Cod, so we looked for places to stay that suited our preferences – centrally located, a selection of restaurants, not too urban, etc. We also wanted to be able to take a coastal cruise, either sightseeing or whale watching. And we also hoped to get over the Martha’s Vineyard. We settled on Hyannis, because it met those criteria.
But first, we managed to do a little sightseeing on our drive from Mystic. I mentioned in a previous post that we had encountered traffic in Newport due to the boat show. We lost some valuable time there, and that cut into our visit to New Bedford, the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and the Jonathan Bourne Whaling Museum. We spent a couple of hours in New Bedford before moving on. The drive ended up taking most of the day, albeit with some good stops.
Since we only had two full days to spend on Cape Cod, we had to choose wisely. We ended up deciding against Martha’s Vineyard, as it would have taken an entire day. We would have had a boat ride on the ferry, but would not have seen the sights around Hyannis Harbor and Cape Cod Bay. We had to make a choice and decided to devote a day to some time in town, a coastal cruise and then some driving down to Falmouth and Woods Hole. The second day was devoted to Provincetown, Chatham and Cape Cod National Seashore. Sadly, the Cape Cod Potato Chip factory was closed to visitors, so we did not get to visit. 🙁 We did, however, find some good clam chowder for lunch, so all was not lost! 🙂
Our coastal cruise was interesting, because it took us past a number of lighthouses, and houses built to look like lighthouses. The homes around the Hyannis Port Yacht Club include those once owned by members of the Kennedy family. We saw ‘Mya,’ the sailboat once owned by Ted Kennedy. It was moored in the harbor along with an unnamed sailboat that was moored to a mooring ball painted with the name “Kennedy.” No idea whose boat that was or who now owns Mya, but I’m guessing it is still in the family. That afternoon we visited Falmouth and Woods Hole, taking in a few more lighthouses.
Provincetown was an interesting place. A smaller version of Key West, perhaps. Funky shops, funky people and a real laid-back attitude. Probably not a place we would want to have stayed, but we were glad to have visited.
Along Cape Cod National Seashore, we made stops at the visitor center, Marconi Beach to see the remains of the original Marconi Wireless Station, Herring Cove, and the town of Chatham (more lighthouses!). No, we didn’t see any of the sharks reported to be making a comeback along the Cape, but we did see a few seals, which the sharks like to have for dinner! 🙂
Before returning to our hotel we made a stop at the John F. Kennedy Memorial. It was dark and cloudy and not the best conditions for photos, but I did manage to snap a few. The next day we headed up the coast, around Boston and on to Rockport. Stay tuned! 🙂
I posted this on Instagram yesterday but not everyone here would have seen it. One of a number of interesting scenes in Rockport, MA. I need to and will begin to highlight some of my more favorite photos from the various places we visited on our recent road trip.
I’ve edited and processed my photos through Massachusetts, but realized this morning that I have over 2500 from Maine! 🙂 Many of them are burst shots of waves and whales, but still. We were there for 9 days, so there was a lot of subject matter!
I’m not sure what attracted me to Mystic, Connecticut. It wasn’t ‘Mystic Pizza,’ the pizza shop made famous by the movie by the same name. I haven’t seen the movie, although I was familiar with the name. No, it had something to do with something I had once read or heard about ‘Mystic Seaport.’ And we found it to be an excellent home base for our short but busy exploration of Connecticut.
Mystic Seaport is the name of the Mystic Maritime Center, which bills itself as “the nation’s leading maritime museum.” I’ll write about our visit to the museum in a separate post, so for now I’ll just talk about the town of Mystic itself.
The town of Mystic itself proved to be a quaint, albeit busy, seaside town. The Mystic River flows through the town, and there is a drawbridge on Main Street that opens once per hour to let sailboats and other larger vessels pass through.
We stayed at the Steamboat Inn, a small B&B right next to the river and the drawbridge, and it was the perfect location to explore the town while still making it easy to get out of town to see other places. I loved being able to walk out the door and photograph in the early morning, while Kathy caught a few extra Zs in our room. I’d get back in time for coffee and breakfast before starting off on whatever we had planned for the day.
We’re not big shoppers, so a few hours wandering around the town on afternoon was all the time we needed. We did buy ice cream, and yes, I did take a few obligatory photos of Mystic Pizza. There were several good restaurants within walking distance, including one we visited twice. S&P Restaurant & Oyster Bar impressed us so much on the first visit that we went back a second time. Fresh fish, excellent service and a decent wine selection is what we look for, especially at the coast, whether it is the northeast or the southeast. It fit the bill nicely for us.
In addition to the Maritime Museum, we ventured over to Groton, on the Thames River, to visit the USS Nautilus. The Nautilus was the first nuclear powered submarine and, among other feats, was the first to complete an underwater crossing of the North Pole. I remembered reading about the sub as a kid, and at one time seem to recall having a toy or plastic model. That was a long time ago! Photos from that visit and from the Maritime Museum are included in the gallery 2021-09 New England Part II on my Adobe Portfolio page.
Some might say that it is hard to do a lot in Rhode Island, but I don’t think that is true. While it’s a small state, it packs a lot into a small area.
We had originally planned to just spend a day in the state, but when we made a last-minute adjustment to our itinerary we were able to add an overnight in Narragansett before backtracking just a bit to Connecticut. Narragansett is a lovely seaside town with lots of beautiful waterfront homes, without the hustle, bustle and big money of Newport. We spent an evening and most of the next day exploring the town as well as Cape Elizabeth and the Port of Galilee.
And I had my first of many Lobster Rolls! It wasn’t the best one I had, but you never forget your first one. 😉
On our drive from Mystic to Rockport, MA we passed through Newport. We had originally wanted to overnight in Newport but were put off by high hotel prices and low availability. When we drove through we quickly realized why – it was the first day of the annual Newport International Boat Show! Duh – our research had not discovered that. 🙁 So we gritted our teeth, drove through the crowded streets and out to Fort Adams State Park for views of the Newport Harbor, the Claiborne Pell/Newport Bridge and views back toward Narragansett. As it turned out, we were very glad to have spent the extra time in Narragansett, as we would have ended up really shortchanging the state without it.
By the standards of a Rhode Island local, we certainly missed a lot. I’d be happy to return someday, possibly even to Newport. But we saw and photographed enough to “check it off the list” and moved on to the rest of New England. More to come, soon!