Oct 29, 2012

Acadia National Park Photography Guide

Acadia National Park is located in the U.S. state of Maine. It is a 5 hour drive from Boston or 3 hours from Portland, Maine. It was one of the first National Parks created in the USA and remains the only one to day in New England Northeast. It’s the 5th smallest in size but ranks in the top 10 for popularity. The park reserves much of Mount Desert Island, and associated smaller islands or areas like Isle au Hut and the Schoodic Peninsula. Originally named Lafayette National Park in 1919, it was renamed Acadia in 1929. Acadia is one of the most visited wildlife areas in the United States and a paradise for every photographer and outdoor enthusiast. The park loop road provides easy access to many of the iconic photography subjects; Monument Cove, The Beehive, Sand Beach, Jordan Pond and the Bubbles, Bubble Pond, Otter Cliff to name only a few. The carriage roads and hiking trails provide further access to more remote locations where the park continues to inspire and unfolds its true magic. It is a heaven for macro, seascape, and landscape photography pictures that make for great interior design and wall art decoration. The light of the golden hours around dawn paints the sky in beautiful hues and brings out the beauty of the pink granite rocks along ocean drive.

Bar Harbor is the heart and soul of Mount Desert Island and provides plenty of accommodation, restaurants, shops and entertainment from May through November. Other towns on Mount Desert Island to visit are Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Sommesville, Bass Harbor, Bernard, or Tremont. During the rest of the year life slows down on the Island, tourists leave and access to the park may be limited due to snow and bad weather. Nestled on the east side of Mount Desert Island, surrounded by Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor has welcomed visitors for over a hundred years. It is a destination for tourists from all over the world. Cruise ships are in the harbor from May through October. Bar Harbor is only minutes away from the main entrance to the park and drives up Cadillac Mountain, Jordan Pond House, or the Park Loop Road and provides easy access into the wilderness. 

Park Loop Road
Most visitors are introduced to Acadia by enjoying a 27 mile ride along Oceanside 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 the most pristine area 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 an easy walk along the Atlantic Ocean and there are breathtaking views at every step with plenty of photo opportunities. Explore the pebble beach at Monument Cove. There another pebble beach between Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff that makes for a great foreground feature when photographing Otter Cliff. Try using your polarizing filter or neutral density filter to extend exposure times and for silky ocean water effect. Alternatively cross Sand Beach for beautiful views of the Beehive and the Atlantic Ocean or climb iron rungs up the Beehive for striking vistas atop. Spectacular views and sunrise photography is possible from Gorham Mountain. 

Jordan Pond
The park loop road eventually will lead to the Jordan Pond House. The Jordan Pond House is famous for its fresh, warm popovers. It first opened in the late 1800s and visitors still relax here with afternoon tea. The lawn has beautiful views of Jordan Pond and the Bubbles. Make your way down to the pond shoreline. It is covered with rocks that make for a fabulous foreground feature and provide depth for 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, Atlantic Ocean, and Porcupine Islands. 

Bubble Pond
A short drive from the Jordan House parking will lead to Bubble Pond. Bubble Pond provides brilliant and beautiful fall foliage around its shoreline. The waters of the pond are quite still and beautiful reflections are possible. Wildlife is thriving and the last time I shot there at dusk I encountered an Otter; Loons and Mergansers are in the area too. 

Cadillac Mountain
Cadillac Mountain is a 3.5 mile drive up to the summit where one enjoys spectacular 360 degree views of Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay, and Cranberry Island to the East and Eagle Lake and Mount Desert Island to the West. There are many photographers at this location so be here early during sunrise to secure your spot or explore the mountain top to find a unique photo spot and composition. Sunsets provide majestic views to the west from turnouts along the drive. 

Eagle Lake
Eagle Lake is a short drive from Bar Harbor on Route 233. The lake provides beautiful hills covered in fall foliage glory 1 week before until 1 week after Columbus Day weekend. Check Fall Foliage Networks and fall foliage reports for prime colors and best times to visit. Sunrise is the best time for autumn color mirror-like reflection photography. Eagle Lake is also a great sunset photography location. There are rocks, logs, and grass along the shore that make for great landscape photography compositional elements. Across the parking area is a little pond with plenty of wildlife to photograph; otters, dragonflies, frogs, etc. 

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 boat photography. Bring your long lens to explore nautical detail photography. The 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. 

Back Roads Off Route 102, Carriage Roads, and Hiking Trails
The back roads off route 102 provide deep forest terrain for exceptional Forest Photography on overcast days. Duck Pond and Hodgdon Brook allow for beautiful cascades and leaf covered rocks photography during autumn. Along the Around the Mountain carriage road there are a few great waterfalls and cascades that can be photographed. Eliminate boring gray skies from your composition and zoom in for more intimate landscape photography pictures. Bring a ND filter and polarizing filter to extend exposure times and eliminate glare on leaves and water surfaces. 


Wonderland is on Mount Desert Island where a 1.4 mile trail in Acadia National Park leads out to a rocky coastline that is pristine at low tide for macro photography or at morning and evening for sunrise and sunset photography. Once at the ocean, there are several spots to sit, enjoy, or take nature photographs. Make sure to plan your trip at low tide since this allows for exploration of the tide pools and their marine life. If you are lucky you may encounter a star fish on one of these black rocks … I haven’t been that lucky yet which is why I come back at every Acadia visit. 

Photo Gear
Tripod, wide-angle lens, telephoto lens, macro lens, polarizing filter, neutral density filter, split neutral density filter, battery power, memory cards.

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  1. Acadia is a National Park, but there are other National Park Sites in New England. When your pride of your National Park takes paper, the readers not familiar to the nomenclature can be mislead! This isn't fair to the NPS System or the national public! Please correct the verbiage to reflect that there are other sites in New England. It's hard enough to get the public to visit sites without your misinformation!

  2. I don't think there is any misleading of the American public as you call it or misinformation in my outdoor photography blog post and nature photo guide Tim ... actually kind of amusing. Unfortunately it is the only National Park in the Northeast. No doubt there are many National Park Sites, State Parks, and wildlife sanctuary worth while visiting and photographing. The header already states that this photography blog post is solely a photography guide to Maine Acadia National Park. It is not and was never intended a guide to other National Park Sites in New England. Therefore I don't see any reason to revise my blog post. If you need more publicity or exposure I am willing to work with you and your organization to photograph the New England National Park Sites, write a blog post or a book and we can go from there. Until then you have to live with my Maine Acadia National Park photography location guide and blog post as is. Happy Wednesday, Juergen

  3. Thank you for celebrating Acadia National Park; the photos and blog are refreshing and nurturing.

    I have been blessed to visit this park and have also traveled to many of our other national parks in the western, southwestern, and central regions of the U.S. as well.

    Each experience lives within and I have always recommended to those with whom I enjoy conversations that they might consider spending time getting to know the U.S. and the spaces that can inspire the imagination.

    Thanks again,...

  4. Thanks so much for commenting Anonymous. Acadia is not only a prime destination for photographers but also for the outdoor enthusiast that enjoys biking, hiking, and just being one with nature ... it's a true inspirational place in my opinion as are other national parks throughout the US and the world ... hope to get to see as many as possible and hopefully bring some beautiful photography memories home as well ... thanks again! My best, Juergen http://www.facebook.com/pages/Juergen-Roth-Photography/91467613868