Sankaty Head Light

Nantucket is a place that fascinates me and is a pinnacle of beauty within the New England landscape. The small island is unique in so many ways, and has a feeling of being its own world while tucked away out of sight of the mainland coast. The island is full of character, with a deeply historic old port town and a plethora of interesting and popular spots scattered throughout its many beaches and diverse shorelines. While densely populated in some spots, the island also has quite a bit of open land that also varies in form while looking like the Caribbean in some areas and the jungle in others. This very land is also makes for a treacherous area for boats roaming the Atlantic Ocean waters off of Cape Cod, and because of this several lighthouses have stood throughout the past few hundred years to guide ships towards safer waters. One of these is Sankaty Head Light, and its a beauty within the world of lighthouses.

Sankaty Head Lighthouse on the eastern edge of Nantucket Island. (Michael J. Clarke)
Sankaty Head Lighthouse on the eastern edge of Nantucket Island. (Michael J. Clarke)

Sankaty Head Light sits on one of the more remote edges of the island, high above the ocean on a the sandy plateaus near the town of Siasconset. The shape and form of the lighthouse have become emblematic of the island itself and have stood the test of time and pointed countless ships away from the nearby cliffs. These lands are battered throughout the year by storms and noreasters which are often first seen at Sankaty as the most Southeastern point in all of New England. The brutal conditions of the area have caused the lighthouse to be moved back from its original location, which can be seen here in the foreground. This location is a marvel of New England, and every time a big storm grips the area I always send some wishes for this little piece of land that bears the brunt of so many harsh weather systems.

Cutting Steel

One thing I want to do here is share a more in-depth look at specific pictures, because there is often a good story behind a good picture. My picture work varies a lot in terms of planning and preparation, meaning that some things are painstakingly planned, and others are a lot more spur of the moment – in this business, its really the only way to be. Planning is great, but so is being ready when a moment strikes.

I was out on an evening walk around the esplanade this past spring when I made this frame of an ironworker cutting through steel beams on Boston’s Longfellow Bridge construction project, and it was quite a strong moment for making a construction photograph.

An ironworker cutting steel beams on Boston's Longfellow Bridge. (Michael J. Clarke)
An ironworker cutting steel beams on Boston’s Longfellow Bridge. (Michael J. Clarke)

This was definitely an instance of being in the right place, with the right gear, at the right time. Building construction happens to be something that Boston is seeing a lot of lately, but it’s when sparks fly during the deconstruction of buildings that brings out this type of situation, and it was a really good one. I was able to anticipate what was about to happen as the workers prepped this beam for the chopping block, and was able to work with the long throw of my trusty 100-400 with a long exposure to visualize the motion and flow of the sparks being thrown from the torch. It’s fairly rare to get things to line up this well, and to have the cutting work be done in a relatively slow motion to allow for a tack sharp frame. In the case of this frame it all came together just right, and made for a moment that I was glad to witness and be ready for.

Boston Fireworks for New Years

As 2015 winds to an end I wanted to wish everyone the happiest of New Years and a successful start to 2016. It’s been a fun past year on my end, with both commercial projects and artwork rolling along at a steady pace, and particularly fun travels here in New England. Ring in the year tonight and kick off a year of success in the next one.

Fireworks over Boston Harbor. (Michael J. Clarke)
Fireworks over Boston Harbor. (Michael J. Clarke)

Sabbaday Falls

Over the past 2 years I have been working on one of my favorite personal artistic projects of my careers, Waterfalls of New England, which has since taken me all around the area to some of the more remote and distant hidden gems of the forest that many people never see or know of their existence. It has been a project more fulfilling and rewarding than I ever would have imagined going into it, and it’s one that I will talk about a whole lot more in upcoming posts. In some ways the project is a whole new venture, but in many ways its just a honing in and focus on many of my favorite subject elements to work on. As a photographer i’ve traveled a whole lot, mostly on commercial projects and sports assignments, but also on artistic ventures that have made seeing new places more rewarding and fulfilling than they ever would be otherwise.

One of the big things that shined through when starting this project and continues to resonate today is how thinking locally is often the based way to tackle pursuits within the art world. Sure there are more recognized places than the spots within the New England states, ones with more marvel and dramatic size, and sure there is a long list of places I hope to travel to and work within during the coming years, but I really have a fondness for chasing work in these areas because its home, its beautiful, and in many ways, New England does compete with anywhere in the world when it comes to artistic beauty. I like to think that knowing the area has given me an upper hand with knowing where to go and what to look for when making these pictures, and looking back at it now its certainly knowledge that pays off and grows over time.

Sabbaday Falls is a twisting waterfall formation along New Hampshires White Mountains region that is one of my favorites and was a starting point and launching pad for this project. The waterfall itself is simply beautiful, and is a rare formation and combination of features that is about as unique as anywhere in the world.

The lower cascade of Sabbaday Falls in New Hampshires White Mountains. (Michael J. Clarke)
The lower cascade of Sabbaday Falls in New Hampshires White Mountains. (Michael J. Clarke)

Resting along the middle of gorgeous Kancamangus Highway, the waterfall is a fairly short hike away from the road and it’s approach begins with the lower tier of the 3-section waterfall. Seen above, the lowest section is a roaring short cascade that flows between a carved rock canyon and into the pool and river below. It’s a stellar display of cut rock that has formed over many thousands of years of water ripping between the two seams of White Mountains granite. As pretty as the lower section is, the glory of Sabbaday lies ahead on the trail, as the next formations are seen after ascending about 30 feet up the cliffs where the top tiers come into view.

The Sabbaday Falls punchbowl and middle cascade in New Hampshires White Mountains region. (Michael J. Clarke)
The Sabbaday Falls punchbowl and middle cascade in New Hampshires White Mountains region. (Michael J. Clarke)

As you can see, the middle and upper sections of the waterfalls are both visually stunning as well as extremely unique within nature. The middle section of the waterfall is a 20+ foot expanding cascade, with a punchbowl pool above that forms the start of the formation. You can see some of the bridge construction build beside the waterfall in the overview, and it has been constructed with care and allows for awesome exploration of the scene without getting in the way of its beauty. As cool as the formation is as a whole, its the punchbowl at the top of Sabbaday that strikes me as one of its profound features. With careful safety considerations I have explored several of the plunges different views, and they are about as glorious as the natural world can be.

The upper punchbowl at Sabbaday Falls in New Hampshires White Mountains. (Michael J. Clarke)
The upper punchbowl at Sabbaday Falls in New Hampshires White Mountains. (Michael J. Clarke)

The view from inside the punchbowl is a stunner, and shows the jet of water that blasts from the river above and supplies all of the natural formations below. The punchbowl is an enclosed cavern with naturally carved walls and a deep and swirling pool that makes for a rare formation in these parts of the country, but really amongst the whole planet. This formation is what makes Sabbaday such a gem, and its one of my favorite natural studios to explore within and share with the world.

Sunset Season in Boston

One of the most magical times in both cityscape and landscape photography is the golden window of moments at the end of day when the sun tucks below the horizon and basks our turf with magical colors and hues that strike our imaginations with wonder and awe.

Boston is a city that is particularly well suited for different angles of the setting sun, and its one of the elements of the local area that keeps me from ever tiring while photographing its changing conditions. While they are neat throughout the year, the short window of time in the winter months where the shifted angle of the sun combines with the shortest days of the year creates the month-long display of color from certain angles that I refer to as Sunset Season.

A glowing autumn sunset over Boston's Back Bay. (Michael J. Clarke)
A glowing autumn sunset over Boston’s Back Bay. (Michael J. Clarke)

It is more than just strong color that makes this time of year the best for sunset work – the early sunset times mean that people are still working inside the buildings and skyscrapers, and that means that the lights stay on as daytime turns to darkness, and for a photographer like me, that is a much welcomed change when compared to the rest of the year.

Layers of offices inside Boston's Hancock Tower. (Michael J. Clarke)
Layers of offices inside Boston’s Hancock Tower. (Michael J. Clarke)

These past few weeks have already brought some dazzling displays of evening light as the making of city artwork heads towards 2016. There will be a few more weeks where the short days mix with the glorious light from these angles, and I will surely be ready as the visual fireworks cast their light over the city.

A late-autumn sunset over Boston's Back Bay. (Michael J. Clarke)
A late-autumn sunset over Boston’s Back Bay. (Michael J. Clarke)

 

 

Winter Arrives

As winter rolls around just in time for the start of 2016, the past winter that we had is definitely worth a second look as it may be one to remember for a long time to come. The hatred of snowstorms is usually heard loud and clean in these parts, but for me, the unique changes they bring are visually entertaining and I would have to say rather welcomed. I am a big believer that beauty can be found on any given day, whether it be the pleasantries of a spring afternoon or a dreadful rainstorm on a cold December morning… but when a storm rolls into town, its more unique than most other days in the year.

This past year happened to bring several major snowstorms that walloped Boston into a state of emergency with the trains and city streets simply unable to handle the challenges that they let loose on the city. I was one of the brave souls that ventured out during the most extreme of the weather, and the sights and sounds were more impressive than anything I can remember in Boston’s snow history.

A pedestrian walking through Boston Common after a February snowstorm in the winter of 2015. (Michael J. Clarke)
A pedestrian walking through Boston Common after a February snowstorm in the winter of 2015. (Michael J. Clarke)

One thing that impressed me last winter was that as much as the snow kept coming, people kept carrying on with their days, or at least trying their best. Yes, the trains ground to a halt, traffic was nearly unbearable, short commutes turned into hours, but for the most part, people kept on trucking as well as they could. Walking seemed hard enough, but some people even kept pedaling away on bikes almost in spite of how cold it was!

A biker braves the ice and snow in Quincy Market on a cold winter afternoon. (Michael J. Clarke)
A biker braves the ice and snow in Quincy Market on a cold winter afternoon. (Michael J. Clarke)

Making pictures of these street scenes in their snow-altered state is a lot of fun for me as a photographer, and there is always the choice of attempting to capture the misery vs. the beauty of the scene. On some days its either all of one or the other, but oftentimes theres a good bit of both – you have to admit that the city looks pretty amazing under its blanket of snow when seen from above even while the streets below were transformed into a hard to recognize winter wonderland.

The Boston skyline after the heavy snowfall of Winter Storm Juno. (Michael J. Clarke)
The Boston skyline after the heavy snowfall of Winter Storm Juno. (Michael J. Clarke)
Snowbanks in Boston's Back Bay after Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)
Snowbanks in Boston’s Back Bay after Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)

Perhaps the beauty of the snow was lost to many people because of the problems with the trains, which were rather epic with their endless delays and even closures. Many people lost many hours waiting and hoping for transport, or possibly waiting or hoping to be somewhere a whole lot warmer than here!

Commuters walking towards South Station during a snowy evening. (Michael J. Clarke)
Commuters walking towards South Station during a snowy evening. (Michael J. Clarke)
An MBTA B-line train on Commonwealth Avenue in blizzard conditions. (Michael J. Clarke)
An MBTA B-line train on Commonwealth Avenue in blizzard conditions. (Michael J. Clarke)

For a few tips on how to make snowstorms in the city easier do your best to plan for it.

  • stay turned to  the local and national weather channels
  • use transit apps as they can tell you when misery is around the corner
  • get a great pair of boots
  • when it doubt, bring that extra layer
  • be overly cautious when driving, things go wrong much more quickly with snow
  • grab a dunkin’s and don’t look back

We had a little preview of winter over the past few days, and I will venture to guess that a whole lot more is right around the corner. It’ll be cold and slow going, but this is New England, and I say let it snow.

Blizzard conditions along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall during Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)
Blizzard conditions along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall during Winter Storm Neptune. (Michael J. Clarke)