PHOTO ESSAYS

A collection of photo essays from recent projects and adventures throughout the Northeast.  In place of a more traditional portfolio, this format highlights a continued dedication to storytelling.  

VIEWPORT On a sleepy stretch of Downeast shoreline along Lamoine’s Eastern Bay, Bobbie Ames’ gorgeous property enjoys stunning views of Mount Desert Island and Acadia.  Though Bobbie’s family has spread out across the country, their roots are here in Maine: her parents, Bob and Veda, grew up in Guilford and Dover-Foxcroft.  Bob would spend summers working on a farm in Lamoine and each season he fell a bit more in love with the town.  They bought a home in Lamoine in the 60s, though the property as it stands is a 1983 rebuild planned as a retirement home.  They called it Viewport and Veda incorporated elements from every place she’d called home along the way.  Bobbie began restoring the home in 2015 to honor her late parents; Veda’s decorative style has been lovingly woven into Viewport’s timeless coastal decor.

SUMMER IN OQUOSSOC Camping and canoeing on a 6,000 acre wilderness preserve, most of it only accessible via water. The last night of our stay we went for a golden hour paddle, built a campfire on the lakeshore, and watched the sun sink over Mooselookmeguntic Lake.  The Milky Way switched on and the lines between the constellations filled themselves in as last light glowed softly beyond the silhouette of Maine’s western mountains.  I took the rainfly off my tent, crawled in, and for a moment—a small, fleeting moment—I was back in grade school on a Cub Scout sleepover at the planetarium, awe struck at the dome of stars above. 

SMELT CAMP On the last high tide of the season, we rented a small shack over a perfectly-cut ice trench at Jim Worthing’s Smelt Camp in Randolph, Maine. We dropped lines and waited for schools of anadromous smelts to swim by as they ran down the river looking for an exit to the ocean. Sea run smelt camps have long been a winter tradition in Maine. The species once bred in rivers and streams as far south as Chesapeake Bay, though dams and other man-made changes to river systems have taken an extreme toll on their reach. We were here, more or less, to understand how such small fish could garner a large enough reputation to keep seven smelt camps on the Kennebec and its tributaries busy all winter. At times we were glued to our lines, hawkishly watching and earnestly waiting; just as often our attention wandered to the production of properly toasted hot dog buns on the wood stove or grabbing a new brew from a bucket at the door of our hut.  An excuse to sit in quiet company with a friend might be smelt camp’s most enduring tradition (but the tasty fried fish help, too).

GURNET VILLAGE Blake and Lili are restoring an historic lobstering village in Brunswick, Maine right where Buttermilk Cove meets the Gurnet Strait on the Harpswell town line.  With a storied history dating back more than a hundred years—and inextricably linked to one of the oldest lobstering families in the region—Blake and Lili are working to preserve the village’s history while adding their own multicultural flourishes.  A descendent of the original lobstering family still hauls traps from a small skiff docked on Blake and Lili’s float.  The centerpiece of the village is a decades old lobster pound, now converted into a galley and living room.  Despite their standalone home just steps away, the galley is where Blake and Lili spend most of their time. The last night of our stay while documenting Gurnet Village’s living history, Blake and Lili forwent the traditional lobster boil for something more representative of their travels and life together: Chinese style lobster with wok-fried noodles.  

AUSTIN OYSTER CO It all started with a shipment of Maine oysters and a few friends hanging out in a Texas backyard.  Fast forward a year: a growing catering service in Austin focused on Maine oysters with pop-up events at breweries, wineries, and bachelorette parties alike.  With family connections in Maine to plant the seed, Austin Oyster Co started cultivating relationships with oyster farms up and down the coast.  While visiting some of the farms they source their Maine oysters from, Austin Oyster Co planned to host a small get-together with friends, family, and oyster farmers.  The original idea was to meet at an oyster bar.  My input, respectfully, was this: boooring.  Ultimately we agreed on a much more authentic expression of summer in Maine--a beach fire and lobster boil in the late evening sun while the Sturgeon Moon slowly rose over the sea behind us. 

ACADIA'S LAST OUTPOST On an early August morning, I waited in downtown Stonington for the mailboat to Isle au Haut with an 85L hiking bag and a cooler full of beer.  A remote island miles out to sea, Isle an Haut has a longstanding reputation as a quiet summer retreat for New England’s wealthy families. Though that’s just one part of Isle au Haut’s story; I was here for a very different reason.  At the southern tip of the island—far beyond where electricity and running water end—is a small outpost of Acadia with one of the Park Service’s most diminutive campgrounds: Duck Harbor.  Gifted to the Park Service in the 1940s by one of Isle au Haut’s most successful lobstering families, nearly half the island is protected, managed land for hiking and exploring.  Duck Harbor has five lean-tos, a few outhouses, a wood shed, a ranger station four miles away by foot, and a stately wharf for the mailboat to drop off day hikers and campers alike.  I made my way through a densely packed field of raspberries, ferns, and the last whisper of burnt out sweet peas past their prime to my lean-to, nestled into a low hill surrounded by conifers and salty wind.  I set up camp and hit the trails: off to explore and capture Acadia’s most far-flung outpost. 

FOLIAGE IN VERMONT Andrew’s family vacation home turned rental property has one of best lakeside views that no one knows about.  Over the last year we’ve worked to change that.  Just over the state line from New York, Vermont Lake House offers year-round activities on Lake Saint Catherine in Poultney, Vermont.  Though every trip to Vermont Lake House has been memorable—swimming in the summer, ice fishing in the winter—the late October foliage transforms Lake Saint Catherine into an autumnal dreamscape.  Andrew’s commitment to hospitality goes above and beyond: a pottery wheel was awaiting us on the porch as a surprise.  

MACHIAS SEAL ISLAND Ten miles off the jagged Downeast coast, a colony of Atlantic Puffins spend two months each year on Machias Seal Island to hatch eggs and rear their young before returning to the open ocean.  The small, rocky island with thin topsoil and low-lying vegetation creates the perfect environment for puffin borrows. The island is caught up in a longstanding territorial dispute between the US and Canada over lobstering access, and Bold Coast Charter Co leaving from Cutler Harbor has the only American permit to land on the island.  Even on calm days, the unprotected island greets guests with tumultuous landings on its slippery, seaweed-strangled concrete wharf. The island has two year-round lighthouse keepers plus a quorum of researchers on rotating assignments to study puffins and other seabirds.  Bird blinds—just short enough to nag at your back and neck from the crouching—allow observation and photos without bothering the puffins.

BRANT & COCHRAN AXES It began with a gift.  Or, at least, an attempted gift.  The search for a Maine-made axe to gift a family member about to start forestry school came with a strange realization: no one made axes in Maine, anymore.  As history nerds with longstanding Maine roots, the future owners of Brant & Cochran knew well enough that Maine was once the epicenter of American axe production. In the early 1900s, a group of 12 axe makers in Oakland, Maine along the Messalonskee River were particularly well-known for their craftsmanship and quality.  Yet by the 1960s, none of them were left.  So one night, while drinking scotch and telling lies, two brothers decided to restart the tradition of Maine axe making.  One tiny problem loomed large—they had no idea how to make axes.  They cobbled together a network of woodworkers, machinists, blacksmiths, and art students to collectively restart the craft. An antique axe pattern from a lumber museum in Patten, Maine became the blueprint for their first axe: the Allagash Cruiser.  The name was a nod to the Oakland producers’ convention of wacky axe names like the Lumberman’s Pride and Cock of the Woods.  On every Brant & Cochran axe is a stamp with the year of production and an initial from the blacksmith, just as the craftsmen along the banks of the Messalonskee did nearly a century ago.