Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument Loop Road

Katahdin Woods and Waters Overlook along Loop RoadThe Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument Loop Road, situated west of Wassataquoik Stream in the south section of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is one of our favorite places to photograph wildlife including Boreal Birds and Maine Moose. The monument also affords spectacular views and landscape photography opportunities of Katahdin in near by Baxter State Park.

The text below (written by Anita with contributions of data and other information from supporters of the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument) highlights cultural, biological, and geological features of significance, as well as scenic viewpoints and hiking and biking trails of differing distances and difficulty.

Officially declared as the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument by Presidential Proclamation on August 24, 2016, the 87,500-acre landscape was donated to the National Park Service and the American people by conservationist Roxanne Quimby, founder of Burt’s Bees personal care products.

The Monument lands, known to Native peoples for thousands of years, have supported extensive logging operations from the time of early Maine statehood on. In addition, artists, authors, scientists, conservationists, recreationists, and others have drawn knowledge and inspiration from this landscape for nearly 200 years.

Mark and I along with the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, a nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization dedicated to supporting the Monument, hope you will be one of many to follow in their footsteps.

DIRECTIONS:

From I-95 Exit 244 (Medway): Travel west towards Medway approximately 0.8 miles, turning right onto Route 11 (also called Grindstone Road). Follow Route 11, also known as the Katahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway, for approximately 20 miles and then turn left onto the Swift Brook Road. Please use caution when making the left turn onto Swift Brook Road as there is limited sight distance; please be considerate of your speed as you pass the residential area near the junction.

From I-95 Exit 264 (Sherman): Travel west approximately 0.25 miles, turning left onto Route 11. Travel approximately 5 miles, turning right on Swift Brook Road.

From either direction: Travel the Swift Brook Road approximately 9.5 miles following the signs to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument Loop Road. Sandbank Stream Camping and Picnic Area will be on your left.

Sandbank Stream Picnic and Camping Area: The Loop Road tour begins at a repurposed sand and gravel pit. Its materials were once used for building logging roads along Sandbank Stream, where a series of beaver dams have created “dead waters” or wider, slow-moving waterways along the stream’s path. Walking the short trail to the left you will arrive at the largest of these dams. Beaver dams modify the natural environment and the overall ecosystem builds upon the change, making beavers a keystone species – a species on which other species in an ecosystem largely depend. Leaving the parking area, the first half-mile of thick spruce forest provides habitat for the protected Spruce Grouse and other northern bird species including Bay-breasted and Blackpoll Warbler, Boreal Chickadee, as well as both Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Loop Road Gate: The entrance gate is situated between a section of glacial esker and a mixed shrub marsh. Combined with the spruce forest you just passed through, this area is particularly rich in biological diversity. To explore this area further continue 0.3 miles past the gate to the first road on your right where you will find an abandoned gravel pit and a rustic unimproved parking area. This area is still evolving with plans for a more developed parking area in the future.

STOP 1 – MILE 0.3: From the parking area, a one-mile roundtrip hike along the ridge of the esker to a second marsh begins. The trail is on the opposite side of the Loop Road just before the parking area. Prominent eskers – long, sinuous, steep-sided ridges of sand and gravel formed by meltwater streams running beneath the retreating glacier – occur throughout the Monument. Landforms such as glacially scoured bedrock and lake sediments deposited during the retreat of the last glaciers record a history of dramatic climate change, from a landscape locked in ice to the rich forests and wetlands of today. Along the first section of trail, wild blueberry provides ground cover among mature spruce. Listen and watch for Eastern Wood Pewee, Magnolia Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, and the rare Black-backed Woodpecker. At the base of the trail, below the beaver dam, early sluice cribbing from logging days of past, when logs were floated down waterways to markets beyond, is still evident. Look for Kingfisher, Red Shouldered-Hawk, Great Blue Heron, Swamp Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat Warbler, beaver, and moose. Return on the same path.
An alternate hike from the parking lot is along the abandoned logging road leading from the parking area. This unimproved trail takes you through Early Mixed Successional Forest habitat past Deasey Ponds. Areas of newly generated vegetation provide excellent habitat for Ruffed Grouse, snowshoe hare, and the federally protected Canada lynx. Expect to see animal tracks and signs as this road is traveled by moose, bear, coyote, and lynx. If you encounter wildlife within the Monument please maintain a respectful distance, allowing the animal ample opportunity to retreat to a more comfortable location. Although you can hike or bike for as many as two miles along this unimproved road, plan time for the return.

STOP 2 – MILE 1: Just past Mile Marker 1 a small pullout on the left provides a first view of almost mile-high Katahdin at 5,267 feet above sea level in nearby Baxter State Park. The name of this rugged mountain (pronounced “kə-tah’-dən”) was given by the Penobscot Indians and means “The Greatest Mountain.” It is believed to be home to the evil spirit Pamola where he curses (weather) on the mountain. As early as 11,000 years ago, Native peoples began to inhabit the area. Traditionally they used the rivers as a vast transportation network, seasonally searching for food, furs, medicines, and many other resources. Wabanaki people, in particular the Penobscot Indian Nation, consider the Penobscot River and its tributaries a centerpiece of their culture and spiritual values.

STOP 3 – MILE 1.5: This section of road provides an example of an early growth successional forest dominated by aspen, birch, and maple – the first trees to occupy a recently harvested forest. The treetops and thick understory provide nesting habitat for bird species such as American Redstart, and Black and White, Chestnut-sided, and Mourning Warblers. The berry patches here and along the disturbed roadsides throughout the Monument are indicative of areas where cut trees awaited transportation to area mills. They are foraged by black bears during berry season. Continue along the road bearing left at the fork.

STOP 4 – MILE 2.2: Drive 0.2 miles past Mile Marker 2 to parking for the short walk to Lynx Pond. The trail is on the opposite side of the road just before the parking area. This small pond, surrounded by a nutrient-poor Leatherleaf Boggy Fen, is home to a resident Belted Kingfisher that rattles as he flies about defending his territory. Carnivorous pitcher plants grow in the bog mat along the edge of the pond. When insects investigate the pitcher-shaped structure that holds water, they meet a watery demise. The plant then dissolves the insect and uses it for food. Moose often feed on the opposite shore. Canada Geese, and Ring-necked and Common Goldeneye ducks are known nesters. Boreal Bird species of note including Black-backed Woodpecker, Rusty Blackbird, Canada Warbler, and Wilson’s Warbler have been recorded here.

STOP 5 – MILE 3.1: Continue 0.1 miles to parking area on corner. Walk a short distance along the roadside to where a Spruce Fir Cinnamon Fern Swamp containing Rhodora (wild azalea) and Swamp Maple as well as a variety of other ferns and bog plants can be viewed from either side of the road. Magnolia and Palm Warblers along with White-throated Sparrows are prevalent bird species.
Caution! Beginning at about Mile 4.5 the Loop Road joins a two-way log hauling road to about Mile 5.8 and then again from Mile 9 to 11.8. Drive slowly, keep to the right, and yield to oncoming trucks.

STOP 6 – MILE 6.4: Turn left to reach the scenic overlook with its expansive views. It is a great place for a picnic lunch. Millinocket Lake (meaning “many islands”) is the large body of water to your left. Mud Brook Flowage and the Sandy Stream Valley flow out from surrounding mountains. The forests before you are a transitional deciduous northern hardwood and boreal spruce-fir mix – a type that does not exist anywhere else in the National Park System. Mountain tops are dominated by spruce-fir with lowland valleys full of colorful northern hardwoods. Historically, in addition to lumber – wood carvings, chips, mulch, charcoal, syrups, oils, gums, and extracts have been produced from these forests.

MILES 7-9: There are several scenic overlooks through this section. When stopping, park off the road and use existing pull-offs.

STOP 7 – MILE 11.8: Just before Mile Marker 12 is parking for the IAT (International Appalachian Trail) and Barnard Mountain Trail. Park away from the gate ensuring access to logging equipment. Overnight parking requires a permit from the NPS.
The IAT continues the Appalachian Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. The IAT follows the ancient Appalachian Mountains, created far back in geologic time and now separated by the North Atlantic Ocean. The ancient mountain chain was built when continental plates drifted together to form a single continent, Pangaea, or “all land.” Parts of those plates began to drift apart more than 200 million years ago, and now form North America, Europe, and Africa. The IAT links traces of these mountains around the arc of the North Atlantic. The section of the trail that runs through Maine starts here and continues through the Monument for 30 miles, to continue another 100 miles to Fort Fairfield, Maine, and then on into Canada, Greenland, and Europe, ending in Morocco.

BARNARD MOUNTAIN: The hike begins on a brief section of the IAT, for about 1.5 miles up the gravel logging road frequented by moose, bear, mountain bikers, hikers, and occasionally logging trucks carrying wood harvested from adjacent lands. Within the first few minutes of the hike you will cross Katahdin Brook and pass the first IAT campsite. Continue up the long hill and the trail head sign will be on your right. This first portion of the trail can be biked as well as hiked. From here you leave the logging road and hike through a section of thick young hardwoods before ascending through a mature softwood forest over switchbacks and stone steps built in 2014 by the Maine Conservation Corps. Bring your lunch and enjoy the views from the top. Watch for moose signs near the summit where they hang out in the cool breezes of summer.

STOP 8 – MILE 15.5: Turn off the Loop Road onto the road to Orin Falls. Travel approximately 2.5 miles to the parking area. Orin Falls is a great six-mile round-trip hike (or bike) for families and fishing enthusiasts looking to access Wassataquoik Stream, which is translated as “place where they spear fish.” Most of the trail is former logging road that is wide and avoids steep slopes. A portion of the IAT also follows the same path for a short distance. The trail begins by following a glacial esker above Wassataquoik Stream before dropping to cross a bridge over Katahdin Brook (the outflow from Katahdin Lake inside Baxter State Park). Just beyond the bridge there is a large campsite as well as a lean-to shelter. The trail passes through a section of Hardwood River Terrace Forest where the lush carpet of herbs below changes from spring ephemerals such as trillium and trout lily to dense fern cover in summer. Continue going straight at the next junction where the IAT heads left towards Barnard Mountain. Along the next section of trail, the forest changes to a Spruce-Northern Hardwood Forest that provides nesting habitat for many bird species, including Sharp-shinned Hawk, Scarlet Tanager, Spruce Grouse, Swainson’s Thrush, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, and Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, and Blackburnian Warblers. The final few hundred feet of trail approaching the falls are on a recently built, narrow trail.

The Wassataquoik was a center of activity in the 19th and early 20th centuries with visitors coming from afar to approach and climb Katahdin, many by way of Katahdin Lake. These included the mountain guide, Rev. Marcus Keep as early as 1846, and the artist Frederick Church as early as 1855. Henry David Thoreau had hoped to climb the mountain via the Wassataquoik when he descended the East Branch in 1857 – he had previously climbed most of the way up Katahdin from the south in 1846 – but had to give up the idea because one of his companions had injured his feet. In 1879, the young Theodore Roosevelt was guided up the mountain by William ‘Bill’ Sewall from Island Falls. To the dismay of his guide, he lost a boot crossing the stream, making it necessary to hike in his spare moccasins. The Appalachian Mountain Club held their August camps in the area in 1887 and again in 1916, using the Wassataquoik for their approach. A party including Percival Baxter visited in 1920, before he became governor of Maine. In 1939, young Donn Fendler was lost as a twelve-year-old boy on the mountain for nine days, beat the odds, and survived by following the Wassataquoik, where he was ultimately spotted downstream across from Lunksoos Camp. He later authored Lost on a Mountain in Maine. Wassataquoik Stream also has a rich logging history beginning in the 1840s with 11 million board feet of logs sent down river during peak operations. Log drives on the Wassataquoik were abandoned in about 1915 with the completion of the Draper pulpwood operations. In modern times, a vast network of logging roads has taken over as a means of transporting wood to area saw and paper mills.

Return to the Loop. Travel past Mile 16 where you will see a left-hand turn to exit the Loop Road.

A NOTE ABOUT ACCESS: The Loop Road is typically open to vehicle traffic beginning Memorial Day weekend through the first weekend in November. However, visitors should check www.nps.gov/kaww/planyourvisit for the latest updates as access is weather dependent.

The Swift Brook and Loop Roads are gravel roads passable to passenger cars with normal clearance. Low-clearance vehicles should exercise extreme caution. Be advised that this is a new National Monument. Amenities are limited and signage is sparse. Cell phone reception can be spotty or non-existent. There are no services or concessions within the Monument.

The original text above appears on an interpretive map which was made possible by the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters in cooperation with the National Park Service.

To request a copy of the Loop Road Interpretive Map please contact the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters at info@friendsofkatahdinwoodsandwaters.org.

To join the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters in their efforts to help preserve, promote and protect this wonderful resource visit: friendsofkatahdinwoodsandwaters.org

Mark and Anita’s Ten Favorite Photography Websites

Mt Katahdin from the Cribworks with Full Moon in Winter

Katahdin from the Cribworks with Full Moon in Winter

 

In case you have not heard – it is really cold outside.  And, if you are like us, you are spending more time inside – maybe at your computer. Surfing the web we see lists of all sorts. Top 10, Top 20, Must have, Must do, Best this, Best that – the list goes on. So, not to be “listless” in this frigid weather Mark and I offer a list of our Ten Favorite Photography Websites.  Some of the photography websites will inspire and others will help you keep up with the latest photography trends. All are offered to help you focus on enjoying photography more in the coming year. We hope you will sit down with a hot cup of your favorite winter beverage, visit our list of favorite photography websites, and enjoy the New Year!

10 Favorite Photography Websites

  1. Naturescapes.net is a high quality nature photography forum which Mark reads daily with his morning coffee. Thousands of talented nature photographers post to this site and much can be learned from their inspiring images and feedback. It is free to join unless you want to post and then there is a small  annual fee which is well worth the investment for the feedback you receive and the camaraderie that develops as photographers share their passion for nature photography. The site also provides information on upcoming photography workshops and has an online store. Photography friend Jim Borden markets his Borden Steady Foot Extreme thru this site.
  2. Tim Grey is the “go to guy” for post processing digital image tips. We subscribe to his “Ask Tim Grey” daily emails and always learn something. What is great about Tim’s information is that it is concise and comes in small snippets. It is free to register for daily emails – to ask your own questions the subscription price is $35 a year. Tim puts a great amount of time and effort into providing quality technical information. If you find the information useful we hope you will support his site.
  3. In our case the Maine Bird Google Group list serve is invaluable.  However, each state has its own bird list serve to join free where birders will post their recent sightings – often times of rare species. If you don’t want all the emails delivered to your inbox throughout the day (in real-time) you can opt for an archived version and receive just one email per day that includes all of the day’s posts. Archived is the way to go in the spring when bird migration is at its height and the list serves are the most active. As a side Note: Many of you know the United States is experiencing a major eruption of Snowy Owls this winter – one even showed up here near Painted Rock on the Park Road outside of Millinocket a few weeks ago!  Remember many of the birds listed on these sites have traveled great distances in search of adequate food and it is unethical to stress wildlife by altering their behavior.
  4. Now our file sharing site of choice Dropbox is not just for photographers. Good friend, internet wiz, and talented photographer and videographer Jim Boutin put us on to this. We have tried others but found that once downloaded to your desktop sharing files via Dropbox is seamless. A Dropbox folder becomes active whenever something is added to it. Behind the scenes large files are loaded to the site while you work on other tasks. When the file is fully loaded the intended recipient receives an email asking them to join the share folder. Free space is available at no charge and most users will find that they don’t need the larger paid subscriptions.
  5. A global community of nature photographers Whytake.net is much like Facebook.  You can register and upload images for free, commenting is encouraged. Stephen Gingold whose landscape and macro images we admire posts on this site. His images are in good company as there are thousands of quality nature images to be admired on this photography website.
  6. A good source for photographers Lisa’s Photography INFO Blog is always informative. Lisa and husband Tom Cuchara are well known for their camera club presentations and Lisa’s blog provides a wealth of up to date information. Lisa sends one email a day. Subscribing is free – donations are appreciated.
  7. Two sites we frequent when planning new equipment purchases are DPreview and Fred Miranda. They serve as the Consumer Reports for photography equipment and offer unbiased reviews. These sites will save you time and costly mistakes – nothing is worse than purchasing an expensive piece of equipment only to find it does not do what you had hoped.
  8. Downloaded to your desktop for free or uploaded to your phone as an app (for a small fee) Photographer’s Ephemeris is comes in handy. It allows you to check the exact location and time of the rising and setting Sun and Moon on the horizon. As photographers who always ‘want more’ when it comes to interesting elements in their landscape images we find this app really helpful. The location for “Full Moon Rising Over Katahdin” was chosen after consulting this app.
  9. The photography website that keeps night sky watchers abreast of the latest celestial happenings is SpaceWeather.Com . The images are fascinating however their Aurora Alert in particular is invaluable for anyone who would like to catch the phenomenon of Northern Lights on memory card. While you can sign up for their email distribution list for free it is not a daily event. They support their site by charging a small monthly fee to receive Aurora Alerts by text or phone which is well worth the money if you do not want to stand out in the cold or be eaten alive by mosquitoes waiting for a something truly remarkable to happen in the night sky.
  10. Facebook has taken on a life of its own with 350 Million pictures posted per day. Trying to keep up with friend activity let alone which pages post the most compelling images is difficult at best. We suggest Mark Picard Wildlife Photography our official business page. We post at least once a day. LIKE our page, join the conversation, and post frequently. We are happy to answer your photography questions if we can or we will direct you to someone who might be able to better help.

Photography Vacation with Mark Picard and Friends

One of this summer’s highlights was our much anticipated annual working photography vacation deep in Maine’s North Woods. Moose feed heavily in the ponds, rivers and streams in the early summer so a summer photography vacation and kayaking trip that focuses on capturing fresh new images and visiting with old friends is always a treat. As luck would have it, this year’s photography vacation also provided an opportunity for Mark to share his wildlife photography passion and philosophy with Portland Press Herald’s award winning journalist, Susan Kimball, for the Kimball and Keyser video segment INTO THE WOODS: WITH WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER MARK PICARD viewed above. We commend Susan for her journalism and interviewing skill. Her love of craft is evident in her work. Special thanks to Jim Boutin, videographer and friend for capturing the interview.

Wildlife photography is not only our passion, we love to share the Katahdin Region of Maine and all the things we have learned over the years during our North Maine Woods Photography Workshops. Now in their 10th year, our workshops are really photography vacations that mirror as close as possible, the experience we enjoy during our summer photography vacations. That is why, in addition to touring by van, we include opportunities to photograph from kayaks and pontoon boat in otherwise inaccessible remote wildlife habitats. Check out the fall 2013 all-inclusive Maine Woods Photography Workshop dates if you are so inclined, as we do have limited space available.

Prefer to venture out on your own? Visit Moose Prints Gallery and Gifts for information on the latest wildlife sightings and the largest display of Mark’s work. Although Mark (who is a wealth of information) spends as much time as possible in the woods photographing you can generally catch him in the gallery mid-day (when the light is too harsh to photograph) through-out the busy summer tourist season. The only caveat to this is when the Katahdin Region experiences bright overcast skies at which time, all bets are off. Either way, both of us enjoy meeting vacationers and visitors that travel to the Katahdin Region of Maine from near and far, registering their origin in the gallery guest book. So far, 2013 has brought us many Maine summer vacationers, New England tourist, and shoppers from just about every state as well as several countries including, Canada, China, Botswana, Great Britain, France, Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand. Moose Prints Gallery and Gifts is open 7 days a week during Maine’s busy vacation season which is the 4th of July through Columbus Day Weekend.

With just a couple of weeks left, you can also view a large selection of Mark’s images this summer by visiting Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Peninsula Visitor’s Center. MAINE: WOODS, WATER, AND WILDLIFE II is a show of fine art photography depicting Maine landscapes and creatures both great and small on display at the visitor’s center in Winter Harbor through Labor Day. From Maine’s North Woods to its Rocky Coast, thirty-five images provide just a sampling of the spectacular vistas and amazing wildlife that have attracted artist, vacationers and visitors to Maine for more than a century. Speaking of spectacular vistas, there is no better place in Winter Harbor than the Visitor’s Center to relax and enjoy the changing landscape as the tide comes and goes – which makes the Schoodic Peninsula Visitor’s Center a great place to stop for a morning coffee and fresh baked scone, blueberry muffin, or breakfast sandwich. At lunch time, choose from a nice selection of hearty gourmet sandwiches and coastal soup of the day, or enjoy a sizzling fresh wood-fired artisan pizza Friday or Saturday night.

Another of this summer’s highlights was when Moose Prints Gallery had the pleasure of co-hosted the opening night reception for the 27th Annual Highpointers Convention with our friends at North Light Gallery. Conventioneer’s strolled between the two galleries before heading to the Blue Ox for a dinner barbecue, Millinocket style. The Highpointer’s actually spell convention with a “k” though. Apparently, their founding-father’s typewriter had no “c” key and the “k” became sticky in that, the “k” is still used 27 years later. They were a wonderful group of passionate hikers who annually plan their conventions around visiting and climbing each state’s highest peak. In Maine’s case that would be Katahdin. Mark also had the honor of presenting his Giant’s of the North Woods digital slide presentation at the convention banquet two nights later. It was interesting to learn that many of the 225 convention attendees had previously visited Maine and had already climbed Katahdin multiples times. Many in fact, have visited and climbed (which they also spell with a “k”) the highpoints of all 50 states! And, several highpointers have hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail which many of you know Katahdin to be, either the start or terminus of their 2,200 mile trek. There are local Highpointer’s activities throughout the country which may be of interest. Their motto is “Keep Klimbin”, they clearly know how to have fun, and their foundation does good work promoting access and maintenance projects at highpoints in many states.

Continued in next post…

Celebrating All Things Moose from North Country Magazine

North Country Article Tear sheet

Celebrating All Things Moose from North Country Magazine – A reprint from the Spring 2013 Issue of North Country: The Journal of Maine. Shelia Talbot is a talented freelance writer and regularly contributes to North Country Magazine. She resides in the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine. North Country: The Journal of Maine is published bi-monthly and features all that is Maine.

Many people come to Maine with the hope of seeing one of the most amazing creatures, the mighty moose, or as it is technically known Alces alces, the largest member of the deer family. This amazing creature, which can seem as large as a house when encountered on foot, saunters gracefully through the woods in spite of its size, and in the case of the male, its ungainly rack of antlers. They are like no other animal; to some they look like they’ve been constructed out of spare parts by Mother Nature – an almost droopy cow-like nose, narrow hips, long, long legs and a tiny snip of tail. In spring they move out of the deep woods and into boggy places on lakes and ponds to enjoy the fresh plant life growing nearby or underwater. That’s the best place to catch sight of them. And, if you’re very fortunate, you might be treated to a Mama moose with one or two fuzzy little ones. It’s a lifetime experience for sure – one you’ll never forget. Hopefully you have your camera ready!

If not, you still can find your moose, magnificently photographed by the folks at MOOSE PRINTS GALLERY AND GIFTS in Millinocket. This July, owners Mark Picard and Anita Mueller will celebrate the third anniversary of their business. They are both talented photographers and, as our good fortune would have it, also have a passion for the North Woods of Maine and the creatures that live there. Mark’s work has graced the cover of North Country Magazine many times. His photographs are like paintings, the brilliant shot of a fox on the last edition of North Country and the antlered moose in snowfall published prior to that, are two examples.

It takes infinite patience and time, not to mention a deep understanding of the animal’s behavior to capture images like these. Mark’s quiet way has been such an asset and he is now known worldwide for his extraordinary digital presentation of moose. His portfolio of more than 150,000 quality nature images has been featured in numerous national and international publications, books, and calendars including Audubon, Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Vermont Magazine, Yankee, Defenders of Wildlife and Birder’s World, and Ranger Rick, (just to name a few) as well as North Country.

While photographing at a wildlife sanctuary he met Anita, a talented free lance interior designer, who as a hobbyist, photographed birds. She shares Mark’s passion for the natural world and, with her eye for design as well as photography, designed Moose Prints Gallery as a perfect foil for their work.

“This space reflects my long-time love affair with the Katahdin region and its wildlife,” Mark observed. “Much like a walk in nature, you need to expect the unexpected. Anita has created this gallery in such a way that the walls are filled with creatures, landscapes and gift items both great and small.”

Anita smiled. “Mark has been photographing in Maine for over 30 years now,” she said. “Then, a little over 10 years ago, LL Bean hired him to lead one of their Photography Outdoor Discovery Schools. It seemed like such a good idea we continued to promote the workshops in the Katahdin Region, which have attracted visitors from around the world. However, the few short months we spent in Maine for the workshops was never enough so we re-located permanently to Millinocket three years ago and opened MOOSEPRINTS GALLERY & GIFTS.”

Not long ago Mark was honored to have his Moose images used in rendering the Maine State Postal Stamp and last year he was selected as the Maine Sportsman Artist of the Year. “Most recently, the Turnpike Authority has used his images on one of the large-scale banners that hang in the visitor centers,” Anita said. “We have several large canvases on loan to the Maine Tourism Association to greet visitors at the Kittery Visitors Center. The center attracts thousands of visitors each year. And, who does not want to see a Moose when they visit Maine?” For most, it’s at the top of their list and the banner and canvases are dramatic invitations to spot your own.

Picard’s canvases, with the photograph stretched around the frame are impressive, especially the ones featuring the adult bull moose, a creature who can weigh in at around 1200 pounds and stand over seven feet tall! No less spectacular are the panoramic landscape images of Mt Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain which are photographed in such a way as to make the viewer feel as though they are standing right there. The image transferred to canvas gives it a more “painterly” look and can be a centerpiece that commands a whole wall.

“We have enjoyed living and doing business in Maine” Anita said. “We have accomplished a great deal in a few short years.” Looking forward and new for 2013, in addition to Mark’s group photography workshops they have added Maine Woods Photography Workshops for Women led by Anita which are scheduled during prime viewing times of June and September. It is quite a trick to photograph a sometimes fast-moving subject, and with her special eye for birds, Anita has the knowledge and technique to assist photographers of all levels of experience. She knows her subjects well, and can anticipate movement and patterns of animal behavior. As is true for all their workshops a heavy emphasis is placed on learning how to operate a digital camera for consistent results.

On your way to Katahdin or Baxter State Park, be sure to include enough time for a stop in Millinocket and a leisurely visit to MOOSEPRINTS GALLERY & GIFTS where you can bag your own moose souvenir. You will find a rich assortment of Mark and Anita’s work, including Mark’s popular moose wall calendar, greeting cards and photographs of all sizes. You can also find works by other gifted artisans, including nature-themed jewelry, candles, cd sound tracks, moose antler sheds, and locally authored books.

MOOSEPRINTS GALLERY & GIFTS is located on 58 Central Street (Routes 11 and 157) at the intersection of Congress Street and just down the road from a picturesque stretch of Millinocket Stream, adjacent to Key Bank. Call Mark or Anita for information regarding workshops and presentations at 207/447-6906 or visit their excellent website at www.markpicard.com or e-mail them at mark@markpicard.com

Reprinted by permission North Country Magazine

A Few Wildlife Photography Tips

Twin Moose CalvesA few wildlife photography tips or “pointers” you might consider when photographing Moose and other wildlife.

The most important wildlife photography tip I can suggest is to always focus the camera on the eye (or the head) of any wildlife photography subject. If the eye area is not in sharp focus, the general impact of the photograph will be lost.

The second most important wildlife photography tip (unless you want extra work in Photoshop), is try to maintain a level horizon line in the background of your photographs. Refer to actual horizon lines such as a shoreline, a tree line, or another point of reference to help you achieve this.

Third wildlife photography tip –  don’t be afraid to rotate your camera and shoot photographs vertically! In many instances the photo’s composition would benefit greatly from shooting it vertical, especially when photographing wildlife such as a moose from head on.

Fourth important wildlife photography tip –  try to avoid cropping out or “cutting” off the Moose’s limbs when possible. If you must crop, try to crop above the joints (such as the ankle and knee joints). Sometimes, as in photographing close-up portraits, some cropping will be necessary. If you are including all of the Moose’s body and legs, always include the “virtual” area hidden below (as in grasses or water, for instance) where the feet would normally show as well.

Fifth wildlife photography tip –  leave room in the photo on the sides and try to lead the moose or any wildlife subject into the space around it in the direction it’s headed, while leaving some “space” for the Moose or subject to go. This tip usually lends itself to a more pleasing composition in general.

A final wildlife photography tip –  don’t be afraid to take several images at different focal lengths (such as with a zoom lens). Include images that show the Moose or subject’s environment as well. Some of the best photographs that have the most impact are taken with the Moose or main subject occupying only a small portion of the overall photo. This method supplies the viewer with a ton of information! Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t get that frame-filling portrait of a massive bull moose adorned with a huge rack! Try to be diverse and capture both images when time and conditions makes it possible!

We hope you found these wildlife photography tips helpful. Good luck, and we hope to see you at an upcoming Maine wildlife photography workshop!

Photography Workshop Gear – Tripods

Peekaboo Bull Moose in Winter

Peekaboo Bull Moose in Winter

As Spring still seems elusive here in the North Woods of Maine I am making the most of these last cool days to photograph Winter landscapes via snowmobile. With about 4 feet of snow in the woods, the sled makes it possible to get to some otherwise inaccessible remote locations. The idea of being able to photograph a particular spot throughout the seasons is appealing to me and ever present in the back of my mind is the possibility of photographing Moose! Much harder to locate when the snow gets deep, Moose tend to “yard up” where the food and cover are good so they do not have to expend precious energy. “Peekaboo” is an image I am particularly pleased to have captured this Winter as I believe it conveys a real sense of the elements.

While Winter photography is not for everyone, I have received several emails from people planning to attend this year’s Spring and Fall workshops asking about gear and lens recommendations. Let me first say, all skill levels of photographers have taken my workshops from the most advanced to the novice. One of my goals during the workshops is to have each participant learn ways to achieve better images with the equipment they have.  One participant a few years back stands out in my mind as a person who probably had the best time of anybody. Every time we stopped at a location to photograph he took a miniature sized Elf digital camera out of an Altoid’s tin (that he had strung around his neck), took a few shots, then carefully placed the camera back in the tin and smiled. He did not have the most exspensive equipment, he just had a great time!

The other end of the spectrum is a photographer last Spring who had an 800mm lens with tele-converter attached when a cow Moose and her calf unexpectedly appeared just behind us on the board walk. Needless to say he was scrambling for his other camera body and wide angle lens! Most of us fall somewhere in between when it comes to the extent of our camera gear – often times the amount dependent on just how much we are willing to spend and how much we are willing to carry. We tend to invest enough in our equipment to get good results and always have a wish list of upgrades that are sure to help us get even better pictures.

Wildlife subjects don’t always necessarily require the longest telephoto lenses to capture extraordinary images. However, when it comes to photography workshop gear I consider using a sturdy tripod and properly rated ball head a must. Often a “grudge” purchase, a carbon fiber tripod can cost between $200 and $900 USD. And that is just the tripod. You still need a tripod head which come in several styles and shapes. Ball heads usually are used in conjunction with the shorter, non-collared lenses. Don’t forget the camera plate, which attaches to your camera body and then to the ball head. They are in the $40 range. Even more efficient than a flat plate is an “L” bracket which allows you to adjust your camera from horizontal to vertical without changing the center of gravity or having to adjust your tripod. With an “L” bracket, the level and axis remain the same for each position. The” L” bracket secures to the camera body and allows the user to quickly shoot either horizontal or vertical with lenses that do not have a rotating collar. These “L” plates are manufactured by several companies, and typically will set you back about $150.

A good ball head works well for up to about a 300mm lens. Beyond a 300mm lens I recommend a full gimbal style head. Described by a friend of mine that recently purchased one as “a mechanical work of art”, I have to agree with him. A gimbal head cost between $300 and $600 and allows for quick and fluid movement. These heads are also manufactured by several different companies. The gimbal head is able to adjust to any angle while the camera and lens are suspended directly below the center of gravity of your tripod. In my opinion, there is no better way to work a wildlife subject with these longer telephoto lenses than with the gimbal style head.

"Mt Katahdin from the Cribworks Winter"One of my latest purchases was a tripod leveling base. It basically levels the tripod without having to adjust the individual legs on your tripod. I have found this really helpful when shooting several images panning in a sequence later to be stitched together creating a seamless panorama like the landscape image above. That final image is a composite of 12 images (6 across x 2 high) stitched together in Photoshop CS6.

About now you are probably agreeing with my use of the term “grudge” purchase when it comes to camera support. You are right, it won’t get you any closer to a wildlife subject or provide more pixels and the potential for higher ISO’s like a longer lens or upgraded camera body will. However, I can tell you that there is no other single investment that you can make that will have as much of an impact on the quality of your images. A good set up will allow you to capture crisp images with slow shutter speeds as well as track moving subjects with ease.