Stories, Musings & The Vision Thing

Tag: Maine coast

A Brief Ramble: Capturing Images in a Maine Fishing Village

One of my favorite things is to ramble around and take photos of whatever moments capture my eye.

all photos by Dan Bailes, copyright 2018

I usually have a destination in mind and a vague idea of what I’m looking for when I go out on a ramble, but mostly I just try to keep my eyes open and my mind loose. I find it all very seductive,

and there are always delicious surprises.

We’re spending the summer on an island in Maine (quite romantic). Many of the local men, and some women, fish for lobster and haddock. The town of Stonington harbors scores of fishing boats

and the surrounding waters are dotted with colored buoys marking each lobsterman’s traps. Like many rural areas, when the old things no longer have use, they’re just left abandoned in place.

I love the jumbled sense of time captured in their slow decay. For me, the place is a visual treasure trove.  Around every bend in the twisty roads that traverse the island, I find intriguing images.

There’s also the quiet beauty of the Maine Coast and I’ve certainly taken lots of photos of sky, water, islands and boats.

But just out of sight of coastal Maine’s rugged beauty are the little abandoned and forgotten artifacts that fire my imagination.

For me, they’re like little fragments of sculpture, standing like forlorn sentinels. I like to think of them as memorials to a vanishing way of life.

Once, years ago, I rambled along a woodsy path and happened upon quite a few junked and abandoned cars, some from the 1930s and 40s. I was entranced by the lush undergrowth sprouting through the twisted, rusted metal. So much energy and decay intertwined. I went back with my camera a few years later and all the cars were gone. Sigh.

My latest ramble was not as delicious, but still I found some interesting images.

I spent a while trying to capture the essence of this lobsterman’s shack.  

I liked its pastoral, yet surreal quality

like some steam punk remnant of a lost civilization. Or this image,

that conjures some kind of manic machine, complete with a zig zag of pulleys, gears and conveyor belts.

I thought some images might work better in black and white, and here are two.

It’s funny how the black and white makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. It’s just our expectations playing tricks again…

So, getting back to the present, I’ll leave you with one dash of color.

To find this riot of daylily blooms, all I had to do was walk about 20 yards down the road from the lobster shack. See what I mean – everywhere you look here, there’s something that teases the eye.

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a post for The Vision Thing and I’m excited to be writing again. Still, it’s hard to capture the allure that Maine has for me. My eyes see so much more than my camera can record. I’d love to add the sound of distant gulls, the smell of the ocean and a gentle breeze that tingles your skin. But you’ll just have to use your imagination. Still, I hope this piece gives you some sense of what makes Maine so inviting.

If you liked this post, please leave a comment and let me know.

Peter Ralston: Capturing Maine’s Magic

A trip to coastal Maine with its lilting summer days creates powerful memories: pungent sea breezes wafting over the rocky coast, mournful gulls circling in a brilliant blue sky, the heavenly scent of rugosa roses, welcoming wood porches and seafood so fresh you can still taste the ocean – a feast for the senses.


“Front” (all photos by Peter Ralston)

This is the Maine experience tourists love.

The Beginning

‘The Beginning”

But Maine is a complicated state with a host of communities and cultures. Life can be hard, winters are fierce and the close village communities that defined coastal Maine for generations are vanishing.



Photographer Peter Ralston has spent decades trying to capture the romance of Maine’s people and places. He focuses his lens on Maine’s etherial beauty and portraits of the tough-minded people who call it home.

Greater Reward

“Greater Reward”

Peter’s comments are from an interview in Maine Magazine:

Peter Ralston

Peter Ralston


There were once 300 year round island communities off the coast of Maine. Today there are 14 or 15, depending on how you count them… There really are no other places left like we’ve got here in Maine, where there’s a coast-wide maritime culture still very much intact.




To help sustain the year round working coastline and island communities, Peter co-founded The Island Institute.

The pressure is just so intense, the pressure that would wash away these communities where people have lived for 13 generations. There are families that have finished off the same shore side, the same wharfs and so forth for 13 generations in some places.

The Captain

“The Captain”

Life in Maine’s tiny communities is a mix of independence and relying on friends and neighbors.

It’s a great mix, which is why these communities are so intense and everybody does know everybody and everything about everybody. If I were to drop this bottle now on an island, they’d know about it on the other side of the island before it hit the ground…  I’m a small town boy, I love it close and intimate like that.

The Blizzard Begins

“The Blizzard Begins”

Coastal Maine’s rugged beauty has inspired artists for decades.

There’s the light. The light is flat out different, always been very keenly aware of light…  It’s unique. We get the old, “Wait five minutes, the weather’s going to change.” There are all these fluctuations and that’s dramatic and exciting and edgy and wonderful and thank God we have the winters we do. Yes, I’m quite partial to the winters.

Island Farm

“Island Farm”

There is an independent spirit. There is a spirit and an ethic and a mojo and a community.

The Far Sea

“The Far Sea”

These are not easy places. There is danger. Anytime you’re fooling around on boats and going back and forth and there’s fog and there’s night, there’s winter and there’s ice, all of it, not to mention those pesky ledges, it adds something.

Holding Ground

“Holding Ground”

Peter has a natural curiosity and warmth that helps him gain the confidence of the people he photographs. His own story is as moving and poignant as the images he captures. In a way, his photographs are an extension of himself – they reflect his gentleness and respect for the people and places he encounters on his island wanderings. Here’s a lovely video about Peter and his work:

Peter’s Eye from Peter Ralston on Vimeo.

Like the man, Peter’s work has a sense of quiet reflection. There’s a meditative quality there, too, as each image suggests a story.

I think there really is a quality in these communities that you simply don’t find in other places. That’s true today. What artists of 100 years ago were finding, I think if you go back and look at what some of the great ones were painting then, even then, a 100 years ago they were on to that.

Two Crows

“Two Crows”

The images captured by Peter’s eye reflect Henri Cartier Bresson’s idea of the decisive moment. In his own way he’s like a street photographer focusing his lens on the people and byways of coastal Maine. Looking at his work, you feel like you just stumbled on a moment rich in local color and character. I think that’s what makes his photographs so fresh and natural.

The End

“The End”

You can see more of Peter’s work here and he’s working on a new book about Penobscot Bay to be released in 2016. I’d like to thank my friend Ann Ramsey for introducing me to Peter’s work. I’ve also been captivated by coastal Maine’s light and haunting beauty. It’s a magical place.