2016 In Review

My Oh My, how time flies! With the rollercoaster of 2016 finally coming to an end, I once more turn a critical eye to the photos I’ve made over the last twelve months in an attempt to pick my twenty favorite images. But I have to admit that the very notion of “favorites” can be a bit elusive since both my taste and style are changing over time. So, all I can say is that the photos contained in this article reflect my opinion at the time of writing — I reserve the right to change my mind any minute!

As usual, I spent much of 2016 roaming around New England in search of photogenic scenery. In addition, I had the privilege of returning to the rugged Lofoten Islands of northern Norway with friends in February, photographing the breathtaking Italian regions of Tuscany and the beautiful villages of Cinque Terre in May, and going back to photograph Banff National Park in the awe-inspiring Canadian Rockies during wildflower season. I had been to most of these places before, but I keep going back because I know that our best photos are most often made by returning to familiar places at different times and under different conditions.

This was also the first year that I teamed up with friend and photographer Ben Williamson in leading an autumn photography workshop through Vermont and New Hampshire. The Best of New England Fall Foliage Workshop is now an annual event.

I’ve posted a short backstory under each photo for those interested in a behind-the-scenes perspective. In closing the year, I thank you sincerely for your ongoing support of my evolving craft, and wish you all the very best for the New Year!

JORDAN POND, ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE. I took this photograph on a cold evening in January. Jordan Pond is normally covered over with a thick blanket of snow in winter, but on this occasion, the ice was partly exposed. I came alone after dark and set up my tripod low above the ice to emphasize its texture, with the shapely Bubble Mountains in the background. I stood there for a long time, dressed in layers and feeling humbled by the starry sky in our vast universe. JORDAN POND, ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE. I took this photograph on a cold evening in January. Jordan Pond is normally covered over with a thick blanket of snow in winter, but at the beginning of last year, the ice was exposed. I came alone after dark and set up my tripod low above the ice to emphasize its texture, with the shapely Bubble Mountains in the background. As I stood there feeling humbled at the sight of the star-studded sky that covers our vast universe, my peaceful state was shattered by a loud crashing noise to my immediate left. A tree branch has fallen through the ice.

CASTLE HILL LIGHT, NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND. This photogenic lighthouse has been watching over Narragansett Bay since 1890. It sits on a cliff, making it appear like a natural part of the landscape. Another of it’s unusual features is that the keeper’s house sits a quarter mile back from the tower. I took this photo on a very windy January evening at sunset, after fresh snowfall. In winter, you can include the setting sun in the frame from this photogenic angle that features the sea, rocky coastline, and red light emitting from the granite tower. CASTLE HILL LIGHT, NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND. This lighthouse has been watching over Narragansett Bay since 1890. It sits on a cliff, making it look like a natural part of the landscape. One of its unusual features is that the keeper’s house sits a quarter mile back from the tower. I took this photo on a windy January evening at sunset, after fresh snowfall. In winter, you can include the setting sun in the frame from this angle that features the sea, rocky coastline, and red fresnel in its granite tower.

BEAVERTAIL LIGHT, JAMESTOWN, RHODE ISLAND. A lighthouse has been standing on this point since 1705. The rocky Beavertail Point is known for its frequent strong wind and surf. This photo was taken at sunrise in January. I set my tripod low on the rocks near sea level and used a long exposure to smooth out the choppy water. As the sun rose, it cast a pink hue upon the clouds over the lighthouse. The diagonal rocks lead the eye to the lighthouse and pink sky beyond. BEAVERTAIL LIGHT, JAMESTOWN, RHODE ISLAND. A lighthouse has been standing on this point since 1705. The exposed and rocky Beavertail Point is known for its strong wind and surf. This photo was taken at sunrise last January. I set my tripod low upon the rocks at sea level and took a long exposure to smooth out the choppy surf. As the sun rose, it cast a pink hue upon the clouds over the 1856 lighthouse. The scattered diagonal rocks lead the eye toward the lighthouse and colorful sky beyond.

REINE, LOFOTEN ISLANDS, NORWAY. Reine is a small fishing village in the Lofoten archipelago of northern Norway. It was once voted the most beautiful village in all of Norway. The town lies on a fjord surrounded by steep mountains, including the peak of Olstinden seen here. I took this photo at sunrise last February. I had to hike down to the edge of the fjord in deep snow to capture this perspective and reflection, but it worth the experience. REINE, LOFOTEN ISLANDS, NORWAY. Reine is a small fishing village in the Lofoten archipelago of northern Norway. It was once voted the most beautiful village in all of Norway. The town lies on a fjord surrounded by steep mountains, including the peak of Olstinden seen here. I took this photo at sunrise last February. I had to hike down to the edge of the fjord in waist-deep snow to capture this perspective and reflection, but I loved every minute of the experience.

HAMNOY, LOFOTEN ISLANDS, NORWAY. This is another photo from the Lofoten Islands inside the Arctic Circle. Hamnoy is another small fishing village that sits on a fjord with the shapely Festhelltinden Mountain as its backdrop. This was taken at dawn on a cold and windy morn. I stood on a bridge with friends for this photo. As we waited for sunrise, I was alarmed to see a young woman photographer with a tripod standing low on the rocks below the bridge, as waves crashed near her position. Mere seconds after she picked up her backpack and moved higher on the rocks, a powerful wave washed over her vacated position, sparing her from a potentially disastrous fate in the rough waters of the Norwegian Sea. HAMNOY, LOFOTEN ISLANDS, NORWAY. This is another photo from the Arctic Circle. Hamnoy is a small fishing village on a fjord with the shapely Festhelltinden Mountain as its backdrop. This was taken at dawn from a bridge on a very cold and windy morn. As I waited for sunrise with my photographer friends, I was alarmed to see a young woman photographer standing low on the rocks below the bridge, as waves crashed near her position. Mere seconds after she picked up her backpack and moved her tripod to higher ground, a powerful wave washed over her vacated position, sparing her from a potentially disastrous fate in the deadly waters of the Norwegian Sea.

BEAVERTAIL POINT, JAMESTOWN, RHODE ISLAND. The southernmost part of Conanicut Island is known as “Beavertail” for its shape on the map, a rocky and windswept point that separates the East and West Passages of Narragansett Bay. This was taken on a moody and windy evening in March. It’s an example of reality failing to confirm to my expectations. In early spring, the setting sun aligns nicely with several photogenic channels at Beavertail Point. I had envisioned a colorful sky over one of these outlets, but by the time I arrived on location, it was cloudy and the wind was howling. After getting saltwater on my lens, I quickly retreated to my car and waited until the wind subsided a bit before attempting to set up once more. I never did get that colorful sky, but I’m satisfied to have captured the mood of that March evening in an exposure that depicts dramatic clouds and a rushing surf. BEAVERTAIL POINT, JAMESTOWN, RHODE ISLAND. The southernmost part of Conanicut Island is known as “Beavertail” for its shape on the map, a rocky and windswept point that separates the East and West Passages of Narragansett Bay. This March photo is an example of reality failing to comply with my expectations. In early spring, the setting sun aligns nicely with several channels at Beavertail Point. I had envisioned a colorful sky over one of these outlets, but by the time I arrived on site, there were thick clouds and the wind was howling. After getting saltwater sprayed on my lens, I quickly retreated to my car and waited until the wind had calmed. I never did get a colorful sky on that March day, but I nevertheless walked away happy to have captured the prevailing mood in a photo that includes dramatic clouds and a rushing surf.

TUSCANY, ITALY. The property known as “Belvedere” is one of the most photographed locations in Tuscany. The famous villa sits on a hilltop in the region of Val d’Orcia with 360-degree views over a Tuscan landscape that includes cypress and olive trees. I took this photo in May, as mist rose from the valley floor at sunrise. I was with photographer and friend Tom Mackie, along with a small group of photographers who had been here the prior morning, so everyone else decided to sleep in that morning except for me — I decided to go out anyway. As luck would have it, this was the morning with the best light show over the Tuscan valley. BELVEDERE, TUSCANY, ITALY. The property known as “Belvedere” is one of the most photographed landscapes in Tuscany. The famous villa sits on a hilltop in the region of Val d’Orcia with 360-degree views over a Tuscan landscape that includes cypress trees, olive trees, and grapevines. I took this photo in May, as mist rose from the valley floor at sunrise. I was here with friend and photographer Tom Mackie, along with a small group of photographers who had been here the morning before. So, everyone decided to sleep in on this morning except for me — I chose to go out just in case. And as luck would have it, this was the morning with the best light show!

VITALETA CHAPEL, TUSCANY, ITALY. The small chapel in the village of Vitaleta is one of the most photographed churches in Tuscany. It also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The little chapel was once home to a Renaissance statue of the Madonna sculpted in 1590 (since moved). This photo was taken close to sunset after a rainstorm. We were driving back to the hotel after a day of rain when we saw the sun pierce through the clouds, creating a vivid rainbow and casting dreamlike sun rays upon the chapel buildings. VITALETA CHAPEL, TUSCANY, ITALY. The small chapel in the village of Vitaleta is one of the most photographed churches in Tuscany. It also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The little chapel was once home to a Renaissance statue of the Madonna sculpted in 1590. This photo was taken near sunset in May after a rainstorm. We were driving back to the hotel in the rain when the sun pierced through the clouds, creating a vivid rainbow and casting dreamlike sun rays upon the chapel buildings.

VITALETA CHAPEL, TUSCANY, ITALY. This is the same chapel that was featured in the previous photo, except on a different day from a closer vantage point. It was taken at sunset in May from the middle of a tall wheat field. As the sun approached the horizon, it lit the top of the windblown wheat shafts. Classic cypress trees famous in the region of Tuscany frame the little chapel. VITALETA CHAPEL, TUSCANY, ITALY. This is the same chapel that was featured in the previous photo, except it was photographed on a different day from a much closer vantage point and facing the opposite direction. It was taken at sunset in May from the middle of a wheat field that encircles the chapel. As the sun neared the horizon, it lit the top of the windblown wheat shafts in golden hues. Classic cypress trees famous in the region of Tuscany serve to frame the UNESCO World Heritage chapel.

MANAROLA, CINQUE TERRE, ITALY. Manarola is one of the five villages in the region of Cinque Terre, considered part of the Italian Riviera. The small village may be the oldest in the region, with the Church of San Lorenzo dating back to 1338. Most of the houses here are bright and colorful, making it an ideal destination for tourists and photographers alike. This photo was taken in May from a cliffside path that meanders above the village. The surf was very strong on that afternoon (hence no small boats or swimmers in the water), causing the waves to crash hard against the shoreline. I decided to make a long exposure to smooth out the water surface and capture a sense of drama on the Mediterrean Sea. MANAROLA, CINQUE TERRE, ITALY. Manarola is one of the five villages in the region of Cinque Terre, considered part of the Italian Riviera. The small village may be the oldest in the region, with the Church of San Lorenzo dating back to 1338. Most of the houses here are bright and colorful, making it an ideal destination for tourists and photographers alike. This photo was taken in May from a cliffside path that meanders above the village. The surf was very strong (hence no small boats or swimmers in the water), causing the waves to crash hard against shore. I decided to make a long exposure to smooth out the water surface and retain the sense of drama on the Mediterranean Sea.

GREAT HEAD PENINSULA, ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE. Great Head Peninsula is located on the east side of Sand Beach, and accessible from the rocky Great Head Trail. Getting here for sunrise involves a thirty-minute hike in the semi-darkness of dawn. I’ve been here many times in the hope of catching great early morning light, but have often walked away empty-handed. But on this particular dawn in July, I was rewarded with pleasant pink hues in the sky that reflected nicely in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Grasses and beach roses adorn the foreground at this time of year. A long exposure was used to smooth the water surface. GREAT HEAD PENINSULA, ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, MAINE. Great Head Peninsula is located on the east side of Sand Beach, and accessible from the rocky Great Head Trail. Getting here for sunrise involves a thirty-minute hike in the semi-darkness of dawn. I’ve been here at various times of year in the hope of catching great early morning light, but have often walked away empty-handed. But on this particular dawn in July, I was rewarded with pleasant pink hues in the sky that reflected nicely in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Grasses and beach roses adorn the foreground at this time of year. A long exposure was used to smooth the choppy water surface.

LAKE LOUISE, CANADIAN ROCKIES, ALBERTA. Lake Louise lies within Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. Its placid turquoise waters are a famous feature of the lake that is also framed by spectacular mountains. During the summer, the place is crowded with tourists and photographers alike. But late spring and summer are the only times to see the blue-green color of the lake (caused by silt released by the grinding motion of glaciers). So, I went there with a group to photograph the lake in July in spite of the crowds. This photo was taken at sunrise as the rising sun painted the clouds in pink, a fortuitous occasion according to locals. I included shore rocks as foreground as the mountains cast a turquoise reflection in the calm lake. LAKE LOUISE, CANADIAN ROCKIES, ALBERTA. Lake Louise lies within Banff National Park. The placid turquoise waters are a famous feature of the lake that is framed by spectacular mountains. During the summer, the place is crowded with tourists and photographers alike. But late spring and summer are the only times you can experience the blue-green water (caused by silt released from the grinding motion of glaciers). So, I was happy to join photographer James Kay here in July in spite of the crowds. This photo was taken at sunrise as the rising sun painted the clouds pink, an infrequent occurrence according to James. The shore rocks served as my foreground while the mountains cast a turquoise reflection in the calm lake.

BOW LAKE, CANADIAN ROCKIES, ALBERTA. Bow Lake is one of several lakes lining the Icefields Parkway in Banff and Jasper National Park. Shapely mountains cast a mirror reflection in the lake on this morning, as indian paintbrush adorn its shore. I looked high and low for colorful wildflowers on the lakeshore until I finally found this plant at water’s edge. My tripod was low to the ground for this shot, while I held back branches with my body to exclude unwanted distractions. BOW LAKE, CANADIAN ROCKIES, ALBERTA. Bow Lake is one of several lakes lining the Icefields Parkway in Banff and Jasper National Park. Shapely mountains cast a mirror reflection in the lake on this July morning, as indian paintbrush adorn its shore. I looked high and low for colorful wildflowers on the lakeshore until I finally found this plant at water’s edge. My tripod was low to the ground for this shot, while I held back branches with my body to avoid unwanted distractions.

MOUNT BABEL, CANADIAN ROCKIES, ALBERA. This sunrise photo was taken near Lake Moraine, Alberta. The mountain in the center is Mount Babel, with Quadra Mountain (and its four pinnacles) rising to the left. These mountains lie along the Continental Divide, near the Alberta and British Columbia boundary. Several glaciers are also visible along the ridges. The wildflowers in the foreground include indian paintbrush (orange), and woolly pussytoes (white). The light on the mountains never fully materialized as clouds moved in shortly after sunrise. MOUNT BABEL, CANADIAN ROCKIES, ALBERA. This photo was taken at sunrise in July near Lake Moraine, Alberta. The mountain in the center is Mount Babel, with Quadra Mountain (and its four pinnacles) rising to the left. These mountains lie along the Continental Divide, near the Alberta and British Columbia boundary. Several glaciers are also visible along the ridges. The wildflowers in the foreground include indian paintbrush (orange), and woolly pussytoes (white). The light on the mountain peaks never fully materialized as clouds moved in to block the sun shortly after daybreak.

WEST QUODDY HEAD LIGHT, LUBEC, MAINE. West Quoddy Head Light is located on an easterly-pointing peninsula along the Bold Coast of Maine. It sits on the easternmost point of the contiguous United States. It is one of Maine’s most recognized lighthouses, painted in alternating red and white stripes. This composite image was taken in August. Three separate photos were taken to create the single image: a short exposure for the sky, a long exposure to bring out the grassy foreground, and a longer exposure to bring out the details of the ocean. The three frames were then combined in post-processsed to yield a more balanced exposure. WEST QUODDY HEAD LIGHT, LUBEC, MAINE. West Quoddy Head Light is located on an easterly-pointing peninsula along the Bold Coast of Maine. It sits on the easternmost point of the contiguous United States. It is one of Maine’s most recognized lighthouses, painted in alternating red and white stripes. Three photos were required to create the final image: a short exposure for the sky, a long exposure for the grassy foreground with wildflowers, and a longer exposure to bring out the color of the ocean. The three photos were then combined in post-processing to yield a more balanced exposure.

FOSTER BRIDGE, CABOT, VERMONT. The A.M. Foster Bridge is an exact reproduction of the original Martin Bridge that now sits over the Winooski River in Marshfield. This photo was taken in September as the Milky Way rose over the little covered bridge. I’ve photographed this night scene on many occasions but went back one more time for a composition that better balances picture elements that include the Milky Way, covered bridge, and trees. I used a light painting technique (with a simple flashlight) to lighten the foreground and covered bridge. FOSTER BRIDGE, CABOT, VERMONT. The A.M. Foster Bridge is an exact reproduction of the original Martin Bridge that now sits over the Winooski River in Marshfield, Vermont. This photo was taken in September as the Milky Way rose over the little covered bridge. I’ve photographed this night scene on many occasions but wanted to return for a slight variant on my previous compositions. This time, I wanted to make a horizontal image (instead of the usual vertical) using a composition that better balances picture elements such as the Milky Way, covered bridge, and trees. I used a light painting technique (with a simple flashlight) to lighten the foreground and covered bridge.

LITTLE WHITE CHURCH, EATON, NEW HAMPSHIRE. The Little White Church sits on the shore of Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire. Eaton is a town located just south of Conway. In autumn, the shores of Crystal Lake are adorned with colorful trees. Fog is also a frequent occurrence on cool fall morns. And when combined with a mirror-like reflection, the lake turns into a photogenic gem. This photo was taken at sunrise in early October. LITTLE WHITE CHURCH, EATON, NEW HAMPSHIRE. The Little White Church sits on the shore of Crystal Lake in Eaton, New Hampshire. Eaton is a town located just south of Conway. In autumn, the shores of Crystal Lake are adorned with colorful trees. Fog is also a frequent occurrence on cool fall morns. And when combined with a mirror-like reflection, the lake turns into a photogenic gem. This photo was taken at sunrise in early October.

SALT POND, EASTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS. Salt Pond is a “kettle” left behind when the last glaciers receded some 18000 years ago. This place was charted by French explorer Samuel de Champlain himself in 1605, in an age when the pond was bigger and still navigatable from the sea. The row boat in this photo has been green for some time, but it was recently re-painted a vivid green, contrasting nicely with the pink hues of sunrise. This photo was taken at sunrise in early November. When I arrived on scene, the sky was cloudy and colorless, but as the sun neared the horizon line, it cast vivid color into the sky that reflected on the surface of the placid pond. SALT POND, EASTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS. Salt Pond is a “kettle” left behind when the last glaciers receded some 18000 years ago. This place was charted by French explorer Samuel de Champlain himself in 1605, in an age when the pond was bigger and still navigable from the sea. The row boat in this photo has been green for some time, but it was recently re-painted a vivid green, contrasting nicely with the pink hues in the scene. This photo was taken at sunrise in early November. When I arrived on scene, the sky was cloudy and colorless, but as the sun neared the horizon line, it cast vivid color into the sky that also reflected on the surface of the placid pond.

WOOD END LIGHT, PROVINCETOWN, MASSACHUSETTS. The historic lighthouse sits on the southwest end of Long Point, across from the long breakwater in Provincetown. It can only be reached at lower tides since portions of the breakwater are underwater at high tide. Only the tower and oil house remain of the structures since the keeper’s house and storage shed were torn down in 1961. This photo of the tower was taken at sunset in November. WOOD END LIGHT, PROVINCETOWN, MASSACHUSETTS. This historic lighthouse is situated on the southwest end of Long Point, across from the long breakwater at the tip of Provincetown. It can only be reached safely at lower tides since portions of the breakwater are underwater at high tide. The only structures that remain are the tower and the oil house, since the keeper’s house and storage shed were torn down in 1961. This photo of the tower with its red fresnel was taken at sunset in November.

WAGON HILL, DURHAM, NEW HAMPSHIRE. Wagon Hill Farm is a 139-acre property acquired by the Town of Durham in 1989 to preserve the place. The farm includes a historic wooden wagon at the top of the hill -- a local landmark recognized far and wide. This photo was taken at sunset in November. Sunset itself was unimpresssive, with mostly cloudy skies. But fifteen minutes after sunset, the sky lit up on fire in brilliant orange and yellow colors. WAGON HILL, DURHAM, NEW HAMPSHIRE. Wagon Hill Farm is a 139-acre property acquired by the Town of Durham in 1989 to preserve the place. The farm includes a historic wooden wagon at the top of the hill — a local landmark recognized far and wide. This photo was taken at sunset in November. Sunset itself was unimpressive, with mostly cloudy skies and little color. But 15 minutes after sunset, the sky was ablaze with brilliant orange and yellow tones. These little surprises make it all worthwhile!

23 thoughts on “2016 In Review”

    1. Great to hear from you, Mark. Thanks for the comment and Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  1. You are the “Best of the Best” and we love every picture you’ve taken. We don’t think there is anyone else that gives location of their shoots like you and it would be great to be with you on a shoot just to get the feel through our eyes and hearts of taking such beautiful scenes.
    You have come a long way that many would not be able to accomplish. Bless you and Merry Christmas to you.

    1. Thank you very much for the fine words, Joe cascio. And Happy Holidays to you and your family.

  2. Very fine work. I loved the West Quoddy and Wood End Light photo.s. The Beavertail and Castle Hill also stood-out, particularly because I’ll be going there soon. I take it that the Beavertail is a Sunrise light while the Castle Hill is better for Sunset? Have a great holiday season.

    1. Thanks, Harvey, the Beavertail Light shot in the article was taken at sunrise, although it can also be photographed at sunset depending on the time of year (when afterglow can be included in the frame). Castle Hill is definitely a sunset shot. Good luck!

  3. Simply awestruck by the beauty in all of you photos. Perhaps one day I will be able to afford to purchase one. For now, I appreciate that you share them with us on Facebook. I often use your photos as my Screensaver and header on my Facebook page. Thank you Michael. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Love your work! Keep it coming!

  4. Your breathtaking photos are so appreciated. I am in awe of your brilliance with the camera. You’re so thoughtful to share your photos with such interesting description. You are a kind man! Merry Christmas!

  5. Thank you for sharing your gift. Your eye and your tenacity have given us such beauty.. Rock on in the New Year! Looking forward to seeing what comes next. Happy Holidays and and a happy healthy 2017!

  6. Mr Blanchette
    I have never hesitated to tell you how much I appreciate the beauty in your photography along with what it takes to capture perfection, albeit planning and persistence. Your calendar brings back memories of this year to me, ODE TO JOY. Have a beautiful Christmas and again, grateful.

  7. As always, your work is superb and beautifully crafted. The photos always serve as an inspirational benchmark for this “digital-photon-seeking” mortal. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Merry, and look forward with anticipation to the new offerings in 2017…

  8. Excellent selection of images Michael, you certainly had a very active and successful year! The image, HAMNOY, LOFOTEN ISLANDS, NORWAY, speaks volumes of the harsh windswept environment! I hope you have another productive year!

  9. I’ve just spent a happy couple of hours immersing myself in your brilliantly written blog posts, and the stunning compositions they accompany. I will be visiting this part of the world for the first time this autumn (or ‘fall’ as you guys call it!), and can’t wait – 3 nights on Acadia already doesn’t seem like long enough!

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