Photographer Susan Cole Kelly lists her top five favorite places to photograph in New England.
New England is a beautiful and interesting region for photographers. The six states provide cultural and scenic variety along with history, wilderness, and small town appeal. I have a spreadsheet with 1600 New England attractions, and while I would like to visit them all, the list grows as fast as I can check off destinations. My favorite photo trip lasts three days — just right for a long weekend. I travel to my destination one day, make a loop of nearby subjects on day two, and travel home by a different route on day three. So when I try to choose five favorite places, I have to define places as areas. Here are my top 5 places to photograph in New England.
Because of its wide variety of subjects, Boston is my top pick. I love the sunrise and sunset views of the skyline over water. The architecture is interesting visually as well as historically, with modern skyscrapers punctuating the historical sites. Besides architecture, public green spaces range from the formally-planted Boston Public Garden to protected urban wildlands. Shaded lanes on Beacon Hill offer a respite from the crowds, and street performers at Quincy Market are fun to photograph. My favorite event in Boston is the annual Harborfest in early July, a week-long celebration of colonial history and the waterfront, when costumed docents and fife and drummers wander through the city. And when I want to get out of the city, the North Shore of Massachusetts offers beautiful sailing harbors, pristine marshes, and wooded conservation areas.
2. Woodstock–Quechee, VT
I love all of Vermont, but I keep on discovering the year-round beauty of the Woodstock area. Think covered bridges over lazy rivers, Woodstock’s quaint town common with unique shopping, stately farms preserved as B&Bs, hilltop views, exquisite natural areas, and opportunities to hike, kayak, picnic, and cross-country ski. Don’t miss the Quechee Balloon Fest in June!
3. Franconia, NH
Franconia has a tiny town center which isn’t spectacular to look at. But take to the hills (especially Sugar Hill) for views of the White Mountains. I love Franconia Notch State Park, the Flume, and the Basin; and have hiked the waterfall trail for some serious scenic exercise. I also take a day-trip through Crawford Notch to Pinkham Notch and back on Route 2 for spectacular mountain views. And the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont is right across the Connecticut River, with its hilltop farms and beautiful autumn views. On my to-do list this year: The Lupine Festival in June, Bethlehem at Christmas, and the Weeks Estate for sunset views.
4. Bar Harbor
Acadia National Park is the highlight here, with its nubbly mountains and rugged cliffs, sapphire ponds and birch woods. Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain is spectacular. Bar Harbor is scenic, with restaurants and shops and outfitters to keep me fed and happy. And the boats keep me busy for hours: lobster boats, tour boats, a resident schooner with red sails, and visiting cruise ships provide a variety of photographic subjects. My favorite day-trip is a drive down the scenic coast to Camden, an exquisite harbor with its own windjammer fleet and a backdrop of Mount Battie and the Camden Hills. This part of the Maine coast is also spectacular in foliage season, with neon-colored maple trees against bright blue water. And don’t miss the Blue Hill Fair on Labor Day weekend.
5. Cape Cod
I love shooting sunrise on the ocean. I’ll be there waiting an hour before the sun breaks the horizon and shoot until an hour after. Seascapes, beachscapes, sand ripples, tidal pools, lighthouses, clouds, grasses, seashells, I love them all. But when the beaches are packed on an August afternoon, I manage to shake my fixation with the ocean and explore the beautiful marshes and piney hiking trails. My favorite area is the Outer Cape, with the Cape Cod National Seashore, eclectic Provincetown, and artsy Wellfleet. To get closer to the water, I take a whale-watch cruise, hop a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, or rent a kayak. Check out the Cape Cod Maritime Festival in May to get into the lighthouses and enjoy the area without crowds.
Honorable Mention: South Coast, CT–RI
New London’s restored waterfront and downtown area are fun to explore, and on a hot day a lighthouse cruise from Waterford, CT will get you out on the water. I love to shoot waterfront scenes along the Mystic River and the picturesque fishing fleet in Stonington. And I never miss the opportunity to enjoy a sunset or sunrise at the Napatree Point Preserve in Watch Hill RI, a seaside village complete with old hotels and an adorable carousel. Further east are the beautiful white-sand beaches and spectacular wildlife refuges of Rhode Island’s South Coast. I usually finish my tour at the Point Judith lighthouse or lovely Wickford harbor.
Of course, I could go on and on. There are some real treasures on my list: Portsmouth, NH and Portland, ME; New Bedford, MA; Warren, RI; the Monadnock region of NH; Boothbay, ME; the Berkshires and Litchfield Hills; North Conway, NH; Newport, RI, and . . . have I reached 100 yet?
All photos © Susan Cole Kelly.
Susan Cole Kelly is a compulsive shutterbug based in Boston and downeast Maine. You can see more of her work at susancolekelly.photoshelter.com