Monhegan Island Lighthouse, Maine, USA by Matt Siler

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Picture Story

Monhegan Island or just Monhegan as most visitors call it, is a small island, comprised mostly of lobstermen and their families that rests approximately 12 miles off the coast of mid Maine, a little more than an hour north of Portland. With a year round population of roughly 45 residents it swells each summer as tourists and artist of all kinds flock to the island for it's serenity and and rugged beauty. You will find painters and photographers in equal portions as you wander the trails and stroll about town, all of them quietly capturing the serene moments of island life on this tiny speck made up of harsh rock outcroppings interspersed with dirt and scrubby local plants that can survive the harsh terrain and salty, windswept conditions that prevail here.

My wife was sternman on a lobster boat on Monhegan Island after college. She came to know several of the locals closely and maintains her relationship with one of the local captains and his growing family to this day. He has become a good and trusted friend of our family and has even presided over the marriage of my sister in law as their Justice of the Peace!

Yet, in all the years my wife and I have been together I had, shockingly, still never been to Monhegan to visit. For one reason or another I had been continually thwarted from the simple 5 hour journey north and hour long ferry ride to the island from my home in Portsmouth, NH. Whether it was work, family or illness, after almost 10 years I still had not visited the fabled island.

I had seen dozens of beautiful paintings and photographs of Monhegan over the years and several had inspired my vision, namely Benjamin Williamson's images around the island and in particular, one image, that now hangs on my wife's office wall as a tribute to her time well spent in the good company of hardworking lobstermen and women, the families that support them and the lore that surrounds these seafaring men and women. The image itself is of the lighthouse (turned museum) at sunset with a small whaling boat that now rests along side the museum structure.

In the summer of 2018 I finally made it north and after a sunny ferry ride where we enjoyed the company of seals along the shore and porpoise dancing in our bow wake, we arrived at the storied island a scant 60 or so minutes later.

This was a family trip with my wife, 15yr old daughter and mother in law who was attending a week-long painting workshop with Todd Bonita, a well known and respected painter who has been leading his Monhegan workshops each August for many years now. With this in mind I left my "serious" gear at home and brought along my "vacation" set up, the small, light Olympus EM5 Mark ll and two Olympus lenses: the excellent Olympus M. Zuiko 12-40 f/2.8 and the 12-100 f/4 Pro, to which I added a small travel tripod by Sirui and a few other accessories like batteries, chargers and ND filters just in case I needed them. This all fit in my smallest camera backpack (made by Click) and weighed in the range of 8 pounds total, perfect for unobtrusive travel with family and friends!

I had briefly scouted the Lighthouse earlier in the day when I had casually walked up the road with my family in tow to see if the museum was open. Using my iPhone and PhotoPills I quickly outlined what and how I might shoot the location and then hoped mother nature would cooperate when the time came and the sun set. I was lucky and she did not disappoint, providing a truly spectacular sunset filled with wispy clouds and colors that we just do not see everyday. I have several lovely images of the sunset and small town below but my absolute favorite image was taken after the 10 or so other photographers had left and I waited for the deep blues of the sky to descend on me as I waited out blue hour and was rewarded with the image here.

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