bass harbor lighthouse
Acadia National Park, ME
The Bass Harbor Head Light is one of the most famous landmarks of Acadia National Park and is perhaps the most photographed lighthouse in the state of Maine. This classic brick structure (built in 1858) looks over the southern most point in Acadia (just south of the town of Bass Harbor) and is a must see when visiting Acadia National Park.
This is a wonderful place to visit and photograph. However, like many iconic places, this location can be challenging as the spot upon which you must stand to get the shot is rocky, slippery, crowded and directly next to the ocean. For sunset - arrive early, be patient, bring only the minimum equipment needed and enjoy the majesty of this great place.
Trail Difficulty - MODERATE
I would rate the difficulty of this trail as a 2.5 on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being most difficult). The hike from the parking area to the location of this shot is an easy 100 yd walk. However, the location you are standing on is a series of jagged rocks, next to the ocean in an area about 20 ft x 30 ft. Movement can be challenging and a fall could be painful.
Download KMZ Trail File
Click Here to download the KMZ file for this location.
GPS Coordinates & Elevation
0 Ft. Elevation
Google Maps Birds-Eye-View
Click link above to view location in Google Earth
CLICK HERE to get driving directions to Bass Harbor Lighthouse parking area
From Bar Harbor
Take ME-233 W west for 5.8 miles and then turn right on ME-198 N/ME-3 E or 1.4 miles until you reach ME-102. At ME-102, turn left and drive 8.6 miles and then veer left on ME-102 alt for 1.6 miles and you will be at the lighthouse parking area. If the parking area is full, you can park along the road (ME-102 alt).
Once at the parking area, look for a trail on the east side of the parking lot and follow it down to a set of stairs directing you to a series of pink rocks along the ocean. From this point, find the composition that is best for you. Keep in mind, if you arrive very early, many other photographers will be setting up on, around and in front of the large rock.
Best Time of Day to Shoot
The Lighthouse can be photographed at any time of day, but most photographers prefer at or after sunset as the last glow on the pink granite rocks under the lighthouse produces a very appealing image. Most photographers will leave after sunset, but I found the most appealing time to photograph the lighthouse is the 5-10 minutes after sunset. This allows the sky to darken a bit and the glow of the light in the lighthouse is more pronounced. The above image was taken @ 6:04pm on a day the sun set at 5:55pm (about 9 minutes after sunset).
Best Time of Year to Shoot
I believe you can photograph the Bass Harbor Lighthouse any time of year, but winter might be a serious challenge. I have visited the lighthouse in late spring, summer and fall and all of these times were good. The tides can vary considerably at this location, and the direction of the sun changes depending on the season or time of year. During the summer months, the sun sets behind the lighthouse and in the spring and fall the sun sets to the left. In the fall and spring, you are going to get a nice glow against the pink granite rocks under the lighthouse at last light.
The above shot was taken on October 11th.
What Lens(es) Do You Need
I have seen many images of the Bass Harbor Lighthouse using lens ranging from ultra wide to a mid compression. I would bring a 16-35mm lens if you have it. The above shot was taken at 24mm.
As far as I know there are no permits required at this location.
Direction of the Shot
There are many different compositions at the lighthouse. Most shots will be directed west around @ 280°
Special Nuances of Shot
The Bass Harbor Lighthouse is a beautiful location to photograph and by searching for images of this location on the internet, you will find different perspectives. The composition and perspective changes dramatically depending on where you stand in relation to the large boulder at the bottom of the steps. The depth, amount of ocean, amount of rock and dimension of the lighthouse is completely different by simply moving a few feet from the top of the rock to down below, behind it, or to either side.
To find your preferred composition, I WOULD STRONGLY suggest arriving several hours before sunset, before the sunset crowd shows up, and try out each of the different spots along the coast line. Don’t assume the best composition is on top of the rock!
As you will read below under “Number of Other Photographers to Expect”, there is a very good chance that every inch of the rock, and surrounding area will be occupied with a tripod.
Special Equipment Needed
When you visit the Bass Harbor Lighthouse to photograph sunset, you will see a cornucopia of equipment. However, this is a place to keep it simple (see Number of Other Photographers to Expect below) - a steady tripod, your camera and potentially a few ND filters if you want to smooth out the ocean. If you have a tilt/shift lens, this would help to compensate for the keystone effect while pointing upward toward the lighthouse.
I would also strongly consider bringing some bug spray as you will be standing next to the ocean at and after sunset.
Number of Other Photographers to Expect
Think organized chaos!
Whether it is finding a place to park or finding a place to photograph, this can be a stressful event. The Bass Harbor Lighthouse is easily one of the most, if not the most, photographed lighthouse in New England. On most evenings around sunset, there can be upward of 40 of your closest friends packed on a series of jagged rocks, next to the ocean in an area about 20 ft x 30 ft.
For the most part, photographers are a friendly and respectful bunch - so most of the fellow sardines around you will help pass your equipment over granite rocks, next to the ocean and lend you a hand changing positions.
In summary, if you want a great shot arrive a couple of hours before sunset and make the best of it.
The weather is Acadia can be very pleasant in the Fall and Spring and mild in the summer.
I use Verizon and cell service is spotty at best on the island.
There is no shortage of lodging opportunities in the Bar Harbor and Acadia areas, but as far as I know there is only one campground in Acadia National Park (Blackwoods). There are also many VRBO and Airbnb locations in this area.
Nearby camping and lodging
Camping - click on the campground below for directions
Blackwoods Campgrounds (Acadia)
Lodging - click on the lodging below for a TripAdvisor review
Edgewater Motel & Cottages
137 Old Bar Harbor Rd., Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island, ME
Bar Harbor Grand Hotel
269 Main St, Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island, ME
Bar Harbor and the surrounding areas are GREAT places to visit and relax and there are tons and tons of very good food choices and brew pubs. I really enjoyed dinner at a nice traditional seafood place down by the water called West Street Cafe. If you are looking for a nice, no frills lobster ice house that serves fresh lobsters and cold refreshments - try Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound. You pick out your own lobster, and they cook it while you sit out on the patio.
Nearby Restaurants - click on the restaurant below for yelp review
West Street Cafe
76 W St, Bar Harbor, ME
Side Street Cafe
49 Rodick St, Bar Harbor, ME
Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound
1237 Bar Harbor Rd, Trenton, ME
There are lots of laundry mats in the Bar Harbor area.
Other Photography Opportunities Around
The closest major airports to Acadia are Bangor (51 miles) and Portland International (175 miles). Both service most of the major airlines in the US. The drive from Bangor is only about an hour and it by far the easiest place to fly to go to Acadia.
Area Guides and Workshops
The Photographer's Ephemeris is a very valuable tool for landscape photographers to determine the direction of the sunrise/sunset & moonrise/moonset from any place on earth on any day (past and future). Click here to take you to The Photographer's Ephemeris for this location.