June 16, 2015


Here are the 10 favorite photos that I’ve taken in our great state. Each represents a certain memory and a particular place in time that will forever be ingrained in the back of my mind. As someone who’s had the opportunity to travel across Maine more times than I could start to recall, I’ve been lucky. I’ve set off in a canoe for week-long waterway journeys to photograph moose and bald eagles. I’ve flown into remote Western Maine in a Cessna and experienced the peaceful beauty of having not a soul for miles around.

I’ve cooked more meals over an open flame, while coyotes howl off in the distance, than I can count. I’ve sat on beaches of remote lakes, without a single source of light pollution, and fallen asleep as staring up at the stars. I’ve hiked to Maine’s highest point and crossed Knife’s Edge, the most torturous section, in a hail storm. The point being, adventure is never that far away in Maine. You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to have top-notch gear, you don’t have to have unlimited vacation time – you just need to have the desire.

The reason behind every journey – getting out into the heart of nature. So far out, in fact, that moose don’t run from you, but stand in awe because they haven’t seen a human in so long.

Rising early in the morning pays off. On this morning it paid off with plenty of color.

One of the more famous fly-fishing holes in Maine along the Penobscot RIver. Beautiful fall fishing.

Rangeley has and will forever captivate my imagination. It’s truly God’s Country.

A beautiful view of Maine’s exclusive Mountain.

One of the many visitors that would follow me down the river. From tree to tree he would fly and land as if partly exploring with me.

A late summer’s Katahdin summit experienced turned nasty as hail begin to fall as we crossed Knife’s Edge. Slippery boots were not fun as you stared directly down 2,000 feet.

This camping spot was deep in Western Maine’s mountains. Surrounded by moose and turning foliage.

Canoe trips with a view of Mount Katahdin cannot be beat. We loved this sandy beach camping spot so much, we stayed two nights before moving on.

A quiet morning on Chesuncook Lake (largest in Maine). I hadn’t seen or heard a person in 5 days.

May 21, 2015


We all can be better photographers, and we all want more likes on our Facebook photos. There is a lot to learn about photography and manual camera settings, but that all comes with time. There are, however, five simple things we can all remember to make every shot count and have lasting photos that bring us back to a time and place we wish to remember forever.

1) The rule of thirds
Imagine splitting your photo into nine equally segmented squares (three top blocks, three middle blocks and three lower blocks). If your photographing the woods, like the photo below, you should be able to compose your photo into three equally-weighted segments, the top third being sky, the middle third being trees and the bottom third being ground or snow – you’ve accomplished the 1/3 rule! This rule, depending on the subject matter, works from side-to-side, too. Now, with that said, this is not an exact rule, but one that helps to add interest to your photography. The viewer wants to capture the scene how you see it and this helps.

Notice the lines formed on the image. Try to limit, as you begin, to the sky maintaining 1/3, the foreground maintaining 1/3 and the lower area maintaining the same ratio for a well balanced photo.

This can be played with slightly and is not a certain rule of thumb. Capture all aspects of what you’re seeing to portray to the viewer. What’s the sky look like? Whats on the ground?

2) The horizon line
This is one of the biggest problems I find in friend’s photos when they ask how they’ve done. Capture the photo how nature presents itself.  That doesn’t mean snapping the shutter when the sky turns pretty. Keep your horizon line even. If you’re looking in your viewfinder and the mountains start 2/3 of the way on the right side, they should end 2/3 of the way up on your right side. Otherwise, it detracts from the photo or makes it look like you were standing on one leg.

A crooked horizon line can be confusing, disorienting and unappealing. Try again.

It’s best to review your photos on site so you can correct any faults than to get home and have nothing to work with.

3) Ask: Would you frame this shot?
If you’re taking a photo, that typically means something special is happening. If something special is happening, that means you want to capture it. If you want to capture it, you should do the best job you can. If you look down at your camera and can honestly tell yourself you wouldn’t frame it (even in a 5 x 7″ frame) – try again.

OK, the mountain is pretty, but the shot is dark and there is simply a mess of equipment everywhere. It’s not something I’d want hanging on bathroom wall to look at while I brush my teeth each morning. Try again!

In my second shot, most of the people cleared out of the way. The one person remaining gives the photo a feeling of ski action, which is what I was intending to portray. The colors are brighter and it looks like some place you’d probably want to be!

4) Take 10 shots of the same scene
Maybe even more! Take a shot, review how it looks, then take another. Adjust what doesn’t look right. Adjust your composition so it applies to the 1/3 rule. Fix your horizon. Now it’s looking better on your fourth shot. Would you frame that? If it’s an action shot, take a bunch back to back to back. You’re more likely to get an amazing shot that you’d want to frame if you have the ability, back at home, to choose among 10 to 20 photos. And from my experience, the very last photo always looks the best.

Take as many shots at many different angles to capture the atmosphere for which you’d like to portray.

5) Color and light add visual interest
Picture a beautiful field in full blossom. It’s a blue sky and mid-afternoon. Pretty, right? Now picture that same exact shot at sunrise when the horizon line is full of yellows and oranges and leading into a bright blue sky. Even prettier, no? Time of day makes a huge difference in your photography. Get out early! You’re a late riser? Find spots that have a western-facing horizon and capture the sunset instead. There is no excuse to not include color. For those times you’re out in the afternoon, try and incorporate the sun into your shot. Or shadows. If that’s not possible, include as much color as you can – the greens of the trees, the colors of flowers or some other attractive visual to draw the eye.

Sunset light, natural light and lots of color.

A beautiful ray of sunshine in 1/3 of the photo.

Don’t just take a shot of the ocean, add in some color and visual interest to give the scene some life and character of Maine.

The bottom 1/3 captures an array of beautiful colors, the middle 1/3 the fall foliage the top 1/3 the mountains.

March 1, 2015


I didn’t grow up skiing, but I did love the outdoors. When I started working at L.L. Bean two years ago and EVERYBODY skied, I knew it was time. I spent my first winter learning the basics and then perfecting them. Before long, it was an addiction. Nearly every winter weekend I was in the mountains, just not at Sugarloaf (that’s where the hardcore skiers went). I thought it was an exclusive, expensive social club. But this year, extraordinary December snowfalls drew me in. And then I learned the truth. I’ve been love-drunk on Sugarloaf ever since. The mountain offers incredible conditions because of its elevation, every trail offers something different, the level of service at Sugarloaf is second-to-none and it holds one of the best views I’ve ever witnessed in Maine. Here’s my story on how to enjoy the largest ski resort East of the Rockies — and — how to get your money’s worth. HERE’S HOW TO SAVE SOME DOUGH Secret No. 1: Don’t book through the hotel! You do want to go to the hotel, but don’t call the hotel. Seems odd, but when you’re ready to ski, book with Expedia. You usually think of using this site for towns you’re not familiar with, but I saved around 46% and paid $350 for 3 nights. The staff was first-class. The room was soundproof and clean. If you’re looking for alternative spots, check out The Herbert Hotel (just in town in Kingfield and around $120/night) or Home Away to rent one of very few houses available in the area (beginning around $175/night and requiring at least 2 nights) Secret No. 2: Plan your meals and know what to ask for! You have endless dining options, but the biggest benefit of staying ON THE MOUNTAIN, is eating in your room. We saved more than $300 by cooking all 3 meals before we left home and packing a cooler. My big tip is this: the room doesn’t come with a microwave — call the front desk and they’ll bring one up. We were able to heat up everything from fried bacon for breakfast to pre-cooked chicken and spaghetti squash for dinner. Secret No. 3: Buy your tickets ahead of time! Don’t be one of those last-minute guys and you can save big. I saved 23% by booking 3-day lift tickets on Liftopia.com two weeks before our visit. It might sound trivial, but that pays for the gas money. HERE’S HOW TO SPEND AN AWESOME 72 HOURS AT SUGARLOAF DAY 1 We pulled into the Sugarloaf Mountain Hotel early Saturday morning for a relaxing, thrill-driven three-day weekend in heaven (too much?). Now, there aren’t a ton of places to stay near the mountain, but I’ll explain those in a minute. They handed us the combination to our ski locker, a room card and brought our boots to the room. Day one was spent hammering the mountain from first chair to last lift. Snow making is in its prime and the trails prove it. We spent the first half of the day skiing the west side of the mountain (King’s Landing, Double Bitter, Hayburner, Tote Road and Cinder Hoe). A decent amount of powder covers patches of ice, but the skiing is incredible and the views: even more breathtaking. End your day with a little apr├Ęs ski action at The Widowmaker, the on-mountain bar. Live music and cold draft beer quickly help heal worn-out knees. DAY 2 Last night at The Widowmaker, the on-mountain bar, we were told to start off with the eastern side of Sugarloaf, on the King Pine lift, where the sun first hits the mountain and then work our way East. It was -6 degrees, so I took any way I could find to stay warm. It’s surprising how, at 9 a.m., you can be basking in sunlight on an Eastern trail, but frigidly grinding your teeth a couple miles away. We spent our afternoon exploring blues and black diamonds. Our favorites were Ramdown, Cruiser (for a few small jumps), Whiffletree, Rip Saw, Haulback and Boomauger. We snagged an afternoon lunch and two cold ones at the Widowmaker. The pulled pork sandwich is a safe bet. The fries, amazing. With a full day in the books, we headed back to the hotel and met some new friends in the outdoor hot tub. It might have been 6 p.m. and -10 outside, but the kicked-back soaking scene at Sugarloaf keeps you toasty. There is no better sight than staring up at the snow-packed mountain trails from the luxury of a color-changing oasis. DAY 3 After you’d skied for two full days, sunset to sundown, you don’t really have what they call “energy.” Plus, I may or may not have had one too many Jack and Coke’s at Seth Wescott’s joint down the road, The Rack. With free pool, ping pong and foosball – there’s a reason to stay late. We start out at mid-morning and explore the middle of the mountain until late afternoon, with an inch or so of fresh powder, and finish up with a delicious reuben at The Bag, the oldest eatery on the mountain. The next hour or two is spent checking out the shops.A hoodie at The Sugarloafer store and a 12-pack of Coronas to bring back to the hotel for another night in the hot tub seemed like the correct way to bring a close on the perfect three-day Maine get-a-way. Cheers!

February 11, 2015


Saturday was cold… really cold. Temperatures on the ice were below zero and the third hour of not catching fish led us into conversations and a quantity of cold beers I could never have imagined. Ice fishing has a way of helping bond friendships. Sitting in a 6 ft. x 6 ft. popup shack is more entertaining than one would imagine. A flag can, and eventually will pop up at any moment, so dozing off isn’t a valid option. And being in such close proximity keeps it lively. If you’re on a semi-trafficked lake, other fisherman will be sure to holler “flag!” from across the lake should they see no activity from your camp after 60 seconds of a tip-up rising – it’s the neighborly Maine way.

Tending traps keeps a guy fairly busy. If one particular spot shows more promising fishing than another, we drill holes closer to that area. Should a certain depth be more successful, we’ll adjust our other lines. Hooked bait also has a way of disappearing via tricky fish and fishing with an empty hook produces few fish. If nothing is working – we’ll adjust everything. If that doesn’t produce fish, we drink more. I can’t say that tends to help us haul in large fish, but the cold at least stay at bay.

Today we throw out 10 traps and test lake depth with a sounder, hovering our shiners 2 feet off bottom. Our goal is to find a perch school or perhaps a few smallmouth bass. Before long, we enjoy a nice fight with a handsome white perch. Hoping this catch is promise of future activity, I drill more holes nearby. The afternoon brings a total of three white perch. As we head home for a small fish fry, I anxiously await my famous recipe. Perhaps I’ll share it with you soon… Cheers!

January 22, 2015


If I were to bundle up the photos I feel most lucky to have photographed, these photos would surely be in that selection. Few things embody the quintessential American spirit like a bald eagle. Most folks haven’t had the rare opportunity to be up close and personal with the iconic bird in the wild. I’ve had quite a few chances, but none I was able to capture so clearly. It’s a moment worth one thousand words and, in my case, actually, 347 photos.

One afternoon, while ice fishing on a lake that shall remain nameless, we were counting our catch and tossing around the idea of heading home. Cumulatively, we had seven trout in the bucket. The hour was 11 a.m. The coffee had dried up hours ago, along with my energy. Luckily, we had found a few schools and chased flags all morning. One thing was different about this morning: We had unique visitors.

For 90 minutes we held the attention of a bald eagle as he sat comfortably and eyed our future fillets from 20 yards away.  Taking to the air occasionally, he’d choose a new landing spot as if trying to convince us to offer a free meal. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was legal – so we withheld. We all left feeling lucky to have sat in such good company. Enjoy the photos and feel free to share this post with friends, or email me for high-resolution digital files for printing ($30; rhonbell@gmail.com).

The Battle Between the Bird and the Auger

Full wing span

Kicking Up Snow and Taking Flight

July 31, 2014

Click the photo below to see my latest blog post for MaineToday, a part of the largest Maine Newspaper. We show that heading camping even during a rainy weekend can be saved and fun.