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Canadian Travelogue – Newfoundland – Cape Spear

 

Cape Spear is the most easterly point of land in North America, so you may have the distinction of photographing sunrise here before anyone else on the continent.

 the Cape Spear shoreline is one of the most easily accessible and perectly orientated for early morning shoots. Yet, it still warrants extreme safety.

The Cape Spear shoreline is one of the most easily accessible and perectly orientated for early morning shoots. Yet, it still warrants extreme safety.

Tourists usually take the 15 minute drive along Highway 11 from downtown St. John’s to the Cape Spear National Historic Site to see Newfoundland’s oldest lighthouse, constructed in 1835, and of course to view the sunrise. But even at such early hours, photographers wishing to make images of a natural seascape with the presence of “humanoids” will face challenges.

Non-photographers have every bit as much right to be here as photographers, so the easiest solution is to side-step the challenge. As you top the hill and for the first time see the two lighthouses, you’ll notice a small parking lot to your immediate left that overlooks a small cove. Although you could go the extra distance of about 200 metres to the literal easternmost point if land on the continent, you might do better to stay here and make wonderful pictures of crashing surf without unwanted people interrupting the picture-making process.

I have found that an ebb tide, nearest its lowest point, along with relatively high winds, is ideal conditions for capturing the eastward looking seascape.  As the waves crash against the reefs we need only use an 80-200mm zoom lens to compose striking images. June may offer an added bonus of icebergs, if the weather and winds are right. Typically along the eastern Canadian coast, September and October usually brings stronger winds, and indeed hurricanes, which means even bigger waves.

Study your viewfinder image carefully, as there is a small outbuilding with a power line at the extreme north tip of land that has the uncanny ability to find its way into your picture. With careful in-camera cropping this landscape image eyesore can be eliminated.

There are two lighthouses at Cape Spear, this is the new working light. The historic light is just a stones throw away.

There are two lighthouses at Cape Spear, this is the new working light. The historic light is just a stones throw away.

 

I know you’ll enjoy one of my favourite locations in eastern Canada to photography the seascape. Before you leave, though, walk out to the lighthouses. After all, you’ll want to say that you were to the easternmost point of land in North America.

On your drive back to St. John’s, you deserve to take a slight detour.  As you return via the Blackhead road drive about 7 kilometres until you see another road to your left; the sign should say Maddox Cove – Petty Harbour.  You will want to drive to Petty Harbour, which is approximately 11 kilometres from the Cape Spear National Historic Site.

Petty Harbour is the quintessential Newfoundland fishing village.  The smells and sounds are reminiscent of days past, and few locations along the eastern coast of this province offer such easy and exquisite photo opportunities. Be prepared for fog and wet weather, but in my opinion this just adds to the mystique of the place.

The quintessential hishing village of Petty Harbour. Just park your car and have fun walking around the small harbour.
The quintessential hishing village of Petty Harbour. Just park your car and have fun walking around the small harbour.

Parking your car will be challenging – there were no cars and urban planning was not a consideration when the first settlers planted roots here in 1598. The village is small so it is possible to park in a designated spot, or the church parking area and walk back to the wharf area. As with most areas in eastern Canada, you should be safe if you don’t block a driveway to either home, pasture or outbuildings.

Whereas Cape Spear is going to provide great seascapes, Petty Harbour is going to provide incredible fishing village scenes.   The producers of the 1977 film Orca also thought so when they brought Bo Derek, Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling and supporting cast here to shoot this feature film.

Once finished shooting and enjoying Petty Harbour, you have the option of backtracking to St. John’s or continue west on the only road leaving town (Long Run Road) until you come to the Bay Bulls Road, where you will make a right hand turn and then continue to St. John’s.

-DW

Postscript: All images were shot on Fuji Velvia film with Nikon cameras, colour enhancing, colour polarizing and split-graduated filters. There has been no digital enhancing of saturation or contrast. 

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Dale Wilson
Dale Wilson

is a freelance photographer based out of Halifax, Canada. He has been a regular staff writer for a variety of Canadian photo magazines for 18 years. Wilson has also published or co-published four books and was the photo-editor on the Canadian best selling Canada’s National Parks – A Celebration. His practice concentrates on commercial work and shooting natural history images for four stock agencies. After a 10 year hiatus Wilson will once again be offering eastern Canadian workshops with his teaching partner
Garry Black.’

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