Throughout my travels around the United States., I gained new perspectives, a hunger for adventure, and a new-found interest in exploring my home state. During numerous trips around the coasts of Connecticut, I realized this was a special place. It includes three of my all-time favorite subjects for photography: woods, beautiful autumn foliage, and the coast. There are also plenty of historic locations that not only help tell Connecticut’s story, but capture the state’s beauty as well!
Having embarked on several road trips around the U.S. averaging eight to 14 hours, I consider everything in Connecticut relatively close. In our first journey, we head north, toward Essex, a small town with a vast history. Once you step foot in the town, you will be transported back to the 1800s. Everything is in walking distance except the steam engine train station, which is a short drive away. I would recommend visiting during the fall if possible and carrying a standard zoom lens (24-70mm) You can cover most of the sights in an hour or so. Don’t worry, though; there’s more to see nearby!
Gillette Castle State Park
About 25 minutes north of Essex, you will find Gillette Castle State Park, home to a medieval castle built in the 1900s by William Gillette, a famous actor who once portrayed Sherlock Holmes. The park contains several miles of hiking trails and presents fantastic views of the Connecticut River. Though visiting in the summer is tempting because of the castle tours, exploring this park in the fall is tremendous. It’s truly magical walking through the trails full of vivid autumn colors and witnessing a slice of history peeking through the arches. I plan to visit the castle again later this year, and will use a super-wide lens such as a 14mm (or anything under 20mm) in an attempt to capture it from a front-facing angle.
Just before entering Gillette, you might see signs for another state park: Devil’s Hopyard. Devil’s Hopyard is home to Chapman Falls and several other great hiking trails. On the drive there, I was immediately awed by the roads (I have a fascination for leading lines). What really won me over, however, was the tunnel of evergreen trees along the street, which quickly reminded me of the Pacific Northwest.
The small village of Mystic Seaport sits one hour away from Gillette, and is the perfect place to catch the sunset. Mystic features a time capsule of historic sailing ships, such as the world’s last wooden whaleship, the Charles W. Morgan. You can enter the Mystic Seaport museum for a tour or simply walk around the village — a classic and romantic stroll full of small shops and great restaurants. I took this shot handheld and made sure the foreground was underexposed at the 7.1 f/stop. I knew everything was going to be in-focus. I brought back the foreground in post-processing.
The journey above is possible to complete in one day. However, if you want to dedicate more time to certain areas, there’s a lot more to see.
Last, but not least, is my town, Stratford, where I spend most of my time wandering. As a poet, the coast speaks to me, the ever-changing palette of water always providing inspiration. We have several beaches and even a town forest with hiking trails.
Stratford is the type of town you could easily drive through without noticing, but if you take the time to explore, you’ll come to appreciate its beauty. One of my local beaches is Long Beach, though don’t confuse it with the Long Beaches of Los Angeles or New York. It provides a 360-degree panoramic view of the sunset, so, in any given day or season, I can capture it with ease. The photo below immortalizes a rare moment of the marshes in the aftermath of a breathtaking sunset. This was shot hand-held 28mm f/8, again making sure that only the sky was exposed and bringing back the foreground in post production.