Gerry Monteux is not someone who particularly enjoys sitting still. But, when it comes to taking photos, the wildlife photographer could sit for a whole day, waiting for that perfect shot of a moose with her calf, in the deep forests of northern Maine.
“I’ll wait as long as I have to,” Monteux said. “I’ll wait until the light is bad.”
The former sports broadcaster for ESPN and NBC (Does the name Bill Patrick ring a bell?), who grew up spending summers in Hancock, can’t get enough of hiking, kayaking and exploring new places.
“It’s kind of a dichotomy,” he said. “Because, in order to be a good photographer, you have to sit still.”
This is one of the first tips that the photographer offered during an evening trip to Hancock County’s Schoodic Peninsula. East of Mount Desert Island, the Schoodic District is the only part of Acadia National Park on the mainland.
Monteux delivers a laundry list of photography dos and don’ts from his decades of experience. They include colorful, amusing and sometimes painful anecdotes (Like when he dropped his expensive brand-new camera and $1,500 lens into a 20-foot-deep pool at the base of a waterfall. “It’s sitting there to this day,” he said. The takeaway: Don’t assume the camera strap is around your neck, CHECK!)
So, how can you get the perfect shot at Acadia National Park? Or another wildly beautiful destination for that matter?
When it comes to a sunset (or sunrise) shot, it’s all about timing, equipment and setting up beforehand.
At the scenic Schoodic Point, Monteux set up his Nikon D850 camera among wildflowers, pointed toward the sun as it began to drop behind Cadillac Mountain. Before placing his tripod, Monteux composed the image in his mind: wildflowers in the foreground with the mountain and sunset behind.
“Have something in the foreground of the shot,” he advised.
And while not everyone has the luxury of going back another day to retake a picture, Monteux recommends taking the time. Scouting allows a photographer to find the best shot and take it when the weather conditions are just right. In Monteux’s case, he’ll be coming back to the same spot another day, when the clouds are perfectly positioned, to snap his wildflower photo.
For those who want to snap a shot of the sunset, remember to stay late: there is a beautiful afterglow that occurs once the sun has set which needs capturing.
Another Monteux sunset (or rise) tip: Use a digital single-reflex (DSLR) camera that allows you to change lenses. On those cameras, the HDR (high dynamic range) setting combines photos with different exposure levels to capture the optimum shot of the sun. He also recommends using a wide-angle lens to shoot a sunset. He came equipped with a 14-24 mm lens.
For photos of animals — red foxes, harbor seals, owls and moose, to name just a few — Monteux has a whole other litany of tips.
For instance, when it comes birds in flight, a shutter speed of 1/500 or 1/750 will work best in good lighting. If the light is poor, adjusting will be necessary.
Topping the list for snapping photos of wild animals: Be quiet and wait.
“I’ve had more moose come within 15, 20 feet of me just by doing that,” he said.
On two occasions, Monteux has been as close as 2 or 3 feet from a moose.
But before all that fun stuff, it is vital to find the right place to wait quietly. Using Google, finding books on the area or developing relationships with local photographers also helps.
“We trade secrets,” he said. “If somebody knows a spot where a family of loons is, if they tell me that, then I’ll tell them where my moose spot is.”
If you haven’t figured it out already, Monteux is moose-obsessed. It all started a little over a decade ago after encountering two bull moose sparring in the woods. After noticing Monteux and his dog, the pair walked up to and stared at them. Monteux clicked photo after photo.
“Ever since then I have just had this maniacal obsession with moose,” he said. “I’ve photographed hundreds and hundreds over the years. But every time I see one, it’s like my heart skips a beat.”
When shooting photos of moose, Monteux uses a 150-600 mm lens. But Acadia visitors beware, it’s rare to see a moose in the park.
“That’s not gonna cut it,” Monteux said, laughing.
Those in search of moose need to travel at least three hours north. Start looking in Baxter State Park.
The grandson of renowned French conductor Pierre Monteux, founder of Hancock’s Monteux School and Music Festival, Monteux’s roots in Maine are strong.
Growing up, Monteux spent summers with his family in a small green cabin on Taunton Bay, just steps away from his current home. His passion for photography developed as a child.
“My parents made the mistake of handing me a Brownie Hawkeye film camera,” he said. “I would take pictures of everything.”
Monteux moved to Hancock permanently in 2013, after leaving a career in broadcast journalism behind.
“I always knew that I would wind up here,” he said. “I know so many people in town and there’s a lot to be said for that. It sounds stupid, but if you need something … you’ve got people that you’ve known since you were a kid. You can call them up, say, ‘Hey can you help me out?’”
You can find more tips from Gerry on TikTok (@gerrymonteux). His wildlife images and other fine photography can be found at Monteux Gallery on Route 1 in Hancock. Artisans & Antiques in Winter Harbor and Lighthouse Gallery in Bucksport also carry his work. To see his work or for more info, go to monteuxgallery.com.