You Can’t Close Nature – Acadia National Park During the Gov’t Shutdown

Over the weekend, we trespassed in Acadia National Park. Like many stupid criminals that inadvertently boast about their actions on social media, I feel no remorse for what I did. Call it what you will (I prefer civil disobedience), but I think I did the right thing. Regardless of your political beliefs as far as who has caused what in terms of the shutdown of the federal government, I think most people will agree that it’s pretty sad that the National Parks, among other things, have become a victim of political grandstanding.

I’m not laying blame at the feet of on either party for this (I can’t really say I care for the group as a whole, anyway), just expressing my general frustration. Unlike other elements of the federal government, the National Parks do not need to stop functioning during a shutdown of the federal government. To put it succinctly, “you can’t close nature.” Or perhaps, rather, you shouldn’t close nature.

Also unlike other elements of the federal government, the National Parks are outward-facing, and something the general public (and media) will quickly notice if not operational. This makes them a prime subject for political exploitation. Unfortunately, politicians don’t seem to understand or care that there are serious repercussions to the communities surrounding these National Parks and the guests from around the world (literally, I met someone from Russia also trespassing in Acadia) who plan trips months or years in advance to visit.

The rental car agent at the airport we flew into in Maine indicated that they had been receiving tons of cancellations due to Acadia being closed. That airport was in Portland–three hours from Acadia. The point is, the ramifications are pretty significant and far reaching.

Ramifications like these likely extend to things affected by the shutdown beyond the National Parks, but in the case of the National Parks, what is happening seems especially egregious to me. The National Parks are our birthright as Americans. That may reek of entitlement, but it’s true.

In establishing the National Parks, the United States did something unprecedented in setting aside lands for its people deemed so important to us, as a people, that the places should be available to be enjoyed by all. Those who have watched the Ken Burns’ series on the National Parks might agree with him that this was “America’s Best Idea.” Unfortunately, I don’t think the forefathers of the National Parks Service contemplated these natural treasures to be subjects of political chess matches.

Getting off of my soapbox, I captured this photo of the Bass Harbor Head Light in Acadia National Park at sunrise over the weekend. I have read that this is normally pretty popular photo spot for the sunrise, but thanks to a long walk past the gated off road that led to the lighthouse, it was a peaceful morning.

It initially seemed like the walk would be for naught, as the colors were most impressive directly behind me (I don’t normally shoot sunrise and sunset in the same place on quick trips, but that beautiful sky behind me affirmed my decision to return that night), but just before the sun peeked above the horizon, a beautiful rainbow appeared. I think that rainbow turned a pretty ordinary pre-sunrise photo into a much nicer one.

I’ll have plenty more on Acadia National Park in the coming weeks, but suffice to say, we had a great time despite the park being closed. Many other guests took the same approach as we did, parking in front of locked off gates and venturing inside to enjoy the parks that we all own. The skeleton staff of National Park Service rangers on site did not seem to mind at all–I suspect that they were just as aggravated as us that their Parks were being turned into political pawns.


Photographed with a Nikon D600 and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. I did the bulk of my editing of this shot in Adobe Camera Raw; there I brought out the shadows, adjusted the white balance and tone, and increased the contrast. I opened the photo as a Smart Object in Photoshop CS6, and then opened the photo again (as a new layer) in Adobe Camera Raw and increased the clarity and applied that increased clarity only to the rocks, to accentuate their texture.

I also had to remove a bunch of spots using the healing brush because I wasn’t careful changing lenses earlier in the morning, and then used f/22 for this photo (a dangerous combination). Let that be a lesson, I guess…

Your Thoughts…

What do you think about trespassing in the National Parks? Victimless crime (or less), or are you so offended by my actions that you’ll be calling the FBI? What would you do if you had a vacation to a National Park planned for this weekend?

18 replies
  1. William McIntosh
    William McIntosh says:

    Tom – This shot is absolutely EPIC. So glad that you were able to blow past the barricades and get inside in spite of the closings. This is certainly one of your best, and what a bummer if you had missed this due to the *** holes in Washington. I spent the last few days fuming about what I missed due to the shutdown while I was back East, missing out on Shenandoah, the monuments and even some of the city parks in DC. Bah. Can’t we fire them all and start over? Glad to see your website up and running again after a long break. I know how busy you’ve been lately with all of your Disney shooting, but it’s fun to see how your non disney shots are really in a league of their own. No matter how many years and money were thrown at it, Disney could never come up with something like this. That light is just stunning.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Really sorry to hear about all of the difficulties you encountered, but based upon the caption on your recent Flickr photo, it sounds like you made the best of a bad situation and discovered some great alternatives. Kudos on that.

      The goal is to keep posting regularly here. The act of posting alone keeps me excited about photography OUTSIDE of Disney, and I really want to start getting more out of the hobby and pushing myself to improve. The downside is that it also has me looking more at my pictures from these other locations, and I think to myself, “AH! I can’t believe I missed ______. We have to go back!” That could be dangerous…

  2. SARAH
    SARAH says:

    Your photo is absolutely stunning!

    I’m actually headed to Maine this weekend — been planning it for months Portland —-> Bar Harbor and everywhere in between. The ONE thing I planned to do for sure was to drive up Cadillac Mountain for the sunrise. *sigh* Mind sharing how long it took to hike on over to this spot? Not familiar with the area, so hoping to find the right place to head in and get to a high enough location to get some good shots. (and just soak in the beauty!) Thanks for sharing this and any trespassing tips appreciate. 🙂

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      It sounds like the shutdown will be over before then, but this spot isn’t too difficult to access, it’s just at the end of a road that’s closed off. I think the walk is about 10-15 minutes, and it’s almost all on a paved road.

  3. jlaalja
    jlaalja says:


    I absolutely agree with your sentiments on the shutdown and the closure of the parks. The only difference, is that I believe that they do understand the ramifications and are trying to make a statement and apply pressure to get their way.

    Now for the real point of the trip… the photo is absolutely stunning and I look forward to more of your trip photos and commentary!

    I am still learning how to tame the beast within my Canon and I appreciate you as well as Disney Photography Blog for sharing your insights and photos to help me learn!

    Keep up the great work,

  4. Steve Boutet
    Steve Boutet says:

    I hope you had some Maine “Lobstah” while you were here! Living just south of Portland, I don’t get to Acadia as much as I did during my college days just outside of Bangor (at the University of Maine), but I fondly remember the many sunrises we experienced from the top of Cadillac Mountain. At least once a month we would make the drive and welcome the suns first rays in the U.S. from the top of that idyllic spot. Hope you had a great time, in spite of the fools in Washington.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      We had lobster for literally every meal we were there, including breakfast. I don’t know if I’ll be able to go back to “regular” lobster after having it in Maine!

  5. Jeff Krause
    Jeff Krause says:

    Really wishing I could have come on this trip. You’re making me think about changing jobs so I can go on more photo trips. Oh and no one cares about f/22 when you got that much color going on! Absolutely beautiful. Looking forward to the rest of the trip report.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      The trip was a mixed bag. On the one hand, it stunk not being able to get to certain locations that were too long of a walk. On the other hand, the park was DEAD with only a few other visitors there during what would normally have been peak season.

  6. Alan Rappaport
    Alan Rappaport says:

    Absolutely a victim-less crime- as long as you are a respectful visitor, which I’m sure you were. besides, no one told the park and that incredible sky/rainbow combo that it was supposed to be closed – just look at that epic view.

    Even if the park rangers locked you up and and threw away the key for ‘trespassing’ it would have been worth it to come home with that shot. Just think, you could hang it in your cell wall and enjoy the glorious wonders of our national parks as you withered away in solitary confinement.

    Totally worth it.

  7. Laura B
    Laura B says:

    I have a professionally matted-and-framed photo of Bass Head Light hanging on my wall, done by some photographer who takes lighthouse photos for a living (I don’t remember who…it was given to me as a gift by someone who knew my love of both lighthouses and photography). I tell you this because I’d trade that photo for a copy of yours in a heartbeat. That shot is phenomenal!!


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