Pier is irresistible lure… for photographers

Alison Shaw began photographing the pier in the early days of construction. This shot was taken in July, 2013. — Alison Shaw Photography
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Alison Shaw began photographing the pier in the early days of construction. This shot was taken in July, 2013.


Construction on the pier proceeded, and a deck was added to the pilings. Alison Shaw got this long exposure from underneath.


Pilings. By Alison Shaw.


Sunrise on the east facing shore by Max Skjoldebrand.


Max Skjoldebrand scrambled under the pier to shoot this pastel sunrise.


Michael Skelton, who participated in Alison Shaw's mentorship program, used a long exposure technique to capture pre-dawn color.


Another shot from the early days of construction. By Alison Shaw.


As part of Alison Shaw's mentorship program, Doug Burke arrived on the Island in the rain one March evening. "Saturday morning came," he said, "and I struggled at first to see what the best way was to capture this beautiful structure. What I love about this dock are the simple lines and easy flow [of] the ocean, smooth glass underneath. This was taken at 6:17AM on the 29th of March. The conditions were calm and the temp was in the high 40's.


Doug Burke took this shot at 7:30 am on March 30th, a rainy Sunday. The tide was high, and he balanced his tripod on the rocks.


Gwen Norton took this shot at 5:06 am on March 29, as part of Ms. Shaw's group. "I only took about 20 frames – it was very cold. I went out again on April 2 and took another 25 shots, but none of them worked as well as this one."


Karla Bernstein wrote about this photograph: "I was on MV the first week of April for a gathering of the group of us taking Alison Shaw's Mentorship rogram. The OB pier was the 'hot photo topic' and many of us were there when not at the mentorship. This day I was alone while there – maybe because it was cool with lots of wind. It was April 4th, 11 am." It was, she reported, an overcast day; she took 10 shots at various angles, 1/40 sec @ f/18, ISO 100, focal length 28mm, using a Canon 5D Mark ll. She developed them using "split toning-blue hues for shadows and yellowish khaki for highlights."


Michael Skelton took all of his pier shots in the rain, between 5:30 and 6:30 am, in the first week of April, 2014.

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Another Michael Skelton shot, taken during Ms. Shaw's mentorship program in early April.


Sunrise breaks over the horizon at the Oak Bluffs fishing pier. By Steve Myrick.


A long exposure by Steve Myrick.


Symmetry and reflections. By Steve Myrick.


Overcast skies, a rocky shore, and roaring surf add drama to this view by Steve Myrick.

The new public fishing pier in Oak Bluffs is about to be officially dedicated, and already local fishermen are hauling in lines heavy with their finned prizes.

But even before the pier was finished, the strong lines of the structure jutting out into Nantucket Sound began attracting an eclectic assortment of photographers to the North Bluff. On many mornings before dawn, a shutter-clicking crowd descends on the seawall. They clamber down on the boulder-strewn beach, hauling tripods and camera bags, with Nikons and Canons swinging from their shoulders. It takes a bit of good-natured cooperation to stay out of each others’ shot.

Long lenses, sunrise, short lenses, foggy, long exposures, sunset, cloudy, or clear, the seemingly endless variation in conditions and camera settings provide a creative palette alluring enough to set alarms to 4:30 am.

The reward, beyond the early calls, foot sprains, and water-filled boots, are some stunning images.

The state office of Fishing and Boating Access paid for the construction of the pier, the first on Martha’s Vineyard devoted exclusively to fishing. It will also be the first pier of its type in the state’s coastal waters, a place where kids and families can easily go to fish.

On Thursday, June 19 at 11 am, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Undersecretary for Environment Martin Suuberg, Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin, Office of Fishing and Boating Access Director Jack Sheppard and Division of Marine Fisheries Director Paul Diodati, along with Oak Bluffs and Island officials will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new fishing pier.

Editor’s note: Many of these photographers — Karla Bernstein, Michael Skelton, Doug Burke and Gwen Norton — were students of Alison Shaw, who conducts a six-month mentorship program and used the pier as a “hot topic” over one week in early April.