NORTHEAST HARBOR – As afternoon descends on Mount Desert Island, Jack Ledbetter loads up his backpack and consults a list he’s been updating since 1985. Where will he go today? Location chosen, he shoulders the pack and heads out – he needs to be ready and waiting when the light is just right. Five minutes can make a difference. Sometimes he waits for hours for just the right moment.
Ledbetter’s a photographer; his 55-pound backpack holds all the usual supplies needed by someone spending an afternoon in Acadia National Park, and two things very few people ever take with them – a boxy large-format camera and the film to go with it.
“Every time I look out my window it’s a new day. I’m challenged by it. It is my love to record what I see,” says Ledbetter, who came to Mount Desert Island to take photos in 1985. “I love the beauty that we have here, this fabulous island that we live on. It’s just a fabulous environment.”
The large-format camera – an 8×10 field camera made by LF Deardorff in Chicago in 1985 – allows him to capture images he cannot get with his phone or his digital camera, though he uses those for studies the way a painter will take a photo to work from. “The quality of the images is still superior to digital photography as we know it,” he says.
After years of taking pictures on MDI and sharing space with other artists, Ledbetter opened his own studio in Northeast Harbor. Among other benefits, it allowed him to have a darkroom. He loves working with black-and-white prints in
Unlike the phone or digital camera, the Deardorff does not lend itself to multiple takes. Ledbetter chooses carefully when he’ll trip the shutter. Over the course of a single season, he’ll take only 40 or 50 photographs.
Ledbetter’s most recent work will be on display, and for sale, during a weeklong open house at his studio, Aug. 10-14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Masks are required and social distancing will be enforced, with the studio following state requirements for public gatherings and the best CDC recommendations. The studio is at 1 Rock End in Northeast Harbor, across the street from the Neighborhood House.