Dawn at Silver Sands State Park Milford, CT
The CT Landscape
Inspiration for visiting photographers
A Work In Progress...
The tides are in our veins. ~Robinson Jeffers
Welcome to CT. When I'm traveling I'm always looking for resources and places to shoot, especially from a local photographer's POV. Many times the results are less than satisfying. So I've put together this short list in hopes to at least give visitor's unfamiliar with CT a better chance to save time and hit the good spots. If your stay is short or limited, I'd suggest visiting the shoreline. You can cover more ground, saving loads of time traveling between locations. Furthermore, I've added an external link to a guide of the "100 Best Things to do in CT" written by "Your RV Lifestyle", which has a wealth of information and inspiration for the visiting Photographer - not to mention us local's as well!
Silver Sands State Park
Milford, CT 06460
A popular & central location with plenty of potential from landscapes to birding. Also a very active community & easily accessible location. Only 20 minutes from New Haven and 50 minutes from Hartford. Just slightly west of Silver Sands is Walnut Beach which I personally find more convenient for parking. Both locations are basically neighbors - you can use the boardwalk between the two. For Birders, there's always something to shoot here and if you're lucky you may even catch the beautiful Northern Harrier hovering low while on the hunt. An added bonus is the female - the gray ghost. Otherwise, depending on the time of year like April, you may see piping plovers, snowy egrets, oystercatchers, tree swallows and more. By walking towards the trails, you can find some nice open land and lone trees. This is also where you'll often find Red Tail Hawks and the Northern Harrier. Here's a coordinates drop-pin to give you a better idea which is where the image below of the tree was made. Furthermore, there are dunes, a restored salt marsh & some woods. Plenty of visual imagery to shoot here & a good place to start your day shooting. Watch my short aerial project below for an overview of the location at sunrise.
A note about drones: if you plan to fly a drone, just be aware that by law you can't fly over state parks. Fortunately, Walnut Beach is just outside that jurisdiction and is legal to fly. You can still capture Charles Island as well from this location.
Walnut Beach at Sunrise
Silver Sands State Park
Stratford Point Lighthouse is best accessed by using the parking lot in Short Beach Park which is to the North of Stratford Point. By parking to the far south of the parking lot, you can walk along the beach to get to Stratford Point and the Audobon. It's about a 10-15 minute walk. If the Audobon is open you can use Prospect Dr and save the walk, however, check the hours first. Prospect Dr terminates at the Lighthouse as you'll see on G Maps, however, this is private property and there's really nowhere to park so please respect the locals and do not trespass.
Stratford Point Lighthouse
East or West?
While Silver Sands is centrally located along CT's coast, from here you have opportunities in both directions. If you head west (I-95 South) you'll find opportunities in the immediate coastal towns of Stratford and Bridgeport, both of which have lighthouses and are some 15-20 minutes away - click here for more info .
Heading east affords you larger public beaches in West Haven (nice Boardwalk) and just further east into New Haven where you can shoot Lighthouse Point Park. While in New Haven & only 10-15 minutes from the shore, a visit to Yale Campus can reward some stunning architectural & street photography. If you plan to explore New Haven and would like to take in vista views, then both East Rock Park & West Rock State Park would be worth a visit, particularly West Rock which gives nice elevated views of Downtown New Haven's Cityscape with views of New Haven Harbor. You'll need a telephoto lens though as there's quite a distance between the two.
Chaffinch Island Park & Neighboring Towns
Guilford, CT 06437
About 1/2 hour east along the coast from Silver Sands via I-95N, is Chaffinch Island Park. You'll pass West Haven and Branford both towns with plenty of shoreline potential. West Haven has plenty of gorgeous beach fronts and Branford has smaller quaint shorelines. If you like marshes, then get off I-95 in Branford, exit 54 or 55, find your way to Rte.146 and simply take this scenic and lovely windy road along the many marshes along the coast. A stop in Stony Creek may be worth your time. You can even take a small boat tour of the Thimble Islands or simply enjoy shooting from the shore. Continuing on Rte. 146 East, you'll discover wildlife preserves and water birds along the way eventually ending up at Chaffinch Island Park. You may see an American Bald Eagle or two and plenty of landscape potential including some nice rock formations.
Sunrise at Chaffinch Island
Madison, Clinton, Westbrook, Old Saybrook
East of Guilford, you'll find the beautiful well kept towns of Madison, Clinton, Westbrook and Old Saybrook. A favorite spot of mine in Madison is The Wharf. If you're short on time & access is important it doesn't get much easier than this. You simply follow W Wharf Rd. to the end, park & walk a few steps to find yourself on the beach. The rock formations here are gorgeous, especially at low-tide. I've shot here a lot at night as well. With the hotel directly on the beachfront, this location makes for a safer environment at night if by yourself. As for light pollution, you may experience some but it's manageable. Note: The Wharf is actually a restaurant at the Madison Beach Hotel, commonly used though by locals simply as "let's meet at the wharf."
Sunrise Madison Shore at The WHARF
Madison also offer's Hammonasset Beach State Park. A very popular beach with photographic seascapes & hiking trails. Clinton & Westbrook are both small quiet lovely towns offering similar scenes as Branford & Guilford with marshes, marinas, beaches, wildlife reserves; you can spend all day in these towns and walk away rewarded with great images simply by using Google maps and discovering the subjects you like to shoot.
Old Saybrook has two lighthouses both which are not easily accessible both can be shot with a telephoto advantage if you're ambitious and don't mind a little walking otherwise both are viewed by boat. For more info on these locations see here - Saybrook Breakwater Lighthouse & Lynde Point Lighthouse.
Heading east from here up I-95N you'll find other similar towns and photo opportunities in Mystic & New London .
Lynde Point via boat
Lynde Point via walking Nibang Ave. A private rd alongside golf course. Be respectful of the locals.
Barn Island Wildlife Area
Stonington, CT 06379
From New Haven this is a good hour drive and the last town before crossing into RI so it's not so centrally located but I wanted to add something different.
Lot's of salt marshes here. If it's winter during your stay and you're lucky to have snow, then this can be a nice photo op. Lot's of land here to explore regardless of the season. More info here if you're interested.