Rocky Neck State Park

Rocky Neck State Park is located on Long Island Sound in the town of East Lyme. The beach is a popular spot in the summer, but the 710-acre park offers so much more to the photographer. There are interesting rock formations, a broad salt marsh that borders the park to the east, a tidal river on the west, and a diverse trail system that allows fairly easy access to these scenic features and other points of interest, such as Baker’s Cove, Tony’s Nose and Shipyard. For wildlife aficionados, the river and salt marsh provides a home for various birds. The osprey, or fish hawk, is a frequent early summer visitor. In the fall, cranes, herons and mute swans wade among cattails and rose mallow.

The Ellie Mitchell Pavillion is a stone building built in the 1930s as a WPA work project.

The Ellie Mitchell Pavilion is a stone building built in the 1930s as a WPA work project. The structure has wonderful texture and details for photographing.

Thanks to a few forward thinking conservationists who purchased the land in 1931, this park is now available for the public to enjoy. The land was purchased with personal funds by these individuals, who held it until the state legislature authorized its purchase and developed it as a state park. The large stone pavilion which sits high above the beach, overlooks Long Island Sound with great views of Long Island and Fishers Island.  The unusual curved masonry building was constructed in the 1930s, as part of the depression era work relief program. It was built using native materials and wood cut from each of the state parks and forests. A massive building, called the Ellie Mitchell Pavilion, provides lots of interesting details and features for a creative eye.

There's a good view of the beach from the rocky prominance that juts out into Long Island Sound just to the west of the stone pavilion. There are rugged trees along the way, making good subjects.

There’s a good view of the beach from the rocky prominance that juts out into Long Island Sound just to the west of the stone pavilion. There are rugged trees along the way, making good subjects.

The beach itself is what is known as a pocket beach, a crescent shaped stretch of sand wedged between two headlands. It is a white sand beach, and there are great formations in the sand at low tide, which make for good abstract shots. The headland on the west side is easily accessible, and a short walk out to the point or along the west side of it, will provide great views of the water, Long Island, and Bride Brook, where fishing and lobster boats can be seen coming and going. There are interesting rocky formations on this side, as well as along the trails and the view of Long Island and Fisher’s Island adds some interest for sunset or sunrise shots.

At low tide, there are lots of interesting formations in the sand that make for good graphic shots. Seaweed, rocks, ripples are all great for close-ups and abstracts.

At low tide, there are lots of interesting formations in the sand that make for good graphic shots. Seaweed, rocks, ripples are all great for close-ups and abstracts.

Ripples 2Piling at Rocky Neck Beack-1What to Photograph

There is a little of everything to photograph here. Of course, sunrise and sunsets are both good to capture here. The rocky formations and rugged trees on headland provide good landscape opportunities as well as for more abstract shots, and the beach itself is worth looking at. Birds, such as the osprey, crane, egret and heron are present in spring, summer and fall. And of course, the pavilion will provide opportunities for the creative photographer who prefers architecture to nature and landscapes.

Water forms miniature rivers in the sand, hugging a heart shaped rock.

Water forms miniature rivers in the sand, hugging a heart shaped rock.

When to go

The best time to go to photograph is really the opposite time of year that beach goers love to be there. If you’ve never visited a beach in the winter, now is the time to try it. In winter, the sunsets and sunrises are just as wonderful, and they are at a much more civil time of day! A winter sunrise may be about 7 a.m., while in the summer you should be in place about 5:00 a.m. or so to catch the light on that edge of day.  And the same is to be said about sunset. In Connecticut in the midst of winter, the sun sets about  4:30 p.m., which gives you plenty of time to be packed up and home for dinner at a reasonable hour.

Of course, if you want to see the birds that visit the salt marsh and the river, then the spring and summer is the time to go. There are websites for birders to watch that report sightings at various locations in the state, and it might be advisable to subscribe to one of them to keep up to date and to plan your trip.

Tips and Techniques

If you’re on the beach, especially on a windy day with large waves, consider using a UV filter to protect your lens from the salt water.

Check the tide times. Low tide is best for capturing unusual formations in the sand and to get on the beach for creative shots or wide angle shots of the beach and pavilion.

This is such an expansive beach area with a great view overlooking Long Island Sound, it might be fun to try a few panorama shots.  Keep in mind that you need to have some overlapping area to stitch together in your photographs, with the ideal being about 25% overlap.

Rocky Neck State Park
244 West Main St.
East Lyme, CT

860-739-5471

Websites:

http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?a=2716&q=325256&depNav_GID=1650

http://www.ct.gov/dep/lib/dep/stateparks/maps/rockyneck.pdf

GPS Coordinates:  Longitude: 41.3083; Latitude: -72.244301

Parking: The park offers plenty of parking in the lots near the beach and trails. There is a charge for parking from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but during the off-season, parking is free. Check the website for parking rates, since they may change. Rates vary on weekends and weekdays, and for resident or non-resident vehicles, as in many of the state parks. There is a reduced rate after 4 p.m.

Hours:  8:00 a.m. to sunset.

Rocky Neck Beach

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