Ice Jewels in Honey Creek

It seems that “real winter” has arrived at last. We received over a foot of snow in West Michigan this week and have seen the windchill dip to around zero. I headed to Honey Creek and used a long lens to get in close to the ice forming in the stream.

“Woodland Studies” Update

“Woodland Studies,” an exhibit of six of my photos, opened today at the Glen Arbor Arts Center in Glen Arbor, Michigan. The exhibit will run until April 13. The exhibit can be viewed online at https://glenarborart.org/events/exhibit-woodland-studies/. That page also has a link to a video of a conversation about the exhibit that I had with Gallery Manager Sarah Bearup-Neal. I have also embedded that conversation below.

I am grateful to the Glen Arbor Arts Center for hosting this show and especially to Sarah Bearup-Neal for guiding me through the process of preparing my first exhibit.

My Favorite Photos of 2021

The year is drawing to a close and it is time to look back and select my favorite photos taken in 2021. I prefer to call them my “favorite” rather than my “best” photos. I am still learning the craft and the art of photography and still trying to figure out what “best” means. But, each of these photos is among the most personally satisfying photos I took this year.

Let’s begin with this photo of a thorny stick rising out of the snow. I was standing in the middle of a stream taking a photo of snow covered rocks when I looked and saw this stick on the shore. The contrast between the severity of the thorns and the softness of the snow made this image for me.

It was a cold morning in March when I took this photo on the Boardman River near Traverse City shortly before sunrise. The subtle purple and orange colors pulled me into the scene.

Early one Saturday morning, I took my camera downtown Grand Rapids. I rarely shoot in the urban environment, but this particular morning I just needed to get out with my camera. The light and shadow and the lack of any people in the scene reminded me of a painting by Edward Hopper. Hopper’s influence on photographers was highlighted in a 2009 exhibit by the Fraenkel Gallery and in “Edward Hopper and Company,” the book that accompanied the exhibition.

One of my favorite places to photograph is where the land meets water. I am drawn to the sound of moving water and to the reflections of the trees in the water. I used a slow shutter speed in this photo to smooth out the water in Honey Creek and accentuate the reflections.

I had the chance to visit Cape Cod this summer and was struck by the beauty of the salt marshes. I spent several mornings at the Sandwich Marsh and was grabbed by the color palette of greens, blues and purples. This shot too reminds me of Edward Hopper, who, of course, lived and painted on Cape Cod.

Our second week on Cape Cod, we stayed on the Brewster Flats, the widest expanse of tidal flats in North America. At low tide, we could walk out nearly a mile before coming to the ocean’s edge.

As I walked along the Houdek Dunes Trail this fall, the ferns had already turned brown and had begun to curl. I wasn’t sure there was a picture until I got in close and found this shot. I liked the shallow depth of field and contrast.

I traveled to Sleeping Bear Dunes 16 times in 2021, at least once in every month except December. My practice is to leave home early enough to make the three-hour drive in time to arrive an hour before sunrise, hoping for a beautiful morning glow. I have stood on the culvert where Shalda Creek flows underneath Bohemian Road many times waiting for that glow. That’s where I took this photo in November. This photo brings to mind that last few sentences of Thoreau’s Walden: “Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

The reflection of fall foliage in a beaver pond on Shalda Creek made this image among my favorites. For me, the image has an abstract quality that I like.

This is one of my “U-Turn,” photos. I was driving home from Sleeping Bear when I passed this lone tree in a farmer’s field. I turned the car around, got out and set up my tripod to capture the scene. Landscape photographers gush about the light around sunrise and sunset. But in the late fall and winter, when the sun is not so high in the sky, mid-afternoon light can work just as well. The low angle of the light in this photo creates the shadows in the furrows and the deep, long shadow of the lone tree’s trunk.

I planned this shot even before I arrived in downtown Detroit during the first couple of days of December on a business trip. I had seen the American Coney Island on a similar trip two years ago. I remembered that the scene would be near my hotel and so I took along a small camera and travel tripod. I was fortunate to have some rain that reflected the light on the sidewalk and fortunate to have a lone diner in the restaurant. This is yet another image that reminds me of the work of Edward Hopper. Nighthawks in a coney island?

I came across this gathering of roots three years ago when visiting the Teichner Preserve on Lime Lake near Maple City, Michigan. I returned four or five times over the past three years looking for the right angle to get the compelling image I wanted. I finally found it on my second visit this year. I call the image “Gathering Place.” The image speaks to me about community. I have been asked whether I warped this image to make the trees spread out from the middle. I did not. Nature did. The trees on the very left of the image hang out over Lime Lake. I suspect that in a few years the trees on the left will succumb to the waves that eat away at the shoreline and then fall into the lake.

I am grateful that “Gathering Place” was selected by the editors of Lenswork Magazine for publication in its annual edition of “Our Magnificent Planet,” and will be included in “Woodland Studies,” an exhibit of my work this winter at the Glen Arbor Art Center.

I have taken over 8,000 photos in 2021. Yet, selecting a dozen favorites was not that difficult. The good ones stand out to me. Most of the images I took are pretty underwhelming and can be chalked up to learning the craft and art of photography – training the eye and developing the skill to capture what my mind’s eye sees. That might be discouraging to some, but to me it is all part of paying my dues. As Ansel Adams said, a dozen significant photographs in a year is “a pretty good crop.”

Here are links to my favorite images of 2019 and 2020.

Upcoming Exhibit: Woodland Studies

I am excited to share information about “Woodland Studies,” a small exhibition of my photographs that will open at the Glen Arbor Art Center on January 7, 2022. The details can be found by following this link. If you happen to be on the Leelenau Peninsula this winter, stop by and have a look. If you can’t make it, the photos will also be available for viewing online at the link above.

I am grateful to the Glen Arbor Art Center for hosting this exhibition, the first of my work. I have enjoyed working with Gallery Director Sarah Bearup-Neal and have learned a great deal in preparing the prints for exhibit.

A New Work by Plensa in Grand Rapids

Jaume Plensa is a Spanish artist noted for his public sculpture. Visitors to Chicago have likely seen his Crown Fountain, the spitting fountain in Millennium Park. The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has two works by Plensa and has commissioned yet another for its new entry way.

The DeVos family also commissioned a sculpture by Plensa, which was installed this week in downtown Grand Rapids. I have not been able to learn its name yet. I took some photos this morning.

Update: According to Experience Grand Rapids, the sculpture is named, “The Four Elements.” The sculpture uses letters, characters and element symbols to represent air, water fire and earth and signifies the diverse characteristics that bring people together to form a single human race.

Another Color Show

The fall colors in northern Michigan are past their peak, but I was still treated to a beautiful color show yesterday at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This first photo, taken where Shalda Creek crosses Bohemian Road, reminds me of the final words from Thoreau’s Walden Pond: “Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

Shalda Creek snakes through Sleeping Bear just south of Good Harbor Bay and pours out into the bay. Shortly before it does so the beaver have built a dam creating a pond in the forest.

As I passed by, I noticed the reflection of the golden leaves in the still water of the pond and stopped to take these photos.

Driving home along Indian Hill Road in Benzie County, I pulled over to take this photo of a lone tree in a plowed field.

Natural Landscape Photography Award Winners

In August, I submitted 12 photographs to the inaugural Natural Landscape Photography Awards. Yesterday, the winners were announced and their work is stunning. Here is a gallery of the winning photographs: https://naturallandscapeawards.com/gallery-2021/. I encourage you to spend some time looking at them.

Over 1,300 photographers from 47 countries submitted photographs. I had one photo that made it into the third round of the judging. Photos in the third round comprised the top third of the 9,947 photos submitted. The next cut reduced the number of photos to 10%, before final judging occurred to select the winner. My photo that made it to the third round was this one, taken at the Silver Lake Sand Dunes.

The winning photographs demonstrate the state of the art in landscape photography. Ansel Adams said, “a good photograph is knowing where to stand.” But location, location, location is only one component of great photograph. The winning photographs in the Natural Landscape Photography Awards demonstrate that it takes much more. The winning artists used light, color, shape and form to make remarkable images.

The rules of the competition prohibited artists from using editing techniques that failed to maintain the integrity of the subject – techniques like adding in skies, foregrounds, birds, mist, sun, moon, or lighting effects, removing significant elements from the original scene, distorting elements, or combining photos taken at different times or at different focal lengths. These techniques are used by photographers to create some incredible digital art, but often that art bears little resemblance to the actual scene before the photographer. The founders of the Natural Landscape Photography Awards wanted to have a competition that rewards the “truthful depiction of the natural world.” As you can see from the winning photographs, the natural world is is amazingly beautiful even without resorting to extreme editing techniques.

Chasing Fall Colors

The fall colors have been late in coming to Michigan this year. I am guessing that we are still a couple of weeks away from peak colors in southwest lower Michigan. I drove north yesterday hoping to find nature’s brilliant display. I can report that the area on my route from Cedar Springs north to Thompsonville put on quite a show. But as I reached the Leelanau Peninsula, it remained pretty green. That’s good for the tourist industry on the peninsula, as leaf peepers will continue to be drawn to the area, extending the season. It was not a bust, by any means. There were pockets of color, harbingers of what is yet to come.

I began the day in the field below the iconic D.H. Day barns near Glen Haven. I waited in darkness for the sun to rise and light up the clouds from underneath. That never quite happened, but the image below was still worth the wait.

I found some dramatic red colors on Tucker Lake, beneath Miller Hill.

I hiked along the Crystal River for a bit and came upon salmon spawning on a gravel bed. It was amazing to watch as the dominant male chased off other males and the females prepared to lay their eggs.

This trout stood still long enough for me to capture a semi-decent photo.

Here’s a dash of color I found along Bohemian Road (CR 669) near Shalda Creek.

The weather was interesting, with intermittent rain showers and sunshine. I took the photos above in my rain gear, holding a large umbrella over my tripod and camera. Rather than hiking in the occasional rain shower, I stayed close to my car and visited a few of the historic farms in the National Lakeshore.

The Bufka farm is near the northern boundary of the National Lakeshore, along M-22. It sits down in a valley below the highway. The farm was established in the 1850’s by Joseph Bergman, an immigrant from Germany. Bergman built a log cabin that still stands today and can be seen in the photo below (the building farthest to the right). Charles Bufka purchased the 200 acre farm in 1880 and, over time, built the buildings (other than the chicken coop) seen in the photo. Upon purchasing the farm, he also built a house. The cabin was converted to a chicken coop in 1940. More information about the Bufka farm can be found here, on the National Park Service’s website.

I visited the Ole and Magdalena Olsen farm on Kelderhouse Road in the Port Oneida Rural Historic District. Ole Olsen was brought to North America from Norway by his grandparents in 1869 when he was 14. His grandparents settled in Sarnia, Ontario. Ole went to live with his uncle in Northport, on the Leelanau Peninsula. But soon his uncle and his family left to stake a claim in Minnesota under the Homestead Act, leaving Ole alone in Northern Michigan. In the early 1870s, Ole worked in the logging industry. In 1875, her met and married Magdalena Burfiend, whose father, Carsten, owned a 275 acre farm on what was the most valuable land in Port Oneida. With the help of Carsten Burfiend, Ole and Magdalena purchased their farm in 1877.

I took just a few photos on the Olsen farm, including this photo of the foundation for the barn.

The photo below is of the pig pen on the Olsen farm. Someone had placed a row of apples from a nearby tree on the window sill.

The photo below is of the farm buildings on Carsten Burfiend’s farm, with a lovely splash of color in the background.

As I left to return home, I drove by the Tweedle Farm on Norconk Road, south of the town of Empire.

Before driving home, I took one more photograph, a panoramic shot of the trees along Aral Road in Benzie County. While the colors had generally not reached their peak in the areas I visited, there were still areas of resplendent displays of fall foliage. Rain or shine – and I experienced both – it was well worth the trip.

“Our Magnificent Planet” 2021

Last year, I submitted three photographs to Lenswork Magazine for possible publication in its inaugural edition of “Our Magnificent Planet,” a book that featured 300 photographs by 300 photographers from around the world. The editors selected my photograph of the Granary on the Pete and Jennie Burfiend farm in the the Port Oneida Historic District of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Last month, I submitted three photos for the second annual edition of “Our Magnificent Planet.” Today, I received notice that one of my images was selected for publication. The editors did not disclose which image they chose. Here are the three images. I will let you be the judge.

“A Thorn in Winter”
“Salt Marsh”
“The Gathering”