Venturing out for some art and culture while staying in

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Being under orders to social distance in our homes during the Covid-19 pandemic does not prevent us from getting out and exploring, virtually, some of the world’s greatest museums of art.  I have a gathered here links to four temporary exhibits that no one is able to view right now except on the Internet.  After that I have included links to a host of museums and cultural sites that you can explore in the safety of your home.  If I come across more

Venturing out while hunkering down

My wife and I are hunkered down, both working from home, doing our best to stay away from the Covid-19 virus.  Of course, it is important to get out of the house.  We have each been taking walks alone and together. Fortunately, the last few days have been dry and bright.  The last couple of mornings, I have gotten out early before the world gets going to shoot some photos.

Yesterday, I drove around the city of Grand Rapids looking for a composition.  I decided to shoot the Chester Street Engine House, home of Company 11.  I drive by the station each evening on my way home from work and have frequently and have admired often.

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Constructed in 1902, the Chester Street Engine House is the oldest active fire station in Grand Rapids.  The building is designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, popular in the late 1800s.  The Grand Rapids Historical Commission’s website, describes it as follows: “Design characteristics are: asymmetrical massing; a decorative wall texture created by the brickwork, variegated on the first floor and smooth on the second; the row of wide, round-arch (Romanesque) windows, as well as the double-hung windows with (not quite) transom windows above.  Although the dormer is quite typical, the wide, over-hanging eaves of the roof give it an almost Prairie style look.”

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My morning wanderings also took me to Grand Rapids’s southwest side where I spotted several spiral fire escapes.  These are still fairly common on older Grand Rapids buildings. The spiral stairs made for an interesting bit of shadow play, reminding me of a Möbius strip.

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This morning, I drove through the country to Fallasburg Village, north of Lowell, which was founded on the banks of the Flat River in the 1830s  by John Wesley Fallass.  The Village, which today consists of a few preserved buildings and some private homes, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. More information about Fallasburg can be found on the website of the Fallasburg Historical Society.

I focused my attention this morning on the Fallass Barn with its stone foundation, built in 1894.

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Lowell, Michigan, Revisited

I practiced social distancing Saturday by leaving the house before dawn and driving to Lowell, Michigan, just 17 miles from our house.  Lowell is a small, quintessentially Midwestern town.  I did a photo shoot there four years ago andstill very much enjoy the photos I took of the old buildings on the main street.  You can see those photos here.

The largest business in Lowell is King Milling, a company founded in 1890 and still a family owned business.  Every time I pass through Lowell, the silos and grain elevators seem to have multiplied.  There are so many potential photos there. Here are some I took on Saturday.

A Hint of Spring in February

What a weekend. Two days of perfectly clear skies. Temperatures in the 40s. I used the occasion to head north to the Leelanau Peninsula . I had hoped for some dramatic wave action. The forecast of a steady 20 MPH wind gusting to near 40 got me hoping some big waves.

I started my day at Point Betsie, which is known for big waves and incredible ice formations. There were waves, but not the monsters I had hoped for.

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Instead, Point Betsie was remarkably serene. There were waves hitting the sea wall that has been built to protect the lighthouse. Still, I had to keep wiping my lens to keep it dry, and I too got wet from the spray.

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But, I had Point Betsie to myself for nearly two hours.

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The beach at Point Betsie is littered with trees that have fallen into Lake Michigan. The Lake is at or near its highest level since 1986, chewing away at beaches and toppling not only trees but also houses into the lake. The fact that Lake Michigan did not freeze this winter has only exacerbated the problem.

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After Point Betsie, I stopped at Esch Road Beach, Empire Beach and Lane Beach on Point Oneida in search of big waves, but nothing. So I drove up to Leland.

Historic Fishtown has been in the news for months now because of high water threatening the old fishing shanties. I wanted to see it for myself. The water wasn’t as high as I anticipated. Nonetheless, work continues to save Fishtown. They removed the Cheese Shanty this winter to rebuilt and raise the foundation it stands on.

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Leland is the home port of the Mishe Mokwa (mother bear). which ferries day hikers and campers to South Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.
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Pancake ice in the Leland Harbor.
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Leland is also home to Van’s Beach. The water is an amazing shade of aqua.
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Whaleback hill juts out into Lake Michigan at the south end of Van’s Beach.
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Ice on Van’s Beach and on the breakwater that guards the entrance to the Leland harbor.
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On the way home, I stopped once again at Point Betsie. The wind had picked up during the afternoon and I hoped that meant big waves backlit by the setting sun.
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I wasn’t disappointed. They weren’t the giants I had hoped for, but they were enough for me to declare victory and begin the 3 hour drive home.
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Winter at the Sixth Street Dam

Winter has been pretty tame here in West Michigan.  Yesterday morning, though, we had a good burst of snow that gave us a few inches and made for a productive photo shoot at the Sixth Street Dam.  The first dam in the location was built of stone, gravel, logs and brush in 1844. It was replaced by a wooden dam in 1866, constructed by the Water Power Company.  As factories along the river diverted water for their uses, the flow of the river diminished and the water became more and more polluted.  The dam was replaced by the current dam in the 1920s, as part of a beautification project.  Plans are underway to remove the dam and bring back the rapids for which the city was named.  A history of the rapids in the Grand River can be found here.

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Favorite photos of 2019

As the year comes to a close, it is a good time to look back at the year’s batch of photos and assess how I did. Ansel Adams said, “Twelve significant photos in any one year is a good crop.” I can’t claim significance for these twelve photos but they are my favorites of 2019.

Each time I look at the photos, I see imperfections, which to me is a good sign since it tells me I am learning my craft, both the field work and the post processing. I have edited most of these photos several times with the goal of attaining what I envisioned when I was on location. Hopefully, they do not look over-processed to you.

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The first snowfall comes to the Absaroka Range on the east side of Paradise Valley, Montana, in September.
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Sheepeater Canyon in Yellowstone National Park.
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Undine Falls in Yellowstone National Park. This photo is a vertical panorama, combining three photos.
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The Gibbon River as it approaches the Virginia Cascades in Yellowstone National Park.
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The granary on the Pete and Jenny Burfiend farm in the Point Oneida historic farm district of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
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Pete and Jenny Burfiend bought their Point Oneida farm in 1882. They initially lived in a log cabin, but sometime in the 1880s hired Martin Basch to build this farmhouse.
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Warm morning light breaks through the forest at the Houdek Dunes Natural Area on the Leelanau Peninsula in Michigan. The Houdek Dunes Natural Area is owned by the Leelanau Conservancy.
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The Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana. Mount Electric is in the background.
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A huge wave hits the breakwater at Point Betsie, north of Frankfort, Michigan.
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The Gardner River as it flows out of Yellowstone National Park to the town of Gardiner (spelled differently than the river), Montana, where it flows into the Yellowstone River.
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I came upon this doe and her two fawns on a foggy morning near Clarksville, Michigan. They were kind enough to allow me to do a U-turn so I could shoot out the driver’s-side window of my car.
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The Royal 7 Motel in Bozeman, Montana. This is a composite of several photos I made to balance the light. I wanted to capture the garish light of the neon sign and well as the warm, inviting light in the windows of the motel lobby. I loved the reflection of the sign on the wet pavement. (I stood out in the rain to get the shot.)