Winter’s Last Hold on Sleeping Bear

Spring is here, but I needed one more dose of winter. So I headed once again to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Some may wonder why I return to the same location so frequently.  There are a number of answers to that question.  First, it is my favorite place on earth – my happy place. When I arrive, I am at once at ease.

I return as well because it is never the same.  The light, the clouds, the surf, they are always different. So every time I go there is another challenge as I learn the craft of landscape photography.

Finally, it helps that I am familiar with the area.  I plan my initial shots well ahead of my trips.  When you leave at 4 a.m. (3:00 a.m. in the summer) to make the three hour drive and get there an hour or so before sunrise, you can’t be wishy-washy about where you are headed.  In advance of my trips, I study the weather and use apps called “The Photographer’s Ephemeris” and “The Photographer’s Transit” to learn where the sun will rise and decide where I want to stand.

For Saturday’s trip, I wanted to take a photo of Shalda Creek as it flowed into Good Harbor Bay on Lake Michigan.  I thought if I could get set up before dawn, I could make a nice composition as the creek water flowed towards the glowing sky.  I was lucky that there were a few clouds in the sky to reflect the sun’s glow before it crossed the horizon.  The long exposure gave the creek a milky smooth texture, just as I had planned.

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They call it “the blue hour,” for obvious reasons.  I was glad to get there in time.  In the winter, I am able to stop for breakfast at Rosie’s Country Cafe in Thompsonville on the way up north.  But, the dawn now comes earlier and earlier until the summer solstice, so I settled for a granola bar on the drive up. The morning light did not disappoint.

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As the sun came above the horizon, the light changed from blue to golden and the ice on shore and in the lake began to glow, creating small landscapes to photograph.

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After breakfast at Art’s Tavern, I headed to Point Oneida and the beaches on Sleeping Bear Bay. At my first stop, at Lane Road Beach, the water was mostly clear of ice, but I could see plenty of ice in the distance.  The ice was moving closer and closer.  Soon, the bay was filled with pancake ice flowing through the bay at an incredible pace.

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The ice along the shore once again made for a chance to photograph small landscapes. . .

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and a chance to experiment with neutral density filters to take a long exposure that smoothed out the waves crashing against this bit of ice.

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I will return to Sleeping Bear again in the next month or so.  By then, the snow will be gone and the first of the spring wildflowers should be popping.  Always something different. Always something to keep me coming back.

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