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”

Early morning on Esch Road Beach

Some photos taken yesterday morning as the sun rose on Esch Road Beach in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Waves on Lake Michigan cut away at the beach, leaving this temporary pool.
Clouds over Lake Michigan.
Incoming waves swamp a stump that has washed ashore.
For a brief few moments, the receding waves created this pattern in the water. A crocodile? Nessie?

The Natural Landscape Photography Awards

The Natural Landscape Photography Awards is a new contest for “photographers who dedicate themselves to capturing the beauty of the landscape in a realistic fashion.” The competition will be judged by an international panel of landscape photographers whose work I admire. One aspect of the contest I greatly appreciate is that photographers whose images meet the first cut will be required to provide the image as it came out of the camera so the judges can confirm that the image was not heavily processed.

I have entered 12 photographs in the contest. I have no expectation of being recognized, but figured I would learn a lot by choosing 12 photographs from my portfolio and preparing them for submission. Knowing your work will be reviewed by such an incredible panel creates a special incentive to take care in the editing and presentation of the photos.

Here are the 12 photos I submitted. (Click on a photo to see it full frame.)

Travel log: The American Sign Museum

Last week, we visited the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. The museum features signs from the late 1800s to the 1960s. The museum was extremely well curated with explanatory pieces describing the significance of the items on display. That’s not too surprising. The museum was founded by Tod Swormstedt, a man who can claim a long lineage in signs. Tod served as the editor of Signs of the Times Magazine, a leading industry journal (not to be confused with Signs of the Times Magazine published by the Seventh Day Adventist Church). Tod’s great grandfather founded the magazine in 1906 and Tod was the fourth generation editor. Tod started the museum in 1999, as the National Signs of the Times Museum. In 2005, it was renamed the American Sign Museum.

Cameras are not allowed in the museum, but photos shot with cell phones for personal use are permitted.

The collection begins with wood and metal hand-crafted signs from the late 1800s to the 1940s. (Click on an image to enlarge.)

The next era in signs was the lightbulb era, during which signs were illuminated by incandescent lightbulbs, which the museum dates from 1900 to 1930. The Kelly Springfield Tires sign was crafted in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Neon lights were introduced in the 1920s and continued in use into the 1960s.

I thought this sign for a pentacostal church was particularly interesting, completed as it was in the art deco style.

Having grown up in the shoe business, I was interested to see all of the signs promoting shoes. (I actually sold Freeman shoes.) The yellow Freeman sign is an example of a sign that transitions from the neon era to the next era, the plastic sign. Plastic signs, lit with fluorescent lights, began to be introduced in the mid-1940s and predominated until the introduction of LEDs.

The collection includes two signs that took me back to my youth. Signs for the Howard Johnson’s restaurant used to dot the country’s highways. Today, there is only one such restaurant left, in Lake Placid, New York.

Simple Simon met a pieman, going to the Fair.

The museum also includes a McDonald’s sign, which as been restored to its original condition. Who remembers the “Speedee Service System,” and a 15 cent hamburger?

The McDonald’s sign was acquired from a franchisee in Huntsville, Alabama. The local community tried to raise funds to restore the sign and keep it in Huntsville, but the effort was unsuccessful.

Rohs Hardware was a store in the Over the Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati. When the building was repurposed, the museum acquired the sign and the entire front of the building which was constructed of porcelain.

Here’s a few, quite recognizable signs from the plastic era.

The museum continues to add to its collection. These items are recent acquisitions awaiting permanent display space.

There are several versions of Big Boy around the country. This is an early version of the Frische’s Big Boy, with red hair and a slingshot in his back pocket to symbolize his mischievous nature. Today, the hair is black, the slingshot is gone, and Big Boy has a more svelte physique.

Another sign that has disappeared from the roadside.

This sign was made for the owner of the Satellite Shopland in Anaheim, California, by a local metalworker who designed and built it in his garage.

The American Sign Museum is a great nostalgia trip for us Boomers and a fascinating look at the history of signs in the 20th century. It is well worth the visit if you are in the Cincinnati area.