Where Are the Fall Colors?

Yesterday, I left Grand Rapids at 4:20 a.m. to get to Bass Lake in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore an hour before sunrise.  I had shot some photos at Bass Lake and the adjacent Otter Lake back in July. Back then I thought what a great place to visit in the fall, when the trees had some color.  Driving north yesterday in the dark, I was filled with anticipation. But, when the sun came up, the trees gave only a hint of fall.  That was true throughout the park – it is all still really green.

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Still, the scene was beautiful and worth the drive.

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As I waited for the sun to rise, I watched the setting moon reflected among the reeds in the water.

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After breakfast, I headed over to Point Oneida, an area the always intrigues me.  Driving along Baker Road, a two track road that bisects the point, I spied this view of the Carsten Burfield farm, with Lake Michigan in the background.

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Turning the camera just a bit gave me this view of Sleeping Bear Dunes.

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The farm buildings on Point Oneida are striking in their simplicity.

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While there was little color at Sleeping Bear, I witnessed some beautiful color on the drive home.  I stopped by the High Rollaway Overlook near Buckley, which I visited in September. Though not at peak, the colors were still breathtaking.

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Imagine what it will look like next week.

Closer to home

I stayed home this weekend, without plans to shoot.  But, the fog early yesterday had me running for my camera and heading up to Pickerel Lake.  Along the way I stopped to take a photo of this red gate that has always caught my attention.IMG_9749_50_51

At Pickerel Lake, the fog did not disappoint. (Click on photos to see larger.)

I headed back this morning to take these two photos.  I attempted them yesterday, but was disappointed with the results.

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Another trip to Sleeping Bear

Once again, I headed up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore very early yesterday morning, this time to catch the sunrise on Otter and Bass Lakes. The two lakes are a stone’s throw from each other south of Empire. After breakfast, I took a short walk up to Lookout Point on the Bay View Trail and then a longer hike on the trail at the old Treat Farm. That trail climbs up a dune the top of which offers a dramatic 360 degree view. After lunch, I came home along M22, through Frankfort, Arcadia, Portage Lake and Manistee, stopping to climb the Arcadia Bluff lookout. A spectacular day up north.

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Bass Lake

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The view from Lookout Point on the Bay View Trail 

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The Treat Farm Trail

The path to the Treat Farm begins at the Tweedle Farm on Norconk Road. The Tweedle family settled in the area around 1840 and established their farm at this location around 1895.

(The following photos have captions. To read them, scroll over the photo.)

The Arcadia Bluff Overlook

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Once More to the North

Once more to the north to shoot photos. Since the sun rises earlier each day, I had to get up even earlier to make the three hour drive and get to my shooting location before sunrise. Up at 3:00 a.m. and out the door by 3:15.

I started shooting on Good Harbor Bay, where Shalda Creek enters Lake Michigan. I had to share the area with a beaver, who was none too happy with my presence. I enjoyed shooting in “blue hour” before sunrise . . .

and the “golden hour” immediately after sunrise.

All that was missing, besides a good cup of coffee, was some clouds to make the sky more interesting.

From there, I headed back towards Glen Arbor, stopping at the Olsen Farm and along Thorosen Road to take a shot I envisioned a couple of weeks ago, when I was scouting the territory.

I next put on my waders and set up my tripod in the middle of the Crystal River, a meandering river that winds back and forth for seven miles from its origin on Fisher Lake to where it enters Lake Michigan.

The final stop was the Empire Bluff Trail, which offered a spectacular view of Sleeping Bear Dune.

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“Doctoring” Photos

My coffee buddies kid me about having to “doctor” my photographs to make them come out well.  I have explained that taking a photo is just the start of creating the final product. Post production is every bit as important as pushing the shutter in the creative process. I’ve got Ansel Adams on my side.  He famously spent hours in his darkroom to create the photos we recognize today as masterpieces. For Adams, “The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score, and the print the performance.”

My photographic process begins in the camera, of course.  I shoot in RAW rather than JPG. A JPG file is itself an edited and compressed file.  The file is edited according the the camera’s algorithm.  A RAW file, on the other hand, is unedited.  It records what the camera saw without editorial correction  Because it is unedited and uncompressed, a RAW file contains a wealth of information that can be used in post processing.

Here’s an example of a RAW file of a photo I took Saturday morning before sunrise in Chicago. The photo is a six second exposure taken with a wide angle (12mm) lens on a crop sensor camera.  When I first looked at the photo on my computer screen, I saw that the horizon line was tilted. A closer look found something more serious – the buildings are all leaning, converging toward the center.  As shot-6244

You can see this better in the following photograph. The yellow lines point ever so slightly toward the center rather than being straight up and down. You can see this most clearly by looking at the lines nearest the left- and right-hand boarders.RAW 3-6244In addition to a tilting horizon and the converging lines, the photo has a couple of other issues that I took care of in post processing.  First, the horizon line is too close to dead center. Placing the horizon so close to the middle leaves a vast expanse of featureless water in virtually half the photo.  The photo is also very dark, although the Trump Hotel in the middle of the frame is nicely highlighted by the pre-dawn light.

Using Adobe Lightroom, I straightened the horizon, selected a closer crop, and used the “Transform” tool to eliminate the convergence.  I then increased the exposure of the entire photo by half a stop, inched up the contrast (+10) and clarity (+20) sliders, and opened up the shadows (+76).  After increasing the exposure, the sky was too bright, so I reduced the blue luminance a bit (-5). Finally, I added a little (-11) post-crop vignette.

With that, my surgery was complete.  Here’s the final product.  Final Final-6244

Post-production is an essential task for the serious photographer.  The camera has its limitations; it doesn’t record things the way we see them with the naked eye. A little “doctoring” is essential.

Photos from the North Country

Photos shot near Traverse City, on the Leelanau Peninsula, and at Point Betsie.

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Round barn on Red School Road, Grand Traverse County
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The breakwater on Van’s Beach at Leland
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The breakwater
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Looking towards Whaleback
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Ice on the breakwater
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Van’s Beach
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Boekelodge, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
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The Point Betsie Lighthouse