The Platte River and Otter Creek in Winter

I traveled north to the Leelanau Peninsula early Saturday morning. It was a snowy drive and took me about an hour longer than normal. But once I arrived and the sun came up, I was treated to awesome beauty.

My first stop was Point Betsie, shortly before sunrise. I was curious to see whether in the intervening weeks since I last visited (February 2) the ice had built up on the trees and bushes south of the lighthouse. While ice had built up on the breakwaters, the ice that had formed on the trees was not what it was three years ago when I visited in January. Back then the trees were thick with ice and the place was thick with photographers.

I ventured next to the Platte River near the point where it enters Lake Michigan. To get the perspective, I wanted I waded into knee deep snow. The scene was peaceful, interrupted only by a beaver swimming by and two swans that flew overhead making a terrible racket.

The needles of larches, or tamarack trees, typically turn a golden orange and fall to the ground in the fall. They are beautiful trees in their fall colors. This young larch on the river’s edge managed to hang onto its needles as a winter coat.

All along M22 the road and the trees were covered in snow. I seemed to have the place all to myself.

The trees glistened as the sun rose in the east. I pulled to the side of the road on M22 to get this shot of trees in an open field on the edge of the forest.

The scene below is Otter Creek where it crosses Aral Road in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This is the site of the town of Aral, a booming mill town in the 1880s. Nothing remains of the town today except for a large concrete block that likely served as a base for the sawmill that was about 25 yards east of this spot. An old map shows that this area is where the mill pond formed when Otter Creek was dammed.

Today, Otter Creek flows freely into Lake Michigan except, of course, in winter when shore ice builds and obstructs the the creek’s pathway, as shown in this photo. In the background on the right is Empire Bluff.

Enjoying winter shooting

Wintry weather returned to West Michigan this week. I love to do photography in the winter and, since I had some extra time, I took some long drives scouting shooting opportunities. On Tuesday, I drove all around the farming country east of our town. I had hopes of finding a snowy scene of interest. I found a couple, but in each instance determined it wasn’t safe to stand by the side of the slippery road with my tripod. Eventually, having lost hope, I headed home when I passed a woodlot that caught my eye. I did a u-turn and parked by car on a side road and hiked back to the woodlot.

Two things struck me about the scene. First, the trees were all planted in a straight rows as we typically see with plantation pines, but these were deciduous trees. Second, the trees were covered with snow on the north side, unusual since our storms typically come from the west or southwest.

On Thursday, I drove to Duck Lake State Park on Lake Michigan, about an hour from our home. I had a specific photo in mind. There’s a tree that hangs out over the water on a point of land. I hoped that the the rocks along the shore line would be covered with snow and ice. We haven’t seen much in the way of shore ice during this mild winter, but I was pleased to find the snowy scene I hoped for.

I came away with two photographs, the one above in color and the one below, a more dramatic shot, in black and white.

I drove home feeling rewarded and grateful for the luxury of time that allowed me the opportunity to explore.

Once in a Blue Moon

On Saturday, we had a full moon for the second time in October. The moon set at 8:10 a.m., so I thought it would be good time to capture a photo of the moon close to the horizon. Things didn’t quite go as I had planned, but it was a wonderful morning for photography.

Prior to my trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, I used a couple of apps to find the right spot to shoot the setting moon. I needed something of interest in the foreground. What I hadn’t considered was that it would be dark and cold. I hadn’t given enough thought about how to balance a dark foreground against the brilliant light of a full moon. Still, I got this shot, which I like very much.

I chose to shoot the setting moon at a familiar spot, the Peter and Jenny Burfiend farm at Point Oneida in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Sunrise would follow the moonset by about 15 minutes, so as I stood in a field, the sky became brighter, allowing enough light that the granary was no longer silhouetted.

According to a map I have of Point Oneida, this is the old pig house on the Burfiend farm.

As the sun came up, I was surprised to see the beautiful fall colors still on the trees. This is the house on the Burfiend farm.

After the sun came up, I stopped by Bass Lake. I had stopped there three weeks earlier when the colors were just coming on

The colors were stunning.

After stopping at Bass Lake, I drove to nearby Narada Lake. The corner of the lake near the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail had a thin layer of ice that would disappear later in the day.

The view across Narada Lake was every bit as stunning as that on Bass Lake.

In the shadows of Narada Lake I saw this reflection of the leaves and a single dead tree that was bleached white.

Lily pads were frozen in ice.

This is the barn on the Lawr farm, which adjoins the Burfiend farm.

George and Louisa Lawr established the farm in the 1890s and and continued to farm there until 1945.

My last site for shooting was along Westman Road, in the wetlands north of Tucker Lake. These berries caught my eye.

The bright yellow tree is a tamarack, also known as an Eastern Larch. Tamaracks are conifers that grow in the wet soils around swamps and bogs and near lakes. Unlike other conifers, each fall their needles turn bright yellow and fall to the ground.

These maples leaves had fallen onto the ice in the wetlands near Tucker Lake.

The weather forecast called for snow on the Leelanau Peninsula last evening. I am sure the next time I venture north, the area will present starkly different things to photograph.

Fall Colors on Hall Lake

I visited the Yankee Springs Recreational Area yesterday, south of Grand Rapids, to catch another glimpse of beautiful fall colors. I set up on the edge of Hall Lake to see what the morning light would bring.

Dew on these branches that overhang Hall Lake catch the first morning light against a backdrop of mist and fall colors.

Reflections of the clouds as they catch the first rays of sunlight.

When the sun rose, the riot of color was revealed.

While I was out seeking fall colors, this scene of leave in the shallows of Hall Lake caught my eye and looked best to me as a black and white image.

“Our Magnificent Planet”

I submitted three photographs to Lenswork Magazine today for possible inclusion in a book they will publish this fall titled, “Our Magnificent Planet.” They will select 300 photographs from those submitted. Fingers crossed, they will select one of these. (Click on images to see them full size.)

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.)