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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Point Betsie and beyond

I drove up to the Leelanau Peninsula early yesterday morning and stopped at the Point Betsie Lighthouse along the way.  The lighthouse was constructed in 1858.  In the winter it becomes a magical place of ice and light.  Point Betsie Lighthouse -7882aPoint Betsie Lighthouse -7851aPoint Betsie Lighthouse -7844aPoint Betsie Lighthouse -7841aPoint Beetsie Lighthouse- 7866aPoint Betsie Lighthouse-7897

A couple of shots of the Tweedle Farm near Empire in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.

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The Empire Lighthouse

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Shalda Creek where it passes under Bohemian Road.

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The Crystal River at the first portgage.

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Point Lobos and Soberanes Point

Point Lobos B&W-2034-2I recently attended a conference on the Monterey Peninsula in California.  This gave me the opportunity to shoot some photos at Point Lobos and Soberanes Point near Carmel-by-the-Sea.  I was excited to have this chance. The great photographer Edward Weston (1886-1958) lived nearby in a cabin on Wildcat Hill, beginning in 1938.  Weston was a spiritual leader of the Straight Photography movement.  Point Lobos was a frequent subject of Weston’s work in the later years of his life.  Of the cypress trees on the point he wrote:

Poor abused cypress, — photographed in all their picturesqueness by tourists, ‘pictorialists,’ etched, painted, and generally vilified by every self-labeled ‘artist.’ But no one has done it — to my knowledge — as I have, and will.

I took that not as a challenge but as an opportunity to draw inspiration from the rocks, trees and water that once inspired Weston.

Today, Point Lobos is a state reserve with numerous trails over its 554 acres.

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I hiked the Cypress Grove Trail, which passes through one of only two remaining naturally growing stands of Monterey cypress trees anywhere on Earth.

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The trail leads to the Pinnacle and North Point.

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The twisted rings in this cypress root tell the tale of a life battling the elements on Point Lobos.

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Cypress Cove as seen along the Cypress Grove Trail.

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The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a refuge for Harbor Seals, Southern Sea Otters, and California Sea Lions, among many other species.  These sea lions are resting in China Cove along the Bird Island Trail.

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After his death, Weston’s ashes were spread at Point Lobos on what is known as Weston Beach, where I took these photos.

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Unfortunately, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve closes each day at 5:00 p.m in November, so it is not possible to shoot at sunset.  Farther down Route 1, however is the Rocky Ridge Trail at Soberanes Point.  On my last evening on the peninsula, I headed there to take these shots:

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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.