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 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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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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