Chasing Fall Colors

On Saturday I headed to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore hoping to find fall colors. I got an early start, as usual, arriving an hour before sunrise. Before the sun came up I shot several photos, experimenting with intentional camera movement. No two photos are the same. And sometimes the result is surprising.

The forecast was for a cloudless sky, which was basically true. But this band of clouds appeared and stretched across the sky.

As the band of clouds moved south, it caught the light of the sun, which was still below the horizon.

Shalda Creek flows into Good Harbor Bay. The salmon were running, heading upstream to spawn.

In the northern part of the park, the trees had not reached their peak color, but I was able to isolate some patches of color reflected in Bass Lake.

Birch trees at Point Oneida. The trees are no longer alive. They have been drowned by an expanding beaver pond and now serve as food for the beavers.

Looking down at North Bar Lake from stop number 10 on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This view shows just how green it was close to Lake Michigan.

The fall colors became much more vivid as I got a bit more inland from Lake Michigan. So I stopped at the Brown Bridge Quiet Area near Traverse City for some quick shots before coming home.

The meadow in the Brown Bridge Quiet Area used to be under a pond that was created when they dammed the Boardman River. The dam was removed in the summer of 2012.

Esch Road Beach

“Morning is when I’m awake, and there is dawn in me.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I spent the last two Saturday mornings on a Lake Michigan beach at the end of Esch Road in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Why go back twice in such a short period of time? As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, ““No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” The same is true for visiting Lake Michigan.

The morning of my first visit was moody and gray. A strong wind maintained a steady barrage of waves, which created the abstracts of sand that I posted last week.

The lake is at its highest point in at least 35 years. Strong winds and high waves have eroded the dunes causing many trees (and some homes) to lose their footing, falling into the lake.

Just south of the end of Esch Road, Otter Creek enters the big lake.

Returning to the beach a week later, I found a more uplifting sky. As the sun approached the horizon, it ignited the passing clouds.

A week of strong winds and waves had moved this tree, which only a week before commanded the view at the mouth of Otter Creek, and begun to bury it in sand.

Unlike a week before when a view of the mouth of Otter Creek only hinted at the warmth of the rising sun, the rising sun lit up the passing clouds.

When photographing the morning light, it pays to turn around. Watching the sky light up over Otter Creek was wonderful, but if I hadn’t turned around I would have missed a most amazing light show in the sky over Platte Bay to the southwest, complete with the base of a rainbow in the distance.

Views of the Leelanau

After months of working at home, we spent a week physical distancing in Leelanau County.  I rose early each morning to shoot as the sun rose.

Sunrise in Glen Haven

One of my goals for the week was to practice panoramic photographs.  It involves taking several overlapping photographs and stitching them together using Photoshop.  I had some pretty dramatic sunrises looking across Sleeping Bear Bay toward Pyramid Point.

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Glen Haven was once a bustling port.  One of the remaining buildings in the village the Glen Haven Canning Company, owned by D.H. Day.

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Dew on the beach grass creates specular highlights in this photo.

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Even without dramatic clouds, the sunrise on Sleeping Bear Bay is breathtaking.

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Finding My Roots

Lately, I have been intrigued by the roots of trees. So another goal for our trip was to try to take some interesting photos of them.  I visited Bass Lake, where the shore is lined by cedar trees.

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I also visited the Teichner Preserve on Lime Lake where cedars again line the shore.

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These cedar roots are the last thing keeping these three trees from falling into the lake.

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I took this shot along the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail in Glen Arbor.

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Port Oneida Rural Historic District

I return frequently to the Port Oneida Rural Historic District, where the farms were established in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  For a time, the National Park Service was letting the farms decay, with the intention of turning Sleeping Bear Dunes into a wilderness area.  That plan has changed, and with the help of Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear, a not-for-profit, the farms buildings are being restored and preserved.

This is a panoramic photo of the outbuildings of the Thoreson Farm.  The red building is the granary.

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I have taken so many photos of this granary, one of the few remaining buildings on the Peter and Jenny Burfiend Farm.

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Omena, Michigan

Omena, Michigan, is a tiny town on the Leelanau Peninsula, between Sutton’s Bay and Northport.  It has a few charming buildings, including the local post office . . .

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and the Omena Bay Country Store, which has unfortunately closed.

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The Omena Presbyterian Church was dedicated in 1858.  It holds services only in the summer, with visiting ministers.

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But, services were suspended this year because of the Covid-19 virus.

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Photographing the church, I noticed the cemetery behind it.  The cemetery was unlike any I have visited before.  Most of the graves were marked by blank, roughcut  headstones.

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A marker explained.

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Sunset over Lake Michigan and South Manitou Island

One of our traditions when vacationing in Glen Arbor is watching the sun set each evening.  The show was dramatic on our second evening,  as the sun set amidst a clearing storm._MG_5837-Edit-5 Noise reduction

Each subsequent evening offered a different show.

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A Hint of Spring in February

What a weekend. Two days of perfectly clear skies. Temperatures in the 40s. I used the occasion to head north to the Leelanau Peninsula . I had hoped for some dramatic wave action. The forecast of a steady 20 MPH wind gusting to near 40 got me hoping some big waves.

I started my day at Point Betsie, which is known for big waves and incredible ice formations. There were waves, but not the monsters I had hoped for.

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Instead, Point Betsie was remarkably serene. There were waves hitting the sea wall that has been built to protect the lighthouse. Still, I had to keep wiping my lens to keep it dry, and I too got wet from the spray.

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But, I had Point Betsie to myself for nearly two hours.

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The beach at Point Betsie is littered with trees that have fallen into Lake Michigan. The Lake is at or near its highest level since 1986, chewing away at beaches and toppling not only trees but also houses into the lake. The fact that Lake Michigan did not freeze this winter has only exacerbated the problem.

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After Point Betsie, I stopped at Esch Road Beach, Empire Beach and Lane Beach on Point Oneida in search of big waves, but nothing. So I drove up to Leland.

Historic Fishtown has been in the news for months now because of high water threatening the old fishing shanties. I wanted to see it for myself. The water wasn’t as high as I anticipated. Nonetheless, work continues to save Fishtown. They removed the Cheese Shanty this winter to rebuilt and raise the foundation it stands on.

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Leland is the home port of the Mishe Mokwa (mother bear). which ferries day hikers and campers to South Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.
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Pancake ice in the Leland Harbor.
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Leland is also home to Van’s Beach. The water is an amazing shade of aqua.
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Whaleback hill juts out into Lake Michigan at the south end of Van’s Beach.
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Ice on Van’s Beach and on the breakwater that guards the entrance to the Leland harbor.
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On the way home, I stopped once again at Point Betsie. The wind had picked up during the afternoon and I hoped that meant big waves backlit by the setting sun.
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I wasn’t disappointed. They weren’t the giants I had hoped for, but they were enough for me to declare victory and begin the 3 hour drive home.
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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.)

The Faust Cabin at Inspiration Point

If you have visited Inspiration Point on Big Glen Lake, you have undoubtedly seen the old log cabin. I set out yesterday to take some photos and learn about its history. The cabin was built for Mary and George Faust, of Chicago, in 1929, on land purchased from D.H. Day. The architect was Frank Sohm, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Mary lived there nine months each year until her death in 1977. Her children continued to use the cabin for some years before selling it to the National Park Service in order to preserve it._MG_9464-HDR

_MG_9472A lily nicely framed by a basement window of the Faust cabin

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Just steps away from the cabin is this stone bench overlooking Big Glen Lake.

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Morning in the Point Oneida Rural Historic District

I spent yesterday morning photographing in the Point Oneida Rural Historic District of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We’ve had so many clear blue skies lately, it was exciting to have some clouds to bring some interest to the sky. As I drove up from Grand Rapids, I wasn’t sure where I was going to start photographing, but once I saw the clouds passing by the moon in the western sky, I knew exactly the shot I wanted to start with.

The granary on the Pete and Jennie Burfiend farm in the Point Oneida Rural Historic District has a special charm and simplicity.  This photo was taken 45 forty-five minutes before sunrise, and the clouds quickly moved by the waning moon._MG_9295-2

I found my next composition in the field behind the house and farm buildings on the Thoreson farm.  Here, the rising sun reaches the remnants of the “new orchard.”_MG_9372

While waiting for the light to strike the tree at the center of the photo, I noticed the setting moon over the pasture and the birches that line the road.

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I have had my eye on an old McCormick-Deering hand-crank tractor in the barn of the John and May Burfiend farm on Port Oneida Road.  It always seems to be in the shadows as I go by. But, yesterday the sun was just right to light up the grill of this beauty.

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Also along the Port Oneida Road is the farm of Carsten and Elizabeth Burfiend.  The farm includes two houses and a number of outbuildings.  Here’ the shop and the granary.

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The barn on the Burfiend farm is gone but the foundation remains.

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A roller is among the old farm equipment left of the farm.

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Here’s the entrance to the brooder coop and a few detail shots.

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(Click on an image to see it larger.)

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Howard and Orpha Burfiend built this house in 1928.

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The Burfiend’s beach on Sleeping Bear Bay.
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Left behind

The Point Oneida district of the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore was home to many farms begun in the second half of the 19th century.  The farms passed down through generations until, in the 1970s, the federal government acquired them as part of the Lakeshore.  Many of the farm buildings still stand, but there are also other artifacts hidden among the grasses and woods.  I went looking for this Buick Eight in the hills above the Martin Basch farm.  I haven’t been able to precisely identify the model or year, but have narrowed it to around 1952-53.Buick Eight circa 1952-2Buick Eight circa 1952-3

Exploring the burn at Sleeping Bear Dunes

The National Park Service conducted the first ever controlled burn in the park in May. The Service burned about 917 acres west of M-22 between Trail’s End Road on the north and Peterson Road on the South. I visited the area on Saturday.

The morning started at Bass Lake at the end of Trail’s End Road.  The sky was covered with clouds, but a hint of reflected sunlight peaked through the clouds about twenty minutes before sunrise.

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The shore of Bass Lake is lined with cedar trees.  The roots of this upturned cedar are a work of nature’s art.

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As I hiked the trail from Bass Lake to the burn area, I at first did not recognize it. I had imagined that the large trees would be burned more than they were. The leaves covering the ground had not burned. And ferns had spouted.

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The area south of Deer Lake was in the burn area, but this small area was spared the flames.

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After exploring the burn area and grabbing breakfast in Glen Arbor, I went to the dune overlook on the Pierce Stocking Drive, hoping to get photos of a storm coming. The storm, however, passed far to the south.

The roots of these trees at the dune overlook on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive have a precarious hold on the shifting sand.

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The struggle of plants to stabilize the dunes is ongoing.

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These trees give a large hint to the direction of the prevailing winds at the top of Sleeping Bear Dunes.Sleeping Bear Dunes 8439 b+w