I spent this past week in Glen Arbor, Michigan, vacationing with my family. Staying in Glen Arbor had a couple of advantages for my photography. Without having to make a three hour drive to be in position before sunrise, I was able to “sleep in” until 5:00 a.m. each day. Then, I also had the pleasure of shooting sunsets, something I can’t do on my day trips to the peninsula.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The ice along the shore once again made for a chance to photograph small landscapes. . .
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.
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.
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.
A couple of shots of the Tweedle Farm near Empire in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore.
The Empire Lighthouse
Shalda Creek where it passes under Bohemian Road.
The Crystal River at the first portgage.
Rainy with a bit of snow today at Sleeping Bear Dunes. I got caught in quite a downpour when I hiked the Pyramid Point Trail loop (2.7 miles). Fortunately, my camera gear and I were both well under wraps. Lots of leaves and lots of color. A pleasant day of shooting, even if the weather was a bit nasty.
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.
Still, the scene was beautiful and worth the drive.
As I waited for the sun to rise, I watched the setting moon reflected among the reeds in the water.
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.
Turning the camera just a bit gave me this view of Sleeping Bear Dunes.
The farm buildings on Point Oneida are striking in their simplicity.
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.
Imagine what it will look like next week.
I was able to visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore one more time in September. These photographs were shot on Friday, September 15.
I headed north early yesterday morning to the Sleeping Bear Dunes trail in Glen Haven, Michigan. It was a beautiful morning. I had climbed to the top of a dune an hour before sunrise and got to enjoy the stars as I planned my first shots of the day. As always, the stars were beautiful, with Orion and his belt showing off in the southern sky. (Click on a photo to see a larger view.)
After shooting across Sleeping Bear Bay, I headed further along the the Sleeping Bear Dune Trail to the Ghost Forest, which is always fun to shoot in the morning light. To me, photos of these trees that were once buried in sand and have now risen from the dead look best in black and white.
There were few signs of color up north, but I founds some hints of fall at Tucker Lake in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Near Tucker Lake are the headwaters of the Crystal River, a 6.3 mile shallow stream that winds through the forest from Fisher Lake to Lake Michigan. Here is a photograph taken from the bridge where the river first crosses Crystal View Road (County Road 675).
Before leaving Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to return home, I stopped at Lane Road Beach on Sleeping Bear Bay in the Point Oneida Rural Historic District.
The dappled light brought out the colors of the stones in the water.
On my day trips up north, I shoot early in the morning, setting up before dawn (yesterday at 6:15 a.m.), until that special morning light is gone. After about three hours it is off to breakfast and then some additional shooting and scouting. On my way back from the Leelanau Peninsula, I stopped at the High Rollaway Overlook near Buckley. It offers an incredible view of the valley. I wanted to see it for the first time and take a test shot in the hopes that I can return during peak color this fall. The rollaway was used by logging companies in the 18th century. They rolled their logs down the steep embankment to the Manistee River. From there, the logs were floated down river to a sawmill.