I drove up to Sleeping Bear in the snow early Saturday morning. The sky was a dull gray and the light was uninspiring. Then all of the sudden the sun broke through for about a half hour. I made the most of it, climbing an 8-foot pile of snow to capture this photo.
I have shot this building several times and always like returning to it. I don’t know what the building was used for. It is adjacent to an old farmhouse, which was equally stunning in the bright sunshine against the dark sky. The red barn was an added accent.
On the 26th and 27th of January, I set out to shoot photos on what was the start of a polar vortex. The temperature was 20 below zero Fahrenheit (actual temperature) when I stopped for gas in Cadillac, Michigan, at 5:30 a.m. When I finally made it to Point Betsie, north of Frankfort, the temperature had risen to 4 above, but with a steady wind at 20 mph gusting into the high 30s, the windchill was well below zero.
The Point Betsie lighthouse is a favorite of photographers in the winter because the area around it becomes covered in ice creating a magical scene. I shot there last January for the first time and found it stunning. Click here to see those photos. I wanted to give it another go this year.
The waters along the coast at Point Betsie always are stunningly vibrant. Here, the waves crash against a breakwater.
I would return to Point Betsie early on Sunday morning, but on Saturday, I made my way up the Leelanau Peninsula to Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, starting at the beach at the end of Esch Road. The shore ice building up on the beach made a great contrast with the dark clouds and light snow over Empire Bluff in the distance.
Otter Creek enters Lake Michigan at the Esch Road beach. Here the creek fights its way through the shore ice.
The fading paint on this old shed on Norconk Road caught my eye.
This tree along the Platte River also caught my eye as a study in tones of gray and white.
Even in winter, the world is not black and white. I made this shot along the Platte, thinking it was not going to amount to much. But when I opened it on the computer, I quite liked the orange and yellow colors with the hint of blue sky peeking through the clouds.
This time of year, the Crystal River is just a sliver of water.
I returned to Point Betsie on Sunday morning. The wind and cold were intolerable. I lost the feeling in my fingers within two minutes. I wanted to catch the waves crashing against the breakwater. With so little light, I pushed the ISO to 400 and shot with a wide open aperture in order to get a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the wave action. I didn’t expect much success but was surprised how well this came out. The red sky to the north was an added bonus.
I wandered north on Saturday, December 22, to do some photography on the first full day of winter. Unlike my usual trips that begin long before dawn, this trip started at 10 a.m. I was at Point Betsie by 1:00 p.m. On such a gloomy day, it didn’t matter that I was shooting at mid day. There is still so much beauty on a cloudy day. And I found lots of it on the Platte River as it prepares to flow into Lake Michigan. But, my intention in starting out late was to shoot at dusk and after sunset to capture a photo of Art’s Tavern, festively lit for the holidays, and Fishtown in Leland, which is also sporting festive, though less garish, lights.
You may remember from my photos of the Point Betsie lighthouse last year how it gets consumed by ice. Well, winter is being very slow in coming and there is just a little bit of ice beginning to form. You have to start somewhere.
The Platte River
The Platte River flows into Lake Michigan at the south end of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. As it approaches the lake, it passes some low sand dunes. The ice forming on the grasses on the river’s edge intrigued me — like diamonds forming on the shore.
The reflection of the dunes in the slow moving river caught my eye.
Art’s Tavern, Glen Arbor, Michigan
It’s always worth the drive to Art’s Tavern. But Art’s gets bonus points this time of year for its festive decorations.
Fishtown, Leland, Michigan
In the latter part of the 1800s, Leland became a fishing town for white settlers on the Leelanau Peninsula. They joined native people who had fished Lake Michigan for hundreds of years. The shanties in Fishtown began to be constructed at the turn of the 20th century. The Janice Sue and the Joy are two fishing tugs that still conduct commercial fishing operations out of the Leland harbor.
I left home at about 2:45 a.m. yesterday to get to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore at least an hour before dawn. I wanted a little extra time, since I hadn’t planned where I was going to set up. The weather forecast called for partially cloudy skies. When I arrived at Glen Haven, the morning sky was a dark as could be. It became clear that there would be no colorful sunrise. The only question was whether the clouds would be at all interesting. I decided to set up on Good Harbor Bay. If the sky was dull, I could always go in close at Shalda Creek or try for a woodlands shot along the Good Harbor Bay Trail.
To my great pleasure, when the sun came up (behind the clouds), the clouds revealed a moody structure and the driftwood on the beach made for foreground interest.
This driftwood sits in Shalda Creek as it approaches Good Harbor Bay in the background.
After grabbing breakfast at Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor, I returned to Good Harbor Bay to hike the Good Harbor Bay Trail. The trail is an easy 2.8 miles, with no elevation gain. The trail is interesting as the varieties of trees keeps changing along the way. I was looking for a good woodlands shot, but finding order in the chaos of a forest isn’t as easy as you might think. I finally decided to take a few shots of the trail itself.
Before leaving Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, I stopped by the Point Oneida farm district. I like this stand of birches that have been drowned by the expanding wetlands the beavers have created in the area. I thought I would try shooting it in black-and-white.
Driving home on the Benzonia Trail (Benzie County Road 677), I was this scene just north of Fowler Road. I did a quick u-turn to catch these shots. Can’t decide whether I like the photo better in landscape or portrait mode.
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.