Winter has been pretty tame here in West Michigan. Yesterday morning, though, we had a good burst of snow that gave us a few inches and made for a productive photo shoot at the Sixth Street Dam. The first dam in the location was built of stone, gravel, logs and brush in 1844. It was replaced by a wooden dam in 1866, constructed by the Water Power Company. As factories along the river diverted water for their uses, the flow of the river diminished and the water became more and more polluted. The dam was replaced by the current dam in the 1920s, as part of a beautification project. Plans are underway to remove the dam and bring back the rapids for which the city was named. A history of the rapids in the Grand River can be found here.
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.
These photos were taken on the beach at Muskegon State Park looking out over the frozen shore of Lake Michigan. I arrived just as the sun was rising above the horizon. The sun caught illuminated the clouds to the west and the tops of the mounds of ice that have formed on the lake.
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.
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.
Yesterday was a gray winter’s day. Early in the day, I set out to shoot some landscape photos. The trees were flocked with a new coat of snow, but the light was so diffuse that the photos all looked flat and dull. So I shifted gears and decided to look more closely at the landscapes and find mini-landscapes in the details. I headed to one of my favorite spots, Honey Creek, for these shots. (Click on images to see them larger.)