Winter Redux

Winter insists on sticking around, much to my delight. Yesterday, I drove up to the Leelanau Peninsula. The forecast was for snow – less than an inch – and blowing wind. I got a little more than I bargained for. There was snow mixed with sleet and considerable wind for most of the three-hour drive. Upon arriving at the coast of Lake Michigan, I decided to backtrack to the forest in the Betsie River Valley where the trees would protect me from the bitter wind.

The Betsie River Valley is not an area I have explored much, although I canoed the length of the Betsie River over a four-day period about 25 years ago. Driving over snow covered country roads, I came upon the Borwell Preserve at Misty Acres on the road that runs along the line between Manistee and Benzie Counties.

The Preserve, which is owned and managed by the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, includes 360 acres of hardwood forest and a farm that is home to a small herd of sustainably managed Belted Galloway cattle. There is a convenient parking area and a short loop trail that runs along the top of a ravine through which a creek makes its way to the Betsie.

The hike begins at the parking lot. Two tenths of a mile along the trail, it splits into a half mile loop.

The windblown snow stuck to the north side of the trees in the forest making for a beautiful walk.

One of my goals for the trip was to find some photos to blend together in a photo montage, something I learned about at a recent photography conference. In the field I felt as though I came up empty, but when I got home and looked at the photos on my screen I saw the potential and created this photo montage by blending a straight shot of the trees in the forest with an intentionally blurred image of yellow leaves that are still hanging on, waiting for spring.

A Few More Winter Photos

We are at the end of February. Meteorological winter ends today in the northern hemisphere. Undoubtedly, we will see more snow and cold weather in March, but according to our local news warmer than normal temperatures are predicted for the next several weeks. For those of us who love winter, this is news is not welcome. But the earth continues to spin and will seasons will continue to change.

I thought I would take this opportunity to post a few photos I took this winter but have not shared on this blog. These images were made at the end of January on the Leelanau Peninsula.

The top row of photos were taken on Loon Lake, where a pair of ice fishers were setting up in the snow. The cherry trees in the second row were farther north on the peninsula as were the grape vines, that are silhouetted against the snow.

Photos from North Unity

North Unity was a community founded in 1855 on Good Harbor Bay in Leelanau County, Michigan. The community was founded by families from Bohemia, which today is part of the Czech Republic and Germany. Francis and Antonia Kraitz were two of the first members of the community. They built this cabin in 1856.

The Kraitz cabin is just inside the border of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. When the National Park Service took possession of the cabin, it was covered with clapboard siding and appeared to be a run-down 1940s-era cottage. But, upon removing the siding, the Park Service found a well-preserved log cabin. The cabin has just recently been restored by volunteers from Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear, a nonprofit partner of the National Park.

The Bohemian community of North Unity was were served by itinerant priests from the Catholic mission at Peshawbestown. Services were conducted in the homes of the congregation until this church building was completed in 1886. Today, the St. Joseph Parish has been merged with St. Rita’s Parish in Maple City. Mass is conducted in the St. Joseph Church only twice a year.

North Unity was established Shalda Creek where it flows into Good Harbor Bay.

This is one of my favorite places in the National Lakeshore to take photographs. The area is changing due to nature’s engineers. Beavers have built a small dam on Shalda Creek flooding the area behind it.

One final shot. This one was taken on Narada Lake. The old North Unity School sits on the shore of Narada Lake. I wasn’t able to get a good photo of it yesterday. (It is basically the same construction as the Kraitz cabin.) But, I thought this image was worth taking.

Ice Jewels in Honey Creek

It seems that “real winter” has arrived at last. We received over a foot of snow in West Michigan this week and have seen the windchill dip to around zero. I headed to Honey Creek and used a long lens to get in close to the ice forming in the stream.

Winter’s end

On the last day before the beginning of Spring, I went looking for some last vestiges of winter. I hiked along the Boardman Valley Trail near Traverse City. The morning was crisp but, after a couple of weeks of warm weather, the only hint of winter appeared to be some residual snow on portions on the trail and a hoar frost that coated the vegetation.

I started my hike while it was still dark. Having never been on the trail before, I wasn’t sure what the view would be when the sun came up. I got for first hint at an overlook along the river’s edge. Not a bad way to start the day.

The railing on the overlook was covered with frost.

The trail follows the river and passes through meadows and through stands of cedar trees.

As I passed through a cedar grove, I noticed a pond glazed with a layer of ice. Initially, I was drawn to this composition.

As I got down to the edge of the pond, I was struck by the patterns of ice and made several images.

Catching this last glimpse of winter was exciting. I, for one, will miss winter’s beauty. But, for now, our hemisphere has tilted toward the sun and I will lean that way as well.

The Platte River and Otter Creek in Winter

I traveled north to the Leelanau Peninsula early Saturday morning. It was a snowy drive and took me about an hour longer than normal. But once I arrived and the sun came up, I was treated to awesome beauty.

My first stop was Point Betsie, shortly before sunrise. I was curious to see whether in the intervening weeks since I last visited (February 2) the ice had built up on the trees and bushes south of the lighthouse. While ice had built up on the breakwaters, the ice that had formed on the trees was not what it was three years ago when I visited in January. Back then the trees were thick with ice and the place was thick with photographers.

I ventured next to the Platte River near the point where it enters Lake Michigan. To get the perspective, I wanted I waded into knee deep snow. The scene was peaceful, interrupted only by a beaver swimming by and two swans that flew overhead making a terrible racket.

The needles of larches, or tamarack trees, typically turn a golden orange and fall to the ground in the fall. They are beautiful trees in their fall colors. This young larch on the river’s edge managed to hang onto its needles as a winter coat.

All along M22 the road and the trees were covered in snow. I seemed to have the place all to myself.

The trees glistened as the sun rose in the east. I pulled to the side of the road on M22 to get this shot of trees in an open field on the edge of the forest.

The scene below is Otter Creek where it crosses Aral Road in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This is the site of the town of Aral, a booming mill town in the 1880s. Nothing remains of the town today except for a large concrete block that likely served as a base for the sawmill that was about 25 yards east of this spot. An old map shows that this area is where the mill pond formed when Otter Creek was dammed.

Today, Otter Creek flows freely into Lake Michigan except, of course, in winter when shore ice builds and obstructs the the creek’s pathway, as shown in this photo. In the background on the right is Empire Bluff.

The Power of the Lake

“I am a lighthouse, worn by the weather and the waves.
And though I am empty, I still warn the sailors on their way.”

The Lighthouse’s Tale, by Nickel Creek

The Point Betsie lighthouse is located a few short miles north of Frankfort, Michigan, just west of Crystal Lake. It is a favorite location for photographers, especially in winter when the spray from the crashing waves covers the grounds with ice. To date, this winter has been so mild that little ice has formed, but Point Betsie never disappoints. I visited Point Betsie on Ground Hog’s Day, arriving shortly before 7:00 a.m. to scout it out and take some photos.

The lighthouse was completed in 1858 at the southern entrance to the treacherous Manitou Passage. Today, the Manitou Passage Underwater Preserve is a popular location for divers to explore 33 shipwrecks. A keeper’s house adjacent to the lighthouse, a fog horn and oil house were all added later. The lighthouse was automated in 1983, but the lighthouse was staffed by the Coast Guard until 1996. Today the lighthouse is owned by Benzie County and cared for by the Friends of the Point Betsie Lighthouse.

The Point takes a beating from the waves. The lighthouse is protected by a seawall of steel, an apron on concrete that extends from the seawall up to the lighthouse, and a series of steel breakwaters all of which date back 75 years. But the shoreline protection system is in need of repair as Lake Michigan’s historically high waters take their toll. The concrete apron has an widening crack, which gets exacerbated in the winter when ice forms and expands. Efforts are underway to raise $1 million to repair the protection system.

Even when riled up by the wind and waves, Lake Michigan is a beautiful shade of blue.

The fury of the lake is awe inspiring. On Ground Hog’s Day, the wind was out of the north at a steady 20 mph, gusting to close to 30 mph.

Here are a few sequences of waves crashing against the breakwaters.

Before leaving to explore other areas, I took one last shot of the lighthouse standing guard as it has for 163 years. Point Betsie is one of the country’s most photographed lighthouses. There are many photographers who have captured images here. The thrill of photographing at Point Betsie is not so much the chance to get a photo no one else has captured, but the excitement of feeling nature’s power and capturing it in an image.

Enjoying winter shooting

Wintry weather returned to West Michigan this week. I love to do photography in the winter and, since I had some extra time, I took some long drives scouting shooting opportunities. On Tuesday, I drove all around the farming country east of our town. I had hopes of finding a snowy scene of interest. I found a couple, but in each instance determined it wasn’t safe to stand by the side of the slippery road with my tripod. Eventually, having lost hope, I headed home when I passed a woodlot that caught my eye. I did a u-turn and parked by car on a side road and hiked back to the woodlot.

Two things struck me about the scene. First, the trees were all planted in a straight rows as we typically see with plantation pines, but these were deciduous trees. Second, the trees were covered with snow on the north side, unusual since our storms typically come from the west or southwest.

On Thursday, I drove to Duck Lake State Park on Lake Michigan, about an hour from our home. I had a specific photo in mind. There’s a tree that hangs out over the water on a point of land. I hoped that the the rocks along the shore line would be covered with snow and ice. We haven’t seen much in the way of shore ice during this mild winter, but I was pleased to find the snowy scene I hoped for.

I came away with two photographs, the one above in color and the one below, a more dramatic shot, in black and white.

I drove home feeling rewarded and grateful for the luxury of time that allowed me the opportunity to explore.

Winter at the Sixth Street Dam

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.

Sixth Street Dam 2937-

Grand Rapids Prismatica-2928

Sixth Street Dam 2898-2898

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Grand Rapids Prismatica-2891

Sixth Street Dam 2875-

Grand Rapids Prismatica-

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A sudden burst of sunlight

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.

Basch Road Farm-1-2

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.

Basch Road Farmhouse-7416