The Birches of Houdek Dunes

On Saturday, I hiked in the Houdek Dunes Natural Area, north of Leland, Michigan. One of the interesting features of Houdek Dunes is the presence of very old white birch trees. Birch trees are a transitional tree in the succession of the forest. You generally see them in parts of the dunes where the forest has begun to take hold.

The trails at Houdek Dunes pass through a mature forest of beech and maple trees. But, in the valleys of the dunes are white birches that are over 100 years old. That is extraordinary for a birch tree.

Time, however, catches up with these old birches and more and more you are likely to see them lying on the forest floor.

The innards of a fallen birch tree decay before its bark. Strewn throughout the forest you see the white remains of a once stately tree.

Of course, the rotting tree provides nutrients to the soil and other vegetation in the area.

And, while the forest is now composed primarily of beeches and maples, you will see an occasional young birch tree fighting to establish itself in the understory.

The birch tree below is my favorite along the trail. Clearly past its prime, it shows evidence of the struggle to compete in the forest. Barren of leaves now, a standing skeleton of a tree, its roots once grabbed for the soil and a branch reached out to find the light among the surrounding red pines. I visit this tree each time I return to Houdek Dunes. I suspect that one of these days, I will find that branch lying on the ground, another victim in the story of forest succession.

For an earlier post on the birches at Houdek Dunes click here.

Going Abstract at Townsend Park

I recently discovered the trail at Townsend Park in Cannonsburg, Michigan. The trail passes through red pine forest on rolling hills. The canopy of the towering trees makes for a relatively clean forest floor, with good sight lines for photography. I visited the trail three times this week and took several photos from this spot.

I attended a workshop recently where one of the presenters discussed multiple exposures and photo montage images. On my visits to the trail this week, I experimented with both. This is a multiple exposure. After taking the first exposure, I shifted the camera to the right for the second.

This next image is a five-shot exposure. I had the camera on a tripod, angled 10 degrees to the left. After each exposure, I angled the camera back to the right 5 degrees.

The next photo is a 3-shot image. After each exposure, I shifted the camera up and to the right a little bit.

For the last image, I created a photo montage from these two images:

I opened both images as layers in Photoshop, with the leaves as the base layer. I then adjusted the blend mode of the trees to get the following image:

I am looking forward to experimenting more with these techniques and exploring the creation of images that are more abstract than my usual work.

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.

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 Spring Morning along Honey Creek

After our 6:00 a.m. commando visit to the grocery store (complete with face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer), I escaped our new Covid-19 reality and went out to Seidman Park with my camera to see what Spring looks like. (Click images to see them full size.)

 

Early May Up North

I traveled north and spent the weekend camped at the D.H. Day Campground at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  This gave me an opportunity to both in the early morning and around sunset.  I started my day on the Grasshopper Loop of the Brown Bridge Quiet Area trail south of Traverse City.  I spent some time waiting in a meadow for the sun to rise to get this shot.  As I anticipated, the rising set this amazing larch tree on fire!Brown Bridge Quiet Area 7934-s

From the meadow I walked along the board walk.

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I seem to be intrigued by roots these days.  This next set of roots appears to be reaching out to me.

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Dutchman’s breeches along the Kettles trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. The U.S. Forest Service site reports that the flower has many different common names around the country. One is ” Little Blue Staggers,” so called because the plant is known to induce a drunken stagger when cattle graze on it because of narcotic and toxic substances in the poppy-related genus.

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Cedars along the shore of Tucker Lake.

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A view of Glen Lake from the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

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Some shots atop Sleeping Bear Dune at sunset.

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The weekend was the weekend of the new moon.  The sky was perfectly clear, offering the perfect opportunity for my first attempt at astrophotography, a photo of the Milky Way.

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A Morning at Saugatuck Dunes State Park

I visited Saugatuck Dunes State Park yesterday morning. Here are some photos.

I arrived early, an hour before sunrise, to take advantage of the light during the “blue hour.”  The water in this vernal pond reflects the brightening sky.Saugatuck Dunes - -2

This tree, with its exposed roots, captured by attention and held it for some time.Saugatuck Dunes - -7839

I experimented with a technique called “photo stacking,” in which I took several photos focusing first close by and then successively deeper into the photograph. Photo stacking is used to get a tack-sharp photo throughout the image.Saugatuck Dunes - -7849

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Birches at Houdek Dunes

Yesterday, I explored the Houdek Dunes Natural Area. Houdek Dunes is five miles north of Leland on M-22. The property is owned by the Leelanau Conservancy. It comprises 330 acres and has about 3 miles of trails that take you through open dunes and several types of forests. What stood out to me yesterday morning were the birch trees, many of which, protected by the dunes, have lived for over 100 years. That’s quite unusual for a birch tree. With their white bark, the birches caught my eye for this series of photographs.Houdek Dunes 7660Houdek Dunes-7685Houdek Dunes 7220-2Houdek Dunes-7726Houdek Dunes-7730

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Cedar Roots

Cedar roots on the shore of Lime Lake in the Teichner Preserve in Leelanau County.  CBS News correspondent Martha Teichner donated the first 20 acres for this 43-acre preserve and then mortgaged her apartment in Manhattan to join with the Jean Raymond Family to double its size.  Teichner was born in Traverse City and graduated from East Grand Rapids High School, before attending Wellesley College and getting an MBA from the University of Chicago.Cedar Roots - Teichner Preserve 7781