It’s that time of year again

Sunrise reflection on Pete’s Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, near Munising, Alger County, Michigan

Fall.  Or, autumn.  Time for vivid colors.  Crisp air.  Changes of season.  Everybody, it seems, loves this time of year for photography.  I certainly do.  I get more excited for fall than I do for any other time of year.

Here’s yet another shot that I took about 9 years ago, and didn’t do anything with until just recently.  Again, in looking through old photos I saw a new potential in this one and decided to go with it.  I think it came out pretty well.  I’m especially pleased with the reflections on the lake.

On a side note, I have started a new blog.  See, I am something of a curmudgeon, so I started “The Grump”.  I had to spell it with a ‘k’, though… … as the proper spelling was already taken.  That’s ok, I can say I did it on purpose because I’m Ken with a ‘k’, also.  Actually, I was surprised that this one was available.  Anyway, check it out when you get a chance.  It’s intended to be fun.

Report: Au Train Falls, Michigan

Au Train Falls, Hiawatha National Forest, Alger County, Michigan

This was a different kind of waterfall.  No huge drop-off. I believe the rock is limestone, but am not sure.  It is layered, though, and produced a unique affect.  It’s wide and shallow.  I donned my Muck Boots, waded out, set up my tripod in the middle of the stream, and shot away.  I had to be careful with my footing, but it really wasn’t all that treacherous.

These shots were done in autumn, as you can tell by the leaves on the ground and in the stream bed.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find waterfalls to almost always be more interesting in autumn precisely because of the added color.

Au Train Falls, in the Hiawatha National Forest between Munising and Chatham, has many interesting features, from the natural layout to the man made aspects that almost completely ruin the whole thing.  Personally, I find them inordinately difficult to shoot.  What appears pleasing to the eye isn’t necessarily so in the viewfinder.  Access to the lower falls is easy.  There’s a short road off M-94, and a short walk beyond a gate, and you’re there.  There are man made features such as pipes and buildings that often get in the shot.  There is a lot of “isolating” to get a good shot.  But, when you do get a good shot, it’s a winner!


Sitting under a rock

Chapel Falls with autumn leaves, Section Creek, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Alger County, Michigan

I sat under a rock outcropping for over two hours to get this photo.  Not just this one, of course, I got several very nice shots.  I sat… I played with settings… I experimented… I zoom in… I zoomed out… I used fast shutter speeds to freeze the water… I used slow shutter speeds to get a silky smooth look… I used in-between shutter speeds to get an in-between look (like this one you see here).  I had the roar of the falls in my ears for all that time.  It was like being in a special room with other people around me but also being unable to hear them and having an almost unattached feeling.  And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I think this waterfall, one of my absolute favorites, will get a “report” sometime soon.  I still have another report to do from our trip this past October, too.

In an administrative note, today I have added an email subscription form.  If you desire to get email notification of new posts, please feel free to add your name and email address in the form area at the upper right of this page.  As a devoted privacy advocate I will never share or sell your information.

Oh, and I got wet, too.

The long and winding road

Dirt road in autumn, Alger County, Michigan

Three posts in three days.  I’m on a roll.

Here’s a shot from a workshop I went on in 2008.  First time I had been on such a workshop.  It was a week long, a lot of work, and well worth every moment.  I learned so much, and got a great many fantastic shots.  This is another one that I have not publish before and was just lying around on a hard drive waiting for me to go back in and update my photos and my site.  It really is amazing how photos can come in and out of your interest over time.

This was actually the day before the workshop began.  I got there early and kicked around a bit prior to checking into the motel.  I came across this road and the way it wound its way back into the unknown intrigued me.  The road leads you back into… what?  You don’t know.  You’re left to wonder.

Now, I did drive back there, and the road actually degenerates into nothing passable very quickly.  I didn’t feel safe taking my rather large truck any farther.  Interestingly enough, my judgment may have been a bit too cautious, because right after this somebody else in a bigger truck than mine came down from the beyond and I had to move.  Go figure!

Upside down

Boathouse and autumn reflections at Backbone State Park, near Dundee, Delaware County, Iowa

Is it strange to showcase a fall color photo when spring is just around the corner?  Meh, maybe, but not necessarily.  This is a good time of year to catch up on undone photo processing, so that makes this a previously unpublished photo.  As I said in a post recently sometimes you come across a photo that you hadn’t really noticed before but it sticks out at you this time.  This is another one of those photos.  I liked it, but wasn’t really sure what to do with it, and tonight I had the inspiration.

This is from a road trip that Missy and Wesley and I did about a year and a half ago.  It was a fantastic day.  I have photos of Missy and Wesley taken just after this one that always make me smile when I see them.

The upside-down reflection… without the actual building… is what grabs me here.  It draws you in and makes you think just a bit, but at the same time there are enough elements right-side-up that you know it’s not upside-down.  (Boy, that was long-winded.)

Anyway, Backbone State Park is Iowa’s oldest state park and is only about an hour away.  We need to go more often.  There are also trails and so on to be explored and shot, as well.  It’s almost spring.  It’s almost spring.  It’s almost spring.


Something new

Leaf on fence with fall colors reflecting in background
Leaf on fence with fall colors reflecting in background

Another visit to Thumb Lake, from our Michigan trip last month.   Tried something new with this shot, and wasn’t sure if it’d work out or not.  Fortunately, I think it did.  I had to look at it off-and-on for awhile, and it kept growing on me.  Plus, I had to ponder how I was going to process it, and finally decided on a somewhat minimal approach.  I did do some HDR and tonemapping, but used a preset and didn’t put a lot of thought into it.

I shot this with an 800 ISO, which leaves it a tad grainy when looking close.  The background is purposely out-of-focus.  I like how your eye is drawn to the fence rail and solitary leaf, then your eye gets drawn back into the photo to the blurry yet still distinguishable lake and autumn colors in the trees in the background.

Another aspect that appeals to me more and more is the “layered” look of the far shore(s).  The lake actually does veer off the the left behind the closest trees in the left of the frame.

All is not Lost

Barn and Fall Colors, near East Jordan, Charlevoix County, Michigan
Barn and Fall Colors, near East Jordan, Charlevoix County, Michigan

I was lost.  Yes, I know, the “Human GPS” had lost his way.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Michigan and it is a beautiful state, but it is also a horribly-signed state.  If you’re on the Interstate you’re fine, but venture off the beaten path and you might as well put a blindfold on.  Even maps help only so much.  Just as I was starting to grumble and get irritated for being lost, I spied this gem through some trees and had to stop and investigate.

I took several shots and am going to see what I can do with a long panorama.  It was really a quite nice scene with a large field bounded in something of a bowl shape by trees beginning to turn color.

I guess the moral of the story is that even when lost you should still keep your head up and seek for the best.  You never know what you’ll stumble across.  It just might be a beautiful scene like this.

Report: Yellow Dog Falls

Yellow Dog Falls, Yellow Dog River, near Big Bay, Marquette County, Michigan
Yellow Dog Falls, Yellow Dog River, near Big Bay, Marquette County, Michigan

With this post I will begin a new feature for my blog, the “Report”, where I will give a little more information than just some random musings.  For example, I have three photos today, all of Yellow Dog Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula… or UP.  This one takes a bit of getting to.  Most directions that you will find on the internet make it sound absurdly easy, but it’s not quite so.  Now, Missy and I are both out-of-shape, I’ll admit that, and it’s not too hard, but there is more to it than one would think.  I will give some directions here, so hopefully that will help.  I can say that the locals had nothing but good things to say regarding this location, and I now know why.

Yellow Dog Falls, Yellow Dog River, near Big Bay, Marquette County, Michigan
Yellow Dog Falls, Yellow Dog River, near Big Bay, Marquette County, Michigan

Directions:  Leave Marquette heading toward Big Bay on Big Bay Road, aka County Road (CR) 550.  You will go approximately 21-ish miles then turn left on CR 510.  Go approximately 2 miles to what is described as a fork in the road, but is really a ‘tee’ intersection.  CR AAA veers off to the right and is a nice paved road.  CR 510 takes a sharp left and immediately becomes a decent dirt road under a tree canopy.  Continue down CR 510 for approximately 6.5 miles, to the second river crossing.  This is Yellow Dog River.  There are no signs.  The river looks more like a creek, and you will be at the only guard rails on the road as the road crosses over the river.

Park on the south side of the crossing, on the east side of the road.  The trail begins here.  The trail is approximately 0.7 miles long, but is not always intuitive.  Again, there are no signs or markers, but it is relatively well-traveled and reasonably obvious.  The trail has some fallen trees crossing it, and crosses four streams.  Someone had laid branches across the streams, which helps, though they were only trickles when we hiked.  Just when you begin to wonder if you’re lost you hear the roar of the falls and you’re there.

Yellow Dog Falls, Yellow Dog River, near Big Bay, Marquette County, Michigan
Yellow Dog Falls, Yellow Dog River, near Big Bay, Marquette County, Michigan

And what a “there” it is!  That little creek we saw at the road produces these magnificent waterfall?  Well worth the drive and the hike.  The journey is just enough to keep most people away, but not so difficult as to discourage those who want to see it bad enough.  We had the fortune of being the only people there for a couple hours, which helps my composition immensely.  I was able to “work” the falls for over three hours.  It was quite peaceful and serene.

As a general rule, I prefer the blurred water shots in a waterfall.  I’m not a big fan of “frozen” shots, though I took many of each.  I give three different perspectives here.  The first shot is about half the falls, and is probably my favorite of the three and it gives a nice balance of the waterfall and the fall colors.  The second shot isolates a small area that appealed to me.  The last shot is an overall view done with my fisheye lens, that I think gives a nice perspective.

So many trees, so many roads…


Hwy H-58, Alger County, Michigan
Hwy H-58, Alger County, Michigan

So many trees, so many roads, so many road views of trees.  On the one hand, this type of shot can be very good.  On the other hand, this type of shot can be overdone.  You also have to resist stopping in the middle of the road every time you see a scene that might have potential.  Shoot, if you did stop for everything, you’d never get to your destination and you’d never get shots of all the landmark places that is the purpose of your trip.

We got this shot while driving from Grand Marais and Sable Falls and Munising on County Hwy H-58.  This was also AFTER the four state police vehicles got fed up with the slow driver in front of me and passed us all like the proverbial bat out of hell.

Anyway, they may be common, and they may be somewhat cliche, but I like shots like this, and I like this shot in particular.  There’s something about leading lines that draws me in, literally and figuratively… and, of course, the colors.

Stay tuned for some upcoming waterfall shots.


Tunnel of Trees, by someone else
Tunnel of Trees, by someone else

This top photo (which is NOT mine, for full disclosure) is what I expected for the “Tunnel of Trees” when we started planning our fall color photo trip, and this was going to be a focal point (no pun intended) of our trip.  In fact, by going in the middle of October I feared that we might be too late.  I feared that most of the fall color would be sparse, if not already gone.  I guess one just never knows what will pan out in reality.  It might be something completely different than what you expect.  Colors were at their peak in the Upper Peninsula, as I will touch on in future posts.

Tunnel of Trees, Hwy M-119, Emmet County, Michigan
Tunnel of Trees, Hwy M-119, Emmet County, Michigan

The second photo is what we saw at the “Tunnel of Trees”.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still a beautiful scene.  The greens are indeed lovely in their own right, but I will be honest and say that I was still somewhat disappointed by the lack of fall color.  That was why we went when we did.

Turns out that it has been an unusually warm autumn this year, and warm weather does not prompt the leaves to turn color and fall.  Also, as I was told by locals, colors always turn inland before they turn near the lake coast.

The lake coast has a more stable temperature for both day and night, while the inland areas get colder at night, so they turn sooner.  This would explain why we saw much more vivid colors as near as ten miles inland than we saw on the coast.  This third and last photo shows much better colors, taken the same day, just 10 or so miles inland.  Quite a difference, isn’t it?

Old barn & autumn colors, Emmet County, Michigan
Old barn & autumn colors, Emmet County, Michigan

In spite of my disappointment, I want to go back.  I would even be open to going in late spring when everything is fresh, but I’d like to catch the turning color, too.  There are also several small towns that are worthy of investigation, such as Charlevoix, Petosky, Harbor Springs, and so on.  We might plan a trip for a week sometime in the future and focus on just the northwest tip of the lower peninsula.