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!

Doesn’t that look good?

Boat reflections on river, Manistee, Manistee County, Michigan

For those of us who spend winters in cold and snowy climates, the mere thought of a spring and summertime activity such as boating is most certainly inviting.

It can be pretty much anything done outdoors, actually, possibly even photography.  As I have mentioned before, this time of year is the worst… in my own opinion… for outdoor photography.  It’s cold AND dreary.  You don’t even get the coolness (no pun intended) of a good snow scene.  You just get… blah!

But spring!  Yes, spring.  A time of renewal.  Everything becomes fresh again.  And the best part?  It’s now warm enough to enjoy!

Winter: Goodbye to you!

Stacked firewood in snow in winter

Who remembers a 1980s rock band called Scandal?  They did a song called Goodbye to You that was actually pretty good.  That song echoes my sentiments regarding winter precisely.  We just had our first snow storm in a couple months this past week.  It wasn’t much, but enough to cause some minor havoc.  And with that I am officially done with winter.  I say, “Winter… goodbye to you!”

This time of year is the toughest time to shoot, in my opinion, because everything looks so dull and dreary.  The snow that is on the ground is lackluster and unappealing.  It’s really the best time of year to catch up on photo processing, since there’s not a whole lot to shoot.

I also like the idea of doing some indoor experimenting with still life, cut flowers, and so on.  I have some ideas that involve props and backgrounds that could come out quite nicely.  I also want to do some experimenting with photo stacking.

This shot was taken near Palo, Iowa, on a back road.  One of those days where I was driving along and had to stop and see what I could do with the scene.  Chances are that I will never sell this shot, and it will probably never end up on my wall, but it does have a nice look to it regardless.  Sometimes the lesson is simply the enjoyment of the art.

You Never Know

Trees in silhouette on Goose Pond at sunrise, near Center Point, Linn County, Iowa

I’ve been going through and reprocessing some of my older photos.  Just a couple at a time.  It’ll be a journey, that’s for sure.  Anyway, I’m looking through a couple photos that I have never published and came across this one.  It’s similar to another that I have published, but that one is more “bright”, while this one was more subdued.  I played around with some settings in Lightroom to tone down the overall shot even more and boost the saturation which brought out the oranges while keeping the subdued areas.

I kept looking at it and it really strikes me.  The more I look at it the more I like it.  This one just might end up on the wall… and I’m thinking metallic paper.

This shot was taken 10 years ago this month.  I did an overnight sleep study and they woke me up at 4:30 and kicked me out (standard procedure).  I then went and sought a place for some winter sunrise shots and found this place.  I have not been back since, but maybe I should.

Winter Serenity

Frost on trees in winter, Newago County, Michigan
Frost on trees in winter, Newago County, Michigan

If there is an area where my selection of photos is lacking it is winter and snow scenes.  I have a handful of really good ones, just not a whole lot.  On a recent weekend trip to Michigan for Christmas with Missy’s family I wanted to make some progress toward rectifying that.

Like so many of my shots this one was in a place where I didn’t think I was going to get much, then suddenly I look to my left and there it is.  What I think appealed to me was the combination of frost on the trees, some green from evergreens, and the rust-ish colors from leaves that haven’t fallen.  I took only two shots at this location.

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.