Expectations

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.

…and it’s done!

Thumb Lake, Charlevoix County, Michigan
Thumb Lake, Charlevoix County, Michigan

The trip, that is.  Some things were planned, some things we stumbled across, some things were done on a whim.  When I attended a photo workshop back in 2008 some of the things were easy.  For example, the leaders of the workshop knew the better places, had connections to private property owners, and so on.  When doing a trip yourself some places are obvious… lighthouses and waterfalls, for example… but many are not.  You’re on your own.  Lakes for tree reflections are not quite so obvious.  You take your chances.

In this case I needed something to do for a morning shoot, so I looked on a map and found a lake.  My hunches said it had possibilities, and some online photos looked promising.  So, we got up before sunrise and headed out, about 30 miles from our hotel.

We weren’t disappointed.  We kept to a relatively small area at a public boat ramp and worked it pretty good.  The sunrise itself wasn’t anything to speak of, but the reflections and other aspects were indeed worthy.  The fence was an added bonus.

More stories and images to come.  Stay tuned.  🙂

The Square Format

Tree and field along US Hwy 75 in Omaha Indian Reservation, near Macy, Nebraska
Tree and field along US Hwy 75 in Omaha Indian Reservation, near Macy, Nebraska

I love the square format.  It is a little harder to compose at times, but when it works it really works.  In fact, sometimes it saves a photo, as it did here.

When I look at the 3×2 format as shot, it’s lackluster.  The fringes detract from the image and basically ruins it.  On a whim I decided to crop it to square and see what happens.  That, plus a little HDR with some tonemapping thrown in for good measure, and it really pops!

Several things speak to me in this shot.  The richness of the colors.  The colors split into defined layers, giving a sense of depth.  I feel like I can reach right in.  The opening in the bushes in the foreground act as a “leading line” to draw you in.

Fall Colors: Anticipation, Pt 2

Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan
Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Our trip is getting closer.  Next month, now.  Here is another shot from 2008 that I took on Council Lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP).  A good reflection is always a nice sight.  Almost as awe-inspiring as a good silhouette, but not quite.

We will be doing the UP again, and we are definitely excited about that, but we will also be doing the northwest coast of the southern peninsula, focusing (no pun intended) on the Michigan state highways M-22 and M-119.  The photos I have seen of these areas are truly awe-inspiring, to use that phrase again.

We’re still discussing the particulars, but it’s looking like we’ll be focusing… there’s that pun again… on a couple areas in particular and not just zooming through in an effort to rack up empty miles.

I probably won’t be posting during the trip, but I will probably be posting more than usual for the few weeks afterward.  I’ll have a lot to talk about, I’m sure.

The Tree in the Intersection

Tree in rural intersection, Cass & Audubon Counties, Iowa
Tree in rural intersection, Cass & Audubon Counties, Iowa

Missy and I did another road trip this weekend… 20 hours and 591 miles… with Wesley… specifically to go see this tree.  The unofficial story behind the tree goes something like this…

Back in 1850 a surveyor cut a cottonwood sprout to use as a walking stick, later planting it in the ground to mark a section corner.  The roads were no doubt not there in 1850, but since roads are commonly laid out along section lines, the tree ended up in the intersection.  Why the tree was allowed to stay is a mystery, but allowed to stay it was.

It grew into the massive tree that still stands there today. The trunk is roughly 12 feet in diameter.  There are no markers, no signs directing you to it, but it is not all that hard to find.  I will say that the quality of the roads are questionable, though, especially after a rain and doubly especially after a rain and at 3:30 am.  It is at the intersection of 350th Street and Nighthawk Avenue, on the county line that separates Cass and Audubon Counties.  It’s also only about an 1/8 of a mile from I-80, and Nighthawk Avenue crosses the interstate, but there is no interchange.  You cannot see it from the interstate, though, as there is a hill in the way.

As far as layout, it is not conducive to good composure for photography.  We made an effort to get there before sunrise, not really knowing what we would find, and I got some decent shots, but nothing that really wowed me.  This shot was done with my 15mm rectilinear fish-eye lens.  It has the obvious curved perspective, which in this case I kind of like, so I left that part alone.  It helps add a sense of presence and location that is otherwise missed with “normal” lenses that I also used.  With this shot you really can see that the tree is truly in the middle of the intersection.

I’m going to have to think about this location and the shots I took for awhile.  I may decide to re-visit some more shots and thoughts here in the future.  And, please feel free to leave some feedback.  I’d be interested in your thoughts and perspective.

 

A Blast from the Past

Red Barn near Calaveritas, California
Red Barn near Calaveritas, California

As we end August let’s go back to April… 2004.  I was still living in California.  I was into my photography.  I had another website that I allowed to go defunct a couple years ago (I don’t even own the URL anymore), and this was one of the premier photos.

Now, California is known for its awesome beauty.  The Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite National Park, the redwood forests, the coast, and yes, even the desert.  So much to choose from.  And yet even within all that splendor, you can find little nuggets like this.

This photo has always been one of my all-time favorites.  I shot it several times from varying angles, and was never disappointed.  I spoke with the owner one day… an extremely nice gentleman… and he told me that its even better in the winter with snow on the ground.  I can believe it.  I would be willing to make a special trip back just for that.

I plan to incorporate some of my better west coast photos into my blog and website, though they will remain primarily Iowa and the Midwest.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, this photo is still literally a “wall hanger” in my home.

Always take your camera with you

Calvary Cemetery, near Ryan, Iowa
Calvary Cemetery, near Ryan, Iowa

Leave early for work or your appointment, especially if you’re going to be driving around sunrise and/or sunset.  Always take you camera gear with you.  Maybe not everything you own on every trip, but the basics… camera body, tripod, a couple lenses and/or a versatile zoom lens.  A polarizer filter is always handy when you need one, as is a remote release of some kind.  Personally, I also like to carry a bubble level that attaches to the hot shoe to help me keep things level.  (Tilted horizons are one of my two biggest pet peeves.)

Because, if you do, you can get shots like this when you see them, instead of driving on by figuratively kicking yourself for leaving your gear at home.  And trust me, I have certainly done that more times than I care to count.

I shot this series handheld and bumped the ISO up to 800 purposely to get a slightly grainy effect.  I thought that would help with the moody feeling of the scene.

This particular photo was taken just after sunrise on a nice foggy morning.  It is the Calvary Cemetery just south of Ryan, Iowa, on State Highway 13.  I will have to stop there more often.  It’s a neat little cemetery.

The View from Iowa!

MW-4-118Right now, this is it.  As you drive down the road, this is pretty much all you see.  Corn and more corn and still more corn, as far as the eye can see, and taller than you are.  It’s like being the short person at a general admission rock concert.

Not being a farm boy myself, I was somewhat shocked when I first moved here.  The planting season is late, compared to what I was used to seeing on the west coast, and the corn starts out slow, then increases at a dramatic pace as the summer winds down.

Sweet corn near the end of summer is a BIG DEAL in these parts.  You will see stands everywhere.  Prices range from $3/dozen to $6/dozen, and quality is not consistent.  There’s a place just outside Manchester that has fantastic quality sweet corn.  They’re $5/dozen and well worth it.

Soon will come the harvest and the landscape will feel naked.  And we’ll have to do it all again next year.  I can’t wait!

 

Act fast!

So there I was, lazily lookMW-P-028ing around, looking for decent shots, lugging the tripod around, shooting a few shots here and there, when… I see this vintage car coming down the road.  Suddenly, the adrenaline was pumping.  OMG!  OMG!  OMG!  I have to get a shot of this.  Old covered bridge, old vintage car, it’s perfect!  Talk about a scenario being heaven-sent.  I have to get a shot of this.

I knew I had to act fast.  The driver wasn’t going to stop for me.  In the matter of literally a few seconds I had to set the tripod, focus on where I wanted to catch the car, and shoot shoot shoot.

Needless to say, I got the shot.  This one is a “wall hanger”, if you know what I mean.

After the car had passed, everything suddenly felt anti-climatic… it had nowhere to go but down from here… so I packed up and continued on my journey.

Fall Colors: Anticipation

Chapel Falls, Section Creek, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Chapel Falls, Section Creek, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

I sat under a rock ledge next to this waterfall for over two hours… switching lenses, changes angles, shooting wide-angle compositions, zooming and zeroing in on close-up aspects.  I toyed with shorter exposures to “freeze” the water, and I played with longer exposures to get a “smooth and silky” feel.  This was somewhere in between.  Oh, and sometimes I just sat there and relished the scene.  That may sounds boring to some, but I had a ball.  I loved every minute of it!

I took this in October, 2008… wow, eight years ago!… and I brought this photo back because Missy and I are planning a “photo road trip” along Michigan’s main peninsula’s northwest coast and back through the Upper Peninsula (UP) later this year.  We are both very excited in anticipation for this trip and have a great many things planned.  This will be a combination of new territory for both of us, and some old familiar places.