One day get away
It’s Thursday morning as I begin typing this, my first of two days off from work. I’ve decided that I’m going to do things a little differently, well, a lot differently than I usually do. Normally I get done with work Wednesday evenings, then go to bed as early as I think that I can get to sleep, then try to be awake well before dawn. This week, I decided to let myself sleep in this morning, and that I’ll do a one day trip to northern Michigan in hopes of shooting a few landscapes, as well as the Milky Way this evening, and the Perseid meteor shower also. Who knows, maybe I’ll get some great sunset images as I wait for the sky to go dark this evening.
I have a rough route planned, but for the most part, I’m going to play this by ear, and go with the flow. There’s a line of storms passing through my area right now, and they should be well south of me before I begin this trip. I doubt if I’ll come away with any landscape images that would be considered excellent, but even if what I return with are more of the picture postcard variety of photos, that’s okay with me. They should give readers a better idea of what the state of Michigan is like, and I’ll get the chance to play with the new 5D camera and wide-angle lens.
The only downside to this trip is that I’ll probably fighting crowds for much of the time while I’m in areas where I’d like to shoot landscapes. I was going to camp overnight and return tomorrow, but there’s no room left at any of the campgrounds that take reservations when I checked earlier this week. Northern Michigan is a very popular tourist destination, with the motels and campgrounds filled to the brim most nights.
I’m back, it was a bit of an up and down kind of day. Just as I anticipated, I ran into both road construction and traffic jams that held up my progress, and caused me to abandon some of the landscape photos that I had planned on shooting. I was worried that I’d be late getting to my final destination because of the delays. However, I gave up my earlier plans too quickly, and I arrived at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse well before sunset. I ended up with a couple of hours to kill before sunset, with not many photo opportunities, as you will see later.
I had planned on taking a nap, and the hours that I had before sunset would have been a good time for a nap, but it was too darned hot in my vehicle to sleep, even though I had parked in the shade. But, after having sat there waiting for a ho-hum sunset, I didn’t want to wait for an even longer time before I could shoot the Milky Way and/or the Perseid Meteor shower, so I struck out for home, and stopped at spot that you may see more than a few times over the next few years.
There’s even a faint meteor just to the right of center in that image.
I suppose that having begun with that image that I could go in reverse order for the day, but I won’t, I’ll go back to the beginning.
My first stop was at the Newaygo County welcome center, where I hoped to shoot the scene to the east of the building. I’ve been past the welcome center thousands of times, but I’ve never stopped. It’s on the top of a high hill that looks out over the Muskegon River Valley, but all the views of the valley are obscured by trees there at the welcome center. I settled on shooting a couple of flowers from their wildflower garden…
…there was a sign to identify the flowers, of course I didn’t have the sense to look at the sign, or better yet, photograph it for reference, other than to make sure it didn’t appear in the background of the flower photos.
I’m liking wide-angle close-up photography for larger flowers that don’t require a macro lens to fill the frame. But, I have to practice that more often, especially once I have purchased the 24-70 mm lens with its near macro capabilities. I’m used to struggling to get the entire flower in focus, with these, I should have opened the lens up for less depth of field.
I also mentioned the 24-70 mm lens because I could have made use of it several times over the course of the day, such as at my second stop.
35 mm was too wide, 70 mm put me too close to the bridge to get any of the foliage in the frame. Oh well, I should be able to purchase that lens this fall at the rate that I’m saving towards it, even if it means it will be past the time of any flowers for this year, at least I’ll have it for landscapes, and there’s always next year.
I was a bit concerned at the time by the low clouds sticking around longer than had been forecast, but I saw that they were beginning to break up at my next stop, which was the Peterson Bridge over the Pine River.
I looked for other locations to shoot the next three images from, but I ended up parking on the shoulder of the road and shooting from the bridge.
That’s looking upstream, here’s the view downstream.
But my favorite image shot from the bridge shows the old river channel which is now cut-off from the river since the river changed course. The water is green from minerals washed into the water, and the water is still so clear that you can see the dead trees on the bottom of the old channel.
Eventually, the old channel will be filled in by sediment washed in by rain, and become a wetland area for a few decades before bushes and then trees begin growing there.
If any one is interested, the Pine River is a tributary of the Manistee River that I mentioned in the caption to the first image in this post. Both are good trout fishing rivers, although the Manistee is better fished from a boat than by wading in this part of Michigan due to its size. The Pine River is one of the fastest and coldest rivers in Michigan, making it a river that can be waded, but only if you’re sure-footed in waders. It’s also one of the most popular rivers for watercraft such as canoes and kayaks, so one is always dealing with them if you try to fish it.
That reminds me, before I got to the Pine River, I stopped at the Federal Ranger station in Baldwin, Michigan to pick up my first “geezer” pass. Since the governments at all levels now see fit to charge us for access to lands purchased with our tax dollars, I decided that it was time to take advantage of the lower price of the “geezer” pass. I was actually eligible last year, but they raised the fee for a lifetime pass from $10 for a life time pass to $80 for the same pass just days before the birthday of mine that made me eligible. Now, I’m going to purchase 4 yearly passes at $20 each, then I can turn all four in for a lifetime pass. The “geezer” pass is still a better deal than paying by day, but it still ticks me off that I missed the cut-off point by only a few days.
In fact, I’ve tried to avoid Federal land as much as possible because of how much they charge, but it’s getting to the point where they charge for access to every square inch of land under their control, so if I want to return to Loda Lake to photograph flowers and birds, or any other Federally controlled lands, the pass will come in handy.
My next stop was a small roadside park on Hodenpyl Pond.
Hodenpyl Pond is the body of water behind Hodenpyl Dam, a hydro-electric generating dam on the Manistee River. Just as the osprey nest where I photographed the osprey earlier this year is next to the pond formed when the a series of dams were built along the Muskegon River, the Manistee River has a series of dams and ponds behind the dams as well.
By the way, it was still cloudy, but more breaks in the clouds were appearing all the time. And, I think that it’s time for a map.
I know that it’s hard to read this small map, but I began in Grand Rapids, and my route took me about halfway in between Cadillac and Ludington, on my way to Traverse City and then to the northwest. I think that it’s time for a better map of my location at this time.
When I was younger, this was my favorite part of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Over the years, too many other people have fallen in love with it as well, now, it’s a mass of tourists all of the time, but especially in the summer.
I had to fight through several traffic jams in the Traverse City area to get to M-22 to go north along the coast of the west bay, but there are several small roadside parks and pull-off areas once you start north on M-22. Here’s a scene from one of them.
Who wouldn’t love water as beautiful as anywhere in the world? Some one posted a comment to one of the following images saying that it looks like a tropical beach, and it does. However, at some point along here, I crossed the 45th Parallel, the point halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.
I stopped at most of the places that I could to shoot more photos of the bay to practice various things as far as photography, so while these images aren’t great, they are a bit better than my typical practice shots due to the subject.
These next two are essentially the same, in the first, I like the colors reflected off from the water to the left in the frame…
…in the second, I like the wave breaking right in front of me.
I thought that the “spotlight” of sun on the rock would show up better than it did in this one.
Some of these are HDR images, some are single images that I worked on in Lightroom. This next one is a single image from the 5D…
…and this is the HDR version, that looks too fake to me.
I took several side trips looking for a point from which I could see the bay from a higher elevation, and also to check out the narrows of Lake Leelanau that you can see on the second map above. The narrows weren’t as photogenic as I remembered, and I never did find a better view of the bay, although I know that there has to be one.
Also on the map above, you can see several small towns, Leeland, Sutton’s Bay, and Northport to name some of them. They used to be quaint little fishing villages or towns where they extremely wealthy kept their yachts moored in the summer. Now, all those small towns are bustling little tourist traps, filled with overpriced trinkets or poor quality (my opinion) artwork.
Most of both the Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Point used to be orchard country, but most of the farmers there have switched to growing grapes to be used for wines. The farmers have learned that there’s more profit from getting people drunk than from growing fresh fruits such as cherries, apples, and pears. Also, wine brings tourists that love to go on vineyard tours getting sloshed as they go from vineyard to vineyard taste testing wines all day. There are even tour busses filled with drunks on vineyard tours, and they all stop at the local tourist shops to purchase those cheap trinkets that they’ll need to remember their trip by, since they’re too drunk to remember without the help of the trinkets.
I know that I said this a few years ago when I went to the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, but I really see no reason to return this part of Michigan in the future, no matter how beautiful it is, and even if I do have many fond memories of the times I spent there when I was younger, it’s simply too crowded for me.
Anyway, on one of my side trips looking for a better view of the bay, I did find a crop other than grapes being grown.
I shot several photos of the field of sunflowers, and I was going to tell you about the two middle-aged drunk women who tottered right in front of me as I was lining up to shoot one of the other photos that I shot, but I’ll skip that story.
I made it to my destination…
…the Grand Traverse Lighthouse…
…although I should have adjusted or removed the polarizing filter…
…as the sky is just a tad over-saturated in these images. 😉
You can see that by that time, there was no longer a cloud in the sky, that didn’t bode well for the sunset later. But, I stuck around, finding a few things to photograph from time to time…
Then, I went down to the beach to stake out my spot for the sunset. I knew that it wouldn’t be spectacular, so I tried to find the best foreground that I could because I knew that the foreground would make or break any images that I shot.
I also knew that any drunks that showed up for the sunset, and a few did, wouldn’t notice some one with a camera on a tripod shooting photos, and would walk in front of me, or park themselves between me and the sun if I left them room to do so, so I had to stay close to the water. Here’s what I came up with.
Not bad for no clouds to spread the color from the sun around, just some haze in the distance.
As I was shooting these, I was thinking that I’d like to have played with a neutral density filter to let the shutter stay open longer to smooth out the water even more, but all I have is a 6 stop ND filter, and that would have been too much. In fact, now that I’ve looked at the images, I think that any ND filter would have introduced motion blur from the slight breeze moving the vegetation around if the shutter had been open longer.
All in all, I’m quite happy with these sunset images, I correctly planned for the type of sunset that would unfold, and I judged correctly in advance where the sun would be as it neared the horizon. I probably should have zoomed out a tad bit more so as to not cut off the rock to the right in the frame though.
But, I could see that to the south, where I live, if I had stayed home, I could have shot a spectacular sunset.
Oh well, that’s the way it goes sometimes.
I was getting tired by then, and although I should have stuck around to shoot the Milky Way from there, it had been a long day, and I faced a long drive home. Also, I wanted very much to shoot the Manistee River Valley on my way home…
…just for future reference, as I said earlier. There aren’t many places in Michigan where there’s such a panoramic view of the hills and valleys, in most places, trees block the view. The trees in the Milky Way images that I shot there end abruptly just a short distance ahead of where I shot these from, but I wanted the trees in these images. To shoot the Manistee River Valley at sunrise, which would make a gorgeous image, I could move down past the trees to get the image that I have in mind. I’ll also have to see what this scene looks like in the fall when the trees are in full color as well. I need to spend a day up in this part of Michigan scouting both the Manistee and Muskegon River valleys.
By the way, that’s not the same image as before, in this one, the meteor is to the left in the frame. Heck, the guides on the Perseid Meteor shower say that you need to be looking to the northeast to see the meteors, they seemed to be everywhere that I pointed the camera. But, before I get to that, here’s what you get when a semi-truck goes past the camera while the shutter is open at night.
I had the tripod pointed up as far as it would go, there, so I tried another location, the same small roadside park near the Hodenpyl Pond where I had stopped on my way up. There are two faint meteors in this next image.
And I couldn’t resist turning the camera out over Hodenpyl Pond at night.
There’s too much noise in those images, but I’m not going to sweat it. For my first real attempts at star photography, these aren’t bad. I used the 400 rule, which may also be called the 500 rule, or even 600 rule. That is, you divide 400 by the focal length of your lens, in my case 16 mm, and the result is the shutter speed to use to keep the stars as points and not become star trails. In my case, with the 16-35 mm lens set to 16 mm at f/4, it worked out to be 20 seconds for the exposure times at ISO 12800. I could probably go at least one stop lower on the ISO and to turn up the noise reduction in the camera and/or use software to lessen the noise that I got. However, the noise can’t be seen until I zoom in 1 to 1 in these images, so they’re a good starting point.
By the way, in the days of film, one started with 600 and divided the focal length of the lens into that to get the shutter speed. Then in the early days of digital photography, it became necessary to drop the number to 500 to keep the stars as points, and with the new high-resolution cameras, it’s better to use 400 as the starting point to calculate the shutter speed.
I did luck out with the weather, just a few very thin clouds at various times, so that helped a good deal. Even though the clouds were thin, they did catch and hold the starlight enough to partially obscure the Milky Way slightly, a completely clear sky would have been better. These images won’t win any awards, but they do give me a solid base to work from in the future when I’m someplace better suited for star photography.
The only sticking point that I ran into was that the head on my tripod doesn’t allow me to point the camera up at enough of an angle for all the star photography that I may do in the future. The head that I use only tilts 30 degrees up, but I think that I can find ways to work around that, I’m not going to purchase yet another head for the tripod unless I absolutely have to.
One last thing about the Milky Way images, these are pretty much the way that they came out of the camera. I think that during the coming week, I may play with one of them in Lightroom to see if I can come closer to duplicating images that I’ve seen shot by others, and heavily processed by them.
What the heck, I went in and did a quick edit of this image.
Now, all I need to do is be someplace more photogenic as far as the foreground. And so you know, the dashed line of light to the left center of the frame isn’t a meteor, it was a plane flying past me while the shutter was open.
Okay then, despite the traffic and crowds, I’d say that this one day trip away from my regular haunts was a success. While I shot some good images, they’re not really anything special in my opinion. However, I did learn new skills all day long, so that’s always a good thing. Hopefully, I’ll be able to apply what I’ve learned in the future, when I have more time to visit places better suited to the types of photography that I did on this trip. It was a nice change of pace from chasing birds as I do most of the time.
One of the key things I learned on this trip, as well as over the past year or so, is the importance of scouting in advance. But, since I’ve been so long-winded already in this post, I should wait until later before going deeper into that subject.
That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!