Posted by: kerryl29 | November 4, 2013

The UP: Day 2

As I mentioned at the end of the UP installment dealing with day one of the trip, the forecast for the morning of day two was calling for a chance of rain.  Since it didn’t appear as though a sunrise was likely, I recommended that we decamp to Council Lake, a spot I’d scouted the previous day.

I’ve shot at Council Lake many, many times over the years I’ve visited the Upper Peninsula, experiencing a variety of conditions.  The principal shooting perspective at Council Lake is north-by-northwest–obviously not in the direction of sunrise–but the best time of day to shoot there, I’ve found, is first thing in the morning.  Despite the lack of a sunrise orientation, there’s still excellent light to be utilized early in the morning and this is the time–at this location anyway–when wind is typically the lightest, making for very good reflection opportunities.

In addition to all of this, I remember saying to Terry, who knows what might pop up?  It certainly didn’t look promising for anything particularly noteworthy, but every once in awhile you get something special when you least expect it, and if you’re not in a position to take advantage of it, you’re sure to miss out.

Coalwood Trail, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Coalwood Trail, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

So, about an hour before sunrise, we headed off to Council Lake, which is roughly a 20-minute drive from our starting point.  As we made the drive, I noticed that it was almost entirely cloudy.  There was, however, a very thin band of light near the eastern horizon.  I made mention of it, and hoped that it would mean that something interesting might happen at sunrise.  My hopes were tempered by the occasional spurts of light rain that hit the windshield.

Near Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Near Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

As we made our way toward our destination on Forest Highway 13 (H-13), we caught up to a line of cars heading south.  At this time of the morning I knew that this meant one thing:  we’d stumbled upon a photo workshop that was heading to a spot somewhere in the forest.  Given the number of vehicles, I was all but certain that this was John and Barbara Gerlach’s workshop.  I’ve run into the Gerlachs at least once, at a variety of locations, every time I’ve shot in the UP in the fall.  I like the Gerlachs a lot–I attended one of their day-long photo seminars 11 or 12 years ago–but when they de-camp at a site with their workshop participants in tow (up to 20!), it can make it difficult for anyone else to find room to station oneself.  Just about the only time you feel crowded while trying to photograph in the UP is when you run into a workshop!  If you can reach a destination and be in place before the workshop gets there, they’ll have to work around you, but we were behind this string of vehicles.  If the Gerlachs were headed to Council Lake, we were going to have a problem.

As we approached the turnoff, I held my breath…but the cars passed right by, remaining on H-13.  I’m all but certain that they were headed to Pete’s Lake for sunrise, which was up the road, less than a mile to the left.  I breathed a bit easier and told Terry to turn onto Council Lake Road–a relatively well-maintained two-track forest service road.

Amidst the Pines, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Amidst the Pines, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

When we reached Council Lake, it was still dark, but there were two photographers already there.  These women had moved their vehicle in a position where the headlights lit up some trees on the far bank of the lake–a kind of a light-painting exercise, which was kind of interesting.  But as it began to become lighter, they turned off the headlights and we all began to engage in ambient light photography.  I pointed out a couple of things about the location to Terry, based on my experience over the years, and we started shooting.

As the appointed time of sunrise approached, It was still socked in clouds and, every so often, some light rain fell.  Sunrise appeared to be a rumor this morning.  After we’d been on site for perhaps 20 minutes, I heard another vehicle on the access road.  Someone got out and approached me; this gentleman asked me if this was Red Jack Lake.  I told him no; Red Jack Lake is accessed via a spur from Council Lake Road.  I told him that, to reach Red Jack, he needed to go back down the road in the direction he’d come from and take the first left–in perhaps 1/4 mile.  After 1000 feet or so, he’d find himself at Red Jack.  He thanked me and openly pondered whether he should head over there or just stay at Council Lake.  The rest of us returned to shooting.

After a minute or so the newcomer said, “Hey, look at that rainbow!”  We’d all been so engrossed in what we were doing–mostly reflection shots or isolated telephoto images–that none of us had noticed that a full rainbow had appeared, arching over the trees on the north bank of the lake.  Everyone stopped and looked…and there it was.  And, not surprisingly, everyone rearranged what they were doing to take advantage of the newly discovered–and breathtaking–scene.

Council Lake Rainbow, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Rainbow, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

I had my 24-70 mm lens mounted on my camera at the time and used it to compose a couple of shots, racking all the way back to 24mm.  This got me a nice image or two, but this was a full rainbow and I wanted to include all of it–and as much of the reflection as possible–in the frame, and 24mm simply wasn’t wide enough (see above).  Not even close, in fact.  If I backed up I could include more of the rainbow in my image, but it would also introduce a number of elements that I didn’t want in the frame.  There was still some light rain falling and time was a wasting.  So now I faced a dilemma:  should I scramble and try to change lenses, putting my ultra wide-angle 14-24 mm lens on?  Or should I try and shoot a series of frames with the 24-70 that I would later attempt to stitch together into a wider-looking single shot?

I decided to switch lenses.  Both approaches would take time–and there was the possibility that the rainbow, which had already been visible for a couple of minutes–would fade.  The problem with the stitching option was that I really wasn’t prepared for it.  The tripod would have to be leveled and I would face possible issues of parallax if I didn’t get things just right on set up, which could kill the stitch.  While switching lenses–with rain coming down–was far from ideal, I thought it gave me the best chance to get at least one image of this phenomenon, so I found my backpack (which was perched on a picnic table, about 50 feet away), grabbed the 14-24, a back lens cap and a body cap and made the switch as rapidly as I could.

I was lucky.  Not only did the rainbow not fade, it had become more intense in the time that I had made up my mind to change lenses and the light, if anything, was even nicer.  Having completed the lens swap, I recomposed the shot, made sure the camera was level, confirmed exposure, verified focus and fired away.  I got several shots in before the rainbow began fading.  Eventually it disappeared completely, but it was visible for 5-7 minutes all told.  As I mentioned, in addition to the full rainbow itself, the quality of light during a few minutes of its appearance was absolutely exquisite.

Morning Rainbow, Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Morning Rainbow, Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

I shot a bit more after the rainbow faded–not just the lake, but in the forest near the lake–before we called it quits, as the rain picked up.  We then made the quick run over to Red Jack Lake, just so I could show it to Terry.  It was beginning to rain fairly hard at this point, and the wind was also beginning to stir.

So we moved on.  I suggested that we might want to scout a few areas in the eastern half of the Hiawatha, so I directed Terry back to H-13 and then south several miles to a dirt forest road that took us to the east in the direction of Swan Lake.  I’d only been in this area once before, five years earlier, and didn’t know it very well (I’d been driven there, in the dark), so as we drove through the now steady, hard rain, we essentially scouted from the car.  We noted several spots–which I marked on the GPS so we could find them again–and ultimately made our way back to H-13.

As we drove north, back in the direction of Munising, the rain slackened and eventually stopped completely.  It was still entirely overcast.  There’s an area of the Hiawatha, along H-13, that is a mature conifer forest, but, over the years, maple saplings have taken root and during the fall a riot of color appears amidst the staid pine trunks.  It can make for some compelling imagery.  I shot in the area in 2008 and suggested to Terry that we might want to take advantage of the conditions and do so now, since we were going to pass right by the location.

Amidst the Pines, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Amidst the Pines, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

And so we did.  Opportunities exist on both sides of H-13.  Terry concentrated on the west side of the road while I meandered over to the east side before finally crossing back to the west to work on a particular composition that I’d noted.

Amidst the Pines, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Amidst the Pines, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

When it was all said and done we spent about an hour all told in the area, and it was a productive experience, I think.  The last time I had been in this location a workshop had been in the woods at the same time, which made moving around a little bit more difficult, but this time I had the entire forest east of the road entirely to myself and I tried to take advantage of the opportunity to be more flexible.

Amidst the Pines, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Amidst the Pines, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

We moved a bit to the north along H-13 and shot for a time along Coalwood Trail, technically an ATV track, but usable as a road for passenger vehicles.  The color was particularly nice in this area and even light worked well with the elements we had at our disposal.

Coalwood Trail, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Coalwood Trail, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

By this time, it was early afternoon and we decided to return to a meadow alongside the Council Lake Road that I’d admired for years–but never worked, because I’d never been there in the right light.  By the time we got there, there were signs of clearing in the western sky.  For the second time in as many days we ran into professional photographer Willard Clay who was wrapping up in the meadow as we arrived.  We spent some more time talking about how the federal government shutdown, which was in its fourth day by that time, was impacting access to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  Will mentioned to us that he had been told that there were some park rangers who were working on enforcement and that people caught in the park were being ticketed and ejected.  He told us, based on that report, that he wouldn’t be venturing into Pictured Rocks during his time in the UP.  Terry and I were dismayed at this report, as we had planned to spend a fair amount of time in Pictured Rocks.

The sky conditions had continued to change during our discussion and a hazy sunshine was now covering the meadow.  I spent some time investigating different perspectives, but ultimately gave up after just one capture.

Council Lake Road Meadow, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Road Meadow, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

With the skies now partly cloudy and the wind a bit more robust, we decided to return to an open plain that we’d found during our morning scouting session near Swan Lake.  The spot seemed more conducive to the light we were receiving and we spent most of the mid-afternoon time there.

Swan Lake Plains, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Swan Lake Plains, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Swan Lake Plains, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Swan Lake Plains, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

The weather had changed multiple times already this day and it would do so again.  It began to cloud up late in the afternoon and we moved on, shooting in and around the forest off Little Indian Road, another area we had scouted that morning.  This proved to be quite productive and it was less than an hour before sunset when we finished at this location, under entirely overcast skies.

Fall Splendor, Little Indian Road, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Fall Splendor, Little Indian Road, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Little Indian Road, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Little Indian Road, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Little Indian Road, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Little Indian Road, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Little Indian Road, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Little Indian Road, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Clearly there would be no sunset this evening; there wasn’t even a hint of clearing to the west.  So I suggested to Terry that we wrap up the day with a quick shoot at Wagner Falls–which wasn’t all that far away, easily accessed, and only about two minutes from the motel–before we lost the light entirely.  Besides, with the rain that had fallen earlier that day, the waterfall should be flowing nicely and the cloudy conditions would make for the desired even lighting.

Wagner Falls, Wagner Falls Scenic Site, Michigan

Wagner Falls, Wagner Falls Scenic Site, Michigan

That we did, wrapping up a long day of photography and scouting in the process.  The next day would be even longer.

Next in this Series:  Day 3 – Red Jack, Council & Halfmoon Lakes and Tahquemenon Falls

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Responses

  1. Beautiful and stunning!

    • Thanks very much!

    • Thanks Jane. Yes, the rainbow was roughly 180 degrees in relation to the position of the sun.

  2. All kinds of weather in these-was the rainbow 180 degrees from the lightsource? that is what I have heard.Love the rainbow shot with the wide angle, reflection, etc. Beautiful compositions.Thank you for the commentary as well.

  3. Some great images there, and a great article with it. Thanks for sharing. Maybe someday I will make it up there. Been planning for a couple years, but has not worked out. Your showing me what I have missed.

    • Thanks very much. I heartily encourage you to get up to the UP, particularly in the fall, if you get the chance.

  4. Wonderful shots and captivating narrative. I especially enjoyed getting insight into your decision process when contemplating changing lenses to capture the rainbow. The colors of the autumn foliage are so bright and vibrant–there are so many beautiful images.

    • Thanks very much, Mike!

  5. I held off posting a comment, trying to think of a different way of saying awesome photos, but I can’t. These are fantastic, I wish that I could come close to your work, but you are a true genius at landscape photography. I suppose that I should stick to birds, which I do fairly well at.

    • Thanks so much for the kind words, but I’m a bit dismayed at the ultimate reaction. The very last thing I would want anyone to do upon viewing my images is to conclude that they somehow can’t “measure up.” If you’re not satisfied with the landscape images you’re making I’m positive–absolutely 100% certain–that, with the right approach, you can come closer to reaching your goals. I’d be happy to help if I can; feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you’re interested in pursuing this.

      • Thanks for the offer, but I know why I’m not very good at landscape photography. I see with “hunter’s eyes”, that is, I’m so used to photographing wildlife, that I look through what makes a good landscape photo looking for any wildlife hiding within a scene, so I never see the entire scene for what it is.

        • That makes sense…but I’d still bet that, with some work, you can train yourself to get past that instinct and improve your “landscape vision.”

  6. Kerry, another great set of shots that you have chosen to show us. I will say that I think the East side of H-13 was the better way to go as I did not come away from the West with nearly what you did. Either that or I just was not on my game. I know that I had cell reception there and was dealing with a few calls but I can honestly say that I do not recall seeing what you captured. Great work as always!

    Now day two has taught me, better yet reinforced, that you just never know. Crappy conditions so often drain me of my desire to get out to the location but it almost seems like some sort of rule that if I go out expecting very little then something great like that rainbow will show up. What a weird day that was overall. Great day, but weird.

    • Hi Terry. Yeah, I’ve always felt that, when it comes to the color amidst the pine forest, the east side of H-13 is a richer photographic environment than the west side, and that’s why I spent the bulk of my time over there. Regardless, it’s some pretty tough shooting; you really have to work for the compositions, I think. I spent the clear majority of my time during that session walking around and looking, not shooting. I recall looking at a lot of different possibilities through the viewfinder and rejecting far more than I accepted.

      Agreed on the “you never know” credo. Will Clay surely would concur, based on our conversation with him. 🙂 And, you’re right, that was a very weird day. The weather changed, dramatically, something like three times in the span of about nine hours.

  7. Great photos, definitely want to visit Michigan one day!! Love seeing autumn leaves. The Wagner Falls photo is great! -Victoria

    • Thanks very much, Victoria. There’s plenty to experience in Michigan.

  8. […] forecast for the morning of Day 3 was very similar to that of Day 2:  cloudy with a chance of rain.  A sunrise was considered an almost certain non-entity this […]

  9. So glad to hear the story behind that rainbow, Kerry – I still intend to buy a print from you, as soon as I wrap up my current all-consuming project 🙂 This post is a great reminder to embrace the weather conditions and prepare for the opportunity while hoping for serendipity.

    • Thanks, Lynn. You have indeed absorbed the moral of that morning’s story. 🙂

  10. […] Park Service and, as was discussed in the first installment of this series, and again in the second segment, we were privy to second- and third-hand rumors about what was going on.  But it was raining […]

  11. […] Day 2 […]

  12. […] Day 2 […]

  13. […] Day 2 […]


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