Posted by: kerryl29 | December 4, 2013

The UP: Day 5

If you missed any earlier entries in this series, you can catch up via the links below:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

*                    *                    *

The Day 5 forecast was for cloudy skies and a chance of rain all day–again.  This was getting a bit old, but it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness, I told myself.

Although sunrise seemed highly doubtful, we got up early just in case, and returned to Halfmoon Lake.  We’d been there just two days prior, but we hoped we might be able to obtain some decent reflections this time around.  Halfmoon is such a great shooting location, we figured we’d get something good…and we weren’t disappointed.  As we made our way deep into the Hiawatha National Forest, ambient light slowly began to improve and we began to see evidence of fog.

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Sure enough, as we made our way over the final few hundred yards of the journey on foot, down the hillside to the shore of Halfmoon Lake, we could see evidence of significant fog.  This wasn’t morning mist off the water due to extremely cold air (we’d see that a few days down the road); this was honest to goodness fog.  While there was just enough breeze to mess with reflection possibilities, the foggy conditions more than made up for it, in my view.

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

The color around the edges of Halfmoon was sufficiently strong to bleed through the fog, which essentially turned every photograph into a faux watercolor.

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

At one point while we were shooting, the breeze dropped just enough to allow us to salvage some reflections from the nearby arm of the lake; the distance across the inlet from our location was modest enough to mitigate much of the fog effect–but not all of it.

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

The fog had it’s usual transforming effect; Halfmoon looked entirely different than it had just two days earlier when we were on site in bright overcast conditions.  These are the kinds of subtle effects that I love to work with.  It’s rare to produce anything jaw-dropping in conditions like this, but–and perhaps this is just me–I think that the moodiness that emanates from these kinds of scenes has a more lasting, contemplative impact.

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

I shot almost exclusively with a telephoto lens as I concentrated on relatively tight shots all the way across the lake. with a particular focus on complementary colors.

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

I can recall being struck by how prominent reds and yellows appear in fog, as they seem to pierce through the opacity much more emphatically than other colors.

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Halfmoon Lake in Fog, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

The fog finally began to lift a bit, but it remained entirely overcast and as we drove away from the area a light rain began to fall.

With another cloudy forecast in place, I had suggested that we plan to spend the bulk of the day investigating some of the waterfalls in western Alger County.  There were three on my short list; I’d been to two previously.  As we approached the nearest of the three–Au Train Falls, about 15 miles to the west of Munising–the rain began to pick up.  By the time we reached the parking lot at Au Train Falls, it was raining much too hard to shoot, but we stopped to scout the location anyway.

Au Train Falls is located a short distance below a hydroelectric damn on the Au Train River, and you really never know what you’re going to get there.  If the power company opens the flood gates, you can have quite a broad gushing.  I’ve also been to this location when there was barely a trickle flowing.  On this occasion, it was something in between, and despite the raindrops we spent a fair amount of time poking around the lower falls area, making mental notes of possible shooting locations for a return trip.  We also took a quick glance at the upper falls area, but getting a decent look would have meant scrambling down a steep, muddy hillside in the rain, so we didn’t bother.  The upper falls area, when flowing, can be pretty impressive, but the scene is aesthetically marred by a huge dam-related pipe which is virtually impossible to work around.

After we finished our scouting session, we headed west toward Laughing Whitefish Falls, about 15 miles away.  By the time we got there, the rain had stopped.  It’s about a mile walk on a trail–which was surprisingly unmuddy, given the amount of rain that had fallen in the area over the previous two days–from the parking area to the top of the falls.  This was my third visit to the waterfall over the years, and I’d really never come away with images I particularly cared for on any of my prior trips.

Atop Laughing Whitefish Falls, Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic Site, Michigan

Atop Laughing Whitefish Falls, Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic Site, Michigan

Laughing Whitefish Falls is more of a long slide than anything else, and with mediocre water flow it doesn’t photograph very well from the bottom.  The issue is made trickier because it’s almost impossible to omit the sky when shot from the bottom, and since even light is a virtual necessity to photograph the waterfall, that means a patch of featureless cloudy sky.  Yuck.

My preferred shot at Laughing Whitefish is from atop the waterfall, looking down into the colorful valley below.  This can theoretically be done from a good-sized shooting platform adjacent to the falls, but I’ve never found a perspective I like from there, so I carefully went around the platform on the side of the falls and perched myself (and tripod) right next to a tree, just above the spillway.  By bending down and reaching to my right, I could have easily stuck my hand in the water just as it poured over the edge.  That’s where I obtained the downstream shot you see above.  From this same location, I also produced the black & white of the spillway itself that you see below.

Laughing Whitefish Falls black & white, Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic Site, Michigan

Laughing Whitefish Falls black & white, Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic Site, Michigan

I’ve always been a bit intrigued by the creek immediately above the falls, where intimates of cascades and fallen leaves abound.

Laughing Whitefish River Rapids, Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic Site, Michigan

Laughing Whitefish River Rapids, Laughing Whitefish Falls Scenic Site, Michigan

Terry and I dutifully descended the long staircase to the base of the falls and then climbed off the platform and onto the limestone escarpment in search of the elusive base-of-the-falls shot.  I spent a lot of time looking around, but (as per usual) I couldn’t find anything I liked.

We made our way back up the staircase, made the mile-long hike back to the parking area and headed in the direction of Whitefish Falls (yes, I know it’s confusing, but Laughing Whitefish Falls and Whitefish Falls are completely different entities located about 25 miles apart on different rivers).  On the way, we caught sight of a small grocery in the speck of a town that is Rumely, Michigan, and stopped to photograph the building.  I processed the below shot as an old-style sepia-tinged film photograph.

Rumely Grocery, Alger County, Michigan

Rumely Grocery, Alger County, Michigan

As we neared the site for Whitefish Falls, we noted a particularly interesting farm not far from the town of Trenary, and resolved to stop on the way back, time permitting.

I’d never been to Whitefish Falls before, but had been told it could be tricky to find.  We did manage to locate the access point–an unpaved road that winds off into the trees off the main highway–without too much trouble, even though it’s entirely unmarked.  There was no one else around when we pulled into what appeared to be an unpaved loop road that served as a kind of campground.  We saw what appeared to be a trail peaking out of the trees and stopped to investigate.  Within a couple of hundred feet down the trail we found ourselves on the north bank of the Whitefish River and could see the series of cascades that make up Whitefish Falls.  I returned to the car for my boots and gear.  When I got back to the river to size things up, it appeared to me that the best shooting spots were on the other side.  I quickly sized the situation up.  The river was moving fairly rapidly, but it appeared, at least initially, that, if I was careful, I’d be able to wade across without getting wet.  This turned out to be trickier than it first appeared, because many would-be stepping spots led to water that was at least waist-deep on me.  Some of the rocks I’d have to step on to avoid these deeper areas were both slick and poorly anchored.  Long story short, I managed to get across without incident, but it was pretty hairy on a few occasions.

Whitefish Falls, Alger County, Michigan

Whitefish Falls, Alger County, Michigan

Still, as I surveyed the scene through the viewfinder, I was convinced I’d made the right decision–the shooting opportunities were much more pleasing on this side of the river.  While all of this was going on, for the first time all day, the clouds were parting and the sun was occasionally peeking through.  Since I wanted even light for these streamside opportunities, I occasionally had to wait for a cloud to pass in front of the sun, but I eventually got the shots I was looking for.

Whitefish Falls, Alger County, Michigan

Whitefish Falls, Alger County, Michigan

I then had to try to figure out how to get back across the river, which I managed to do without getting wet yet again (though it wasn’t easy on the return trip either).

As we headed back in the direction of Munising, we again encountered the farm we’d seen on the way in.  The sky was much more interesting now than it had been on our encounter, so we decided to shoot the location.  There were no “keep out” signs, but this was clearly private property, so Terry went to ask for permission from the occupant of the land while I scouted from the shoulder of the road.  No one was home, as it turned out, so we decided to shoot from the side of the road.  This limited our choice of perspectives a bit, but there wasn’t anything we could do about that.

Alger County Farm, Michigan

Alger County Farm, Michigan

By now, it was late afternoon.  With the partial clearing that had taken place we were hopeful that we might get a sunset for the first time in days, but as we headed back toward Munising–about 40 miles from Whitefish Falls–it clouded up again.  There was no more rain, but it was entirely cloudy.  We decided to head to Miners Beach, about five miles east of Munising, in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  This can be a phenomenal sunset location when the conditions are favorable; I’d shot at this spot many times over the years, but Terry hadn’t seen it.  I figured, at the very least, this was an opportunity to show him what Miners Beach was all about.

Unfortunately, that’s all it turned out to be.  We dodged the barriers, as per usual, on the way in, and we literally never saw another soul.  We journeyed from the Miners River estuary at the west end of the beach, all the way to Elliott Creek at the east end, and I was able to show Terry pretty much everything there was to see, but there was to be no sunset this evening.  At one point, in fact, a heavy fog drifted in and all but obscured the view of everything.  That lifted after a few minutes, but the clouds never parted and as the hour of sunset came and went, without even a hint of clearing, we gave up the ghost and called it a day without taking another shot.

We hadn’t seen a sunset since day one at Otter Lake, but our luck would finally start to turn the next day.

Next in this series:  Day 6:  Making the Rounds



  1. Wow! what amazing photos – especially the waterfalls! 🙂

  2. Wow super photos Kerry! I love the Halfmoon Lake shots. Fog can add so much subtle depth and mood to an image. As you said above…contemplative.

    • Thanks very much, David.

  3. Foto bellissime, specialmente quelle dell’acqua!!

  4. Love the fog images and especially like the Laughing Whitefish Falls spillway. Seems like a pretty hairy position you got yourself into to take the shots. Enjoying the journey.

    • Thanks.

      Yeah, it was a bit of a precarious spot, I guess, but nothing really dangerous (I won’t put myself in any real peril to obtain a photograph). I’d climbed out to that same position once before, some years ago, so I knew it could be done safely, as long as care was taken.

  5. Excellent photos as always!

  6. Another downstream waterfall photo, and another success (my eye actually kind of enjoyed the confusion of trying to see the water as flowing in the other direction at first. More beautiful images, more reasons to head to the UP.

    • Thanks very much!

      I think this was my only downstream shot of the entire trip. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I very seldom shoot downstream; perhaps I’m particularly careful on these rare occasions…I’ll have to ponder that a bit.

  7. I’ve enjoyed the series, Kerry and look forward to reading about your last day just as much as I look forward to getting back up there next fall.

    Wonderful subtle color with the heavy fog shots and love the dynamism of Laughing Whitefish Falls sliding into the colorful valley.

    • Thanks very much, Jim. I hope to post accounts of Day 6 at some point next week.

  8. […] Day 5 […]

  9. Another great entry on the UP adventure, Kerry! I don’t know why I did not see this one until day 6 came out but I found it and I am happy that I did. It is proving to me that your vision is great in the field. I say this because you salvaged several nice shots up there that I did not. I also love your shot of “Atop Laughing Whitefish Falls” as I was not comfortable leaving the security of the platform but you clearly showed there is gold if you dig deep enough. My shot from the platform is so-so and will remain as a “for my memoriories” shot as it is nothing to display. Now I also give you props for embracing the fog the way you did. I was having some equipment issues and as I am sure that you knew, I had some things from back home on my mind. I feel like that day was one of the days that I would love a do-over on. I just never felt completely right with my artistic side that day and looking back at my “snap-shots” from that day I think they confirm it. I am glad that you crossed the water at the Whitefish River as clearly the perspective was from there. This is a point that I would like to kick myself hard in the rear for not going back and getting my water gear.

    Overall there are some very nice shots from this day that you have that I did not even begin to collect. I am happy for you as at least one of us did.

    Good work and see you over at Day 6.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Terry.

      You’ve touched on a point that I’ve brushed up against–tangentially–on this blog several times in the past: it’s very, very difficult to successfully engage in just about anything creative if your mind is distracted by other things. You really have to be able to fully turn yourself over to the artistic pursuit, and sometimes it’s just not possible. I know that’s what was going on with you that day and there really wasn’t anything to be done about it…just one of those unavoidable things that happens sometimes. (I’ve been there myself.)

      Finally, as far as crossing the Whitefish River is concerned…that ended up being a pretty dicey proposition–something I didn’t realize until I was already in the water. Had I known, before I set out, what became clear to me when I was halfway across the river, I’m not sure if I’d have made the crossing at all. In the end, however, I’m glad I did.

  10. Kerry, I’m swooning over the fog images – I love the dreamy muted colors and soft edges of everything. As you noted, the reds really translate well through the fog; I love the contrast between the red and the deep tones of the evergreens.

    Crossing that river on foot! Whoa! A lot of people drown every year in PA doing that sort of thing; they don’t call it “Slippery Rock” for nothing around here. I’m so glad that all ended well, but still, that part of the story made me a bit queasy. I’m less of a risk taker these days, I guess.

    At any rate, another great tale of life in the field; can’t wait to read the next installment!

    • Thanks, Lynn.

      I’m quite happy with how the Halfmoon Lake in fog images came out. I know that this sort of thing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I really like the mood that fog exudes, and being able to work with it at my favorite woodland lake image was a real treat.

      The Whitefish River crossing…worst thing that could have happened to me is I’d have gotten a bit wet…which wouldn’t have been any fun, but it wasn’t a real serious risk. Having said that, I’m not at all certain that I’d have made the effort to cross if it hadn’t appeared quite routine (i.e. no serious chance of taking a bath) when I set out. I was almost halfway across when it became clear that it wouldn’t be so easy. In any event, all’s well that ends well. 🙂

  11. […] Day 1, and then had returned to photograph under cloudy conditions on Day 3 and foggy conditions on Day 5), we noticed that the car thermometer read 28 degrees F  And it was, in fact, very cold when we […]

  12. […] Day 5 […]

  13. Another great series, favorites being the 4th shot and waterfall shots. Sometimes fog is great to work with, and other times it sucks but you made it work.

    • Thanks again.

      I blogged on the subject of fog a few years ago:

      Basically, I think that fog is always something that can be used to assist with photographing the landscape unless you’re working with/counting on a broad vista.

  14. great pictures, I was a bit worried at the begining, with the foggied pictures but everything came clear after. Thanks

    • Thanks very much!

  15. […] far shore came into view as the mist gradually thinned.  The conditions reminded me of a morning I spent at Halfmoon Lake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a few years […]

  16. […] color makes with the overall grayness of a mist-strewn environment.  This is reminiscent of my experience in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan during a foggy morning when fall color was at its […]

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