Posted by: kerryl29 | January 7, 2014

The UP: Days 8 & 9

After experiencing a truly brilliant sunset on Day 7, we prepared for the last full day of the trip–Day 8.  The forecast was calling for clear skies at sunrise, but I suggested that we give Pete’s Lake–a location we’d only scouted (i.e. we hadn’t shot there)–a look.  Pete’s isn’t among my favorite lakes to photograph in the Hiawatha for two reasons:  first, it’s not a great location for fall color, due to an abundance of conifers fringing much of the shoreline; second, it’s a large lake, as Hiawatha lakes go, which means that very little wind is needed to disturb reflections.  Did I mention that the forecast, in addition to clear skies, was calling for significant breeze?  On the plus side, Pete’s Lake has excellent access, which provides a large number of vantage points to the photographer.

It was still dark when we arrived at the lake.  Sure enough, there was plenty of breeze, making  reflections a rumor that morning, but there ended up being just enough clouds in the southern sky to make something of the sunrise.  I decided, almost immediately upon our arrival, to use a bench as my foreground interest.

Pete's Lake at Sunrise, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Pete’s Lake at Sunrise, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

After playing with the lake itself as the sun itself came up, on the way back toward the parking area I found a fairly unorthodox composition that I found appealing.

Pete's Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Pete’s Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

In the forest, not far from the spot where we parked the car, Terry discovered this stump, which we both spent a bit of time working with, as it made for an interesting intimate subject.

Near Pete's Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Near Pete’s Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

After sunrise, we decided to return to Munising Falls.  We had scouted this area–sort of–on Day 4.  The government shutdown was still in place, so access to the area remained (officially) cut off, and when we arrived at the parking area, a ranger’s vehicle was in the parking lot.  We decided to wait until the ranger left before wandering into the area, so we parked across the street.  I’ve photographed Munising Falls several times in past years, and I knew that, despite the sunny skies, the waterfall, which is located in a lush gorge, would remain shootable until late morning when hot spots would begin to creep in amongst the trees on the bluff above the falls.  The canyon is typically fairly sheltered from the wind as well.

In a few minutes, the ranger left and we left our car outside the parking lot, grabbed our gear and wandered in.  The trail to the falls is on a well-maintained boardwalk and is less than 1000 feet in length.  Initially, we shot the falls from creek level.  I went back to the car for my boots so that I could set up in the stream below the waterfall.

Munising Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Munising Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

There are a couple of staircases that branch off the main boardwalk that lead to elevated observation points of the falls.  The one to the left of the stream is blocked by undergrowth but the one to the right affords a clear shot.  The wind was becoming an issue by this time, as it caused the foliage to dance periodically.  Given the desirability of a slow shutter speed to render the water, this was a problem, so I took a number of shots.  It was next to impossible to account for all of the leaves in the scene prior to clicking the shutter, so I had to hope that one frame was pristine.  This turned out to be a good approach.  Of the seven or eight shots of this exact composition that I took, only two were devoid of blurred foliage.

Munising Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Munising Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

By the time we wrapped up at Munising Falls it was approaching noon.  It was a warm, sunny and breezy day.  I suggested that we scout Memorial Falls and Tannery Falls, which are located on private land that is owned and administered by the Michigan Nature Association.  The trails that lead to the waterfalls are open to the general public and are walking distance from the Munising Falls parking lot.  Terry had a phone call to deal with so I ran up to check out the falls quickly by myself, without my gear.  The trails were pretty steep (and a bit muddy in spots, after all the recent rains), but not very long and since I wasn’t hauling any gear with me, I was able to get up and back quickly.  My scouting session determined that both falls were worth shooting, with Memorial Falls being the more compelling of the two if time was limited.  My plan was to return the following morning before heading back to the Chicago area.

From here, we took a quick run past Alger Falls, which is located only a mile or so from the motel, right off M-28.  I photographed Alger Falls in 2002, and had driven past it countless times since.  The color surrounding the falls was excellent this year, and I decided to add it to the following morning’s itinerary, when it would be in full shade.  We also ran out to Miners Castle, accessed from the same relatively nearby section of Pictured Rocks as Miners Beach.  Terry hadn’t seen it, and while I’ve photographed it several times in the past, I thought it would be worth his scouting it.  Miner’s Castle is a late afternoon shot, but you can get a sense of the place in any light.  So, we zipped over there and had a look.  Terry thought it was well worth photographing, so we planned to return later that afternoon.

From there, we headed back into the Hiawatha to check out a few spots we’d already photographed, just to see what was happening with the color.  We shot by both Council and Red Jack Lakes, for instance, and found that both–Red Jack especially–was beginning to look a bit picked over.

We also made a quick stop at Moccasin Lake, which is not far from Council and Red Jack.  When we gazed down to the shoreline right below the pullout on H-13 we saw someone familiar.  It was the same guy we’d seen two days earlier at Au Train Falls.  This was the guy who had said that he didn’t “waste [his] time with these little bull**** waterfalls.  [He’d] shot major waterfalls.” He was all set up, taking a picture of the lake.

I told Terry that I should call down to him that we “don’t waste our time with these little bull**** lakes.  We’ve shot major lakes, like Superior and Michigan and Huron.”  We had a good chuckle about that.  Of course I didn’t do it–we just left without announcing our presence–but I thought about it.

On the way back toward Munising, we stopped at a small preserve that I’d had my eyes on for years, but never explored.  It was a small(ish) wetland, with a series of boardwalks running through it.  It was mid-afternoon by now, but we decided to stop and take a look.  This was Cox Pond, and we walked all around the boardwalk access and found a few things that we thought were worth shooting.

The wind was out of the south on this warm afternoon, and the southern edge of the pond was pretty well sheltered from the breeze.  Careful use of a polarizing filter really helped bring the clouds in the sky to life without destroying the reflections.

Cox Pond Autumn, Alger County, Michigan

Cox Pond Autumn, Alger County, Michigan

I was also intrigued by the lines made from the shadows on the railings of the boardwalk, in certain spots.

Cox Pond Boardwalk Shadows, Alger County, Michigan

Cox Pond Boardwalk Shadows, Alger County, Michigan

By the time we finished at Cox Pond, it was late afternoon, and the light was angular enough to make a trip back to Miners Castle worth doing.  And so we did.

Miners Castle, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Miners Castle, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

As nice as the Miners Castle scene is, it’s pretty much a one-trick pony, so we weren’t on site long. It was time to think about what to do for sunset.  Much as had been the case on the previous afternoon, things appeared to be shaping up for a very nice sunset this evening.  After some discussion, we decided to head back to Au Sable Point.  We’d been there on Day 6, under (mostly) overcast conditions, and we knew that shooting sunset here would mean a 1.5 mile hike back to the trailhead in the dark, but the trail was so flat and easily traversed that neither of us was concerned about that.  Besides we both had flashlights, and Terry had a headlamp.  No problem.

So we drove east.  It took about 40 minutes to get to Hurricane River–the jumping off point for the trail to Au Sable Point.  We dodged the protective tape and moved into the campground area, which was completely deserted.  It was a bit less than an hour until sunset and the hike to the point wouldn’t take more than about half that.

I mentioned earlier that it had been a warm day, and despite the cold morning we’d experienced the previous day, there hadn’t been a hard freeze.  How did I know that?  When we got out of the car in the campground, located in a thick forest only a few hundred feet from the Lake Superior shore, we were greeted by copious mosquitoes and black flies.  This was my fifth autumn shoot in the UP and this trip was the first time I’d ever seen a mosquito or a black fly (both types of insects are notorious for their presence in the area in the summer).  Terry sprayed himself with DEET and I figured that when we got out to the point–in the open, with the breeze hitting us–the bugs would leave us alone.

The insects–especially the mosquitoes–harassed us all the way to Au Sable.  We were constantly slapping at them.  By the time we got to the point, they were thick as thieves.  I tried to set up to take a shot of the lighthouse from the bluff but if I stopped moving, the mosquitoes were all over me.  I couldn’t deal with it.  I made a beeline for the beach.

My assumption that things would be better on the beach was accurate–to a point.  The bugs were still present, but they weren’t nearly as numerous.  Terry followed me down the log “staircase” but, for some reason, the insects liked him a lot better than they liked me–they were all over him, and they wouldn’t leave him alone.  After a few minutes, he couldn’t take it any longer.

“I can’t deal with this,” he said.  I looked over and saw insects swarming all over him.  “I just can’t take it.”  I understood what he meant.  If you’re constantly being buzzed by mosquitoes it’s all but impossible to focus on photography.

“I’m going to head back to the car,” he said.  “Don’t hurry back on my account.  If you can deal with the insects, hang out here as long as you want.  You’ve got a flashlight, right?’  I said I did and pulled it out to show him…and discovered that the batteries were dead.  It had been working fine just a day earlier.  Terry gave me his flashlight.  I protested.  What would he use?  “I won’t need anything in all likelihood,” he said.  “Besides, I’ve got the headlamp.”  I thanked him.

“I’m not sure how long I’ll make it myself,” I told him.  “If the bugs start bothering me, I’ll be right behind you.”

For the most part, however, the insects left me alone.  I swatted away perhaps a dozen mosquitoes, but there were no swarms.  I was generally able to concentrate and remained on the beach until long past sunset.

Before the sun went down, I photographed the lighthouse from the beach.  Note the long shadows and the quality of the light.

Au Sable Point Light, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Au Sable Point Light, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

I then set up to photograph the shoreline to the southwest when the sun disappeared but, mindful of the experience at Miners Beach the previous night, I glanced behind me–toward the north.  And saw what you see below.

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The sun hadn’t quite set, but it was beginning to appear as though this might be even a better sunset than the spectacle we’d witnessed the previous evening from Miners Beach.  Immediately after the sun set, I shot along the coast to the northeast.

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Once again, it was time to follow the color around the sky, but this time–because Au Sable Point provides a panorama that extends nearly 270 degrees, there was a lot more “around” to follow.

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The real color show, of course, got underway in the southwest sky about 15 minutes after the sun went down.

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Au Sable Point at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

When the color in the sky finally began to fade, I got my things together, climbed back up to the bluff and made my way as quickly as possible up the trail.  The glow in the sky persisted all the way until I got back to the car and beyond.  We could still see the glow as we returned to the main road on our way back to Munising, nearly an hour after the sun had officially set.

When we got back to the motel, Terry and I said our goodbyes.  He was facing a 13-hour drive back to Pittsburgh, so he was going to leave first thing the following morning.  I wanted to shoot the waterfalls I’d scouted earlier, so I was going to head out and do that at first light, and then make the 6-7 hour drive back to the Chicago area.  It had been a great experience shooting with Terry, as I described at some length in the Day 1 writeup.  (In fact, it went so well that we’re hoping to do it again in a different location, perhaps as soon as this spring.)

The following morning, I was out at dawn for the very short drive to Alger Falls.  In fact, I was out too soon–I needed the ambient light to come up so I could get a shutter speed of no more than a few seconds.  There wasn’t much breeze this morning, but there was a bit.  It was pretty cold, waiting for the light, but I finally got what I needed.

Alger Falls, Alger County, Michigan

Alger Falls, Alger County, Michigan

After wrapping up at Alger Falls, I drove the 10-odd minutes to the access point to Memorial Falls.  I had hoped to shoot Tannery Falls as well, but I ended up not having time.  Memorial Falls didn’t have the greatest flow, but the setting was certainly plenty compelling for this 40-foot waterfall.

Memorial Falls, Alger County, Michigan

Memorial Falls, Alger County, Michigan

It’s possible to walk behind Memorial Falls, which I did…and composed this multiple-frame exposure.

Memorial Falls, Alger County, Michigan

Memorial Falls, Alger County, Michigan

On the far side of Memorial, if you walk around the wall into the adjacent canyon, there’s a natural window that can be used to frame the falls.  It’s pretty difficult to see the waterfall at this size–and there really aren’t a lot of compositional choices if you want to utilize the window–but it’s an interesting shot, I think.  In any event, this was both an exposure blend and an example of focus stacking.

Memorial Falls, Alger County, Michigan

Memorial Falls, Alger County, Michigan

The above shot was the final one I took on the trip.  I hope you enjoyed reading about the experience.  In case you missed any of the earlier entries, they’re linked immediately below:


Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7



  1. Breathtaking images !

    • Thanks very much!

  2. Beautiful images… and what a place to sit and enjoy nature.

    Have a nice day.

  3. I like your writing style and photography and how it allows me to go on the journey with you, bugs and all! Amazing the gems that one can find just a short jaunt from parking (thinking of the Munising Falls). The stump with all that great fungi caught my attention and I studied it for a spell, especially the placement of the leaves before I read about it. Thanks for the chuckle re shooting the b—lakes. Enjoyed the autumn foliage, the falls and light. Thank you.

    • Thanks very much, Jane. I’m really glad to hear that you enjoyed it.

  4. The Autumn scene reminded me both of Loch Lomond and the English Lakes.

  5. It’s been a great trip and the photos were fantastic, I’ve enjoyed reading the whole thing and looking forward to the next one.

    • Thanks very much!

  6. Once again I must start by saying what a great job you did. In fact I will spell it out a little from my perspective. Pete’s Lake was pretty much nothing to write home about from my eyes on that morning. I did try wandering around a little to find an interesting composition just in case the sun would give us the show yet I failed to see the shot that you came away with. I was to the left as you know and I was working with some bench’s but other obstructions left with with compositions that ultimately won’t make the cut at all. In fact for me that morning there was only a few shots that I took that will make my cut and one was a shot of my shoes, another was a starburst through the forest, and the final that comes to mind was the stump. I really did like the stump for some reason and I am happy to see others commenting on it as it helps me justify my obsession with things like that.

    On that morning I was plenty happy to move on to Munising Falls. I was a bit impressed by the waterfall as I had low expectations of what I would find but I never felt like I could find the right composition while there. I took the shot that I settled for and it will stand as my Munising Falls shot but I think if I ever get back there then I will try to figure something better out for that waterfall.

    Off to Cox pond and I must tell you that I felt like that was a pleasant little unexpected treat. I have a series of shots but as I reviewed them I have one that stands out where the clouds lined up just about right and the color with the reflection all came together. Strange as it may seem from such an incredible trip, it is actually one of my favorite shots. Oh and don’t forget that this is where I put my remote down and left it. 😦

    I strongly regret not walking up to see Memorial Falls. I can see that there are some very nice and interesting shots up there. I wish that my knee was feeling better that day as I would have liked to shoot that one.

    The mosquitos and flies. I am an outdoor guy. I lived near a lake for part of my life. I have always known that mosquitos love me but that was absolutely crazy. Once again kudos to you for sticking it out and coming away with some great shots but it just was not going to happen for me. I did get a few very nice yet less interesting shots from down the trail where we parked but no sort of foreground interest like what we had up there at Au Sable Point. Another reason for me to get back but to have some better plan for the mosquitos.

    At this point I remember discovering my missing remote, unless I am on the wrong day, and scrambling back to Cox Pond to go for a night time walk around the pond and end up very happy to find that remote laying there where I put it down.

    Saying goodbye after such a trip just did not feel like enough for me. I really truly want to thank you and I was feeling like I needed to find some way to show you how thankful I really was. I think that you got it that night while we talked and I must say that of all the photographers that I have ever worked with you are the only one that has a similar mindset as me. You approach a trip like this just like I do and it is all about getting the most bang for the buck. We are there to make art and I so appreciated that approach.

    Yes Kerry, we will work together again I am sure. I now consider you to be at the top of my real photography friends and I sure hope that I can be part of a great blog like this sometime again in the future. I enjoyed my time with you. I learned a little by being there and most of all I have some incredible shots and an experience that I will treasure forever.

    Until next time Kerry, Thank You for all that you did! Great work on the blog as it even helped me live something that I was there for. 🙂 I can’t wait to do it again.

    • Hey Terry!

      Yeah, Pete’s Lake…it can be a tough subject, particularly when it’s breezy. And it definitely wasn’t an epic sunrise that morning. But the stump was a good find, and for that you get all the credit.

      Munising Falls is a nice setting…of course there are some restrictions in shooting perspectives, but I think it’s worth poking around a bit at the shooting site. I think that the lushness of the setting is best depicted from the overlook location, for what that’s worth.

      Yup, though I didn’t relate it in the write-up, I do remember the adventure with your remote (and, yes, it was this same day).

      Yeah, Cox Pond was definitely worth exploring. As I told you when I was up there, I’ve had my eye on that location for some time, but it’s always been on the way to somewhere else, so I never actually looked it over. I’m glad that’s no longer the case.

      As for Memorial Falls, unless you were going to head back the following morning, it didn’t matter that you didn’t check it out when I did the scout–it was unphotographable at that time (due to the light). But yes, in the end, it definitely was worth shooting.

      As for Au Sable and the mosquitoes…I really don’t know what more you could have done. They were all over the place, they wouldn’t leave you alone…short of mosquito netting or a beekeeper’s outfit (or a hazmat suit) I don’t think that there was anything else you could do. It really was too bad, because it was a phenomenal sunset at a great location. I really felt bad (and still do) that you had to miss it. Hopefully the shots you got back at Hurricane River are some consolation.

      In all, it was a great time; I’m really glad you contacted me back in September. For me to find someone with a compatible in-field workflow is a very, very rare thing. And, I’m definitely looking forward to the next time. It’s been a very, very busy time for me over the past few weeks, but I’ll try to shoot you an e-mail at some point over the next few days.

  7. You make me itch to get back to the UP in autumn. This has been a very rewarding and delightful series for me, Kerry. Thanks yet again!

    • Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed the series.

  8. Yes, a fantastic series. You don’t know how many times I’ve thought of you and the frustration with our marine layer…. during this latest stretch we’ve had of utterly spectacular sunsets. If you don’t believe me, go take a peek. 🙂

    • Oh sure, rub it in. 🙂

      I took a look–some terrific shots–looks like you’ve been getting some pretty heady surf of late, as well.

      And–not incidentally–thanks for taking the time to comment.

      • Like I tried to tell you, summer is NOT the time to be here. Though I have to admit that this winter has been far drier than normal. We haven’t had the usual storms, but lots of jaw-dropping sunsets, including at least one intense double rainbow. I could have rubbed it in more if I hadn’t been too sick to go out during the stretch from Thanksgiving to the New Year.

        • In my defense 🙂 , I was in the PNW for about two weeks in July of 2009, and only about four days of that time was spent on the OR coast. I spent more time in the high country (in the Olympics and, later, Mt. Hood) than on the coast, plus the time spent in the Columbia River Gorge. In any case, if/when I get back and concentrate on the coast (both in Oregon and Washington), I’ll definitely consult with you about optimal timing. I can’t fathom having to play footsie with the marine layer again. 🙂

  9. I hate to see your trip end, not only have the photos been spectacular, I have learned so much from them. It’s one thing to read about landscape photography and try to learn in the abstract, but it’s much easier when you can see photos taken by an expert of subjects that I am at least a little familiar with.

    • Thanks very much; it’s extremely gratifying to know that you’re getting so much out of this series.

  10. Kerry,

    Terrific UP series – probably one of your best in terms of capturing the essence of the journey as well as the resulting images! It’s hard to recall any more gorgeous sunset images than what you produced over the last couple of days.

    You really have a great skill to make a very challenging location result in simple, pleasing compositions. From the short time or two I shot with you, I can appreciate how much you push yourself to create some amazing images (sometimes out of virtually nothing)!

    Congrats on an outstanding trip and what I believe to be some of your finest work yet. Looking forward to seeing some more images of yours in the furture and perhaps even getting to shoot with you again.

    All the best,

    • Thanks very much, Ward. I really appreciate your taking the time to post your thoughts. I, too, hope we get a chance to shoot together again. Let me know if you plan to head back to Colorado (or elsewhere) and you want some company.

  11. this was a truly gorgeous trip and you have many stunning photographs to show! thanks for bringing us along on the journey.

    • Thank you very much for the kind words!

  12. This really was a terrific adventure. Your photos are fabulous Kerry. One of my favorites is Cox Pond in Autumn and I love the light in Au Sable Point Light. That shot and the sunsets were worth putting up with the flying critters!

    • Thanks very much, David. Yeah, I think it was worth fighting off the bugs to experience that sunset from Au Sable Point, but if I’d been attacked the way Terry was being victimized, I don’t think I could have made it. I was lucky that the mosquitoes and black flies (mostly) left me alone on the beach.

  13. Great shots, while waterfalls always are interesting…I think your lake shots & lighting were tremendous. Super shots. Also, great write up and one day hope to make it out to Michigan… Enjoyed the humor as well. Good news is I have your past posts to catch up on. Cheers.

    • Thanks very much…and I do hope you’re able to make it to Michigan at some point; there’s a remarkable amount to photograph simply in Alger County alone.

  14. How do you photograph waterfalls that they have that flowing feeling in them? You know what I mean I can’t find the English word for that. 😀 And do you have some special setings when you photograph sunsets? Because the colors and contrast are so beautiful..

    • Thanks.

      With regard to the question about waterfalls, I assume it’s the “silky water” look that you’re talking about. The key is to use a slow shutter speed; exactly how slow depends on how rapidly the water is moving, and how much blur you want, but it’s ordinarily somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/4 second or longer. If it’s a real gusher of a waterfall it’s possible that a stop or two shorter (i.e. 1/8 or 1/15 second) may suffice. My advice is to experiment a bit, bracket your exposure and see what you like. It won’t take long before you can come very close to estimating the desired shutter speed just by looking at the scene with the naked eye. Oh, and if it isn’t obvious, if you’re going to be shooting in this shutter speed range you really need to have your camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. (Of course, I think a tripod should be used for all landscape photography, but that’s another matter. :))

      As for sunset shooting…I employ a lot of different techniques, depending on the desired end result. I often blend multiple exposures, and I use high dynamic range (HDR) imaging as well. Not infrequently I blend multiple iterations of a single exposure, and sometimes I just use a single iteration of one shot. I’m sorry to be so cryptic, but that’s the reality of things. 🙂 If there’s a specific image you’d like to know about in terms of post-processing technique, let me know and I’ll explain what I did.

      • Thank you, I understood everything you said (altough I had to translate the word cryptic 😀 )

        • Whoops…sorry about tossing in an unfamiliar word. My apologies.

        • No worries 😉 Hey, did I already invite you to join my mini challenge? If I haven’t then you should! If I have, then why aren’t you there? 😛

  15. marvellous!

    • Much appreciated, thanks!

  16. […] […]

  17. […] decided I wanted to make it to the Point for sunset, so that’s what I planned to do on the very last day of that trip. The potential hang up was the hike back in the pitch dark, but that was taken care […]

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