Posted by: kerryl29 | July 9, 2018

Sleeping Bear Dunes: And Now for Something Completely Different

As I mentioned in my last post, among the subjects present at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are a number of farms and homesteads that are no longer occupied by people.  On a mostly cloudy day, we spent some time at a few of these sites and I focused most of my attention on elements within the elements.  In other words, rather than trying to capture the essence of the entire site, or even an entire building at a site, I homed in on some of the details.

The light was even for all of these shots and I ended up converting all but a few of them to black and white renderings.  Monochrome was, in fact, on my mind at the time of capture in all but a few of these instances, partly because I thought that the textures and other details of these scenes would be better rendered without color, but mostly because of the mood that I felt black and white would engender.

One of these images was included in the nine-photo set I presented in the introductory piece–a black and white intimate from one of the farm buildings.  (This shot is presented again immediately below.)

Homestead Intimate Black & White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

For the sake of comparison, here’s a color version of the same image.

Homestead Intimate; White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

While I find the faded red of the wood kind of interesting, I much prefer the black and white rendering, which has more of an “old feel” to me.  That’s my sense of the vast majority of these kinds of images from this trip, some of which appear below.

This is a very different kind of image than I usually present on this blog, so please forgive my self-indulgence.

Barn Intimate Black & White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Homestead Intimate Black & White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Beyond the simple weathered feel, the above image appealed to me because of the reflection of the barn in the window.

Homestead Intimate Black & White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Homestead Intimate Black & White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Homestead Intimate Black & White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Homestead Intimate Black & White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

There’s a somber storytelling feeling to a lot of these scenes, I think.  Many of these buildings still have at least some of their contents in place, as you can see–blinds, curtains, etc.–that are showing the ravages of time.  Coupled with other signs of age–the chipped paint on the wood frames, for instance–I think the monochrome treatment better conveys the feel of these places than color renderings do.


Homestead Intimate; White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

There are some exceptions, including the above image of one side of a shed which, in color, allows the rusty metal to be much more easily recognized.

Barn Intimate, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

I’m ambivalent about the above image.  The color version doesn’t have all that much color to begin with, but the rusted metal is a highlight and I kind of like the accent produced by the tall, unkempt grass at the bottom of the frame.  But I like the vertical of this scene (see below) better in monochrome, perhaps because of the greater feeling of dilapidation provided by the missing wood panels.

Barn Intimate Black & White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National

I’m still feeling my way through this process a bit.  Part of my strength–such as it is–as a landscape photographer is that I have learned through experience what I like when it comes to representing the landscape.  It’s something that comes together through a myriad of things including (but not limited to and in no particular order) subject matter, perspective, mood and composition.  Knowing what I like makes it easier for me to work with the landscape.  In this other genre, I’m still sorting out what I like, so it’s more of a challenge.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Barn Intimate Black & White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National

Barn Intimate Black & White, Sleeping Bear Dunes National



  1. Very nice post. Gave me some inspiration for our trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes the first week of Aug.

    • Thanks very much! Have a good time at Sleeping Bear; I’m sure you’ll find plenty to photograph.

  2. Interesting post. I almost always prefer color, although sometimes I decrease the saturation. Sometimes, though rarely, I think an image is better in B&W. I really like the colored version of the red-sided barn because it is softer, gives a better perspective of the aging process because of color fading, and gives it a sense of history connected to people. Someone cared about the barn enough to paint it, then someone had to walk away from it. As you stated, it definitely is a matter of personal taste and because they are our images we need to be true to our vision and the story we want the image to tell. Our photography needs to have integrity.

    • I also prefer the color image with the green grass, not only because of the beautiful, soft coloring but also because of the composition. I lingered on that one for a very long time – and then went back to it. 🙂

      • Thanks! I’m pretty fond of that shot myself, but it’s one of only a couple in this series that I prefer in color. As I said, c’est la vie. 🙂

    • Agreed, it’s absolutely a matter of taste. I know plenty of people who just don’t like black & white, period, and when we’ve talked about it boils down to personal preference, nothing more. C’est la vie.

      I think, as a percentage of images made, I thought “black and white” when in the field more on this trip than I ever have. In addition to these building intimates there many of the shots from the dunes themselves, and some of the beach photos too, were begging for a monochrome treatment (at least to me), for a variety of reasons. I’ll cover that topic in a future post, and perhaps do some side-by-sides…

      • Ah, I forgot that I have some dune photos that I changed to monochromatic. I remember liking some of your dune images you posted earlier.

        • Thanks. There will definitely be more of them in a future post.

  3. Very nice Kerry, you captured the area well. New eyes sometimes find compositions we locals often pass by. Well done. Another vote for monochrome.

    • Thanks, Gary! I have no doubt that you have your own share of compelling images of these scenes. At least some of my b/w photos from this trip were inspired by your work.

  4. I too have reservations about B&W in general. But to me, these subjects respond very well to the emphasis on texture and weathering otherwise overwhelmed by color distraction. I really like the feeling brought out in these black an whites. M 🙂

    • Thanks! I definitely prefer most of these in monochrome but, as noted in earlier comments, it’s entirely subjective.

  5. I love the lines and textures and the hint of human touch in the drapes and gloves hanging in the window. It begs to be in black and white, very nice series.

  6. I am increasingly drawn to black and white, and agree with your choices in the images included here of which ones were retained in their color versions. The window with the barn reflection is terrific. It’s nice to see these buildings preserved so well.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

      Incidentally, the barn reflected in that window is the same scene depicted in the first pair of images in the post.

  7. As we go on, year after year, it feels good to do something different every so often, even as on the whole we stick to our purpose.

    • Agreed. I recall feeling some of these sensibilities when I spent a fair amount of time photographing birds when I was in Florida last year.

  8. […] you can see from the images in this post (and the last one), I produced a lot of black and white photos at Sleeping Bear.  This theme will be the primary […]

  9. These photos are amazing.

    • Thanks very much!

  10. […] Buildings.  Beaches and dunes.  Forests.  I know I just scratched the surface at Sleeping Bear.  I look forward to further explorations. […]

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