Posted by: kerryl29 | October 19, 2020

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: An Introduction

Fall is my favorite time to photograph the North American landscape and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the place I’ve spent the most time doing so, with the possible exception of a few places to which I’ve taken day trips in northern Illinois over the years.

Fall Color, Ottawa National Forest, Michigan
Sturgeon River, Canyon Falls Roadside Park, Baraga County, Michigan
Chapel Creek Abstract Black & White, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Au Train Beach at Sunrise, Au Train Bay, Alger County, Michigan

In early October I made my sixth trip to the UP since 2002. Following a day in a new location (for me) in northern Wisconsin, I spent a week in the Upper Peninsula, beginning on October 2. It was an interesting, and ultimately highly productive, time despite some challenges; I was able to leverage my experience to my advantage. More on all of that in later blog posts detailing the experience.

Bond Falls, Bond Falls State Scenic Site, Michigan
Fall Color, Ottawa National Forest, Michigan
Red Jack Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan
The Z Black & White, Ontonagon River, Bond Falls State Scenic Site, Michigan

After all these years, the UP is a phenomenal autumn location for photography, in large part because it remains so remote. Five years ago, Andy Richards and I published an ebook designed as a photographer’s guide to the Upper Peninsula and since then, little has changed, as best I can tell. The UP remains lightly populated, difficult to access and relatively uncrowded.

Au Sable Point from the Log Slide, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Fall Color, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin
White Birch Forest, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Miner’s Beach at Dusk, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The UP is a true North Woods ecosystem, filled with birch, maple and beech and turns into a riot of color early in the fall. With multiple national forests, countless (mostly undeveloped) small lakes, rivers and streams, waterfalls and seemingly infinite miles of Great Lakes shoreline, there are photo opportunities to be had seemingly everywhere.

Laughing Whitefish Falls, Laughing Whitefish Falls State Scenic Site, Michigan
Fall Color, Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan
Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Miner’s Beach Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

I have a habit of visiting familiar spots whenever I head to the UP; I can’t help myself, there’s something almost magnetic about certain spots that beg repeated visits. But I always aim to check out some new locations as well and this trip was no exception. And I managed to spend a bit of time at a few spots that I’d only been to once or twice previously, many years ago. All of these locations ended up being worth my time.

Au Train Falls, Alger County, Michigan
Chapel Creek at Chapel Beach Black & White, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Sable Creek Black & White, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Fall Color, Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

As of this writing, I’ve been back from the UP for about a week and have been engaged in image processing ever since. I’ve made a decent dent in the material, but have not even begun to approach the halfway point. It will probably take at least another couple of weeks before I’ve gone through everything. What you see here is a tiny smattering of what I came home with. I’ll present a far more complete picture of the photographic database from the trip in subsequent posts.

Au Sable Light, Au Sable Point, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Sable Creek Intimate, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Council Lake Color, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan
Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

My next installment will discuss some trip planning and general notes detailing the experience, including the special challenges caused by the weather, both before and during the trip itself. Then I’ll begin the familiar pattern of detailing the chronology of the experience as well as the occasional thematic interruption.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the accompanying images.

Fall Color, Northern Highland American Legion State Forest, Wisconsin
Elliott Creek at Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Hurricane River Black & White, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Chapel Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Responses

  1. Beautiful, beautiful, and more beautiful! These just make me want to be there. You definitely have found some wonderful shooting locations, and I can understand why you return when you can.

    • Thanks, Ellen. It really, really helps to be able to leverage the familiarity I have with many of these places in the UP, and that benefit extends beyond simply knowing familiar spots. It can’t be divorced from the general knowledge I have accumulated about how different weather patterns impact varying locations, for instance. I’ll add some detail to this point in later posts, but there’s a general point to be mined from all of this that I will probably devote a thematic entry to.

  2. Beautiful Pictures!!

  3. Fall here in PA is my favorite time of the year, also. The woods are filled with brilliant colors for all of us to see. I have always taken the time to photograph one of Natures wonders. You have some very nice images of what’s around you. I will be heading “out there” to see what color I can find again.

    • Thanks and best of luck on your color search.

  4. Absolutely gorgeous photos. Really makes me want to do a fall trip to Michigan someday!

    • Thanks very much and, if you do make it to Michigan in the all, I’m sure you glad you made the trip.

  5. Beautiful images! I was able to enjoy fall colors in northern Wisconsin and it did not disappoint. Next season, I hope to make it into the UP.

    • Thanks! I spent a day poking around in Vilas County before I made it all the way up to the UPl If you go get up there next year I’m sure you’ll be happy you made the trip.

  6. Great choice. I love especially the first water detail image

    • Thanks very much!

  7. Lovely Autumn colors.

  8. Beautiful! Adding some of these to my list of places to go

    • Thanks very much!

  9. Beautiful fall colors! We went to Colorado and Wyoming recently and we did see the fall colors. Most though were yellow and orange. I guess we have to go further north to see the yellow, orange, and red colors.

    • Thanks!

      To see more color variety, you’d be better off heading north and east. The locations you visited are dominated by aspens, cottonwoods and box elders, all of which (primarily) turn yellow in the fall. The most colorful settings in North America are all in the eastern half of the continent. There are some exceptions to this rule, as there are spots in the west with some aspens that turn red or orange and broad-tooth maples that turn red, but for a significant variety of colors your best best is the North Woods, which extends from New England and eastern Canada to (roughly) the Arrowhead Peninsula in Minnesota.

  10. Ah, Kerry, you really awaken my nostalgia for Michigan. My childhood was there, and I’ll always treasure a week-long, late-summer camping trip that I made in the UP with a friend. We found a driveable but primitive road that took us to an unnamed lake, a little less than an hour’s drive from Tahquamenon Falls. What memories.

    • Thanks, Gary. I’m tickled that this post stimulated some pleasant recollections for you. Perhaps the rest of this series will do the same…

  11. […] I mentioned in the previous post, and highlighted in the UP introduction entry prior to that, I spent part of a day before hitting the Upper Peninsula in northern […]

  12. What a stunning set of images 👍

    • Thanks very much!

  13. […] I mentioned in the post that served as an introduction to this series, Jason met me in Rhinelander, Wisconsin on the morning of October 3, after a […]


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