Posted by: kerryl29 | November 30, 2020

The UP: The Hiawatha Story

The second day in the UP was the first that didn’t involve extensive mandatory travel and, as a result, was the initial opportunity we had to see what the areas in the immediate vicinity of Munising would hold.  As mentioned earlier, we had reason to be concerned that we’d missed peak color in the Hiawatha National Forest based on what had happened, weather-wise, in the Upper Peninsula a couple of weeks earlier.  The consecutive nights of hard freeze had kick started color change much earlier than usual throughout much of the UP and, based on previous experience, I feared that the Hiawatha had been one of the places so impacted.  On this morning, we’d find out for certain.

I suggested we hit Council Lake, a spot I’ve visited countless times over the years, for sunrise, and though it was still fairly dark when we arrived, I was pleased to see that the color looked pretty good.  There was just enough wind at daybreak to be a nuisance; reflections were only occasionally available.  But the light was pretty nice.

Fall Color Intimate, Council Lake, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Dawn, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

There is a kind of “arm” of Council Lake, to the left of the main shooting area, which is often more sheltered than the rest of the lake and this morning was not an exception to the general rule.

Council Lake Dawn, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Intimate, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Reflections, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Reflections, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Every time I’m at Council Lake I take a short, mostly hidden, path that provided access to the area where a small outlet stream flows out of the lake to the south.  Years ago there was a small wooden footbridge located here, but that fell apart at least a decade ago and has never been rebuilt.  The outlet stream meanders off into a meadow south of Council Lake.  Every time I’m at this location I look at the meadow; prior to this year I’d only photographed there once, very briefly, on my very first visit to this spot back in 2002.  That proved to be a pointless exercise and I’d never clicked the shutter at the meadow again.  Until this year.  When I wandered back to the outlet stream on this morning I was treated–completely unexpectedly–to a very attractive sky.  At the main shooting location at Council Lake, the southern sky is hidden from view by a plethora of tall trees, so I had no idea what I’d find when I went back there.  It was a very lucky discovery on this occasion and I hastened to take advantage of it as soon as I went back there.

Council Lake Meadow, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Fortunately for me, this spot was even more sheltered than the arm of Council Lake, which was immediately behind my shooting position.  That produced some semblance of reflections in the stream and kept the tall grasses (and foliage) from blowing…most of the time.  Fortunately for me, lulls were the rule rather than the exception.

Council Lake Meadow, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

When I returned to the main Council Lake shooting area, Jason was standing at least knee deep in the water, hoping that the wind at this spot (which was not well-sheltered) would ease so he could photograph a particular composition that included numerous reeds in the water that were blowing all over the place.  I told him that, based on my experience in this immediate area, I was going to take the very short drive (less than 1/2 mile) over to nearby Red Jack Lake because it was often calm there in the morning when it was windy at Council.  We’d planned to check Red Jack anyway, given its proximity to Council, and I wanted to get a head start.  We were driving separate vehicles at this point so I told him that I was heading over there and I’d wait for him at Red Jack; there was no need to hurry.

I was at Red Jack–which has only one easily accessible shooting location, where the boat launch is located–in a couple of minutes and saw immediately that my assumption was correct:  the lake surface was glass-like.  The color, I was sorry to see, was indeed past peak.  Red Jack Lake is one of the earlier turning lakes in the Hiawatha, so this wasn’t an entirely shocking revelation, but it was disappointing as it suggested that many other spots that I normally visit in the forest would also be picked over.

Still, with the light still nice and the lake calm, I figured it would be worth a few images this morning.  Besides, the color in one corner of the lake’s alcove, to the right of my shooting position, was still nice.  As I was setting up, I glanced out at the lake and saw that a rainbow had formed.  I rushed to ready my equipment so I could capture the rainbow before it started to fade.

Red Jack Lake Rainbow, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Red Jack Lake Rainbow, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

The rainbow faded and disappeared compleely after a minute or two and I focused on the more traditional Red Jack compositions. Those included ultra wide scenes, given the interesting sky, and tighter “across the lake” images, using a telephoto lens.

Red Jack Lake Reflections, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Red Jack Lake Alcove, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Red Jack Lake Reflections, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Red Jack Lake Reflections, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Red Jack Lake Reflections, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Red Jack Lake Intimate, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Red Jack Lake Intimate, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

We made the trek to Halfmoon Lake next, though I was all but convinced that it would prove to be a waste of time and, sadly, I was right.  The sun was now out full throttle–it was virtually clear at this stage–the wind was a problem and, worst of all, the entire area around Halfmoon was pretty badly picked over.  I’d estimate that the area had peaked a good four or five days earlier.  Driving around the Hiawatha on the way to and from Halfmoon had confirmed our concerns; the Hiawatha had already seen its best this season.  Now we had to hope that Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, much closer to the warming influence of Lake Superior and, therefore, always much later to change in my experience, would be able to sustain us for the duration of the week.  I was optimistic that it would, but we spent the rest of the day verifying that.

The weather for most of the rest of the day really wasn’t particularly conducive to photography, though we did a bit anyway.  It was almost completely sunny and quite breezy as we headed into Pictured Rocks.  After taking Jason to see the one trick pony that is Miners Castle, we moved east and checked out a few locations for possible future shooting.  The good news was that some areas we passed through were nearing peak but others were still mostly green.  We definitely weren’t too late for peak color in Pictured Rocks.  (Good thing, as there was another very cold night in our immediate future.)

We actually stopped and did a tiny bit of photography in the Kingston Plains area, technically just outside Pictured Rocks, but directly accessible from H-58, the road that runs trough the Lakeshore from west to east.  I’ve driven past this area many times but had never photographed there.  It’s an area of an old, logged White Pine Forest with many remaining stumps that is now protected and has a very different look and feel from the other areas in the UP.

Kingston Plains, Lake Superior State Forest, Michigan

Kingston Plains Black & White, Lake Superior State Forest, Michigan

We took a look at the White Birch Forest in the area near the Twelvemile Beach Campground.  The White Birch Forest is a notoriously late-turning area (I’d only seen it at peak once before), and it was still overwhelmingly green on our scouting session.   This wouldn’t be the case for long, however, as I’ll detail in a later post.

We moved along to the Hurricane River area and checked it out.  Again, the light was mostly awful, but we managed to find a few spots that were in open shade and broke out the cameras to focus on intimate scenes and reflections.

Hurricane River Black & White, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Hurricane River Reflections, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Hurricane River Intimate, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Hurricane River Reflections, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The scouting session had been worthwhile, even if not all that productive in terms of actual photography.  We’d found gotten a broad sense of how far along things were in Pictured Rocks and had a direct look at a number of specific locations, which would be very handy for planning later in the week.

We’d decided to end the day back at Miners Beach, and so we did.  This is one of the nicest sunset locations in Pictured Rocks as there’s a tailor-made scene for pre-sunset, and a number of good locations to photograph at sunset.

The pre-sunset location is Elliott Creek, where a small waterfall empties more or less directly into Lake Superior.  The scene has a very attractive rocky foreground.  It’s a fairly popular spot, as UP locations go, and we took turns with several other photographers who were waiting for the light.

With the wind out of the north on this day, there were waves rolling in to Miners Beach.

Elliot Creek at Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Elliot Creek at Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Elliot Creek at Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Elliot Creek at Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The sky was mostly clear, but there was just enough color to make things interesting after the sun went down, and I put together a couple of frames as parting shots for the day.

Miners Beach at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Miners Beach at Sunset, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

It had been a long day, more productive for scouting than actual photography, but the time spent would pay off as the week moved on.


Responses

  1. Absolutely beautiful, great photography and words. Amber 🙏

    • Thanks very much!

  2. Nice images and great documentary of the area! Beautiful collection!

  3. Beautiful photos! I love the reflections of the trees over the lake!

    • Thanks very much!

  4. Even with limited opportunities I’d say this was a good day of shooting. The abstract Hurricane River reflections are my favorites from this set.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  5. Lovely colours, and like the scenes with the tall grasses and water. Also taken by the reflections of the blue skies and clouds in the water. Like what you have done with the Hurricane River reflections and believe I have seen Miners beach before-nice energy.

    • Thanks, Jane!

  6. Beautiful pictures of Michigan in the fall.

  7. Awesome photography and well explained. All the frames are beautiful.

    • Thanks very much!

  8. […] frost two nights in a row.  He wondered if the White Birch Forest, which we had explored on our first Munsing-based day and found mostly green–had progressed significantly, color-wise.  I had my doubts, given how […]

  9. […] truth, we kind of straddled the marker on this trip.  We were late for color in parts of the Hiawatha, but caught peak in others.  And our early explorations of Pictured Rocks showed that the area was […]

  10. […] do some shooting in an area that had looked promising but hadn’t been mined when we’d scouted the area several days prior.  Since Jason would start the drive back to Colorado right after the morning […]

  11. […] to the parking area at the east end of the beach and returned to a familiar scene.  Unlike my last visit to the Elliott Creek area (and to my surprise), there was no one present when I arrived, about a half an hour before […]


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