Posted by: kerryl29 | December 21, 2020

The UP: Day of Intimates

After fighting off a windy, mostly/partly cloudy day, Jason and I prepared for much of the same on our third full day based in the Munising area.  We began, again, at Council Lake.  Jason was camping there and we knew that the color was still pretty good around the lake, so it made sense for me me to make the 10-odd minute pre-dawn drive there, photograph during the early light, and then make plans for the rest of the day.

It turned out to be a pretty good decision, as it was calm at daybreak, making for excellent reflections.  We were also treated to some extremely nice light and cooperative clouds at sunrise.  As I’ve mentioned, this wasn’t my first fall color rodeo in the Upper Peninsula, so I knew to arrive early enough to beat any potential workshop that might descend on Council Lake.  Outside of people who were camping there, I was the first person on site that morning–and none of the campers were out and about when I arrived.  But after I’d been present for perhaps 10 minutes I heard the telltale sound of multiple vehicles traversing the forest road that leads to Council Lake.  Sure enough, it was a workshop, with about 12 participants and two instructors.

I’m going to fight the urge to launch into a long polemic about the propriety of conducting a photo workshop of this magnitude–or possibly any magnitude–in the middle of a raging pandemic, other than to say that I wasn’t particularly comfortable with the arrival of all of these folks, despite the fact that there’s plenty of room to spread out along the southeast shore of Council Lake.  These people were not masked and were somewhat randomly sharing vehicles, to cut down on their footprint.  Fortunately, once on site they basically kept a reasonable distance (six feet or more) away from us, but…under the circumstances I don’t see any way that this workshop, based on what I saw, could possibly have been conducted safely.  (Perhaps I won’t fight the urge to launch a long polemic…)

Workshop aside, it was a nice morning to be at Council Lake.  Other than the glass-like reflections (the below image was a five-second exposure and every leaf is still sharp as a tack; that is dead calm), things didn’t appear all that promising at the break of dawn.

Council Lake Dawn, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

But as the sun, rose the sky (and its reflection) improved quickly and dramatically.

Council Lake Dawn, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Dawn, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

If the two images above look like a scene just begging to be photographed as a panorama, well….yep.  I very quickly leveled the camera (easy to do with the Acratech leveling base that I have mounted below my tripod head) and rapidly produced the frames necessary for the panorama, before the light changed.

Council Lake Dawn Panorama, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

When a somewhat diffused sun finally directly hit some of the trees on the northwest lakeshore, I made one final relatively wide image.  Note the massive change in the light’s hue.

Council Lake Morning, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Even after the sun rose, some of the trees along the lake remained in open shade and I hastened to capture a few intimates.

Council Lake Color, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Alcove, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Trees, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Trees, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Trees, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Trees, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Trees, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Council Lake Trees, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

These intimates set the tone for the rest of the day’s photography, which only resumed after a lengthy delay.  After we finished at Council Lake we decided to take a drive to the west and check out an area near Marquette about which we’d heard promising things.  The route to Marquette–about a 45-minute drive away–took us through an area of the western part of the Hiawatha National Forest that we’d driven past the previous day as well, on the drive back from Laughing Whitefish Falls.  We’d noted some excellent color through this area and we were reminded of it on the drive toward Marquette on this morning.  We took particular notice of a location near a sign for Valley Spur, a bike trail in good weather and a snowmobile trail in the winter.

When we arrived in the Marquette area we saw very promising color that was still a few days shy of peak, mimicking some of the scenes we’d seen in the Dead River Falls area late on our very first day in the UP, as we drove toward Munising.  We explored Marquette County Highway 510 for about 10 miles and saw some real potential.  In fact, we took a closer look at one scene that caught my eye that I will probably always regret being unable to photograph.  (The conditions while we were on this road were terrible for photography:  breezy and sunny.)  It was a two-track S-curve–really it was someone’s driveway, but it had the look and feel of a country road–snaking through an almost impossibly yellow forest, with a perfectly placed lichen-covered boulder for foreground interest.

But despite a couple of hours of exploration and a number of interesting locations, we made no images in the Marquette area, due to the aforementioned awful conditions.  As we made our way back east, toward Munising, things improved somewhat.  The wind wasn’t as strong and the skies started showing signs of clouding up as we drove.  By the time we reached the Valley Spur area again, it was blessedly mostly cloudy.  There was still some wind to deal with, but we decided to see if we could find some image making opportunities.  We pulled into the Valley Spur parking area and almost immediately were greeted with captivating intimate scenes.

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

We worked the clearing immediately surrounding the large unpaved, mostly empty, parking area.  There were a handful of other vehicles present, but no people were to be found, which was perfect.  The wind was a nuisance, but ultimately could be dealt with by waiting for lulls.

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

There were pockets of excellent color, but broadly speaking it was just okay.  What made the spot so captivating was the spacing of the trunks and the character-filled nature of some of the individual trees.

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

After shooting in the clearing for about an hour we walked out to the main highway.  I crossed the road to explore an area bisected by an unpaved forest road.

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

The area along this road had additional intimate scenes begging to photographed.

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

I found a spot with rich reds branching off a bent trunk.  I spent at least five minutes waiting for the wind to cooperate to allow me to produce the image below.

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Back along the highway, we ran across one of the nicest collection of intimate elements that we’d seen since our time in the Ottawa National Forest near Bond Falls, back on the first day in the UP.:  beautiful color amid lichen-covered sugar maple trunks.

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Before heading back to the parking area, I made a grab-shot like image of the setting moon in a clearing western sky, above a cluster of colorful trees,

Valley Spur Moonset, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

I trudged back to the parking area while Jason was still working on a scene along the highway and suddenly caught a glimpse of a plethora of additional images, all requiring a telephoto lens.  It was another in a seemingly never-ending series of lessons focusing on just how different scenes can appear depending on the direction one faces when viewing them.  This area had been utterly unremarkable when viewed while walking out of the parking area, but when entering the same area from the highway it was another story entirely.

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

Valley Spur, Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan

We finally wrapped up at this location about two hours before sunset.  It had clouded up again and it didn’t appear that there would be a sunset that day.  Based on his experience camping the previous couple of nights, Jason noted that it had been very cold in the forest–cold enough to produce 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 green it had been just two days earlier and the likelihood that it hadn’t been nearly as cold so close to Lake Superior.

We were a long way from Twelvemile Beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where the White Birch Forest is located, but, despite my misgivings, I agreed that it was worth making the drive to take a look; the White Birch Forest is simply breathtaking when the conditions are right (a circumstance I’d only experienced once previously in five autumn trips to the area over the years).

The sky became cloudier and cloudier as we drove along and the wind continued to drop as well.  We got to the turnoff for Twelvemile Beach about 45 minutes before sunset time, but there would definitely be no sunset this day–it was completely cloudy and getting somewhat dark.  But as we made our way down the road in the direction of Superior I saw that Jason’s instincts had been right–there had been dramatic color change in the forest in the last couple of days, far more than I had anticipated.  As long as the light held out, we were going to have a rare combination of circumstances at the White Birch Forest:  even light, good color and no wind.  We wouldn’t have long to take advantage of it, but we hastened to try

Teasing compositions out of the White Birch Forest, as captivating as it is, can be a real challenge.  The birch trunks are tightly packed in most places and associated color, mostly from maples and beeches sprinkled here and there, isn’t always strategically positioning.  As a result, some work is involved.  We found a few areas that were promising, however.

White Birch Forest, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

We had to wade into the forest to find a particularly promising cluster of birch trunks.  These images, requiring long exposures and multiple frames as part of a focus stack, were only possible because there was no wind.

White Birch Forest, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

White Birch Forest, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

We were running out of light while exploring a clump of birches very close to the beach when it started to rain and the wind picked up.  It was simply impossible to make any further images so we reluctantly called it quits for the day.

It had been a long day, and though we’d covered quite a bit of ground, we’d only photographed in three different locations.  The intent focus on intimate scenes coupled with the abundant subject matter, however, had led to the making of many images.


Responses

  1. Wow, you had a lot of great color out there. Nice photos.

    • Thanks very much!

  2. The tree trunks provide strong structural elements amid the color. Your patience in waiting out the wind when necessary always impresses me.

    • Thanks, Ellen. Patience usually pays off, but there are certainly times when the situation is hopeless. That’s kind of what happened at the end of the day chronicled here. I found a comp I really like, but it required three or four focus stacked frames and, as dark as it was, the base line shutter speed was something like 1/2 second. When the wind picked up I couldn’t even get one frame sharp, let alone an entire series. I think I tried three or four times, with the conditions worsening, and I ultimately abandoned the exercise as fruitless.

  3. Fall colours are long gone so it is a treat to revisit them again. Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos and wish you Shalom and a happy healthy new year.

    • Thanks very much, Jane!

  4. Beautiful Photos.

  5. […] 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 rapidly approaching peak […]


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