Posted by: kerryl29 | February 15, 2021

The UP: Hurricane River Morning

The previous day’s activities had been significantly impacted by the issues with the car and the far less than optimal weather conditions, as related in the most recent chronicle.  The weather, in fact, had been sub-optimal throughout virtually the entire trip, excepting the very first day in the UP.  The forecast, unfortunately, wasn’t any better for the next several days, all of which called for relatively high winds and mostly sunny conditions.

This fact, along with the earlier than usual peaking of fall color had led to a decision to cut things short by a couple of days.  Some unexpected issues on the home front required Jason beginning the long trip back to Colorado several days earlier than anticipated; this morning (a Friday) would be his last in the Upper Peninsula.  I had originally planned to stay put through the coming weekend and return to the Chicago area following a Monday morning shoot, but given the forecast, the color situation and the fact that the weekend would be relatively crowded with leaf peepers, I’d decided to bug out two days earlier, on Saturday morning.

After returning to Munising following Thursday’s session and checking the Friday daybreak forecast (which wasn’t at all promising), I’d suggested that we hit the Hurricane River area at daybreak.  The chance of a visible sunrise was slight; the forecast called for heavy cloud cover first thing in the morning, dissipating to just about full sun shortly thereafter, accompanied by a stiff breeze out of the south.  The beach at Hurricane River would provide a viable venue in case a sunrise did develop, but even if it didn’t we’d have the opportunity to 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 shoot, the decision was made to head to the location–a solid 45 minutes east of Munising–separately.

I got out early and could immediately feel the breeze and the lack of visible stars in the early morning sky confirmed a heavy cloud cover.  As I drove east toward Hurricane River, I spotted several sizable flashes of lightning to the north, over Lake Superior, and heard some accompanying rumbles of thunder.   The likelihood of a sunrise, already slim, was diminishing by the minute.

Natural light was just starting to come up when I reached the turnoff for Hurricane River along H-58, the road that runs through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  There’s an overflow parking area just off the main road and a smaller, day-use area a few hundred feet closer to the beach.  I parked the car in the deserted overflow lot, figuring it would be easier for Jason to spot the vehicle when he arrived.  I grabbed my things and wandered the short distance down to the area where Hurricane River spills across the beach and empties directly into Superior.   Sporadic lightning strikes over the lake, near the northern horizon clearly outlined a passing storm.  The effect was fascinating, but impossible to photograph effectively given the impossibility of anticipating the strikes and the fact that I don’t own a lightning trigger.

Other than the lightning, the first thing that caught my attention was the defined heavy cloud cover over Superior.  It was phenomenal, and I planned to take advantage of it.  Then I turned my attention to the estuary and the bright orange tree on the west side of the spillway.  I pulled out the camera and went to work.

It was still quite dark–partly because of how early it was and partly because of the cloud cover.  Shutter speed limitations were working at cross purposes:  slow, to render the water in the desired fashion, fast to attempt to counter the effect on the foliage on the other side of the river.  This is the same basic situation that I’d faced on a number of occasions during this trip, most recently on the previous day at Chapel Beach.  There was a subtle, but significant difference between the two situations, however:  the direction of the wind.  At Chapel Beach, the wind was out of the north, meaning that the lakeside trees were continuously subject to direct frontal exposure to the wind.  On this day, with the wind out of the south, the impact on the trees right along the beach was much more sporadic, given the beach was somewhat sheltered by the sloping embankment that falls away in the direction of the lake.  Sometimes, the foliage was being whipped around; but there were significant lulls.  Whereas at Chapel Beach I’d had to resort to capturing multiple frames and blending them manually, here I simply needed to exercise patience.

Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

I wasn’t really done at the mouth of the river; I wanted to wade across and explore the other side.  Since I had my rubber boots on, I was able to do so.

Hurricane River at Hurricane Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

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

I wanted to check out some spots upriver that had intrigued me during the scouting session a few days prior.  But first, I decided to make some images that included the truly remarkable sky above the lake, so I made my way a short distance east on Hurricane River Beach.

Stormy Lake Superior Morning, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

I was thinking “black and white” as I was shooting, though the imagery was compelling in color, so I’ll present examples of both renderings for this batch of photography.

Stormy Lake Superior Morning Black & White, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Stormy Lake Superior Morning Black & White, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Stormy Lake Superior Morning, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

After some time on the beach, I walked upstream to see if the spots I’d found a few days prior were still appealing under these different conditions.  They were.

Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

There was a bit more breeze here, unsurprisingly, as my shooting position was at a modestly higher altitude than at the mouth of the river, but, again, patience was a virtue.

Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

When I returned to the mouth of the river, another photographer was present and he beckoned to me.  When I got close enough–about 20 feet away–he told me that someone had been looking for me.  It had to be Jason.  I thanked him and told him I’d look into it and, before long, found Jason, who had arrived while I’d been photographing away from the beach, around a bend in the river and out of sight.  Jason was looking the area over.  I gave him a quick summary of what I’d done, pointed out the clouds and the tree on the far side of the Hurricane River, all of which he’d probably already spotted on his own.

I wandered back out on the beach to see if the sky had changed; it had, and, if anything, it was even more interesting.

Stormy Lake Superior Morning, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Stormy Lake Superior Morning Black & White, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Stormy Lake Superior Morning, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Stormy Lake Superior Morning Black & White, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Note how much more emphatic the various tones and textures, particularly in the clouds and water, are in the monochrome renderings.

Stormy Lake Superior Morning, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Stormy Lake Superior Morning Black & White, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Stormy Lake Superior Morning, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Stormy Lake Superior Morning Black & White, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Stormy Lake Superior Morning Black & White, Hurricane River Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

I made my way back to the river’s mouth yet again.  After another shot looking to the west, I investigated some different perspectives.

Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

One of the different perspectives I explored was pairing the cascades of the river’s mouth with the cloud-filled sky to the north.  This was, from the inception, an image I envisioned rendering solely in monochrome.

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

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

The other mouth-of-the-river perspectives I examined involved facing slightly different directions and incorporating different foregrounds compared with the images I’d looked at from the same basic spot earlier that morning.

Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Hurricane River at Hurricane Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Hurricane River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

A sporadic light rain had fallen during the latter part of this shoot and finally we wrapped up.  Before Jason began the drive back to Colorado in earnest, we decided to make a quick stop at the White Birch Forest, which was on the way.  I wasn’t hopeful of being able to do much, given the wind, but since the clouds were still hanging on and it was on the way in any case, I figured there was no harm in it.

As I’d anticipated, it was much too windy to do much of anything, but I did manage to produce one quick high shutter speed image that I liked, using my telephoto lens.  It was a shame that the conditions weren’t more cooperative, but that was kind of the mantra of the entire week.

White Birch Forest, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Jason didn’t spend much more time trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear than I did and before long he was ready to hit the road.  We said our goodbyes and as he began a brutal drive I prepared to spend the rest of this last full-day looking for additional photographic opportunities as the sun began to make its inevitable appearance that morning.

I’ll detail the rest of this day, as well as the following morning’s sessions, in the next post.


Responses

  1. Your first image and your third-from-last speak to me best, and I don’t mind the natural motion of the breeze of the moment, especially with longer shutter speeds to highlight the motion of the water.

    • Thanks very much!

  2. Beautiful pictures of the Hurricane River, and Lake Supperior, you got beautiful shots of the water.

  3. Beautiful compositions and amazing location!

    • Thanks very much!

  4. So beautiful, Kerry….

    • Thanks, Scott!

  5. […] cloudy as it had been during the first couple of hours of daylight on the final full day I was in the UP, it didn’t last long.  By mid-morning, it was mostly sunny and while a few […]


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