Posted by: kerryl29 | February 22, 2021

The UP: The Final Photo Sessions

As 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 clouds came and went during the bulk of the rest of the day, by mid-afternoon it was almost completely clear.  What didn’t change was the wind; it was quite breezy–15-20 MPH, I’d estimate–just about all day long, though by late afternoon the velocity had slackened noticeably.  All of this made for quite challenging photographic conditions, but that had been the case, as I’ve noted repeatedly in these chronicles, throughout the entire trip.

After Jason and I parted at the White Birch Forest, and before the cloud cover had lifted, I made my way back to the eastern end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, to the Sable Falls trail.  Jason and I had visited and photographed extensively in this area several days earlier.  During that time, I had taken note of several spots along Sable Creek, downstream from the falls but above Sable Beach, that I thought might make interesting photographic locations.  These areas had been unshootable that day due to–wait for it–bad conditions.  By the time I arrived at my pre-appointed spot, the sky was partly cloudy.  The wind was somewhat stifled at this location, well below parking lot level.  I came prepared (I wore my rubber boots down the trail); I meandered down the bank, grabbed my tripod and the camera with the 24-70 lens on it and waded into the creek.

Sable Creek, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

I spotted another intimate that I liked and waited the wind out to finalize it.

Sable Creek Intimate, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The sun came out full strength while I was in the creek.  I finished up and wandered down to the beach, but didn’t see anything that I hadn’t already photographed to my satisfaction on the previous excursion at this location, so I headed back to the trailhead.

The rest of the middle part of the day was very much a hit-or-miss proposition given the (have I beaten this horse to death yet?) lousy conditions.  I stopped and looked at a number of spots in Pictured Rocks, but made few images.  One exception was a location along the Beaver Lake Road.  I spotted a scene while driving along rather aimlessly and got out to investigate, sized the location up and then got out my gear and waited for some clouds to diffuse the sun and the wind to die down.  It took about 15 minutes all told, but I eventually produced a horizontal and a vertical that I liked.

Fall Color Intimate, Beaver Lake Road, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Fall Color Intimate, Beaver Lake Road, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The other images I made prior to late afternoon were all telephoto driven intimates that I spotted in various parts of Pictured Rocks abutting H-58, the two-lane county road that runs east-west through the lakeshore.

Fall Color Intimate, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Fall Color Intimate, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Fall Color Intimate, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

By late afternoon I had returned to Miners Beach, with the thought that I’d photograph there at sunset if the conditions were compelling.  The sky was just about completely clear at this point in the day and the wind was still blowing, though probably at half the velocity of the morning.  On this occasion I decided to wander around the west end of the beach, near the area where Miners River empties into Lake Superior.  I’d photographed at this location years earlier, but on this day, for whatever reason, I came up empty.  I decided, however, to follow the river upstream a bit, to some spots I’d never previously explored.  I was again wearing my rubber boots, which came in handy when I found a scene that I liked.  The four-image focus stack required to pull off this photograph necessitated a lull in the breeze, which meant waiting a bit.

Miners River, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Rather than walking more than a mile in the sand (and facing another such walk after it got dark), I returned to my vehicle and drove 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 sunset.  I used this opportunity to photograph the waterfall and its environs, composing differently than I had previously.  I had to be careful because the rocky shelf near the creek’s end was incredibly slippery.

Elliott Creek Falls at Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Elliott Creek Falls at Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The sky was still clear as a bell when I wrapped at the waterfall and I despaired of there being a particularly compelling sunset–which was now only about 15 minutes away–but I walked past the creek to my usual spot on the shelf to the north to see what, if anything, would happen.  To my delight, things came together quite nicely, the product of a bank of broken clouds that rolled in, just about perfectly timed, from the west.

Lake Superior Sunset, Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Before the sun went down completely, during the several minutes when it was partially diffused by the clouds on the western horizon, the rays lit up a wet spot on the shelf itself, and I included it in the lower left of the above image.

Lake Superior Sunset, Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

After the sun went down, while I was waiting to see what might happen to the clouds in the western sky, I noticed an interesting kind of blue hour effect to the north, looking towards Miners Point.

Dusk, Lake Superior Shore at Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

And before the light began to fade, the clouds above the point had one last trick up their sleeve.

Dusk, Lake Superior Shore at Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

I had one more morning of photography left and I decided to take a chance on a spot that Jason and I had discussed visiting for sunrise, but never did.  This was Au Train Beach, about a mile west of the Scott Falls location we had visited two days earlier.  The forecast was not encouraging…again.  It was cold, extremely windy (25-30 MPH, with the wind coming out of the north on this day) and clear.  But this was to be my last morning–I piled all of my belongings in the car in the dark before pulling up stakes at the motel about 45 minutes before sunrise–so I figured it was worth the attempt.

The wind was vicious.  I stopped first at a pullout along the beach about 1/4 mile east of the main parking area and got out–sans gear–to explore the spot.  There was just enough light to see what I was doing, but I was almost knocked over by the wind a couple of times and I could constantly feel wind-blown sand pelting me, despite being covered from head to foot.  I really thought that this was going to prove to be a waste of time, but I dove to the main parking area and got out again.  At this spot, the Au Train River flows into Lake Superior, and the beach stretches out on both sides of the estuary.  I wandered around the mouth of the river for a few minutes, then took up a spot on the beach west of the estuary.  It was still very windy, of course, but here I was upwind of the loose sand, so I didn’t have it blowing all over me.

I looked to the east; very little was happening in the sky, due to a lack of clouds, but that’s where the sun was coming up.

Sunrise, Au Train Beach, Alger County, Michigan

Due to the north wind, the lake resembled an ocean.

I kept looking to the west, because of the clouds that were present there, and after the sun came up, I quickly pivoted.  The western clouds took on a remarkable color, but the bonus was the reflection in the wet sand that developed during the recession of each wave.

Sunrise, Au Train Beach, Alger County, Michigan

Sunrise, Au Train Beach, Alger County, Michigan

Extremely satisfied after getting something when I expected nothing, I retreated to the car and made my way back toward Munising.  Before starting the lengthy drive back to the Chicago area, I had one last spot to visit–MNA Memorial Falls, which Jason and I had scouted back on the Day of Waterfalls.  We hadn’t been able to photograph the falls that day due to–what else?–conditions, and I wasn’t sure that today would be any better, but if that cloud bank took over the sky for a bit and if the canyon area including Memorial Falls was sheltered at all from the wind…

I decided to find out, because I’d found several compositions that I liked during the scouting session.

The cloud bank did indeed roll in, putting me in even light.  The area was partly sheltered, it turned out.  The trees at the top of the canyon were blowing like mad, but the foliage down at ground level was somewhat better behaved.  Again, I hoped that patience would pay off because I had focus stacking in mind.  It basically worked out in the end.

MNA Memorial Falls, Alger County, Michigan

MNA Memorial Falls, Alger County, Michigan

MNA Memorial Falls, Alger County, Michigan

MNA Memorial Falls, Alger County, Michigan

I’d more or less finished when the wind got worse and some other people showed up, making it much harder to time image sets, so I called it a day, putting a wrap on the trip as I prepared for the roughly seven-hour drive back to the Chicago area.

Considering the (this is the last time I’ll bring it up, promise) less-than-ideal conditions, the trip had gone very well, I thought.  I’d visited some new spots, covered a number of old ones, and obtained a fair number of images that I was pleased with.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the experience, albeit vicariously.



  1. Your patience and ability to make the best of bad conditions are admirable and reap rewards. These are lovely images.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  2. Thanks for the UP posts, Kerry. Nice to visit vicariously, and there’s always something to be learned! I really enjoy seeing places through other photographers’ eyes.

    • Thanks, Steve!

  3. Lovely. I like how the colour is reflected in the thin layer of water on the Au train beach. I know I would really like that part of the country.

    • Thanks, Jane!

  4. Lovely photography journey.

    • Thanks very much!

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