Posted by: kerryl29 | October 17, 2022

The Story Behind the Image: Chapel Falls

On a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 2008, I carved out a day to explore the Chapel Area of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It was an area of the park I hadn’t previously visited and I took the hike down to and around Chapel Beach (it’s roughly a seven-mile round trip). A bit more than a mile into the hike you reach a point where you can view Chapel Falls. I remember viewing the waterfall on that hike; I also recall not being particularly impressed with it as a photographic subject. The cataract–a 70-foot drop–is dramatic enough, but I couldn’t find a good vantage point from which to photograph it and came away fairly disappointed. I also recall making the hike on a mostly sunny day and a good potion of Chapel Falls was in sun. I’m not often inspired by sun-kissed waterfalls; I strongly prefer to photograph such subjects in soft light. Were that not enough, there wasn’t all that much water coming through Chapel Creek that day.

On my most recent of six visits to the UP, in October of 2020, I wasn’t planning on returning to the Chapel area, but my photo buddy Jason wanted to see it and, on a day that wasn’t very promising photographically for many of the subjects we wanted to capture (it was partly cloudy and quite windy), we decided to make the pilgrimage, figuring it would serve as a scouting session if nothing else.

As I mentioned when I chronicled that trip, peak color was running at least a week ahead of the typical schedule. Many inland locations were already past peak when we were there (roughly Oct. 4-10), but spots near the Lake Superior shore always run 7-10 days behind spots just a few miles inland. As a result, the shoreline was at peak during our time in the UP. Chapel Falls is less than two miles from Superior, so you can imagine what the color was like there. What’s more, there had been a lot of rain in the Upper Peninsula in recent days and we had already experienced the fact that a great deal of water was coursing through the UP’s waterfalls.

Having only seen Chapel Falls when the surrounding foliage was mostly green, I was not prepared for the absolutely gorgeous site I encountered when we reached the falls that day. Fortunately, we arrived just as the sun disappeared behind clouds for more than 20 continuous minutes, bathing the scene in beautiful even light. Just as fortunate, though the wind was blowing like mad (as we would experience first hand when we made it down to the shore later on the hike), at the falls, the spot was mostly sheltered and, as a result, the wind was light and variable.

The foliage was so beautiful, it served as co-center of interest with the waterfall. A two-image stack was necessary to obtain sharpness from the nearest branch of leaves to the trees above and behind Chapel Falls, so I had to wait out lulls in the light breeze. Eventually I got what I was looking for and, using a slow shutter speed to render the water the way I wanted, produced the frames necessary to create the image you see below.

Chapel Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The moral of the story: don’t judge a metaphorical book (in this case, Chapel Falls) by its cover (the less than optimal conditions of the first visit).



  1. Good lesson illustrated by a lovely image.

    • Thanks, Ellen!

  2. Very nice capture, Kerry.

    • Thanks, Jane!

  3. Beautiful image, Kerry. It’s wonderful when Mother Nature cooperates! I’m always grateful when that happens, although it sometimes seems to be the exception. While it’s better to be lucky than good, it really helps to be both!

    • Thanks very much, Steve!

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