Going to the UP of Michigan
By Tim Farmer
Well I was off to another new location for the weekend. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or just the UP. I have heard the fall colors up there are just as brilliant as they are in New England, and being based in St. Louis, it is a lot closer for me. So about a month ago I started to plan. I checked with The Old Farmer’s Almanac and SmokeyMountains.com to find out when the peak autumn colors would be and put in my vacation request.
As per my normal pre-trip procedures I contacted a friend from Michigan to get some ideas of where to go and where to stay. I also looked for a trip buddy so I would not be driving all 1700 miles by myself and going insane. Pure Michigan website (michigan.org) was also a great resource. Then I pick my spots and the gear needed to get the photos. My trip partner picked a place and made arrangements. The car got a once over (I do not need another breakdown like my July trips to the Bad lands and Black hills) a week before and all was ready.
The best laid plan of mice and men. A week out and my trip buddy had a work conflict plus the autumn foliage reports did not look good. Due to abnormally high temperatures the normal color peak times are running about two weeks late this year. This is where having a plan “B” comes in handy. Oops, I really didn’t make one for this trip. So do I try to change my vacation dates, have a staycation, or just go for it.
Yep, go for it. There were reports of some color changes, I had some waterfalls picked out, and I was planning on checking out some of the towns. Plus, it is dark enough to do some astrophotography in the UP, so after work on Thursday I hit the road.
Driving most of the night with a few hours’ nap in a Walmart parking lot, I am up at 7am just outside of Green Bay. By 9am I am driving up the west cost of Lake Michigan in the UP and not seeing much in the way of good colors. So I stop by a park to eat a quick breakfast as the clouds start to break. The first good omen for this trip in a week.
After picking up the newest foliage report from a very friendly state working at the welcome center, I head inland towards Iron Mountain where the best colors are being reported. Using my phone and google maps I scout out a few locations on the way to my first planned waterfall stop. The first stop is a lake that has good access so I would have the best possible lighting to capture some autumn colors reflecting in the water. Bust. The colors are not happening and after stopping at a few locations, there was nothing I could not have gotten along the Mississippi in Alton.
So back in the car and pull out the phone to look for some more stops along the way. OMG, the phone looks dead. Try restarting, nothing; I take out the battery, nothing; up the creek without a phone. Luckily I am a good Eagle Scout and I picked up a REAL map at the welcome center. I mapped out the best rout and off to Bonds Fall while at every stop trying to reboot the phone.
Bond Falls was all it was cracked up to be plus more. The falls themselves, amazing, enough color to make it interesting (and with some post, even more interesting). This spot alone made the trip worthwhile.
After two hours of running around and enjoying the scenes there at Bond Falls and the surrounding area, it was time to head to Marquette for dinner, to sketch out morning shoot and find a place to sleep. A few nice stops along the way and I make it in time to have some light for scouting and a nice dinner. I also look for a store to get my phone looked at. As I am waiting to talk to a tech, I am trying to reboot in safety mode when I notice a faint login screen. Um, apparently when my phone was between the seat and center conceal the screen brightness got turned down. Oops.
Phone alive again, locations scouted, dinner eaten and it is too early to sleep. So off for some star gazing. The Milky Way is brightest in the southern part of the sky and all the location around Marquette have better views to the north. But even without the Milky Way, hanging on the beach with the stars out bright, I was able to get a nice image.
Sleep and up for dawn in Marquette. The town itself is a nice place. Lots of cool building, very active and social people. But this building, an old iron ore dock is by far the most interesting photo I was able to capture. While there I met a few local photographers. We talked shop and I was given a great recommendation for breakfast. As I do these trips, I am finding it is meeting other photographers and hearing their passion for photography I enjoy the most.
The colors will be better the next few weeks and I want to hang out with my friend who could not make the trip, so off to Chicago where he lives and maybe some street shooting. I hung out Saturday night with my friend, all the normal stuff. Talked about old days, what’s happening, when he might make it down to St. Louis, good food and maybe a little too much to drink.
It has been awhile since I have been in the windy city so I also asked where would be the best places on a Sunday to photograph people. I would normally go to the miracle mile and Chicago river area, or down by the Buckingham fountain. I started off down by Buckingham but I really found that just downtown was my favorite place to shoot.
I have been following this photographer based in Tokyo, Tomoko Imashiro. She is always posting these wonderful images of reflections, in windows, in puddles on the ground… So I tried my hand at some. I found it a very interesting exercise. A new way to look at the world. The photographer I talked with in Marquette was stating how often people shoot the iron ore dock and that it is rare to see an interesting photo of it. I find the same issue with the Arch here in St. Louis. Doing this reflection exercise is a great way to break out of looking at subjects the same way and I recommend everyone try it. Take a new look at what they see every day and look at it from different perspective.