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FALL COLOR; SOMEWHERE

Starting in late September, I start watching the foliage websites and forums:  Vermont (my first love), Maine, Canada, Colorado, the upper Northwest, the Smokies, and yes, my homestate — Michigan.

Over the 25 years I have been back in Michigan, I have made 6 or 7 trips to our Upper Peninsula (“the U.P.” for locals), seeking the elusive “peak color” (to plagiarize a phrase from my friend, Ctynky, on the Scenes of Vermont Foliage Forum).  Ever the otimist, I have always found a way to come back with something.  In 1997, on my first such “journey,” I found images in Munising, Michigan at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising Falls and other UP Waterfalls.  My “prize” was my shot of the river which drains “Lake of the Clouds” in the Porcupine Mountain State Recreation area (see “Make Lemonade from Lemons” in my “My Favorite Time Of the Year” Blog).  I left there disappointed with the lack of full color and windy conditions, only to find a “keeper” which I have often called one of my most successful images.  In 1998, I didn’t bring back anything I felt worthy of publishing anywhere.  In 2004, my good friend, Rich and I attended a David Cardinal workshop in inaptly named “Paradise,” Michigan.  We were heralded with torrential rain on Friday and Saturday until late afternoon.  In spite of this, I found a way to capture another “successful” image of rocks on the shores of Lake Superior, and a pretty good shot of Tahquamenon Falls.

But I never seemed to find the spectacular color I remember as a young person.  I have always maintained that when the color is “right,” our “UP” rivals New England.  This year, after a false start, I may have hit proverbial “paydirt.”  Thinking that early October was the “right time,” I booked a two night stay in Marquette, Michigan.  My “fallback” was several hard to reach waterfalls in “Big Bay” north of Marquette.  Alas, the weekend was a complete washout and at the last time to do so without Master Card penalty, I cancelled my plans.  Because of other personal commitments, I wrote off 2009.  However, with some “intel” from Scott Mitchell, a talented photographer in Munising, Michigan, I learned that 2 weeks later, the colors were developing and looking to be spectacular.  At the last minute, I booked a hotel and left Saginaw at noon on Friday, October 16 for Munising.  Finally!! I hit what I would most certainly define as “peak” color around Munising and particularly in the Hiawatha National Forest south of Munising.

What makes it perhaps bittersweet, is that my friends from Vermont tell me that although the fall color was “nice,” it was far from outstanding.  Conditions were rainy and cloudy and it “happened” very fast and ended very fast.  It looks like that may well have been true in Maine and New Hampshire, too.  Lower Michigan started hard and kind of petered out.  The West seems to have had similar issues.  Places that aren’t often thought of as “fall foliage” locations seem to have been at their best this year, including Alaska and the UP.

As is so often the case, perhaps my most striking image was serendipitous.  I was returning from a so-so sojourn to the Marquette and Big Bay area, and in my rear view mirror, as I approached Munising, I saw Deer Lake and made a quick u-turn.  This is perhaps my most successful fall foliage reflection image to date.

One of the truly great things about photography is finding a kindred spirit.  On Saturday morning, while shooting at Miners Beach, I met Richard Hinton, a fellow Michigan Photographer, who was kind enough to mention our meeting on his blog.  We shared some nice light, Richard, his friend, and me having the entire stretch of Lake Superior shoreline all to ourselves.

On Sunday morning, I was at Mocassin Lake in the Hiawatha NF for the alpenglow and then for sunrise.  The resulting panoramic is my first try (and certainly holds its share of beginners errors) at Photoshop’s impressive “photomerge.”

Driving home through the NF, my mood was as near euphoric as I can ever remember.  I was returning home for 4 hectic days of work and then flying to Bangor, Maine, to spend 5 days in Acadia National Park in late October.  More on that later . . . . . .

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4 Responses

  1. Hey Andy – what's wrong with Paradise! ? :-)The reflection shot is very nice.

  2. Some think fall foliage is slam-dunk easy, with so much visual stimulation everywhere you look, but I always find it challenging to isolate the subject into a successful photograph. My personal favorite here is the close up of the lake shore and log.. excellent.Looking forward to your work from Acadia.

  3. Hi Andy!Don't we all try to time the peak of leaf watching to get those killer fall images? Sometimes I think we can build expectations of an event that are impossible to meet. This year the color here seemed a little blah. The couple previous years it was much better.Maybe the color was not as good because we had so much rain and gloomy weather?Who knows — love the reflection photos!

  4. Hi Mark. I am obviously not the spokesperson for the Paradise Chamber of Commerce :-).A humorous irony is that there is a more picturesque little community miles West of Paradise at about the same lattitude named "Hell." I always wonder if the cartographers just simply got it mixed up?Of course, for those who haven't been there (Mark has, I know) the real draw to Paradise it the Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Its worth the trip to Paradise to see it, as well as the Tahquamenon River, which runs through the south end of town.Mark: Thanks. That one suits my personal style, too. I looked at it for a long time.Donna: Thanks. This was a strange year — blah in places I expected more from and great in places I didn't necessarily expect.

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