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Fall Color in the “UP” – 2012 – Part 5 – Lake Superior Shoreline

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

When Pennsylvania pro, workshop leader, and Master Landscape Instructor, James Moore and I first began discussing a fall workshop in the UP, what showed through to him was my enthusiasm for the variety of photographic subjects and composition. After spending a week driving the Hiawatha National Forest and the Lake Superior shoreline, I think Jim is in full agreement. Typical fall photography venues, like New England (in my view the number one spot for Fall Foliage photography), the Smokies, and even the western states offer dramatic landscape, colorful, foliage, and often a variety of wildlife. But other than perhaps Maine’s ocean coasts, none offers the variety we saw in Munising, including forests, waterfalls, sandstone formations, lakes and perhaps most unique of all, the shoreline of Lake Superior.

Au Train Bay, Lake Superior
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

If you have ever planned a foliage-oriented trip, you know it is always a lottery whether you will hit peak foliage and the weather conditions will cooperate. What I was able to assure Jim was that no matter what happened with those variables we would find something worthy of shooting for the serious landscape photographer. As you can see from the images here, the foliage, in some cases, enhances the image, but is not a critical element.

Sable Point Lighthouse from Log Slide
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

It is always a lottery whether you will hit peak foliage and weather conditions

During the short time we were in Munising, it was simply not possible to cover all the potential photographic opportunities. Because colors in the forest were particularly good this year, we concentrated more there than along the shoreline. But the shoreline offers some dramatic photographs, from Marquette all the way east, to Sault Ste. Marie, on the east coast of the UP. From Munising to Grand Marais, The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore holds colorful rock formations, arches, and waterfalls tumbling (and sometimes trickling) into Lake Superior. There are three picturesque lighthouses (one which can only be seen by boat) along the shoreline. Near one of the lights, the Sable Point Lighthouse, there is a sandstone reef extending a mile out into the lake which was the end of many lumbering and mining ships before the advent of modern navigation and shipwreck timbers can be photographed along the shoreline near the lighthouse. Time constraints kept the group from our planned trip up to the lighthouse this time.

Au Train Bay, Lake Superior
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

We did start our several of our days out on the Lake Superior beach and spent one sunset there. While on the beach, we concentrated on the pre-dawn twilight and looked for dramatic skies. We also looked for spots where the dune grasses could act as a foreground element and frame photographs. The image of the beach near Christmas, Michigan (just west of Munising), combined these elements, giving all but the dramatic lighting we so often seek for these images. Mineral deposits and seepage of mineral-laden water through the layers of sandstone give the stone its characteristic streaked colors and the bottom the turquoise blue seen reflected up through much of the waters.

Lake Superior Shoreline; Christmas, MI
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

My week in Munising will be among my more memorable photographic trips. While there, I had the privilege to meet some folks I had either “known” from the internet, or admired from afar over the years. While shooting at Council Lake one morning, I ran into and had a nice chat with well-known pro’s John and Barbara Gerlach. I have several of their books on my photography shelf. We spent about an hour shooting in the same vicinity as their group. I was struck by the fact that neither John nor Barbara were carrying cameras. Instead, they were being attentive to their paying customers, answering questions, giving advice when appropriate and generally being “good hosts.” Seems like a sure formula for a successful outing to me, and I would enthusiastically endorse and recommend their outings based on what I saw.

Sunset on Miner’s Beach; Lake Superior
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

I also met Wisconsin pro and fellow Nature Photographers.net member, Nick Bristol and had a nice chance to chat with him. I know he has since spent some time reading here, so Nick, it was nice to meet you and to chat.

My week in Munising will be among my more memorable photographic trips

We met a pro from Minnesota who leads tours on the North Shore and who we will likely contact the next time we travel there, and a local guide and kayak outfitter who specializes in photo tours right there in Munising. All in all, a very enjoyable and profitable trip.

Au Train Bay, Lake Superior
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards


6 Responses

  1. Hi Andy,

    For me, experiencing my initial trip to the UP, was also unforgettable including the pleasure of meeting you as well – someone whose blog I have followed and appreciated for a while. Nature gifted us with such variety, and then painted it with brilliance – it was fall in a beautiful package. Thanks for sharing – you went out of your way to show us the beauty of UP and now one visit is not enough…


  2. Thanks, Andy, for a well-written series recapping a great week photography; and many, many thanks for your enthusiasm, on-site knowledge of the U.P., and generosity of your time to make my scouting tour of the area a success. I know that I just grazed the surface of photographic potential there. I’ll definitely be back!

    Anytime you want to be introduced to the Potomac Highlands of WV, I;d love to host you and Rich for a week in an area that definitely gives New England a run for it’s money. I’ve been photographing the Canaan Valley, Blackwater Canyon, Dolly Sods, Bear Rocks, and other sites there for 37 years now–there is a reason that many well-known pros are now scheduling fall workshops for that area and leaving New England behind.


  3. Andy, where did you stay in Munising? (Lodging, ya know)

    • Tim, if there is a “downside” to Munising, it is restaurants and lodging. Munising is is a very small community (large enough to be the county seat, have a small courthouse and high school, etc., and a papermill, but really a small village). There are a couple of “family” style restaurants and a bar or two. No remarkable food. There are a couple of ma & pa hotels, all of where are very old, very spartan, but seem to be basically clean. I have stayed in 2 of the 3 of those. There is a nicer one out on the bay, but it is always booked solid during the fall foliage months by a photography group (John & Barbara Gerlach). On the outskirts of town, (technically, another town called Wetmore – which is a don’t blink or you’ll miss it place), there are several chain motels – and a couple right in town also (Super 8, AmericInn, Best Western, Days Inn, etc.). We stayed this time in a ma & pa called the Terrace. The proprietor was a very nice guy – very accommodating. The hotel was very old – not much in the way of creature comforts. Bathrooms very spartan, lighting rather subdued, etc.

      I look at it this way. When I am on a serious photo trip, I spend little time in the room. I sleep there, and sometimes if I am not too tired, I will download files, etc. I need a bed and a shower. I generally go low budget and save some $. I have also stayed in the Super 8. It is clean, convenient and what you might expect.

      There is also a Holiday in Express just to the West of Munising (but only a mile or so), that is very new, very nice and has a great view of Lake Superior, so there are “nicer” places, but they are few and far between.

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