For most venues in the Northern part of our country, “peak” color and the best shooting for fall foliage usually happens within a window from about the last week of September until the second week of October. Some Western areas (like Alaska) happen sooner than that. But there are a couple spots in the country that, because of their unique micro climate, “happen” later. One of those areas is in Northern Lower Michigan, in 2 counties which are influenced by Lake Michigan; Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties. So-called “peak” for these counties really should be about October 15. I think it hit dead on this year.
I grew up in Traverse City and lived there from the age of about 6 until my 1975 graduation from High School — and then off and on over a couple years while I was in college. So there is some irony in the fact that I have never spent any significant time photographing there. After this weekend, I realize I should probably spend more time exploring the area. Saturday and Sunday (October 18 and 19) and in my estimation, we were in “peak” to just past peak foliage conditions, with a brisk wind, aiding the “past” characterization. Leelanau is kind of surrounded by Lake Michigan and small bays that are part of that “freshwater ocean.” Traverse City features the unique, “Old Mission Peninsula” which is surrounded by two long, narrow bays that extend well south of the main body of Lake Michigan. They have a tempering influence that insures later color change (they also have a unique climate and soil set that mimics the Napa Valley in California and is, today, becoming the next “Napa” in the winemaking industry. For many years fruit farms were abundant and tart cherries were a huge product of that peninsula. Indeed, during my youth, Traverse City boasted itself – rightfully so — as being “The Cherry Capital of the World”).
On Saturday, October 18, I watched the weather forecast for Traverse City and it promised partly cloudy conditions for Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. “Intel” from some “boots on the ground” in Leelanau County suggested it would be worth my while to drive up. So, at noon, I loaded up for a quick overnight trip. Three things conspired to tempt me to drive for 6 hours for a chance at decent light and foliage, neither of which was certain. First, I always want to try to catch some foliage somewhere. Second, while it is ironic that I grew up in this area, I have never returned there during fall foliage season to shoot. And, finally, I have been itching to field test my new camera equipment.
Both days were very windy, and I watched the foliage come down from “peak” in many areas. In my estimation the best time would have been early to mid-week. But there is that pesky day job. Windy conditions may create the biggest challenge to shooting scenery. I would almost rather have rain. Wind means that you have to shoot at faster shutter speeds, or get blurry foreground elements (i.e., leaves, etc.). One option is to try to use that purposely to create blurred elements. But in my experience, blurred foreground elements rarely “work.” In today’s shooting world, we have an advantage. We can bump up the ISO. I did that a couple times on this trip (back in the days of film, that simply wasn’t a luxury).
On Saturday, and Sunday morning early, sunlight was fleeting and it was frustrating sometimes to see an image and see the sun move off of it before I could get setup. When behind the clouds, things were pretty grey. Later on Sunday, conditions were bright overcast – almost glary. This was not, in my view, ideal, as there was a lot of grey in the sky. But I made what I could of conditions.
One of the remarkable features of the Eastern shores of Lake Michigan is its sand dunes. They are remarkable enough that they have been designated as part of the U.S. National Park Service’s National Lakeshore system. From about Frankfort, Michigan all the way North to Leland, Michigan is the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In Glen Haven, Michigan, there is a historical village, including a museum. Just before you arrive in Glen Haven, you pass an old working farm that is now part of the National Lakeshore; D.H. Day Farm. There is a nice old white barn that has been maintained and is in good condition, by the NPS. A couple years back, in the late Spring, I made a “scouting” trip to Glen Haven, and photographed the barn. At the time, I noted that there were some hardwoods in the background and that they might make a nice fall foliage image. So I was very interested in visiting, and shooting the barn again.
A short distance North from Glen Haven is the resort community of Glen Arbor. Nestled between Glen Lake and Lake Michigan, Glen Arbor is a popular Summer resort and even a full time home for many residents. North of Glen Arbor is the Port Oneida Historical Area (again, a part of the U.S. National Park Service). There are some nice old barns and farm/orchards in the area.
Given the limited window of “weather,” and timing, I had only really enough time to do limited exploring of these areas.
Next: Grand Traverse County and the “Old Mission” Peninsula.
Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL | Tagged: Andy Richards, color, fall, fall color, Fall Foliage, foliage, Glen Arbor, Glen Haven, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, LightCentric Photography, Michigan, National Park, National Parks, PHOTOGRAPHY, Port Oneida, reflection, reflections, travel, Traverse City, water |