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More Detours

Soo Locks; St. Mary’s River
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2005

Sometimes photographic “detours” are actual detours 🙂 .  In 2005, my buddy, Rich and I went north to the Michigan Upper Peninsula, to photograph Tahquamenon Falls (purportedly the second largest drop in the eastern U.S., after Niagara) in winter conditions.  I had a catastrophic equipment failure – broken tripod leg – and we determined that our best opportunity for a replacement was going to be Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, where there were two camera shops.  We had rented a cabin (of sorts) for the full weekend, but we had already made many images of the falls and were ready to seek some better accommodations anyway, so we headed off to Sault St. Marie (called “the Soo” by most U.P. natives).  After a successful (if eventful – another story for another time) trip across the border into Canada, we explored the area around the famous Soo Locks.  It looked like it had good potential and we started our next morning at sunrise there.  I liked this shot and even liked the lens flare spots.

Babcock State Park
West Virginia
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

In 2011, Rich and I took a long weekend (and a very long drive) to West Virginia, to photograph the famous Grist Mill, in Babcock State Park.  We just missed an internet based group that had been there earlier in the week, but the group leader was still in the Park and one of the things we planned to do was meet him.  As we spoke, he told us about a couple other “attractions” in the park that were not so well-known to photographers, including this overlook where he graciously – but perhaps unknowingly – agreed to be a prop for my image. :-).  A takeway from this:  Take purposeful detours from the main attraction.  Explore the overall surroundings and look for opportunities to photograph.

Take purposeful detours from the main attraction

The application of this resulted in another image that should be familiar to readers here.  In 2007, my wife and I took an overnight trip to Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  I had been up there a couple of other times, but only for day trips.  My planned shooting was to get a sunset shot of the receding mountains from up on one of the overlooks, which I did on the evening of our overnight.  I am an early riser and was up before dawn, to explore.  Again, I was primarily looking for some “grand landscape” image opportunities.  As I waked through one of the meadows, I saw a road, and decided to head down it to see what I would find.  As I got to the road, I could see the shafts of light coming down through the trees and I knew this little “detour” was going to yield a nice photograph.  That photograph is part of the banner for this blog.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2007

One early Summer morning, I set out at about 4:00 a.m. to photograph a lighthouse a hour plus from my house, in the early light.  It is a very photogenic lighthouse, with an octagon tower and a red brick house.  But it has an odd placement, basically being on shore, almost like a cabin.  It needed to be photographed from the breakwater wall out on Lake Superior, and I thought the sunrise would light it nicely.  I spent some time there, and got some nice shots.  Then, with what appeared to be developing, beautiful day, and still some morning light left, rather than head straight home, I took a detour north.  I knew there was another light and had never been to it.   I found it and along with the find, made a rather nice image.  I felt especially fortunate to have the blooming lilac bush in the foreground and the wind was very cooperative, giving me the full view of the Stars and Stripes.

Point Au Barques Lighthouse
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

For nearly 20 years, I “manned” and managed my law firm’s “branch office” in the small community of Frankenmuth, Michigan, about 25 miles from our main office in Saginaw, Michigan.  Frankenmuth is a small settlement which is surrounded primarily by farms.  I lived in Saginaw during that period and commuted every day.  After work, and during lunch periods I often drove the roads around Frankenmuth, looking for photographic subjects.  On such subject which always intrigued me was an old grey barn, with several bright red outbuildings in its foreground.  There was a problem with it as a photographic subject though.  First, there was a lot of “junk” foliage around it that obscured parts of it when in foliage and just didn’t look very good during the year.  There were some old, scraggly brown vines (maybe grapevines) in front of it that just seemed to detract from the overall image, which was really about shape, form and contrasting color.  It needed something:  snow.  When we did have snow, I just couldn’t seem to “see” the image I wanted.  This barn was south of the office and not something I would go by every day.  But when we got a surprise snowstorm one late march morning, I knew I needed to take a detour on the way to work that morning.  All the winter snow had been gone for some time and it was warm.  This surprise storm was a sticky, wet, blanketing snow and everything was covered.  As I approached the scene, I could see the image I had been imagining for several years.  The only thing missing here was perhaps a more interesting sky.  As I re-visited this image for this blog, I saved a copy into my B&W working folder.  Maybe ……

Winter Barns
Frankenmuth, Michigan
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

In a similar vein, during the fall, it was not unusual for me to “drive the backroads” on my way home from the Frankenmuth office.  This often involved trying new roads; often out of my way.  Generally, I was looking for fall color, perhaps hay bales, cattle or something of interest to add to the otherwise flat, Saginaw County Landscape.  One evening while doing just this (I cannot to this day tell you what road I was on, nor do I think I could find this again), I happened upon this “classic” combine.  I knew this was a fleeting opportunity, as the sun was setting and I might only get one pass.  I quickly pulled to the shoulder of the road, and grabbed my camera from the front seat next to me.  I would only have an opportunity to shoot this hand-held, out the car window.  One little trick I have learned over the years when shooting from a car is to to shut the engine down.  You can usually brace against the window ledge, but a running engine will introduce vibrations.  I believe these are soybeans being harvested, but what “makes” this image in my own view is the chaff filling the air and filtering the otherwise strong directional backlighting.


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