October Foliage; November Weather

Scenic Overlook; Epoufette, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

Once autumn arrives many of us who are outdoor photographers wait with at least subdued excitement for the foliage changes that occur, particularly in the northern and western parts of the U.S.  Over the years, I have come to expect a week or two of cool, sunny-to-partly-sunny, weather during the month of October.  When November comes, those of us in the northern parts, and in the mountainous regions in higher elevations know the show is over and winter is coming.

From my observation, this year was odd.  From all appearances, the foliage in the Northeastern U.S., was reasonably good, to spectacular in some places; what we have come to hope for in early to mid-October.  But the weather has been “November” weather:  cool, windy, cloudy and rainy.  Certain “conventional wisdom” has it that rainy, overcast conditions actually enhance color foliage photography; intensifying color that can be captured because of the lack of short, blue light rays that cause randomized reflections.  To a point, I concur.  This is particularly true with closeup images.

Farm; Trenary, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

But that same conventional wisdom acknowledges that photography, at its core, is about light.  Good light = good imagery.  Bad light often results in wasted effort.  I often use that time to scout locations, and sometimes to shoot to make “record” images or to look later at composition.  And, in my view, solid, gray overcast skies make for bad light.  What I am looking for is either partly cloudy with puffy white clouds, or “edge” weather (just before or after a storm) which can create dramatic lighting.

My time in the field has been abbreviated this year.  I spent 3 days in the Michigan “U.P,” exploring new territory (for me).  Based on others’ images, I may have missed the best color, which seemed to be evident in my old “hunting” grounds in the Northeastern U.P., and perhaps up in the western portion in the Porcupine Mountains.  In our eBook, Photographing Michigan’s U.P., Kerry Leibowitz and I concentrated heavily on the northeastern region from Marquette to Sault St. Marie, along the southern shore of Lake Superior, and in the Hiawatha National Forest.  Those places are still the premiere locations.

Fumee Falls
Iron Mountain, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

But in my Travels, I had spent a brief stint in the Escanaba area.  Two peninsulas jut down into Lake Michigan just east of Escanaba, which is the southernmost part of the U.P., on Lake Michigan.  Without intending to denigrate Escanaba, for the outdoor photographer, does not appear to hold much interest for outdoor photographers.  If there is any promise, it would be during the summer months, when the boat marina is full of boats.  My interest, however, was in the two peninsulas.  The first one, immediately east of Escanaba, forms Little Bay De Noc.  I am not certain the peninsula has a name, but since the small community at the southern tip is Stonington, for my purposes, I will refer to is at “The Stonington Peninsula.”  The second peninsula, further east, is known as “The Garden Peninsula.”  Lest you get excited about what the name suggests, it gets its name from the township and community which is at its northern base; “Garden Township.”   If Kerry and/or I ever get ambitious enough to edit and write a Second Edition, we will augment the brief coverage of this area with some of my findings.  In the meantime, I will probably just do it as a series of separate blogs here.

Sunset; Little Bay De Noc
Rapid River, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

I was able to make a day trip from my Escanaba motel to Iron Mountain, Michigan.  Iron Mountain is perhaps best known as the hometown of MSU basketball legendary coach, Tom Izzo, and NFL coach Steve Mariucci.  But long before they were born, Iron Mountain was one of the top producers of iron ore in the United States.  Its higher elevation meant that the foliage there (mid-October) was past peak, though there was still some lingering color.  But I did find a couple areas worthy of some photographic interest, including a waterfall I had not yet had the opportunity to visit.  This was my first time in Iron Mountain.

And finally, I was able to visit Whitefish Falls (not to be confused with Laughing Whitefish Falls) which is addressed in the eBook, but has been difficult to find in the past.  As my separate upcoming blog will confess, I may have added to that difficulty (stay tuned for some clarification).

Farm near Iron Mountain, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2018

As the images here illustrate, it was difficult to find nice light for photography.  As they will also illustrate, the Munising area (northeastern U.P.) still holds the top honors for diversity of color and imagery.

I Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions

Copyright 2009 Andy Richards

I have never been big on New Year’s resolutions. I have seen so many come and go and so much “resolve” with so little follow-through. Will I eat and drink less, achieve some needed weight loss, exercise more, be less critical of others and more charitable? I hope so, but I am not committing. For me, it is more like year – end “cleanup,” and looking forward to what 2012 brings. There are certain things that I always do and think about this time of year. As each year goes by, time seems to compress and each Fall seems busier than the last. I always look forward to – indeed key on—the Fall photography season—particularly, October, when Fall colors seem to pop in most of the continental U.S. With a busy “transactional” law practice, a regular “gig” as an adjunct professor at our local University, service on 2 local foundation boards and numerous other non-photography pursuits, the year-end seems to accelerate into Christmas, and then, come to a grinding halt for about a week between the holidays.

I am looking forward to what 2012 brings

Don’t get me wrong. I do plan to do certain things each year. Some of them pan out. Some don’t. And if I don’t set unrealistic expectations, I am not disappointed when they do not get done. Two years ago, during our annual Christmas visit to my brother in law’s house in Virginia, we planned a cruise to Alaska. Cruises are not generally thought by serious photographers to be the ideal way to see and photograph Alaska. So my goal was two-fold. First, I wanted to have the time of my life, with my family, and get the most out of the cruise. Second, I wanted to bring back as many “keeper” images as possible, given the limitations of the trip. It surpassed my expectations substantially.

Deer Lake, Michigan UP - Copyright 2009 Andy Richards

In October of the same year, I made a quick trip the Michigan “UP,” which was kind of “spur of the moment” and came back with some of my most successful ever “UP” images. I sometimes think being ready to “react” is the best plan. That same year I went to Vermont for a week. While there were certain weather and foliage timing challenges, I came home with several of perhaps my best “Vermont images” ever. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time is the best plan. In both cases, I had made several previous trips and while I always found images, I never got the ones that I was really hoping for. Sometimes, just being persistent works.

Fall in Vermont copyright 2010 Andy Richards

During October of 2011, we planned a family vacation trip to San Francisco to visit my daughter who had recently re-located there. Again, my goal was to make the most of the limited photographic opportunity I would have. My wife might disagree with just how “limited” that was, as I was out in the city nearly every morning before sunrise. I was able to make the best of the situation I was in.

But this time of year, as things seem to wind down and then re-wind for another year of work and professional goals (I have to remind myself that my “day job” has little to do with photography and the demands of my clients and partners generally limit my ability to shoot whenever the spirit moves), there are certain things that I will do.

Sometimes, just being persistent works

Ido my final filing archiving of images. I borrowed from John Shaw, after attending one of his 2-day seminars a few years back, and now file my images very simply; one large folder, by year. I use Adobe Lightroom as my cataloging software, and use “Collections” to categorize images. I also populate the metadata template with copyright information and keywords, etc. All images are stored on a removable HD, and a complete copy resides on a separate HD, kept at my office 25 miles away. I used to think having offsite storage was a bit of overkill, until one of my partners had a home fire in November that burned his home to the ground with a total loss of everything but the clothes on their backs and their cars. Finally, I set up a 2012 folder for next year’s images.

San Francisco Bay Bridge copyright 2011 Andy Richards

I will plan some 2012 photo shoot goals. In February, I will cruise again in the Caribbean. This is not likely to produce major landscape photo opportunities, partly because of the family nature of the trip and partly because of the timing (likely to be on the cruise ship during the best light). I will carry my Canon G12 at all times though.

In March, I will spend a long weekend visiting a friend in Yarmouth, ME, and hope to bring back some images of the Portland Head Lighthouse and the Pemaquid Lighthouse.

In October, I have the great privilege of acting as a guide for a professional photographer, teacher and workshop leader in my own backyard. I am excited about the photographic opportunity, as well as the hope that I absorb some wisdom from his workshop.

For a number of years, I have lamented that my “Winter” image portfolio is notably lacking. I have worked at re-arranging my work-schedule to become hopefully more efficient and plan to spend less Saturdays in the office and more time out shooting on weekends.

I wish everyone success and good fortune in 2012!

So, without any unrealistic expectations, I look forward to 2012 and what it will bring.   I do want to say thank you to a number of people for making my 2011 special.  I have made some really good friends in my travels to Vermont and on the SOV Forums and I thank you all for your friendship and support, including Al, Carol, CTYnkY, Phil, Brandt, Tim, Brian, Betsy, and anybody I forgot.  You all know who you are.  I want to thank James Moore for inspiration, critique, support and friendship.  Likewise Kerry Leibowitz.  Thank you to Mark Perry, who makes the MPEG forums happen.  Thanks to my best friend, Rich, who travels with me, puts up with my idiosyncracies and is just what a best friend should be.  There are many others and I certainly don’t want to leave anyone out purposely.  I wish everyone a Happy New Year, and hope that it brings you success and good fortune. See you in 2012!