Exploring Small Towns in the Thumb
My first job as a photojournalist was at The Times Herald in Port Huron, Mich. Port Huron is located where Lake Huron meets the St. Clair River, in the southeast of Michigan. Look at the palm of your right hand and Port Huron would be at your right thumb joint, on the right.
After completing some internships, I was more than ready for the position. Photojournalism is the most fulfilling job in the world. If you’re looking for a way to live life, learn and be creative, journalism is the way to do it. It involves, exercises and appeases all parts of the brain.
Every year, about 30,000 additional miles would be added to the odometer of my car as I traveled on almost every type of surface imaginable, in every season. Surprisingly though, I’d never explored too much of Michigan’s thumb. I decided to change that and wander through the thumb one weekend. I wasn’t there for an exhaustive exploration, but simply to take it in and discover some parts of Michigan that were new to me. As beneficial as the exercise of photographing a lot in a familiar place can be, photographing new places is definitely refreshing.
Finding My Photo Lodging
My lodging requirements are this: a motel that is inexpensive, clean and doesn’t mention bed bugs in the reviews. I found a place in the small town of Caro, Mich. When I arrived there though—as lack of luck would have it—there was a rotten-socks funk in the air that seemed to come from the Michigan Sugar Company as they were processing. Luckily, I wasn’t to be spending a lot of time near the plant, and it didn’t infiltrate my room. For the short duration of my stay and my purposes, the room would be perfect.
On my photo adventures, I don’t waste time. I’m there for a purpose that purpose is creativity and output. It’s really a numbers game, and this is the case of any endeavor, especially creative; the more you’re out in the “field”, whichever field that may be, the better your odds are at being successful. For what I was doing, the best way to find neat things to photograph is to be outside and exploring a lot, thus, increasing the chances of finding neat things to photograph. So when morning came, I procured that essential elixir for life and functionality—coffee—and headed out to photograph Michigan’s thumb.
Driving with the Camera as Passenger
Driving north toward the thumb’s tip, the light was rising quickly and clearly as the clouds refused to provide me with some diffusion. We work with the light we’re given though and work it I did. There were a lot of buildings with simple words on them like ‘Pizza’ and ‘Motel’. Cornfields spread out along the flat landscape farther than the eyes could see. I know they did because I drove past them.
My picture output while the sun was high and full of contrast wasn’t very high. With open sun though, once it begins to descend, the more impressive and glorious it becomes. Such was the case and as I saw the transforming light, it was game on. It was M-53 in Huron County, on the east side of Saginaw Bay, that was carrying me and my vehicle from small town to small town.
A green sign indicated the town of Sebewaing was up ahead. This is a town I remember my photo editor at The Times Herald mentioning the town because he grew up in the area. Vehicle parked and heightened photo senses activated, I started wandering. The light was low and sublime. A building which a green and tall front caught my attention immediately. It was a clothing and shoe store that still had the same facade, unchanged, from whence it opened. While I was photographing, a man parked his small pickup truck in front of the building. We started to talk and it turns out that the facade was to be removed in the coming week to make way for a new tenant of the building, a dentist office I think. There are tons of reasons to take pictures, preservation is a really good one.
Once the big green building was photographed, I continued photographing around the town. There wasn’t much sense in driving because the light was perfect, taking low angles into storefronts and illuminating everything it touched with warmth.
As I was driving out of town, heading back to my accommodations, I saw a lone basketball hoop at the back of a church parking lot. Basketball being my favorite sport, and basketball hoops being very graphic and interesting, I don’t pass them up very often and I didn’t this time either. It was my last image before the sun set and I traveled back, windows down, taking in the flat, thumb-area aromas of farms, country and open skies.