Copper Harbor, Mich.

Also: Why Less is More with Photography Gear

It’s usually at the five-hour mark of our nine-hour trip when our convoy of cars pulls over to eat something quick, fill up our gas tanks and stretch our legs and backs before continuing our travels northward.

Copper Harbor, Mich.
Camera: Canonet QL17GIII

Our journey? Every year we make it a point to join one another on a family vacation in Michigan’s serene and majestic Upper Peninsula—on this particular year it was Copper Harbor, on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, that received the nod.

Step out of your vehicle after nine hours of almost-continuous driving, and you’re going to appreciate where you are. That’s part of the allure. When you’ve driven a long time to arrive somewhere, you’re really there. You’ve arrived and there’s no going back.

Luckily for us, Copper Harbor is as picturesque a place as there ever could be to step out.

If you’re going to take a vacation, take a vacation.

This Town is a Gem

Copper Harbor is the last town on the Keweenaw Peninsula and it overlooks the mighty and vast Lake Superior. It began as so many towns did in the Upper Peninsula, as a mining town.

Today, in the “downtown” area, one can find a general store, a brewery, an adventure store, art galleries, restaurants and other fine, quaint shops.

In a town like Copper Harbor, when you see a general store, you know they have more wisdom than most; the winters in this area laugh and mock winters anywhere else. To live in such a place all year long takes a will, stamina and immunity to seasonal affective disorder.

Copper Harbor, Mich.
Camera: Canonet QL17GIII

No trip to Copper Harbor is complete without making it to the top of Brockway Mountain. Once you reach the summit—735 feet above Copper Harbor—you’ll be treated to soul-enriching and awe-inspiring panoramic vistas.

Copper Harbor, Mich.
Camera: Canonet QL17GIII

We rented a house on nearby Lake Medora, but there are numerous motels offering Lake Superior views and vistas that are highly recommended. One of my favorite lodgings, only based on its mid-century office, is the King Copper Motel.

Copper Harbor, Mich.
Camera: Canonet QL17GIII

Meg surprised me one night by staying at the historic Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. Built in 1934, the most difficult part about the experience at the KML is realizing it’s not 1934, or some year close to it. The construction is original and the property is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We made our way to the lodge’s pub and clinked our I.P.A.-filled glasses to our rustic excursion.

Copper Harbor, Mich.
Camera: Leica M6

One day, Meg and I would love to live in the area for one year, to experience it; we’re ripe for the punishment. Plus, we live in northern Michigan already, where the cloudy days outnumber the sunny ones, so we have practice. If you can grin and bear the cold, you’ll be richer for having experienced the wilderness and outdoor pursuits that the Upper Peninsula provides.

Copper Harbor, Mich.
Camera: Canonet QL17GIII

The trails around Copper Harbor offer world-class mountain biking, for every level and ability. When you’re done pedaling, you’ll have a smile that won’t quit; they’re that fun. The trails have names like Raptor, Flying Squirrel and Woopidy Woo.

The place averages 208 inches of snowfall a year…208. The gas station pump in town has rolling numbers and I’m convinced it’s because anything computerized wouldn’t survive a winter. Enough about winter though, we were there in summer and in summer it’s a totally different experience.

Copper Harbor, Mich.
Camera: Canonet QL17GIII

Wherever you are in Copper Harbor, you can either see water or you’re extremely close to it; with that Lake Superior air in the lungs, you feel invigorated. Speaking of invigorated, Jamsen’s Fish Market and Bakery, right on the water’s edge, is the place to satisfy any craving your taste buds desire. It’s also a perfect spot to look out into the harbor and beyond.

Copper Harbor, Mich.
Camera: Canonet QL17GIII

Walking through Copper Harbor, it’s obvious that the town is genuine. It’s a simple, beautiful place that doesn’t have a lot but what it does have, is wonderful. And they, as well as we, wouldn’t have it any other way.

What Camera Did I Bring?

I said, ” ‘Why Less is More With Travel Photography’, ” and it’s true. When I contemplated my camera for this family vacation, there was only one piece of gear I wanted: Canonet QL17GIII. I’m going to save you from boring technical specifics and camera-gear bullshit. Once you pick up this camera and get it overhauled so it’s in good working order, you’ll have a crazy-good 35mm film camera—for maybe $200, at the absolute high end—that should leave you wanting nothing. It’s that good.

Copper Harbor, Mich.
Camera: Canonet QL17GIII

What takes place when using this camera is that you’re using a camera so small and discrete, that you are able to concentrate on picture making. It feels like a toy, it’s so small and quiet.

There’s a light meter in the camera but I always use a hand-held light meter so I don’t bother with the camera’s light meter.

The Canonet is whisper quiet so whenever you do press the shutter button, don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear anything; you probably made a picture.

Thirty-five millimeter was my medium of choice because I wanted to be forced to take the creative process slowly. Of course there are limitations, but for this trip it was perfect.

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