Voyaging: Houghton, Michigan

To drive into Houghton, Michigan—a small college (Michigan Technological University) town in Michigan’s upper peninsula (U.P.)—is to be welcomed by a tidy, small-business-filled-main-street downtown. It had been years since I’d been there. It didn’t look like a lot had changed, but that’s a good thing. Change is too frequent for me and a lack of it is a welcomed surprise.

My most recent trip there was a few weeks back during our annual U.P. week-long excursion. This year, it was Dollar Bay that received the nod as our destination.

Being a photographer, it’s difficult to drive through a new and interesting place and not check it out. I knew I’d return as soon as I could. The mornings are a perfect time to sneak out the door of our lodging and get creative for a quick bit, and that’s exactly what I did.

Houghton isn’t an easy town to explore. The downtown is flat, but around that everything is seemingly on a hill. It’s a picturesque place that holds heaps of history, much of it mining history. In the realm of fun facts, photographer Edward Steichen lived in Hancock, which is just across Portage Lake via the Houghton Hancock Bridge.

Driving west through Houghton and just before arriving at the Houghton Hancock Bridge, is a place of respite called The Downtowner. There’s an inn and lounge so feel free to respite wherever you’d like. To see it though, with its bright colors and mid-century architecture, is like stepping back into a different era—I’ll say the 1970s.

Across the street from The Downtowner is a parking deck which is perfect. My photographic adventures often result in images made at street level. To have the option of an elevated parking deck appealed to me mightily. So it was, that on a morning outing of picture taking, I would seek this parking deck and make a image.

After parking on a hill, I walked toward the parking deck to look for a good vantage point for my photo. The parking deck couldn’t have been more perfect. Having the higher perspective, and photographing with a 28mm lens, allowed me to have a better overall sense of place of the town, as oppose to the viewpoint I would’ve had if I was at street level.

Being a photojournalist, I’m often trying to include people in my pictures, no matter where I’m at. So, for this shot, I knew my scene was good, all I had to do was wait. As luck, and patience, would have it, a person walked into the frame. Shutter button clicked, I was pleased with my photo and left the spot.

Houghton, Michigan

One important takeaway from this is that to visualize a photo can be really helpful. Having a plan of what you’d like to achieve photographically is a good practice. Either you’ll achieve your expected results, or you’ll receive a happy accident. You might take a picture that you don’t like very much. A good thing to do here is to analyze what you don’t like about the picture and try to make it better the next time.

Critiquing images is a great way to become a better photographer.

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