Tag: Leica

Why Winter is a Great Season for Photography

Why Winter is a Great Season for Photography

Let It Snow If it sounds borderline insane to appreciate the benefits of photography in cold and snowy conditions, I understand. Making quality images is hard enough when the weather is perfect. Once the temperature descends to freezing and below, operating a camera can present 

Winter in the Mushroom Capital

Winter in the Mushroom Capital

Mesick, Mich The temperature was hovering around 15 degrees Fahrenheit in northern Michigan; that’s not a bad temperature because it wasn’t windy, you see. So the question becomes: Where should I travel to for pictures? Most photographers would make their way to Lake Michigan, possibly 

Voyaging: Reed City, Mich.

Voyaging: Reed City, Mich.

Americana Everywhere

Some small towns—I’d say most small towns, at least around here in northern Michigan—encapsulate small-town life and living: local ice cream shops usually called something great like the Cone Corral; cars pulled up side by side, windows down—their drivers catching each other up on the latest news; meanwhile, historical buildings that were once of great import and have remained beautiful, continue to stand. As soon as arrived to Reed City, I knew I’d found a perfect small town.

Film photography in Michigan
Reed City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

What drew me to Reed City were a couple of things: an abandoned air strip and a desire for new ground. I was scrolling through Instagram, as one tends to do, and came across a photo someone shared of an incredible mid-century structure—an abandoned airport called Nartron Field. I’m usually searching for new areas to photograph in and realized that I hadn’t traveled much farther than Cadillac, already about one hour south, in far too long. So off to Reed City I traveled.

An Abandoned Airport

After making the voyage south, I headed toward Nartron Field. While driving closer and closer, it began to come into view. It was incredible, even better than the photo that was shared on Instagram. The airport terminal was designed using colored rectangles along all the walls visible from the road, it was a photographer’s dream. The airport was the type of place that one could stay at all day, but my goal was to explore Reed City so onward I traveled.

Leica Street Photography
Reed City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Driving through town, it had the feel of a close-knit community. There was a downtown area that included a variety of businesses such as a Jeep-themed restaurant called the Seven Slot Grill. I didn’t partake but the aromas traveling from it were good. Judging from the history and town layout, Reed City was alive with train-traffic back in the day. A fantastically tall structure, the Reed City Feed & Supply, loomed large over the town center.

There were old motels, party stores and businesses that I couldn’t resist photographing. Across the street from a Yoplait factory was an exceptional structure—the building that once housed the Osceola County Herald. Working in newsrooms myself, I fully appreciated the bustle and talent that can only take place in a newsroom, even one as small as this. I was surprised at how well the lettering was preserved on the buildings exterior.

Reed City Michigan
Reed City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Few People, Many Sights

I saw five people, not counting those driving, while I walked around town. Such is the life of a small-town photographer though. The population of Reed City is just shy of 3,000 so a people-dense scene wasn’t anywhere near my expectation; also, it’s the quality not the quantity.

Film Photography
Reed City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

One particular structure, aside from Nartron Field, that had photo potential written all over it, was the Reed City Motel. On Google, the star rating it has received is a 2.4 from 22 reviewers. Everything from “…room full of potheads…” to “Worst place on this planet…”. These are some of my favorite places; they have character and “charm” that your Radisson or Hilton properties can’t even dream of achieving. Any motel or hotel that advertises Color TVs and/or Air Conditioning will definitely be a subject of my photography.

Street Photography in Michigan
Reed City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Just west of the motel was the town’s school that had a football field and surrounding track. Beyond the track was a church steeple which I framed as best I could on some 35mm negative film. Reed City has some history of Lutheran churches, as so many Michigan towns do, so a photo including a church seemed appropriate.

Street Photography
Reed City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Not far from the motel, down the road and past the train tracks, was a large white house with a classic car at its side. To me, this embodied what any town can deliver: it may not be big or glitzy—thank goodness it’s not—but if you look, it’s authentic and genuine and that can be sure tough to find these days.

Small town street photography
Reed City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

This small town offered an impressive amount history for its size; it could be felt on the checkered-buildings and narrow streets within its city limits. As sure as the Hersey River runs through it, I will travel to you soon Reed City, and to all of your Americana glory as well.

Voyaging: Kalkaska, MI—a.k.a. Trout Town, U.S.A.

Voyaging: Kalkaska, MI—a.k.a. Trout Town, U.S.A.

A Very Quiet Town When an itch to explore a place quivers my shutter-button finger, I know it’s probably because I haven’t been to that place in a bit. Such was the case when I aimed my steel steed toward the village of Kalkaska, Mich, 

Voyaging: Walking Through Cadillac, MI in Spring

Voyaging: Walking Through Cadillac, MI in Spring

Street Photography in Cadillac Situated in the lower eastern section of northern Michigan’s Wexford County, you’ll find Cadillac. It’s unofficial claims probably outnumber the official ones, but I’ll fill you in with what I know. In 1975, the rock band KISS performed there for the 

Appreciating the Vertical Image

Appreciating the Vertical Image

Seize the Vertical

With 35mm film cameras, DSLRs, mirrorless…MOST cameras, it takes some extra maneuvers for the vertical frame. Horizontal photos are easy: You hold the camera, right hand at the right and left hand at the left. For verticals though, do you put right hand over the left? Or do you hold it the other way around?

Now your arms look like a pretzel.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

It’s a simple enough technique to figure out but sometimes, most times, the tendency is to photograph and achieve the horizontal results. With phones now though, verticals are actually easier.

After looking at my body of work some months ago, it was evident that there was a crazy lack of verticals in my gallery of images.

The thing is, I LOVE verticals. They’re fun to make, they offer a wonderful perspective and there is usually no other orientation I’d want to see when it comes to a photograph, or painting, displayed on .

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Recently, the need for a photo walk was heavy so I ventured out with the mindset of “I’m going to capture verticals.” My Leica 35mm M6 at my side, loaded with Kodak Portra 400 film, I set out to see what I could find.

There’s a business development about two miles away from home that constantly draws me in for photography. It has clean backgrounds and simple lines; difficult characteristics to obtain in the tree-filled surroundings of northern Michigan. There’s an old car wash as well as a furniture store and laundromat. It may not draw you or other people in, but it certainly appeals to my appreciation for banal and beautiful photography. Oftentimes, the simpler the better, and that’s what this development provides.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Composing Within a Vertical Frame

The 28mm lens that I often use is important because it forces the photographer to approach close to the subject. It’s taken some time but after becoming familiar with the close proximity, it’s a favorite lens. It’s a prime lens also which I can’t recommend enough. It forces one to move the feet and to learn how to use one focal length.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

If you haven’t tried this yet, you definitely should. Learn your equipment, whatever it is; take time and practice, practice, practice. When you’re comfortable and knowledgeable with the technical aspects of the camera, that’s when you can focus more on the art of photography.

An old ‘Car Wash’ sign caught my attention. The lettering font dated the sign beautifully, as did the lettering color. Across the parking lot, maybe 40 yards away, was a couch facing toward the wall. The abstract nature of this scene drew me in and I photographed it. An area like this is ideal for when one is inspired by the “New Topographics” movement and minimalism.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

With vertical images, it has taken me a while to compose well. At first, there was a lot of negative space at the top and bottom of the frame. This can be cool, but I was trying to fill the frame with interesting subject matter. With time, practice and patience, I’ve started to improve on my vertical compositions, at least, to my liking. Sometimes it’s fun to take a while to compose a photo and sometimes it’s fun to photograph instinctually; when you photograph a lot, you’ll find which methods and techniques work best for you.

Traverse City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

My next stop was in downtown Traverse City. After parking and walking, I traveled through some neighborhoods that have a variety of homes from old to modern. One, in particular, caught my eye with cursive house numbers. I stepped back a bit to photograph this scene because I wanted to show the house in its environment of trees and street.

Practice composing and photographing in the vertical format, that’d be my suggestion and takeaway. Anything you can do to challenge yourself and flex your creative muscles will make you a much more well-rounded photographer; plus, you could have a lot of fun doing it.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.”

~Maya Angelou
Voyaging: Boyne Falls, MI—Photography in Midday Sun

Voyaging: Boyne Falls, MI—Photography in Midday Sun

If you’re like me, it’s a commitment to venture out and make pictures. It’s a commitment in time, money and resources. We do it because we love the craft and art of it…unless you have a different reason, which you could. For now though, I’m 

Voyaging:  Quiet Street Photography in Small Towns (in this case Cheboygan, MI)

Voyaging: Quiet Street Photography in Small Towns (in this case Cheboygan, MI)

My camera bag is loaded with rolls of 35mm film and my lodging for LeDuc’s Creekside Motel in Cheboygan, MI is booked; let’s do some street photography. Mackinaw City was my focus on this photo excursion and weekend of village voyaging, but to maximize my 

Voyaging: Mackinaw City, MI—Crossroads in the State Made with Hands

Voyaging: Mackinaw City, MI—Crossroads in the State Made with Hands

Look at the palm of your right hand; that’s Michigan, the lower peninsula. Follow your middle finger to the tip and that’s where Mackinaw City is. Now, look at the palm of your left hand, that’s Michigan’s upper peninsula. Connect the tip of your left hand pinky finger with the tip of your right-hand middle finger and you have Michigan in all its peninsular glory.

Mackinaw City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Michigan is unbelievably unique and it doesn’t end at hands representing mittens, that’s for sure. Mackinaw City is across from St. Ignace (the tip of your left pinky finger), a town in Michigan’s upper peninsula, with the two peninsulas being connected at the Straights of Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) by the Mackinac (still pronounced Mackinaw) Bridge. The “Mighty Mac” is a five-mile suspension bridge with Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the east. Mackinaw City is a fun town that is known as an access point for ferries that transport people to Mackinac (Mackinaw) Island.

Mackinaw City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Mackinaw City is filled with restaurants, souvenir shops and motels. It’s a place that is often passed through, due to it’s vicinity, but has positioned itself with enough shops and stores that it entices even the most road-bound traveler. What draws me here is the contrast. It’s a place that people pass through so I want to stay. It’s a resort town aimed at making money so I want to explore who works there to help the town’s economy make that money. My time in Mackinaw City was only a day so my exploration wasn’t thorough, but it was excellent to voyage and explore as always.

Mackinaw City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Land of Contrasts

With my vehicle parked and windows cracked on this sultry summer day, I was ready to walk and create a street photo or two. It was a Saturday, which was perfect because that way I could maximize my potential of seeing the place for the resort town that it is. My first stop was a restaurant called Wienerlicious, good god what a name. This was to be my first stop because it’s presence looms large as one is driving past on Interstate 75. Positioned atop the establishment is a 40-foot wiener welcoming all who travel by or enter. So visually, this is a must-photograph place.

Mackinaw City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

My next destination was the downtown area, where the tourists congregate. There’s a ferry dock where passengers embark and disembark so I wanted to make an image there. People from all over the world utilize the ferry services so it’s always fascinating to see the melting pot.

Mackinaw City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

One of the reasons that Mackinaw City interests me so much is that it’s a resort town and I’m from a resort town, where contrasts abound. There are residents, tourists and seasonal workers. Much of the contrasts, the most visible ones, are economical. After only walking a couple of blocks outside of town, I encountered a development that was clearly a hotel at one time, but was now converted to be living quarters for seasonal workers. Where cars would once park for registration, there was a man giving haircuts. I love photographing people, people are what make the world go around, so I knew I’d photograph this scene. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get a slight bit nervous each time, but I walk knowing that I’m going to do my best to photograph the scene. What I hate more than being denied a photographic opportunity is regret, so I don’t allow regret to enter the equation.

Mackinaw City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

The men were sort of nervous at first, but after talking with them a bit and showing genuine interest, they were agreeable to me photographing the haircuts. After that, and not far down the road, was a motel that was out of business. Resort towns fluctuate in income and success so an out-of-business motel definitely helps narrate my visual story. The simplicity of the ‘Motel’ and ‘Office’ sign, along with the red color, drew me in and reminded me of much of the New Topographic Movement work I’ve seen.

Mackinaw City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Pro Tip: Already, on my photo sojourn around Mackinaw City, my cup of film captures runneth over. My goal was to get off the main highway and explore around the town, to dig deeper. If you’re in a rut or have been feeling uninspired, one method to cure your photographer’s block is to simply take a different route. Or, what I love doing, travel to a small town nearby that you don’t visit all the time and walk around the block. When you walk, your powers of observance are much more likely to be higher than if you think about a place or drive near a place. You must walk it, it will help you connect and possibly discover a renewed sense of artistic inspiration.

Mackinaw City was a worthy stop for sure and I hope to someday have the opportunity to photograph there in winter. It’s most likely going to be local, year-round residents and that’s exactly what I’d hope for; people who have perspective on comings and goings of people, money, businesses and seasons. To live in a resort town, any resort town, is to adapt and survive. It was a successful trip to Mackinaw City to explore during the prime summer months and study the different sectors of town in as much of an authentic way as I could. Until next time—probably when the snow flies—Mackinaw City.

Mackinaw City, MI
Camera: Leica M6

Tech notes: For this adventure, my equipment was a Leica 35mm camera and some expired film. The expired film didn’t bother me, I embraced the inevitable imperfections because that’s what life is and I knew that the film had been preserved properly; also, there’d be only slight inconsistencies in color. Any camera would’ve worked, of course, but I wanted to blend in a little more than usual so I opted for a small 35mm rangefinder. A tech note tip: Leica’s are expensive. If I didn’t have one, I’d for sure take my Canonet QL17GIII. I bought it for $20 and spent $100 to fix it. After it was serviced by Lezot, it works beautifully and wow, are those lenses sharp.

Voyaging: Traveling on U.S. 131. Away from Home

Voyaging: Traveling on U.S. 131. Away from Home

The great American road trip. Epic excursions to places far-flung and unknown. Misty mountain peaks near spacious, swathes of majestic valleys. If money was no object, these would be spectacular places to travel and photograph. Money is most definitely an object though, and the places