It was December 24, 2022. Our plan, by way of yearly tradition, was to travel north and visit family for the holidays. Nature’s plan, though, was to make the Michigan roads as undriveable as possible through a weather assault of wind, snow, cold and ice. …
Tell someone you’re going away for a weekend to Saginaw, Michigan to take photos, and you may receive puzzling expressions—I certainly did. The responses of wonderment I received were mostly from the people I encountered in Saginaw, too. Saginaw is often on lists, but they’re …
These days it’s almost impossible to be interested in photography and equipment and not end up down the rabbit hole that is the camera forum. Talk of DxO scores, sharpness, aberration and, of course, megapixels, dominate the subject matter.
None of that matters.
My first internship after graduating with a degree in photojournalism was at the Monroe Evening News. At that time, it was a newspaper that cared deeply about capturing the best images to tell the story.
The camera gear I was issued was a Nikon D1, and a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and a 16-35mm f/2.8 lens, and a flash.
It was perfect.
One day, upon noticing the camera I was using, someone asked,” How many megapixels is that?” I had no idea. I was so busy navigating the nuances that are required to visually document a story, day in and day out, that I never cared to look at the specs.
Immediately after receiving that question, I went back to the newspaper and looked up “How many megapixels does the Nikon D1 have?”
The answer? It has 2.74 megapixels.
So, fast forward to recently. My Canon 6D has been a faithful companion and tool for many years. Seriously, this is one incredible photographic tool. I’ve photographed numerous assignments and personal work using this camera and it has never let me down.
However, when working as a freelance photographer, it’s important to have an adequate backup camera. While looking for one, I knew I needed to buy a Canon (this is only because I have a lot of great Canon lenses. There are lots of fantastic camera brands out there).
Canon 1-series cameras are built like tanks so that’s the direction I headed. After doing a lot of research, I landed on the Canon 1DX. It’s full frame and weather sealed, which is really important. But, one of the most important specifications of this camera, to me at least, is that it’s shutter is rated for 400,000 cycles. This is incredible.
This number tells me that some serious research has been done on making this a tough camera. The next most important thing to me is autofocus. After using other Canon 1-series digital cameras, I was confident that the autofocus of the Canon 1DX would be just fine.
Recently, I was commissioned by downtown Traverse City to make some images of downtown Traverse City. I’m really looking forward to this since I’m usually walking the streets of downtown Traverse City anyway, as it’s one of my favorite areas for street photography.
Walking downtown with the Canon 1DX recently has proven to me that this camera is a more-than-capable camera. It’s autofocus locks on blazingly fast and the files have been wonderful.
Since, Michigan has all kinds of crazy weather, I’m confident this camera will hold up to whatever weather it encounters since it’s weather sealed.
So, I’ve brought up weather sealing a couple of times now. Why? Here’s why. One day while on assignment for the Traverse City Record-Eagle, I was supposed to make winter photos of downtown scenes. It wasn’t just winter weather that day though. It was rain, quickly turning to ice.
While walking downtown and making photos, there was a layer of ice on my camera and lens. It was so much ice that I said to myself, “If this camera still works after this day, I’ll commit myself to Canon cameras.” The camera worked flawlessly, so I stand by them to this day.
Just because the Canon 1-series cameras work great for me, obviously doesn’t mean that they’re right for you. The purpose of this post is to explain why this camera can be amazing and why it’s the right one for me.
When I’m looking for a camera that I know won’t impede my ability to get a photo, I’m reaching for this one.
And, it has 18 megapixels. But, that doesn’t matter.
As photographers, we obviously would like to photography when the light is optimum. The golden hour, the blue hour, sunsets, sunrises—these are all times of day when the light can turn gorgeous and can result in exquisite images. But, what do you do when the …
In the span of only a few days, I went from receiving a photo assignment from The Wall Street Journal, to feeling Lake Huron spray hit my face as we sped toward shipwreck Pewabic, trying to beat inclement weather. As a freelance photographer, when I’m …
It was a Friday afternoon and we drove north after shortened work days, which are the best work days. We traversed the Straits of Mackinac via the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge. Our stomachs were rumbling so we decided to stop at the Village Inn in St. Ignace. Every time we’ve been to this cozy diner the service has been exceptionally friendly and the food—their fish ‘n chips and black burger (I get the beef burger, but the black bean burger is incredible)—has been fantastic.
Stomachs satiated, we traveled roughly 40 more minutes until we arrived at the small, quaint town of Trout Lake, Michigan
The weekend’s destination was a surprise…to me at least. Meg, my partner and a masterful secret keeper, had told me to clear a weekend in October because we were going away, and I wasn’t to find out where until we’d arrived at our destination.
Nightfall had descended upon us quickly (because that’s how Michigan’s Octobers are) in Trout Lake. In the dimness of some street lights, I could tell that there was a gas station, a saloon and a grocery store. It was more like a “grocery store” because of its diminutive size, but it worked for sure.
After crossing railroad tracks and passing through some stop signs, we took a left turn off of the main road to travel down a dirt road and cross more railroad tracks.
We bumped our way along a two-track that was a dirt driveway, when we were welcomed by a gigantic two-story white lodge—Birch Lodge. It was surrounded by colorful fall-leaf filled trees with a lake on its shoreline. Even though it was night, that much was seen. I was completely surprised by not only the location, but also by this historic structure that we were about to stay in.
The main door perfectly creaked open and we entered the lodge prior to Jim kindly and calmly checking us in. During this time, we also took the opportunity to meet lodge dog Jack. After our tour and a nightcap, we turned in. Even at night, the property was breath-taking, so I couldn’t wait to see it in daylight.
Birch Lodge opened in 1912 to the name ‘Birch Lodge Hospital and Summer Resort Sanitarium’. It was a place where tuberculosis patients were treated during the early 1900s.
As if the location isn’t unique and beautiful enough, there’s a motel that was built in 1964 situated next door. For any of you mid-century fans out there, this motel is your place. The interior is decorated as if the place was just built. Or, maybe it’s not decorated, I don’t know. It could be that well-taken care of since the day it was completed. Either way, the motel is a time machine.
One of the many benefits of staying in a place like Birch Lodge is that there isn’t a lot going on immediately around it. In that way, it allows guests to enjoy the property instead of guests feeling like they may be missing out on nearby attractions.
During the day, we’d drive north to Paradise and hike at the Vermilion Point Nature Preserve. This is worth it only if you’re looking forward to walking along Lake Superior and enjoy rock hunting. Hopefully, since you’re in the upper peninsula of Michigan, you do.
If you’re not into that scene though, head over to Tahquemenon Falls State Park and take it in. It’s a majestic area with hiking trails and, of course, beautiful waterfalls. Paradise, Michigan is a wonderful spot to eat as it often has restaurants featuring fresh, local-caught whitefish. Know that whatever you do, you’ll have a cozy place waiting for you at Birch Lodge.
If I didn’t mention it already, one of the best parts about Birch Lodge is that It’s quiet. After hiking, we made it back in time to catch the sun setting. As we sat on the back porch, ducks had begun to fly in and chuckle—these particular ducks sounded like they were chuckling to a well-told joke—and the sky color was magnificent.
The hardest part about traveling to Birch Lodge is leaving, but that’s probably a good sign that your trip was done exceedingly well. As we walked toward our car, we could hear the jingle jangle of metal on metal. The sound was from dog tags. We turned our heads to see Jack jauntily trotting toward us as if to say,”Farewell friends.”
It can be the most difficult surrounding to photograph. Out of nowhere, you may find yourself stopped in the tracks of creativity before you even know what hit you. Or, it may hit you right away. You may walk, or drive, for hours looking for …
Detroit has stolen our hearts…again. With its history, character (and characters), food and architecture, it won’t be the last time, without a doubt. And, that’s ok. Steal away Detroit, steal away. After visiting there for a weekend earlier this year, I wrote a post here …
There are times when the need to create burns inside. If that need, that feeling, wasn’t there, life would be so much easier. But, life wouldn’t be as beautiful and fulfilling. I suppose this is the artist’s dilemma. One of them anyway.
If I haven’t taken photos in a while, I can tell that my soul is a little off. The act of carrying a camera: observing, predicting, controlling exposures and compositions, it all has such a grounding effect. I’ll often dedicate one weekend every month or two and take pictures. The weekend’s days are mine to make pictures whenever and wherever I choose.
When that weekend is complete, my creative hunger is fed and I feel ready to take on the regularities of life. Such was the case recently when I stayed in Big Rapids, Michigan. I’d been to Big Rapids before, and it’s a fun place to photograph, but what I was really looking forward to on my recent excursion was exploring some of the small communities around Big Rapids.
Being in a new place stimulates the senses and creativity. Going to a new town, or new anywhere, makes me feel like a kid again because I’m seeing new things and places for the first time. There are of course similarities to other places, but each place that I’ve ever been to has things that are uniquely its own.
One of the town’s I visited was White Cloud, Michigan. White Cloud is a town that I’d always pass while driving on the highway, so it felt right to visit it since I wasn’t far away.
Walking, versus driving, is the best way to explore a small town, or anywhere for that matter. It allows you to see, observe and feel the rhythms of a place. So that’s exactly what I did. I pulled off to the side of a street, turned the key to my car off and listened. There was a barking dog in the distance and the faint sound of an occasional distant car passing by.
I was parked next to a laundromat so I decided to walk there first. The sign was eye-catching so I immediately photographed it. Then, a person began to walk toward the laundromat and a minivan parked in front as well. It may not seem like much but moments like these are wonderful for a couple of reasons.
First, they are genuine moments. Nothing about it was posed or contrived—it was serendipity at its finest. And, this is why walking is so important in photography: it allows you to immerse yourself in a space, and it also allows you to be ready with your camera when chance moments occur.
Finally, the addition of a person and minivan added to the image. The building itself was interesting, but whenever I take a photo, I’m thinking,”How can I make this more interesting.” I often try to include people in my pictures because I think it’s important to do so. They give life to a picture and make them more relatable. It’s not always possible to do so because small towns, especially, are so quiet. But, when possible, I try.
After the laundromat, I began walking down what looked like a main street, and turned left. There was a classic Chevy Blazer parked. The simplicity of the vehicle’s design was appealing to me. Also, there was a house behind it that provided a nice sense of place.
Pro Tip: If you’re wondering about taking a photo—take it. Too many times I’ve not taken a picture only to regret not taking it later. Listen to whatever “voice” is suggesting a moment or scene might make a good picture.
Across the street from the Blazer was a vehicle service station. The service station evoked a feeling of ‘small town’ because it wasn’t like some of the newer, bigger and fancier service stations that inhabit so much real estate in small towns. This one was smaller and appeared to have some history under its oil-stained ground.
On the outskirts of town was an old bowling alley building. I’m not sure if it was still in operation or not. There was grass growing out of the parking lot in spots and a some of the lettering was missing on the side of the building. It was perfect for a photograph.
As I looked at the White Cloud website, I noticed that the images that were used were aesthetically beautiful. They showed scenes and people having a wonderful time, partaking in outdoor pursuits, in White Cloud.
To some, it may seem like an old bowling building or laundromat aren’t “pretty” locations for a picture. But, I feel like they are as beautiful, if not more so, because they are authentic. Each visual element and vignette of a town is what makes a place what it is, and what could be more beautiful than that?
My only regret is that I’m not able to spend a lot more time in a place to know people and document the happenings. But, I don’t think there would ever be enough time for me to do that. So, I enjoy what time I have to explore the amazing places nearby and photograph what I can. It was ever so satisfying taking some time on a sunny and warm September Sunday and exploring the quaint town of White Cloud.
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. …