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. …
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 …
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 only time you’re able to photograph has harsh midday sun beaming down with unpleasant shadows?
It’s simple: You take pictures.
Don’t let less-than-desirable ambient light ruin what could be a fantastic and rewarding photo outing.
Recently, I had allotted a Saturday to make pictures. Early morning and late evening are wonderful time for photos, but I had a lot of time during the day and I wanted to maximize my time by heading to a small nearby town to “see what I see” as I like to say.
On this particular day, that town happened to be the home of the annual National Trout Festival—Kalkaska, Michigan.
The only dilemma was that the weather forecast called for sun all day. There was a time when I’d get into a funk and choose to simply not take pictures. “If I can’t have perfect light, what’s the point?”, I’d tell myself.
After having this internal conversation with myself many times, I told myself that it was time to overcome the obstacle of harsh light and to get creative with my camera.
You know what happened?
Photographing during midday sun can be great, and I found this out to be true. That’s what happened.
It did require some work to make my images pleasing. First, it’s important to pay attention to shadows. One of my favorite methods of photographing from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. or beyond is try to minimize the shadows as much as possible. I’ll try to find compositions that allow me to avoid shadows as much as possible. Another technique I’ll use is to photographing using film and to expose for the shadows. This leaves detail in the shadows and in the highlights as well, if it’s done correctly.
My camera was a rangefinder and my film speed was ISO 400. That’s a faster speed than I’d really prefer in full sunlight, but I’ve been using ISO 400 for everything so that I can become more accustomed to it, and that’s also the film I had in the camera at the time. I was forced to use a faster shutter speed than I’d prefer, but that’s no big deal.
Now, this can be done with digital as well. When I’m using digital equipment, I make sure to work the shadows in post processing so that they’re not so dark. One suggestion that makes this easier is to make sure you have a good exposure at the start.
Digital cameras are capable of a lot of latitude, but a proper exposure can really help during post processing, so try to nail this out in the field.
Speaking of shadows, another technique to use in midday sun is to photograph in shadows. Some of my favorite light is soft, diffused light on a cloudy day. Shadows can provide that same diffused light. I’ve photographed portraits of people during the middle of the day. What makes it possible is to find a spot in complete shade. By doing this, I know I’ll have a location that will have as even a lighting as possible on my subject’s face.
Finally, a good technique to use while photographing in situations with high-contrast light, is to try to make images with simple and clean backgrounds. I’ve found that trees can often exaggerate already-harsh-light conditions. By finding scenes that have as few distractions and extraneous elements as possible, you can make pleasing images.
There are many elements that go into making images. Light I said, excellent light is really important to making amazing pictures. But, don’t let bad lighting stop you from being creative.
The next time you see some harsh midday sun heading your way, don’t worry about it and simply go out and make images. You may be pleasantly surprised at the great results you achieve.
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 …
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 covering what we’d done during that magical short trip. I revisited the post and it still holds true. All of it.
But, the Motor City offers way more than can possibly be visited in 48 hours, so we couldn’t wait to head back to the D and check out some new (to us) places and spaces. Plus, even though Detroit can be beautiful during the winter, the prospects of visiting the city in milder temperatures was highly appealing.
The catalyst for our most recent trip was the purchase of concert tickets to see The Killers at Little Caesars Arena. Their catalog of songs and depth of talent are wonderful to experience at home, but we love live music and we’d never visited Little Caesars Arena so it was an easy decision to go.
After deciding to visit Detroit, our next step was to find a place to stay. The thought process for finding where to kick your boots off shouldn’t be taken lightly. Where you slumber can turn a good trip into an incredible one, and our decision to call The Caterpillar “home” for a bit was perfect.
The Caterpillar is a modern piece of architecture situated about two miles outside of downtown Detroit. The pictures of it looked pretty good, but as soon as we parked our car in front of it, we knew we were in for a lodging experience like no other. Staying in a Quonset hut doesn’t seem like a great place to stay, however, this is not your average Quonset hut.
This particular Quonset hut was 192 feet long, surrounded by trees, and divided into eight living spaces, with the owners of our particular space doing a knock-out job of creating a welcoming and comfortable place. The overall design of the space was simple, clean and creative. The ceilings were 23 feet high and upon walking inside, the first characteristic I noticed was the beautiful amount of natural light.
It was a divine place to stay. Everything was comfortable, the shower was hot and there was a record player. What more does anyone need?
Music was a theme of this trip since we do enjoy it in many forms. Since we had some free time on Friday afternoon, we made our way to the historic Motown Museum at Hitsville U.S.A. for a tour and some sightseeing. The vision of Berry Gordy and the influence of Motown music is undeniable, so we couldn’t wait to see the historic spot where it all took place.
Tickets for the tours here can only be purchased on-site, so prepare to wait a bit, depending on when you go. The tour is about an hour long and our tour guide was extremely informative and personable. One of my favorite aspects of the tour and the museum was having a chance to visit the actual studio where musicians performed. The room, instruments, control board and even reception office were exactly as they were when iconic musicians made musical history there.
With our dwelling established and our music-fan souls filled, we looked forward to grabbing some food. The culinary options in Detroit are seemingly endless and ever-changing. On our last trip there, though, we’d walked past a fun place but we’d already had a reservation at a different restaurant. So, this time, we were looking forward to trying it out.
The restaurant was the Grey Ghost and it was delicious. Lively music was playing inside and it was a lively Friday-evening scene. The menu is brilliant and includes some clever drink combinations, so I’d definitely recommend those. For food, we had sea scallops, potato croquettes and cauliflower.
Each dish was fantastic. The ingredients were thoughtful and fresh with everything being prepared perfectly, without—and this is important—an excessive reliance on butter and salt for flavor. I’d wholeheartedly recommend eating here.
Saturday had arrived and after a comfortable sleep and coffee in our veins, we were anticipating the day ahead. We knew we had the concert to enjoy in the evening, but there were also some parts of Detroit that we were looking forward to in the day. Everyone’s travel style is different. We like to strike a balance between planning some things, but not too much.
The only thing we had planned for Saturday was to explore the Eastern Market. There’s a lot to see and do at the Eastern Market so the amount of time you spend here can be adjusted. The weather was nice though and we were in the exploring mood, so we did Eastern Market right.
Starting out with hot cider—this is a must-drink beverage if you’re in Michigan during the fall—we were ready to check it out. The Eastern Market is like a super farmer’s market. If you come hungry you won’t be hungry long. The space is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.
Numerous shops and establishments have taken up spaces surrounding the Eastern Market. Signal Return is a letterpress operation nearby so we browsed some artfully and beautifully-designed prints in the historic space.
The Detroit City Distillery was nearby and since our hot cider had worn off, we thought it’d be a good idea to warm our insides with bourbon. And, it was.
Across the street from the Eastern Market is one of our favorite record stores—Peoples Records. The staff here are friendly, welcoming and super knowledgeable with all things Detroit (and beyond) music. We successfully walked out of Peoples Records with vinyl from Rare Earth, The Temptations and…
The concert was nearing so we decided to order Pie-Sci Pizza to nourish ourselves prior to rocking out. The pizza was excellent and the menu is out of this world. Each pizza offered sounded great and I’d love to try each one.
Our anticipation for watching the Killers was at it’s peak so thankfully the time had arrived. Our Lyft driver dropped us off in front of Little Caesars Arena and we walked inside. I wasn’t sure what to expect when exploring the venue, but I was pleasantly surprised. The arena was built in 2017 and it was gorgeous. The shops and restaurants inside were aesthetically pleasing and there were numerous nods to Detroit’s historic sports teams of the past.
After selecting some adult beverages, we could hear the opening band begin. We briskly walked to our seats and once we landed our bottoms in them we couldn’t believe the opener was the supremely talented Johnny Marr. Johnny finished his set and we, along with the crowd, could’ve gone home happy right then and there. Luckily, we still had The Killers.
The Killers kicked in and did a fantastic job. I’ve always enjoyed there music on the radio, but live, they’re a rock ‘n roll beast on a whole other level. Brandon Flowers’s voice carried through the arena and seemingly beyond, it was so good. Ronnie Vannucci held the whole thing together with masterful percussion as guitarist Dave Keuning supplemented it all with six-string superiority.
We took a Lyft back to The Caterpillar and turned in for the night.
It was a reminder, especially on this trip, how nice it is to have a place to stay that isn’t far away from everything. It’s especially important if you’re doing a weekend trip in a place like Detroit. After all, the goal is to have fun instead of spending a lot of time traveling.
Detroit is a special place and it’s one that we can’t wait to spend time in again. Thanks Detroit!
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. …
Why are abandoned buildings so interesting? It’s because they have stories to tell. They’ve lived lives and been around. But, sometimes they can’t tell the complete story. It’s up to the imaginative viewer to decipher the clues. At one time—before the motel rooms were void …
Northern Michigan can receive snow from about October through April. It can actually receive snow any month of the year in these parts, but we’ll deal with weather generalities for now.
Being from Michigan, one learns to enjoy all the excursions and variety that each season provides. When winter arrives in all it’s glory, it can be the absolutely most rewarding time to head for the woods or wherever.
One of our favorite activities is to snowshoe, and on a recent weekend it was the Hartwick Pines State Park—with 49 acres of old-growth pines, and more than 9,000 acres to explore—that we’d selected as our winter getaway for a day.
Hartwick Pines State Park is a few minutes north of Grayling, Michigan, a quaint town that hosts the annual AuSable Canoe Marathon on the last weekend of every July. Outside of that, it’s a beautiful town of approximately 2,000 (much more in the summer) with character, characters, a must-stop bakery destination and Art Deco theater, to only name a few of the area’s gems.
When plans and nature are involved, there’s always hope sprinkled with a dash of reality on the plate when your day arrives, and on this day our hopes were not only met, but exceeded.
A winter storm had rolled in creating the effect of driving and hiking through a snow globe. Once we’d pulled in to the park, we were greeted by a sign that had Bob Ross on it and the words ‘Happy Little Trees Ahead’—it was going to be a fun day.
There was a time I’d questioned the benefits of snowshoes and whether they were necessary, since my hiking boots had always seemed sufficient. I’m here to tell, snowshoes will give you access to trails that normal boots would have a tough time managing. Plus, they allow for easier ascents and descents on hills. Our snowshoes are from Atlas but do your research and look for something that speaks to you.
Once we’d parked, our snowshoes were attached in minutes and we were on the trails.
The signs and trail markers made the experience free of worry at the possibility of becoming lost.
The trail was unbelievably serene. Even without the snow, it would’ve been that way. After about each three or four mile markers it was if we’d stepped into another outdoor fairy-tale world, each one as gorgeous as the last. There were towering pines, Narnia-like bends of the AuSable River that babbled under bridges and cedar-tree tunnels where black-capped chickadees—every the social birds—fluttered and chatted.
By the time we’d reached our vehicle in the parking lot, our legs were thankful but our eyes and soul were already gearing up to return.
We’d planned to eat at Spike’s Keg O’ Nails, but we’d consumed so much with our eyes instead of our stomachs, we had to return home.
A perfect way to experience the area would be to secure lodging and make it a true all-day experience in Grayling. Another benefit is that you’d have a better chance of seeing a movie at the Rialto.
Really though, for a true Grayling experience, make sure to head to Spike’s and take in the history.
As I’ve been tending to with increased frequency, I brought only my iPhone on this trip for image making. It’s lightweight, available and has incredible image quality. There’s a creative freedom that comes with using an iPhone, or any cell phone camera. That freedom comes from operating a device that’s unobtrusive and simple. If you’re going to bring a camera anywhere, make sure you bring one that will aid in you making the best pictures possible. The cell phone camera is just easy and fun.
Making Images Again in Vehicle City When someone brings up Flint, Michigan, the conversation usually revolves around the topics of lead-tainted water, low income and crime. Flint has had—and continues to have— highs and lows. But, here’s the thing about Flint: the people who live …