Tag: travel writing

Why the Canon AE-1  Makes a Great Film Camera

Why the Canon AE-1 Makes a Great Film Camera

Choosing the right film camera can be incredibly overwhelming. There are seemingly endless options out there for you to use. But, worry not. If you’re looking for a simple camera that can be found for a reasonable price, the Canon AE-1 gets the job done, 

How Film Photography Can Make You A Better Portrait Photographer

How Film Photography Can Make You A Better Portrait Photographer

Portrait photography is one of my favorite genres within the craft. To meet someone and make a portrait of that person, or people, is special. While working for different newspapers, it was portraits that made up so many daily assignments. The goal was to photograph 

Photographing in a Snowstorm for Five Minutes

Photographing in a Snowstorm for Five Minutes

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. It was the Christmas Eve blizzard.

I’m from Michigan, so snowstorms are always in the forecast no matter what month of the year it is. Drive through enough winters, like I have, and you too will begin to posses a set of skills centered around calm, supreme attentiveness and road lane visualization when there, seemingly, are no lanes.

When we heard the travel warning for this particular time, and the warnings have been known to overestimate things, we discussed it and decided to give the trip an effort.

Even on family trips, actually, especially on family trips, I bring a dedicated piece of camera gear for documentation purposes. With my 35mm rangefinder in tow, I’d be ready to photograph anything.

Grand Traverse County

As we exited our neighborhood and made our way north, it was apparent that the storm was indeed trying its best to cause dangerous travel conditions. Blinding snow was whipping it’s way at a high velocity from the west and ice had already established itself on the pavement.

“Is this smart?,” my partner Meg said. The answer was,”No.”

We decided to turn around at the next drive, which happened to be a service drive to a fruit orchard farm.

Not one to squander a photographic opportunity, I grabbed my camera and exited the vehicle to make some pictures. The full force of winter was seen, heard and felt as I made some steps to photograph some winter scenes.

One of my favorite reasons to photograph during winter is that when there are colors, the stark whiteness of winter really makes them pop.

There was a teal shed of some sort that I photographed first. Then, when I turned around, there was a school bus in the yard of a house across the road.

My total time photographing was about five minutes.

Grand Traverse County

The point of this post is this: Life has changes and circumstances that seem to be in a constant state of flux. By having a camera, and that includes cell phone cameras, and being receptive to photograph opportunities, you’ll find that you’ll have more chances to be creative and to simply create.

Grand Traverse County

As days become busier and busier and time becomes ever more valuable, I’m finding it more important than ever to carve out time and make chances to photograph and be creative.

The best way to do this, for me, has been to simply have a picture-taking device and to be open to photographing.

If you’re finding that you’re not taking as many pictures as you’d like, try to bring your camera with you everywhere. Be open to new photographic possibilities and maybe take a different route to and from work. You may discover new photographic opportunities and you may find that you’re inspired to create art.

Voyaging: A 2023 Springtime Photo Trip to Saginaw, Michigan

Voyaging: A 2023 Springtime Photo Trip to Saginaw, Michigan

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 

Tips for Photographing in the Midday Sun

Tips for Photographing in the Midday Sun

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 

On Assignment for The Wall Street Journal: “How ‘eDNA’ Might Transform the Search for Missing Service Members”

On Assignment for The Wall Street Journal: “How ‘eDNA’ Might Transform the Search for Missing Service Members”

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 commissioned by someone to make pictures for them, I take every inquiry seriously.

This rings especially true when the assignment comes from The Wall Street Journal. I’ve been fortunate to work with them on a number of assignments, and they’ve all been not only fascinating, but they’ve also held potential for interesting visuals as well.

Russ Green, from right, superintendent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Joe Hoyt, national coordinator with the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and Jessica Keller, diving safety officer with the University of Miami, prepare Saturday, August 6, 2022 for a dive to the shipwreck site of the steamer Pewabic, approximately 170 feet below the surface, in the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. Divers will set up a reference grid and place collection equipment at the shipwreck site so another team of divers will be able to collect water samples and sediment core samples. The samples will be processed before being analyzed for eDNA, or, environmental DNA. //Keith King for The Wall Street Journal

Last August, my assignment was to meet and travel with a group of researchers and divers as they traveled to the site of a shipwreck. The objective of their excursion, and what I was to document, was their gathering of environmental DNA (eDNA) at the site.

The eDNA is gathered when collection tubes are placed near the shipwreck—it could also be a plane, or any other area of underwater interest—and sediment is collected at the site. Once the sediment is collected, it is transported to a laboratory for analyzing.

After working at some of the shipwrecks in Lake Huron, in Michigan’s northeast, many of the researchers were going to travel to Italy to explore and research a World War II plane that was underwater. It was interesting to hear about how this talented group of researchers was collaborating on a world-wide level.

This was a challenging, but extremely fulfilling assignment. Weather was the ultimate dictator of when, if and how long, anyone was going to travel to the shipwreck site. Since the weather changes so quickly, especially on the Great Lakes, it wasn’t decided whether or not the trip would take place until a couple of hours before the scheduled time.

Fortunately, there was a window of time when we could go.

Research vessel Storm is navigated Saturday, August 6, 2022 toward the site of the shipwreck Pewabic in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. //Keith King for The Wall Street Journal

Typically, there would be a group of divers that setup the equipment and supplies needed for the sediment collection. Then, there would be another group of divers that followed, and they would gather the sediment at the chosen site.

Since the weather was turning windy and wavy, only the first group of divers—they’re the ones who setup the sediment collection tubes at the underwater site—went down.

From a photojournalist’s standpoint, I was mostly thankful that any divers at all were able to go down.

Photographing this was really enjoyable. Everyone was extremely informative, helpful, professional and kind. One of the most difficult aspects of photojournalism, for a photojournalist, is gathering caption information.

If people are in a photo, it’s of utmost importance that their names are not only included in the captions, but spelled correctly.

Divers climb aboard the research vessel Storm and remove their equipment Saturday, August 6, 2022 after diving to the site of the shipwreck Pewabic, approximately 170 feet below the surface, in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. The divers set up a reference grid and placed collection equipment at the shipwreck site so that another team of divers can collect water samples and sediment core samples. The samples will be processed before being analyzed for environmental DNA (eDNA). //Keith King for The Wall Street Journal

My habit that has worked the best for me regarding this has been to listen to someone spell their name, and then I show them my notepad after I’ve written it down, so they can correct me if need be. It works really well.

Since most of my photo subjects were in diving gear, I had to make sure to write down who was wearing what, so that I’d have an idea of who was who when I would look at the photos later. A quick description like: ‘diver with red shoes and blue goggles’, can make all the difference.

A crate of sediment core collection tubes lies aboard the research vessel Storm Saturday, August 6, 2022 before being placed near the shipwreck of the steamer Pewabic, approximately 170 feet below the surface, in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. Divers will set up a reference grid and place collection equipment at the shipwreck site so another team of divers will be able to collect water samples and sediment core samples. The samples will be processed before being analyzed for environmental DNA (eDNA). //Keith King for The Wall Street Journal

After returning to shore, the task of toning and captioning photos begins. Fortunately, I was able to have enough time to drive three hours home to do this. Sometimes, the turnaround time is so quick, the photo toning and captioning has to be completed as soon as possible.

I was pleased with how the photos turned out. My attention to what was going on is always really high in the moment and I could walk away from this assignment knowing I had done my best. A technique that I’ve adopted ever since I’ve started with photojournalism, though, is to critique my work and look for areas of improvement.

The final online layout, visible here, was exceptional and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how it came together as a narrative and visually interesting package.

A self-critiquing of my work has always given me pause and helped me find areas that I could do better during future assignments.

John Bright, research coordinator and unit diving supervisor with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, talks with a diver Saturday, August 6, 2022 after a dive was made to the site of the shipwreck Pewabic in the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. Divers set up a reference grid and placed collection equipment at the shipwreck site so that another team of divers can collect water samples and sediment core samples. The samples will be processed before being analyzed for environmental DNA (eDNA). //Keith King for The Wall Street Journal

To me, photojournalism is the most fulfilling occupation and craft in the world. It allows a person to be creative while still gathering information. This assignment checked all the boxes and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to photograph it.

If you’re interested in photographing assignments of some kind, find out what interests you and look for outlets or publications that use images like the ones you’re keen on. Keep photographing and building a body of work, then reach out to a photo editor and tell them you’d like to take photos for them.

Don’t be discouraged if your call isn’t well received or even received at all; photo editors and directors of photography are extremely busy. If you’re lucky you may receive a healthy dose of critiquing. I’ve always listened to criticism that came my way and tried to adjust accordingly.

Keep photographing things that are important to you and have fun.

Why You Should Put Yourself on Assignment

Why You Should Put Yourself on Assignment

When you open your email’s ‘Inbox’ to find that an editor has reached out for you to take photos, it’s exhilarating. Making pictures, being creative, having access to photograph interesting people, places, things, etc., and making money—it all can be as thrilling as it sounds. 

A Quick and Delicious Food Tour of Denver

A Quick and Delicious Food Tour of Denver

If you’re looking for a foodie destination like no other, it’s time to make Denver your stop. We travel there every year, in November, and spend a day and a night downtown before heading to Estes Park for Thanksgiving. Spending some time in the Mile-High 

Finding Calm, and Photographs, in Trout Lake, Michigan

Finding Calm, and Photographs, in Trout Lake, Michigan

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.

Birch Lodge. Trout Lake, Michigan

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.

Birch Lodge. Trout Lake, Michigan

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. Trout Lake, Michigan

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.

Trout Lake, Michigan

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.

Vermilion Point Nature Preserve, Michigan

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.

Trout Lake, Michigan

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.”

Farewell Jack. Farewell.

Jack. Birch Lodge. Trout Lake, Michigan
How to Spend 48 (Incredible!) Hours in Detroit (Oct. 2022)

How to Spend 48 (Incredible!) Hours in Detroit (Oct. 2022)

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