Breath-taking scenery, a historic lighthouse, and outdoor recreation await at Old Mission Lighthouse Park, just 20 minutes from Traverse City, Michigan. I published an article about this very scenic destination on TraverseCity.com. Click on the link below to view my article:
As I write this post on January 7, 2016, a major snowstorm is moving across the Western United States, with forecasts placing it in the Great Lakes region by the weekend. I can't help but hope that the predictions prove to be true! I love how snow and ice transform dull brown landscapes into shimmering places of beauty. So, although the storm is still a day away, I'm charging my camera batteries and planning my snow-ventures. While I wait and hope, I'm remembering the Upper Midwest's first snowfall of the season, which happened last October. At the time, I was camping near Munising, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, right in the path of the storm track. Most people would not be delighted by the idea of snow arriving in the midst of a camping trip, but this one was special. These snow squalls were targeting the southern shores of Lake Superior between Marquette and Grand Marais where peak fall color was blazing.
When the snow began falling in the middle of the night, I could hardly sleep! The winds were perfectly calm, and even in the dark, I could see that this snowfall was pure sparkle. I wandered around the campground in the snow-glow, watching as snowflakes silently drifted onto the red and yellow trees, coating them with crystal. I didn't have to wait for dawn to see that this storm would create spectacular shooting opportunities.
Long before sunrise, I was in my car on the way to my favorite place in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore: the White Birch Forest, near Grand Marais. But driving was difficult, partly because I don't have 4WD and also because I kept pulling over to take pictures. Near Melstrand, on H-58, I stopped to capture the diffused light of early morning on the snow-coated trees.
I was in a big hurry to get to the White Birch Forest, but this was a slippery snow. After skidding and sliding around and taking a very close look at a couple of ditches, I decided to slow down. That's when I noticed Kingston Lake! At least, I think it was Kingston Lake. The sign said so, but it didn't look like the Kingston Lake I knew. It looked like a fairytale storybook destination. Miraculously, instead of landing in a ditch, I had wound up at this mirrored lake, just as the skies were beginning to clear.
"Candy-Colored Forest" photo by Aubrieta V. Hope
The beauty of Kingston Lake chased all thoughts of the White Birch Forest from my mind. But soon the storm clouds drifted away and the sun emerged. Oh my, sunshine! I was running out of time! I headed back to my car and hurried to the White Birch Forest. Once I arrived at the forest, I only had about 20 minutes to capture the sparkle before the sun melted it away. As I was photographing, I heard the snowflakes letting go, one by one. Soon, I was drenched by the second snowfall of the day - this one caused by temperatures that reached 50 degrees before noon. But I was in no hurry to leave this magical place. I wandered the candy-colored White Birch Forest long after the snow had vanished, enjoying the sounds and scents of a gloriously memorable October day.
The fine Michigan landscape photographer, Brad Terry, featured me in his Photographer Profile Series which is published on his website: http://www.outdoorimaging.net. His article includes more than a dozen of my favorite images and describes the circuituous route I traveled to become a landscape photographer. Click on the following link to read Brad's article about my work: http://www.outdoorimaging.net/the-blog/2015/10/2/photographer-profile-aubrieta-hope
I love to photograph the night sky! It's a peaceful and beautiful time to enjoy my favorite beaches and hilltops in northern Michigan. I wrote an article for Pure Michigan that describes five reasons to linger outdoors up north after the sun dips below the horizon.
Very few places on earth are as beautiful and melodic as northern Michigan after sunset. The night sky beckons us with a million, twinkling reasons to stay up late. And, the wild creatures call us as well. Coyotes cry out from distant hilltops, their voices joined by cicadas, frogs, and songbirds. Unlike many parts of the U.S., where city lights outshine the stars and traffic noises drown out the sounds of wildlife, the night is naturally dark and alive in northern Michigan.
For the most vivid night skies, visit a park or rural area near one of the Great Lakes, such as Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, or Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Spritz on some bug spray, pack a blanket and snacks, pop a headlamp on your head (the kind with a red-light setting), and try these ideas for experiencing the night sky ...
1. Stay and Enjoy the Twilight Glow
Many people watch the sunset and leave, missing the beauty and peace of twilight. If you can, stay for the encore! That's when the sky catches fire, glowing red, orange and pink, the embers burning to charcoal, and deepening to blue until the stars emerge and night falls. Listen to the music of the night, the chorus of wildlife, and the whisper of wind and waves.
2. Take a Walk in the Moonlight
The sight of a full moon rising, casting a silver path across the water is mesmerizing. In open areas, such as beaches or dunes, even a waning moon shines quite brightly. Wander at will, but bring along your red-light headlamp to preserve your night vision in case you need extra light.
3. Catch the Northern Lights
What can be more memorable than seeing the northern lights sweep across the sky? To increase your chances of catching them, spend time in a dark, open area with a clear view to the north. If you notice the northern horizon brightening just after nightfall, stick around! It just might be the northern lights. Many websites and phone apps provide northern lights forecasts. I use www.softservenews.com and www.swpc.noaa.gov.
4. Look for Ghosts in a Ghost Town
Michigan has a surprising number of ghost towns that are spooky-fun to stroll at night (unless prohibited). The past always seems much closer after dark! My favorite ghost towns are at Glen Haven and South Manitou Island in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I’ve not met any ghosts there (yet). But, I have seen beautiful night skies above each. (Glen Haven is a great place to watch the northern lights.) For lists of ghost towns, check out www.ghosttowns.com/states/mi or www.exploringthenorth.com/ghost/towns.
5. Make a Wish Upon a Falling Star
You won’t need a telescope on a clear, moonless night in northern Michigan to see the stars. But you will need lots of wishes: falling stars happen all the time! Sometimes, as in this scene, shooting stars and the Milky Way appear simultaneously. This year, the best nights for wishing will be August 9-13 (during the Perseid Meteor Showers). Visit www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/perseid.html for more info.
In early March 2015, I crossed Lake Superior at Munising in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visit the fabled ice curtains of Grand Island. It was a chilly and risky trek over a mile of snow and ice. My photographer friends, Neil Weaver, Craig Sterken, and John McCormick made the crossing as well. The experience was so memorable that I wrote an article for Pure Michigan's website featuring images from each of us.
In Search of Superior Crystal
by Aubrieta V. Hope
(originally published on Pure Michigan's website)
In the heart of winter, when the drifts are as high as houses and snow-dusted pines line the roads, photographers travel to the Upper Peninsula in search of crystal. Not antique-store crystal, but Superior crystal, the kind that occurs when the north wind turns every drop of open water into something sparkling and new. During the coldest months, the great lake freezes, heaves and breaks, forming mountains of crystal rocks, so tall they seem like permanent landforms. Ice bergs and volcanoes rise in the harbors and bays, reflecting all the colors of the sky. Waterfalls slow from a rush to a trickle, building columns that bubble and sing. And, on the sandstone cliffs, springs that flow unseen in the summer months create glittering ice curtains.
During winter’s last stand, at the very beginning of March 2015, I headed north to find Superior crystal. My trip was inspired by winter photographs of the U.P. that I’d viewed online. I’d seen dramatic images of enormous frozen waterfalls, great Superior ice fields, and shining rivers wreathed in morning mist. I wanted to experience and photograph all those scenes, but more than anything, I wanted to see the legendary ice curtains of Grand Island in Munising Bay. These immense, aqua blue ice curtains form when cold temperatures freeze the springs that seep from the island’s rocky cliffs. It can be tricky to get to the ice curtains, though. The island is not accessible most winters because the currents are strong in the bay, preventing adequate ice buildup. During 2015's historically cold winter, the bay froze sufficiently to allow foot traffic. For awhile it looked like Grand Island would not be accessible, but February’s arctic blast arrived just in time.
When I heard that people were safely crossing from Sand Point, I got ready to go, too. Some were crossing on snowmobiles, others on foot or on cross-country skis. I donned snowshoes and piled my camera gear into an old plastic saucer-sled rigged with bungee cords. The crossing took me about half an hour, but I expect the memories to last a lifetime. My photographer friends, Neil Weaver, Craig Sterken and John McCormick made the crossing too. Here’s a glimpse of what we discovered.
Aubrieta V. Hope is a landscape photographer with a special interest in northern Michigan and a life-long, incurable affection for winter! To see more of her images, visit her website, www.michiganscenery.com.