Friday, November 20, 2015

November Gales Churn Water and Sand

High wind advisories sent me out driving south down M-22 to see what was happening on Lake Michigan.  My first stop was at Van's Beach in Leland.  I'd hoped to see some surfers, but the beach was empty.

Continuing southward, I pulled in to the beach at Empire.  Even before I reached the water's edge, I could see the beach grass being blown nearly flat against the force of the wind.

My first glimpse of the water showed how churned up it was.  I noticed too that I wasn't the only beach watcher.  A steady stream of cars pulled into the parking slots and watched the show that Lake Michigan was putting on.  Beach lovers never tire of seeing the raw power of Big Blue.

I noticed right away that no one was walking the beach.  I decided to exit the car to get a better vantage point for picture-taking, but as I opened my door, I felt a tremendous push-back as it immediately slammed shut.  With a second attempt, I was able to get out, but was met by flying sand and a force so great I had to lean against my car hood for stability.  I didn't take too many photos because the wind was just too fierce. 

Back on the road, near the Platte River Campground campground, I turned west onto Lake Michigan Road and followed it along the Platte River to where it empties into Lake Michigan.  The clouds were ominous, the Lake was still churned up, but the dunes were lovely, especially as I could see the faraway dunes peeking through the dune grass.

Continuing back on M-22, I decided to go as far as Frankfort.  I headed straight for the beach and the Frankfort North Breakwater Lighthouse.  The water around the light was all stirred up and I could see how much sand the foreground waters contained.

I knew I needed to shoot on a tripod, but struggled to get out of the car and set up because of the wind's force.  The only way I could get my camera on my tripod was with my back to the Lake.  When I turned around, I was buffeted by wind and flying sand.  While I wore sunglasses to protect by eyes, my skin prickled from the sand's frontal assault.  It didn't take long before my clothing was coated in sand, especially my fleece hat and gloves.

On the southern, Elberta side of Betsy Bay, the waves crashed continually against the breakwater sending spray in all directions.

At times, the spray towered above the red and white harbor light at the mouth of Besty Bay.

I turned back to the Frankfort Light to capture a few more images of the spray surrounding it.  My eyes and skin smarted from the continual barrage of flying sand and I had to quit.  It was exciting to watch the power of Lake Michigan in action, but it was the most challenging day of photography I'd ever experienced. 


  1. Nice photos and I loved your story. Frankfort is one of my favorite places along the lake. My son in law has a cabin on lower heron lake just outside of town. Frankfort is a lost gem coming south up M22 from Manistee. When you talk to people about Franfort most of them have never been there. It's such a nice little town, in the summer every Saturday the town fills up for their farmers market. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Mark. Frankfort reminds me of other hidden gems, like Northport, along the coastline of Lake Michigan. Part of me wants to keep the secret, but another part knows how much these small town economies depend on tourism. Glad you liked my story.

  2. Your battle with the elements yielded some beautiful and dramatic images, Karen! I can almost hear the roar of the wind and the crash of the waves.

    1. Thanks, Jan. I liked your use of the word "battle" to describe what I experienced when photographing for this blog. It really felt like a fight against the power of the Lake.

  3. You sure caught the power the those November waves..Being sandblasted is no fun, but you hung in there to get some great shots - Thank you!

  4. Thanks, Jackie. It was a balance between wanting to protect myself from the onslaught but REALLY wanting some good images too.