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. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Visit to Kellogg Bird Sanctuary

Recently, my brother Mark and I were able to spend a beautiful fall afternoon at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary.  The sanctuary is situated between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek and is part of the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station.  The sanctuary contains a small lake and is home to several species of waterfowl.  There are also hiking trails and enclosures for birds of prey. 

The waterfowl are used to being fed corn by the visitors and almost immediately the Canadian Geese came to the edge of the lake, clearly begging for treats.

I enjoyed watching the geese as they swam around the lake in lined formation, a row apart from each other. 

There were common ducks in the mix too.  This male mallard with its green head was striking as it paddled around the lake.

Not far behind, the brown female was quite a contrast to her mate.

But it was this golden eyed duck that really caught my eye.  At first I thought it was a loon, but as it drew closer, I could see it wasn't.  After I'd consulted one of my bird apps, I learned this was a male Lesser Scaup.  It was a breed I was unfamiliar with.

The Trumpeter Swans are my favorites, however.  I enjoy watching their graceful moves as they glide around the lake with their mates. 

When they begin to preen...

and display their massive wingspans...

I'm pretty sure they will be taking to the air soon.

And when they do, what a sight it is to behold.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Last Sojourn with Fall Color...and Two Surprises

There was still fall color this week of warm, sunny fall days so I decided to crisscross the peninsula to experience its soon-to-be gone brilliant beauty.  I planned to travel the county interior and end up in Glen Arbor for a beach sunset.

Leaving Northport, vivid examples of golden trees remained in various places.

Several yards in the village continued to radiate with trees of glorious red foliage.

As I entered the peninsula interior, however, the trees had browned considerably, having lost some protection from the heat-radiating lake and bay.  Still, the sunshine glowing through the tree stands, brightened the roadside vistas considerably.

But the best color was in the orchards, often the last to don fall colors.

Cloaked in brilliant yellow and oranges, the orchards stood out against the blue sky.

The orchards were in dazzling contrast to the foreground of tawny prairie grass and the backdrop of leafless trees.

The trip down the peninsula was stunning with orchards being both widespread and resplendent. 

I arrived in Glen Arbor shortly after 5 pm and headed down Lake Street ready for the 5:28 pm beach sunset.  There I received two surprises.  The first was when this beautiful fox crossed the road in front of me.  Oh, to have had a tripod and long lens with me!  The second surprise was when I got out of the car and discovered the sun was behind me and wouldn't be setting on this beach.  Sure enough, checking with my compass and map back in the car, I realized the bump of land on which Glen Arbor sits faces north! 

Not to be deterred from a sunset, I checked the map and thought I'd have a better chance of photographing a sunset from the Empire beach.  So back on M-22 I went and zoomed toward Empire with only 15 minutes remaining of daylight.  Driving along Little Glen Lake, I had to stop to capture the brilliant sun as it highlighted Alligator Hill, still resplendent in reds, golds, and browns. 

Empire Beach reminds me of Northport's Christmas Cove and Peterson Park.  Sunset worshippers had lined up along the shoreline to watch nature's daily show.  I made it just in time as the last vestiges of the sun disappeared into Lake Michigan. 

I didn't stay for much of the afterglow, as I wanted to take advantage of the remaining light for my 30 mile drive back to Northport.  But as I drove across the Narrows between the two Glen Lakes, I glanced to my left and saw what remained of a beautiful sunset.  For the rest of my drive home, I relished in the various kinds of fall beauty that I had witnessed on our peninsula.  It was a satisfying day of photography.