My college years were spent in Tucson studying at the UofA. Now, many years later I returned for 1.5 weeks to take a workshop, teach a workshop and enjoy all Tucson has to offer. Now, I’m a hiker so I discovered many new places one of them being Tanque Verde Falls. Fortunately, another workshop attendee and local Tucsonan joined me for the morning. After a short hike and scrambling over boulders we arrived at the lower falls. Luckily, clouds were intermittent providing softer and more even light. We ran short on time, so we didn’t scramble to the upper falls but it sure was great scouting a new location. Notice in the images below the difference of cloud cover versus direct sunlight?
I’ll be honest, my trip to Michigan didn’t go exactly as planned. At the last minute, Rod had to cancel and I was ill prepared for a 2-week solo trip. You would think after a solo 10-week trip on the Pacific Coast, 2-weeks would be a cinch. It wasn’t. The Pacific Coast trip was planned out months in advance with extensive research and plotting of locations. For this trip, I scrambled to research all I could the night before each destination with limited phone service or Wi-Fi. After my first week in Munising photographing waterfalls and attending a workshop, I drove east to Grand Marais and then spent five days at a cabin in Manistee, Michigan. I learned to enjoy time alone and struggled a bit too.
Grand Marais is a small community of about 400 residents and the only place to eat dinner after Labor Day was at the local Brewery. I dined on their famous whitefish dinner and chatted with a few locals. This Lake Superior town was cold, with a high in the 50’s and strong winds. I walked along Agate Beach looking for agates until my hands froze from the moist air and wind. With my pretty rocks, I returned to my B&B to research the next day’s photo destinations. In the morning, the B&B provided a family style breakfast with all the guests and I really enjoyed conversing with someone other than myself. I spent the morning photographing Sable Falls, Sable Dunes and hiking to a beach on Lake Superior before leaving the Grand Marais area for Manistee.
Lucky for me, my cousin Andy has a cabin in Manistee overlooking Lake Michigan. The five days in this small community with beautiful beach views and a historic downtown was peaceful. The cabin is a 15-minute drive south of Manistee in a small neighborhood of mostly summer residences and is a bit secluded, so it took me a few days to feel comfortable returning after dark. The highlight of his cabin is the view of Lake Michigan. The lake is a 100-foot drop from the cabin down a steep sand dune. I attempted many times to get to his beach, but only made it ½ way. I feared I wouldn’t be able to make it back up and was afraid of being stuck down there. The view was great from halfway down too!
One evening the clouds broke so I drove to the 5th Avenue Beach to capture sunset. I barely made it. I ran along the beach with my tripod looking for foreground subjects. After sunset, I sat in the parking lot to watch the bi-monthly Mirrorless Minutes Podcast on YouTube. The host, Jamie MacDonald is entertaining and after spending a few days on his Meetup in Munising, MI, I enjoyed the image share of our workshop. After dark, I went downtown to photograph Manistee’s historic buildings including the Vogue Theatre. It was quiet and dark and I took joy in capturing the brilliant lights of the theatre.
Ludington is a town south of Manistee with a large state park and Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Getting to the lighthouse required a 4-mile round trip hike that was relatively flat until I climbed a sand dune to capture a better angle of the lighthouse. Before I returned to my car the winds picked up. So, I made my next stop Stearns Park in Ludington to photograph choppy waves hitting the pier and river light.
It was easy to keep myself entertained during the day, but at night the woods around the cabin were dark and I felt very isolated. I spent more time than normal on the computer processing photos and reading a book I purchased in town. At the end of the 5 days, I headed south to South Haven to visit family.
Several of my family members live in South Haven. Visiting this town where my parents went to high school has always been a special place. Now overrun by the tourism industry, it doesn’t hold the same memories for my parents, but I enjoy it nonetheless. Normally, I visit Sherman Dairy and Crane’s Orchard but I spent more time relaxing with my Aunt Lee instead. I did have the opportunity to visit Fenn Valley Vineyards with my cousins though! The only photos I captured in South Haven were for my aunt. She owns a rental cottage and needed a few new images. It was fun watching her straighten every crease in the curtains and fluff every pillow to capture the perfect image.
Before I left, we placed the new images in her brochure too. If you find yourself travelling to South Haven, check out The Retreat at Belvedere Beach! https://www.retreatatbelvederebeach.com/
For the Photogs!
Mushrooms are everywhere in the Upper Peninsula. I see some varieties in Flagstaff, but we don’t have the same moisture as Michigan, so there are far more mushrooms and fungi everywhere. While at Wagner Falls, I spotted this mushroom. I enjoyed photographing it so much, I went back on day two to perfect my composition. Here is an image of the shooting scenario and the finished image.
Waterfalls of Michigan
Three days into my Michigan trip, I received a FedEx package from a good friend with a Waterfalls of Michigan book. A guide to more than 130 waterfalls in the Great Lake State. Of these 130 waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan there is only one in the lower peninsula, how will I photograph them all? Well, I am sure I won’t, but I will enjoy the ones I get to. For my two weeks in Michigan, I am spending a week in the Upper Peninsula, this is new territory for me and I love it. I rented a small AirBnB apartment in Munising and have six waterfalls within five miles! Originally, this trip was designed to be with my husband but last-minute changes didn’t allow it. So, I am off solo again travelling through the state where I was born in search of water images. I selected two waterfalls a day to
At Munising Falls yesterday, a sweet retired man said, “You look like a professional, can you help me? When I view my photos, how do I delete one?” Not that he really needs a professional photographer to answer that question, but I helped him with that and a few more questions on his digital camera. Then, I hiked 2.5 miles round trip to Chapel Falls. I think I stopped every 50 yards to photograph all forms of fungi. My macro lens got a great workout. Even other hikers stopped me and said, “I saw you photographing fungi on the way to the falls. Did you see these yellow mushrooms?” Michiganders are such nice people! He directed me to the yellow mushrooms and I spent 30-minutes capturing images with my tripod up as low to the ground as possible.
Today I drove to Wagner Falls, two miles from my apartment. There was one car when I arrived and they left soon thereafter. I scooted under the deck to get a few images from the rivers edge as well. Although it was raining, it is more on the misty spectrum than pouring; much preferred for photography. Tomorrow, I start a meetup through Olympus Mirrorless Adventures and we will photograph six more waterfalls in the area. I can’t wait!
For the Photogs:
So, what does it take to capture a “milky water” waterfall photo? Here are a few pointers:
- Do your research. Find out the direction the waterfall faces. If it is in direct sunlight, go early or late in the day so the sun won’t be on the waterfall. In Northern Michigan, the sky is graced with clouds frequently, so sun is not an issue.
- Gear. In addition to your camera and len(s), don’t forget a tripod. The milky water is captured by using slow shutter speeds and a sturdy tripod is a must. Last, bring a circular polarizing filter and neutral density filter or get a Singh-Ray Bryan Hansel Waterfall Polarizer (combines polarization with neutral density in one filter).
- Try all angles. Some waterfalls have viewing decks, others are best viewed at the river’s edge. Regardless, look at all the angles. When I went to Munising Falls, there was the main accessible path then two paths that branched off. The path to the left stepped up 30 stairs and only 1/3 of the viewers when up to see that angle. The path to the right stepped up 100 stairs and had the best view of all! I had this view to myself for a long time, most visitors did not climb these stairs. Be careful if you are on a viewing deck any foot traffic on the deck will result in vibrations that move your camera.
- Take your time. When other visitors are at waterfalls also, I make a point of setting up my camera, tripod and filters in the background. When the crowd thins down, I step forward, reframe my shot and capture several images at different focal lengths and different orientations (horizontal & vertical). Then I step back again and review. I make sure all the other visitors have a chance at a good image too. I often take a moment and think to myself on what else I can do to make a better image. Then do that something different. I just keep shooting. That is the advantage of travelling alone.
Spokane is a city I visit often, after all, my sister lives here. I arrived a few days early from my big trip in need of people to talk to, a place to call home and to cheer her on in her 1.2 mile open water swim at Coeur d’Alene Lake. The first three days in Spokane were relaxing as I caught up on photos, played ukulele with my nephew (him on guitar) and became addicted to Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. I guess I should binge all the seasons before I go home since I don’t have Hulu?
Back to Work
When the weekday rolled around and everyone went to work, so did I. I spent hours photographing this beautiful river city. I went hiking in Coeur d’Alene with a friend from my days as a high school teacher but the smoke from summer fires around the state made landscape photography difficult. Most of my photographs so far are from the downtown area including Riverfront Park, Spokane Falls and downtown neon lights.
When my sister went downtown with me to photograph neon, I was in the middle of the street to capture an image of the street lights. She told me the road was closed to traffic. Well, when the bus came around the corner at me I realized she was wrong! I got the shot then cleared out of his path quickly.
Even though I have been to Spokane before, I haven’t always photographed it. So, I went to Google like I do in most cities. My sister drove me around to areas she thought would be strong subjects and then I added a few from my Internet searching. These scouting times are easily done in midday sun. I have one last morning to capture images and I can’t wait to go to High Bridge Park and Manito Gardens.
For the Photogs!
When I am out taking photos, I love to look for textures and colors. That is what prompted this photo. Part of Spokane’s Upper Falls this riffle stood out to me from the opposing textures and color. I was on a bridge looking down at the water and used my 40-150mm lens. If you take photos off a bridge, watch for other pedestrians or runners. Every time one would cross the bridge, the bridge would shake. I waited until they cleared the bridge and stood very still myself when I took the shot. Like all my water images recently, I also used the Singh-Ray Waterfall Polarizer, Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, 40-150mm, ISO 200, f/11, .6 sec.
My last days on the Washington Coast were at Kalaloch in the Olympic National Park and La Push just outside of the park on the Quileute Reservation. When I arrived at Kalaloch, I was eager to visit the Hoh Rainforest. Our family visited 20 years ago and it was spectacular. Of course, August is a dry month for the Hoh so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t expect to find 83-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and sunny skies. It was so dry all the ferns were covered with dirt and parking was almost impossible with the influx of visitors. I made a new plan.
The next day, I woke up early and drove to Lake Crescent in the Olympic National Park to photograph Marymere Falls before the sun came over the treetops. This was an almost 2-hour drive and it was worth it. Walking to the falls a fawn and doe greeted me on the path. They were within 10-feet and didn’t run off. I enjoyed the moment instead of grabbing the camera. Even when my foot slipped in the water, I just laughed. Luckily, I had dry shoes in the car. After the falls I went sightseeing in Forks and La Push – don’t blink or you might miss them! La Push was my next destination, so I was happy scouting the area. I walked on the
beaches and watched the fog banks come and go.
While driving back to Kalaloch, I thought about this trip from the first night in Tehachapi, CA to this point with only one last night in La Push remaining. It has been an amazing journey and as my stepmom said, “Empowering.” I can not agree more. Even though my seven-week (49 day) solo journey is complete, my sabbatical is just beginning. On August 20, 2018, I will not report to work at NAU but instead Boston with my sister. I will continue to blog about my travels and photo challenges as I continue to photograph water and waterfalls.
Things I learned:
How to build a fire with wet wood, thank you Firestarter.
- Hiking alone is empowering and I don’t need to hyperventilate.
- My only limits are when I limit myself
- My husband is still my best friend.
- Family still comes first and my future trips won’t be for this long away from them.
Things I will miss:
- Doing what I want when I want. I only ate when I was hungry and didn’t plan for the next meal. Some meals were cheese and crackers, others more elaborate.
- Taking naps when I’m tired.
- The open road and all it offers. Many people asked me why I wasn’t traveling out of the country on sabbatical and I thought there are so many places near home I haven’t seen or photographed.
- Being popular at campgrounds with the “cool teardrop.”
What I look forward to now:
Showering without wearing flipflops and taking showers without hitting the button to reset my 30-seconds of water.
- Changing clothes standing up instead of in a W5’ x L8’ x H3.5’ bedroom. And just being in a room larger than this if it is cold outside!
- Not having to plan for charging camera batteries/laptop in the car when I drove (not all campgrounds had power).
- Washing dishes in a sink and/or dishwasher.
- Not buying ice every 4-5 days.
- The remainder of the year to continue photographing water, studying imagery, reading, learning new photo techniques and teaching workshops.
- Learning new strumming patterns on the ukulele and a few new songs. I almost memorized the ones in my book.
- Eating Mexican Food.
- Sorting my photos to find the ones I overlooked!
Tomorrow morning, I drive approximately eight hours to Spokane. Tonight, I will eat out at the only restaurant in La Push!
My tarp finally got rained on as I packed to leave Cape Disappointment. On the way to Ocean City, I drove through rain, fog and mist. It was beautiful. In Ocean City, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was only 80 miles from Cape Disappointment. What a difference. After setting up camp, I sat in the sun and read for an hour just to soak up some rays. The Ocean City campground was two blocks from the ocean so I shot sunset for two nights here. The first night without clouds and the last night with excellent clouds.
Ocean City is a short drive to Lake Quinault, part of the Olympic National Forest and there are many waterfalls. I was so excited to photograph there, I woke up very early and was on a trail by 7:30am after the 1-hour drive. My first location was Falls Creek which is on the edge of a tent campground and I was very quiet to not wake up any campers. It was a pretty fall, but I struggled getting a composition I liked. So, I hiked to Gatton Creek Falls. It was a mile to the falls and a bridge crossed over the top. The only problem with this tiered fall was access to it. I could not find a trail I was willing to walk down without going swimming so I headed back a little discouraged.
Even though I wanted to photograph waterfalls, I reminded myself how beautiful the trail was and tried to find other things to photograph. I came across chicken mushroom and moss growing on the side of a tree stump and pulled out the macro lens.
Mosquitos were buzzy around, but my deet must have worked as I survived without a bite. Capturing the macro shots reinforced my thoughts of the beautiful trail and improved my mood. I took off in search of more falls.
The trail to Willaby Falls was non-technical and I didn’t feel that I was going to fall in. I stepped off the trail slightly to get a better angle and had fun capturing images here. In the photog section below, I discuss the first photo upon arriving at the scene to my final photo. When I am photographing beautiful falls like this, I try to remind myself to look not only through the camera but with my eyes as well. So, often I will pause and just admire without looking for a composition or changing an aperture. I just take in the beauty.
Lastly, I drove to Merriman Falls. The 40-foot drop contrasted with Willaby Creek Falls and required a different approach to capture an image. Next to the side of the road with only a pullout (no sign) this waterfall was magnificent. The entire falls were hard to photograph because by this time, other people were around. Another photog was there capturing couple’s photos as well, so I worked around them and captured small scenes of the falls.
Comforts of Home
I watched Neflix! This campground had free wifi and I enjoyed it thoroughly: backed up photos, caught up on email and watched a few movies on Netflix. This was my first TV for almost 6 weeks. After six weeks, my car and trailer are dirty. Even though I was rained on, the dirt roads and sea spray have done a number on my car. It still surprised me when a total stranger said, “That is a dirty car,” to me at the gas station. Peer pressure worked and I drove through a self-serve car wash 15 minutes later. Of course, the sea spray hit again that night shooting sunset. After 4500 miles, what do you expect?
Oregon’s beaches are public property and the state owns them. In Washington, it seems similar and they let you drive on the beach! So, I had get my Renegade on the sand. When I sent the photo home to Rod he was concerned that I would get stuck. But, I didn’t.
I spent an afternoon in Ocean Shores a few miles away and walked several miles along Damon Point. Damon Point has spectacular crashing waves, agates, shells and driftwood. I even found a marble that I’m taking home for our cats. I grabbed fried oysters in town to complete my west coast seafood checklist and headed back to camp to prepare for sunset.
For the Photogs!
When I photograph waterfalls, I like to start with a sample image once I am setup. I often use aperture priority mode and take a sample shot to help me view the scene. Once I take a shot, I am more successful on composing by analyzing if that is the story I want to capture. I say to myself, “what can I do to make this better.” With the image on the right, there is a lot to do to make it better. At first, I shot from the trail with the tripod above a bush. Then I noticed a dirt path off the trail and I examined what would be the best location to capture the photo. If your tripod isn’t as tall as you, make sure you view the scene the same as your camera. I often pull out my iPhone to “view” the scene at different heights to determine where to setup the tripod. Once I was away from the bush, I put on my Bryan Hansel filter from Singh-ray. Yes, I love this filter! I played with horizontal and vertical orientations until I found just the right composition. I knew before I captured the photo I would crop a small portion from the foreground because there was a distracting reflection that I could not avoid otherwise. View the final Willaby Creek Falls photo above in this post.
Columbia River Gorge
It doesn’t seem possible, but I am at the halfway point of my solo journey. Rod flew into Portland, so I drove inland and we spent four days in the Columbia River Gorge. Hauling the teardrop through the Portland Airport worked better than I expected and when we made it to the campground, I was anxious to show Rod how well I setup camp. Of course, this campsite was VERY unlevel so I enlisted his help to use the risers that were unused so far. Rod showed me the trailer had feet stabilizers on the back end too. Hmm… I did fine without them so far, I will probably continue without them.
With camp settled we drove 30 miles to Hood River to meet a friend and fellow photog, Sharon, who graciously accepted delivery of the final bound pages of our Macro Book. The printer overnighted (from China) two sample books for us to confirm the page order. Mail is not easy to receive when on the road, so Sharon agreed to sign for it and we met her in town to get the box. Book looks great and is in binding now ready to put on a boat August 7th. Our mid-September distribution is still on target. If you want to reserve your autographed copy for the first shipment, order it here: https://www.horndesigns.com/Books
Waterfall Alley…or Not
What should have been waterfall alley, wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, we found many waterfalls, but since the Eagle fire last summer, most of the gorge is off limits. Including 2 feet outside our campground. We had to pass security every time we drove to our campsite. I know it was for safety, but this communication was lacking on the website or I would have booked a different campsite.
Our first morning in the Gorge, we drove an hour to Tamanawas Falls near Mt Hood, Oregon to capture images before the sun beat down on the creek and waterfall. The two-mile hike was beautiful and we stopped several times on our way to the falls. At the second stop along the creek, I realized I forgot something.
Luckily, Rod was up for a run and he ran back to the car to get my new filter adding an extra 1.5-2 miles to his hike. In the past few weeks, I discovered the Bryan Hansel Waterfall Polarizer filter by Singh-Ray Filters. It shipped to the house and Rod brought it but I forgot to put it in my camera bag that morning. This filter combines a polarizer and a solid ND filter giving 3 to 5 stops of neutral density with a polarizing benefit too. I love it. We stopped many times on the two-mile trail capturing images along the way. When we arrived at the falls, there were only 3 other people there so capturing images was pleasant. I enjoy having a nimble non-photographer with me (Rod) because he helps me get to places I might not carry my gear by myself. When we headed out, the crowds came. It really pays off to wake up early for the best light and avoid people in your landscape image. We had a lovely dinner in White Salmon at Sharon’s house with wood fired pizza and wine. It was great swapping stories with her and Steve and enjoyed their beautiful view.
Crown Point State Scenic Corridor in the Gorge was open to vehicles, so we spent a day checking out those waterfalls and short hikes. I didn’t worry about getting images, just enjoyed my time with Rod. After all our hiking, we had lunch at White House Gorge Winery where Rod sampled ciders and I sampled wines. Very relaxing, but hot with temperatures in the mid 90’s.
We spent another day hiking around Umbrella falls and Starvation Creek Falls. We thought we were hiking 2 miles to Umbrella Falls, but somehow, it was only .25 miles which gave us plenty of time to view both. Umbrella falls were very exposed to sunlight, so I concentrated on small trickles of water instead of the big falls. Starvation Creek was a great location: large falls, small falls and most of it in the shade. Of course, I am still waiting to see if the poison oak I brushed against breaks out on my skin! I could spend more time in the gorge capturing images of waterfalls, but I would prefer to go in the spring when it isn’t so hot.
Margaritas & Ukuleles
Rod brought his ukulele so each evening, we had a ukulele jam session! During the past weeks, I would practice during the day after my camping neighbors checked out and less people were around. But with Rod, it was more fun and I wasn’t so worried about what the neighbors thought (probably because he plays much better than me!) We ate Tillamook cheese, local smoked salmon and drank 24oz margarita cans! It doesn’t get much better than that. Although I am enjoying my solo trip, it is much more fun sharing it with others. Before he flew out, we spent the day in Portland at the Japanese Gardens and Powell’s Bookstore. Now, back to the ocean!
For the Photogs!
When photographing waterfalls, keep the lens cap handy and a dry lens cloth. In between shots, wipe the lens and put the cover back on to minimize spray.
If you are curious about the difference in what filters can do for a waterfall image, here are four examples. I kept the aperture and ISO the same in each photo, notice the difference in shutter speeds and the reflection on the leaves.
The whole reason I chose the next campground because it was located near Florence, OR. Last summer, Rod and I hiked Sweet Creek Falls and I wanted to go back. I did have my camera and tripod with me last summer, but we arrived after the sun was hitting the creek, so the images were not what I wanted. So, I planned a trip back. And not just one, but two. I went both mornings while camped outside of Florence. It was a 45-minute drive to the creek and I was the first one there, I had the place to myself for at least an hour. Once the sun hit the trees above, the reflections hit the water below and it was magic. This hike has many different waterfalls, some larger and some smaller. All exquisite!
Jessie M Honeyman State Park campground was much busier than any other I stayed in. Sand dunes are attached to the campground and many families were there with the four-wheeled sand vehicles making it much busier and louder. I was happy to spend more time at Sweek Creek Falls!
Florence is a nice little town along the river and I continued my taste testing of clam chowder soup here as well. This time I went to Mo’s – the Oregon favorite. It was good, better than any so far.