When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.

- John Muir, 1869

Fall is over?

Fall Red Oak TR9895

Fall Red Oak, Highland Recreation Area, Highland, Michigan

Hello, my name is Mark, and I am a bad blogger.   There, now that I am on the road to recovery, I can take another piece of low hanging fruit for post fodder and whine about the weather.   Yeah, it turned pretty cold here today, the harsh reminder that Fall is a fickle beast in these waning days.   After the colors have gone and the leaves have dropped, they may as well call it Winter anyway.

Quite frankly I have had quite a bit of writers block, not quite sure what to write about anymore – at least something I think worthy of reading anyway.    And with the colors gone, it makes me reflect back on this past fall and what I accomplished photographically anyway.   (more…)

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You Can’t Photograph Nature

Fall Colors Highland Recreation Area

Fall Colors, Highland Recreation Area, Michigan | Nikon D800, 80-400 VR, multiple exposure (x3)

I thought I would share a short, yet thought provoking story that happened to me recently.   In a brief conversation I was having with someone (let’s name them “Sam” ) about how their vacation went.   Sam was describing how they hiked to some remote area of the Appalachians.  Eventually pictures from the trip came up and Sam remarked “Nature wasn’t meant to be photographed.”   Sam didn’t know my background in nature photography, so I asked what was meant by that statement.


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Young bucks sparring

Young bucks sparring

Young bucks sparring, Sterling Heights, Michigan | Nikon D800, 500mm f4

This field is about a 2 minute drive from my house.    I normally could just walk here, but it is not always a final destination for me.   I noted quite a few deer gathering in this field one evening and told myself I was going to start checking it out in the mornings before I head anywhere else.

First time – total bust.   Second time – one deer, scampered off.   Third time was this past weekend where about 8 of them were in the field – 4 bucks and 4 does.   Worth sticking around a bit.  Most of the bucks were pretty young, and one elder 6 pointer that tended to just herd the does around.

Despite all the car and human traffic in the area, they are still a bit skittish, and I ended up photographing them from my car window.    I intend to try some more outside of the car.   Like most wildlife photography, patience pays off when you let your subjects get comfortable with your presence.  Eventually some of them wandered within decent range of my 500 mm lens.   And of course, the young bucks need to do a little sparring practice. (more…)

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Cloud backup of photos

Alaska Spruce and Fall Color

Alaska Spruce and Fall Color

I recently received an email reminder that my cloud backup subscription at CrashPlan was about to expire.   Wow, my initial 2 years subscription has flown by.   I started looking into cloud backups back then.   My previous offsite storage method was to store a hard drive offsite, and periodically bring it home to update it.    I realized I was not very religious about doing that, and the gaps between backups were leaving me vulnerable to loosing something.   I wanted something similar to Apple’s Time Machine, where I could basically set it, and have it run automatically in the background.


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Resurrecting Shorelines

Driftwood at Whitefish Point beach at sunset, Michigan | Nikon F5, Tokina 20-35 f/2.8, Fuji Velvia 50 film

Driftwood at Whitefish Point beach at sunset, Michigan | May 1999 | Nikon F5, Tokina 20-35 f/2.8, Fuji Velvia 50 film, repro by Nikon D800

Shorelines have been one of my favorite areas to photograph for as long as I can remember.  So it seemed natural for me to gravitate to my “Shorelines” folder in my cabinet to see if I could resurrect a few slides via my D800 method.   I picked a few from pretty far back in 1999 that cover shores in the Great Lakes to the shores of the Caribbean island of Cayman Brac. (more…)

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Turtle Hatchlings

I am still digitizing some old 35mm slide photographs via my D800, and this series I came upon is from 2002.   We had a few yards of dirt delivered to our backyard, and covered it with a tarp to keep it from blowing around too much.   That tarp sat undisturbed for awhile due to the intended projects being postponed.   I remember lifting the tarp one day to find a nest of eggs.

turtle hatchling in egg

Blandings Turtle in Egg | Nikon F5, 105 f2.8 macro lens, Fuji Provia 100F film, photographed Aug 2002, – digitized by D800 July 2014

We had only been in our house for a couple years, enjoying our proximity to the woods and the critters we encountered.   This however, was a real treat.   I remember not knowing exactly what kind of eggs they might be at the time, they seemed too big for a snake, so I felt pretty comfortable in assuming they were turtle eggs.   I left them alone and placed the tarp back how it was.

Every day I would go and take a peek, monitoring their safety and progress.   Upon one inspection, I saw some eggs missing and one of them starting to crack open.   The missing ones may have fallen victim to a predator.   I could see some slight movement in the cracked one, so I grabbed my camera. (more…)

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Revisiting old slides with my D800

Gary Crabbe wrote a post a bit over a month ago asking if his images shot on slide film are now dead.   If you pixel peep slide scans vs. the digital files available from today’s cameras, slide film certainly leaves a lot to be desired.   It has a very different look in terms of sharpness and “cleanliness” vs. a grainless digital file.  One of my major hangups is that I really hate scanning slides.  It is a very tedious, time-consuming process of scanning time and dust spec cleanup before you even get to the creative part in processing.   To top it off, my old Polaroid Sprintscan 4000 only works with my even older, now ancient, Dell PC, that is more fitting for an archeological dig site than for processing photographs.  Then I would need to import them on my Mac, and so on.     So I have really left a vast number of photographs sitting in a file cabinet. (more…)

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If Ansel came to dinner

pictured rocks photo

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore towering wall, Lake Superior, Michigan #SL-8277-2

I used to have this recurring dream that I knew someone from a famous band personally, and every time they would come to town, they would stay at my house and conduct a living room or backyard concert for a select list of friends.   The particular band changed from time to time, but the premise was always the same.  It would get loud, and even the neighbors wouldn’t complain because it was such a rare thing.   Recently I had a similar dream, but it was not a band that was coming over, but the legend Ansel Adams himself.

Forget the details of how I actually knew Ansel, logic like that doesn’t exist in the world of the subconscious.   All I knew was that I was picked, and after dinner, I was to show him a spot to photograph in my state.  Time for one spot, and one spot only.  From there the anxiety started.   No pressure right?  After all, Michigan is not exactly on the top ten list of such notable grand landscapes, which I assumed he would be most interested in.  Or would he be more interested in something different than those big scenics?

I settled on the southern shoreline of Lake Superior, at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.   For me, it characterizes some of the unexpected, hidden beauty of the state, and is “grand” enough to entice even the most well traveled landscape photographer.   It is also best explored from the water, something that I imagined might be different for him.    A variety of opportunities exist, from large grand scenics to intimate rock wall abstracts.    I think there is enough to keep any photographer busy for one visit, let alone ten visits.

Rock wall detail, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Rock wall detail, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan # SL-9748-2

So here is the real kicker – the dream pretty much ended there.   I never got the chance to see if my selection was enticing enough.   I never got to hear (or see) the music play.    I never got to head back to the darkroom (or computer) with my buddy Ansie to see some of the real magic happen.  It became a dream more about a question than an actual event.    As such, I thought the question would be a good one for anyone to ponder.

So I pose the question to you… “Where would you go if Ansel came to dinner?

Pictured Rocks shoreline

Pictured Rocks shoreline, Lake Superior, Michigan #SL-8274-2

What particular spot in YOUR state or city do you think you would pick?   Would you go for the grand scenic, or try to draw his attention to more subtle natural beauty?

Use the hashtag #IfAnselCametoDinner if you share your post on social media, and if you an include a link back to this post in your post, I will approve it in the trackbacks to keep a list of others that might want to explore a similar dream.

I hope you have fun with this idea.




rock wall photo Pictured Rocks

Rock Wall detail, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan #SL-9173-2

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Space – another frontier

Michigan Light Pollution

Michigan Light Pollution map, from Blue Marble

It is 1:30 a.m, and the alarm goes off on my phone.  I told my wife I might want to take a drive to see if I could see any of whats left of the Camelopardalid meteor shower.   I said, “I’ll set my alarm, and I’ll either wake up and say “Oh – hell no” or I’ll actually get up and do it.”   The problem is, there aren’t any good viewing spots close to home.   It requires a bit more of a commitment then just rolling out of bed and looking outside.  We are thoroughly contaminated with the light pollution of the Metro-Detroit area.   It is at least an hour and a half drive with zero traffic to get far enough away.    I did get up, although after a few rehits of the snooze button.   I left my house at 2:00 a.m.

I have read a little lately on night photography, and only attempted it once unsuccessfully in the past.   Conditions were looking much more favorable this time around.   With Michigan being pretty flat, the best places I know for the best view sky to horizon are on the Great Lakes.   The closest, accessible dark sky spot I know of is on Lake Huron.   I arrived there at 3:30 am.   Astronomical Twilight starts at 4:53 am, Nautical at 5:33, leaving me a good hour and a half or two hours to bumble my way around trying to make any photographs. (more…)

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Crouching Tog Hidden Reward

Spring aspen tree photo

Spring Aspens at Indian Springs Metropark, Michigan | Nikon D800, 80-400 VR

On a recent doctor visit, I was asked about activity level and exercise.   I let the doctor know I go on hikes in the woods quite a bit, walk our dog, and take pictures.   It doesn’t sound like much, probably isn’t from a cardio type workout.   I know I do get my heart rate up from all the up and down hills and such.  At the end of those hikes, I am so tired that a polar bear could probably cross in front of me without getting much reaction, let a lone a photographic response.  I know I find myself in body positions that would make a yoga master cringe.  Downward Facing Dog has nothing on Tripod Over Muddy Pond stance.  Given the pain I am in the next day, I know I worked something. (more…)

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