Today marked the first time I have been outside photographing since the official start of winter this season. Only 8 days into it, so I suppose that isn’t too bad. I checked the graphical forecast for this morning, partly cloudy skies predicted – about 40% cloud cover at sunrise. Check… good, possible nice skies. I checked the ice buildup on the lakes – the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory publishes a map displaying current conditions. Possible check – shoreline ice mostly on the Great Lakes, and Lake St. Clair, where I normally go, mostly frozen over.
On a whim, I decided to go further north along Lake Huron to check out a beach my wife and I visited earlier this fall. There were some remains of an old dock and a lot of shoreline rocks that might make for some interesting shots. This is also supposed to be one of the closest dark sky spots to me, so some good star viewing was a possibility. The only downside was that it was a 1 hour 45 minutes drive in the morning to get there.
When I arrived it was pretty dark alright, but there were some large flood lights used to illuminate the park next to the beach. Still, the beach itself required a flashlight. I found out the ice was covering covering the dock remains that were in open water a couple of months ago. Lake Huron was gently forcing water against the edges. Given it was so dark, I decided not to risk walking around much until it was lighter out. No telling where there might be a hole or chuck of an ice shelf that might break off. There were no stars to be seen – completely clouded over.
I have really come to appreciate my Kahtoola Microspikes for my shoes. These things are easy to keep in the back of my car for whenever I need them, and slip on and off easily no matter what shoes or boots I have on. To me, they have become an essential piece of gear for walking around icy places in the winter.
As the light started coming up, it confirmed the NOAA forecast was significantly off regarding cloud cover. It was more like 90% instead of 40, and the likelihood of any significant color in the sky was slim. I got only a slight red at the horizon right at sunrise, which you can see in the image above.
Still, despite no dramatic twilight or sunrise, I found plenty to photograph here. I got as close to edge of the ice shelf above as I dared to capture this image of the ice skirts around the dock pilings. I realized later on in developing the image that the front ice skirt looked a lot like the mitten of Michigan!
This small pond was at the outlet of a small creek running into the lake. While much of it ultimately went under the larger ice shelfs, this area was a bit shallow and fragile. It definitely would not support my weight and there was about 6 inches of water or so underneath. I kept inching my way towards the edges to try to get close to the one beach rock that was exposed to use it as a foreground element. I captured the images I wanted of this pond, and then right after the last shot, my foot went through down into the water. A definitive sign that it was time to move on to more stable ground.
In being what will probably be my last photographs of 2013, I was glad the morning didn’t turn into a total bust after driving that far. In fact, I think the Huron Ice Dresses could have made it into my 2013 retrospective picks if I had it at the time. Maybe it is time to edit that post.