Carpe Glacies!

By Friday, February 17, 2017grafphoto

It is hard to believe we are already approaching March.   The forecasts in the Detroit area are calling for 60° F (16°C) in this second to last weekend in February.   But the weather over this past week had me wondering if there was any buildup of ice at my favorite winter spot.  I felt the need to revisit it after my New Year’s Day visit where I found myself not quite alone, and hardly any ice to be found.   Not that freezing weather is out of the question in this area for March, even April, but long deep freezes to get good ice on the lake will be unlikely.

So with the warming forecast approaching, I felt a bit of urgency for what may be the last chance for this winter.    Next step, check what the light might be like.   I have been using the Photographer’s Ephemeris Skyfire™ tool for awhile now, and usually find its predictions to be quite frustrating.   It isn’t because of its inaccuracy, which does come with a little bit of hit and miss.   Frustrating in the sense because the days of great sunrise predictions are often just when I am heading into work, and watch the great sunrise from my car amidst the traffic and clutter of Macomb county surburbia.

Checking Skyfire for this weekend showed something quite rare for these parts.   A 90-95% chance of a great sunrise.   This may even be the first time I have even seen the color red in these little charts.   It had the allure of a dinner bell after a fast.   And of course, it is a work day before the coming warm weekend.   Not that a great sunrise is a requirement for being out near the lake, but it certainly adds some frosting to the cake.  So as they say – Carpe Diem!

Skyfire forecast

Skyfire™ forecast on Thursday Feb 16 for my area for the weekend of Feb 17, 2017.    Red is really good, and rare around here!


skyfire forecast

Skyfire™ forecast the morning of Feb17, 2017

As I prepared to leave in the morning darkness,  I checked Skyfire again to make sure things didn’t completely fizzle out.    I have noticed it does tend to react the same as the weather acts, can change dramatically over a few hours.    Overnight, the chances of being great dropped, and I lost that alluring red, but still pretty good numbers.


Arriving at Lake St. Clair before civil twilight was much more like I am used to in contrast to that New Years Day visit.   Not a soul around.   No duck hunters, no cars, no boats – just me.    Immediately upon opening the door of my car, I got a sense of what the conditions were like by the sound.   The sound of waves.   I became a little concerned, waves are not a good sign of ice cover.   Without any ice, this would be “just another sunrise.”   At least that did look promising, as the horizon had an opening, with cloud cover overhead.

The surface of the lake was moving rhytmically.    Waves crashing on the shore and a steady cold wind.   The shoreline was like a giant slush drink, but… there were some bits, stacks, some sheets of ice just at the edge of the shore.   This eliminated alot of compositional choices I might have, and scenic bits were slim pickings.   I had to hike around looking for the most promising spot before the light show was about to begin, taking warm up shots here and there.    I settled in to a small area that had the best combination of sheets and stacked ice and waited.

winter shoreline sunrise

Winter Shoreline Twilight, Lake St. Clair, Macomb County, Michigan

The show didn’t last long, but I was glad I was there for it.    The best skies out here are always before the sun actually comes up.   This photo was made at the peak of civil twilight.    The open water actually helped me in providing a contrasting element to the shoreline.   (I was actually a bit nervous as I imagined my camera and tripod slipping off the edge just as I finished!  🙂 )   It was very slippery.

If this is the last opportunity of this winter, I’m glad I took it.

I thought it was appropriate to title this post as “Carpe Glacies” …. “Seize the Ice!

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Oh, my gosh what a beautiful image!!! Glad you made it and did not fall or lose the camera gear. Whew! I have come to see any image I bring home that something tugging at me inside is a keeper and makes it worth while for my efforts.

    • Mark says:

      Thank you Monte. I’m glad I didn’t slip or lose gear also! I am feeling it a bit today though, it tends to bother my hips some climbing over the big chunks of concrete that stabilize the shoreline here.

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