NANPA Regional Event Preview – Upper Peninsula, Michigan

The shores of Red Jack Lake sare ablaze with autumnal color, Hiawatha National Forest, Alger County, Michigan. © Hank Erdmann

The shores of Red Jack Lake are ablaze with autumnal color, Hiawatha National Forest, Alger County, Michigan. © Hank Erdmann

Photographers choose workshops and photo trips months, sometimes years, in advance.  Even though it’s early spring now, it’s not too soon to start thinking about fall.  In October, Hank Erdmann and Richard Day will be leading a NANPA Regional Event in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  In this article, first published last September, Hank reveals his thoughts about fall photography, why he loves autumn in the upper Midwest, and the photographic opportunities that come with the changing colors of leaves.  He also includes tips that will help you find and take advantage of the fall photo possibilities in your region.  Details about this NANPA Regional Event, including costs, registration and other information are posted on the NANPA website, at http://www.nanpa.org/event/nanpa-regional-workshop-up-mi/ . Places are filling up fast, so reserve your spot now!

Article and Photos by Hank Erdmann

Late summer in the upper Midwest is a bittersweet time.  We still have a little summer left but, when you have to put up with five or six months of winter, these waning warm days are precious, even for those of us who actually like winter!  So, with some trepidation, but with just as much anticipation we look forward to the cooler days of autumn, because we are photographers, artists who celebrate Mother Nature’s most glorious season of color.

When one mentions autumn color, most folks think of Northeastern forests or Western mountainsides of color, but they don’t always think of the Midwest.  I love a Colorado mountainside filled with yellow aspens, or a New England forest thick with red maples as much as the next guy, but the Northwoods of the upper Midwest give nothing away when it comes to fall color.

An unamed pond is rimmed with morning frost as the sun rises over the forest edge in the Hiawatha National Forest in Alger County, Michigan. © Hank Erdmann

An unnamed pond is rimmed with morning frost as the sun rises over the forest edge in the Hiawatha National Forest in Alger County, Michigan. © Hank Erdmann

As mornings become cooler, we start to see tinges of color and hints of autumn to come.  I can’t help but start thinking about the images I will make in the next few months.  For example, I have a dream trip that starts in mid-August on the north shores of Lake Superior in Canada and follows the color south to southern Midwestern states and ends just before a big Thanksgiving holiday at home in November.  However, talk of that trip brings up threats of everything short of divorce, so my dream trip hasn’t taken place….yet.

In the Midwest there is no more spectacular place to photograph autumn color than the forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, specifically the area of the Hiawatha National Forest south of Munising and in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  Combining fall color and the Lake Superior shoreline in a photography trip makes for some spectacular photographic opportunities.

Lily pads fill the waters of Big Island Lake in autumn in the Hiawatha National Forest in Schoolcroft County, Michigan. © Hank Erdmann

In the Hiawatha National Forest lakes region there are hundreds of lakes with hardwood trees lining their shores. The autumn color they produce is often reflected on the water for great color-reflection images.  Not all those lakes are accessible, but many are: some a long ride down a bumpy forest service road, and some also right off the main highway (H13) that crosses the UP north to south.  Lakes that photographers should check out are Moccasin, Pete’s, Big Island, Red Jack, Half Moon, and Council, to name just a few.

Speaking of water, nothing goes better with autumn color than waterfalls. Numerous waterfalls dot the UP in the Hiawatha / Pictured Rocks area.  Of special note are Wagner Falls, Munising Falls, Alger Falls, AuTrain Falls, Chapel Falls.

Wagner Falls flows in autumn at Wagner Falls State Scenic Area in Alger County near Munising in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. © Hank Erdmann

Wagner Falls flows in autumn at Wagner Falls State Scenic Area in Alger County near Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. © Hank Erdmann

More water provides more photo opportunities.  The shoreline of Lake Superior is the main feature of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  It is true that most of the lakeshore requires some hiking, often considerable hiking, to access.  There are, however, some great places located near parking areas that provide quick access and great photo ops.  Just outside of the town of Munising, Sand Beach offers sandy shorelines and great sunset possibilities.  Moving eastward, Miner’s Beach, Twelve Mile Beach and Hurricane River are places to visit.  For those ready to shoulder a pack with more than photography gear, a much wider choice of shorelines exist as well as forest interiors, small streams, waterfalls, and more.

Pay attention to color compliments, or color opposites.  Red and green are often thought of as Christmas colors.  Indeed, that combination is like a Christmas present for a photographer.  Combinations of red and green, blue and orange, yellow and green or any combination of a warm tone with a cool tone are obvious opportunities for making pleasing images.  I simply cannot remember a scene in nature where I encountered red and green together that didn’t produce a quality image.  That also goes for man-made objects in nature; put a red barn against a green pasture or a blue sky and the opportunity exists to make a stunning picture.

When the leaves have dropped and a gray sky matches the color of bare tree limbs, there is still much to photograph. “Fall” has fallen to the ground but there are still are numerous opportunities if one looks down.  Even as the reds, oranges and yellows turn to a mottled brown, patterns and textures of fallen leaf matter become the source photographic inspiration.  The great Freeman Patterson, when asked what his favorite month for photography was, answered; November!  When asked why he said that you no longer had color to rely on so your compositional skills came to the forefront, and texture and form became your most important tools to make images.

Wagner Falls flows in autumn at Wagner Falls State Scenic Area in Alger County near Munising in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. © Hank Erdmann

Fall is seen on the ground below a Maple tree near Council Lake in the Hiawatha National Forest in Alger County, Michigan. © Hank Erdmann

Autumn possibilities exist in most of the country.  However, if you long for red maples, green conifers, stunning waterfalls and the brilliant autumn shores of Lake Superior then join us next year for a NANPA Regional event the first weekend of October of 2019 when Richard Day and I will host a wonderful NANPA photography tour to the Hiawatha National Forest and Pictured Rock National Lakeshore near Munising, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

In the meantime, autumn is coming, so get out and shoot wherever you are. Search out complimentary colors.  Get close and look at leaf patterns, textures and other close-up opportunities. Don’t quit when the leaves are off the trees, as there will be plenty of options to challenge your creativity.

In short, get out and photograph Mother Nature’s season of show-stopping color!  And start making your plans to join us next October in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula!  Get all the details on the NANPA website, at http://www.nanpa.org/event/nanpa-regional-workshop-up-mi/.