Paradise Found

Featured in Michigan Travel Ideas 2011, beginning on page 42.

Our photographers go to great lengths to capture the Upper Peninsula’s most striking scenery. The stories behind the shots make the photos even more compelling – and the scenic sites all the more tempting. In More Paradise Found links, the photographers share the scoop on shooting photos of a lifetime.

Meet Photographer Jason Lindsey

A photographer based in Champaign Urbana, Illinois, Jason specializes in location assignments and stock photography including travel, tourism, outdoor recreation and landscapes. His world-wide clients include advertising, corporate and publishing companies. He shoots in locations from the Ice Hotel in Sweden to the Manhattan Bridge in New York, and from glaciers in Alaska to farm fields in the Midwest.

His favorite shooting experience? “I would have to say it was the time we went on a charter boat out to the Manitou Islands, backpacked around the island and camped,” he says. “After shooting at sunset, we sat on the beach for over an hour just watching the waves and sky.”

Kayaking near Lovers Leap Arch, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of Jason Lindsey/Midwest Living MagazinePhotographer Jason Lindsey on shooting Lovers’ Leap Arch in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

“Pictured Rocks is simply one of the best sea kayaking destinations in the world,” Jason proclaims. “You have to try it.”

Of this shot, Jason says, “I had seen many kayaking photos from Pictured Rocks, and I’ve photographed them several times myself. I wanted to get a different perspective.”

Jason’s solution? Photographing from the top of a pontoon boat enabled a higher angle, all the better to see – and shoot – the blue-green water and the underwater rock formations.  To see into the water, Jason used a polarizing filter, which cut the reflections off the water.

The shoot was not without its adventures: “Even though we took a pontoon boat and not kayaks on this particular trip, we got caught in a rain storm and found a beach to land the boat,” Jason says. “We waited out the thunderstorm for about an hour and then continued on. It was well worth it. I love sitting outside in thunderstorms.”

Photographer Jason Lindsey on shooting water falling from rocks at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

“The reason I love this place is the small waterfall that flows over the rock and enhances the colors,” Jason says of Miners Beach at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. “Lake Superior is one of the largest bodies of fresh water on earth and I feel this image speaks to the fresh water.”

To get the soft feel to the water, Jason suggests using a tripod and a long exposure of half a second or more.

“I like to hike while scouting locations and we hiked about 3 miles to this location,” he reminisces, “Only to find a parking lot a few hundred feet from this waterfall.”

Again, having seen many photographs of this waterfall, Jason was looking for his own unique angle. “I crawled back behind the water and loved the way the light came through the water,” he says. “I had to hand-hold the camera because I could not get my tripod in position. I piled up a few rocks and set the camera on the rocks and steadied it with my hand.”

Jason takes time to look around and shoot things from multiple angles. “Don't just shoot the first photo that you see,” he advises. “Keep exploring.”

As to this unique angle, he says “The camera got a little wet, but it wipes off. I really think of my camera equipment as a tool to get the best photo.”  That said, he cautions, “If you know you are going to be in these kinds of conditions you can prevent the camera from getting splashed by taping a clear plastic bag around it. Leave the bag open in the back so you can reach your hands in to control the camera.”

Photographer Jason Lindsey on shooting the vast wetlands in Seney National Wildlife Refuge

“This place is absolutely spectacular and one of my favorite places to photograph loons in all of the Midwest,” Jason says of Seney National Wildlife Refuge. “I was looking for loons and came across this beautiful little spot tucked in behind some trees. It captures the open landscape of Seney. I love the lakes and small Islands with little bunches of trees.

“Don't be afraid of pointing your camera directly at the sun,” Jason advises. “Hey I even like lens flare — so see what kinda flare you can make!”

Photographer Jason Lindsey on shooting ferns in Seney National Wildlife Refuge.

“I am always searching for and trying to create images that feel like a painting and I was attracted to these overlapping ferns for that reason,” Jason says. “Many people say to photograph during the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. But I like the challenge of making beautiful images in the middle of the day.

“This fern was in a shady forest. I found an area with even light and positioned the camera to emphasize the shape of the fern by setting it apart with a bright background.”

Meet Photographer Aaron Peterson

Freelance writer and photographer Aaron Peterson lives and works in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a land carved by the forces of the Great Lakes and warmed by the spirit of its unique and resilient people.

Aaron’s favorite assignment? “Anything outdoors and Upper Peninsula! For me, life begins above the Mackinac Bridge,” he says. “Seriously though, as a new father, I think my favorite Michigan experiences are still ahead of me—seeing Lake Superior, the Porcupine Mountains and mountains of Mackinac Island fudge reflected in the eyes of our little boy over the coming years. I’m so thankful for this region’s clean air and water, and the elbowroom to raise down-to-earth, outdoorsy kids. Thanks, Michigan!”

Rowboat on Lake of the Clouds. Photo courtesy of Aaron Peterson/Midwest Living MagazineAaron Peterson on shooting Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

“The dramatic view of Lake of the Clouds from the Escarpment overlook is one of the most amazing in the Midwest,” Aaron acknowledges. “However, I chose to take the road less traveled and photograph the lake and surrounding mountains from the more intimate lake level rather than from above.

“As a resident of the Upper Peninsula, I frequent the Porkies for both work and personal trips. On past outings my wife and I stayed at the Lake of the Clouds cabin, a state park rental cabin right on Lake of the Clouds about a mile hike from the popular overlook, and I knew that was the spot I wanted to be for this shoot. The cabin comes with a rowboat, and if paradise is going to be found, there’s certain to be a cabin and a boat nearby!

“This was shot in the early morning, just prior to sunrise and facing east. I used a graduated neutral density filter to balance the eastern sky with the darker, dew laden grass in the foreground.

“My favorite piece of gear isn’t in my camera bag; it’s on my feet. I live in knee-high rubber boots when shooting near water or on wet mornings. They may not be fashionable, but if you can have dry warm feet you’re more likely to stay out shooting or try a new perspective that involves some wading.

“The major challenge on this assignment was shooting a scene that has been photographed a lot, and showing it in a new light. The awe-inspiring view of Lake of the Clouds from above is so tempting to shoot (and easily accessed) that it’s hard to pass it up and find a different perspective,” Aaron says. “Hiking down the cliff to lake level with gear and supplies really makes you commit to shooting one perspective, and limits the ability to be flexible with weather and light conditions.”

“It’s hard not to think about what the view is like from above when the light isn’t working where you’re at. The reward, however, is making an image that perhaps compels visitors to go beyond the scenic overlooks and delve deeper into the park’s wilderness at a more intimate level.

“I generally work alone when doing shoots, but we decided to make this assignment a family event with my wife, Kristen, and year-old son coming along. We’d always looked forward to the days when we’d have a family and could take family camping trips together, so why not start now?” It seemed, of course, a perfect plan.  “Well, Josiah didn’t sleep well in the cabin and it didn’t help that I shoot until well after his bedtime and get up before dawn to shoot early morning light too. Several times he woke up screaming because of my stumbling around the dark cabin gathering up my gear and clothes. Also, we found out that turning on a headlamp in a pitch-dark cabin is not the same as turning on a night light at home. He screamed in terror when I switched on my headlamp to try and find his bottle to help him fall back asleep. I wonder what the campers on the other side of the lake thought?”

Aaron Peterson on shooting old-growth forest

“To me, Paradise is a place where humankind respects and lives with nature, using what it needs and managing resources wisely and sustainably. Old growth forests are humbling. They have always helped remind me that we are small and relatively short lived. These trees were here before us, and will remain long after us—if we have the foresight to preserve them. There was a time when forests like the one pictured covered the entire Upper Peninsula, but these little slivers of paradise are all that are left. They are great lessons for us, and future generations.

“I shot this while laying on my back with a 12mm wide angle lens, to try and squeeze the magnificent size of the hemlocks in the frame, while giving a sense of the muted light and atmosphere in an old-growth forest.”

When you’re working in an old-growth forest, Aaron has one piece of very important advice: “Sleep in,” he says. “The canopy of an old-growth forest blocks so much light that the normal “magic light” times of dawn and dusk don’t always apply beneath the branches of these towering hemlocks. The trails along the Presque Isle river wind through an easily accessible old growth forest with lots of opportunities to photograph trees and waterfalls.”

Meet Photographer Per Breiehagen

Growing up in a small town in the mountains of Southern Norway, Per Breiehagen’s love of the outdoors is only natural—and has led to photography assignments from Greenland to the Antarctica. An avid skier and mountain biker, award-winning Per brings an understanding of motion and realism to his action shoots, and a creative, fine-arts approach to the surrounding environment. 

Aerial view of Isle Royale National Park. Photo courtesy of Per Breiehagen/Midwest Living MagazinePhotographer Per Breiehagen on shooting Isle Royale.

To start with, the arial of Isle Royale almost didn’t happen at all, Per says. “We were going to fly out to the island but the fog was heavy and the pilot had already turned back once that day,” he reminisces.” We got word that there would be no flights that day. Just as we were about to leave the airport, the pilot came back and said ‘lets give it a try ...’

“Lake Superior was one solid blanket of fog and clouds, kind of an eerie flight. All we could do was look at the GPS unit and see that we were getting close to the island,” he says of the flight. “I had my camera ready just in case ... we started to circle over the island, but still no holes in the fog ... would we have to turn back to the airport? ....

“And then all of a sudden the clouds allowed us this glimpse of Rock Harbor from the Tobin Harbor side,” Per says, the relief still palpable. “The pilot wasted no time with the approach and we landed safely in Tobin Harbor. A perfect float plane landing!”

From that adventure, and a few others, Per offers this simple advice: Always have your camera ready! In this case, “the fog added the element of drama that made this a special scene,” he points out. “I always hope for more moody weather when on a shoot like this. Sun and blue skies are fine, but the real dramatic images typically happen when the weather is not so perfect. The challenge is to be ready and get the image before it is gone ... within seconds.”

For Per, “Isle Royale is pure paradise, with amazing beauty and wildlife.”

Photographer Per Breiehagen on shooting the baby moose

After safe landing on Isle Royale, it was time for a second adventure. “We paddled across Tobin Harbor and started our hike towards Mt. Franklin when we saw a family waving at us to come and see. They were fishing in a small pond when a female moose and her calf came to feed.

“The mother moose was trying to get the calf to swim across the pond, but it was scared. It was calling for its mom and the mom was calling to get him in the water. It was an amazing scene. Eventually the calf got into the water and swam over to its mother – and she gave him a big kiss!”

To capture the baby moose mid-pond, Per used a 400 mm lens. “When traveling in wildlife country, try to bring a long lens or strong zoom,” he advises. “And always have it ready, lots of times wildlife will not hang around for long.”

Even if they decide to hang with you, the creatures will take their time getting into perfect position. “We were patient and hung out for an hour or so and the reward was an incredible series of a baby moose learning to feed and swim,” Per says of this shoot. “We were worried at first because it looked like the long skinny legs of the baby moose were getting stuck in the deep bog surrounding the lake. It was calling for its mom, but she did not want to get into the bog ... sometimes moose get stuck and die in these kinds of bogs.”

Clearly, this baby moose was not alone in savoring his victory.

Photographer Per Breiehagen on shooting Presque Isle River falls.

“It’s an amazing river, with pools carved from the strong currents and rocks grinding for decades, centuries ... or longer,” Per says of the Presque Isle River. “Around every bend, another gorgeous scene unfolds.”

For this shot, “… the calm pools reflected the beautiful trees and it created a scene of pure zen and contemplation,” Per says. His assistant, Tom, posed on the rock point, gives a sense of scale – and adds a spot of color.

To find this unique angle, Per reports, “We hiked along the river itself and not on the trails that were deeper in the woods. We wanted to see everything the river had to offer and that is how we came upon this scene.”

Per points out the advantage of using a human to emphasize scale, and to share a better sense of the place with the viewer.

Of this particular shot, the greatest challenge was the time of day. “We waited until the sun was low enough so the river would be in the shade,” Per explains. “Otherwise the contrast ratio was too harsh, and too much would be lost in the shadows.”

Per also reports, “Other hikers were curious about what we were doing and snapped some of their own images of Tom sitting out on the rock.” One never knows when, where or how star status will be bestowed.

Photographer Per Breiehagen on shooting Presque Isle River trees

“It was the last rays of the day coming through this perfect stand of trees above the river. The shapes of the river rocks contrasted with the backlit leaves created a perfect scene not to be missed,” Per says. “After the river shot we scrambled up the steep bank to get a different view of the river. It was very steep and I hung on to a branch as I shot this image with my other hand.”

To get this shot, Per followed advice he gives and heeds: Walk off the beaten path to find a better/different  angle.

“Sometimes getting to that perfect spot can be hard and too risky,” he says of the challenge. “Just make sure you use your head and don't get stuck or hurt,” Breiehagen cautions. “Always look for a safe way out.”

Meet Photographer Bob Stefko.

In addition to Midwest Living and Michigan Travel Ideas, the wide-ranging work of photographer Bob Stefko has appeared in many national magazines, from Gourmet to Forbes. Bob’s fine-art images are exhibited in several permanent collections, including The Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Miner's Fall, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Photo courtesy of Bob Stefko/Midwest Living MagazinePhotographer Bob Stefko on shooting Miners Falls in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

“The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has always been one of my favorite places to both photograph and enjoy through camping and hiking over the years,” Bob says. “Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the Upper Peninsulas real gems. The coast line is beautiful with emerald water and red cliffs. The woodland is just as impressive with lush evergreen trees and roaring waterfalls.

“Miners Falls is one of the most impressive waterfalls in the park and sits about half a mile hike in from one of the main roads. I've seen it a couple times and it's always impressive, with a series of nice viewpoints that provide great vantage points to photograph it,” Bob continues. “I remember hiking back to the falls and finding it with just a little sun light on it. I decided I'd wait about 15 or 20 minutes and let the sun move away from the water so the falls itself would be evenly lit.”

Mounting his camera to the tripod, stopping the aperture down as far as possible and shooting at a rather slow shutter speed blurred and softened the water. “I also used a wide angle lens so I could frame the edges of the image with some of the dark green pine tree branches that are all around,” Bob says. “This picture ended up being one of my favorites. Every time I look at it I want to make another trip up to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.”

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