Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Sky high

Let’s see. The last I knew you were all looking at barns because barns are so much easier to photograph than stars. I don’t suppose I can ply you with more of them?

Look! It’s a barn! (From my drive home on Friday.)

No? I understand–you’re wondering how I could have been at a dark sky park for three days and three nights and not produce something worthy of all that time.

Packing up my campsite Friday.

All three evenings we had nice sunsets, and I hoped that the skies might be clear enough to see some stars. But clouds rolled in after the sun went down and we had two nights of torrential rain and wind.

This little guy had to be presuaded not to hitch a ride home with me.

Definitely no star shooting those nights! Though I did see a couple meteorites each night before the weather turned really wicked.

Wednesday night’s sunset.

But I really wanted to spend a few hours on a warm summer night watching the sky, and behind those clouds I just knew there were hundreds of meteorites flying. It was frustrating.

Thursday night’s sunset.

Finally it was Thursday night, my last night at the park. Weather predictions were that Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights would be clear. But there wasn’t a campsite or a hotel room to be had over the weekend, so all my chips were on the table for Thursday night.

The stars from the campground beach about 10:30 p.m.

I walked down to the beach after dark to see if there were stars or clouds. Turned out there was a bit of both. I took a few pictures, but it wasn’t really dark, so I decided to drive to the dark sky park one last time.

And I’m so glad I did.

No that’s not a meteorite. It’s just a plane.

I arrived shortly before 11:00 p.m. and the parking lot was very full. You could feel the excitement, all those cars, headlights off, dark shadows of people scurying around with tripods and red headlamps.

Light from town interferes with the Milky Way.

I finally found a block of three empty parking spots and I quickly pulled into the middle one. Just as I was turning in I realized there was a person in a chair in the first empty spot. That shook me as I could have run right over them!

So many stars.

I got out of the car, intent on apologizing for almost mowing him or her down when I heard snoring. There was a very large man in a reclining beach chair full on asleep. I made a lot of noise, not intentionally, getting my gear out of the car and he never woke up.

The other end of the Milky Way.

I decided there were too many noisy people, including what appeared to be a whole group of school kids at the other end of the parking lot. I was already seeing metorites overhead, so I headed back into the dunes to see what I could see.

Most of the Milky Way was directly overhead.

Lots of people out there too, red headlights bobbing around, but the people were quiet, more respectful of the wonderful show going on overhead.

As the sky got darker and darker the number of meteorites bursting overhead increased. I was standing at an intersection of two paths and several people stopped by to chat about what a wonderful night it was.

There were a few clouds but they just added to the interest.

One young man in particular asked me right away what appeture I was using, and we ended up in a long conversation about lenses and iso speeds. He had a camera in the car, shooting film. We debated if it would work, and he went to get it.

Turns out it was color, with a speed of 200 (I can’t remember how we phrased that back in the film days) but he did have a really low f-stop. So I set my camera for 200 iso and shot 20 seconds to see what he might get…which ended up being a big, totally black rectangle.

It was such a beautiful night.

So he took one picture anyway, just for fun, but didn’t waste the rest of his roll of film. Then we talked about him going to the University of Michigan, and me having done that many years ago, and his road trip to NYC and my roadtrip to Baltimore, and his granparents (who aren’t much older than me), and photography composition, and today’s real estate values skyrocketing, and my dad’s truck crash, and his planned kayak trip the next morning. Then he headed back to his campsite, and I stayed out there and shot the sky for another hour at least.

Just after 1 a.m. the sky lit up with metorites. And I was lucky (and it’s all pure luck) that one appeared to dance right through the frame of one of my shots. I squealed as I am want to do in situations like this, then impatiently waited for the 15 seconds to elapse, and then the long wait for the noise reduction to work itself out before I could check to see if what I thought had happened had.

I still can’t believe I got this curly que meteorite!

And yes it did! HOW COOL IS THAT?

I could have stayed out there staring at the sky all night. But by 1:45 I thought I had captured all the angles of the few trees out there. And I had that drive home in the morning. So I started walking back to the parking lot. But then there’d be something else that was pretty so I’d have to stop.

There were lots of other people still out there, too, though some were also packing it up for the night.

This is what it looks like when a whole group of people with flashlights and headlamps walks through your 15 second exposure.

I’m sure there were several dozen back in the dunes still gazing up at the sky when I finally left, I hope they weren’t asleep like the three young ladies I found on the grassy berm in front of my car. I woke them up when I used the remote to unlock the back and my headlights turned on. I hadn’t seen them there asleep on a big blanket. At least they weren’t snoring.

It was such a wonderful night I’m having trouble deciding which images to show you. There was still quite a bit of light coming from town, but I guess that just adds to the effect.

I don’t know what planet that is on the left, but it was soooo bright!

I wish you all could have been standing right there with me. It’s really kind of hard to express how awe inspiring it is to be under those stars hanging so bright in the sky with metorites flitting through them which evoked oohs and ahs from people all over the park. It was better than the 4th of July fireworks.

I sweated through three days of heat and humidity and held my tent to the ground by sheer determination in two monsoons in a campground with no bathrooms for that one perfect night, and every bit of all that discomfort disappeared as soon as I was in the dark on the warm sand looking up on a clear night.

Hard to describe.

I heartily recommend this kind of experience for anything that ails you. And it’s OK if you bring your beach chair.

Just don’t snore.

PS: I recommend you look at the night images on something bigger than your phone, and probably turn up the brightness of your screen.


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Chasing the stars again

Every year I reserve a camping spot somewhere up north for mid-August in the hopes of being in a dark place to wittness the meteorite showers. Almost every year I am foiled.

Drove right through farm country.

Back in March I booked the last campsite at Port Crescent State Park which has a Dark Sky Park just a couple miles down the road from the campground.

But the sky didn’t look promising.

Of course, booking in March for August means you have no idea what the weather will be like once you’re there. And of course this year, while last week was clear with no chance of rain, this week, when the meteorites should be peaking, is forecast to be hot and stormy.

Harvesting in the heat.

A great debate ensued as my departure date grew nearer. Should I cancel or should I go north and see what happens? The debate grew more interesting when I received an email from the state park indicating there would be no restrooms, due to a sewer problem. Right. Stormy and no bathrooms.

Heavy skies, but lots of barns.

The answer seemed obvious. I should cancel, especially since they’d refund my registration money.

Do you see the red/orange left on the barns? I thought it looked great with the orange lilies below.

So I went anyway.

When the soybeans turn yellow this will be stunning.

The drive up was not encouraging. The skies were overcast, then filled with heavy clouds.

This little barn, with the queen anne’s lace, is one of my favorites from the trip north.

But my navigation system, instead of sending me up the freeway, took me on all backroads. Right through farm country. Filled to overflowing with barns.

The cows didn’t seem to be uneasy about the weather. Of course they get to see stars every clear night.

So. Even if I didn’t get to see meteroites or stars or anything I was after, I’d be sure to catch a few barns. So it was a win, right?

I liked the yellow stripped field against the purple clouds and the white windmills.

Well sort of. Just before I left I was messing around with settings, reading my manual and moving through the menus. I did something so that every image was severely overexposed. And I couldn’t figure out how to fix it.

Barns and windmills and perhaps sugar beets.

So I drove north frustrated with the weather and my camera, and the fact I couldn’t find my Kindle so nothing much felt right.

Held up by the vines.

But I added almost 2 hours to the 3 hour drive, because, well, barns.

Barns were everywhere. But so were the clouds.

And when I finally, FINALLY, made it to the lake the sky was clearing.

The cool blue sooths me.

There just might be a chance that my very first night I’d get the shots I’ve been dreaming of.

Might see some stars tonight!

Unless…

Not much of a sunset. But there is hope for the night sky.

Well, you’ll have to wait and see.

Saw this guy as I headed to my car for the trip to the Dark Sky Park.


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Randomness

I’m trying to finish up working on the photos I took on the camping trip that is now weeks in the past.

Under the Cut River bridge.

I feel like I shouldn’t take any new photos until I get these processed and put away.

It’s for sale, you could own this gem.

But of course there’s always something that needs photographing around here.

Cool car.

So it’s hard as time goes on to go back to the images I took so long ago.

Obviously a math teacher is selling firewood.

But I try to stay disciplined. Kind of anyway.

After 7 hours of torrential rain the only part of my tent site that was dry was right where I had been sleeping.

And looking at these images, these random images not related to any particular story, makes me smile.

Fire dancing, moments before the rains came.

So I guess it’s OK that I’m still working on them after all. Hope at least one of them made you smile too!

Iris at the Iroquis Point Lighthouse. I thought this post needed something pretty.


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Time warp

Sometimes I’ll read a blog post I wrote and then note at the bottom the links to similar posts, and I’ll click on one and read the post and then pick another link at the bottom and click on that and read and so on and so on…and time moves on and the next thing you know I’ve spent an hour or more back in time remembering.

Whitefish Bay

Such a thing happened to me today, and eventually I wound up in 2014 celebrating my 1500th blog post. I read that relatively short entry and thought how much life has changed from 2014, but how much my life is the same today too.

I enjoy blogging because it connects me to all of you, plus I have an excuse to take pictures. But I also like that it’s a history of my life. I’ve often wondered when we did something, or what happened during a particular trip, and all I have to do is go check the blog.

The mouth of the Hurricane River

I guess it’s something of a public diary.

Anyway, today I checked to see how many blog posts I’ve written, but I can’t find that statistic. Seems there’s much more about how many people are clicking on your blog than anything about what you’ve done. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. But if I had 1500 posts in 2014 I imagine the number is double that now.

On the shores of Sable Lake

Regardless…it sure was fun bopping around in the past. You should try it on your own blogs. I think you’ll end up smiling at the memories you have stored there.

As I headed home she wished me safe travels

PS: The images here are random things I shot on my camping trip. They didn’t make it into a blog post, but I thought they deserved to be seen.


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So…..lighthouses

I’m starting to feel repetitive here. All three of these lighthouses have appeared in this blog in years past. Still, lighthouses are irresistible, so maybe you won’t mind seeing them again. I didn’t mind visiting them again myself.

I was exploring the northern edge of the Upper Peninsualia, when I noticed a sign for Point Iroquois Light, and I remembered visiting it a few years ago.

A beautiful building.

During all the years I lived in the UP I never knew about this lighthouse. But it’s a special one, on a beautiful piece of land with a great view of Canada.

Canadian windmills across the way.

When we were here before it was open and we climbed the tower. This year covid has it closed, but I still enjoyed walking around the grounds. I was taking a picture of the lilac bushes along the front of the lighthouse when I realized there were butterflies everywhere.

Do you see them in this image?

So now you’ll have to indulge me while I show you some of those.

Hold still for a moment!

I spent a long time circling this lilac bush, trying to get a good shot of both types of butterflies.

I love the colors on the underside of this guy’s wings.

They didn’t stay still long, especially, it seemed, never stopping long in the sunlight.

Did you know the body of the monarch is spotted? I didn’t until just a couple weeks ago!

But it was so much fun to try. And in the end I got a few shots that I liked.

What a spectacularly beautiful day.

During this trip I camped at two locations, the first on the Straights, and the second at the mouth of the Hurricane River, where it empties into Lake Superior.

My site tucked into the trees. This was a beautiful, but rustic, campground.

This campground has a lighthouse too. You walk a mile and a half up a beautiful, wide, mostly level path above the shore of Lake Superior, out to the point where the lighthouse sits.

It’s a really pretty walk, though 1.5 miles starts to feel like a long way if you’re carrying all your photography gear.

My goal, when I made the reservation for this campground, was to do some night photography with the lighthouse in the foreground. It was a good plan.

Some of the coast here is rocky. All of it is beautiful.

I walked out there late in the afternoon one day. No one was out there, covid had this lighthouse closed too, so no park rangers were around.

Almost there!

No tourists either as the wind was picking up and another storm was on the way.

Au Sable Light Station, a beautiful compound.

It was kind of nice to have the place to myself.

I loved the colors of the brown ferns in the late afternoon light, with the red brick outbuilding.

On the other hand, it was still a couple of hours until the sun set, and a few more hours after that until it got really dark.

And I loved these sweet daisys with this building down near the water.

I started to feel uncomfortable with the thought of walking back down the path in the dark by myself. Plus there were no open restrooms out there.

The weather was changing.

So I reluctantly gave up on the idea of staying there until the stars came out. But I haven’t given it up totally. I plan to go back but bring someone with me so I’m not out there all alone!

The view from up there is stunning!

In the end it was good I headed back when I did. That evening the thunder began far off and quickly advanced until it was overhead. We ended up having 7 hours of pouring rain, lightening and thunder. I listened to it all from my cozy tent, glad I wasn’t running back through the dark and rain from the point!

As I listened to the pouring rain that night I thought about this open window in the tower. Bet no one closed it before the storm.

My last lighthouse is out at Whitefish Point. It’s a totally different sort of lighthouse from the other two.

This is the image everyone gets from the parking lot. It was starting to rain when I grabbed it.

And the beach there is totally different too.

Filled with huge fallen trees turned driftwood, tossed about by Lake Superior, it’s certainly not a swimmer’s paradise.

I had grand plans of trying to get the Milky Way behind the lighthouse. Or at least some stars.

Would have been cool with the Milky Way behind it.

It was sunny and 85 degrees when I left to drive up to Whitefish Point. When I arrived it was 58, windy and thunder was just off to the west. Another plan foiled.

And then the storm arrived.

So there you have it. Three lighthouses along the south shore of Lake Superior. Worth the trip even if I didn’t capture what I set out to get. I guess that’s the fun (and frustration) of photography.

There’s always next year. You won’t mind seeing them again, right?

It’s all about the light. And avoiding the rain.


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Epic camping experience

Time is sliding by and I haven’t shared my wonderful camping experience from last week. And it would be a shame if you missed that because it was amazing and it definitely made me smile.

We were in sites C3 and C4.

You know that usually I camp alone with my Katie-girl, but this time Katie stayed home and I met a couple of friends at a campground on the Platt River, within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. The three of us had kayaked this river last fall, and checked the campground out back then.

The trail from the parking lot to our sites.

And one of my friends knew someone who told us about the walk-in sites which are even more beautiful because you’re not near anyone else. No one’s generator will be running all night. No listening to people partying around the campfire in the next site, because there’s so much space between them.

My campsite.

Plus, if you have to carry everything to your site you’re not apt to be partying late into the night! Trust me on this.

Our other site.

Our first afternoon one friend and I got tents set up on our two sites. We were at the end of the trail so no one else would be walking by. As it turns out, most of the time no one else was out there at all.

It was a short hike over the dunes to the lake.

Once we were set up we walked the .8 mile through some low sand dunes to the beach on Lake Michigan. It was a dark and pretty cold afternoon, but it was good to walk after our long drive to the campground. And you can’t beat the view once we got out to the shore!

A chilly afternoon for beach walking.

The next day we decided to take a hike on trails within the park, looking for three small lakes. We drove around on some narrow dirt roads and accidently ended up back at the beach, just further down from where we walked the day before. It was beautiful, but still kind of stormy with a threat of rain.

It was a dark and stormy morning.

Eventually we found the trailhead.

This looks inviting.

The woods were beautiful, filled with wildflowers. My friend had an app on her phone that told us what they were.

This was really tiny, but the bright color made us notice it all over the forest floor.

Of course I don’t remember any of it, except for this lady slipper.

This ladyslipper was right next to the trail, just begging to be noticed.

We found the first lake just as it began to sprinkle. But we didn’t let a little rain stop us.

Bass Lake, the smallest of the three lakes we walked around.

We continued on around the first lake; the trail led right through a deep, wet boggy place, with no option except to just get our feet soaking wet. We were compensated for that by seeing a beautiful, lush fern right there.

Worth the muddy feet.

We eventually found all three lakes as the rain continued. Of course I had left my raincoat in the car where it could stay nice and dry.

A little rain never hurt anything.

Ah well, we enjoyed seeing the woods and the flowers, and the lakes, and when we got back to our campsite our other camping friend was arriving!

Nature’s double yellow line.

We had a lovely dinner….

Yummy dinner coming up!

…and an even lovelier campfire where we heard coyotes loudly discussing something important….

Did you hear something?

….and went to bed. During the night foxes yipped and owls hooted and we knew we were truly in the woods!

The next day we kayaked down the river again. We were looking forward to a nice easy paddle, but the wind picked up, and we had to work really hard across one long lake, and every time the river turned to the west into the wind.

Paddle harder!

By the time we got to the mouth of the river we were definitely tired!

A pretty amazing day.

But not too tired to hike the Empire Bluff trail! The trail goes up and down through some beautiful woods.

Heading to the bluff.

And the first view you get of the shoreline is stunning.

A first peek through the trees.

But it was soooo windy by then it was hard to stand up on the bluffs and look at the view for long, so we drove down to another beach to watch a guy who was windsurfing.

Not easy to do!

And then we went to a diner and had a burger! It was my first restaurant experience since February of 2020. It was amazing.

Our last night at camp was windy with a big thunderstorm blowing over. Lightening and thunder and wind, the perfect ending to a perfect three days in norther Michigan!

Tucked in safe and dry.

We packed up in the morning, walking everything back down the long trail to the car.

Packing up always takes longer than setting up.

It took a bit of work, but it was definitely worth it to camp back in the woods away from everyone. We had so much fun, it was peaceful and beautiful and I’d do it again next week if I could.

One of many trips to the car.

Oh wait. Next week I’ll be camping in the Upper Peninsula. Not at a walk-in site, but it will be beautiful in a different sort of way.

Home sweet home.

Stay tuned.


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Joyous Lilacs

I’ve seen pictures of the Pt. Betsie lighthouse in lilac season. I’ve been covetous of those images because I’ve never seen it myself, never timed a visit to the lighthouse, one of my favorite places in this state, at exactly the right time.

I always get a happy feeling, deep down inside, at the first sight of the Pt. Betsie beach.

Yesterday, on my way home from a 3 night camping trip near the Sleeping Bear Dunes, I finally got to check that as done.

I mean…how can it get better?

The lilacs were at their peak, the sky was cerulean blue with a few wispy white clouds, we were the only ones there.

Perfection.

The view the other way was pretty striking too.

I have many reason to love this lighthouse, one being it’s where my parents visited during their honeymoon in 1953, and where they went for their 50th wedding anniversary a year before they died.

Gentle waves lapped at the base of the lighthouse.

I like to sit and think about them there, and I hope they were close when I squealed at my first sight of the purple blooms against the white of the lighthouse.

The iconic image. Even though I have hundreds of these I can’t resist this angle every single time I visit.

I imagine they were, possibly, even squealing along.


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It’s gonna be a long list

About this time a couple of years ago I decided to put together a list of interesting, stupendous and fun stuff to do in the coming year. You know, sort of like resolutions, but way better.

I got some of the things on the list done in 2019, but had to carry a few of them over onto the 2020 list. The title of that post was “2020 sounds so cool.” Little did we know what 2020 would really turn out to be.

So I’m looking at my 2020 list of fun stuff and realizing that today is the last day of the year and the odds of completing any more of these fun things before the year expires is remote. Ok, impossible. But I think I should give myself a pass and use the virus as an excuse. I’ll just move some of these things to my “Fun and interesting and stupendous things to do in 2021” list, which I will put together in a future post.

Meanwhile, here’s what I did do, before chaos reigned in all our lives.

**Improve my night photography skills** Well, I did get to go to northern Michigan several times this past summer and fall, and each time I did some night sky photography. I even got some decent shots of the Neowise comet! So though there is still much room for improvement I think I made progress on this one. And because I love it so much night photography is probably going to get a place on my 2021 list.

**Spend a week in the Southwest.** We got out to Arizona in February, before we realized what was going on with the virus. It was a wonderful trip, we got to visit with a friend, and also see some amazing sights, like Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon and even more wonderful, a slot canyon! I’m so glad we went, I hope we get back out there again someday.

**Walk in at least 3 5K races.** Well. I did one race, virtually, with a friend from California. It was fun, and preparing to keep up with her (she’s a really fast walker!) got me out and walking for several weeks prior. I could have done more. Should have probably, but they’re not cheap and I sort of felt like I could go do a 5K without paying someone for the honor. But did I? No, I did not. So maybe a few 5K races will be in my future.

**Purchase a set of extension tubes for the camera and explore macro photography.** I did get a set of tubes, and I’ve tried them a couple times, neither time with success. I can’t figure out the focus, seems to be a theme in my photography lately, and I get frustrated and stop. I need to just take the camera with the tubes out into my own back yard and figure it out. How hard can it be, right?

**Take Katie camping at least twice this summer.** Well. I went camping several times but only took her along with me once to our local state park, and that was when summer was just about over. She had a good time, but doesn’t seem as enthusiastic about it as she used to be. We also camped in the back yard a few times over the summer. Each night she wanted to go back inside around 3 a.m. so I’d take her in and then head back out to finish my own sleep under the stars. When I really think about it, she probably just had to go to the bathroom and she’d most likely have gone back to bed in the tent if I’d taken her back, but to be honest, I sort of liked being able to sleep in out there and not get up at 5:30 to make her breakfast. Win/win, right?

**Meet up with other sheltie moms for doggie adventures.** Katie and I were lucky enough this year to meet up with one sheltie mom and her girl Abby this past fall. We social distanced and met outside so it all worked out. It was so nice to see them on a beautiful day down in Ann Arbor. Hopefully there will be more of that in 2021.

So…what didn’t I get done?

My camping trip to the Upper Peninsula got cancelled, and I never rode my bike once, not even in my driveway. That’s two years in a row with no bike riding. Maybe I shouldn’t even add bike riding on local trails to my 2021 list. I never made it to Alabama, haven’t seen my family down there in over two years, so that’s got to be on the top of the list, and I didn’t make it to Florida to see the sheltie boys, and here they are already over a year old!

I never took a drawing class, but I did morph my watercolor painting into a continuous project, sending smiles out almost every week since March. I’ll post more about what that’s turned into another time. And I hardly made a vegan meal, certainly not one a week like I had planned. I’m trying to go to the grocery store much less frequently and I run out of fresh stuff really fast. That’s my excuse, though it might not be the only reason. I’ll have to debate with myself over this one.

What will be on the list of fun, stupendous and interesting things to do in 2021? I don’t know yet. I might be cautious, given the virus hasn’t been stalled yet, or I might go all out.

You’ll have to wait for another post to find out.