Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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When you get to see a comet you can’t help but smile

Sometimes stuff just works out.

Last week I had an impromptu opportunity to go north to visit a friend who lives in what I call my “Happy Place,” along the shores of Lake Michigan. I haven’t been in a more than a year, but it’s still just as beautiful as I remember.

I’m rarely here in summer, this is the most people I’ve ever seen on the beach!

Since we’ve both been pretty careful to stay away from crowds of people we felt comfortable being in each other’s company, though we spent almost 100% of the time outside. Trust me, that is not a sacrifice.

I left lower Michigan under blue skies and temperatures in the 80s. Five hours later I pulled into her driveway and it was 62 and raining. Suddenly the shorts and Tshirt I wore seemed pretty skimpy.

Stormy weather greeted me upon arrival.

Still, it was beautiful.

I was up there to introduce my friend to another friend of mine who has just moved into the community. I think they have several things in common and might enjoy each other’s company. And just by coincidence I’d be on the shores of Lake Michigan, looking northwest, where there happened to be a comet that I might be able to photograph. If the sky cooperated, and if I could figure out those pesky camera settings.

The first night there wasn’t much of a sunset. But it was pretty.

Though the rain stopped that first afternoon, the sun set behind a bank of clouds. Definitely no comet watching that night.

I wasn’t too worried, I had two more nights, and the forecast said we’d have beautiful, clear weather. So I slept my first night in my friend’s bunkhouse, a screened building with a comfortable bed from which I could hear the waves lapping at the shore and the birds singing in the morning. And during the night I could check the sky without even getting out of bed.

The perfect guest house.

It was marvelous.

The next morning dawned clear and beautiful.

The weather looked promising early in the day.

We went for a walk on the beach, enjoying blue skies and sparkling water.

Just a touch of cloud out there on the horizon. Maybe tonight will be comet night!

I got to put my feet in my lake, and that always makes me smile. And of course I picked up a few stones, it’s impossible not to. In fact I think it’s a scientific fact that you must pick up stones while walking this beach.

Modern, abstract art shimmers in the clear water of Lake Michigan.

As evening approached we noticed a bank of clouds hanging low along the horizon. But we hopefully set up down on the beach, me with my camera, my friend with her telescope.

That bank of clouds might be a problem.

And we waited. The sun set. It was pretty. But the clouds obscured the comet, so we concentrated on watching a freighter go by.

I did a longish shutter speed just to make the lights blur.


And then I went to bed in my wonderful bunkhouse and listened as the wind picked up and the waves crashed. I added extra blankets and had a wonderful sleep.

The next morning, my last full day at my lake, the moon came up in the pink sky and I hoped that tonight we’d get a chance to see that comet.

The moon showed up and danced between the clouds.

Meanwhile I took some pictures in her native plant garden…

Native lilies opened the next day.

…and then we hiked through one of the county’s conservancy properties where we feasted on wild red raspberries and enjoyed the dappled sun sliding through tall trees.

Great Spangled Fritillaries.

We saw another beautiful sunset that night. But even by 11 we couldn’t see the comet, so everyone went to bed.

A cat sculpture stretches, getting ready for sleep.

I was determined to get up in an hour when it would be darker to do some star photography, even if the comet never showed up.

At midnight I picked up my camera and tripod and began to edge down the 40+ steps to the beach. I glanced to the north and there it was! A brilliant white triangle that obviously wasn’t your typical star.

The lights on the water is a boat sitting out there, probably also watching the comet. And if you look carefully you can see the second tail, a blue streak to the left of the white tail and going straight up.

I ran back in the house and got my friend and we stood there on the stairs just watching it. Amazing.

I went down to the beach and set up the camera. It wasn’t that easy to find the comet through the viewfinder, but lucky for me there was a boat out there, just under the comet and I could see it’s lights in the camera’s screen. So I pointed at the boat and shot while hoping I got the comet in the frame.

Luckily I did.

As the comet was fading I captured either a shooting star, or more likely, the space station sliding across the sky.

I shot for maybe an hour, sometimes straight up into the stars, sometimes toward the comet, sometimes including the big dipper. I didn’t have a wide angle lens to capture the big dipper in the same shot as the comet, but I was having fun anyway.

Eventually the comet faded and I remembered that the milky way would probably be to the south, directly behind me. I turned around and laughed out loud.

The milky way was waiting patiently for me to notice it.

Yep. I have to say it was an amazing night. In fact I stayed up all night, taking pictures, and then laying in bed looking at them in the camera. I think I looked at all of them at least a couple times, smiling in the dark.

By the time I was finished analyzing the images (which was stupid because they don’t look that great on the back of the camera) birds were beginning to sing. And then I saw the biggest star I’ve ever seen come up to the east.

Venus welcomes me to a new day.

Turns out it is Venus, and of course I had to set up in the front yard and try to capture that. And then the sky turned pink, even out over the lake and of course I had to run back down the 40+ steps to the beach.

Another amazing morning on my lake.

And when I finally made my way back up to the house, intent on getting a couple hours of sleep, I noticed the cat sitting in the window watching my antics.

What in the world are you doing out there lady?

And of course I had to capture that too. Not a lot of sleep, but one of the most fun nights I’ve had in a very long time. Thank you to my northern friend for sharing her amazing home, though I wasn’t inside it very much.

Can’t beat this view.

Sitting on the deck and just watching the lake is more then enough, much less a hike in the woods and a comet photoshoot…with the milky way thrown in.

And on the way home I got a couple barns to boot.

Barn #1

I’m smiling now just thinking about it.

Barn #2


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Windy smile

As you know, Trent hosts a weekly prompt over on his blog looking for smiles. And, as you know, one of the things that makes me smile is Lake Michigan – especially Lake Michigan and light houses.

So I picked up a friend of mine, the same friend that went with me last year to Pt. Betsie in -13 degrees with an unimaginable windchill, and we headed on over to Michigan’s west coast. Sunday the weather was better, with a temperature hovering around 32 degrees (0C).

We were very appreciative of that alone.

It was a blustery day on the Lake.

When we got to Grand Haven there was wind, but not nearly as much as we had hoped – the waves were perhaps five feet high. Still it was so pretty. There was a guy in his kayak bobbing among the waves. We thought he was crazy.

Crazy man.

I noticed later when I was reviewing pictures, that he was wearing a GoPro. Somewhere on YouTube there is likely a very cool (literally) video. I should go try to find it. He got out of the water shortly after we arrived, and the rest of our time there we took a few pictures, interspersed with longer periods of sitting in the car waiting to see if the wind picked up.

It didn’t, so we went to lunch, then traveled further south to South Haven, where the wind seemed stronger, but the lake floor was deeper and the waves not as big as we’d hoped.

But the sun came out!

The sun made even the wind a little more bearable.

It was pretty there too, but not exactly what we had envisioned. We drove up onto the bluff to see if we could capture the turquoise of the lake better from a higher vantage point.

A different angle shows off the colors of the lake.

It was getting late, but we decided to stop at one more beach. We drove up the coast to Holland. By then the sun had hidden behind dense clouds again and the wind was howling.

And there we found a wind surfer.

Getting ready to be crazy.

I had trouble keeping him and his sail in the frame. The wind was grabbing me and my lens and focusing was almost impossible.

I missed getting the sail in this shot, but it shows how high he went.

He let the sail pull him high up into the air, where he began doing acrobats, twisting and turning, sometimes feet above his head.

Even the surfers were busy watching the guy with the wind sail.

We both got our feet wet on the beach in Holland as we were focused on the kite and it’s passenger, instead of the waves racing on the sand.

Riding the wind.

But we were smiling so much we didn’t even care.

Fun under a dark sky.

What made you smile this week? Write a post and link to Trent’s blog and he’ll send out a recap on Monday. I’m looking forward to seeing what perked you up this early January week.

South Haven lighthouse enjoys an early winter bath.


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Smiling in the rain

Last weekend there were high winds on the shores of Lake Michigan and I considered driving the three hours over to the Lake to see. But it was raining and cold and I just didn’t do it.

But when I saw the pictures later I regretted my decision to stay home.

One of my favorite times of year, when the trees are lit by sun after a thunderstorm.

So when I read that heavy winds were again going to pound the coast on Tuesday I just knew I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see it for myself. In the morning I headed out before the sun was up, camera, long lens, extra batteries, winter coat, hat, gloves, spare shoes, extra wool socks and a map of Michigan.

When I left we had clear skies and no wind and I was worried I’d get all the way over there and the lake would be calm and sunny.

I drove through all sorts of weather, bands of rain, then dry roads, then rain again. I even saw a rainbow! When I got to Grand Rapids, about two hours from me, with another hour to go before I got to the lake, the sun was shining on brilliant fall trees, but further west the sky was black. The combination was amazing and I tried to find a spot to get off the freeway and take a picture while the sun was still out.

Not a perfect picture, but the clouds are cool.

Turns out the exit I chose was in an industrial section of town with not a lot of exciting landscape, and few trees still covered in leaves, but you get the idea.

When I finally got to Grand Haven and made my way out to the state park I knew I didn’t have to worry about a boring calm lake. The wind was so strong you could feel it pushing the car, and the sky was black. The parking lot along the shore was packed, with a steady stream of cars driving in, and they certainly weren’t there to swim.

As I got out of the car, long lens on the camera, in my heavy winter coat with a hat pulled down over my ears the wind was brutal. But oh…the waves! I raced out to the beach, stood right behind the snow fence that kept you away from the surf, on dry sand, and raised my camera. And at that exact moment a rogue wave broke through the fence and raced over my feet, soaking me up to mid shin. I hardly noticed because also at that exact moment the rain hit me sideways, and the whole left side of me was soaked through the coat in an instant.

I managed to get this shot:

A wild and crazy moment.

And then my camera said “card full.”

With the wind and rain pummeling me I stood there dumbfounded. Then I raced back to the car where I sat in a growing puddle in the driver’s seat, manually deleting old pictures from my card and cursing my luck. To drive 3 hours, arrive when the lake looks amazing, and for the rain to arrive at the same time, and to have not checked the capacity of my memory card, nor brought a spare. Well drats.

The car windows steamed up as water was evaporating off my coat and jeans. My feet were freezing. I was not smiling. But I continued to delete old photos, making room on my card for me to get more shots. I knew I was going back out there to get more even though I was thoroughly disappointed that the rain was so dense, and the images I was likely to get weren’t what I had hoped for.

And then, while still mumbling under my breath, I realized the rain wasn’t pounding on the car roof anymore. And I wiped steam away from the window and saw people standing out on a dune pointing cameras at the lighthouse.

I leapt out of the car and saw this:

The energy of the Great Lakes takes a person’s breath away.

I started to squeal, as I am want to do when I see something extraordinary and I have my camera in my hand, and I raced back down to the beach. The wind was so strong it was hard to stand upright. And I had to go sit in the car a couple of times just to thaw my fingers.

The sun came out for a split second and then it was gone.

I have so many pictures, most the same yet different from each other. I, along with about 300 of my closest photographer friends stepped around each other, trying to stay out of each other’s shots. No speaking, as we were all focused on the lake, but an occasional smile and nod as we acknowledged the amazing sight.

Sharing the view.

We all moved around, looking for different angles.

During nice summer evenings people walk out on this pier.

The rest of the lake was pretty amazing too.

The clouds, which would normally be what I focused on, took second fiddle to the waves on Tuesday.

In the end I had to leave at noon in order to get back home for the evening rehearsal, our concert is next week. I was sad to leave such an amazing show of force, but my smile was pretty broad knowing I had some great shots stored and ready for review.

I’d be smiling even more if I could get Lightroom to work. I seem to have lost my tool bar with the import and export buttons. So all of these photos are unedited, just the way they came out of the camera. A little tilt to the horizon here and there can’t be fixed. But I figured you’d enjoy seeing them anyway. And maybe, if I figure Lightroom out I’ll show you some more.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the images I posted just as much as I enjoyed shooting them. But I hope you’re dryer than I was.

I followed the storm all the way home.


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Still smiling

Trent coordinates a smile a week blog post, asking people to share something that’s made them smile each week.

Well, currently I’m in one of my happy places.

Pt. Betsie on a windy wet afternoon.

And it sure makes me smile.

The Coast Guard on patrol.

What made you smile this week? Post about it and link up to Trent’s blog, he’ll recap on Monday.

Lots to smile about this week!


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Trying to find the night sky. Again.

I’m ‘up north’ and the sky is clear and the air is warm and the bugs aren’t bad. Perfect to head out and try to learn more about shooting stars. And there might even be a few shooting stars to boot!

The little lake was calm with families waiting for the sunset on the protected beach away from the big lake.

I went out to North Bar Lake, a place a photographer told me about years ago. I’ve been there a couple of times since, and I figured it might be the perfect place to watch the stars.

I got there way too early, but walked out on the beach anyway, trying to scope out a spot for sunset and star viewing.

Someone’s castle, left from earlier in the day.

There wasn’t much beach to speak off, the Great Lakes are high this year, but I’m not complaining, it feels good to see the lakes full.

Not a lot of sandy beach, but enough to enjoy.

Once I figured out there wasn’t any one particular spot I’d want to be I headed back to the car to read for awhile.

The stairs glow with late afternoon sun.

And then an hour or so later I dragged my towel, camera bag and tripod back out and walked way down the beach away from all the families and groups of kids with their bonfires and set up shop.

The last of the daylight shimmers.

It wasn’t much of anything, last night’s sunset. But it gave me plenty of time to play around, trying to figure stuff out.

Typical sunset pinks up the sky.

Like how to slow down the movement of water.

Add a bit of time to that shutter speed and smooth out the rough edges.

And how to make the most out of that time just after the sun goes down. The pink sky.

Still waiting for those stars.

The blue air.

The blue hour, Lake Michigan style.

But the darn moon, only half a moon at that, was just way too bright.

Moonlight on the big lake.

I tried, because I was getting tired of waiting, to capture the big dipper. Just to see what this camera can do.

Really, the big dipper is in there. Promise.

And then I focused for a minute or two on the group of college kids up the beach and their bonfire.

Don’t know what happened here, but it’s kind of cool, so I’m keeping it.

By 11:15 I was so tired, sitting on the sand, looking for anything to take a picture of, the stars not really showing yet. I finally packed up and headed back to the car, checking along the way for things to shoot.

Can you see the tree and the stars and the fence?

I liked the old tree and the big dipper behind it. Not exactly why I was out there, but still pretty cool.

I sat on the little beach and captured the moon and the kids’ bonfire. And then I headed back to camp.

Can you see the bonfire out there, to the left and lower than the moon?

An hour later, pulling into the campground, the moon was setting, a bright orange crescent putting out much less light. And at my site, almost 12:30 in the morning, there were a ton of stars overhead.

No pictures of any of that…but you can imagine my frustration. And so the quest continues for another night.

A failure, but a fun failure.


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Coasting down Michigan’s western shore

Last Sunday a friend and I drove north and west to see Point Betsie with it’s lighthouse in winter. We were hoping to see some waves and some ice, and we saw a bit of each.

Taken by my friend, look how she caught that wave action!

On Monday we meandered under a blue sky down the western coast of Michigan, enjoying the shore and beaches at several parks along the way.

Lake fog danced on the relatively warm water in the single digit air temperatures.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to show you some of the beautiful sights we saw. There are so many it’s hard to choose what to share.

The view was worth the climb!

We stopped across the river from Frankfort early in the day and admired their tugboats…

Tugboats waiting for spring.

…and the lighthouse against the dark sky.

The white buildings pop against the darkening sky.

Then we drove up to a bluff overlooking the harbor and the sun came out. I was a bit scared to drive up the steep, snow covered road, but the view was absolutely worth it.

From up on the bluff.

The early light made the lighthouse glow out there in the blue lake.

Further down the coast Ludington’s shoreline held lots of lovely sights. Even with all the wonderful white snow and blue water, this was one of my favorite shots:

Shadows mimic fence.

And this, the ice on the railing, deserves some attention too.

Ice interest.

So many pretty things to see, I put together a little slide show.

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Our last stop was Muskegon State Park where the views weren’t as stunning, but still very interesting.

A lonely tree on a lonely beach.

We had such a fun time wandering the coast of Michigan even though we didn’t get it all done. That just means we have something to anticipate some weekend when the sun shines and the lake glows.

Oh, and just for me, we stopped along the way for a photo of a barn.

Every road trip needs at least one barn.

I’m looking forward to our continued adventure. It’s nice when you can make something out of a cold winter weekend in the north.

Colors out of this world.


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Check it off the stupendous list

Visiting Point Betsie during the winter is on my list of stupendous things to do in 2019.

Tucked into the sand dunes along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Today I had the opportunity to do just that — and it was beautiful.

At home we had snow yesterday, the most we’ve had in one day so far this winter season, so a trip across the state was in question.

The path down to the beach shows the first glimpse of the turquoise lake.

But by this morning the falling snow had stopped and the sun made it glitter as a friend and I took the chance and drove across the state toward Lake Michigan and Point Betsie, a little over four hours away.

The wind was flinging waves over the breakers.

Though there was little new snow falling, the wind was brisk, and the temperatures were in the single digits. I don’t even want to think about about the wind chill.

The sun tried to break through but ultimately lost out to the clouds.

Trust me it was cold. I could barely get the car door open once we arrived at the lighthouse. We sprinted down to the shore – the lake was it’s typical turquoise.

The lighthouse was beautiful, but the ice coating the land around it prohibited us from exploring too close. That and the chilling wind howling off the lake.

The view looking south, away from the lighthouse, was stunning too.

To the south the light was diffused, the colors muted.

We stayed on the beach for only a few minutes before we ran back to the car, fingers frozen.

My friend heading back to the car, I was right behind her!

Was it worth it to drive over four hours to spend less than 10 minutes enjoying the view.

You bet it was!

Safe and sound at the hotel.


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North into snow country

If you’ve been complaining about the unseasonably cold weather, and you don’t like the snow you’ve received so early in the season, well, maybe you should skip this post.

Not so conducive to a picnic.

Because my husband and I are further north than normal. And my goodness there’s a bunch of snow up here.

And it’s cold too.

Hiking to Miners Falls, only half a mile but it felt longer.

Did I mention cold and windy? Perfect for a short trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

We spent our first night at Mackinaw City, at the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula, just before the 5 mile long bridge that connects the two parts of our state.

The Mighty Mac bridge that connects the two parts of Michigan.

This morning we took a quick tour around town. Most everything is closed until next spring. It was sort of lonely. And really really cold, just 18 degrees (that’s -7.77 C).

The marina was protected from the wind.

The sky was so interesting, with a row of puffy clouds hanging right above the Straights…

That’s Mackinaw Island over there on the left, a pretty place to visit when it’s warmer.

…but both east and west of where we stood were ominous clouds, some dropping what looked like snow. That didn’t bode well for our drive west.

Looks like we’re going to get a little snow.

We headed over the bridge and started the long trek across the Upper Peninsula. We traveled along the shores of Lake Michigan for awhile, then headed north and drove along the shore of Lake Superior. Lots of boring grey skies on both sides of the Peninsula.

So we stopped to take a break in Munising, the home of Pictured Rocks, a beautiful park that celebrates cliffs and waterfalls in this wild part of our state.

Lucky for us there’s a parking lot not 800 feet from Munising Falls located right in town.

A beautiful waterfall and so easy to get to even on a snowy winter day.

Also lucky for us no one else was there so we got to enjoy the beauty of the frozen waterfall all by ourselves.

Then we got brave and decided we’d drive out to Miners Falls, even though we weren’t sure the roads would be plowed. And some of them were not.

But since a few other people had driven on the road beyond the point that the county kept them open, we decided to go for it. I won’t lie, this made me very nervous and I was grateful we didn’t meet anyone going the other way, so we could drive right down the middle of the road in the tracks of the car (or more likely the truck) that had gone before.

I made my husband stop in the middle of the road so I could take this picture.

Once again we saw no one out there. The woods were simply stunning.

The view out toward Lake Superior.

Out half a mile, then down multiple flights of stairs that hadn’t been cleared. But it was worth it.

Miners Falls was amazingly beautiful.

Definitely worth it, don’t you think?

Going up was easier than going down.

And then, after getting back to the car a bit tired and wet, instead of heading back to town my husband headed further out on the unmaintained road to go see Miners Castle, a rock formation out at the lake.

Nope, nobody out there but us.

Granted I had never been there and I had always wanted to see it, but I was stressing that the road wasn’t plowed and no one was out there and I was having flashbacks of being on this exact road in 1979 with a college friend when the water pump in my Chevette died. That was an adventure, and it had been a warm fall day with no snow!

But that’s another story.

Anyway…we got to the Miners Castle visitor center (which was of course closed) and waded through more snow out to the platform to see it. It, too, was beautiful.

Pretty amazing color for what was turning into a colorless afternoon.

And then we walked all the way down through fencing that reminded me of the security at the Atlanta airport, to see the formation from close up.

Have your boarding pass and ID ready please.

It was all fun, though I could no longer feel my toes. But it was beginning to seriously snow, and we had 3 hours to our destination on a good day.

So we headed back toward civilization, and crept over to Houghton, averaging about 40 miles per hour through increasing snow and decreasing visibility.

The road back into town.

Tomorrow we will explore a bit around here. Both of us used to live here, different years and different reasons, and we look forward to seeing what’s changed. I moved away 43 years ago. Lots will probably be different. But Lake Superior will always be Lake Superior and I look forward to seeing more of it again.

I just hope all the roads are plowed.

Also hope to not run into any bears!


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Now she’s done it.

Katie here.

Well, mama’s gone and done it this time. She’s getting forgetful and she spends a lot of time looking for stuff. Like her keys and her glasses and her book. But now I think she’s slipped over the edge into something more ominous.

Aren’t these reed things cool?

This time she’s misplaced daddy.

I’ve looked and looked and I can’t find him anywhere! I’m worried that I’ll never see him again! Other times, when mama and I are off on adventures I know that daddy is home safe and sound. Eventually we go back and there he is and I get all wiggle-butt and happy and stuff.

Which is prettier mama? The asters or me?

But now we’re already at home and I can’t find my daddy.

Mama says it’s OK, she talks to him all the time and he’s just down south helping my uncle work on a project. But that doesn’t make any sense to me. Usually if my people are down south we’re all down there together. And here mama and I are up in Michigan. So I don’t know if I believe her.

Sometimes when I come in from a walk in the park I run in the house and down the hall just to say hi to my daddy and when he’s not there I get all disappointed. Mama tries to distract me with talk about supper and stuff, but I know the truth.

Hey mama! I’m sticking to you like glue!

My daddy is lost.

So I’m putting out the word. If you find him, please send him home to me and mama, OK? Meanwhile I’m sucking up to mama. I’ve lost one parent, I’m not letting the other one out of my sight! And she’s sucking up to me too. The images in this blog post are from a lovely walk we had in one of my parks yesterday.

Today I’m campaigning for another walk at a different park. I have to keep track of so much, my parks and my parents! It’s exhausting for a little sheltie-girl.

I think I’ll go take a nap. Got to be rested up when daddy comes home!

ZZZZZZZZZ….