• Todd

The Rise of the Fall

My luck with Fall colors is not good. When I'm out photographing deer, its good, but go for just the colors and I'm sucking rotten eggs. Flash back to a much better time - all the way back to 2019! It was early/mid October and I took a Friday off to make a run to Petoskey for the colors. Hotel booked, food packed, gear set and enough clothes for any weather. But something didn't feel right. I stood in my basement, looking around...nope, I'm good, time to drive! Out the door at 4am and cruising down an almost empty I-75. Scenic pictures are not my usual thing, so I was a little excited to try something new. About halfway up, I decided to stop for gas and a fresh coffee. This was going to be great, I couldn't wait to get up there. Now I have this habit of keeping my camera in the front seat with me, seatbelt on it (yes, really - I don't want that thing flying around the inside if I have an accident). For whatever reason, I reached over and picked it up. That was both good and bad because when I lifted it, it did not feel "right". It wasn't. That feeling in the basement was both batteries on the charger. I frantically searched for one of my spares, but it was not to be. These are not your department store rechargeable batteries, these are ~$80 used and it's unlikely you are going to find them even at Best Buy. Well, the drive home was not much fun, nor calling and canceling the hotel. At least I had the day off, right??

Happy Halloween!

Ah, but one little bit of bad luck won't stop me, I'm just not that smart, lol. Two weeks later, hoping to catch the peak colors in the southern part of the state, I booked the Fall Color train ride in Tecumseh, MI. It was on a weekend which meant that Pam could join me. Perfect! This time I have 3 batteries, two camera bodies and we are a go! Down to Tecumseh we drive, arriving in plenty of time. Now the train actually pulls into town and picks you up on a street corner. Down the street in a very convenient coffee shop. Those who know me even a little bit know that coffee is a MUST. A quick stop inside for a warm drink and back to the corner. The crowd is beginning to get bigger and everyone has a camera, probably even had batteries in those cameras. We wait...and wait.....and wait some more.....still waiting.....

No way we are all at the wrong place, right? About 30 minutes or so after the train was to arrive, someone calls the station. Yeah, the train is having problems but it will be along shortly. This is obviously a plot by the owners of the coffee shop to make a killing as they are the only place that is open and they had hot drinks and a restroom. Business was booming! Unfortunately, the train engine wasn't. It was down and a part had to be ordered. No train ride today people! Thanks for your time! Enjoy your ride home! Be sure to grab a coffee from the shop down the street before you leave! I never thought that getting pictures of Fall colors would be more difficult than pictures of big whitetail bucks. Number of pictures on the 2019 Fall color tour, ZERO.

Enter 2020 and the nightmare it has been. A sensible person would not even consider trying again, proof I am not a sensible person. As luck would have it, my wife is as stubborn, okay, more stubborn, than I am. She is a teacher, for those that didn't know, and is actually in classroom with students. Amazing. Anyway, getting substitutes is a royal pain in a NORMAL year. This year is worse. Somehow I picked the day to go when she could get a day off. It was a teacher enrichment day or something along those lines and she had no students. No substitute needed! So far, so good.

The plan went something like this, leave Thursday after work and drive to Mackinac City. Stay the night and head to Tahquamenon Falls on Friday morning. From there it was going to be a crazy drive with a ton of stops along the way as we worked over to the Porcupine Mountains on the west side. The highlight of the trip, Lake of the Clouds! Never been there, it looks amazing! I have all my camera equipment packed and ready. Not forgetting anything this time. If the bridge is closed I'll take the ferry to Mackinac Island and SWIM the rest of the way. This is going to happen! Now I have to tell you, when I got to the corner of my street and looked in the rearview mirror to see my wife standing in the street, arms in the air, like "Remember me?", I did get a little nervous. I backed up, let her in and away we went. The punch in the arm only hurt for a little bit.

Of course it was evening by the time we got to Mackinac City, but the bridge looks just as amazing. Our hotel was right on the water and we could view the bridge from the window. The hotel manager mentioned it was too bad that we got there at night and we would not be able to see the lighthouse. Silly manager, that sounds like a challenge!

This is 10:30pm and I have to say I'm rather happy with how it turned out.

Tahquamenon Falls was not at the peak of color when we were there, but it was still awesome. We heard, from a friend, that the following weekend, the line to get in to see the falls was 1.25 hours long. I am not that patient and I'm glad we went when we did.

The day was a mix of weather. Heavy clouds would break for short bursts of sun. Then some light cloud cover, then heavy again. Probably typical for that time of year up there.

Laughing Whitefish Falls did not disappoint!

We opted not to do Pictured Rocks for two reasons. First, we were under the gun for time and had places we wanted to see, plus, 2. we did Pictured Rocks in the summer while on vacation. While the incredible Fall colors are missing, you can imagine how some of these would look if these had been taken in October.

The further west we went, the better the colors. This was a little turn off the road we found while stopping to have lunch.

By the time we got to the city of White Pine, we were exhausted. We stayed at a place called the Konteka. It's like an all-in-one place. One level, hotel, diner, bar & bowling alley. The hot spot for sure! I will say this, while its definitely dated, the food was good and the room was comfortable. We were 10-15 minutes from Lake of the Clouds and tomorrow was going to...

STINK!!!! After a good nights rest, we packed up the car and were the first ones to the dining room for breakfast. After a hot meal we were on our way. First stop, the park office. The young lady at the counter told us it was going to be packed and we should do Lake of the Clouds first, before the crowds showed up. So off we went. Maybe a dozen cars in the parking lot when we got there. Grab the camera gear and up to the viewing area we go. Set up, go to take that first picture and NOTHING. Big red ERROR code numbers on the LCD of the camera. Have you ever seen people rush off a mountain before? When I started cussing, they took off like they had seen a bear. Okay, I wasn't cussing, didn't say a word actually. I tried every known trick I had to get that lens to work and nothing. I drove to an area where we could get cell service, looked it up and could not believe what I was reading. A little gizmo wire in the lens can go bad and would need to be replaced. Doesn't seem to happen with Canon's other lenses. Just the 24-70mm lens. My only wide angle. Just a simple $345 fix. From an authorized Canon dealer of course. Game over. So, now you have something to look forward to in 2021 - it'll be some Lake of the Clouds pictures or a horror story. There are pictures on my wife's phone, but I simply refuse to use those. It's a matter of pride!!!!!!

This story doesn't there though. At the encouragement of my amazing boss (yes, she reads this, I had to say that) who said "You need to take more Fridays off, you have a ton of vacation time", I found myself alone in Gaylord the following weekend. But what about the broken lens you ask? I rented TWO different lenses to take with me! If I fail, it's not for lack of trying! This time it worked. My timing was pretty darn good and the weather was in my favor. The only thing I didn't get was a nighttime shot of the Milky Way over top of a lighthouse. Something to try for next time around. I worked from Gaylord to Charlevoix to Petoskey and Cross Village. Back around to the Gaylord area and Traverse City, Kalkaska and Buckley. The one spot I missed was the Sleeping Bear Dunes, more specifically, Pierce Stocking Drive. It was closed for repair. I made up for it by hitting the covered bridges in Reed City and Fallasburg Bridge in Lowell. It was non-stop one place to another. The pictures are okay, but I have a lot to learn about landscapes. Animals are far easier.