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Photo Flexibility

Several months ago, I attended a wedding in northern Michigan. Originally, I planned on spending only a few days, but found the area so interesting, I stayed nearly two weeks.

My only other visit to Traverse City was several years earlier on a cold winter evening in the middle of a snowstorm. I was there to photograph a baseball-bat inventor for Sports Illustrated. To me, Traverse City, on a Lake Michigan bay, was synonymous with slippery, snow-covered streets, so this more recent trip was a pleasant contrast.

When making travel plans, it’s nice to have some flexibility built in. Too often, a schedule is so rigid that it prevents staying in places we really enjoy. I’ve had friends show me an itinerary for an upcoming trip, and sometimes I think they’re only interested in the number of places they visit—they’re leaving no room for serendipity.

I arrived on a sunny August afternoon, and after a quick dinner, I took a drive along the shoreline. The road ended at the tip of a peninsula with a small park dedicated to a historic lighthouse. The sun had already set, and the beacon wasn’t operating. Someone, however, was living there—a caretaker, perhaps—and the warm glow of the window lights harmonized nicely with the deep blue sky of approaching night. It was a pleasant start to my visit.

The next morning, before the wedding, I noticed several beautifully restored, old wooden boats being towed into town, where they were tied up along a canal that ran through the town center. I made a nice shot of the stern of the gorgeous Andalé as she started up. With video, the sound makes it even nicer. In talking to the boats’ owners, I learned of an even larger gathering the following weekend farther to the north at Hessel.

At the wedding, I met the “official” photographer, Siri Salonen, who invited me to join her the following day at a monthly photo workshop organized by Todd Church and Bevin Buchler. They were photographing aspiring models, but more importantly, they passed along information and tips about some of their favorite local sites. If you’re in the area and want to spend an inspiring afternoon of photography, look them up.

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