Every summer we spend several weeks on the road. In past years, we’ve flown to places like Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Seattle and Alaska only to rent a car and drive hundreds to thousands of miles. Call it wanderlust, but I’d rather take the backroads to some seldom visited wildlife refuge than park myself behind the barricades of an all inclusive resort. When we don’t fly and drive, we travel by Jeep with a tiny A-frame popup. From the western edge of the Canadian Rockies to the eastern limit of Ontario, our camper has been a home base during the pursuit of wildlife and landscape subjects.
The first stop during this year’s trip was the “Upper Peninsula” (aka UP), Michigan. We found a quaint, but somewhat crowded, campsite near the town of Munising and spent four days investigating waterfalls, Lake Superior’s sandy coast and the iconic features of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Because we like to take our two dogs on these camping adventures, access to the best trails throughout the United States is somewhat limited. The National Park Service regards dogs as a potential threat to trail structure and wildlife and thus limits our ability to spend long hours in the back country. We’ve learned to accept these restrictions, as there are many irresponsible pet owners who refuse to leash their dogs and collect the inevitable waste they produce. In contrast, Canada has a less restrictive pet policy and has been a better place for us when we are looking for a back-country experience.
Although we could not see the “best” that Pictured Rocks had to offer, we were not going to allow our limited access be an excuse for producing mediocre images. In contrast, we decided to embrace the limitations and consider it an opportunity to break from photographic norms. Traveling with dogs into national parks required that we stay on paved or heavily traveled trails, and restricted our visit to places that were visible from the road or a visitor center. While this might seem to be an impediment to the creative process, these limits allowed us to see familiar subjects in unfamiliar ways. Rather than focusing on oft photographed places during peak hours, we’d visit the iconic locations while others were sleeping or eating a long-awaited meal. If the weather was marginal, we were out shooting in search of something different. Predawn light and dusk were prime time and photographic “rules” were readily modified or abandoned.
This portfolio displayed illustrates our time at Pictured Rocks. No image require more than a kilometer’s hike to the destination and could be produced by anyone willing experiment with a camera and dismiss the simple comforts of sleeping in and scheduled meals.
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