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Beausoleil Photography Blog
Evoking emotions, one photograph at a time
Behind most of my photographs is a story. A reason that I was there, a feeling I got when I saw the image through my view finder, what the weather was like that day (or night), or the challenge of getting the perfect photograph despite the ever-changing light or weather conditions.
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When I am not traveling, I typically have a plan before I leave the house with my camera. I know ahead of time where I plan to go and the route that I will take. Since so many areas around me are not familiar to me (I am a Midwestern gal), I almost always have to rely on the GPS to get me there.
Sometimes, the GPS steers me wrong and I end up in unfamiliar territory and never find what I was originally looking for. That is what happened last weekend when I was trying to find a small park in the Smith Mountain Lake area of Virginia. When I cannot find what I originally came for, I take advantage of the situation and make it into an adventure. And, oh my, the things that I see when I am not actually looking for them!
I’d never really spent a lot of time in the Smith Mountain Lake area of Virginia, so I headed out there before sunrise to see if I could find some pretty places to shoot the rising sun. I entered a destination into the GPS and made my way there, but it was closed to the public as it was the off-season (early October). I got back into the car and started driving and I caught a glimpse of this scene as I rounded a corner in Smith Mountain Lake.
Dock FogThirty minutes after sunrise on Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia in October.
Even better, a fisherman was just coming back in towards the shore, about 30 minutes after sunrise.
This last photograph made me think of the Hitchcock movie "Psycho" and how the main house at the Bates Motel might have looked a few years after the last scene of the movie took place. Someone that I know commented that it felt like Tennessee Williams territory and "A Streetcar Named Desire". Absolutely!
If I hadn't have been looking for something else and just happened to wander into this neighborhood, look at what I would have missed!
This past weekend, I got up very early and made the drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mabry Mill. Rain and thunderstorms were in the forecast for the entire area, but in looking at the hourly forecast near the mill, I thought I might luck out and be able to get some shots in between rain showers. The entire time I was there, the rainfall was no more than a mist.
Mabry Mill in OctoberThe colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway were not all at peak on October 9, 2021. The colors of the trees closest to Mabry Mill were. It was 60 degrees Fahrenheit and slightly misty on this day. On the way to Mabry Mill, I passed the Rock Castle Gorge Overlook, and the valley was cloaked in a heavy fog. But on the way past about 1-1/2 hours later, I glanced off to the side and saw wisps of clouds in the valley! I found a safe place to turn around on the Parkway and went back for a closer look. The clouds were still very threatening overhead, but the valley was visible below. What a breathtaking view! Rock Castle GorgeThe Rock Castle Gorge Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway is at an elevation of 3,195 feet. Sometimes we get so busy in life that we don’t always take time to enjoy the ride. We might be on our way to an adventure, but sometimes, the best things might be missed if we don’t take the time to glance out the side window on the way to our destination.
A New DayA view to the west as the sun comes up behind me in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A view to the west as the sun comes up behind me in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A sunrise in the mountains is different than it is on sea level. Depending on where you are in the mountains, it can take another 30 to 60 minutes for the sun to rise over the mountain after it comes up over the sea level horizon.
On this day, looking to the west, the colors were muted because the sun hadn't come up over the mountain behind me. If I was at sea level with nothing on the horizon, the sky would have been filled with light, seemingly all at once. But in the mountains, the sunrise seemed to progress more slowly as the light gradually fills the valley. That was accentuated on this day. It made for a marvelous transformation!
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I recently came back from a long road trip between Virginia and Michigan. Naturally, I had all my camera equipment with me. If I wanted to stop along the long drive to photograph something interesting, I had everything I needed with me, including my tripod.
How many photographers travel with their primary camera and lenses in the car when they are just going to the grocery store or running errands? I once asked this question to a couple of photographers that I know, and it was 50/50. I do not do it as often as I should, and I can think of a few times when I missed what might have been some fantastic shots.
On a snowy day in late January of this year, I had gone out with all my equipment to see what I could see. It had not just snowed the night before – it was still snowing! I put many miles on my vehicle and drove all over the county and I was rewarded with many different kinds of shots (stay tuned for those to be eventually uploaded to the galleries).
Because I am from Upper Michigan, I know what it means to dress for outdoor winter adventures. I had my boots, snow pants, winter hat, scarf, and gloves. Even after getting into the warm car and driving between winter scenes, I was still very cold after 4 hours.
On my way home, I crossed some railroad tracks and as I looked to the side, a huge locomotive was sitting on the tracks, top light on. It was not moving, but it was not vacant, either. I had to park a quarter of a mile away so that I was safely off the road. I had no idea how long the train had been sitting there nor when it would start moving again.
I hustled back to the train tracks with my camera and got several shots. He still had not moved, so I took a chance and jogged back to my car to get my cell phone. I always get some establishing shots with my cell phone camera to set the time and GPS location, and sometimes some video.
It was still snowing, and my camera lens filter was covered with water droplets and snowflakes. During the previous 4 hours of shooting in snowy conditions, I had used up all my lens cloths. I had to resort to using the bottom of my sweatshirt which was under my coat and still dry. Gusts of wind would blow the snow into my face and into the lens, adding to the excitement of the day.
There were a few cars that were coming and going down the country road and over the tracks while I was there. I took some time to get a few shots of the road behind me. Country SnowWhile waiting for the Norfolk Southern 1198 to start moving down the tracks, I turned around to capture the scene behind me. As I'd been out with the camera for 4 hours while it was actively snowing, all my lens cloths were of no use by this time. Still, I'm happy with how this image turned out, water spots and all. It is a naturally-occuring color enhanced photograph. Even though it is obvious that the lens filter is very wet with snowflakes, I rather like how this image turned out. It represents the weather conditions of the day and adds to the beauty of the shot. Unfortunately, I do not have a clean lens shot of this view, but that is okay. It would have been difficult to change the filter when it was still actively snowing, and I did not want to miss the take-off of the locomotive on the tracks. Because of the weather conditions, the scene looks monochrome with just a few splashes of color for the road’s center line and the red house. I could have tweaked the vibrance and saturation a bit, but I did not – this is how it looked to the naked eye. Ready to RollNorfolk Southern 1198 has turned on all the lights and is ready to roll!
Finally, I heard the engines ramping up and all of the lights came on. The Norfolk Southern 1198 was getting ready to move! He blew the train whistle several times before starting forward and it was a glorious sound! He started moving forward and the railroad crossing lights started flashing and the intersection was closed to traffic. It did not take long for the train to get up to speed and move through the crossing. What a marvelous sight and sound!
This experience was the number one reason and reminder to me to always have my camera with me. Always be prepared to capture your best shot!
I recently took a road trip back to Michigan, my home state. In addition to spending some much needed time with my family, I had the opportunity to visit both familiar and unfamiliar locations in my home state. Bridge View ParkPerfect view of the Mackinac Bridge from Bridge View Park in St. Ignace, Michigan Getting to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula requires a drive over the Mackinac Bridge. The bridge is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere. It is a 5-mile-long bridge that connects Michigan’s Lower Peninsula (Mackinaw City) and the Upper Peninsula (St. Ignace). There are several places to enjoy the view of the Mackinac Bridge. The Bridge View Park in St. Ignace, Michigan (Upper Peninsula) is one of my favorites. Sunday AfternoonSunday afternoon at the beach on Old Mackinac Point in Mackinaw City, Michigan. Whitecaps, Mackinac BridgeA thunderstorm had moved through Mackinaw City a few hours before. It was still very windy (but warm!) on Lake Huron. Beach CrowdAfter the thunderstorm passed through the area, everyone arrived at the Old Mackinac Point beach to enjoy a warm summer afternoon. Mackinac SunriseShortly before sunrise from Old Mackinac Point in Mackinaw City, Michigan.
Mackinac Bridge from St. Ignace, MichiganBridge View Park in St. Ignace, Michigan is a wonderful place to enjoy the gardens and the magnificent view of the Mackinac Bridge. The Old Mackinac Point Park was a new location for me to visit on this trip. It’s located in Mackinaw City in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. For the first time ever, I was finally able to find the place where you can stand under the Mackinac Bridge, and what a view that was! Under the BridgeThe view from under the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world - the Mackinac Bridge. As you can imagine, there are many lighthouses on the Great Lakes. We were able to visit several of them on this trip. In this week’s blog, I’ve included photographs of lighthouses on Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior. Wawatam Light - St. Ignace, MichiganEarly morning at the Wawatam Light in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. This lighthouse was originally lit in 1998 as a Michigan Welcome Center travel icon in Monroe, Michigan (south of Detroit). In 2004, the Welcome Center was re-modeled and the Wawatam Light was moved to St. Ignace (north side of the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan's Upper Peninsula). https://www.michigan.org/property/wawatam-lighthouse I’ve visited the Whitefish Point lighthouse on Lake Superior several different times. Just to the east of Whitefish Point is the Crisp Point Lighthouse and I was finally able to visit here for the first time in my life. The road leading to this lighthouse is not open between November and April. Once we left the highway, we traveled on a loose packed dirt road for twenty miles, and the last section of the road (5 miles or so) was not much more than a two-track and barely wide enough for 2 cars to pass one another. I later found out that this is a snowmobile trail! A huge rainstorm had passed through the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) the day before, so there were several big mud puddles to maneuver around. It was thrilling to travel so far into the Michigan wilderness, and we were not disappointed by the view when we arrived at Crisp Point! Crisp Point LighthouseCrisp Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. By far, the most remote lighthouse location that I have ever traveled to. Twenty miles of dirt road and the last 5 miles is an actual snowmobile trail, barely wide enough to allow 2 vehicles to pass. I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, home of the Soo Locks. Ships come and go through the Locks on their way from Lake Superior to and from Lake Huron and the St. Lawrence Seaway. My grandparents lived a block away from the St. Mary’s River, so I grew up hearing the familiar sounds of lake freighters (lakers) moving up and down the river, occasionally tooting their greetings to the other freighters they passed.
Indiana Harbor Downbound on the St. Mary's RiverThe Indiana Harbor is a 1,000 foot long lake freighter. It was downbound on the St. Mary's River in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. My other grandparents lived further up the shore of Lake Superior, about 30 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie. When we visited them, we used to always pass the Point Iroquois Light station. They’ve since restored the lighthouse and grounds and it’s a beautiful place to visit and to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Lake Superior shoreline. On the day that we visited, there were workers on the north side of the lighthouse, cleaning and doing minor repairs to the façade.
Lake Superior ViewA perfect place to sit and admire the beauty of Lake Superior from the Point Iroquois Lighthouse in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Another lighthouse that I’ve visited a couple times is on Lake Michigan, on the Upper Peninsula’s southern shore. The Manistique East Breakwater Light is a beautiful area on Lake Michigan. On the day of our visit, there were several people down on the beach and walking on the boardwalk walkways leading down to the beach. East Manistique LightThe East Manistique Breakwater Light is located on Lake Michigan in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In my second hometown in Michigan, we were able to visit the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse. The last time I’d visited, it was wintertime with a lot of snow and ice on the harbor. Whether it’s winter or summer, this lighthouse is a beautiful area to visit. Marquette HarborA mother and her son and their dog Bandit enjoying themselves down at the Marquette Harbor in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Marquette Harbor LighthouseThe Marquette Harbor Lighthouse is on the shore of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
When we were driving through town in Marquette, I spotted some bright blue bike racks. There were several different designs, but the musical note design was my favorite! My brother was responsible for creating and putting together these artistic bike racks, based on a design that was created by his employer.
We recently visited Sault Ste. Marie, my hometown in Upper Michigan. So many things have changed over the years since I lived there, but other things will always remain the same, much to my delight. Being able to see and hear the freighters traveling up and down the St. Mary's River on their way to and from the Soo Locks has always been a wonderful experience.
Boats that are downbound are moving east from the Soo Locks and towards Lake Huron and/or the St. Lawrence Seaway. Boats that are upbound are moving west to the Soo Locks and out on to Lake Superior.
One morning, we got down to the lookout spot too late to see a freighter approaching, but I was able to catch a glimpse after it passed behind Sugar Island on the St. Mary's River. Frontenac Downbound on St. Mary's RiverFrontenac heading downbound on the St. Mary's River about 5 minutes before sunrise It was less than 10 minutes before sunrise and a little cool, temperatures in the low 60s. There was a slight fog on the water and that added to the overall dreamy quality of the ship passing quietly down the River. Lake Freighter in the FogThe Frontenac was moving downbound from the Soo Locks on the St. Mary's River just before sunrise. Another freighter wasn't scheduled to go through the Soo Locks for a few more hours, but the ferry from Sugar Island was almost directly across from our vantage point on the St. Mary's River. The ferry transports people and their cars between the shore of Sault, Michigan and Sugar Island. Drummond Islander IIIFerry to and from Sugar Island, Michigan The sun was just starting to come up as the ferry was collecting their passengers. It was a beautiful sunrise and the colors of the sky and reflections on the River were outstanding!
Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan is on the northern border of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. On the other side of the St. Mary's River, to the north, is Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. Some may not realize just how close in distance the two countries are.
In the photograph above, the buildings on the far shore are in Canada!
When on vacation, it's always nice to be able to slow down and take in new sights. For us, visiting our hometown was a return to the familiar and that was a vacation from our every day lives.
The early morning visit to the St. Mary's River was a wonderful way for my Dad and I to start our day! Sunrise on the St. Mary'sSunrise on the St. Mary's River in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
I grew up in the Great Lakes states and have always been awed and amazed by the beautiful scenic views. One of my favorite locations to visit (and photograph) is the Whitefish Point Lighthouse. It is in a remote area of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, far to the north, on Lake Superior.
Oldest Active Light on Lake SuperiorWhitefish Point Lighthouse, Upper Michigan It takes some time to drive the county roads to get to Whitefish Point, but that just adds to its allure. It's Michigan's oldest active light and a very important light. Without it, Great Lakes shipping freighters would not be able to safely navigate Lake Superior to and from the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Ontario, Canada, and from there, Lake Huron and the St. Lawrence Seaway.
I've visited Whitefish Point in both summer and winter (more than once!) and my favorite time to visit is the winter. There is always a wind at Whitefish Point and it's always cooler there. But the views of the lighthouse and Lake Superior are beautiful.
Frozen WalkwaySnow and sand are frozen solid on the walkway to and from the beach. The Light is OnDecember 24, 2007 - Whitefish Point Lighthouse just after sunrise on a cloudy morning. Air temperature 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
I always thought that Whitefish Point was the most breathtaking view and it always held a special place in my soul.
Until I stood on the path overlooking McWay Falls in Big Sur, California. I felt like I had just come home, even though I'd never laid eyes on this beautiful area before.
McWay FallsBig Sur, California Unlike Whitefish Point, the Big Sur area was loaded with people. It was not exactly a remote location, though there is a rugged beauty to the Pacific Ocean shoreline. But people aren't allowed down in the little cove where McWay Falls spills into the Pacific. As I looked down into that cove, it was as if the crowds of people on the path with me disappeared and I could only hear my heart beat and the sound of my breath.
I have only had one opportunity to visit Big Sur, but I think about this area just about every day, and I can't wait to go back.
It’s the end of August and it’s still very warm here in the southern United States. Autumn and winter are on their way. The winters here aren’t nearly as severe as they were in Upper Michigan and Wisconsin when we lived there, so I don't dread the changing of the seasons as much as I used to when I lived there.
Although the winters in the Great Lakes region can be brutal, it can also be beautiful. The beauty of a winter sunrise over a Great Lake is a photographer’s dream. But only if you have the patience to stand out in the cold for hours, making photographs, waiting for the light to change for the right shot. Since I was raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I was accustomed to the frigid temperatures. I have that patience.
To get these 2 photographs, I had to walk around in the snowbanks quite a bit. It was mid-March on Lake Michigan, so the snow depth had dropped quite a bit. But it was still quite cold at dawn.
This next photograph was captured in early March on Lake Michigan down at Wind Point. The waves were washing little ice cubes up onto the shore, making the oddest sound.
Back in late 2013, I was able to put that patience to the test when we visited Melbourne, Florida during the 2013 North American Cold Wave (also known as the polar vortex). As is my custom, I got up very early to photograph the sunrise over the Atlantic. The temperatures during the day weren’t much about the mid-40s (Fahrenheit), but at sunrise, it was closer to 32 degrees (freezing). I didn't think to bring my snowpants with me to Florida, but I did layer up with sweatpants and my jeans. And I wore a sweatshirt, sweater, and a jacket. It paid off (for once) to pack as many outerwear clothes as I did!
Self Portrait 2013 North American Cold WaveIt was near 32F degrees at sunrise on the beach at dawn in Melbourne, Florida!
The only other time I’ve been that cold during a sunrise shoot was when I was at the Whitefish Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior. I was bone cold by the time I left both beaches.
Whitefish Point Lighthouse - verticalIt was a cold winter day at the Whitefish Point Lighthouse
The average temperature for my winter photographs is roughly 25 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind makes all the difference in the world. In the following photograph of the Marquette Harbor Lighthouse on Lake Superior, there wasn't much wind at all. Temperatures right around 32 degrees.
Marquette Harbor LighthouseThe Marquette Harbor Lighthouse is located on Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
In this next photograph, it was right around 32 degrees. I was at the top of bridge that was 1,000 feet above the Roanoke River on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The wind was quite strong and it made it all the colder on the bridge. Sunrise after Snow on the Blue Ridge ParkwayChristmas morning at dawn on the Blue Ridge Parkway after a snowfall.
And at Tahquamenon Falls in the month of December, it was very cold (temperatures were in the teens). Down at the brink of the falls, the wind was ferocious! When it started to snow, I had to constantly wipe off the lens from the moisture.
And in this last photograph, the temperature was in mid-30s. I had spent over an hour walking around the Milwaukee County Zoo the day after a snow storm.
Several years ago, we were traveling through Michigan's Upper Peninsula on our way back to our home in Wisconsin. Manistique, Michigan is located on the southern border of the Upper Peninsula, along US 2. This highway is a scenic route that runs along the shore of Lake Michigan. It can be treacherous in the wintertime, though, due to blowing and drifting snow coming off Lake Michigan. But in the summer, it is beautiful!
We knew we would be driving into a rainstorm a little further to the west in the Upper Peninsula, so we decided to pull off to get some shots of the Manistique East Breakwater Light.
Manistique East Breakwater LightThe Manistique East Breakwater Light is on Lake Michigan. It is located on the southern shore of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It was a beautiful summer day when we visited; just a light breeze coming off Lake Michigan. There were a few people out on the beach, but not as many as we would have expected for a Sunday afternoon in the middle of July. The shore was rocky in places, and it made it challenging for anyone venturing into the Lake for a swim. This sunbather seemed happy to just sit on the beach and look out over Lake Michigan.
About 20 minutes later, we noticed more dark clouds in the sky. The sun was still out, and not covered with clouds, though, so it was still a pleasant and sunny afternoon at the beach.
To the west, we could easily see the rainstorm that had formed. If you look on a map for where Manistique is located on the shore of Lake Michigan, we were at the top of a horseshoe turned down. Directly to the west of the light itself was US 2, a couple of miles across Lake Michigan. It was an odd sensation to be standing in bright sunlight and see dark clouds and rainfall to the west out over the Lake.
It was one of the only times I have been able to clearly see a rainstorm in the distance, at least while on flat land. Typically, there are buildings or trees in the way and that makes it difficult to see the effects of the storm.
August 7, 1989 was known as National Lighthouse Day. Since then, it has been celebrated each year by lighthouse organizations, but it has not been designated as an official holiday that would appear on our calendars. Take a look at this link for further information.
These represent just a few of the lighthouses on the Great Lakes. To see all of the lighthouse photographs in my gallery, click here.
Sometimes, it's difficult to balance the light and shadows at sunrise. In this first shot, it was over an hour after sunrise, but the sun was hiding behind a rather dense cloud bank on the horizon. Because of this, it threw the foreground into more shadow than if the sun was higher in the sky.
It was not completely overcast that morning, and the clouds were lower in the sky. The sun was on the way to rising above the cloud bank, and it was shining brightly on the clouds above. The brighter it got above the clouds, the more it created a mismatch of exposure in the foreground of my image. November SunriseWinter sunrise on Lake Michigan. While I was shooting, I decided to take advantage of the contrast of light and shadows. Not all photographs (day or night) can be made in black and white. But this one qualified because of the dramatic contrast of light and shadow. In a black and white photograph, whites are whiter, and blacks are blacker. Now our eyes are drawn to how the light is reflected on the water. The tree in the foreground is silhouetted against the brightness of the image, yet you can still see the white line of snow on the north side of the tree trunk from a recent snow squall. It makes the image look even colder than when it was photographed in color. Sunrise in Black & WhiteSunrise on Lake Michigan in late November. In a night photograph, it is often easier to shoot in black and white because of the automatic contrast of light and dark. If the night scene has a lot of color, the photograph will often look better in black and white than you might imagine. The shades of color will lend more shades of gray to the black and white photograph.
Here, the colors of the Christmas decorations are prominent. The red vehicle adds an additional pop of color. The buildings are different colors and each with lights coming through their windows. There's enough sky to fully illustrate that it's nighttime. December Evening DowntownMid-December on East Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. In black and white, it can be just as dramatic. The pops of color are gone. We can tell it's the holiday season because we see the trees are decorated and the wreaths are lit. But other things are accentuated when this image is presented in black and white. We now notice the reflections of the light on the cars. We can still see the night sky against the lights of the buildings. Black & White Christmas LightsDowntown Milwaukee at Christmas time. As with any piece of art, the same image affects different people in different ways. Long ago, when I was first starting out as a photographer, my father-in-law gave me a bit of advice. He told me to make a photograph in color when I'm trying to bring out information and to shoot in black and white if I'm trying to bring out emotion. I have learned that this isn't always true; that it's still possible to evoke emotion with a color photograph. But, in many cases, a black and white photograph is even better than one made in color - and for just that reason - it brings out more emotion. City Nights in Black & WhiteDowntown Milwaukee at night.
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