Choosing Photo Groupings

Choosing Photo Groupings

“My all-time favorite city is Leland. I love Lake Michigan sunsets, but I also love Lake Michigan’s vivid blue.”

A sweet client emailed me with interest in an 8×10 Milky Way photo, but in further emails, she described some of the things that she loves most about northern Michigan, and asked for my input. I love this area, too, and have a veritable art gallery – in a variety of media including framed prints, gleaming metals, and canvas wraps – displayed in my home to prove it. Interestingly, I don’t have a single 8×10 hanging. Instead, I have several 20x30s, a few 24x36s, a couple 16x20s (though those are older, and I wouldn’t choose that size now), a couple panoramas, and scads of 11x14s. So when this lovely lady inquired about my help, I put together a grouping that would make me happy if it were on my walls.


She sent me a photo of a room in her house, and I created a to-scale mock-up of a 20×30 flanked by two 11x14s. This set-up shows frames with 2-inch mats.

We started with her favorite Fishtown (Leland) right in the middle, a warm beach scene on the left, and classic Lake Michigan blues on the right.


A second option included two warm sunset scenes, and some afternoon glow at Esch Beach.


She liked the idea of the symmetry offered by the warm dune grasses surrounding Otter Creek, so I showed her that.


And we ended up settling on this grouping: the symmetrical beachy scenes with a simpler – but similar – Otter Creek sunset in the center. The tones go well together, and the moods match. A peaceful trio perfect for a bedroom.

However, she also wanted a print of the Fishtown sunset, maybe paired with a smaller image, though she was concerned whether this could work. Though it wasn’t for a bedroom, I thought the idea sounded promising, so I tossed the disparately sized images together on the bedroom wall so she could see for herself. This of course wouldn’t show how they would look with living room furniture, but it shows how the images look together at their right sizes on a wall. After viewing a few pairings, we decided that Fishtown (11×14) looked best with a golden scene (8×10).


The whole process took place over email, because she lives quite far from northern Michigan, but it was wonderful getting to know her a bit, and helping her make choices she knew she’d like. This process can be achieved over the phone, but is easiest in person (preferably while sharing coffee!). So, if you’re stuck deciding which photos will look best at which sizes, and which ones could maybe go together, contact us! We’re happy to help you choose.
(PS – She’s waiting on frames, or I would include some “after” photos, too!)

Fishtown at Night

Fishtown at Night

For several weeks I’ve had half-formed plans to make some photographs in Fishtown, and I finally made the trip Saturday evening. The sunset wasn’t much to speak of, which didn’t upset me greatly, because the light is still hitting south of the Leland River, so my view of the show wouldn’t have been great anyway. We watched twilight settle from Van’s Beach, and then ventured over to the Fishtown boardwalks under the light of the moon.

Two images hand-blended: 11mm f/4.5 15-sec. iso 1250 (for sky) iso 320 (for structures)
Photo: Fishtown/Leland, Michigan under a moonlit, starry night
Fishtown sparkles under a moonlit, starry night
I’d like a print!

The moonlight would’ve been enough to illuminate the historic buildings along the river, but several business also have exterior lights turned on. This meant that I had to combine a couple of images for the final photo, and I also had to correct for the various colors of the town’s lights. Still, it’s obvious that Fishtown is charming under any light!

I look forward to exploring the area as spring brings more foliage. In the meantime, look for twilight on Van’s Beach to show up soon in the complete landscape gallery. This photo is already available there and in the night photography gallery 🙂

Traverse City Sunset Serendipity

Traverse City Sunset Serendipity

After keeping an eye on the weather for a few days, I had decided that last night’s sunset would be worth making a photo-trip for. I had planned on visiting Leland. As the day progressed, the skies clouded over in an unremarkable way – which is to say: in a way that doesn’t catch sunset light very well. And then one of my go-to sunset prediction sites indicated that the sunset would be mediocre at best. I decided to stay home.

But I had spent all afternoon pining for the fjords keeping an eye on the light, so whether they’d be good or not, I was primed to make some images. A little after 7PM I told my husband I’d be heading up the Old Mission Peninsula for a sunset after all. As I began the journey north, the sky was just not very inviting. The best light in the west had passed, but the eastern sky held some promise. After some aimless meandering, I charted a course for the Greilickville Harbor Park.

It ended up being the perfect place. The nearby marina shielded the bay from the afternoon’s breezes, largely preserving the cloud reflections. Using a 10-stop ND filter, I was able to shoot fairly long exposures, further smoothing the water’s surface. The tough part was finding interesting compositions, but I ended up with a few photos that I’ll keep, including this one that straddles the Elmwood Marina (left) and the mouth of a small creek (right).

11mm iso 100 f/5 20-sec
Photo: Rocky breakwalls jut into the smooth waters of West Traverse Bay at sunset
Rocky breakwalls jut into the smooth waters of West Traverse Bay at sunset
I’d like a print!

I’m happy I took the camera on a little adventure. Though my original expectations of the day were tempered, I captured some great reflections of a sky that had more texture than I had anticipated. I’ll be adding more images from the outing to Facebook and Instagram, so I encourage you to check there so you don’t miss them! And of course, there are lots more colorful landscapes in the sunrises and sunsets gallery.

Do I Have to Crop?

Do I Have to Crop?

This is a question we receive with most photo orders, and the answer is: maybe.

Almost all the landscape images offered in our galleries are in the 2×3 aspect ratio, which means that one side is 1-1/2 times bigger than the other side. (Three is 1-1/2 times bigger than two.) So if you have a frame or a mat with an opening in any multiples of 2×3 – or if you buy a metal or canvas with that ratio – you won’t need to crop. Examples include:

4×6, 8×12, 12×18, 16×24, 20×30, 24×36, and 30×45.

If your frame or mat opening is any other ratio, you’ll need to crop. So 8x10s, 11x14s, 16x20s will all lose a little around the edges. Exactly how much? This much:


How will this look in the final print? It depends on the photo. We examine each one and choose the best crop before sending it off to print. If it just won’t look good at a certain crop, we’ll let you know first. Here’s a real-world example to give you an idea of what to expect:

Original photo, 2×3 aspect ratio (includes 4×6, 8×12, 12×18, 16×24, 20×30, 24×36, 30×45

2x3originalI’d like a print!

Cropped to a 4×5 aspect ratio (includes 8×10, 16×20, 24×30)


Cropped to an 11×14 aspect ratio


Cropped to a 3×4 aspect ratio (includes 12×16, 18×24, 30×40)


If you’re ever unsure if a photo will look okay cropped, just ask! We’re happy to provide an opinion and/or a preview.

Sunday Funday: The Dog Edition

Sunday Funday: The Dog Edition

On November 9, 2013, Petey wiggled his way into our home. We had gone to the animal shelter looking for a smallish (~35-lbs) dog – preferably female – to take adventuring. At almost 50 pounds and male, Petey was not what we thought we were looking for. However, it was abundantly clear that he was our dog.

Petey’s first night home.

Petey now weighs in just under 65 pounds, split evenly between muscles and his big head. He’s a sensitive soul who loves meeting people only slightly less than playing with other dogs. We have logged countless miles together; he really is our constant adventurer. It’s a rare photographic outing that Petey isn’t by my side – or being admonished not to mar the smooth snow or sand 😉

Besides northern Michigan landscapes, he’s one of my favorite subjects. He will happily pose for treats, and he will even more happily frolic about, absolutely carefree. Barreling with closed eyes through the woods not withstanding, I could learn a lesson or two from this dog: Always say “yes” to a good adventure, run while you can, smile often and play more.

Running through the woods today.

Near the Traverse City area and want photos with your pet? Or maybe just of your pet? Contact me! I love all dogs, and always have a pocket full of treats 🙂

Sleepless for the Sunrise

Sleepless for the Sunrise

With no blanket of clouds to keep it tucked in, heat flees the Earth on clear winter nights, and the temperature tumbles. Winds calm, and a skim of ice collects on the still bay. My alarm sounds, and I trek to the beach to witness the day’s cold start. Dawn breaks with a vibrant sunrise, reflected off the perfect mirror of Lake Michigan’s frozen surface. I marvel at the rising beauty, grateful for the clothes that keep me warm and dry as I wade through shallow waters, framing images with my camera. Is it worth the sleep deficit to be alone with this clear water at sunup? You bet it is.

11mm iso 100 f/5.6 1/80-sec
photo: A vibrant sunrise plays on the horizon over the still waters of an icy Lake Michigan bay in Traverse City
A vibrant sunrise plays on the horizon over the still waters of an icy Lake Michigan bay in Traverse CityI’d like a print!

Want to see more? Click through for other sunrises and sunsets, or other winter scenes. Tired of winter? Go ahead and look forward to the springtime landscape. I won’t tell 😉

A Quiet Night at the Frankfort Lighthouse

A Quiet Night at the Frankfort Lighthouse

I think of myself as a serendipitous shooter: I go out to scenes in all kinds of light – the good, the bad, even the ugly – and I take photos. Sometimes I walk away with artwork worth sharing, and sometimes I just walk away with happy memories. I don’t often stalk a scene for the best light, I don’t think of myself as having a favorite thing to photograph, and I don’t find that I’m predictable (even I don’t know when or where I’ll be heading out to shoot until I get the itch). But, lately, if you wanted to catch me out and about, you’d look at northern Michigan’s west coast lighthouses:

You can click any photo for a larger view or to purchase a print.

I’ve visited every one of them from Manistee up to Northport (though I didn’t take the camera out), and I’ve been there from sunrise to sunset, and well into the night.

Last Wednesday, I checked the weather and saw something I hadn’t seen in what felt like eons: the possibility for clear night skies. I packed my gear, my cold weather clothes, and food and water, and headed for the coast. I missed the best light in an incredible sunset, but caught the afterglow and the first light of the moon on the lakeshore just south of Empire. While the skies were still cloudy, I headed south into Frankfort to see how the ice was shaping up along the beach. By this time, the winds had died down almost entirely. The water inside the breakwall was very still, the forming ice chattered, and tiny waves sloshed against the icebergs beached on the sand.

40mm iso 500 f/13 30-sec
Photo: A black and white capture of a quiet winter night at northern Michigan's Frankfort Lighthouse
A black and white capture of a quiet winter night at the Frankfort Lighthouse
I’d like a print!

I shot a few variations of the scenery in Frankfort, but this mid-range capture is my favorite. I opted for a black and white conversion on this for the added drama. It was a quiet, stark scene, and I feel like the lack of color tells a desolate winter story well.

I left Frankfort, heading back north up the coast, and stopped at a few places along the way as the skies cleared and the northern lights made an appearance. There’s a starry image of Point Betsie (<–linked here) in the gallery above, and there will be more sunsets and night skies from this trip coming soon! In the meantime, feel free to peruse the winter landscapes and night sky galleries in case you missed something cool 😉

Manistee Morning Light

Manistee Morning Light

As a night owl, I don’t see very many sunrises, even in the winter. I especially don’t see them 65 miles from home. However, this past weekend brought frigid temperatures, lots of wind, and the promise of partly cloudy skies on Sunday morning, so I gave up sleep in favor of some photo opportunities. It’s a long drive to Manistee from Traverse City when the sun’s not up. Because it was so cold, I decided to pack my layers in the car, and finish dressing on my arrival. I barely had time to toss on my snow pants before heading out, and I was still slipping on my gloves when the first light touched the top of the lighthouse.

31mm iso 100 f/7.1 1/10-sec
Photo: pink and purple sunrise over the pier and frozen Manistee Lighthouse
Winter Sunrise at the Manistee Lighthouse
I’d like a print!

There were eight glorious, rosy minutes from that moment until the sun climbed into the low clouds. But even as the incredible pink sunrise faded, the light wasn’t boring, so I wasn’t bored.
I stayed out on that ice-coated pier for the next hour-and-a-half, capturing the various frozen formations along the pier and on the lighthouse, before dragging myself back to the car. I didn’t see another person the whole time I was out, but the more impressive thing is that I managed to keep my fingers from getting cold! (Toe warmers stuck to the inside of ski mittens.)

11mm iso 100 f/7.1 1/125-sec
Photo: Dark skies split dramatically over the ice-covered pier at the Manistee Lighthouse
Dark skies split dramatically over the ice-covered pier at the Manistee Lighthouse
I’d like a print!

Check out the winter landscapes gallery for more frozen fun, or the sunrises and sunsets gallery for more colorful scenes.

Snow-Hiking at the Grass River Natural Area

Snow-Hiking at the Grass River Natural Area

Photo: Snowy footbridge over creek - Grass River Natural Area
Thick snow covers a footbridge over a creek at the Grass River Natural Area

I’d like a print!

Three photos: 11mm iso 100 f/22 .8-s, 3.0-s, 1/4-s

I met up with some lovely ladies yesterday afternoon for a pre-class trek around the Grass River Natural Area. I’m sure if you snowshoe, this would be a great place to use them, but I find them to be mostly a hindrance to my mobility. Generally I do what I did yesterday, which is just hike in my winter boots and snow pants.

Warmer temperatures recently have melted much of the snow off the trees, but the Grass River wetlands seem to be holding onto the fluff. The sun shone earlier in the day, and I was initially hopeful for some beautiful winter bluebird skies, but I should’ve known better. By the time we arrived near the area in Bellaire, lake effect snow was flying again. So the skies were a little drab for grand landscapes, but that didn’t stop me from finding a few vignettes I really liked, including this one. I shot this scene in a way that’s out of character for me, mainly because I wanted some fodder for the Lightroom workshop I was teaching later that day. I don’t normally do traditional HDRs, but I think Lightroom has improved its engine, allowing you get decent results in one program.

Want more winter scenes? Check out the Winter Landscape Gallery.

Ice Maw and Mackinac at Moonrise

Ice Maw and Mackinac at Moonrise

Photo: ice formations and Mackinac Bridge + reflections during moonrise
The moon rises over the Mackinac Bridge and the menacing maw of a small Lake Michigan ice cave

I’d like a print!

11mm, iso 100, f/2.8, 10-sec

I am so excited about this image. After gallivanting around the northern reaches of Michigan’s lower peninsula, we set our sights on the Mackinac Bridge – specifically McGulpin Rock – to watch the sunset. Sun bathed the landscape for most of the day, but clouds had since shrouded the sky – dashing my hopes for great light. What I hadn’t counted on, though, was the the Straits of Mackinac were nearly without a ripple. As night deepened, the bridge’s reflection became clearer, and my continued shoreline exploration led me to this icy maw adjacent to the McGulpin Rock. Despite the moonlight filtering through the clouds, there wasn’t enough contrast to see the ice in a photo the way I could with my eyes. So I broke out my trusty speedlight, which I diffused and used on a low setting. I’m sure I arrived back at the car with a goofy grin. How could I not? I had just witnessed a Pure Michigan Magic Moment. I’m still giddy. 🙂

Check out these galleries for more night scenes and winter landscapes.