Event Recap: Great Lakes Gatherings
We love workshops. We love getting out to various places in the country and around the world, play with cameras and commune with our fellow photographic enthusiasts, clients and friends.
They do however take an immense amount of planning, can sometimes be costly and due to their complexity and locations, tend to be events that bleed into several weekdays that not everyone can schedule around.
Within the Gatherings format, we decided to take a more relaxed approach… The basic setup was: here’s where we’ll be this weekend, we’ll have some toys with us to play with, find your own lodging, show up for as much or as little as you like to, participate in as much or as little as you like to.
For the Great Lakes – Sleeping Bear Dunes Gathering’s trip, we were spread out across a few hotels across a few small towns and had a few vehicles to contend with as well as considerably hotter than usual temperatures, but that didn’t prove to be a problem for us to meet up for meals and photography.
Easy enough to find images on Big Browser to find the locations that have been shot and published previously, but just as important for a scouting mission is to get a good idea logistically of what kind of efforts it would take to get out to some of the locations, including parking & trail time, so I arrived a day and a half early to the area and spent time with a family friend who showed me around the area as my location scout, and as a photographer himself, had a very good understanding of what sort of imagery we’d be looking for. (thank you, Charles)
Trail ratings can say ‘moderate’ or ‘strenuous’ without really telling you what you’re up against (and not counting on you carrying 30lbs of camera gear), and I think that most would agree with me, that having a strenuous hike to your sunset location is fine as long as it’s an easy walk back out when the light has fallen and you need to carefully get back in your car in the dark. (the first shot in this blog was from a ‘strenuous’ .7 mile hike that was strenuous in both directions, felt like uphill both ways)
Friday afternoon was the official start of the gathering and we met up at Cherry Public House where we unsurprisingly had some amazing cherries, burgers, libations as well as some opening conversations. The group was perfect in size, just four (somewhat) regional participants, Francis Westfield from Phase One who traveled in from New Jersey via Los Angeles and myself. The weather was threatening at times, which of course is perfect for shooting, and when we couldn’t shoot, we sat around and talked. We had four IQ4-150’s between the five of us, 3 color units and an achromatic.
The dunes are on the west side of Michigan, so the shots were all about the sunset, leaving us time to sleep in a bit and have breakfast in the morning rather than get up at 4, drive in the dark, hike in the dark and wait for sunrise, a somewhat welcome notion given the grind that some workshops can turn into when there’s a fever pace to catch every possible lighting opportunity.
Not that there weren’t some perfect mid-day opportunities. While scouting I was taken back at the beauty of a farmer’s field just outside of Empire, so after driving back from Frankfort late Saturday morning where we had just had an excellent breakfast at Birch & Maple (I would recommend the Short Rib Benedict), and after turning around in and being kicked out of the First Baptist Church of Empire parking lot, “this ain’t no rest stop, you’re riling up my dogs!!’ we parked on the side of the road and starting setting up to shoot. A vehicle almost immediately pulled up, and for a moment I feared we were going to be asked to leave again, but instead was introduced to Alison Babb whose field we stood beside and she welcomed us to photograph as much as we’d like to.
As it turns out, these were fields of Barley that her company EmpireMalting sells to local brewers.
We then traveled to Bohemian Beach and arrived to a wonderfully tumultuous sky with a narrow band of bright yellow at the horizon which nearly immediately announced itself with a thunder clap from the lighting directly above our heads. I find plenty of moments where being ‘stuck’ somewhere is perfect, and this was no exception.
We waited the rain out for more than a couple hours and decided to get some food and we went to the closest place to the location, The Little Traverse Inn which had a great menu, great beer & bourbon selections. By the time we finished our nice meal, the rain had cleared and we returned to the beach with the hopes of getting a nice sunset shot.
Phase One innovates at a level that is unique to photography, often offering tools and workflow solutions not implemented previously in cameras, ever. This can lead to some gaps in knowledge, even for lifetime shooters. Events like these allow several shooters to huddle around a single camera and say, ‘wait, what was that you did right there?’ or ‘what happens if you do this?’ with the shared knowledge of the group ready to respond.
Frame Averaging was of course the new toy to play with, and with the gentle rolling waves of Lake Michigan before us, the results were awesome. A perfect conclusion to a great trip. There’s always a next time, consider coming out to the next Gathering!