Categories: "Michigan" or "Allegan State Game Area" or "Allegan Forest" or "Jordan River Valley"
Yesterday I visited a favorite pond in the Allegan Forest. For years I knew the pond as a seasonal marsh which went dry every summer, but over the past decade or so it has steadily filled up with water and no longer goes dry. It is host to an enormous number of dragonflies and also frogs, toads, turtles and more. Periodically, a huge number of these tiny toads flood the grassy savannah near the pond:
This is an Eastern American Toad, Anaxyrus americanus. It was quite small, roughly comparable to a US one cent piece in size. Here is a very crude comparison shot:
The field was teeming with these little toads yesterday, something that happens now and then in late spring or early summer. There were literally thousands of these tiny creatures making their way through the fields and into the adjacent woods.
Visiting the Allegan Forest a few days ago, I stumbled into a section that apparently was subject to a prescribed burn sometime in the past few weeks. (I'm guess it was a controlled burn since several were conduncted in the spring and it is confined to a precrise area.)
Some interesting scenes of the trees, especially along the edge between the burned woods and the green woods not subject to the fire. Click on the images for larger views:
This is a photo of a field of winter wheat at the edge of forest that was logged 15-20 years ago and which now has been overtaken by aspen trees.(Click on the image for a larger file.)
A little explanation... I routinely photograph in the Allegan State Game Area, a 50,000 acre (202 square kilometer) area of state land made up of forests, wetlands, pine barrens and oak savannas. The forest is actively logged and the land is used for various recreational purposes - hunting, horseback riding, snowmobiling, etc.
A few years ago the state plowed up some of the open fields and planted winter wheat - I really don't know why. Maybe it attracts game for the hunters. So - this is a photo of a field of winter wheat at the edge of forest that was logged 15-20 years ago and which now has been overtaken by aspen trees.
When I first started visiting the forest twelve years ago these trees were only about 8 feet tall and were home to many wonderful bird species. I saw more indigo buntings in those aspen in a few hours one afternoon than I have seen in all the other hours of my life combined.
The winter wheat is remarably green this time of year, and a few days of recent rain has made it more green.
And those aspen can be devilish if you wander into them without a compass or GPS - a disorienting maze and barrier of strong small trees.
Cabin fever is getting to me... I grabbed my film bag and paid the Allegan Forest a visit. I always do this around this time of year, and I always come back disappointed. The twisty scrappy forest never really shines in the late winter....
So here's my best photo (so far) of the trip - a pine cone, in the road. I was stomping around in the 15 degree Fahrenheit weather chasing ephemeral light that was dancing on the edges of the tree branches... This photo was almost an afterthought, but seeing as how I never actually captured any of that dancing light, it's a good thing I looked down at this pinecone on the snowy road. Here's a snapshot of the road itself - it was nicely plowed, easy driving and walking.
The seasonal roads are impassable for most vehicles still, though they get a lot of snowmobile traffic and those with really solid 4x4's may venture down them. Both images were made on Arista Edu Ultra 200 film, using a Pentax Mz-S, FA 28-105 f4-5.6 zoom. Film developed in Rodinal 1:50.
February is coming to a close and with it the 2014/15 snowflake photography season starts to wind down. Ironically I've had few opportunities to photograph snowflakes in the past few weeks not because winter is fading and things are warming up, but rather because it is so cold that Lake Michigan has almost completely frozen over. As the ice cover grows on the lake there is less lake effect snow.
Here's a handful of snowflake photos, most from today but with two from last week. All were exceedingly small and were photographed using a 50mm lens reverse mounted on over 350mm of extension - one very gangly set up! Click on the images for larger files.
Here's an image that still speaks to me - the full moon setting over the South Haven, Michigan, lighthouse:
I made this image back in 2002 and of course on film. Got up early to get to the beach on time, and set up the camera and tripod on an ice dune along the shore, south of the lighthouse. It was -12F (-24C) - i.e. damn cold! - and a steady breeze blew off the lake. I loaded Kodak E100S (if I recall correctly) into my trusty Pentax Pz-1p and shot 3 rolls of film before the cold overwhelmed me. Back at my car I dropped my keys, and actually had a hard time picking them up and getting my fingers to work them into the door.
Another photographer showed up shortly after I arrived. Like me, he had watched the moon rise/set times on an online almanac and picked a time close to dawn when the conditions would be right for this kind of shot. (You need to shoot the moon in twilight if you want to balance the lighting between the moon, and the earth here below.) He had driven up from Indiana, considerably farther than my short trip. I don't remember his name, but we grabbed some hot coffee and breakfast at a nearby fast food joint.
The ultimate irony: the extreme temperatures were just too much for the Sigma EX 70-200 f2.8 lens I was using. When the lens chilled down the aperture opened up and would not close. In fairness to Sigma the temperatures were far below the stated operating range for the lens. So, when I picked up my film from the lab I was horrified to see that all of the frames were just blank - all but the first 3. So, here is one of three...
Lighthouses are not a subject matter that I seek out much these days, but I enjoyed photographing them in the past. I came back to this image as part of a project to rebuild my archive galleries on this website -which you can find here: