One of my favorite Midwest spots is Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Michigan upper peninsula.
The park offers 90 miles of trails, beautiful lakes, and numerous waterfalls. It also offers an immense amount of biting insects (black flies, mosquitoes, gnats, and other major nuisances).
The best way to avoid these annoying pests (they are worst in June and July), is to go offseason. Fall and Winter are my favorite times. In the Winter the park offers both downhill and cross-country ski trails.
The park has three main sections: Lake of the Clouds (plus the shoreline), the interior, and the river (waterfall) section. This post covers an interior trail that follows the Little Carp River.
All of these images are from mid-October. They represent the peak of the Autumn season.
People flock to the river section and Lake of the Clouds. There is much more to see if you get off the beaten path. The trail to Mirror Lake is well traveled, but we had this trail to ourselves.
Feature Image Details
The feature image is a set of two images taken from the same location.
The first was for 30 seconds. I took a second exposure for the land that was about a half-second. Wind is the problem to overcome. It was pretty calm, but 30 seconds is simply asking too much. The trees will blur.
I used a Canon 16-35MM F4 L Lens at a focal length of 28 MM. To include more of the trees on the land, I tilted the camera up for the second shot. The result looks more like a 5-4 crop than the normal 3-2 ration of a typical 35mm camera.
To increase the exposure length, I used a B+W polarizer plus a Neutral Density Filter. My B+W ND filters are of strength 3.0 (10 stops), 1.8 (6 stops), and 0.6 (2 stops).
The Canon 16-35 mm lens can stack two filters without vignetting, but the 24-105 mm lens can’t.
The image is more about vision than anything else. I had to get wet to get the image, by crossing the river. It’s not that deep but it is cold in mid-October.
First, one had to see the potential. This is what it looked like on the near side.
The above is a nice image but I thought I could do better. I spotted those bubbles on the opposite side and wondered, “What if?” The only way to find out is to get wet.
This is what the shot looks like from the opposite bank at 1/2 second.
That shot would go in the ash can, I use it only to show what the naked eye roughly sees.
The light in that image is not as good as the feature image, but I could detect the leaves were spinning very slowly in a circular pattern. The 30-second exposure explains most of the rest.
As for the color difference, the sunlight was hitting the tops of the trees in the feature image and they reflected on the water. Here is a 30-second exposure without the sun.
- The key to reflection images such as these is for the water to be in the shade. The reflected trees are in the sun. The exposures were long enough to purposely blur the water.
- You will need a tripod for shots like these. Play around with various exposures and time durations. The faster the moving water, the less time you need to get smooth water.
- Get low to the water!
- Sometimes you cannot see any reflections unless you get low. Find a composition you like, then setup the tripod in that position.
- Understand that it most often takes 30 seconds or more to get a shot like this. Most cameras only go up to 30 seconds. If you need more time, then you need a cable release set on bulb, counting or using a stopwatch to count the seconds.
- The hardest part of this image is recognizing the possibility and being willing to get wet to try out the idea.
Along the way to Greenstone Falls, you pass Overlooked Falls. Here are a couple of images.
Those interested in my equipment and recommendations can find it here: Mish’s Equipment List.
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Porcupine Mountains Images
- Porcupine Mountains State Park: Lake of the Clouds
- Porcupine Mountains State Park: Presque Isle River, Manabezho Falls
- Porcupine Mountains State Park: Presque Isle River, Manido Falls
- Porcupine Mountains State Park: Presque Isle River, Nawadaha Falls
- Porcupine Mountains State Park: Presque Isle River Reflections
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Mike “Mish” Shedlock
2 thoughts on “Porcupine Mountains State Park: Greenstone Falls, Overlooked Falls, Little Carp River”
Mish, I think the swirly pictures are two of your best. Why? They exhibit one of the prime reasons for photography: To show truth that our eyes do not see. And, they are spiff pictures even without that feature!
It’s an easy hike to that spot, but few take it. Most who do, grab a shot from the near bank, then leave. It’s not easy to visualize how that would look at 30 seconds, especially from the near bank where there were few leaves or foam. I watched that for a bit, saw the pattern, then got wet up to about my knees crossing the stream. I stood in the water for a half hour or so taking images.