My favorite 30 Images from my recent fall UP trip in Michigan

UP fall 2018 Images
Click the link above to see the 30 images big if on a computer.

New prints form this trip also available! Click the print store link above. Thanks for looking and thanks for sharing. I’m hoping to blog about some individual images and stories from my trip.

Bryan in the Trap Hills area of the Ottawa National Forest (near Bruce Crossing, MI) on a rainy day close to peak color.

2019 Wall Calendar of Northern Michigan Landscape Photography

Hey! I’m making a 2019 photography calendar! Twelve photos of northern Michigan photographed over the last several years.

I’m taking pre-orders now. $15.00 (plus shipping $3.95) for pre-orders, $20.00 (plus shipping $3.95) after October 15. The plan is to start shipping the third week of November, plenty of time for holiday gift giving or to plan your 2019.

BOUNUS! If you are one of the first 15 pre-orders you will also receive an 8×12 signed print of one of my favorite photos, from one of my favorite campgrounds in the UP (cover of the calendar). The Hurricane River Campground in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The most amazing sunset I’ve ever witnessed. If you have any question shoot me an email. -Bryan

11 tips to help improve your photography

An old weather beaten tree partially burred in the sand along Lake Superior in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Get close, and fill the frame. Lead your viewer

1. Get close. “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough,” a quote attributed to famous war photographer Robert Capa. Getting close helps you to isolate your subject, or main subject, and shows the viewer exactly what you want them to see. If you can’t physically move closer for whatever reason, but try to, then grab that telephoto zoom lens you might have. Another bonus is this also helps your camera meter with the subject you are going for by isolating that subject. (Trust  me)

Not this. A bit scattered. (iPhone photo)

2. Fill the frame. Like getting close, make sure your subject is very dominant in the frame. Like real close on faces, don’t worry about cutting the top of someone’s head off sometimes. I don’t give this photo tip or getting close because you should always do it, as space for the subject to “breath” can convey a nice mood. But most beginners error the other way and have too much going on in the photo and the main subject gets lost. Getting close and filling the frame can help.

But more like this. Not great but much better. (iPhone photo)

3. Avoid Clutter, especially edge clutter. This goes along with the first tip. If there is too much going on in a photograph (and not a reason for it to be) it creates clutter. This can make it hard for the viewer to focus on the main subject. Or the subject even gets lost. This leads to #3.

This is one of those photos you might take I call a “record shot” just so you have it. Can’t get close, not long enough lens, very cluttered.
Try for a shot more like this. Much cleaner background, closer (with lens, and cropping) and not all the clutter. Not perfect but much better.

4. Keep your backgrounds simple. Just like clutter around your subject or at the edges of the photo, cluttered backgrounds can be quite distracting. I realize sometimes its unavoidable. But remember to also look past your subject and into the background so see what could be distracting. Branches or poles sticking out of a person’s head or neck (this is common), a washed out bright area, or maybe some unwanted people. Most the time the background is either distracting or for the most part unnoticed. Work toward the latter.

Use the rule of thirds in your composition. The girl, main subject, is in one of the thirds of the frame.

5. Use the rule of thirds in your compositions. Sure this rule can be overused, I’m guilty of that sometimes. However it’s something most beginners don’t do in my experience. So divide the frame horizontally and vertically into thirds and put your subject, or something important, where the lines intersect. By moving things away from always being centered you can sometimes give photos more drama and they can be visually more interesting.

The sun shining through clouds creating dramatic light over Lake Michigan. You’ve seen this light, make a photo.

6. Light, watch for good light, wait for good light. With sunlight the best light of the day starts a couple hours before sunset and in the morning up to a couple hours after sunrise. High noon tends to be the worst light to shoot in (but sometimes we don’t have a choice). The time of the year also effects these hours. In later fall, winter and early spring the sun stays much lower to the horizon. At least in more northern areas like where I live in Michigan. Also, don’t be afraid to shoot on overcast days. The same subject will look quite a bit different in that flat, even light. Overcast days are also better for waterfall photography early and late in the day in my opinion.

Don’t be afraid to shoot into light.

7. Shoot into the light. When I was young I remember being told to “always take photos with the sun to your back.” Maybe you did as well. I’m here to tell you don’t be afraid to shoot into the light. The sun, car lights, other artificial lights, can give your images more drama shooting into the light. Playing with highlights and shadows can create all kinds of cool looks with a subject.

This indoor action photo was shot at ISO 10,000.

8. Don’t be afraid to raise your ISO. Now I realize this isn’t always true based on the camera you have and how old it is. And if it’s a full frame camera (better high ISO, less digital noise). IMO there really is only one reason to raise ISO, to get a faster shutter speed for freezing motion. Possibly your motion trying to hand hold a camera without a tripod. But more for shooting subjects like sports. If you have blurry and/or dark sports photos in low light (not bright sun) then try raising the ISO.

My daughter jumping into the cold waters of Lake Superior.

9. Shoot more candid photos then posed photos. See my last blog post on this topic.

10. Always have your camera close and ready. Most of us have a nice camera on our phones these days. Remember, If you say to yourself, “I should be taking a picture of this”, you are right! And not just selfies. LOL!

11. Ok you are going to hate this one. READ YOUR CAMERA MANUAL! If you are just starting out down this photography rabbit hole you probably don’t have a grasp of all things exposure, depth of field, and the like just quite yet. But as you learn it’s important to know how to make all these changes on the camera you have. Even if you don’t understand them yet. Do you know how to change your ISO? Do you know how to change the autofocus mode? What does this button do? J You will also learn what you can set and mostly not worry about anymore or things you may never even use on your camera.

A few more tips for shooting with camera phones.

  • Clean the lens. Really, look at it right now. I bet you have fingerprints on the lens.
  • Hold the phone steady like a camera instead of one handed like a phone.
  • Zoom with your feet if you can. As good as the camera phones are the digital zooms are awful.
  • Try Snapseed to edit photos. (My favorite photo app)
  • On an iPhone, tap and hold the screen for an autofocus point and to adjust the exposure.

These tips are geared for those just starting out and not wanting a bunch of technical info yet. If you use a few of these tips I bet your photos will be better. They won’t make things perfect as there is much more going on and photos can still not turn out the way you want. But, this is a start. As always if you have any questions hit me up.

Thanks for being here!   -Bryan

What is my favorite subject to photograph?


When I used to teach a beginning photography class at Schoolcraft Community College I would always get asked, “what do you like to take pictures of?”

My first gut reaction was usually that I wasn’t sure. But my actual answer was along the lines of, “things I have never photographed before.”

That was one of the reasons I liked being a newspaper photographer. And when I started my career, at The Northville Record and Novi News, I was the only photographer so I had to shoot all the photo assignments. Sure some of those assignments were quite dull, like city council meetings, but I enjoyed most of my assignments.

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN – Matt Kenseth (17), Jeff Gordon (24) and other drivers race past the MAIN grandstand during the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR race August 21, 2011 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. (photo by Bryan Mitchell)

In addition, I have always liked and played sports so naturally I gravitated to photographing many different sports for the papers. Early in my photo journey I would have said sports where my favorite subjects to photograph. (And I still love high school football photo assignments.) I enjoyed working to get nice action photos, but I also really liked the emotion of sports both on and off the field or court. I challenged myself to show what it “feels” like to play a sport. Small fraction of seconds of these young athletes giving their all, winning and losing.

Wyandotte Roosevelt High School running back D’Aries Davis (25) stiff arms Detroit King’s Omari McCauley during a prep football division 2, regional finals playoff game Friday night November 15, 2013 at Wyandotte Roosevelt High School. (photo by Bryan Mitchell)

I often had the chance to photograph things I had never seen or been involved in before. Big news stories, small slices of life, house fires, flying in a bi-plane, documenting a women’s prison or a day at the state police academy, on and on. Trying to show the readers what is was like to be in these places. Over 30 years I have photographed the same or similar things many times, yet the first time was always my favorite.

A military honor guard carries the casket containing civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks out of Greater Grace Temple as Jessie Jackson, top center, looks on after her funeral service on Wednesday morning November 2, 2005 in Detroit, Michigan. The funeral lasted more the seven hours with more then 20 speakers. In 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, an incident which helped sparked the civil rights movement. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images)
Amid chaos Girl Talk, center, performs at the Movement ’08 Electronic Music Festival Sunday night May 25, 2008 at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. Before the show even started fans stormed onto the stage and stayed through the whole set which got crazier as it went on with fans crushing to get closer. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell/Special to the Detroit News)

I remember photographing the electronic music festival in Detroit for the first time. (Know as D.E.M.F back then, Movement Detroit now) It was amazing! The energy of the crowd and artists, the amazing access to them both, access to the stages and photos everywhere. When I look back at those photos from that first year they are not as good as the past few years but that first year was still my favorite.

Many photographers thrive on shooting things for which they already have a love or an interest in. No difference for me and that was (still is somewhat) mountain biking. I raced mountain bikes for almost 10 years and of course I carried the camera along the way. I remember someone, I forget who it was, giving me this great compliment, “Bryan is the best mountain bike photographer you have never heard of.”

This was pre-internet the way we live with it today and no social media documenting our lives. I never promoted myself as a mountain bike photographer. That was a mistake for sure, but that’s another story. I had a staff newspaper photographer job and when my shift was over, despite enjoying shooting people mountain biking, I lived for riding and racing mountain bikes myself.

I stopped racing and I stopped shooting bike photos for a while. I never quit riding though and the last few years I’ve been shooting more mountain bike photos again. Especially of my son who rides and is quite good.

What I’ve really focused more of my photographic heart on lately is outdoor and landscape photography. Not just the big, popular scenes, although I do those, but just what I find interesting as I travel around northern Michigan. I have always been into the outdoors and camping and in the last several years I made it more a priority. Every October for the last 5 years I have been going camping in the UP of Michigan. Being in the woods and getting away are my main focus with photography being second. This has let me work on a more relaxing type of photography and I’m quite proud of what images have come out of these trips.

I still love mountain biking but being alone in the north woods of Michigan’s UP and along the Shores of Lake Superior, I don’t quite know how to describe it. Just feels right. I love photographing the UP and there is always something new. Even places I’ve been to a bunch of times.

I hope to continue making more of these images. That’s where those that follow me can come in. I’m shooting less and less newspaper assignments these days (sign of the times I suppose) which frees me up to be in nature more (still a stay at home dad as well) however making an income as a photographer has decreased.

So if you know of anyone who might find my nature photography inspiring enough to purchase a print that would help me to keep moving forward. Please send them my way. Or if you just want to follow along and let me know if an image I make moves you, or maybe you want to know more about an image you see, lease ask. That interaction would be great as well! I recently turned 51 years old and I’m looking forward to where my photography leads me now.

If you sign up for may mailing list (in the sidebar) before April 30th there will be a 40% off code for prints in the print store.

More to come.

-Bryan

 

Sunset family photo in sea cave along Lake Superior

Sometimes nice photos just happen

sunset family photo in a sea cave
Our sunset family photo in a sea cave along the shores of Lake Superior near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

I don’t often pre-plan photos, even when setting out on a hike to a specific destination. Probably because of my start and continuation as a newspaper photographer. In that realm my job was to make an interesting of what I see while there and try to tell a story in that photo. (More on that in another blog post). Take the photo above as an example. I received a nice compliment from another photographer on how it was a well thought out and executed photo. The thing is, I never planned or thought about this photo, it just happened.

I have been to this semi-secret location before, alone and specifically for photography. I fell in love with the spot and wanted to take my family the next time we were camping in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. When I’m camping or spending time with my family, shooting photographs is never my priority. I’ve tried making both family and photography a priority at the same time and it just doesn’t work. For me anyway, I need to be alone to create, to go where the light, location or urge takes me. That doesn’t often fit into a family schedule plus my kids can get bored easy waiting around for a photo to come together.

We hiked out to the spot, luckily Lake Superior was fairly calm and the weather was warm, so we swam out around a cliff and into the caves. Just to hang out as a family and enjoy the day in the late afternoon. We all played in the water, explored, had a snack, laid on the warm rock and shot some photos. The only time I have ever been in the caves was October and at that time of the year the sun sets further in the west relative to the location. This was late August and I noticed the sun might just set where I could see it through one of the cave openings like I had seen in other photos. I was as far back in the cave as I could get helping my daughter with a photo composition. My camera was already on a tripod making images from inside the cave when I realized there would be a nice sunset shining through the left opening.  As the sun moved lower in the sky I photographed my kids walking around and then asked everyone to sit in that spot before the moment was gone. It was then I knew I had our best family photo to date.

I just asked my daughter to go sit with them, double checked the exposure, set the self-timer and ran to sit down with them. (I didn’t have my remote trigger) I tan back to the camera to make a 2nd photo and that was that. The kids were over sitting there for a photo and off doing whatever.

Sometimes in photography it’s just a matter of being ready, (as in knowing your camera controls well) so when the right location, light, composition and a bit of luck come together you can make a nice photo.

BTW, I exposed mostly for the sunlight hitting the rocks just inside the cave. Doing this full well knowing the sky would be somewhat overexposed and more of the inside of the cave underexposed. I knew I would “burn” down the highlights and “dodge” the shadows to bring the scene closer to what my eyes could actually see. I will discuss this dynamic range more in the future.

Till then, that’s for looking and reading. There are a few more photos below from our cave adventure.

Photo tip: Learn all the controls on your specific camera. Get the manual out (i know, I know) and know how to change and adjust everything. Even if you don’t yet know why you would adjust something. Then as you learn you will know where on your camera to make the changes.

The photo below is available as a print HERE – Sea Cave Sunset.