2020 Northern Lights Calendar – January Photo.

The January photo was photographed over Lake Michigamme on August 31, 2017 about 5:30AM. More specifically the boat launch at Van Riper State Park, so not the most glamorous location. Michigamme and the park are located in the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan, about 40 minutes west of Marquette.

Photo for January in 2020 calendar.

I was on a UP mountain bike trip with my son, 13 at the time, and we were camping at the state park in the rustic campground. So this was not a photography trip yet I always try to make some images if I hear the Aurora forecast is promising and the skies are clear. I don’t remember exactly, but I believe it was cloudy earlier in the night so I didn’t even look to see if anything was visible.

Our campsite at Van Riper State Park

We crawled into the tent on a very chilly night thinking maybe later the skies would clear. I forgot to set my alarm so good thing I woke up at about 4:30 in the morning. I knew my son wouldn’t want to get up to go check the skies to see if the aurora was visible, not his thing. So I quietly got up, grabbed the camera and tripod and walked down to the boat launch, which is only a few hundred years from our campsite. The plan wasn’t to stay out all night anyway as I didn’t want to leave him alone for a long time.

Test photo over the trees from outside the tent.

The skies cleared and I could see the distinctive glow to the north, northwest. I had scouted the boat launch area the evening before while still light out and I had a good idea where I wanted to shoot from to keep the dock out of the image and include some of the shoreline. I liked that some lights from a cabin or house where on off in the distance. Just across the lake is highway 41 but at this time of the morning there was very little traffic if any so I didn’t have to deal with car lights in the trees.

Test photo at the boat launch.

I only stayed out for an hour or so as light pillars were coming and going and I hoped they would get real strong before dawn after which the lights would be too hard to see. So I was quite happy with the images I made, I wasn’t out all night and was able to get some sleep for mountain bike riding the next day.

BTW, exposure data: ISO 3200, 8 seconds at F/2.8. Using a Nikon D600, Nikon 17-35mm lens at 17mm. My focus point on this lens is over the right side of the infinity symbol ∞ < on the lens at 17mm. Its closer to the center of the symbol if I shoot at 35mm.

If you want to see the scientific data on that day go to this link – Space Weather Live

There was a G1 geomagnetic storm with Kp numbers at 5+ but that mostly happened after dawn and sunrise so I would not have seen it. So my guess is this image was during the start of a good Aurora and maybe Kp 4.

The Kp Index numbers are not the only info to look at on aurora forecast, however its a good place to start. You can find more info on Kp numbers here – Kp Numbers Info

Here is a link to the Space Weather Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

What are the northern lights?

People ask is this what lights look like with the naked eye? The short answer is no. It has to do with how human eyes see at night, basically in black and white and not very well

Here is a good write up about why this is – What our eyes see VS what camera sees

More (not exactly) what I see with my eyes.

Some say they can see the colors and maybe so, but in my experience its a milky, white color. Although I have seen a faint glow of green with my eyes. And even though mostly white I have definitely seen light pillars shot up into the sky. But, just because the human eyes are bad a night vision doesn’t mean the color isn’t there. I would also love to be in Greenland or Norway close or above the arctic circle some day as I understand that far north you can see more colors, especially with strong geomagnetic activity.

Have you seen the northern lights?

Thanks for stopping by. – Bryan

Order your calendar HERE!

Mountain bike riding with my son

Fall Color Photo Tour 2019 – My favorite 30 images

In case you missed it I posted my 30 favorite images from this years fall color, camping, photography trip to the upper peninsula of Michigan.

Fall on the Two Hearted River

Click here to see the images!

My daughter went with me the first week and then I drove back up for a second week. It was awesome getting to experience the UP during fall color season with my daughter. Hiking, camping, exploring!

Hiking Porcupine Mountains with my daughter.

Check out these to video shorts from this years adventure.

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