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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Keweenaw Peninsula Emotional Epiphany

My family is originally from Michigan's Keweenaw peninsula in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and I have very strong bonds with the area, making at least one trip annually from Lansing to Rockland, a trip of over 500 miles.  As I child I made this trip both in winter time and in summertime, before the Mackinac bridge was built and before the advent of divided highways.


Miscellaneous photos Houghton and Rockland

The Houghton-Hancock Bridge

My parents migrated from the Upper Peninsula shortly before my birth, looking for a better economic climate and a better place to raise their growing family.  I never really realized what a sacrifice they made, and how much they missed the place of their birth while we were being raised.  The area is still struggling economically, especially the Rockland/Ontonagon area with the closing of the major employer of the area.

Rockland, Michigan as viewed from National Hill.  Much of the town is now obscured because of tree growth.

I felt a need to visit the area and to refresh the emotional bond with the area, especially since my two uncles, an aunt, my brother, and most recently my mother now have their final resting places in Rockland.  I wanted to experience the peace of mind and soul that I believe they are now experiencing.  I wanted to smell the same smells that they experienced (and I experienced) as a child while vacationing in Rockland.  I wanted to re-acquaint myself with the hospitality, sincerity, and fun loving spirit of these people.  

Where else but the U.P can you be serenaded by an accordion player while grabbing a bite to eat at Micky D's in Hancock?

The familiar landscapes that I recall as I child are changing, not because of economic development, but because nature is re-claiming many of the landmarks that I recall as a child.  Old buildings and foundations, witnesses and evidence of the copper boom, are now more difficult to find because of the growth of trees.   Old abandoned buildings are relenting to the ravages of the extreme winters and have now folded in on themselves.  While some landscapes have changed, others have not.  The Lake Superior beach is so unique because the lake becomes indistinguishable from the sky near the horizon.

Lake Superior Beach in Ontonagon

Lake Superior in Ontonagon, looking towards the Porkies

Although I deluded myself into thinking the trip was primarily a photo-op, it became obvious to me that the real reason for the trip was to try to recapture and preserve some of my childhood memories.  Many of the places I photographed do bring back childhood memories, especially the area between Copper Harbor and Eagle Harbor.  I fell in love with this area because of the crystal clear waters and the colorful rock outcroppings.  I also love industrial architecture and had scoped out a lot of areas that I would love to photograph on subsequent trips to the area.  I was hoping that the weather would cooperate with me and provide me with some nice cloud formations for visual interest, but as you can see the skies were clear most of the time I was visiting the Keweenaw peninsula.

The Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

The Crystal Clear waters of Lake Superior, at Eagle Harbor

North of Eagle Harbor

Eagle Harbor

Eagle Harbor 

The Quincy Smelter in Hancock Michigan

Quincy Smelter Site

Quincy Smelter Site

Quincy Smelter Site

Painesdale High School

I've been by the Jeffers High School close to 100 times and I've always been impressed with the architectural beauty of the school.  The High School is located in Painesdale, Michigan,  and is one of the few schools in the upper peninsula to have an indoor swimming pool.  My father graduated from Painesdale High School in 1935.  My father took a train from Baltic, Michigan to Painesdale.  

I can recall of my father  telling stories about "the Jeffers",  a husband and wife who both were teachers at the High School and are the namesakes of the high school.  I've always wanted to tour the inside of the school, and this trip was my opportunity to do so, since school was still in session and the school was open.  The Jeffers were an older couple, in their seventies at the time my father attended high school.  The Jeffers insisted that everyone who attended the high school know how to swim.  A story that my father told me that I found particularly amusing was that the Jeffers would put on swimming exhibitions in the pool during school proms.  The proms were held in the gymnasium, and at some point during the prom, the group was required to go to the pool and watch the Jeffers put on their swimming exhibition.  Towards the end of the exhibition everyone was pretty well soaked because of the humidity and the the fancy hairstyles on the girls drooped also from the humidity.  I HAD to see the this place.

Jeffers High School, the pool, and the gymansium

When I entered the High School, I was greeted by both the Superintendent and the Principal, who were both extremely helpful and extremely proud of this beautiful facility.  Both of them told me of it's history, and directed me to my father's class picture.  Not only did they direct my to my father's class picture, but they also provided me with his school grades as well as the grades for two of his three sisters.

I was shocked at what a good looking man my father was and knew immediately why my mother fell in love with him.   I also found it strange that his name is listed as "Douglas B. Vial".  I knew that he was originally named Douglas Bruce, which was changed to Douglas John,  but I was under the impression that his name was changed as a young child.  I now wonder when his name was changed and under what circumstances.  

Painesdale High School Class of 1935

Aunt Gert

I was immediately impressed with the courtesy and sincerity of the staff and students.  All of the students referred to me as "sir".  As I was taking photos in the crowded hallway a young student came over to me and said "nice camera".  I thanked her, and asked her if she knew how fortunate she was to attend such a wonderful school.  She replied "I know".  It is refreshing to know that someone her age was able to appreciate the hard work and sacrifices that built and maintains that beautiful facility.

Presque Isle Park

Another favorite area is Presque Isle Park, which is west of the Porcupine Mountains.

General Architectural Shots

I also enjoy architecture and the Upper Peninsula provides a lot of opportunities to capture some really beautiful work, both interior and exterior.  I spent quite a bit of time in Calumet and Houghton capturing some really interesting buildings, but just barely scratched the surface.

Houghton County Building

St. Paul the Apostle Church, Calumet

The Calumet Theatre

The Calumet Theatre

Calumet Theatre

St. Ignatius Church, Houghton

Eagle Harbor Lighthouse

St. Mary's Church, Rockland

St. Mary's Church, Rockland

The Crase Home, Rockland



A Rockland wild flower

The Frank and Anna Wiesen residence

Friday, May 14, 2010

The eyes have it

My cat is a Himalayan and has beautiful blue eyes.  She also is not a good model and doesn't like to be photographed, let alone at close range.  Every time she sees me with my camera she gets suspicious and pancakes away from me.  I will keep trying!!

Cat's eyes really fascinate me and I've really wanted to try to photograph them.  It is a challenge to get close enough to capture the color and design of the eye.  Fortunately I have a friend who has a couple of animals which are more co-opeative.

The next couple of photos were taken while waiting for Caesar (my model).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Miscellaneous - Editing

It's always amazing to me how post processing some mediocre photos really makes them pop.  I find that some sharpening, noise reduction, and color saturation really makes for some interesting photos.