Thursday, March 18, 2010

Post Copper Dog blues and my love affair with the Upper Peninsula

Highway 41 at the tip of the earth just south of Copper Harbor in the Upper Peninsula

Forgive my absence. I shot over 850 pictures, just like this one above, last weekend. Aside from driving 1,800 miles in four days, sleeping in my truck and chasing teams, I've overwhelmed myself with all these fantastic photos!! I can't edit them fast enough.

If you are interested in seeing the whole gallery, please visit my gallery site here

I have an ongoing love affair with the Upper Peninsula. From the second my eyes spot the Mackinaw bridge peaking on the horizon, my heart jumps with excitement, for crossing it is crossing over into an enchanted and beautiful land.

Be forewarned: these images are powerful, inspired by the amazing landscape of this remote and beautiful land, and my love for it.

I love the stunningly beautiful places, like Marquette on a clear day.

Marquette Oar Dock in downtown Marquette, Michigan

But I love equally the places that are distinctly U.P., like 4 Mile Corner. The Four Mile Corner Market used to be a little shop where a hunter could get various sundries and permits. There is still a link for it on the web, from its more lively days.

But now, it is for sale, a casualty of a depressed eastern U.P. economy.

The remains of the Four Mile Corner Market

Anyone from the eastern U.P. knows this landmark. I was first told about this landmark by my friend, Tom, who introduced me to this area four years ago. It is a navigation point connecting M-123 and CR-407, a cross road of sorts. M-123 goes to Whitefish Point and to friend and author, Len McDougall and his lovely girlfriend, Cheanne Chellis, also known as the place where the wolves live. M-123 also goes to SledDog Lodge, part-time home to Jim and Jennifer Warren and several mushers who train from the lodge every winter.

CR-407 heads west, to the home of mentors and friends, Bob and Jan Shaw, and, next door to them, mushers Mike and Cathy Murphy, where I got my beloved leader, Yeti.

And in between are miles and miles of trails connecting the cabins of Iditarod veterans, Al Hardman, Tasha and Ed Stielstra and other mushers.

Four Mile Corner is a haunting little place that evokes an air of mystery. It's a location that I've wanted to shoot for a long time, but the timing has never been right. For me, as a photographer, it is sheer magic when the way I picture an image in my head ends up being in reality exactly how I pictured it. This is one of those images. The sun had just fully dipped behind the horizon and it was clear and cool. The sky lit up behind this old gas pump, and the lighting was perfect. I raised my tripod, and shot this:

I don't know why this image takes my breath away, but it does.

This past weekend, I went on an amazing journey. I took M-41, a winding, rock-lined county road all the way to where it ended in Lake Superior, to the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula, just a ferry ride away from the pristine Isle Royale and took a hike on the grounds of Fort Wilkins. A remote and frigid army settlement during the 19th century, Fort Wilkins was built to protect settlers and copper mines from the native Ojibway tribes....or so I'm told. I couldn't help but tear up as my mind imagined what went on here:

A creepy door of a creepy building on the grounds of Fort Wilkins

Cannons still remain on the grounds of Fort Wilkins, creating a haunting backdrop for some otherwise stunning scenery

I believe there are places that are "home" more than our own home towns can be. My heart draws me to the U.P., and I cry every time I leave it.

It's true: I am in love with the frigid beauty called the Upper Peninsula.


  1. Beautiful, Shannon. I so understand that love affair with a place. The north shore of Lake Superior (Minnesota side) is like a balm to my soul. I'm so glad to have discovered the UP via you. It's gorgeous. The gas station photo is truly amazing--as is the bridge. I'd like to see it in person sometime!

  2. I share your sentiments. I saw a car this morning while biking into work with a "say ya to da UP" bumper sticker and I wanted to cry. Our trip to the U.P. this weekend got cancelled due to lack of snow...


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