My Top Ten Photography Locations in Michigan - 12.29.15

Michigan might be the best state in the country for photography. It has a little bit of everything, from cities to coastline, architecture, lighthouses, waterfalls, farms, bridges, and more. I might be a little partial to Michigan because I am from here, but I have visited every state in the country but Maine, Hawaii, and Alaska, and I can say objectively that Michigan is right at the top. Here are profiles of my top ten locations in Michigan for photography, with a photograph of two from each spot. Top ten lists are very subjective of course, plus I have not visited everywhere in Michigan. It is, after all, a large state. So I confess that a few locations that deserve to be on the list probably aren't (sorry, but I have yet to hit Bond Falls or Tahquamenon Falls, so they are not on here, but probably should be).

10. Old Mission Peninsula

This narrow strip of land in Grand Traverse Bay is home to numerous wineries, spectacular views of the bay, and a beautiful lighthouse and shoreline near the tip. Come in spring to photograph the cherry blossoms or fall to get the colors.

Cherry Blossoms in Traverse City

9. Little Sable Lighthouse/Silver Lake

Silver Lake Sand Dunes are a totally unique landscape, with no trees in sight, except for a few stumps that remain from the logging days. Just a mile or two away on the Lake Michigan shoreline sits one of the most majestic and well preserved lighthouses anywhere -- Little Sable Lighthouse.

Summer Sky over Little Sable

8. The City of Detroit

Not exactly a destination for "landscape" photography, but a great destination for architectural photography. Because of the economic troubles the city has endured over the last few decades, there is a treasure trove of older buildings still standing, some of which have been preserved and some of which exist more as archaeological ruins. Either way, you can find unique structures around just about every corner. I highly recommend that you check out the photography of Robert Monaghan to see what I am talking about.

Shining on the Spirit of Detroit

7. Big Sable Lighthouse

Located in Ludington State Park, the Little Sable Lighthouse is impeccably maintained, a great example of Orlando Poe lighthouse architecture, and located on one of the most beautiful stretches of shoreline on the Great Lakes. Plan ahead to get there, as it will require a hike of more than a mile along the beach or on a state park road.

Big Sable Lighthouse

6. Keewanaw Peninsula

There are some classic views from this peninsula in the northernmost part of the upper peninsula (Brockway Mountain Drive is regarded as one of the most beautiful drives in the world), but one of my favorite things about the peninsula is the many waterfalls and rapids lying just off the roads, like this one --

Stream over Rocks

5. Point Betsie

This is my personal favorite lighthouse anywhere, period. It sits atop a pedestal-like breakwall, rises majestically over Lake Michigan, is easily accessible, and has tons of totally unique angles from which to shoot. This is one of those rare lighthouses that can be shot from 360 degrees for quite a distance with easy access in all directions.

Point Betsie Lighthouse in Evening

4. The Mackinac Bridge

Other than the Golden Gate Bridge, I cannot imagine a bridge that comes close to the Mackinac in terms of beauty, architectural significance, historical significance, and importance to transit. I love photographing this from the shoreline of Mackinac City, especially in summer when the sunset moves further north to the bridge.

Untitled photo

3. Porcupine Mountains State Park

I can't think of two better views within just a few miles of each other than the views from the observation deck and Lake of the Clouds. Wow! You have never seen so many trees as you can from the observation deck, and never seen a prettier lake than you can at Lake of the Clouds. And if that's not enough, the Lake Superior shoreline in this area isn;t too shabby either.

Shades of Autumn in the U.P.

2. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Working our way to the top, Pictured Rocks comes in at a very close #2. There are lots of waterfalls here and some of the most spectacular shorelines and lake views anywhere.

Sable Falls in Summer

1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

And coming in at #1, the Most Beautiful Place in America (according to Good Morning America and lots of other very smart and observant people). Here you can find turn of the century farm houses, great little rivers, dense forests, and some of the most majestic bluffs you can see anywhere. For photography, Sleeping Bear Dunes can't be beat!

Point Nine, Sleeping Bear Dunes

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