A Sunday ride on an autumn afternoon is one of the best things about Michigan. We all have favorite spots we visit year after year to check out the fall color. This is my favorite tunnel of trees and the best image I have ever made there. I had been driving Conrad Road between Ludington and Scottville east and west for days to check the progress of the leaf color change on the massive old maple trees lining each side of the Polcin Farm. On this day, October 10, 2010, the trees and the light looked picture perfect. I set up my tripod in the middle of the road and carefully designed the image in my viewfinder. My camera had live-view capability, but I have studied images in a viewfinder for so long, I prefer, if the situation permits, to be able to still see the world through that little eye hole. I made certain to include everything inside the borders of my viewfinder that I wanted and to include nothing I did not want. Unless we are photographing fast-moving objects where it is impossible to see and evaluate everything visible through the finder instantaneously, Brad and I each painstakingly try to finish in-camera the composition of every image we make. Most of our artwork is therefore created in a 2X by 3X proportion because that is the proportion of traditional 35-millimeter film and now traditionally-proportioned digital sensors.

I loved everything I saw in the viewfinder when I triggered my cable shutter release at this moment. Moments later, two people on bicycles pedaled over the hill at the back of the scene. I fired off a few quick shots to capture a peak moment of this added ingredient to the scene. Brad and I like to teach our workshop students that if an element doesn’t add to a scene, it probably detracts. The bicycle riders definitely added a human and storytelling element and, dwarfed by the giant trees, a “little person in the big world” sense of scale. As fine art, I prefer the naturalness of the image I made without the bicyclists, and that is why I selected that one for this book. But the storytelling image with the bicyclists is the one that the national-award-winning Pure Michigan tourism promotion campaign selected for billboards. They wanted the people looking at those billboards to imagine themselves pedaling their bikes in such a spectacular Michigan place. Brad and I pride ourselves on being visual storytellers; I love telling Michigan’s beautiful stories with my cameras.

Canopy of Color

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