I was awestruck watching one of the most impressive and unique storm fronts I have ever witnessed roll toward Ludington on July 12, 2007. The massive cloud formation looked more like a gigantic breaking wave than any cloud I had ever seen as it swept ashore from Lake Michigan just after 6 p.m., bringing wind, rain, and darkness with it. A few minutes earlier, my cell phone had rung while I was halfway through my 15-minute drive from our photography gallery in downtown Ludington to our lakeshore home at the time, south of Ludington. It was my wife, Debbie, calling to say she was almost home and was looking at the most amazing storm cloud she had ever seen approaching Ludington. She said I had  best hurry if I was going to catch it with my camera.

I drove rather quickly to the nearby Pere Marquette Campground, calling my son Brad at the gallery while en route. He was manning the store alone. I told him to run out the door, jump in his truck and drive the three miles to what locals have named the “First Curve” at Ludington State Park. We were working on a book on Ludington State Park at the time. I knew if he could get there in time, he might capture the storm with his camera for inclusion in the book. I calculated that the high-bank cliff at the campground a mile south of the harbor was the nearest and best vantage point where I could get an unobstructed view of the storm in time. 

I parked outside the campground, grabbed my camera bag and tripod and ran as fast as my 58-year-old legs could go carrying 40 pounds of gear. Campers lined the cliff’s edge, high above Lake Michigan, as I found a spot between people big enough to slam my tripod down. We were in the face of the biggest shelf cloud I had ever seen. I was not afraid, perhaps because my adrenaline was flying, perhaps because I had been in the heart of big storms throughout my adult life, maybe because I was so focused on getting the shot. The longer your photography career goes on, the more you know when you have gotten the shot. When I captured this moment and several others within 15 seconds of this one, I was certain I had made the shot. Still I kept shooting. You learn over time that sometimes when you have made a great image, an equally or more outstanding peak moment could have been captured if you had kept working the scene. Excitement and overconfidence can cause photographers to quit too soon. I learned on the light table decades ago the painful lesson of the need to finish making the best image you can. I am a confident photographer, but perhaps as an old newsman, I am a nervous photographer as well.

Thousands of people daily saw my best and worst photography and a lot of mediocre images in between. I strived to do my best; I still do. I made several more strong images as the storm raced toward me. The wind started blasting me, and rain pummeled me and my camera lens. The shooting was over. I looked up from my camera and realized that all but one of the couple dozen people who had lined the cliff had run for the cover of their tents and trailers. I think the two of us diehards were actually safer because their tents and trailers were downwind surrounded by big old trees. I try to avoid wooded areas during big storms. I couldn’t wait to learn how Brad had fared at the state park. As it turned out, he got in position on the Lake Michigan shoreline just in time to be underneath the massive cloud and make an image seconds before being inundated with rain. His image, “The Dark Side”, is just as good as mine; some love his dark and stormy image a lot more than my “prettier” version showing both the sunny and dark sides of the summer storm. Brad and I like to say, “Photography Is Feeling.” Each of our images evokes entirely different feelings, but most viewers have a strong reaction to both. Of all the storm cloud images I have recorded with my camera over a half-century of living, working and playing on the Great Lakes shoreline, many of them appearing as power-packed, this one stands out from all the rest because of its beauty. Brad’s image stands out from my perspective for its intense, scary yet beautiful drama. Both images continue to be among our favorites.


Rolling Thunder


For larger order quantities, please phone us for best prices and shipping.