Photo stories

Roadside Wildlife (Sandhill Cranes)


I have taken flight from the Gallery to spend some time in my old photographic stomping grounds within the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Taking time like this to immerse myself into the environment which has provided me with so much inspiration is an essential part of producing my work, and is essential since our relocation of the Gallery has distracted me from photographing. Preferring to exist in my environment away from the hubbub of tourists and their culture, I have taken up residence at The Leelanau School for the duration of my visit. This wonderful facility is a college preparatory boarding school where “Learning can happen anywhere – especially outside of the classroom.” If you have a student who’s outside-the-box thinking puts them at odds within a traditional learning environment, contact The Leelanau School at today for more information on their program.

Roadside Wildlife

One of the things I love about spending time in Sleeping Bear Dunes is the amount of wildlife which is simply living their day-to-day lives throughout the park. This morning while filling a water can to carry back to base camp I had an encounter with a chipmunk who was rather interested in stalking by boot lace. I noticed a small amount of movement near my left foot and the little guy was flat to the ground concealing himself rather well in the short ground cover. He was inching closer and close to my foot when I asked him what he was doing. Looking up at me I could see that he knew the game was over, and he snuck off into the ferns. This has not been my first encounter with wildlife on the campus of The Leelanau School, nor in Sleeping Bear Dunes. When I was a student here foxes, otters, and eagles were common to see along the Crystal River, or the Lake Michigan shoreline. 

While exploring old farmland now a part of Sleeping Bear, off of Point Oneida road up against the Kelderhouse Swamp. I was returning from one of the many beach access points along the roadway when I noticed that there were two Sandhill Cranes alongside the road in the brush apparently foraging. I have never been much of a bird photographer, but I found it hard to pass up this easy opportunity. I noticed that they were not too concerned with vehicles so I turned around twice more to get a good shot from the other side of the road out of my driver’s window. Accessing my gear area before my approach, I grabbed the 70-200 f./2.8 and the 80-400 f./4-5.6 lenses, both with IS. The plan was to see how sharp of an image I could get free handing out my window. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes Sand Hill Crane Photography Joe Clark Glass Lakes Photography

I watched them for a short amount of time in an attempt to notice if my presence was bothering them, and aside from a slight initial pause in their foraging activity there were no signs of such. I was just another rolling box on the roadway to them. But then I noticed something else, movement in the grass low to the ground. There was a slight brownish color to the movement. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes Sand Hill Crane Photography Joe Clark Glass Lakes Photography

See it? I will zoom in a bit. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes Sand Hill Crane Photography Joe Clark Glass Lakes Photography

Just look at that little ball of fuzz. You can see it better in the next shot. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes Sand Hill Crane Photography Joe Clark Glass Lakes Photography

Sleeping Bear Dunes Sand Hill Crane Photography Joe Clark Glass Lakes Photography

These creatures really are amazing, and this is truly a special place where one can get to know the world around them. Just before I left, one of the cranes approached the roadway and I was able to get a pretty clear shot of it. 

Sleeping Bear Dunes Sand Hill Crane Photography Joe Clark Glass Lakes Photography

– Joe Clark

These photos are available for purchase from our Gallery in Petoskey, or on this website. 


Who says that work cannot be fun?

We, the entire staff of Glass Lakes Photography recently returned from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We took three days off, closed the store, and left. Now aside from the general escape of the day to day routine we wanted to go capture some of the grand colors of Autumn. Our destination was the Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Sound familiar?, it should as I was visiting the area a few weeks ago for some shooting and scouting.  We do not partake in these ventures for commercial gain, but as a continuing investment into ourselves and our employees, not all of whom are photographers. This allows some experience into the inner workings of the creation of the art, as well as the time invested. Curating a culture of enthusiasm which can be translated into The Gallery for the benefits of our clients. This is part of what I call my duty to responsible business operation.

Over the next week, we will share stories from this trip, photos as well. Some photos you will see hanging up in the gallery, others will be online. When we arrived in the north we meet up at the Whitefish Point Lighthouse, Shipwreck museum, and Migratory Bird Observatory. There is a lot to do in that little point.

Whitefish Point Lighthouse photography scenery Joe Clark

We spent the afternoon wandering around the point area, eating lunch, and then migrating to the campground and setting up for the night. It was an early morning the next day, one must be beat the sunlight if they wish to capture water in motion without the assistance of lens filters. It was a cold night, and the water was significantly warmer, so there was a lot of fog forming in the river basin. The haze made for some interesting shots of the lower falls. Tahquamanon Falls River photogrpahy Joe ClarkBoth Alyson and Dale were working their cameras on the southern portion of the lower falls. They spent their time working away with the haze, water motion, and contrast that morning had to offer. I shot the two of them working side by side on the observation platform over the falls.

Dale and Alyson at Tahquamanon fallsWe spent our remaining time in the area exploring the wooded areas for fungi, colors, and other subjects of interest. even squeezed in some time for exploring the informative placards through out the park. These various signs tell of information about the water flow per second, why it is rust colored, and the history of the river and past proposed developments. glp_20161010-09114-by-joe-clark-glasslakesphotography-com

The second day we went to the upper falls for some shots, there was a wonderful morning red sky, of which we caught the latter portions of lingering over the falls. The light was quicker then we were that morning, by the time I was in position for the shot I wanted the color has subsided. Next year we will just have to be quicker. Morning light upper tehquamanon falls We squeezed this trip in right on time with the peak coloration of the area, and the best weather as well. After Dale and Alyson returned to Petoskey, Kayla and I were welcomed to a day of freezing temperatures and rain. Bear was starting to get a case of cabin fever the day we left the area, here he is taking a break outside before the rain moved in for the day. Bear enjoying a break in the rain. Now that we all have returned from the north, it is time to start exploring our area as the fall colors start to fill in. Are you out there exploring with your camera? Keep in mind that we offer the region’s best printing facility right in the heart of downtown Petoskey. Stop on in to see how we can help take your vision to hard copy. Soon we will have our new season of photographs in, from the summer and fall, you are welcome to peruse the new works.

Lower Tahquamanon Falls Joe Clark

The Senior Portrait


Photography is more than just pulling out your camera and shooting; it is engaging with your subject and learning their personality, their flare if you will, in a short matter of time. Each photograph you make should portray the subject’s unique personality. This is through facial expressions, clothing styles, locations, and any accessories that may be important to you. Rather than shooting static photographs, I like to see activity happening, whether that’s interacting with the companion you’ve brought along or kayaking along the river. If these things are not present, I will still work closely with the individual to bring out what makes them, well, them!

The image above is a girl and her rescue dog. They have a close connection, and you can see from the look on her face that she adores this animal. I had a few different shots for this session, one where the dog was looking back at her as well, which could have worked given the expressions, but it was not as strong as this image. It was the emotion in her face that made the photograph. I spoke with her through the session and asked her to think about how and why this dog makes her happy, and it resulted in this image. Choosing unique photographs after the shoot is important as well. I do not give my subjects every single photograph that I take. I choose the ones that stand out.

Locations are everything! I, personally, love shooting in the studio, however it is much more fun to go out into the environment and shoot. I like to find an environment that suits my subject; the decision of place is typically up to you (we can help you decide, don’t worry). What places do you love and visit often? Is it your favorite nature preserve, the lake, or even your own home? At Glass Lakes Photography, we typically do two hour sessions. This allows us to move around and utilize the environment to the fullest. We can even do multiple locations!

The next image is an alleyway of a coffee shop downstate in Detroit. I choose this setting because of the urban look. In this case, my subject did not know much about the area, so I picked for her. It resulted in a photo series inside and out of the coffee shop. My subject brought several changes of clothes, but this jacket suited her spunky attitude. I scouted the location and noticed this vibrant red chair, and her and I decided it was a perfect spot. The pose is dynamic, but natural and relaxed.










Below we get into movement! This image was done on a balcony in the Fall. (I’ll tell you a little secret: the background was removed and replaced with a much more interesting Fall image). Here we have a dancer. Instead of dressing up in fancy clothes and doing the typically lean against a wall photo, we wanted to show what her passion is. She did her own thing, while I directed her if I needed her to move positions or tweak a pose.










Important things to remember: Personality, emotion, location, and dynamics!











Sunset behind Fisherman’s Island

I was visiting a friend who is camping down at Fisherman’s Island State Park in Charlevoix. We arrived a little later than anticipated, so we got down to the beach just as the sun was touching the horizon. I captured this image during the amazing afterglow. It was one of those nights when the sunset is beautiful then it seems to die down, then BAM! the colors come back from somewhere unknown.

Fisherman Island State Park charlevoix michigan photographer Joe Clark

Also, after the sun set and before the afterglow I was looking to do some toying with motion blur and the stones on the beach. The following shot is what happens when the wave causes the tripod to sink into the sand.


Yeah, it’s hard to look at, so let’s just file that away somewhere in the educational file concerning sturdy tripod placement. Which was fairly impossible that night.

Northern Lights and a long drive home…

Yesterday I posted one of my shots from early Sunday morning, today in this post I will be sharing the other two. As I mentioned I was driving home from a wedding reception in Alpena, on M-32 almost to 131. I looked to the north, where as luck would have it there was a vacant field. In the clearing I noticed a faint green glow, a recognizable faint green glow. I pulled the van over, rather quickly, it seemed to jar Kayla from her sleep. I pulled out the tripod and the camera and set up on the side of the road. At first I did not foresee the glowing tail lights to be a problem, but in the first exposure they proved to be. I was hoping they would not reach that far up in the frame. I replaced them with a strobing light pointed down at the roadway, as a traffic safety precaution. The lights put on a fascinating bright show as they rotated across the sky to the east.

Northern Lights gaylord photographer Joe Clark

Lacking interesting foreground I decided to pack it in and migrate to the northwest to Walloon Village, a town where Hemingway’s parents had a lake cabin, and he spent a significant portion of his childhood. We set off towards Walloon, sometimes questioning if the lights had faded. Making it to the town I located a grassy area near the dam on the south end of the little public beach. I set up with one leg on the concrete form which was part of the spillway. I shot my first exposures to the west, where I have been told pink was glowing in the aurora.

Northern lights over Walloon Lake michigan Petoskey photographer Joe Clark

The cold temperature of the lake was creating a fog which hung low to the water. The northern lights and the stars seemed to have no problem reflecting off the water through it. There is a minimal amount of light pollution coming from the nearby village, the most annoying being the sodium lights throwing a yellow color temperature into the frame. I can only imagine what kind of impact these sights would have had on the young Hemingway, as he camped out near the lake and in the woods surrounding Walloon Lake. After these shots on Walloon Lake we packed up and headed home arriving around 5am, concluding our long drive across the mitten.

These images are for sale, and will be uploaded to the galleries soon.

For use permission, contact photographer Joe Clark with the contact us option in the menu.

A new Glen Arbor

A lot changed in a very shot time in Glen Arbor, as the locals are still trying to clean up the mess from last Sunday’s storm can attest to. Having spent a lot of time in the area I am worried about what I will find when I am able to return. Here is one of my astrophotography shots from near the Dune Climb on Glen lake. Sadly, I fear this tree is no longer standing.

Glen Arbor scenery photography by Joe Clark

Monarch Caterpillar at Sunset.

While waiting for the sun to set at the North Point Nature Preserve I noticed the quantity of milkweed growing in the area. Knowing that milkweed is the sole source of food for a growing Monarch caterpillar I then started searching for them. I noticed this one on the second plant I inspected, it was also the only one I noticed. This image is a candidate for the forthcoming conservancy series, more details to follow. During the sunset, and with the fading light I was able to capture this image using color filtered off camera strobe. After multiple exposures to capture the plant with minimal movement this was achieved.

Joe Clark Petoskey photographer charlevoix north point conservency project

Nikon D800 with 150mm f/2.8 Macro, 1/13th f/10 ISO 800 with off camera flash.

A busy day at the feeder…

Yesterday was a fairly busy day at the bird feeder. I was able to stick both cameras out to door to capture this small flock of finches before the flew the coup.

finches northern michigan photographer Joe Clark

The above image was shot with the backup camera a Nikon D7100, and it’s DX format 70-300 lens at 300mm. The following was shot with the primary camera, a Nikon D800 with a Nikor 80-400 at 400mm.

Finches2 northern michigan photographer Joe Clark

Both are fine cameras, but I am amused to see the subtle differences in quality and the camera’s interpretation of the scene. This reaffirms the reasoning behind my purchase of the D800 as a primary camera system, as I am after the best quality I can offer to my clients.

Summertime seems to have arrived in Petoskey.

The amount of foot traffic has dramatically increased over the past two weeks, parking is becoming the story of the early bird. People and their pets have taken over the streets of Petoskey, walking the faithful Bear has become a project with so many other puppies roaming the sidewalks. Life is getting interesting as the pace is picking up from the doldrums of winter. So, here are some shots from yesterday’s dog walk and the Petoskey area.


Bayfront Park downtown Petoskey northern michigan photographer Joe Clark

A quick walk down to Bayfront park was something t see as the still cold water has been producing a large amount of fog over the past month. The fog seems to linger around the northern end of the bay.


Bayfront Park petoskey marina northern michigan photographer Joe Clark

Defiantly a wonderful day to get out and about, here is one of those roaming pups.


Petoskey marina harbor springs northern michigan photographer Joe Clark

Looking northerly out across Little Traverse Bay. The clouds were fairly impressive the entirety of the day.

So as you are out and about, what changes are you seeing? If you are looking for some interesting places to visit stop by my photography section at Artists North Art Center. Which is located just 6 miles south of Charlevoix on US-31. I just received my shipment of 8×12 inch prints matted onto 11×14 inch mats, which is standard frame size. These are selling for $79 a print, and would be a wonderful way for you to support my work.

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