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 Leelanau.org today for more information on their program.
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.
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.
See it? I will zoom in a bit.
Just look at that little ball of fuzz. You can see it better in the next shot.
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.
– Joe Clark
These photos are available for purchase from our Gallery in Petoskey, or on this website.