michigan

PREPARING FOR BEACH SEASON

As the brisk and chilling mornings soon become a memory, our thoughts lead back to warmer and happier times.  This comes from a trip I took last summer and imagine I will be revisiting this site in near future. Otsego Lake State Park is located up North near the sleepy Alpine Village of Gaylord, Michigan.

Sunset on Otsego Lake

Established as a state park in 1920, Otsego Lake State Park is shaded with large oak, maple and pine trees while spanning 62 acres and providing more than a half mile of sandy beach and large campgrounds near or within sight of the lake. Whether you want to absorb the rays while on the beach, catch some trout or camp out for the weekend, Otsego lake checks all the boxes for nice relaxing and serene weekend.

Anchors Away

Today's photo comes from a photowalk with a group headed by Alanna St.Laurent in downtown Detroit.  We visited a few locations on a chilly winter evening to get some great night photographs of the Motor City.

The Princess riverboat cruises are generally 2-3 hours long, traveling from Hart Plaza to Belle Isle, and back. The boat hosts dinner cruises, fall color cruises, moonlight cruises and dinner cruises. The boat is available to book for private parties when you want to take it to the next level. This is something to consider during the dog days of summer for some great sunset shots of Detroit or when you are looking to make a serious splash for a special occasion .

CAN YOU SAY TRIDGE?

Located in the heart of Midland, MI lies the Iconic "Tridge" which represents a three-way wooden bridge located at the junction of the Chippewa and Tittabawassee Rivers. The bridge consists of a 31 foot central pillar supporting three spokes which are each 180 feet long and 8 feet wide. 

The Tridge is one of the the city's main attractions and signifies the beginning of the Chippewa Trail. It also marks the origin of the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, a Michigan Rails to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame Trail. This area is very active in the summer with it's nearby parks, farmers market, and evening concerts. A rather unique structure indeed which is best viewed at night while fully illuminated.

WELCOME TO THE MISSION

I recently traveled to Mackinac Island for some rest and relaxation and spent a few days at the famed Mission Point Resort.  The resort was bought by a Detroit businessman and renamed Mission Point as a tribute to the part of the Island which housed one of the first churches and the Mission House, an historical landmark which still stands on the property. The resort has gone through changes over the years improving its structural integrity and overall esthetics.  IN 2004, Fodor name the resort as one of the top ten best waterfront hotels in America.

Hotel Lobby

As you enter the main entrance, you are greeted by a rustic yet inviting atmosphere along with towering wooden ceilings.  The front desk seen to the right work diligently to ensure the happiness of each and every guest during their stay.

Round Island Bar and Grill

hether its settling in for your favorite libation during happy hour or fueling up before a long day of sightseeing, the Round Island Bar and Grill is a great place to start or end the day.

Reading Room

One of the nice amenities this hotel provides is numerous seating areas throughout the lobby. These seating areas are great for scintillating conversation or simply enjoying a good book.  The wicker furniture and supple green leather chairs complement the wooden decor quite nicely.

Once you have completed the latest thriller and you have worked up an appetite, the ideal choice for dinner is Chianti, the hotel's flagship italian restaurant.  Fine dining and impeccable service will provide a night to remember.

Chianti Restaurant 

The wooden theme continues throughout the hotel providing a warm and comforting environment to enjoy a delicious culinary experience.

The Mission Point Resort sits about a 15 minute walk away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.  This provides a great deal of solitude allowing one to enjoy expansive property overlooking the Lake Michigan.  The multitude of Adirondack chairs provide a great way to relax on a sunny afternoon.

Take a load off

Mission Point Resort

As old man winter begins to arrive, the island will soon be closed to visitors.  Having said that, I look forward to returning next year for another memorable and relaxing vacation.

 

 

TO BE ZEN-LIKE

This past weekend I made it out to the newly opened and highly anticipated Richard & Helen Devos Japanese Garden in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Garden includes several calming staples such as boulders, waterfalls, horticulture and more. A tremendous amount of sweat equity went into creating this oasis. Islands were constructed, thousands of boulders and plants were brought in. The trees include those which have been pruned and cultivated for years to appear in a mature state.

A helping hand

As you come through the main entrance you are greeted by scupture "It Will Continue to Grow Except at that Point". This installation by Giuseppe Penone elaborates on the idea of mankind's relationship with nature.

As you continue throughout the garden residing in the middle of Lena Meijer Pond, you will come upon the masterpiece known as "Four Open Squares Horizontal Gyratory-Tapered". This creation by George Rickey demonstrates his ability to combine minimalism in combination with geometry and precise engineering. 

s with all visits to a Japanese Garden, something would be amiss without experiencing the tranquility of a waterfall. The garden contains a handful of waterfalls ranging in size a providing much needed serenity to our hectic daily lives.

Continuing throughout the gardens while encircling the pond, one will encounter Pebble beach where a number of sculptures are present composed of stones.

The artist Zhang Huan has been known worldwide for his acclaimed installations and sculptures. The artist has masterfully combined his love of Buddhism and Chinese culture to create inspirational works. His monumental steel sculpture known as "Long Island Buddha" with it roughened exterior, reflects on the relationship of human violence and its destruction of culture

As you climb to the peak, you can catch a birds eye 360 degree view of entire garden.

No visit would be complete without experiencing the traditional Zen-style Garden. The garden promotes seclusion and contemplation while being surrounded by the nearby acclaimed bonsai collection.

This garden will only continue to mature and improve over time. I look forward to many return visits and encourage anyone in the area to stop and immerse yourself in this experience.

 

 

 

YOUR GUARDIAN AWAITS

A few weeks back I headed downtown with Thomas Nighswander and some members of Michigan Photo Adventures to ride along the Detroit People Mover in order to search out future photographic opportunities. One of the main stops of the day was the landmark Guardian Building located within the Financial district of downtown Detroit. Built in 1929, the building served as a great example of bold Art Deco Architecture while being designated in 1989 as a National Historic Landmark. 

The lavish interior of the Guardian building is clothed in mosaic, Pewabic and Rookwood tile. It has been nicknamed the Cathedral of Finance due to the building's exterior resemblance to a cathedral as well as the existing interior archway.

The overwhelming Native American Themes are evident both inside and outside the building. The architect Wirt C. Rowland worked closely with the Muralist Ezra Winter to ensure the exterior architecture and interior furnishings presented a consistent theme throughout.

The skyscraper extends 36 stories into the sky  while housing numerous offices for large corporations. In 2007, Wayne County Executive, Robert Ficano signed an agreement with the current owners  to purchase the Guardian building in order to relocate its offices from the Wayne County Building.

WILD LIGHTS AT THE DETROIT ZOO

During the past few years the Detroit Zoo has put on an massive exhibition of LED lights throughout the Holiday season to provide a rather unique experience known as Wild Lights. More than five million LED lights are used to illuminate various trees, buildings and animal sculptures.  

While enjoying the light show, there was also a treat waiting in the picture above. An exhibition showcased the best wildlife photographs of the year submitted from photographers all over the world - some of these images were absolutely breathtaking.

The Arctic Circle area was represented by a couple of towering Polar Bears greeting the visitors.

This is a great event for the entire family and especially children. There is a smores station setup to create your own campfire treat along with numerous refreshments an ice carving station (weather permitting). 

All in all this is definitely something worth seeing. The vibrant illumination definitely provides a new perspective to the Zoo.  The only downside for photographers is the fact that the zoo does not open during the event until after complete darkness has arrived thereby eliminating the chance of stunning blue hour photos.



THE ICONIC GRAND HOTEL

As the thermometer begins to dip here in the midwest, I can't help but reminisce about some time I spent last summer on Mackinaw Island, Michigan at the famed Grand Hotel. The famous historic landmark is located on a small island between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The hotel has been frequented by past presidents, luminaries, dignitaries,  and celebrities alike. The hotel has taken some flack for charging visitors a $10 fee for visiting the property.

The Grand Hotel contains the longest porch in world measuring approximately 660 feet in length while overlooking an expansive tea garden. The porch area hosts vacationers, concertgoers, along with the those attending the Annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

As you make your way through the main corridor and up a few stairs you end up at the main level of the hotel containing restaurants, bars and numerous seating areas. Once at the crossroads, you see my personal favorite, the Audubon Wine Bar to the right, a luxuriously comfortable seating area straight ahead and more seating areas to the left for everyday conversation.

The Audubon Wine Bar provides a relaxing atmosphere to enjoy the finest wines from Napa Valley, the greatest cognacs from France along with the finest single malt scotches from Scotland. The plethora of wall to wall books provides a very comfortable clubby feel without the usual ostentatiousness accompanying watering holes of this magnitude.  One final note, this place serves the best Truffle fries in the entires state, if not, the country. Do not leave without sampling these culinary delights.

As you leave the bar after ingesting your favorite cocktails, a short walk out the door leads you to another area for the ultimate relaxation. Enormous, plush couches await adorned with priceless chandeliers above.

The final destination on this wonderful journey through the Grand Hotel takes us to the top floor to the Cupola Bar which provides breathtaking panoramic views of the Straits of Mackinac. As is the case throughout the hotel, the customer service is second to none and the worn "no" is non-existent. This is a definite stop while visiting the hotel and will provide memories that last a lifetime.  I am already anticipating my return visit next spring.





DOWNTOWN GRAND RAPIDS

Last weekend I decided at the last minute to getaway for a night absolving myself from the responsibilities and obligations of everyday life. I jumped in the car and headed to Grand Rapids, Michigan which has quickly become one of the fastest growing cities with it's enticing offering of breweries, restaurants and a vibrant art scene. 

Blue Bridge

Located in the heart of downtown lies the iconic pedestrian bridge simply known as the Blue Bridge. The bridge connects the city center on the East bank to the Grand Rapids Public Museum and Grand Valley State University facilities on the West. This pedestrian bridge provides a convenient connection between the Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus of Grand Valley State University as well as the Grand Rapids Public Museum and other attractions on the east side of the river.

This location has proven quite popular while providing a backdrop for wedding parties, prom pictures with its unmistakeable "Lake Blue" color.

Back to the city

Off to the left, in the two previous photos, is the JW Marriott Hotel where I spent the evening. Excellent service and attention to detail provide the perfect complement to the eye-catching contemporary architectural design.

Waterfront Downtown Grand Rapids

The downtown area is an ideal venue for taking in the all glorious options a large vibrant city has to offer. There are walking paths along the water which allow you to experience big-city excitement without the usual big city hassles. There are multiple dining, shopping, entertainment, and sightseeing opportunities all within a 10-minute stroll.

Pearl Street Bridge

 

Public Museum of Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids Public Museum happens to be one of the oldest history museums in the United States. The museum contains a cafe, gift shop, as well as a rather unique feature, a 1928 Spilllman Carousel. The museum offers attractions for everyone as well as those interested in Astronomy by way of the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium. 

Upon completing the museum tour, a simple stroll across the street brings you to the Gerald R. Ford Museum. 

Gerald R Ford Museum

Since September of 1981, the Gerald R.Ford Museum has provided visitors a snapshot into history with exhibits and interactive learning to better understand the highlights of the Ford Administration. The museum offers a gift shop to provide momentos of history while also serving as a host for naturalization ceremonies and the annual fourth of July fireworks,

 

Grand Rapids continue to flourish as one of the fastest growing cities with all its unique offerings and I look forward to returning to visit its newest attractions. 


THE ICONIC LEGGS INN

Perched on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan lies the world famous Leggs Inn Restaurant which exhibits a rather unique and mysterious approach with its architecture and decor.

Entry Foyer 

Located in Cross Village, Michigan, this restaurant features medieval looking stone, timber and driftwood taking us back in time to an experience unlike any other. The creator, a Polish immigrant by the name of Stanley Smolak, used his love of the inhabiting Ottawa and Chippewa Indians as influence for the blend of Old World European and Indian Cultures seen throughout the interior decor. Above is the entry foyer which displays an elaborate collection of nature and hand carved furniture made of tree stumps, limbs and roots which are seen throughout multiple rooms in the restaurant.

The Pool Room

The pool room continues the theme of meticulously handcrafted wood as the mainstay of its architectural foundation. 

Entrance to the game room

The cuisine is a balanced offering of authentic Polish and American dishes. Every dish is given the proper attention to detail to ensure an extremely enjoyable and memorable experience. In addition,the bar serves a multitude of accompanying hand crafted local beers not found at most establishments.

Step up to the bar

After satisfying customers for decades, the Leggs Inn has become a world famous destination acquiring praise from countless national magazines, publications and broadcasters throughout the country. 

Best view in the House

The Smolak family has gone to great lengths to enforce world-class friendly service to deliver amazing culinary delights. The waitstaff deliver the perfect combination of friendliness and attention creating a rather unique and unforgettable experience. This place has earned a guaranteed visit on my next trip to Northern Michigan.

IT REALLY IS JUST A MATTER OF TASTE

Every small town has a local establishment where residents gather for sustenance and exchange stories with friends and family.  As it turns out, my neighborhood is no exception. Located in the tiny lakeside community of Union Lake, Michigan lies a restaurant which stands heads and shoulders above all in terms of overall quality and attention to detail. The restaurant, suitably named, "It's A Matter of Taste" caters to the foodies in all of us by providing fresh seafood, pasta and steak of the highest quality around. After frequenting this restaurant countless times, the level of consistency is absolutely astounding. The waitstaff is always extremely attentive and pleasant providing just the right amount of supervision to ensure a delightful dining experience. The menu changes periodically with the seasons to ensure the freshest ingredients are utilized. Since the restaurant backs up to a residential lake, the summertime provides a refreshing and memorable outdoor dining experience assuming you have secured a reservations several days in advance. This is absolutely and unequivocally the finest eatery in the area and cannot be missed while visiting the area. 

Best restaurant in town

FREDERICK MEIJER GARDENS

As a frequent visitor to the ever popular city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, one attraction which cannot be missed is the famous Frederick Meijer Gardens.  The area host numerous exhibitions, concerts, and events for members of the entire family to enjoy.  One specific item of note are the various installations (sculptures) positioned throughout the Gardens which are substituted on a regular basis.

Lying Man

This frighteningly realistic masterpiece was created by one of the most innovative figurative sculptors working today, Sean Henry. His trademark happens to be creating realistic models in contemporary clothing scaled either much larger or smaller than life-size. He utilizes drawings and clay models that are then meticulously converted into bronze.

Fans of science would appreciate the sculpture known as "Neuron" by Roxy Paine.  This sculpture is a compilation of 3500 stainless steel rods and pipes representing the ultimate transformation from industrial to art.

Neuron

Deborah Butterfield's work deals intricately with horses and portraying them as intelligent mares rather than the customary war horse.  The name Cabin Creek comes from the location where the wood for this sculpture was compiled.  The wood is eventually transformed into bronze suitable for the elements of the Midwest.  

Cabin Creek

As with many gardens around the country, there is always a place of serenity allowing for solitude and contemplation.  

Serenity

Nature's Majesty

Alexander Liberman was showered with critical acclaim for his paintings, photographs and sculptures. This sculpture named Aria, which is a melody sung by one voice, towers at 42 feet enabling viewers to walk around and through the work.  Aria clearly demonstrates the artist’s fondness for architecture and music.

ArIa

The final sculpture of the day comes from Jaume Plensa known as "I, you, she or he…  The artist uses language and communication as theme for his installations.  The three sculptures, whose bodies are comprised of mainly stainless steel letters, are all seated on boulders facing each other, faceless, in silent conversation.  The artist is better known for his famous Crown Fountain installation in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago.

I, you, she or he...

I look forward to returning to the Gardens as there is a major expansion underway for an authentic Japanese Garden to be constructed on the property by the summer of 2015 with a Koi pond and all.

CHRIST CHURCH OF CRANBROOK

A while back I was given the opportunity to photograph the beautiful Christ Church Cranbrook in the affluent community of Bloomfield Hills, MI.  I was fortunate to be a group of about 18 photographers who had the church to ourselves for a couple hours on a Saturday afternoon.  The Church was the creation of newspaper magnate George G. Booth and his wife, Ellen who purchased a 175-acre farm in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan back in 1904.  They proceeded to construct a series of buildings including an elementary school in the community in the early twenties.  Mr. Booth noticed that many residents were traveling to other neighborhoods to fulfill their worshipping needs, so he built this Episcopalian Church to serve the community of Cranbrook.  The attention to architectural detail is a direct reflection of artistic spirit and inspiration which enriched the lives of George and Ellen Booth.

The Church opened its doors to the community in 1928 and has flourished by serving approximately 900 families while also providing great educational and outreach opportunities to those in need.

A bird's eye view of the Church from the existing and compact rear balcony.

The church is famous for it's intricate woodcarvings, impressive pipe organ, as well as it's numerous stained glass windows.

The best view in the house.

Church Corner

The exquisite stained glass windows are seen throughout and captured in virtually every photograph taken of this wonderful institution.

Front Section  

A closer view of the front of the church provides greater appreciation of the thoughtful design and planning that went it to the exhaustive construction and meticulous attention to detail.

Church Corridor

Church Exterior and Entrance

Historic Landmark Plaque

The Church was granted the coveted designation of becoming a National Historic Landmark in 1989 which can be seen just outside the entrance.

Church Sign

I had a wonderful time visiting this tremendous institution and I would like to thank our tour guide, Peggy, for her amazing insight and hospitality she providing throughout the afternoon. This is a place you must visit if you get the chance - I look forward to return visit.