We interrupt this summer to check in with winter. James writes:
I’ve been visiting Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes all my life but it wasn’t until I was an adult photographer that I hazarded a trip up to our northern Michigan National Lakeshore landmark in the depths of Winter. I was confident it would be awesome and I wasn’t disappointed. Driving north on Route 22 from the little town of Empire I turned left onto South Dune Highway and soon could see Glen Lake to my right and Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes to my left. The Visitors Bureau is officially closed in Winter and so I parked my Cherokee at the side of the road and proceeded on foot along Hunter Road to the base of the mountainous dunes. Ahead of me was the leeward side of the dunes and as such they are steep. Part way up I saw an ominous sign that read “Avalanches Stay Off”. I noticed that there were other brave souls already on the dunes and so I figured it was safe to climb.
With Linhof camera on Gitzo tripod and a 35 pound Domke camera bag the climb up the dune was a challenge. Flat, and with small undulating hills punctuated by the occasional tuft of intrepid dune grass, the top of the dunes resemble the high desert plains of the southwest. As if trying to brave the frigid gale winds of nearby Lake Michigan, the sandy hills had solidified into rows of spiny ridges with the top of the hill resembling a marble cake with layer upon layer of sand and ice. In the distance the luminous midday sun lit a gently sloping bank upon which a barren stand of trees proudly stood. I moved my gloveless hands frantically over tilt and swing controls and finally turned the aperture ring to F22. The wind chill was well below zero. I snapped off but two 4 X 5 exposures and quickly donned my Baxter gloves to venture off in search of another Sleeping Bear winterscape.