Like beauty, danger is all around you

Laura getting the shot

Laura getting the shot, photo by Andrew McFarlane

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”
~William G. T. Shedd

Every so often I have to write a post to clarify what Michigan in Pictures is or is not, and I guess that today is one of those days.

Sunday morning, I posted this photo (also at the bottom of this post) to the Michigan in Pictures Facebook page with the very accurate caption “We went out to Good Harbor Bay on Lake Michigan yesterday to play on the ice!” As you can see from the photo, Laura is positioned well back from the edge. While perhaps not perfectly safe, she is far safer than she was driving to the beach.

Several readers took issue with the idea that it’s appropriate to “play” in a potentially hazardous environment like shelf ice on Lake Michigan, suggesting that it’s irresponsible for me to share photos from risky environments, that I not do it, and that I focus on providing precautionary education encouraging people to make safe decisions. I replied (in part):

Shelf ice is indeed dangerous if you don’t know where you are and what you’re doing. The water where we were is 3′ deep in summer and the ice very solid, so in my opinion, play is exactly what it was.

Your concern for safety is good, but if you take proper precautions, you’re a heck of a lot safer here than driving on a winter road.

I post pictures all the time where the photographers have taken calculated risks to see, photograph and experience things that you cannot see and photograph without an element of risk. I allow my son to surf in conditions that can be very dangerous, let my daughter climb trees high enough to probably kill her if she fell, and hiked on trails where one slip meant death.

I suppose I should post disclaimers of “don’t be an idiot” with all photos of risky environments, but I think I will continue to assume that my readers will assess risks on their own, and I will continue to experience and share Michigan as I choose.

…Please understand that Michigan in Pictures is a place where I share amazing pictures that are shared with me. I’m not doing this as a public service to educate people on how to stay alive and safe. I do it for love of Michigan and to share the cool experiences it offers. I trust that my readers will exercise appropriate caution as they enjoy Michigan, and I’m 1000% sure that if folks get out and wisely play a little closer to the edge, they’ll have a happier and longer life.

Caveat emptor!

Caveat emptor will remain the policy of Michigan in Pictures, which I will again remind readers is my personal blog, not paid for by anyone and offered with the sole hope that you can find pictures and places that help you enjoy and appreciate Michigan more.

View my photo background big and see more on our mileelanau Instagram.

PS: Thanks to Kate Wittenberg for the perfect William G. T. Shedd quotation that she shared in the comments!

PPS: Here’s the photo Laura shot. Position, framing, tone.

Lauras Photo

35 thoughts on “Like beauty, danger is all around you

  1. Agreed! You don’t need a helmet for everything, and nobody is ever perfectly safe anyway. Though if I may be somewhat pedantic, I would amend the phrase to “Caveat Artifex”. :)


  2. To those pasta backbone zeros who are afraid of their shadows, I suggest they move to D.C. and let the Head Nanny change their diapers!


  3. Well Bah! to the fuddy-duddies, I say! Since I joined Mich in Pics, my eyes, mind, and soul have nourished with your daily offerings. I’m glad that you choose to go out on a limb (pun intended) every now and then to offer something out of the ordinary or to remind readers that we don’t live in a vacuum. Our behaviors have consequences for the planet and each other.

    I’m reminded frequently by my family of “mistakes” I’ve made in my life by taking risks and wanting to delve into areas unexplored (at least by me). I would not be the person I am today without having made those so-called mistakes. “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” –William G. T. Shedd

    Keep up the great work, Andrew. I may not always agree with you, but enjoy each morning’s feast for the eyes, nonetheless. Caveat Emptor, indeed!

    Happy sailing, smooth and rough!

    Kate W.


    1. Thanks Brian. I know that photography has really helped me get out and “in the soup” of like in a way that many pursuits (like making websites) doesn’t.


  4. I love all your pictures. I especially enjoy the “risky” ones because I am not a risk taker and would most likely not experience those risks. And my job keeps me too tied down to go to some of those places. And frankly, some days it is just too cold for this transplanted Southerner to get out to those icy locales. But if I ever do get the chance, I know my common sense will keep me safe.


  5. I love, love, love Michigan in pictures! Don’t change a thing. If your very interesting blog became a safety tutorial I would mourn my daily adventures in Michigan. You see, I moved to Florida many moons ago. Your blog brings back memories, fuels my love of photography and helps me travel back to my beloved place of birth vicariously. See, your blog does fulfill a public service. Keep on keepin’ on!


  6. This is a perfect response Andrew. As always, thanks for what you do – including playing “close to the edge” (an inside joke of sorts between me and my mom wherein she cautions me not to get close to the edge when she knows that’s exactly what I intend to do). Keep it up :)


    1. Thanks Heather, and thanks for sharing your pics with me and playing close to the edge! Sure, you might die on the edge but most people don’t. They die in the middle … not having had those experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m wondering if the person who criticized you as being irresponsible has ever looked at the National Geographic magazine or, actually, has ever even left his/her house. I’m glad you allow your daughter the freedom to climb high in the trees. Many of my childhood memories are of swaying in the top branches of the tall trees in my yard in my Michigan home. I enjoyed the responses above, especially the one about the pioneers who settled this country. What if they had thought it was “too dangerous” to explore the wilderness ? My theory of life is that we should all live unafraid because anything could happen to anybody at any time. Gee, maybe that person will slip and fall in the bathtub with dire results.


  8. Way too many people treat us as idiots (ie: tv comercials etc.) I, for one, am very happy to hear that you assume your readers to have their head on their shoulders and not hiding somewhere else! Thank you. Your
    blog is very well stated and I thank you for the amazing photography!


  9. I love your pictures, and I love Michigan, I think that people tend to forget that you can cross the street and die getting hit by a bus! Your pics help me Escape the stress of everyday life, you keep posting them, and I’ll keep looking at them, thanks, Happy Sorrow!


    1. Hey Ada – I’m so glad that the pics I share help to soothe your soul. Michigan in Pictures helps to soothe MY soul, and I really want to be able to continue free-form riffing on the beauty of Michigan.


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