Craig Sterken Photography: Blog en-us (C) Craig Sterken Photography [email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Tue, 04 Jul 2023 00:33:00 GMT Tue, 04 Jul 2023 00:33:00 GMT Craig Sterken Photography: Blog 80 120 Bay City Fireworks - 2023 FW-163 _S231526-2023FW-163 _S231526-2023Fireworks exploding over the Saginaw River in downtown Bay City Michigan As happens every year, Bay City Michigan put on an amazing fireworks display this past Saturday night.  This town, nestled along the shores of the Saginaw River has been putting on one of the largest shows in the state.  It was an amazing display and didn't disappoint, even though it ended with pouring rain. If you haven't seen it before, it is a great family event. It always runs for three nights, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Saturday is the big show at around 40 minutes. Thursday and Friday are short pre-shows but certainly worth a watch. The carnival sets up in Veteran's Park on the West side of the river for the entire three days.


FW-164 _S231675-2023FW-164 _S231675-2023

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Bay City boats downtown fireworks Michigan outdoors photography reflections River Saginaw tourism travel water Tue, 04 Jul 2023 00:32:30 GMT
Ocqueoc Falls in Michigan's Lower Peninsula  

Ocqueoc Falls in Michigan's Lower Peninsula

Saturday March 7th, 2020

A crisp, sunny day found my wife and me heading up to the Rogers City area last weekend.  Michigan winters can be dreary and it’s nice to get out of the house when the weather clears.  Combining her love with beachcombing for unique rocks with my passion for photography gives us each a good reason to get outside when conditions are right.

We have never really traveled past Tawas on the Lake Huron shoreline, or the Sunrise Side of the State, as it’s often called.  My last visit to Rogers City was as a teen when my dad drove me up there to explore a little. The main reason I wanted to visit on this trip was to see one of only two waterfalls that Michigan has to offer in the Lower Peninsula. Ocqueoc Falls.

Ocqueoc Falls is the largest waterfall in Lower Michigan and very easy to visit.  It is just a short hike from the parking area and offers lots to do in all seasons.  Summertime finds many people swimming in the Ocqueoc River and cooling off in the falls, or hiking and biking, their many trails.  Winter has groomed trails for Cross-Country skiing, snowshoeing and fat tire biking.

For my purposes I found a few decent compositions of the main part of the falls but could spend hours photographing all the small eddies and current flows around small rocks and mini cascades.  Needles to say, it’s a photographers dream.  Winter tends to cut down on the number of people which makes it that much easier to compose a few photos.

The open shoreline along stretches of Lake Huron offered my wife a great opportunity for stone collecting. After several minutes she found her first Pudding Stone.  A very unique item!


Chilling Flow - OQFalls-001 - 9Q4A7166-2Chilling Flow - OQFalls-001 - 9Q4A7166-2Stream waters flow past ice formations and continue the journey downstream - Ocqueoc River

Small Rapid with Ice - 1/2 sec, f/16, ISO 100

Ocqueoc Falls - 9Q4A7088-EditOcqueoc Falls - 9Q4A7088-EditMain view of Ocqueoc Falls

0.4 Sec, f/18, ISO 100 - ND Filter and Circ Polarizer

9Q4A7134-Edit_LR9Q4A7134-Edit_LRA small cascade in the stream captured with a macro lens 1/8 sec, f22, ISO 100

IMG_2485 Pudding StoneIMG_2485 Pudding StonePudding Stone from Lake Huron

Pudding Stone from Lake Huron


[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) beauty flowing Lower Peninsula Michigan nature Ocqueoc Ocqueoc Falls outdoors photography Rogers City travel water waterfall Sun, 15 Mar 2020 15:05:10 GMT
"The Mitten" Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore "The Mitten" Shot - Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

A couple weeks ago we rented a pontoon boat, with friends, on Lake Superior. This offered myself and my photographer friend an opportunity to get some nice shoreline shots. As we passed this particular cliff area, I found myself drawn to a particular rock formation that reminded me of a mitten.

UP-430 CMS09327_FBClick to Purchase PrintA mitten shaped rocks against the a stone cliff at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Northern Michigan. These mineral laden cliffs have a painted look in the sandstone rock formations UP-428 CMS09364_FBClick Photo To Purchase PrintA mitten shaped rocks against the a stone cliff at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Northern Michigan. These mineral laden cliffs have a painted look

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) aqua blog cliff face colorful Lake Superior Michigan minerals mitten Munising nature outdoors Painted photography Pictured Rocks pontoon rock stone tourism travel upper peninsula water Tue, 28 Aug 2018 18:34:15 GMT
Roam-Inn Review Roam-Inn Review

Recently my wife and I had the good fortune to spend a weekend at the Roam Inn, in Munising Michigan, for a winter getaway.  We had heard so many good things about it from friends but had not yet gotten an opportunity. To say we were satisfied with our stay, is an understatement.

            A welcoming and warm invitation greeted us at the front desk by a smiling Erin, who not only checked us in but gave us a run down on things to do in the area, and a little background on the Inn and Tracey’s, the restaurant. A top to bottom restoration has made the Roam a top- notch boutique hotel. Original columns and beams help showcase the lobby and bar area. Curly maple wood tabletops glisten and add warmth to the room as well.

            Heading down a wide hallway to the hotel rooms, the walls are decorated with large, vivid metal photography, displaying outdoors scenes from the Munising and Pictured Rocks area. Also, one wall has large maps, as murals of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s easy to gaze at these and decide where one wants to venture for sight-seeing.

            The warm theme continues when you see the hotel room doors, as they are constructed, by local artisans, from thick slabs of curly maple as well.  They help make your stay even more pleasant by blocking any sounds from the hall. The rooms themselves are very welcoming with a beautiful combination of rustic and urban. Top of the line heating and cooling systems keep the room the perfect temperature. The bed was a highlight and was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever been in. We missed it our first night back home. They also have a mini fridge and a great selection of snacks and soft drinks in the room.

            In the evenings, we stopped into Tracey’s for dinner and drinks. Reservations are recommended for Friday and Saturday evenings. Their dinner menu, which can be found online, will make you hungry just looking at the inspired meals. If you’re in the mood for an ice-cold beer, it is stored just above freezing. One of the features I liked was the separation of rooms in the restaurant. They have a separate room just for large groups, which keeps the rest of the dining room quiet. It’s a wonderful place to not only dine but to enjoy quiet conversation with one another.

            Most mornings, Tracey’s provides a continental breakfast, but on Sunday they have a brunch from 9 to 11. We took advantage of that and it made me wonder if we should drive the five hours to Munising every Sunday just for brunch, as it was that good. My wife had French toast, which was served layered, with cream and raspberry jam. It was the only time I’ve seen her photograph her food before she ate it! Our waitress Tracey, was excellent at describing some of the items on the menu to us.  We spoke with the owners, Tom and Ana Dolaskie, Sunday morning and they filled us in on the history of the renovation. They were also very pleasant and enjoyable to talk to. They have really poured their hearts and soul into the Roam and it is evident throughout. It was great to hear them talk about how much local talent they used to restore the Roam. Providing employment to locals and providing such care to their guests is not something many do right. With their great attitudes and their love of Munising, the Roam should be serving guests for many years to come.

            The Roam is an ideal place to celebrate an anniversary, have a romantic weekend, or to honeymoon. Especially for people who enjoy outdoor activities as Munising has so much to offer, for any season. We visited the Sand Point Ice Curtains, the Eben Ice Caves, and several of the local water falls. My wife was dubious about spending time in the Upper Peninsula, in winter, but after staying at the Roam, she would like to go back next winter.

Sunday morning came quicker than we would have liked. Munising had received around 5 inches of snow on Saturday night and we were surprised, when we went to load our car, to discover that Roam employees had already brushed all the snow from our car. That was a nice touch that definitely had us admiring the Roam even more than we already had. Suffice it to say, we are already looking forward to our next visit!

Interior Photos

(Sorry for the quality - taken with my iphone)

IMG_0881 (1)Main HallwayHallway art work by Thomas J. Dolaskie IV IMG_0877Standard Room with King Size Bed IMG_0883Solid Maples Doors Throughout

IMG_0897Map Wall in Hallway IMG_0892One of the dining areas in Tracey's IMG_0895French Toast as Sunday Brunch

If you're interested in a stay, you can see great interior photos and gather information at

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) all season boutique downtown fine dining hotel michigan motel munising photography pictured rocks places to stay pure michigan roam inn summer tourism travel upper peninsula winter Mon, 05 Mar 2018 15:46:18 GMT
Spiritual Sunset "Spiritual Sunset" Lake of the Clouds, Escarpment Trail

A couple weeks ago, I headed to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for my annual U.P. autumn shoot. I was looking forward to it as I had a lot on my mind lately.  My wife and I have had a lot of major life events thrown at us the last two years. Starting with my dad passing away two years ago, and my mom just six months ago, with lots of stuff in between and some stuff after.  All those big things that we face with middle age. With a lot of those things behind us, I was in an optimistic mood. 

One of my favorite things about photography is the way it lets you forget your problems. Once I'm in the field and start composing a shot, the world just falls away.  You start seeing the pictures around you, and you feel as if you're one with nature. Hours pass and the sun has set, the night is coming on, and you start thinking about night shots. And, do I even need to sleep?

So, I was looking forward to this trip. But my mom was in the back of my mind. Every time I would leave to shoot somewhere, she always wanted to hear where I was going and what I planned on doing. More importantly, she would call the morning after I got home to ask how it went, and did I get any good pictures. I decided not to dwell on that and just enjoy the trip.

So on Tuesday the third of October, I found myself arriving at the Porkies, after a nine hour drive. Driving up to the overlook at Lake of the Clouds, I found myself in a light rain, and so much fog, I couldn't see the lake. Disappointed, I drove back into Silver City, and stopped for a beer. My friend Neil Weaver was there as well, and the conversation turned to photography and thoughts of dinner. Fortunately, Neil's phone buzzed before we ordered food. Mutual friend, Aubrieta Hope was sending a text to let us know that conditions were clearing up, and were we going to be out shooting? We decided, why not, and headed up to the Lake.

Finding ourselves on the Escarpment Trail, overlooking Lake of the Clouds, conditions were improving quickly, but we were still faced with clouds and fog. I was further east on the trail, so that I could see the entirety of the lake, hoping for a sunset in the background. Neil, Aubrieta, and Jeff Caverly were poised to the west, hoping for a sunset as well.

Suddenly, the sun started to set and rising fog from the surrounding forest began to glisten with the reflected sunlight. At first the colors were quite subtle, and then they became quite vivid, with the winds carrying the fog upwards at a fast pace. I almost couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was the single most incredible sight, I've witnessed in nature. At first, I thought I had made a mistake, being so far east on the trail. I could only imagine what my friends must be seeing further west. I started to pick up my gear and to run and join them, when it occurred to me, that whatever was happening, it would be over by the time I reached the others. So I set up my tripod and took the video posted below. As I was taking the video though, I realized that it may not last long, so I quit filming and started taking photos. 

The one thing that has stayed with me, since this event, is what I felt at the time. Although, I'm not one to put much stock in otherworldly thinking, I surprised myself when unconsciously, I smiled and said "Thank you Mom", out loud. 

Meeting up with my friends, I discovered that they had some great sunset shots, but had largely missed the scale of what I was lucky enough to witness. Sometimes it's good to lag behind.


Untouched video of the sunset - No saturation needed

Lake of the Clouds Foggy SunsetLake of the Clouds Foggy Sunset  

In the photo, I lightened the foreground but decided against saturating the sky color

(Photo 1) ISO 400 - Shutter 1/30 sec. - F/4.5 (Aperture was still set for video)

(Photo 2) ISO 400 - Shutter 1/8 sec. - F/11

(Photo 3) ISO 400 - Shutter .4 sec. - F/11

(Photo 2) ISO 400 - Shutter 1/4 sec. - F/11

Technical Details

It can be difficult to balance the sky exposure, along with the foreground in these kinds of photos. Although I have graduated ND Filters, I often don't like the transition, on uneven landscapes, that the filter creates. With these shots, I tried a new method that I have not done before, that I picked up from John McCormick of Michigan Nut Photography.

I installed a Cokin Z-Pro Series Filter Adapter Ring, to my lens.  On the front of the adapter ring, I had put adhesive backed felt, so that the filters don't scratch. The idea is, to gently move the filter around, in a circular pattern, so that you have less visibility of the transition. In my case, I actually used the filter upside down, (as shown in the photo below) and it seemed to work fine. I didn't have a lot of time to sort through filters and the one I grabbed was quite dark on the top half. That did a good job of keeping the sky dark and keeping the foreground lighter. Some of the photos seemed a little soft at 100%. That may be from the movement of the filter. Obviously, I could have tried using a filter holder and doing things the proper way, but I actually liked the way this worked out for me. The traditional way, may have given me sharper images, but with the uneven horizon, I think this method worked out great, and the top two are sharp enough for most sized prints or canvases. I had a lot of photos from that shoot, that I liked. I've just posted my favorites here. Thanks for stopping by!


Camera with Filter Holder AdapterCamera with Filter Holder AdapterCamera with Filter Holder Adapter

Using 4x6 filter upside downUsing 4x6 filter upside downUsing 4x6 filter upside down

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Tue, 17 Oct 2017 18:02:46 GMT
Root Beer Falls in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Root Beer Falls (Wakefield Township) in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Last Autumn, I spent a week trekking around the Upper Peninsula, in search of waterfalls. With misty, rainy days, the weather was perfect for photographing the numerous waterfalls the UP provides. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Wakefield Township, is the pretty little waterfall, appropriately named "Root Beer Falls". 

A little bit difficult to find, as there is no signage or trail to this little gem. I was told that it was very close to the side of a dirt road. To find it, I drove slowly, with the window down, until I could hear the water cascading into the creek.

The area surrounding Root Beer Falls is pretty much a swamp and it was a good thing I had brought my knee high muck boots. Although the Upper Peninsula has much more dramatic waterfalls, I found Root Beer Falls to be one of the most charming. With lots of muck, slippery areas, and rain, it was still a very enjoyable hour.

Below, I've posted a video as well as several photos from the trip. All photos are available as Gallery Wrap Canvas, Vivid Metal Prints, Prints, or Matted Prints.

Root Beer Falls 2016Root Beer Falls in Wakefield Township. Michigan's Upper Peninsula Root Beer FallsRoot Beer FallsRoot Beer Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula flows with tannin colored waters

Root Beer Falls - Autumn PortraitRoot Beer Falls - Autumn PortraitRoot Beer Falls in Wakefield Michigan in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Tannin colored water flows over rock and spills into Planter Creek

Root Beer Falls - Wakefield, MichiganRoot Beer Falls - Wakefield, MichiganRoot Beer Falls in Wakefield Michigan. Tannin rich waters flow over this waterfall in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, during autumn

Root Beer Falls in AutumnRoot Beer Falls in AutumnRoot Beer Falls in Wakefield Michigan in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Tannin colored water flows over rock and spills into Planter Creek

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) autumn autumn background beauty colors craig sterken creek fall flowing michigan nature outdoors peaceful river root beer falls scenic season stream township tranquil upper peninsula video wakefield water waterfall Mon, 11 Sep 2017 14:25:42 GMT
Bay City Chalkwalk 2017  

Bay City Chalkwalk 2017

Downtown Bay City Michigan, held their annual Chalkwalk last weekend. A lot of very talented artists showed up to show the viewers just what they could do with a simple box of chalk. In addition to the artists, there was plenty of entertainment for the whole family. A bubble machine emitted a constant stream of bubbles for the kids to run in, while making their own soap bubbles and using the available hula hoops. That evening brought more entertainment as local bands played music under the new Third Street Star Bridge.

CMS04402_For webCMS04402_For web

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) art artist bay chalkwalk city downtown event michigan outdoors tourism travel Tue, 29 Aug 2017 20:13:49 GMT
Mosquito Falls at Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Mosquito Falls at Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

A couple weeks ago, a friend invited me on a hike to Mosquito Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The trail head for Mosquito Falls is the same trail head as the Chapel Trail Loop. It is an easy drive from Munising. A little over one mile, the hike meanders through a wonderful wilderness area with plenty of tree roots and mud holes. But the hike is well worth it when you come to the Mosquito River. There are wonderful rapids and several levels of waterfalls where the river flows over several drops before wending its way to Lake Superior. Below, I've posted a video as well as several photos from the trip. All photos are available as Gallery Wrap Canvas, Vivid Metal Prints, Prints, or Matted Prints.

Mosquito FallsMosquito Falls is a picturesque waterfall on the Mosquito River. Hiking a little over a mile through Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, you will find several drops to this waterfall, located on the Mosquito River, before it eventually empties into Lake Superior. Mosquito Falls and Old Tree II - Pictured RocksMosquito Falls and Old Tree II - Pictured RocksMosquito Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Ferns and mossy stones surround this waterfall in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Mosquito Falls - Pictured RocksMosquito Falls - Pictured RocksMosquito Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Ferns and mossy stones surround this waterfall in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Mosquito Falls Ferns - PRNLMosquito Falls Ferns - PRNLMosquito Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Ferns and mossy stones surround this waterfall in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Mosquito Falls from TrailMosquito Falls from TrailMosquito Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Ferns and mossy stones surround this waterfall in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Mosquito Falls and Old Tree - Pictured RocksMosquito Falls and Old Tree - Pictured RocksMosquito Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Ferns and mossy stones surround this waterfall in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Frame MatMatted in Frame

Matted in Frame

UP-262 9Q4A3789_Data_Canvas_CropGallery Wrap CanvasMosquito Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Ferns and mossy stones surround this waterfall in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Gallery Wrap Canvas

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) cascade flowing michigan mosquito falls mosquito river munising nature outdoors photography prints river scenic tourism travel upper peninsula video waterfall Fri, 25 Aug 2017 18:03:50 GMT
Ghost Forest of Sleeping Bear Dunes Recently, I had the opportunity to hike out into Sleeping Bear Dunes for a day, with my wife to accompany me. Being a hot sunny day, we slathered on the sunscreen, bug spray, and packed some bottles of water.  The water and sunscreen were a big help out in the dunes.

After hiking our way over to the shoreline, and following it for a while, we were lucky enough to stumble on the "Ghost Forest".  Skeletons of dead trees littered the dunes among the windswept sands.  Ancient trees, buried for years have started to appear as erosion works on the dunes.  It is amazing to see these old trees and to imagine the forest that was there at one time.

After a couple hours of exploring, the heat was getting to us and we decided to head back.  I can only imagine how beautiful the Ghost Forest is in the evening and plan to go back soon!

All photos available as prints, canvas, or vivid metal prints in the Sleeping Bear Dunes Gallery

Sentinels of the Dunes - Sleeping BearSentinels of the Dunes - Sleeping BearDead trees of a ghost forest rise up in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, near Empire Michigan.

Ghost Forest - Sleeping Bear DunesGhost Forest - Sleeping Bear DunesGhost Forest of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Ancient trees stand in the sand dunes, with scrub brush in the foreground. Empire Michigan

SB-140 9Q4A2548- BW_DataSB-140 9Q4A2548- BW_DataAn ancient, weathered tree, rises from the sands of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Lake Michigan and South Manitou Island can be seen in the distance. This tree is part of the dunes "Ghost Forest"


[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) adventure brush dunes empire ghost forest great lakes hiking island lake michigan michigan pierce stocking sleeping bear dunes south manitou tourism travel tree weathered Wed, 02 Aug 2017 20:54:22 GMT
2017 Bay City Fireworks from Wenonah Park Crowds watching the Bay City Fireworks - 2017

Fireworks crowd - 2017Fireworks crowd - 2017Wenonah Park Crowd

Fireworks crowd - 2017Fireworks crowd - 2017

Fireworks crowd - 2017Fireworks crowd - 2017

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Bay City Fourth of July Michigan Saginaw River Wenonah Park crowd downtown fireworks summer tourism travel Wed, 05 Jul 2017 20:46:43 GMT
Chicago Fireboat Joseph Medill Chicago Fireboat Joseph Medill of the Chicago Fire Department. Commissioned in 1908, the Joseph Medill once dominated the Chicago River and was held in high regard. Now a relic of a bygone era, it slowly rusts into decay at a shipyard in Escanaba, Michigan

- Prints Available -


[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Chicago Department Escanaba Fire Fireboat Joseph Medill Michigan boat decay oddity old outdoors relic rust ship shipyard vintage Tue, 20 Sep 2016 13:15:24 GMT
Bay City Michigan Fireworks - 2016 Bay City Michigan puts on a great fireworks show every July. It's a three day extravaganza of carnival rides, concerts, fun, and three evenings of fireworks. The first two nights consist of concerts in Wenonah Park. Crowds gather around the Friendship Shell and listen to assorted music acts. Families open lawn chairs and spread out blankets to listen. The Skerbeck Family Carnival sets up on the other side of the river with its colorful lights, rides, and tasty treats. A little after 10 pm, a small fireworks display booms overhead to the enjoyment of everyone gathered.

But the main thing everyone comes for is the big fireworks show on Saturday night. You can still enjoy the carnival and the music, but the fireworks display, by Wolverine Fireworks, will really get your attention.

CMS03818-2-Click for Purchase Information-Boats line the Saginaw River in Downtown Bay City Michigan to watch the annual fireworks display

Boaters gather on the Saginaw River in preparation for the annual fireworks display

CMS03872-2-Click for purchase options-Boats gather under a Bay City sunset, waiting for the firework display

CMS03718-Click for purchase options-Fireworks explode behind the Skerbeck Family Carnival in Veteran's Park in Bay City Michigan

Families enjoy rides and entertainment, as well as the fireworks!

CMS04102_Data-Click for purchase options-Fireworks explode over the Saginaw River during the Bay City Michigan annual Fourth of July display. Colorful reflections silhouette the boaters on the river. CMS03586-Edit-Click for purchase options-Fireworks explode off the bow of tallship Appledore in downtown Bay City Michigan CMS04084_DataCMS04084_DataFireworks explode over the Saginaw River during the Bay City Michigan annual Fourth of July display. Colorful reflections silhouette the boaters on the river. CMS04005_dataCMS04005_dataFireworks explode over the Saginaw River during the Bay City Michigan annual fireworks display. Colorful reflections silhouette the boaters on the river. CMS03791-Click for Purchase Options-Carnival goers enjoy a treat CMS03933_DataCMS03933_DataFireworks explode over the Saginaw River during the Bay City Michigan annual fireworks display. Colorful reflections silhouette the boaters on the river. CMS03986_DataCMS03986_DataFireworks explode over the Saginaw River during the Bay City Michigan annual fireworks display. Colorful reflections silhouette the boaters on the river. CMS04060_DataCMS04060_DataBAY CITY, MI - JULY 2: Fireworks explode over the river and downtown area during a July Fourth celebration on July 2, 2016 in Bay City, Michigan CMS04106_DataCMS04106_DataFireworks explode over the Saginaw River during the Bay City Michigan annual Fourth of July display. Colorful reflections silhouette the boaters on the river. CMS04046_dataCMS04046_dataFireworks explode over the Saginaw River during the Bay City Michigan annual fireworks display. Colorful reflections silhouette the boaters on the river.

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Bay City Michigan Pure Michigan Saginaw River Wolverine Fireworks annual appledore blog boats carnival crowd display downtown explosion family fun fireworks reflections ship skerback family sky tall tourism water Fri, 08 Jul 2016 01:35:27 GMT
A Visitor's Guide to Exploring Frankenmuth - Michigan's Little Bavaria  

Mstr IMG_1236 4x6 LoResBavarian InnBavarian Inn - Copyright: Craig Sterken

If you’ve ever dreamed of spending a winter’s day in a charming alpine village, but don’t have the funds to fly to the Bavarian Alps, a weekend visit to Frankenmuth Michigan might be the thing for you. Nicknamed “Little Bavaria”, this small city in the heart of mid-Michigan will have you believing you’ve been transported to your dream village within minutes.

                Teeming with charm, Main Street offers shops, boutiques, restaurants, a brewery, and a step back in time with horse and carriage rides.  A carriage ride will take you through a picturesque neighborhood and through the downtown area. Afterwards, you have your choice of two well known restaurants. On opposite sides of the street you’ll find Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, famously known for their chicken dinners and the Bavarian Inn, widely known for its home-cooked German fare. Both establishments also host gift shops and fine wines.

                The Cass River wends its way through town and is flanked on one side of the river by the Bavarian Inn and the Bavarian Inn Lodge. An appealing covered bridge, known as “The Zehnder's Holz Brucke” spans the river connecting the two properties. Available to both cars and foot traffic it adds to the delightful scenic views of Frankenmuth.

Mstr IMG_1451 4x6 LoResMstr IMG_1451 4x6 LoResStock photos of Frankenmuth Michigan in Winter

                For shoppers who want more than the boutiques in town offer, there is River Place. Over 40 shops offer goods for the discriminate shopper. River Place has pleasant walkways, benches, and paths to stroll, linger, and enjoy, even in winter. For entertainment beyond shopping you can also visit Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Indoor Waterpark. Providing wet and wild family fun and relaxation it can be a wonderful respite from the winter weather. They even provide complementary shuttle service to Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth restaurant.

Though Frankenmuth is widely known for their many festivals throughout the year winter brings Zehnder’s Snowfest. One of the most well known snow-sculpting competitions in North America, it is also host to the National Collegiate Ice Carving Championship and the High School Snow Sculpting Competition. You’ll be able to watch the snow sculptors at work and ice carvers employing their skills with chainsaws, picks, and even handmade tools created for the job. This year will be the 23rd annual completion and will be held January 22-27.

Mstr IMG_9600 6x9 LoResMstr IMG_9600 6x9 LoRes

Don’t forget to visit the southern outskirts of town and visit Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Bronner’s is the World’s Largest Christmas Store. Founded in 1945 by Wally Bronner, it is open year round and bustles with activity as shoppers, tour busses, and cars come and go. Over 100,000 lights are lit throughout the season and it provides the perfect atmosphere for getting yourself in the Christmas mood. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon shopping for ornaments, artificial trees, Santa suits, or for resting your heels in their cafeteria.

Frankenmuth just has so much to offer. On a recent visit my wife and I stopped for wine tasting at St. Julian Winery, shopped for a comforter at Frankenmuth Woolen Mills, ate lunch at Tiffany's, and bought freshly roasted chestnuts from a vendor on Main Street.  So, if you’re looking for a weekend full of family fun, a good meal, or a romantic getaway with that alpine village feel, Frankenmuth delivers. Visit one of the bustling shops or just quietly sit on a bench sipping hot chocolate and watch the fun unfold around you. 

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Christmas Frankenmuth Michigan Michigan Visitors Guide Zehnders covered bridge family fun frankenmuth shopping snowfest tourism travel winter wooden bridge Fri, 07 Mar 2014 19:10:21 GMT
Visit to Howell Conference and Nature Center  


Mstr IMG_6682 Eye Crop_FB

For some time now I've been wanting to photograph owls, but especially a snowy owl. There is something about these birds that is fascinating. Their eyes are captivating and just seem to draw me in. I spent many days last winter driving the countryside, looking for a snowy owl, but to no avail.

On January 12 I was lucky enough to visit the Howell Conference and Nature Center for a “Birds of Prey” workshop.  The workshop was put on by wildlife photographer Steve Gettle, who makes his home in Brighton, Michigan. Steve has been photographing wildlife for over 25 years, and it shows. His 25-minute slide show presentation was not only jam-packed with outstanding photographs, but seemed to end just as soon as it had begun. The presentation was followed by a short Q&A period, which was very casual and informative.  His knowledge of animal behavior and photography is second to none.  The conclusion of the Q&A session found us ready for lunch and, lucky for us, the nature staff had cooked up a wonderful meal of lasagna, vegetarian lasagna, salad, and garlic bread.  In addition to the tasty food, I enjoyed talking photography with others at my table. It’s always great to bond with others who share the same passion for photographing wildlife.

After lunch we headed to an outdoor site for the shoot. The site was down a gravel road a short distance from the nature center.  We came to a field surrounded by woodland. Spread out on the edges of the field were custom-made perches with the birds we there to see. Unfortunately, we did not have snow for this year’s shoot (I think we were all hoping for some snowy shots.)  On the plus side, the weather was a balmy-for-January at 60 degrees.  The warm weather made for a very relaxing outdoor shoot.  

For our shoot, the nature center had provided seven birds and a porcupine. The nature center takes in wounded animals and rehabilitates them for release back into the wild. The birds we photographed have injuries that don’t allow them to go back into the wild. They are cared for with gentle hands at the center, where they now reside permanently.

Mstr IMG_7617_filtered

The photographers were welcome to walk around the field and visit whichever bird they wanted to shoot. Each bird had a handler that would answer questions about them and let photographers know how close they could get to the subject.  A 200mm lens, or longer, is recommended. I used my Canon 70-200mm lens and found it adequate. For the second half of the shoot I used a 2X extender on the same lens and it was helpful to have that extra reach.

Mstr IMG_6783_filtered_FB

Arriving at the field I headed straight for the snowy owl. This was the bird I most wanted to shoot and only two others were setting up to photograph this beauty. She was a little grumpy and was giving the handler some trouble about getting on the perch. After some coaxing and gentle words she obliged and hopped on the perch. The snowy owl is a stunning bird to view and to photograph. She was on the constant lookout and turning her head from side to side. Patience paid off as several times she stopped her scan of the skies and looked straight into my lens. Click! I got the shot I came for.

Mstr IMG_6682_filtered_FB

Over the next two hours I would photograph all of the birds they had out that day.  The time flew by and I could not help but be impressed by these regal birds. I have only seen owls from a distance in the past, usually when perched up high on a telephone pole or a similar setting. It was great to see them up close and at eye level.  In addition to the snowy owl were the Eastern screech owl, the great horned owl, the barred owl, another horned owl, a red-tailed hawk, and a bald eagle.

Mstr IMG_7216 Head Crop_filtered_FB

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Craig Sterken Great Horned Owl Howell Howell Conference and Nature Center Howell Michigan Howell, Michigan Michigan Snowy Owl birds birds of prey blog center eagle nature owl owls photography photos prey Mon, 28 Jan 2013 02:23:19 GMT
Great Lakes Piping Plover Mstr IMG_4922_For Web

If you’ve ever walked along the shores of Lake Michigan and found yourself smiling at the antics of the Piping Plover, you’re not alone.  These birds scamper across the sand at the edge of the surf, and just as quickly flutter away.  To many they are a sign of summer in the same way that a seagull perched on a piling may be.


Hopefully the Piping Plover will continue to amuse us and enjoy our shorelines for years to come. But only time will tell if their precarious hold on life will prevail.  The Piping Plover is considered an endangered species and could become extinct if we’re not careful.  In the 1800s and early 1900s the Piping Plover was hunted to very low levels as it was in demand for its feathers, which were used for hat decoration.  They were put under protection in 1918 and numbers were increasing. However, habitat loss due to development, rising lake levels, and predators brought their numbers in the Great Lakes area down to around two dozen in the '70s. The Piping Plovers construct their nests on flat, sandy beaches. As lake levels rise, the beach area decreases and leaves little room for nesting. Dogs, cats, foxes, and raccoons are just a few of the predators these birds have to worry about.

Current efforts to protect their nesting areas have made a difference and their numbers are increasing.  Nesting pair numbers are currently around 5 dozen in the Great Lakes region, but that number fluctuates. An aggressive campaign to build cages around their nesting sites and rope the areas off to alert humans has greatly helped the Piping Plover population.

If you’re lucky enough to spot these playful plovers, enjoy their antics, but try to keep a respectful distance.  For photography enthusiasts, a long lens and patience can go a long way. With a little  education, these beautiful birds just may be here for years to come.




[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Great Lakes Piping Plover Plover beach endangered feathers nesting piper sand species water Sat, 14 Jul 2012 02:13:29 GMT
Dow Bay City River Roar 2012 Mstr IMG_5687_Crop_filtered Blog Head

Every July the roar of powerboat racing engines can be heard reverberating from the banks of the Saginaw River in downtown Bay City, Michigan. The Bay City River Roar is sponsored by Dow Chemical Company and one of the many events to attract a crowd to the area. It regularly draws thousands of spectators who find themselves wowed by the speed of the boats.

                Music concerts are a featured event of the River Roar as well. On Friday the concert stage hosted rock bands Cinderella, Skid Row, and LA Guns in 2012. Shortly after the roar of the engines died along the banks of the river, the heavy bass beat of rock music shook the shores. Saturday evening hosted the likes of The Product, Wayland, Finding Clyde, and Pop Evil.

                Friday opens the weekend with time trials conducted through-out the day. Saturday morning opens with more testing but by afternoon the powerboats are in full racing mode with heats taking place until early evening. Then Sunday follows up with testing and Finals.

                Although tickets can be purchased to watch the races, a thrifty way to view the races is by donating a non-perishable food item for entrance to Vet’s Park on the west side of the river.  Purchased tickets are required for the concerts, but the music can be heard on all of the sidewalks in the downtown shopping district. Many restaurants and pubs are available to host the hungry and thirsty. So for a weekend of fun, make plans to visit this exciting annual event. 


[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) #10 #16 #26 2012 Amsoil Bay City Bay City River Roar Bud Dow Formula 1 Formula One Johnson Light Lynn Simburger Merc Mercury Michigan Saginaw River Steve Lee Terry Rinker Tim Seebold engines hydroplane motors panning powerboat race racing river speed Tue, 03 Jul 2012 17:11:39 GMT
Tulip Time in Holland Michigan  

Tulips at Windmill Island Gardens

Nothing says springtime in Michigan better than the arrival of tulips, and there is nowhere better to view them than Holland, Michigan. The abundance and varieties leave many visitors in awe. Driving through the downtown, you’ll discover streets lined with tulips and parks overflowing with them. Settled in 1847 by the Dutch, Holland offers many opportunities to learn about Dutch heritage and the link that they have to tulips and the Netherlands.

A popular place to not only see tulips, but to learn cultural aspects of the Dutch is Windmill Island Gardens near downtown.  Windmill Island is open daily from the 3rd Saturday in April through early October. Visitors there will discover an authentic Dutch windmill that was originally built in the Netherlands, but dismantled and moved to Windmill Gardens in the 1960s. The windmill is fully operational, and flour can be purchased that is milled on site. Windmill Island is one of the top wedding destinations in the state of Michigan with its gazebo and Amsterdam Street Organ. Guests to the gardens can also purchase wooden shoes and ride the antique Dutch carousel.

Tulips at Windmill Island Gardens

Other places for visitors to learn about the Dutch include Nelis’ Dutch Village, Veldheer Gardens, DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory, Cappon & Settlers House, and the Holland Museum. Veldheer Gardens also offers fields of tulips for viewing and a herd of buffalo. In addition to that, you can order many varieties of tulips for your own garden along with many other types of plants, such as crocuses and hostas.


Holland hosts a Tulip Time Festival  the second week of May each year when its six million tulips are in bloom. Generally the best time for tulips is the last week of April through the first two weeks of May, but it’s always wise to call ahead and find out current conditions. Booking a room in advance during this time is advised as well.

Tulips at Windmill Island Gardens

Consider visiting this lovely town on Lake Macatawa, surrounding yourself with the scent of millions of tulips and treading the cobblestone walkways as you shop. If you work up an appetite, you can rest in one of the many fine eating establishments, or you may prefer to sip a cool drink and people-watch as you enjoy one of the outdoor cafes in the exciting downtown.

Tulips at Windmill Island Gardens

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Carousel Dutch Holland Holland Michigan Holland Tulip Festival Lake Macatawa Lake Michigan Nelis Dutch Village Veldheer Gardens Windmill Windmill Island Gardens downtown festival site tourist travel tulip tulips visitor Fri, 04 May 2012 12:47:21 GMT
Point Betsie Lighthouse - Frankfort Michigan  

Point Betsie Lighthouse


Standing tall and proud along the shores of Lake Michigan, Point Betsie marks the southern entrance to the Manitou Passage. Its light has been protecting sailors, and ships, from the many maritime dangers that exist since its construction in 1858.  Timeless charm and easy accessibility help explain why Point Betsie is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the state of Michigan.  Parking your car just yards away from this beauty, you’ll be welcomed by the sights and sounds of Lake Michigan.


            Nestled in a dune just south of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the tower stands 39 feet tall, but with the height of the dune, it towers 52 feet above the water line.  Point Betsie was the last lighthouse on the Great Lakes to be manually serviced, and was fully automated in 1983. The light could originally be spotted as far away as 27.5 miles with the Fourth Order Fresnel Lens she came equipped with. Upon automation the Fresnel Lens was replaced with a Vega VRB-25 system which has a range of 15-22 miles. 


Point Betsie Lighthouse


            Today Point Betsie stands in quiet testimony to the many keepers who maintained the light, while their wives maintained the household, tended gardens, and watched their children playfully explore the dunes.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and manned for 106 years, Point Betsie offers a fascinating visit for history buffs and those who just want to relax. Sporting the same paint scheme the lighthouse had in the 1940s, it has been preserved and is cared for by “The Friends of Point Betsie Lighthouse”. If visiting Frankfort, or Sleeping Bear Dunes in Benzie County, make sure and visit this historic lighthouse. Wander the grounds and explore the accompanying fog station, or stroll the beach, and have a family picnic. Adventure awaits!

[email protected] (Craig Sterken Photography) Frankfort, Michigan Lake Michigan Lighthouse Michigan National Lakeshore Point Betsie Sleeping Bear Dunes beach dunes lake sand sandy shore tourist visitor Mon, 30 Apr 2012 16:15:18 GMT