The Northern Michigan Asylum (Traverse City State Hospital) was established in 1881 as Michigan's third psychiatric facility. The care of the mentally ill before the advent of psychiatric drugs typically involved institutionalizing patients. According to the Kirkbride philosophy, the best way to treat psychiatric illness was to surround the residents with beauty, natural light, fresh air, and hard work. The cottages and main buildings of the Asylum are incredible feats of architecture and construction designed to do just that. It became more than a mental hospital during outbreaks of polio, TB, typhoid, diphtheria, and influenza. It also cared for the elderly, served as a rehab for drug addicts, and was a training center for nurses. As mental health care philosophies changed, the institution began shutting down. The magnificent old buildings sat abandoned, and some were destroyed. It closed for good in 1989.
There are many Traverse City residents who tell stories about the old Asylum and its patients. It was a complicated place, designed for great beauty, but filled with torment and pain. Many swear it is haunted. It is a fascinating place to photograph, perhaps because of this very dichotomy. If the walls could talk...
There are few places I'd rather be than taking photographs along the shores of Michigan's amazing lakes. From the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, to the powerful waves of Lake Superior, to many inland lakes and waterfalls, I am moved and shaped by Michigan's water.
Winter is my favorite season to photograph, hands down. There's something magical about heading out into a silent, frozen landscape. Lake Michigan throws her icy waves into fantastic sculptures, sugared frost transforms branches into scenes worthy of a fairy tale, and often, I am alone in the beauty. Perhaps it is hypothermia that makes my thoughts slow down and my heart calm, but I think that photographing the depth of winter is incredibly therapeutic.
My family journeyed West to explore some of the wild places of California. We traveled down the winding coastal highway and marveled at the power of the Pacific surf. We slept under the Redwoods. We explored barren volcanic terrains. We were rendered speechless by the mountains of Yosemite. We hiked to waterfalls fed by waters flowing from Mount Shasta. It was one of the most beautiful adventures!
I'll never forget the first time I saw a snowy owl. Those intense yellow eyes met mine and I knew, without a doubt, that I had met a creature of tremendous endurance and intelligence. What makes the snowy owl so alluring? Is it that they hail from the far reaches of the Arctic north where few humans have tread? Is it the way they fly in complete silence, despite having a five foot wing span? Is it the way they appear when you least expect it, and often can't be found when you search for them? It is hard to pinpoint why we love them so, but there is nothing more exhilarating than photographing these great, white angels.
If you would like to read a blog I wrote about photographing snowy owls, visit this link.
The night sky is tremendously fun to photograph because the camera can see so much more than the human eye can in the dark. Each shot must be imagined before it can be captured. While much planning goes into night sky photography, the elements of luck and surprise are huge. The elusive Northern Lights are notorious for beckoning me to drive long distances in my pajamas, only to laugh and fade away when I set up the tripod. Even when auroras hide, the Milky Way, moon, and stars shine, turning common places into mysterious scenes.
Birds are among my most favorite photographic subjects. I love them because they are untamed and free, because they don't pose for you, and because they are all beautifully different. I try to capture the bird's personality through each image. Though I cannot communicate with them, I do often feel a deep connection when one looks into my lens. Perhaps this is the power of a moment shared with nature's wild creatures.
Fall is the grand finale for the hardwood trees, when their unassuming green leaves are transformed into brilliant golds and reds before surrendering to stark winter branches. I try to memorize the colors before they fade to grey and white. I find it difficult to do justice to the glory of the season, but enjoy the challenge of creating memories of fall.
Everyone in Northern Michigan looks forward to spring. There is a certain universal euphoria when that first crocus peeks up through the snow. I love the way wildflowers explode in a choreographed symphony across the forests and fields. From the common Forget-Me-Not to the rare Ram's Head Lady's Slipper, there is so much beauty in the blossoms.
There's a whimsical nature about the small critters in our backyard. I credit my two sons for helping me see the character in frogs, grasshoppers, and snails. I enjoy crawling through the mud, getting down on my hands and knees, and seeing these creatures from a child's perspective. And while my idea of "catching butterflies" does not involve a net, I love the challenge of the chase.