Heading Out

Heading Out

An unseasonably warm winter day was the perfect time to check out the activity in St. Joseph, Michigan.  While we were walking on the beach, a large vessel made its way past the lighthouses and onto Lake Michigan.  As it entered the lake, it turned north and eventually disappeared over the horizon.  We wondered where it was headed. Northern Michigan, Minnesota, perhaps somewhere along the St. Lawrence Seaway, or out onto the Atlantic Ocean for ports much farther away.

The passing vessel dwarfs the pier and lighthouses, and serves as a reminder to onlookers, of how shipping built the towns along Lake Michigan.

Beginning to Freeze

Beginning to Freeze

Less than two months away from the annual ice fishing derby, LaPorte County lakes are beginning to freeze.  Here, winds push the thin, newly formed ice to the shore, where is breaks into pieces, then freezes again.  This action creates some interesting patterns in the ice that generally only last a few hours until the spaces in beteen the plates of ice freeze as well.

Ice Patterns and Frosty Sticks

This seems to occur anywhere the water is moving gently - lakes on windy days, or near waterfalls where the falling water pushes forming ice away from the falls.  The image above, taken near a small waterfall feeding the historic Illinois and Michigan Canal near Lemont, Illinois, shows these ice patterns beginning to freeze.  Only a few hours later, the stream was frozen completely over, and the patterns were no longer visible.


Recent Happenings

Here are some of the latest events that have unfolded over the past few weeks.


In addition, it was also selected for Weather.com's Top 50 Science and Environment Photos of 2014.



Previous to this, the image along with several more, were featured in:
 UK's Daily Mail
The Huffington Post
ODN News, London

Along with a short interview for The Culture Trip

The Huffington Post also extended the invitation for me to become a photo blogger for their site. I plan on posting original material once a week, in addition to this blog.  My HuffPost blog author page and blog archive can be found here; http://huffingtonpost.com/tom-gill

Much more to come in the new year.

The Morning After the Freeze

The Morning After the Storm

Clouds finally break up a bit, allowing the sun to illuminate the frozen lighthouse and pier. At least two days of freezing temperatures and high winds caused a large build-up of ice on the outer lighthouse in St. Joseph, Michigan. Not unusual, but always stunning, the ice formations give the outer light the appearance of a frosted cake.

Arriving at the beach early in the morning, I waited for a couple of hours for the sun to finally break through the clouds. In the meantime, I met quite a few people who were taking photographs along the beach and pier.  It's always great to talk to other people with similar photographic interests, and even more intresting to view the images they captured.  The subject is the same, yet the interpretation is often quite different.


Ice Above

Ice Above

Getting close to the ice covered lighthouse is always the goal, but not always possible.  This visit to the St. Joseph, Michigan lighthouse was almost one of those times when accessing the end of the pier was not possible. But with a bit of luck, a local man used an axe and chopped a path to gain access to the end of the pier.  You can read about that in my previous post.

You need to get close to the ice to really appreciate the subtle twists and turns the wind and water created. The intricacies are remarkable, and easily passed by while taking in the big picture of a 35 foot tall structure covered in ice.

Standing below the ice gives a unique view of the formations, and having a deep blue sky as a background helps, in this case, to show off the glistening ice.   This is not a place I would stand once the temperatures climbed above freezing - hundreds of pounds, perhaps thousands of pounds of ice could crash down with little warning.

This ice lasted only a day or two, then, thanks to  warmer temperatures, the ice dwindled.


Frozen Range Lights

St Joe Range Lights

During the small window of time between the early freeze and the thaw a day later, I was able to capture the St. Joseph, Michigan outer range light covered in ice.  Check my earlier posts to view the images and read the story about how I was able to gain access to the outer light with the help of a local man.

Frozen Spray

The sunlight bathes the outer light, while the water and shore are still in shadow.  Later in the  morning, the sky would clear, then temperatures warmed up, rain fell, and so did the ice.

The spray from the high waves on Lake Michigan not only covered the lighthouse and portions of the catwalk, but also the surrounding bank of the St. Joseph River.  The marram grass and walkways were covered in a layer of ice, making walking very difficult.

Iced Crown

This close up shows the lantern of the outer light, covered on the windward side by ice, but still partially visible on the leeward side, framed by icy tendrils.

The ice is gone - for now - but winter promises another round of cold air, and the possibility of ice formations is still great.