Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wednesday Waterfall: Tahquamenon Falls with Fall Color

The big one: Upper Tahquamenon Falls with fall color
Wednesday Waterfall: Upper Tahquamenon Falls is the second largest waterfall east of the Mississippi but when seen within the enormous surrounding landscape of the wild Upper Peninsula it doesn't seem all that big here. The Tahquamenon River is a moody, dark and deep river draining a huge swath of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Its waters are stained with the tannin of cedar swamps along its route and tell tales of musky, lumberjacks and birchbark canoes. The falls is the most popular part of the river and the key feature of a large state park, but the whole river is worthy of exploration, especially in fall.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Weekend Warriors: Fall Trail Run

Hogback Mountain, Marquette, Michigan
Let's face it, for most of us, running is no fun. Sure it's a great workout but come on, really, it's a knee shattering lung burning hell for the most part. But I do it anyway, because every once in awhile stuff like this happens. Okay, stuff like this happens quite often actually but I'm usually not running with my photo gear.

This is me atop Hogback Mountain just outside Marquette, Michigan. It's a bedrock lump of an ancient mountain range called the Huron Mountains. The Hurons a big part of what makes living along the shore of Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula great.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Recent Work: Mt. Bohemia Skiing Cover

Off Piste at Mt. Bohemia ski area on Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula
Silent Sports picked up an image of backcountry skiing at Mt. Bohemia ski area for its November 2012 cover. Bohemia is undoubtedly the most challenging lift-served skiing in the Midwest. It's a quirky place with a culture all its own way, way up on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula where Lake Superior storms get snagged and dump gobs of lake effect snow. 

Aaron Peterson is a writer and photographer covering travel and outdoor recreation in the Upper Midwest.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Waterfall: Upper Peninsula Waterfall

Fall creek, Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Marquette County in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a rough and tumble ballsy bedrock sort of place full of little waterfalls like this one near Big Bay, Michigan.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Weekend Warriors: Lake Superior Surfing

A Lake Superior kayak surf session, October 2012
What comes after fall color season in the Lake Superior region? Wave season. Rain, snow, sleet and howling north wind are all part of the mix on the big lake. Here friend and co-conspirator Conor Mihell (a known Canadian) catches a nice ride while mixing it up in a P&H Delphin at Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wednesday Waterfall: Little Garlic River

Bedrocking-A swift along the Little Garlic River, Marquette County, Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Just a pretty little swift on a section of the Little Garlic River in northern Marquette County on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Hiking in the Marquette area is like cooking: You can always add a Little Garlic.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Weekend Warriors: Great Lakes Surfing

Great Lakes Surfing on Lake Superior at Marquette, Michigan
Great waves on Lake Superior lately. Surfers are loving it. Thank you Hurricane Sandy. Sorry New Jersey/New York, et. al.

Weekend Warriors is a weekly photo feature of outdoor lifestyle and recreation images from the Upper Midwest.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Weekend Warriors: Boundary Waters Canoeing

Boundary Waters canoeing near Ely, Minnesota
Fall is canoe time. Canoe time is Boundary Waters time.

Weekend Warriors is a weekly feature of outdoor, active lifestyle images meant to inspire viewers to go play outside.

Aaron Peterson covers travel and outdoor recreation in the Upper Midwest.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Waterfall: Big Pup Falls, Michigan's Upper Peninsula

A little piece of Big Pup Creek in northern Marquette County in the rugged central highlands of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Wednesday Waterfall is a weekly photo feature from Aaron Peterson, a writer and photographer covering outdoor recreation and travel in the Upper Midwest.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Waterfall: Bond Falls

Bond Falls near Watersmeet, Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Bond Falls is a waterfall on the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River near the towns of Watersmeet and Paulding, Michigan on the Upper Peninsula.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Weekend Warriors: Copper Harbor Mountain Biking

Fall ride on the Mango Trail, Copper Harbor, Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula

I've been doing this "weekend warriors" photo feature on Facebook, and I think I'll carry it over here on the blog as well. It'll be seasonal active outdoor shots, some fresh (when I can) and many more from the archives. Look for it on Mondays.

Fall weather is bike weather. I shot this in October 2011 while working with the great crew of the Copper Harbor Trails Club to shoot some autumn riding shots on their great network of mountain bike trails up at the tip of the Keweenaw. We shot all the regular stuff, useful shots for brochures and promos and magazine work but I wanted to play around with some artsy stuff too. I enjoy shooting through a busy foreground--balancing timing, exposure, depth of field, etc. and the thick Copper Harbor forest surrounding the trails seemed like a nice challenge. We found this patch of birches and played around a bit with a rider who was willing to take a few passes along this section of trail while I tried my luck panning with a longer lens to compress the scene.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Recent Work: Traverse magazine September 2012 cover

Solo canoeist and dog on Craig Lake; Michigan's Upper Peninsula on the cover of Traverse 
The September 2012 issue of Traverse magazine has my shot of canoeing at Craig Lake State Park in Michigan's Upper Peninsula as the cover image.

The image features my wife Kristen and our border collie Gus. We shot this a few years ago, back when we only had one dog and zero kids. Now there are two dogs, two little kids, lots of chickens and lots of fun--but definitely not as much canoe time!

Inside the mag is my feature story on fly fishing for muskie in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. More on that later.

Aaron Peterson is a writer and photographer based near Marquette, Michigan in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, for more of his work visit Or connect with him on Facebook at

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday Waterfall: Memorial Falls, Munising, Michigan

Memorial Falls, near Munising, Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Memorial Falls is one of two...or sometimes three...whispering veils of water in the wooded canyons of the Michigan Nature Association's Twin Falls Plant Preserve within the city limits of Munising, Michigan.

The preserve was MNA's 100th preserve. Check them out, they do good work.

Aaron Peterson is a writer and photographer based near Marquette, Michigan in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, for more of his work visit Or connect with him on Facebook at

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekend Warriors: Warm Water Fly Fishing Michigan's Upper Peninsula

One...last....cast--chasing muskie makes for long days

I've been doing this "weekend warriors" photo feature on Facebook, and I think I'll carry it over here on the blog as well. It'll be seasonal active outdoor shots, some fresh (when I can) and many more from the archives. Look for it on Mondays.

This is a shot from 2011 while shooting a story on warm water fly fishing for muskie (hard), northern pike (easier) and good ole small mouth bass (fish in barrel) in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Rumor has it long days on the water are not subtracted from the sum of the days we get to crawl the fish on.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesday Waterfall: Mosquito Falls

Mosquito Falls, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Mosquito Falls is located along an easy one mile hike from the Chapel/Mosquito trailhead parking area of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore between Munising and Grand Marais Michigan in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

I recommend doing the 4.5 mile loop that includes Mosquito Falls, then down to Mosquito Beach at the  mouth of the Mosquito River, with a quick return trip back along the main Mosquito trail to the Chapel area parking lot.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wednesday Waterfall: Wagner Falls...with the iPhone

Wagner Falls, Alger County, Michigan's Upper Peninsula
This is just a quick snap of the popular Wagner Falls along M-94 in Alger County, just outside Munising, Michigan. Just a quick pop with the iPhone, but representative of why the Upper Peninsula is such a great base camp for our family.

Here's the deal. With two little kids in the house things get nuts. Check that, things are ALWAYS nuts, it seems. So whenever possible I like to separate the two instigators and get some good one-on-one time. One of the easiest errands to do this on is, believe it or not, is the dump run. Yep, that's right, dump run. I load the truck up with household garbage and the nonstop stream of refuse that comes from remodeling our old farmhouse and head to the local landfill with my son. Along the way we pass fields, streams, wetlands, The North Country Trail, Valley Spur Ski and Bike Area, National Forest, etc. It gives us a chance to talk about all that stuff and get an important household task out of the way at the same time. Plus he's pumped to see bigazz trucks and the army of seagulls at the landfill (our version of angry birds).

On the way back we stop at one of several waterfalls in the Munising area so he can stretch his legs (code word for pee) and marvel at the natural wonders that are his Yooper inheritance (may be the only one he gets).

On another note, this was shot with my iPhone. I've been using it more. I like it. Not perfect, but it's always there. The best camera is the one you have folks. I wonder when we'll stop calling them phones? Since there's hardly any coverage in my piece of Michigan, it never gets used as a phone, mostly a camera or email machine. Will we ever just call them "i"?

Thanks for looking/listening!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Marquette Michigan hosts the 2012 Ensign National Championship Regatta

The Ensign National Championship Regatta came to Marquette, Michigan this summer and I had a chance to spend a few hours in awe of 1.) the offshore beauty of Marquette and Lake Superior and 2.) the insane aesthetic dynamics of a sailing regatta.

The "ensign" is a class of small sailboats, 22.5 feet long, full keel, etc. but to me, as an outsider non-sailing guy, it seems more like a spirit than a certain type of boat. Something like the spirit of summer meshed with a sense of craft and old-timey skill, comraderie of the sea, that sort of thing. From what I've read, it's also a very American thing as this type of boat was first designed and built in the states.

Which leads me to the next thing: Red, white, blue. The pure colors of summer on Lake Superior were overwhelming. Red Lighthouse. Red boats. Red spinnakers (the pretty extra sail that comes out when they run with the wind). Blue lake. Blue sky. White sails. White boats. White clouds forming over the land promising a good wind for the races. Simply stunning. A good day to have a camera and some time on hand.

Thanks to Fleet 35 and the Marquette Yacht Club for a great event, and thanks to the fine folks on the boat Lattitude Adjustment that hauled me around.

Spinnakers! Lighthouse! Superior Dome!
Matching outfits

Red shark boat has my bet every time

Many sheets to the wind

A wet lunch-Jimmy Johns delivers

I'm a sucker for patterns

Little ladies on a big wind

Wednesday Waterfall: Agawa Falls, Agawa River, Ontario

Writer Conor Mihell views Agawa Falls in flood while canoeing the Agawa River.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Holy Crap I'm a winner in The Great Outdoors photography contest!

I am pleased to have been chosen as a winner in the Photo District News Great Outdoors photography contest. An image shot this spring of sea kayaking along the icy cliffs of Lake Superior of Michigan's Upper Peninsula was selected in the Outdoor Sports and Activities category.

This is the first contest I've entered, and frankly, I'm not a contest guy. I've always been sort of "who cares" when it comes to competition in general. Work hard, be kind, do good work (enjoy the paycheck) and move on has been more my mantra. But after having a humble image of new work chosen from among lots and lots of peers, and seeing my name side-by-side with other winners like The North Face's Jimmy Chin (my hero; Nat Geo guy), Woods Wheatcroft (hero; cool name) and Peter Lik (landscape icon) I can see how this could get addicting.

Backstory: This silly picture was made on the first "date night" my wife and I had enjoyed in several months. Grandma and grandpa came up, stayed with our little squeelers and we, for some reason, decided sea kayaking in the ice in March was a good idea. So much for a "hot" date. Thanks to my wonderful wife for stumbling down this crazy path of life with me. And thanks to good friend Sam Crowley, paddler extraordinaire, for crashing date night to enjoy a beautiful afternoon on the water.

Finally, thanks to Lake Superior and the rugged, pristine shores of Michigan's Upper Peninsula for providing the amazing backdrop that allows me to do my work.

For a look at the gallery of winners from the 2012 PDN Great Outdoors photography contest visit:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday Waterfall: Reany Creek, Marquette, Michigan

Waterfall on Reany Creek, Marquette, Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Reany Creek is a mysterious little creek with lots of gradient and many scenic sections as it splashes its way through Northern Marquette County on its way to Lake Superior.

This is a shot of a particularly pretty area, and one that's easy to get to, just outside the city of Marquette near the end of Forestville Road, just before a power generating station on the Dead River. As you near the end of Forestville Road, Reany cascades through a small rocky chasm and shoots under a small bridge on the road. It could be easily missed but is worth the stop and a little exploration. Dead River falls is nearby and worth a hike as well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Recent Work: Copper Harbor in Bike magazine

The new Copper Harbor Flying Squirrel jump trail with Trek pro rider Andrew Shandro

Bike magazine recently did a little write up on Copper Harbor's designation as an IMBA ride center. They used a few of my images and a very cool short film that friend Aaron LaRocque of BC, Canada made for Trek bikes.

See the Bike magazine article and Copper Harbor mountain biking film here.

Recent Work: Outside magazine, July 2012

 I was happy to work with the good folks at Outside magazine again recently and play a small part in putting together their July 2012 Destinations piece on Canada. They picked up an existing image of canoe tripping in Northern Ontario.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wednesday Waterfall: Elliot Falls, aka Miners Beach Falls

Waterfall at Miners Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising, Michigan's Upper Peninsula
There are so many big, raucous thundering waterfalls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula that it's too easy to overlook little gems like Elliot Falls at Miners Beach in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore near Munising in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

For years I've heard this waist-high falls called Miners Beach Falls, and also Potato Patch Falls referring to the nearby backcountry campsite called the Potato Patch. However the actual Potato Patch Falls is a wispy pillar located between this lower falls at Miners Beach and the campsite where the stream drips off a sandstone ledge.

A recent interaction on Facebook set the record straight on the beach falls though:
"Elliot Falls is named after my great aunt's husband, who had the cabin there for many years. Bob Elliot had 'Elliot's Farm', and the home had also been known as "Zimmies" in later years prior to being torn down by the park service. The house sat right over the creek (you could see the creek through the floorboards in the bathroom). A few pipes and concrete slabs still remain at the site. "

To reach Elliot Falls, just take the Miners Beach Road all the way to the east (the opposite end that most visitors go to). A short walk gets you to the beach (use the stairs, this is a high erosion area) and you'll see the falls to your right once you're there.

Photo tip: plan your trip for the evening for best light and be prepared to get your feet wet for some of the best angles, especially if icy Lake Superior waves are rolling in. Also, this little stream can be seasonal so unless there have been recent rains it may just be a trickle.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Recent Work: Marquette County Visitors Guide

Night biking under Northern Lights, Marquette, Michigan
The new Marquette County CVB visitors guide features some of my work. I've partnered with the fine folks that promote travel in the Marquette region as they rebrand this year. You can view the whole darn Marquette County visitors guide here.

The rebranding is spot on as the Marquette region and Upper Peninsula in general evolves. They asked me to provide images of an outdoor lifestyle, one where humanity and nature mesh seamlessly, as is the case in this great region of woods and water. Sure there are the usual dining shots, museums and big events too, but the whole works is underpinned by the theme of reconnecting to your human nature. Your tough, independent, nature-loving inner Yooper.

It's nice to get work. It's even nicer when your work is used in a way that mirrors the way you feel about the world, especially since this is where I live and work. I care deeply about the Upper Peninsula and the Marquette region and it's good to see the type of work I've been doing for a decade line up with how the region evolves in promoting itself.

The Upper Peninsula and Lake Superior region is like no other. It has an undeniable role in the physical, mental and spiritual well being of folks who live and visit here. It has economic value beyond the resources buried beneath it or growing above it.

This particular image was created in October 2011 during an intense display of Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). A buddy and I had headed out just north of the city of Marquette for some night riding and a few photo experiments I had wanted to try for awhile. I was bummed when the image concepts I had in mind weren't working because the sky was being blown out by what I thought was light pollution from town.

Not so. It was aurora activity that was invisible to the naked eye, but as it grew in intensity over a two hour period priorities changed from my original concepts to one of HUSTLE to capture the insane overhead display.

This is at night. On a 50 foot rock cliff. Riding bikes. Stupid? Probably. Unique? Certainly.

This was the best display of aurora I've probably ever seen. It wasn't really forecast. I wasn't there to shoot it. It just all worked out. My only regret is that I didn't stop sooner and just enjoy the free fireworks.

Friday, June 1, 2012

St#ff Got Real: The Copper Harbor Crew 2012

Tammy Donahugh, killing it on Flying Squirrel, Copper Harbor, Michigan.

So it's a long weekend up in Copper Harbor and I've been asked to come in to lend a photographic hand to the Ride the Keweenaw and the unveiling of Copper Harbor Trails Club's new International Mountain Bike Association designation as a Ride Center. IMBA brought in pro rider Tammy Donahugh of Colorado. Tammy rocked. Fun to hang out with. Fun to ride with. Great on camera. And not bad in an abandoned copper mine with a case of High Life and several hundred rounds of shotgun shells either.

Game face, Tammy Donahugh, Copper Harbor, Michigan.

Dead sexy, Tammy Donahugh down at the mine

Trek bikes is a big supporter of the Copper Harbor Trails. Trek asked its longtime pro rider Andrew Shandro of British Columbia to visit the Harbor for the weekend and he did. He said they don't ask him to do that sort of thing much, so to me that really says something about the company's commitment to the region. Shandro got a tour of the trail system (dug it) and then we all got down to work shooting a film and stills. We went hard for three solid days and then cut loose a bit with some local culture.

Andrew Shandro borrowed my pen, *sigh*


Shandro with the Copper Harbor can opener.

Exhibit A.

Exhibit B.

Much to a still photographer's chagrin, nothing happens in this world without video these days. Trek brought in freelance filmmaker Aaron LaRocque, aka larock, aka THE ROCK of Pink Bike fame to produce a little flick about Shandro and the Harbor. LaRocque, quite simply, rocked. Fast, efficient and gorgeous cinema work. Too fast actually, as I had a hard time lining up the shots I wanted before he was set up and rolling. 

Film takes precedence over stills because my strobes would have shown up on the video so it was tricky shooting trying to stay out of the film shots and shooting fast without the aid of additional lighting on shots that really could have used it. Came out okay, but still was a bit nerve wracking during. Also, I have to admit that he was so casual with filming that I secretly questioned how good he was (I had no idea who larock was or what PB was before he grudgingly told me on the last day of shooting, darn those humble Canadians!) I can't wait to see his final edit, and although we started out a little crusty, now consider this guy a close friend. We're facebook official even.

Aaron LaRocque, the helmet would not save him at Ziks that fateful night.
LaRocque, like a boss.

And then there's Hansi Johnson, IMBA Midwest Regional director and purveyor of one of the finest outdoor blogs ever. Hansi has been involved in the outdoor trade his whole career and everyone I know seems to know him and have a great story. But I had yet to meet him and was stoked that he was coming up. He's a great photographer (though he claims amateur status, I call BS), a paddler, a skier, we have sons about the same age and let me tell you, he swings a mean shotty. "I broke 50 in a row once," he says nonchalantly, totally devoid of ego, as he hands a smoking 20 gauge over to me. In my book, you're not a true athlete unless you can make things go boom. 

Oh yea, and by the way, he's helping put little places like Copper Harbor, Cuyuna and hopefully my hometown of Marquette on the map through the unstoppable machine that is IMBA. Aloha Mr. Hansi.

Hansi Johnson, the professional.

Hansi Johnson, IMBA lead negotiator.

Me. Totally out of my element with pro athletes and late nights. I was glad guns were brought into the equation to level the playing field with the biking Canadians. At least with guns I can hold my own. Almost. But really, it was a blast to be a small part of making a voice for the Upper Peninsula. I've made a job out of writing about and photographing the great people and places of the U.P. but it's more than a job and a lifestyle. It's my passion. There is so much to share way up here on the shores of Superior and a sustainable way to do it without losing the unique things that make us a weird little corner of the world with all the woods and water. The success of Copper Harbor can be replicated. Needs to be replicated.
Yours truly, worse for the wear.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Canadian Invasion: Andrew Shandro does Copper Harbor

Who is that masked man?
Okay so total disclosure I didn't even know who this guy was. Never heard of him. Who-drew Shan-what? 

But Copper Harbor Trails Club president and lead trail builder Aaron Rogers had asked me to come up and work with the club again during Memorial Day weekend's Ride the Keweenaw event. I believe in Rogers and the crew in The Harbor who are bettering their world with the sweetest bike trails in the region and am glad to help out. Trek and the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) were sending pro riders, but I didn't really care about that because tons of friends from all over the region were going to be there, and folks I've been wanting to meet for years were going to be there and my sister-in-law is going to watch the kids and there's going to be music, beer and food--and biking. Heck yes I'll be there.

Turns out Shandro is sort of a big deal. As in legend. As in cover of Bike magazine this very month...riding in Nepal. Gulp. I meant to Google these guys so at least I had something semi-intelligent to say but, well, with packing gear and cameras and kids and dogs and chickens and blah blah blah, it never happened. Didn't matter. Shandro was super chill, happy to answer stupid questions. He's a dude with kids, wife, house, etc. (no chickens though) that just happens to rip on a bike for a living. Very glad to have had the chance to meet and ride with him. And dang can he ride.

There's so much more to tell so look for a few more posts in the future. In the meantime, here's a quick edit from the 1,200 images made over the weekend. Thanks for looking!

Shandro, center, Keweenaw Adventure Company shuttle

Andrew Shandro, On the Edge, Copper Harbor, Michigan
Andrew Shandro heading Downtown, Copper Harbor, Michigan.
It helps when the light is nice, Aaron Rogers and Andrew Shandro on The Flow
You can't handle the whole Shandro; The Flow, Copper Harbor, Michigan
"Fun trails, these are really fun trails," Andrew Shandro----->Aaron Rogers
Fast trail, big lake; Shandro on The Flow, Copper Harbor, Michigan.
I think the technical term is "braap" right Hansi?