The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has been a refuge for me for decades.
Early in my career I was a middle school science teacher. Believe me—I needed to get away from it all on weekends! In just a little over two hours I could be in the middle of this vast expanse of natural beauty. And more often than not, I could have it almost to myself since it gets little traffic outside of the summer months.
The barn and other outbuildings of the D.H. Day farm are an icon of this region. They were originally built in the 1880s and 1890s by David Henry Day, a young man who settled in the area in 1878 and became a wealthy entrepreneur. Though still privately owned, they are maintained in historic condition under an agreement with the National Park Service.
I’ve taken many photos of this scene over the years, but I’d never been fully satisfied with the results. People viewing my work often remark that I must be a patient man. That patience expresses itself as a willingness to spend a long time in a location waiting for the right conditions. But it also involves a willingness to return to the same location over and over again until you encounter the extraordinary.
My patience was finally rewarded on the morning I took this photo. I arrived before sunrise planning to catch the first rays of the sun gracing the tops of the barns. By chance an early morning fog circulated through the nearby meadows. The sun remained hidden behind nearby Alligator Hill longer than I anticipated, and I feared the fog would dissipate before it crested the ridge.
But the extra time allowed me to scout a perfect location on a gentle rise north of the barns. I set the aperture at f/11 to bring the foreground in focus, and was rewarded with this lovely image.