Madeline Island School of the Arts campus (early morning)

Madeline Island, LaPointe, Wisconsin

Happy, I find myself in the far north of Wisconsin – farther north than my usual haunts around Boulder Junction. I am in Madeline Island (or on Madeline Island: I not sure what the convention is up here) attending a photography workshop at the Madeline Island School of the Arts.

Sound familiar?  It might.  I was here two summers ago for another photography workshop.  The 2018 workshop instructor is Bryan F. Peterson.  I followed him for years on Adorama TV, and always enjoyed the videos.  Last summer his workshop filled up right away, so this year, Gerry and I jumped on the chance to go even though I had already booked another workshop for June. (I normally try to keep it down to one a year!)

The photography I am doing during this week is not really about this place, but I have managed to squeeze one off from time to time to give you a feel for where we are. The weather has been perfect!  It is cool, especially at night, but sunny and warm during the day.  People here consider this sweltering (Mid-70s?? Really??) and of course, the humidity is “high” – but for me, it is heavenly!

Sunlit grasses

We have been learning techniques to make our pictures both technically correct as well as creative. We have shot the sunset, and star trails.  Both are good photo opportunities here given the amount of space and the wide open skies.

If you do not know, Madeline Island is a large inhabited island in Lake Superior.  It is not a part of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, but it is one of the 22 Apostle Islands.  I have read that the name Apostle Islands does not refer to the twelve Apostles, i.e. restricted by the number 12, but to a French naming convention that used religious subjects.  The name has been in use for centuries already.  The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is a National Park Service property since 1970.

A morning meadow

Isle Royale National Park, which is also in Lake Superior, belongs to Michigan, oddly for me given it’s proximity to Minnesota! I had hoped this trip might include a chance to go to Isle Royale but it is actually much farther away than I thought.  I will eventually make another trip up here to visit it.  My sons camped and hiked there as part of their summer camp experience and I know I will love it based on their descriptions…oh, how wonderful would it be to spend 8 days there like they used to!

The point of the beach between Big Bay and the wetlands at Big Bay Town Park

Back here on Madeline Island, yesterday, we shot in a beautiful flower garden and spent a couple of hours at the Big Bay Town Park.  Big Bay is also a State Park, both are named after a … guess what? … Big Bay!  It is located on the eastern side of the island and faces northward. There is a beautiful beach, and there are pristine wetlands for stand-up paddling and canoeing.  The water is red, like much of  Lake Superior.  Iron is the cause.

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Today we ferried back over to the mainland and shot in a junker… These were some of the models for our shoot.  The object today was to shoot macro (close in and tight), but I also shot these to show you what the place looked like.  It was quite a fun place to shoot and the morning flew by!

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On Wednesday evening we took a boat ride out to see the famous caves.  You mostly see pictures or hear about them in the winter when they are referred to as “ice caves,” but obviously they are there year ’round.  Their formation has been the work of centuries of ice and waves crashing and lapping, (and everything in between) against the sandstone bedrock of the islands.

Devil’s Island Cave

We divided our group up into two boats and sped out to Devil’s Island.  Once there we were able to wend our way in and among the caves to see them inside and out.  Two years ago we traveled out on a larger boat and were only able to photograph them from afar.  This year it was much more intimate! This is definitely something you should do if you visit Bayfield, Madeline Island or Lake Superior.  A boat trip (there are many cruises) will give you a good look at the islands.

Devil’s Island Cave

The islands, as I mentioned above, have a sandstone base and just a thin covering of soil.  Despite that, they are covered with plants and trees.  However, the trees tend to grow sturdier rather than taller as they, too, are battered by the extreme weather on the lake.  The islands are fairly devoid of wildlife, supporting maybe rabbits and foxes, and other small creatures, and many, many birds.  Bald eagles are common here.

There are hiking trails on some of the islands, and campsites, too. If you’re a fan of lighthouses – there are plenty! I am not so sure how effective they are – you can find a map of all the shipwrecks in Lake Superior in the souvenir shops…those are aplenty, too!

Devil’s Island Cave

The caves themselves are spectacular.  The colors of the rock glow in the sunset’s low angled light, and the deep green of the trees and the deep blue of sky are a made-to-order backdrop.  The sculpting of the rocks by wind and water has created tiny columns and fantastic shapes.  It is wonderful display of the power of Mother Nature, the artist.



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On the ride home we made a pit stop at the Manitou (Island) Fish Camp. The mosquitoes were ravenous!  The place is set up for a history lesson, but given the hour and the bugs, we didn’t stop to take advantage of anything more than the latrine and a quick shot of the sunset.

Manitou Fish Camp Sunset

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