A cocktail by the pool, a pulled pork slider, a walk-about the competition with a camera… not a bad event.
Congratulations to Chef John Hohn for the win.
-Alex who is a sucker for free deliciousness, and VIP tickets.
Congratulations to Chef John Hohn for the win.
-Alex who is a sucker for free deliciousness, and VIP tickets.
Well, that’s it, I suppose.
I leave you, dear reader, with my final thoughts on Beaver Island for the year 2014:
1) Next year I will boodle. On purpose. I may have partially boodled, depending on your definition, but next time it’s getting done right.
2) The mosquitoes are many, and frightening in a lizard-brain sort of way, but potentially impotent. Very little itching. Still I would highly recommend avoiding passing out in the woods. Or near the woods. Or outside at all for that matter. I think enough of them could carry you away never to be seen again, or to be found as a dry husk; like a big strip of bland pork jerky wearing a Howler Bros shirt and a pair of Keens.
3) The lady that makes the beaver pelt koozies is totally awesome, a professional, and will drink all your bourbon.
4) Next year I will rig and keep on hand a rod with a pike leader.
5) I maintain that the roast beef and horseradish wrap is the best boat lunch, but the ham wrap is a close second.
6) I also maintain that it was a good thing I didn’t ring the bell at the Stoney, but someday I will.
7) Lighthouses are neat. And seven is a good number to end on.
All who read, shared, and commented over the last five days. It has been a pleasure creating for you.
-Alex who is grateful.
That is all I have, as Mr. Gump said, to say about that.
Yesterday I received an email asking me what gear I carried around the island. I thank this person for having the decency to give me an idea of what to talk about here today.
I am not saying that in my excited state proclaiming six days (the length of island time) of unique material was silly (a little), but afterwards I started actually counting ideas based on the stuff I had shot, and I kept landing on five… So thanks for the assist, dear emailer.
This is what I brought in the boat:
1) Nikon and lightweight dry bag (orange thing underneath)
2) 80-200mm f2.8
3) Nikon with 10.5mm f2.8 fisheye (In my hand)
4) Radio triggers
5) Speedlight Grid
6) 17-55mm f2.8
7) Eight Rechargeable AA’s with charger, and extra camera batteries
8) Rocket Blower
9) PEC-PAD lintless wipes and Ziess electronic wipes
10) 85mm f2.8 PCE lens
11) Flash sync cable, radio trigger cables
12) Two Nikon speedlights
The case is a Pelican 1510, which is their carry-on case.
I would say that this kit is pretty much what I take on all my jobs, (with the exception of Dan). Sometimes I also take big lights, a battery pack and some light modifiers when I can justify it.
Something else that I should probably have is a set of ND filters and a gradient filter or two. I don’t do a lot of landscape stuff, so I have never justified the expense but I will buy them eventually. They make proper outdoor exposures much easier to accomplish in-camera.
I also really want a waterproof housing. But, you know…
One morning I stepped outside with my case and bags and John was standing next to me with his gear at his feet. Austin stepped up on the porch, looking at the two of us and said “Don’t you guys know how to pack light?”
Photographers? Not usually.
I will say to not be afraid to take what you want, or leave what you don’t. I often struggle with what to take, usually wanting to take everything. Sometimes it has paid off, and sometimes it just means I carried a lot of stuff around all day for nothing. I am talking about camera stuff, but also other gear as well.
I often struggle with minimalism.
I would like to be the guy who arrives at the airport without a checked bag.
I would enjoy showing up at the boat and having someone say, “That’s all you are bringing?” and reply in the affirmative with a smile and without hesitation or secretly feeling like I should have.
I would like to wander out into the world with nothing but determination, spirit, and what’s in my pockets.
Unfortunately I have yet to find a pair of pants with that much carrying capacity.
-Alex who reminds you to stretch prior to any strenuous activity.
Montana Fly Co.
Okay. I know. You are sitting at home all like “Hey, Alex, I know you have a man-crush on these dudes, and are all in love with Beaver island, and you take purdy photos and whatever but seriously if I don’t see some fishing here soon I am going to have an aneurysm.”
Well, drink it in, folks.
Now, I am not going to tell you how to catch carp. You can find that, and most likely better information from other places more suited to give that type of advise. (Like CarpPro)
But, I don’t want those hungry for knowledge to starve, so here are two things for those thinking about carp fishing BI:
I know. It’s rude to bring up, but don’t feel like I am just trying to make waves. Take an 8wt rod, put a 10wt line on it, stand on a cooler in your front yard on a windy day and try to throw far. Really far. (But not sloppy) Wind in your face, rod side, off side, everything. Work on it.
Clear water, bright sun, and spooky fish generally need long shots, and being short never works. Being right on the fish is worse, as you will blast them with your heavy fly hitting the water. Casting past the fish and bringing the fly back to them is ideal, and when that eating pig is 12o’clock at 60 feet and you want a chance, you will be glad you practiced. Your guide will, too.
“I could have caught lots of carp on Beaver Island, but I just couldn’t stop casting too far,” – said nobody, ever.
[Disclaimer – I am not to be held responsible for people falling off coolers and looking stupid in front of their neighbors]
“These fish hold the fly a long time.” – BI guide.
I wish I would have been told this during breakfast on the first day. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
I am more accustomed to carp that usually eat and spit a fly very quickly, and this type of behavior leads to real twitchy anglers. So my advise here is to give them time. See an eat, feel pressure, whatever, just let them have it.
And note, if the guide on your boat starts yelling “let ’em have it!”, this is what he means, and not to set the hook like the fish owes you money.
-Alex who hopes he has quenched your thirst for fish photos, at least for a minute or two.
12wt (your masks are very comfy)
One thing that I love that I don’t to enough is long exposure light painting. The process, generally accomplished at night when it is possible to expose images for long periods of time, allows the building of light from both natural sources (enviromental) and from various devices like speedlights, flashlights, cell phones, etc.
The image of The Fisherman’s House above is an example of what you can do with a little time, a tripod, a flashlight, and some patience. Once you get a little practice, how long it takes you to get the shot you want just depends on how much time you want to spend running around in the dark.
The above image was shot with a 10.5mm lens, in manual mode with a 15 second exposure (meaning that the shutter of the camera was open for 15 seconds), at f5.6 and an ISO of 280. Step one is setting up your tripod where you want, and getting your framing and focus. Sometimes this can be hard when it is really dark, so it always helps to have a good flashlight on hand to illuminate the subject and see exactly what you are pointing at. Once you have camera set and focused, it is generally best to switch the camera focus to manual so it stays where you set it, ensuring that your subject will stay sharp. In this case I think I just let the camera focus on the light from the windows, which was a pretty good point.
Once that is all set, then you need to set the f-stop, ISO, and shutter speed to achieve a good balance of natural light exposure. In this case, the sky is what I was looking at. I wanted a nice bright sky, and I set the ISO low, which reduces the amount of visible noise the sensor will create, keeping the image smooth and clean looking. Next I determined how long I thought it would take me to run from the left side of the house with the flashlight, around the front and to the other side, over by the tree. I figured that 15 seconds would do it, so last I set the f-stop (aperture) where it would give me the exposure that I was looking for in the sky and in the ambient lights around the house. Getting that exposure right just takes practice, as sometimes I have found in the dark the image on the LED screen can be deceptively brighter than what you will see on your computer screen. Getting in the habit of looking at your histogram on the camera helps also, if you have that feature.
Once that was set, I used a remote (you can use the timer on the camera also) to fire the camera while I was running around lighting the house. Each time I would walk back and look at the preview on the back of the camera to see if I was giving the different parts of the house enough light with the flashlight.
The set of motions that I went through for the final image was to stand on the left side of the house, click the shutter then “paint” with the flashlight the grass near the porch. Then I ran around behind the camera and started waving the light over the front of the house in a up-and-down motion, like spray painting, until I thought the porch and wall was properly lit. I ended the movement over by the tree on the far right, where you can see the branches are bright, pointing directly at the guys on the porch to give them some extra light.
The whole operation from getting the camera out took probably 15 minutes. You can imagine if one were to spend a good amount of time on a particular subject, with different lights, colored gels, strobes (for stopping motion and getting sharp subjects), etc, what you could accomplish. The possibilities are limitless.
This photo of Kevin hanging out by the lighthouse (as well as the opener of Dan from the last post) was set up the same way: get camera, ambient exposure, and focus (on Kevin) set, then open the shutter and add your light.
In this case, the light was a speedlight. (strobe) This emits a quick, bright light that is good at capturing detail on things that may move around during the exposure. (People, trees, etc) I sat behind the camera and had my assistant (I think it was John- I may have had a few beers before this night photo-outing) pop the flash on my command from over off camera left. If you look at the shadow from Kevin you can get an idea where the light was.
We had to do it a few times to get it right, and I had to keep moving the tripod to keep the moon right there poking out from behind the top of the lighthouse.
I am just disappointed that Kevin is not in the habit of wearing tuxedos around for fun on the island, because a bond-ish look with a martini glass would have made this pretty epic. Or a banana suit. That would have been pretty epic, too. (Kevin, get on that.)
Obviously there is a lot to this type of photography, and I am just skimming the surface when it comes to the finer settings and techniques. If you have interest, I have been told that this book is a good resource, one of these days I probably should buy it and check it out.
To stay in the vein of taking photos at night, I would advise to take a bag or backpack and keep track of your crap in the dark when out playing. Leaving lenses, remotes (did that on the above photo) and other stuff out in the grass is a great way to lose things you probably need. An off camera speedlight (or 3) is helpful, as we as a good, bright, multi-lumen output LED flashlight for painting light and looking for lost things in the dark. (Also, a flashlight with a clip or lanyard will help you not lose the thing you need to find other things.)
Also, if you think you are going to be in the habit of slinging around expensive gear in the dark while partaking in the consumption of alcohol, be sure you have an insurance policy on your stuff. Peace of mind, and all.
-Alex who promises that tomorrows post will contain photos of fishes. Also, I had to bang post one out eleventh-hour, so please excuse any grammatical nonsense or other textual errors.
Every place is unique. Every little town or big city has things that set them apart, while the parts that seem familiar give a sense of something known. Every place is a little different, and a little the same. Almost.
Beaver Island, at least for me, was a complete stranger.
As a traveler from the desert we met for the first time, and I struggled to place the face. Sure, I have been to Michigan, but it wasn’t like that. I have been to Wisconsin, but that didn’t feel right, either.
When the sun was shining and the light breeze pushed ripples around the shallow clear water of the flats if I squinted it might have been a beautiful early spring day in Florida, but no, that wasn’t it.
When the fog hung thick around the lighthouse in the still morning air it reminded me of… nothing, actually. (Fog is pretty foreign to me. Also lighthouses)
And when I ran my fingers through the sand and heard the call of the gulls, San Diego came to mind, but again, everything was wrong.
And everything was right.
I am intrigued by Beaver Island. I suppose you could say I have a crush on the place.
I want to be around. I want the island to like me, to invite me to parties, to introduce me to friends and smile when I tell stupid jokes. I want to know the roads, and drive them to places I feel welcomed where people will smile and say “Hey, man good to see you! Pull up a chair!”
I suppose for now I will have to settle for a long distance relationship.
As far as hitting it off with the locals, I suppose we did alright, considering that we were only there two days and had already warmed chairs at every bar and even got invited to a house party for a local girls high school graduation. (Which was a great party, if your wondering) And I would like to think that it had little to do with the fact that we were “media”, and more to do with how awesome we are. Either way, it didn’t hurt.
I will tell you to not forget to wave. If you are driving a car, or walking down the street, or standing in a window, or sitting on a porch, whatever you do for the love of all that is holy, wave. Wave at everyone. Always.
If you are sitting at the living room table and hear a car go by, wave.
If you are washing dishes and hear and engine approaching, wave.
If you are sleeping in your bed, dreaming of hungry carp, and in your dream you see someone behind the wheel of a vehicle, wave.
And try to mean it, when driving a car, especially. It’s easy, just keep your steering hand at “twelve” and throw up your fingers with a little smile, maybe give a head nod if you recognize the person. Not hard. In principle.
I had Kevin’s truck for an afternoon, and Dan was freaking out in the passenger seat thinking that we were going to get kicked off the island because I kept getting distracted by passing shiny objects and forgetting to give other drivers acknowledgement. I felt bad, but more so for the fact that I realized that I was wearing Kevin’s bright green jacket, and driving Kevin’s red truck. That evening I kept expecting to see a mob carrying the poor guy toward the ferry dock kicking and screaming, tied to a bag of rocks.
-Alex who is waving at you, right now.
Liam and Marylyn at the Stoney Acre Grill for the great drinks and the better company.
Bozeman Reel Co.
One thing that can make or break the good times of a trip is group dynamics. The people that you are about to spend approximately 16-18 hours per day around for many days in a row, while engaging in the types of behavior that can bring out peoples difficult side (fishing, weather, alcohol, inadequate bathroom facilities, etc), had better be able to get along.
And I can say without hesitation that these are some kick-ass guys.
The Beaver Bash 2014 crew photographically, in no particular order:
That is what a good times havin’, drink swiggin’, fish stickin’, bunch of guys looks like, if anybody asks.
I would say that within a closed environment where peoples actions will ripple and echo throughout such as a small island community it is important to be with people you get along with (whether they like the movie Spaceballs or not). It makes everything a whole lot more pleasant. If you do find yourself in the company of questionable personalities, just sit a few seats away at the bar, keeping your guilt-by-association to a minimum. (I did notice at one point that I was the last remaining person belly-up at the Stoney one night…)
Pete McDonald once said that the only two rules of fly fishing should be 1) don’t be an asshole, and 2) make the cast. Some time later Pete truncated the thought to solely “Don’t be an asshole.” Which is perfect. (Making the cast, however, never hurts)
-Alex who appreciates the company of good people.
Angela Lefevre, and Island Airways for giving us amazing service and just being some damn nice people.
Steve West, and the Beaver Island Chamber of Commerce for their great hospitality, and Steve in particular for the fine drinking company.
We dudes (see previous post), organized by by Mr. Mortenson at TFM and the boys at Indigo Guide Service, gathered as like minds in mutual promotional effort to display in our various media the community and fishing destination that is Beaver Island, located in northern Lake Michigan. If you want more technical details, ask the Goog.
Over the next six days(ish), I will show an image or a set of images and talk about them, give a little technical data for those who care, thank a selection of those who donated time, money, or gear to our mutual sillyness and drop a tidbit of island knowledge that I picked up during my time on BI. This may be something as simple as that the horseradish roast beef wrap is a solid boat-lunch choice from the nice ladies at Dalwhinnie Bakery & Deli, or a more complicated subject such as how to graciously accept an apology from your previous nights bartender when you can’t remember why she was mad at you and calling you names to begin with.
See you tomorrow.
-Alex who will refrain from being lewd, as it is too easy in this case.
Tomorrow I go north once again, but this time the fast waters of the Pere Marquette will be replaced with the clear shallows of Lake Michigan, the snow with rain, thick jackets with light long-sleeves. And I am ready.
I am ready to embrace old friends and make new ones. I am ready for Kevin’s shit-talk, and Steve’s quiet disappointed head-shake. I am ready for laughs with a cold beer and good conversation and the frantic passion that accompanies the task of capturing photographically the essence of a place and its people.
I am ready for big fish.
I am ready for shouts of joy and anguish with high-fives like punctuation on the visual sentences of a shared experience.
Chief Brody said it’s only an island if you look at it from the water. I hope to get a very good look.
Kevin Morlock & Steve Martinez, – Indigo Guide Service
Austin Adduci – Grab Your Fly Charters
Cameron Mortenson – The Fiberglass Manifesto
Dan Frasier – CarpPro
John Arnold – Headhunters Fly Shop/Scumliner Media
Matt Smythe – Fishing Poet/Freelancer Writer
and me, because when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
-Alex who is bringing back the third-person signature.
He stood in the kitchen half-light, toeing a piece of culinary detritus. A dark thing against the light floor. Orange chicken, maybe?
The voice on the phone continued.
“So you are going carp fishing on an island? Is that the thing these days?”
He supposed in some ways it is, or seems to be as the popularity of the common carp continues to grow in fly fishing as a target species. But he had a feeling that the island is more than it seems.
He switched the phone to his other hand and frowned down at the thing, putting some pressure on it with the edge of his foot. It crunched slightly but had an underlying rubberiness, supporting the orange chicken theory. He lifted his leg, removing the pressure from the object and grunted into the phone, “S’pose so.”
He likes islands. He have never been to one that I didn’t enjoy and barring any unexpected unpleasantness, had a feeling that this one may fall near the top of the list. It was a very short list, though, so that in itself isn’t saying a lot. But expectations were high.
He hunched a shoulder pinning the phone to his head and reached down, lifting his foot to get a look. There were three crumb; one big one and two little ones just behind his pinkie toe and he was reminded of George Carlin who said that the odd thing about a crumb is that if you cut a crumb in half, you don’t get two half-crumbs, you get two crumbs. He contemplated these three, wondering how small a crumb could be before it was just considered dirt, or dust, he supposed, depending on where it was. He decided, for the moment that a crumb had to be large enough to have discernible texture. He reached for a foot-crumb.
Picking the big one and pinching it between thumb and forefinger, he brought it to his nose expecting the oily smell of fried cornstarch but instead got something bitter, almost sour. This was an unexpected. It didn’t fit with the orange chicken hypotheses. His frown deepened as he rolled it around between his fingers crushing it, once confident but now feeling perplexed. A cold finger of suspicion slowly crept up his spine.
“I have to go,” He said, or at least he thought he had said. He pushed the end button and set the phone on the counter, starring down at the thing. A little island itself in the sea of tile and grout. He imagined a group of microorganisms vacationing there, maybe not there yet, maybe still on the way; flying Lint Air, or taking a ferry, the Dusty Bunny, across the clayscape. Little hats and little bags packed with little necessities, all ready for a good time on Leftover Isle.
But leftover what? What is this thing on my floor? This crunchy soft bitter unidentified thing. He stared down with contempt and the thing stared back, a small dark pupil, daring him to know. Daring him to get closer, to understand, pulling him in as if all the knowledge in the universe could be know in this one thing. The room grew cold, but he felt a bead of sweat run down his cheek. His vision tunneled and he felt dizzy, couldn’t take his eyes away, couldn’t blink and he wanted to scream but it choked in his throat. He was trapped in some terrible psychosis and he knew this was the end and wasn’t ready. A single whimper escaped his lips.
The phone rang. Slowly he turned his head, lifting the phone from the counter to his ear.
“Hey man, we got cut off or something. So Beaver Island is on lake Michigan, yeah?”
“Yeah,” He said, then kicked the thing under the stove where it disappeared with a plonk, “It is,” and he walked out of the kitchen.