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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Destination: Mighty Mac part four

Otherwise known as Hitchcock's The Birds Live Action.

the flock comes ashore

After tooling around downtown and Mackinac Crossings, it was time to do what I came north to do: Photograph the Bridge. Now due to the earth's curvature and sundry aspects of physics, it is not necessarily true that the closer you get to the bridge the bigger it is. The bigger it is the better it fits in the shot because details. I know this because we thought that driving the waterfront toward the bridge would let me get those gorgeous up close shots I see everyone else get. My thought was that if the bridge can loom so big and close over the tree tops when we are three miles away that being on the shore would make it bigger. In theory, art theory that is, this is true. In reality it is not.

Mackinac City's shoreline is dotted with public parks tucked between private homes. By my estimation they plop a park after every third of fourth house. The first park we stopped at was in poor relation to the bridge. It looked twenty miles away. With the haze of the afternoon fog it was hard to get details from so far away. So we hopped from one park to the next until we found one that would let me get the shots that I wanted. And that was Alexander Henry Park.

Alexander Henry, American born, friendly with many types of people from the Ojibwe of Michigan to the wealthy industrialists of the time, established secure trade with the French Canadians in the Great Lakes endeavors at Fort Michilimackinac after having supplied the British during the French & Indian War. Despite previous alliance with the British against native tribes, he became a part of the local culture when Wawatam adopted him as a brother. A series of misadventures among the less forgiving Ojibwe, which required Wawatam's intercession, carried him from one end of Michigan's Lower peninsula to the other along the Huron shoreline. In the end he returned to Fort Michilimackinac before setting off for the Lake Superior and Sasketchawan territories to challenge trade routes of the Hudson Bay Company. Following his trading and mapping forrays into the Northwest Terrtories, he travelled to England to offer proposals to the very company which he had challenged in the wilds of North America. From Britain to France in the court of Marie-Antoinette where he met with his first immutable failure to win favor and back to the American North he set out to develop trade with China and seek an overland route to the Pacific.

The overland endeavor never reached fruition under Henry. However, he did manage to engage JJ Astor in the northwest trade. Together with an association of other traders the North West Company did manage to establish trade with China. So encouraged by this success, Henry then set his sites on the American Interior, speculating in land deals with the Indian tribes the Ohio region. The deal along the Cuyahoga fell through when the Indians refused to acknowledge land deeds held by Henry's company. He settled in Montreal, engaging in militia and societal concerns, until his death in 1824. During this time he had written his memoirs which are heralded as the most comprehensive and accurate account of indigenous life in the region.

Alexander Henry is memorialized in Alexander Henry Park with a bronze likeness at the park's handicap accessible entrance. Henry was one of those affable people who found friendship and forgiveness easy to come by as the fortunes he amassed for himself and his partners in the fur trade with notably few exceptions. Fort Michilimackinac's success as a trading post, establishing a local community at the Straits of Mackinaw, undoubtedly belongs to Henry's personality and tenacity. The park is located just down the shore from Colonial Michilimackinac at the tip of lower Michigan at the bridge approach. This location provides one of the best shooting locations.

And one of the most populated. As I made my way to shore I noticed the was quite a large flock of Canadian Geese in the water. Assuming they were content to stay in the water at a safe distance I happily busied myself with photography. Seagulls rode the thermals, catching air  the way that pro surfers catch waves in an aerial dance that enthralls. Their graceful aeronautics hypnotize one into forgetting for a time that they are little more than flying garbage trucks, aggressive flying garbage trucks. Then they land and all of the magic and allure of flight is gone. But for a time one suspends prejudice for pure joy.

I like to have living beings in my photos. The action is a more dynamic image than static landscapes, living beings in pictures make it easier to engage the image as yourself rather than remaining a passive bystander. Seagulls, ubiquitous as they are, can not avoid the lens. And of course the geese can't help but take their place in the spot light. As I busily shot pictures after picture, the gaggle came ashore. As I had noted only about 16 birds and just a few wandered into view, I did not worry at all. 16 geese on a feeding mission in the surf are hardly a threat despite their ferocious and intrepid reputation. So I kept shooting. These were good shots with a lot of action. But still not THEE Mighty Mac shot I was looking for.

This is closer. It reminds me of so many Golden Gate shots out of San Francisco tourism brochures. Waves and gulls make a dynamic shot and it is well balanced. These northern gulls are more cooperative that the ones down home. I think the ones down home are more interested in sticking close to land where feeding is easier. At the bridge there are few fast food restaurants at which to dumpster dive. Of course I could be anthropomorphizing.

As usual, it took me a few tries to get the panorama that I was looking for.

This at least has the cove to anchor the shot on the left so that the bridge doesn't look like it comes out of no where. I just had hoped for more bridge detail. You can see here what I mean about curvature and physics and junk. We are not that far from the bridge but it is so much farther away in perception than the uprights were coming up I-75.

I probably spent a half an hour taking pictures. When sunset reduced my visibility and I turned to leave I froze in my tracks. Those 16 geese that I saw had turned into 30. And they all came ashore. A few of the protective males snaked their heads in my direction so I avoided getting closer or getting in their faces while they were on the shore. But when I turned to go back up the sidewalk, my way was blocked by a dozen of the adult geese. I didn't get a picture of this sight because I was terrified to move. The dozen adults had surrounded me on three sides and stood less than 10 feet from me. While that is disconcerting enough given their aforementioned reputation, those who surrounded me stood frozen in an identical stance... left foot firmly planted, weight thrown forward, necks twisted toward me and the right foot raised. They were ninjas in a crane position. And I am no Karate Kid.

I might have peed a little. I did back up four steps while they remained frozen. Slowly, I capped my lens, and stepped sideways up the small dune through a swarm of black flies and through the grass toward the maritime detritus posing as park sculpture. Once I hit the shade and assured myself that they did not follow me, I beat feet for the car. The only thing more terrifying than a dozen ninja geese posed to strike would be a knot of vipers randomly associated in the middle of  our driveway at home.

As I lived to tell this tale with all of my pieces and parts intact there seems little that should have worried me. However, I did make the mistake of watching Hitchcock's the Birds. And as Canadian Geese are the only thing viscous about Canada, to err on the side of caution is the divine rite of those with Vulcan sensibilities. Thus... we require less rescuing than our very human friends.

The trip home was rather uneventful even with the car tossing winds. Those winds had kept us from crossing the bridge so we will make this trip again. I think we will go closer to the fall to get the colors. And the next trip will have waterfalls. And maybe allow me to meet up with my U.P friends to add to the adventure. Of course if it rains that means out adventures will be limited to a Starbucks or local coffee shop for a day.

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