Stars of Glen Haven, Michigan

I thought I’d share a few photographs I took of the night sky in and around Glen Haven MichiganSleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This was my first attempt at this kind of photography, so I took a few notes as well.


Tug boat – Cannery Boathouse Museum, Glen Haven, MI

1. Don’t rock the tug boat (use a tripod and shutter-release cable to prevent camera-shake). Even with a high ISO setting (3200 +/-) and a wide-open lens capturing stars requires slow shutter-speeds (30 seconds +/-). Earth’s rotation will cause motion-blur / star-trails in exposures of much longer than 30 seconds.

Mast – US Life Saving Station, Glen Haven, MI

2. The moon can be surprisingly bright (shoot during a New Moon or wait for the moon to set for maximum star-capturing power). The illumination on this mast comes entirely from the moon, and while it can be helpful at times, if the moon is too high and/or full it can significantly reduce the number of stars you (and your camera) will see.

US Life Saving Station, Glen Haven, MI

3. Got a light? Bring that, too. I know, I know… I just mentioned how bright the moon is. Still, it’s very easy for a blogger (and her/his gear) to go bump in the night. Also, in extreme low-light situations you’ll often have to rely manual focusing – shining some light on nearby objects can be a big help with that.

Sleeping Bear Inn, Glen Haven, MI

4. Charge your battery (and your camera battery, too). Pre-plan (scout locations, look-up moon phases, weather reports, etc.) and pack-up early. Then get some rest. If you are like me, you will easily get carried away and the sun will be up in no time.

Cannery Boathouse Museum, Glen Haven, MI

5. Shoot the lights out (take lots-o-photographs). I find it never hurts to hedge my bet. It’s often easier to delete a few ‘bad’ photos than it is to get back on location and shoot more ‘good ones’.

Trees, Glen Haven, MI

6. Thank your lovely wifey. It takes great patience to help scout locations, transport gear and carefully aim flashlights at 3 o’clock in the morning, etc. It will all be greatly appreciated.

About these images: digital photographs (Canon 600D) lightly modified in Adobe Photoshop


82 thoughts on “Stars of Glen Haven, Michigan

  1. WHERE IN THE HECK DID YOU GO? I think you fell off the face of the earth there for awhile, we missed you! Awesome photographs as usual, and I extremely loved the Sleeping Bear Inn photo. Glad you’re back! 🙂

    • Hahaha… that’s a very good question! My memory isn’t what it used to be, so I have a difficult time managing to remember exactly what I did yesterday… so a whole month… (there’s probably a story or two there if I could just remember them)!
      I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the inn! It’s an interesting place with a lot of history – I think the Park Service is hoping someone might restore it and run it as an inn again – which would be very cool! 🙂

  2. Welcome back! Great shots and advice. As dorky as i look, I use a headlamp when I’m up early so that both my hands are free – and you are correct, the sun comes up VERY quickly, so don’t dilly-dally when shooting.

    • Ah, yes! Now THAT is a good tip, sir! I find I never have enough hands (even when I don’t have to hang onto a flashlight), so I can see where a headlamp would be very useful, indeed! 🙂

    • I’m very happy to hear you liked these, sir, thank you! I thought the boat was pretty interesting (I wish I would have found out a bit more information about it to share with everyone – maybe I still can at some point)!

  3. So glad you are back … not just for your amazing photography, but for your generous spirit, lovely comments, and the fact that you thank your wifey. (and thanks for the suggestions … the photos are brilliant!)

    • Thank you very, very much LB! How kind of you to say!!! It would have been very wrong not to thank my wifey, of course – I mean – seriously – that’s a lot to put up with!
      Thank you again, LB! Although they’re more notes for my memory than tips, because most of my readers (including you, of course) already know more about me than all of that stuff!

  4. I don’t know all the camera terminology, but the photo shots are great!
    I hope you month away from us was an enjoyable time!
    Glad to have you back! 🙂
    Have a great week!

    • No worries, Deb – a big part of my recording the terminology was just so I could try to remember what I did – I’m just very happy to hear you liked the photos!
      And thank you – I did have a nice time – and it’s good to be back (although I’m not sure I’ll ever get caught-up with everything)!

  5. Welcome back. You have made a grand entrance indeed. Wonderful post & compositions. I would sing your praises to the tune of Vincent/Starry Starry Night. I better not; there would be much weeping. 😀

    • Many thanks, Ms. C!
      It’s good to feel back, but I’m so far behind it kind of feels like I’m staring in an episode of Twilight Zone! Other than that it’s been a nice summer, though – and I very much hope that you are having a good one as well!

    • Thank you so very much! I hope the ‘tips’ don’t make it seem like I think I know what I’m doing… because that is obviously not the case! But I did have fun! Which is always a good thing! AND I am very, very flattered by your great kindness! Thank you again!

  6. First of all I will just say welcome back SIG but wow what a comeback, these photographs are truly stunning, you have certainly planned well in order to shoot these beauties. I don’t have a favourite as all in this collection are equally brilliant and the star detail is absolutely awesome, you are such a perfectionist 🙂 Thank you for offering these SIG they are without a doubt amongst the best night time photography scenes that I have ever seen 🙂 Wicked…


    • Many, many thanks, Andro! You always leave such incredibly kind comments! I’m so very happy to hear that you liked these! I do kind of like the idea / subject matter – but I’m afraid I could still use quite a bit of practice with this sort of thing. To tell you the truth if I’m not shooting a very specific concept in a fairly deliberate way… I tend to struggle a bit (all the variables are almost a bit overwhelming to me)! But it was a lot of fun, which is the main thing, of course! And I sincerely appreciate your generous thoughts, as always, sir!

      • I think that with any project we undertake that there will always be elements that are either too complicated or that we somehow overlook but the experience of learning is greater when our planning has been thought out.

        Yours worked a treat on this project and one can easily see the results, you have triumphed my great friend and I am looking forward to all of your experiments, art is a living canvas to be explored and tamed, and of course the artist that is you, is already achieving high standards with every scene 🙂

        Well done my great friend, your slant on artistic creativeness is second to none and I mean that 🙂


        • I think it did help me somewhat having a generic idea ‘stars’ as an overall theme (so it wasn’t quite as overwhelming as when, say, I just find myself in a street photography situation and there’s so much that’s new to me – happening so quickly – that I don’t really have the ‘speed’ to react properly). But as you say, that element of surprise seems to work its way into almost every project… and the main thing is to have fun and to try to learn as much as possible (so that, hopefully, a similar situation is a bit easier to handle in the future).
          Very well-said, as always, Andro!
          Thank you!

  7. Welcome back, Robert!! Incredible photos!! Worth the wait and worth all your effort. My fav is #3. I love the sky and the stars. Really stunning. How do you do this? Still not quite back myself. I hope you’ve been having a great summer!

    • Thanks so much, Amy! It’s good to be back… although I’ve been dragging my feet just a bit (since I’m kind of dreading how far behind I’ve managed to get).
      Anyway, I’m very happy to hear you liked these! It was just basically a matter of using a fairly high ISO, the lowest number f/stop I could and keeping the camera shutter open for around 30 seconds or so (much easier than I probably managed to make it sound)!
      I guess I didn’t realize you weren’t quite back yet, B.F. (so I appreciate your stopping by all the more)! Thank you again! I hope your family is having a wonderful summer, too!

  8. Welcome back! These are some stunning photos of the night sky 🙂 They are all great! My favorites are the tug boat and the “Sleeping Bear Inn.” Looks like you didn’t sleep much…lol…nice job! Well worth it! 😀

    • Thank you very much, Mary! I wish I wasn’t so far behind now, but other than that it’s very nice to be back!
      I’m very happy to hear you liked the photos! I did have a lot of fun with these… although you are right about that (the more that I think about it… it might be time for a nap)!

  9. Welcome back, Robert! I love your star photos, especially the ones with the trees. Some great tips, too. In the big city here, you’re lucky to be able to see the big dipper. Must have been nice to be far enough north to be away from most of the light pollution.

    • Many thanks, Binky! It’s great to be back (if only I could get caught up)! I agree with you… I think having something like a tree in the foreground helps to frame things a bit… plus the wind was blowing enough to blur the leaves but the trunk stayed relatively sharp (I kind of liked that, too)!
      It was very nice, indeed! I know exactly what you mean – sadly I can’t see too many stars from St. Louis, either.

  10. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a sky full of stars. Thanks for showing me they are still out there. And for all the great photo tips. Your photos are absolutely astounding. The Sleeping Bear Inn looks inviting. Maybe they’d like to use your photography skills for their marketing–that would make a lovely brochure.

    • It’s funny… until I read your comment I had forgotten how long it had been since I saw this many stars, too, Patti (well, before I took these photos, anyway)!
      I’m still feeling a bit awkward about posting the tips – they really are almost as much notes to myself since I’ve only just started messing around with this sort of thing, so I hope it doesn’t come across as me pretending otherwise!
      Thank you so much for your kind thoughts, Patti! I appreciate it very much! 🙂

      • I’m still basically a point-and-shoot person, so I find it interesting to see what settings and conditions yield what results. Maybe one day I’ll try out some other options on that little dial.

        • Your little dial has sure set-up some wonderful photos, (as you know I’m particularly envious of your bird collection)! It’s fun to play around with different creative modes, etc… but whatever you are doing, it’s working for you, Patti 🙂

    • Thank you very much, P&K! It’s good to be back! This project was a lot of fun – which is the main thing! I think you would really enjoy it, too (and I know you would create some amazing images)!

  11. Lovely, lovely, lovely! So glad to have you back on the blogosphere. Did you have a great rest? I’ve been to that old Coast Guard museum – I wandered the shore in search of Petoskey stones but, alas, had no luck.

    • Aw, thanks, Peg! Very, very much! We did have a very nice time! I hear you on the Petoskey thing! Annabelle doesn’t even have to try to find them (she’s the same way about 4-leaf clovers). That’s not so much the case with me (I think I might have found ONE – in all the times we’ve been there – not exactly an impressive success rate)!

  12. Oh, man, what a great way to come back from a break. These are incredible. The vignetting in the first one and the gradients on the others kill me. The mention of the high ISO was interesting to me, since I’ve only done long exposure stuff with an ISO of 100 and then an aperture of up 22 to control the light. Guess this is a whole different beast.

    • Aw, thanks, U.M – very, very much!
      I hear that – I would say 90 percent of my stuff gets shot at ISO 100, unless (generally) it’s a ‘gritty’ atmosphere I’m after… or I just need a faster shutter speed. The shutter speed was kind of what got me here (which is unfortunate because I don’t feel noise does anything for this subject matter – at all). Since I was trying to ‘freeze’ the stars rather than create star-trails I was limited to approx. 30 second exposures +/- (and I just couldn’t get there without the high ISO). That and some of the stars are really fairly faint, so I suspect quite a few less would have shown up without cranking-up the sensitivity. Bummer, huh? I think there might be some Photoshop plug-ins / software available to help cancel out a bit of noise in situations like this (I guess if I ever decide to do more of this sort of thing I will have to look into that more).

    • The exposure time for most of these was 20-30 seconds. Anything longer than that and Earth’s rotation would have started to blur the stars (of course star-trails are pretty cool, too – but I thought I’d try ‘freeze’ them for my first shot at this sort of thing).

  13. OMG!!!! You did great job!!!! I’m dying to go somewhere dark to take photos of the stars!!!! I love your starry night photos! They are super awesome!!! 😀

    • I’ve never been to Mount Vernon (but I’ve always thought it would be a fascinating place to visit)!
      Hahaha… then I guess you know how much trouble my gravatar gets in?!

  14. Oh Wow, how did I miss these great shots!!! Memo to self . . . .

    Fantastic skies and surrounds and I can only imagine the fun you both had out there doing all this. Thanks for the great tips SiG!

    • Oh, absolutely, Ms. K! That was really the best part of the whole thing… we really were having a great time! We’re looking forward to trying this again, sometime (if we ever find ourselves out away from the city lights and under some nice, clear skies)!

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