Michigan Springs: A Feeling of Renewal

After a long dormant winter, new growth brings a sense of hope and revival for two nature photographers.
Bent trillium blossom opening
Bent trillium blossom opening: I’m always attracted to simple aesthetics. When I spotted this emerging bent trillium blossom positioned between its shapely leaves, all I had to do was frame it. The visual story of early spring told itself.
Photography by Mark S. Carlson

Take a walk through the woods in spring, and you’ll marvel at the rejuvenation. Snowy remnants of winter have disappeared. Area brooks and streams run cold and clear. All around, there are signs of new life, warmed by the sun.

Bunchberry blossom with bearberry
Bunchberry blossom with bearberry: The clash of seasons inspired this photograph. The bunchberry blooming within the trailing bearberry leaves would have made an interesting photo, but the anomaly of red leaves next to the soft, white blossom made a colorful counterpoint for the composition. Photography by Mark S. Carlson

Nature photographer and naturalist Mark Carlson often prefers to get close to his subjects. He commonly lies on the ground to set up a shot while birds sing in the trees. His photo subject may be a cluster of round-lobed hepatica pushing up through the leaves, a dramatic Jack-in-the-pulpit, trout lily or bed of white trillium.

The 59-year-old Laingsburg resident enjoys writing haikus, too, the Japanese poetry form that distills a moment into three simple lines. Carlson says “simple aesthetics are the most powerful.” Nature photography he calls “a meditation.”

“I’m a color guy; I love color,” said Carlson, who began shooting professionally 30 years ago. Like many photographers, he started out with weddings. Over time, he realized his deeper interest in photographing nature. Today, his images appear in magazines, books and calendars. “Spring wildflowers and autumn leaf colors run neck and neck (as a favorite season), Carlson said. “But, I really like the new beginnings and watching everything come up and start again.”

Hairbells with raindrops
Hairbells with raindrops: As one who enjoys writing haiku as much as photographing, sometimes I find the two art forms mutually inspiring. The delicate, horizontal stem of harebell blossoms drooping with raindrops conveyed such visual poetry, I had to capture the moment. Photography by Mark S. Carlson
Marsh marigolds at Munising Falls
Marsh marigolds at Munising Falls: “Earth laughs in flowers” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Marsh marigolds blooming at the foot of Munising Falls reminded me of that famous quote. I tried to capture the symbology of the rushing waterfall cascading down and nourishing the beautiful colony of spring wildflowers below. Photography by Mark S. Carlson

Heather Higham also enjoys photographing spring’s renewal. The 34-year-old Ohio native and former high school science teacher enjoys creating mood and mystery in her images. Her photography developed into a serious pursuit in 2010 after she and her husband moved to Traverse City, having migrated north from Georgia where she had been teaching.

“My husband grew up coming up here to fish in the summer, and we did a road trip up here in 2007,” Higham said. “It was terrible weather the entire time, but I just loved it. So, we thought to move here.”

Higham’s photography captures the mood she feels when outdoors, something she is passionate about. Wild spaces are important.

“I feel a sense of peace in places that are mostly untouched by humans,” Higham explained. “I’m hard pressed to say one season is a favorite. In fall, I look at the grand landscape. In winter, I’m surrounded by millions of snowflakes. But in spring, particularly early spring, you get a chance to watch one fiddlehead (fern) uncurl, or the first spring beauty. The spring ephemerals shine when nothing else is out. I love to capture the bright greens you see in spring. After being so cold and white, the first signs of life are rejuvenating.”

Country living
Country living: A red barn is a farm country icon. Add to it a still fog and a quietly grazing horse on a warm spring morning, and it’s the epitome of country living. Photography by Heather Higham

It is spring in Michigan — a time of rebirth. In this issue of BLUE, we bring you a celebration of that beauty and renewal through the eyes of Mark Carlson and Heather Higham. Take your time — relax and enjoy.

Lake rushes at sunset
Lake rushes at sunset: Capturing the simplicity of the zen moment was the inspiration for this reflections photo of sunset and rushes in an evening lake. Sometimes, you can’t tell the difference between the poem and the picture. Photography by Mark S. Carlson
Trailside trillium
Trailside trillium: A single trillium along a trail surrounded by ramps glows in the waning sun. Photography by Heather Higham
Phases of rejuvenation
Phases of rejuvenation: The grass and yellow flowers grow riotously, while the distant tree can’t seem to make a leaf. Even the sunset hovers between brilliance and fogginess. In many respects, a Michigan spring proceeds in fits and starts. Photography by Heather Higham
Dewy yellow crocus
Dewy yellow crocus: When little other plant life risks the frosts and freezes of early spring, the crocus bursts forth. Here, a cold dew glistens on buttery petals — a promise of warm days to come. Photography by Heather Higham
Charlotte’s web
Charlotte’s web: Heavy dews — a hallmark of late spring mornings — turn a spider’s feeding efforts into a work of art. Photography by Heather Higham

Howard Meyerson is an award-winning journalist and managing editor of Michigan BLUE Magazine.

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