Lake Michigan


Living along the West Michigan Lake Michigan shoreline I tend to watch the weather for changes. Something like a sailor, just with both feet firmly planted on the shoreline. When storms are in the forecast I keep an eye on radar throughout the day in the event something crops up. On Sunday evening July 26, 2020 that’s just what happened. Shelf clouds are fun to watch form on the horizon and they develop a menacing look as they approach and draw closer.  My experience has been most of the shelf clouds I have captured on Pere Marquette beach in Muskegon Michigan will develop and move in from either the North or the West.

Incoming Storm Shelf Cloud

A ridge of menacing clouds starts to form on the horizon and as it approaches the air temperature changes. The cloud morphs from a grey line on the horizon to a “monster” white on the top and dark on the bottom as it “rolls” in. A shelf cloud is a low-hanging, well-defined, wedge-shaped formation that occurs along the leading edge of the gust ushering in a thunderstorm. Updrafts feed warm, moist air into the thunderstorm to provide it with the energy it needs to survive. The day this shelf cloud formed the beach was packed as daytime temperatures were near 90 with high dew points.

Incoming Shelf Cloud

The downdraft consists of dense, rain-cooled air that sinks to the surface underneath a thunderstorm. The air from a downdraft pools up at the surface beneath the storm in what’s known as a cold pool and tilts the updraft letting the storm take shape and begin to move dramatically over the lake. As the outflow boundary or gust front begins to lead and pull the thunderstorm south it is ingesting warm, moist air and the results are dramatic. As the updraft’s warm, moist air rises up along the outflow boundary, it cools and condenses into a shelf cloud perfect for picture taking.

Passing overhead
Look at this boat trying to outrun the storm
Lake Michigan

Eye of the Storm

Went for a walk along the Lake Michigan shoreline as the sun was coming up in the east. I like Sunday mornings. To my west however were the gathering clouds of an impending storm.

Visual acuity is needed during times of crisis. 20/20 vision is your ability to at a distance of 20 feet see clearly what should normally be seen at that distance. “2020 vision” is our ability to maintain perspective, reasoning and balance when we couldn’t see what was coming next. 2020 vision became the search for pellucid thought in a year when events were far from normal. Instead of running I firmly planted my feet in the sand and absorbed the moment. I stood there as the storm swept over me capturing its anger with my camera. Don’t waste a crisis. Learn from it.


Eye of the storm

So to those who are disenchanted

The noise can be somewhat slanted

Seek out your roots

And harvest the fruits

When your feet are firmly planted. 

Storm passes

And just like that…..the storm passes. Exit stage left. 

Lake Michigan

Chronicling Lake Michigan Shoreline Erosion

With 22,300 square miles of water Lake Michigan is a natural fresh water wonder. The water levels have been rising over the past few years with May 2020 levels at record heights. Water levels have reached 51 inches above chart datum (average set point) of 577.50 above sea level. As of May 1st water level is 581.79 which is above May 2019, above average lake levels and 2 inches above the record May level set in 1986. That’s significant when you consider each inch of water on Lake Michigan is estimated to be 400 billion gallons of water! With record water levels comes erosion along the lake shore. Each erosion episode leaves intricate patterns in the sand as walls of sand erode and cave in. I have been chronicling the episodes with the following pictures the latest of what I see through the lens of my camera. Each area feels in my imagination like an ancient archaeological find coated in brown sugar. (Click on photos to enlarge)

Lake Michigan


I was thinking of this quote by photographer Jay Maisel while walking the Lake Michigan shoreline and observing the intricate detail of the erosion along the edge of the water.

“As people, we love pattern. But interrupted pattern is more interesting.” In life things can be rolling along and we can become complacent and less understanding of the detail, the wonder, the beauty we have been gifted. When the pattern is interrupted we pay attention. We can use it as an opportunity to bring things into a better focus. While dealing with erosion and change looking through the lens of the camera we can renew our wonder with something as simple as a grain of sand.

(Click on Images to enlarge)

Walking back from the beach in honor of Arbor Day a picture of my old friend Oakley. We have lots of conversations together. (I do most most of the talking). He is wise and good listener having weathered many storms through the years.

Great Lakes

A Winter Wonderland

Michigan weather. Creates an ever changing always interesting wonderland. Photos taken January 19, 2020. 

(Click on images to enlarge)