Touring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is a Photographer's Paradise!

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a Photographer’s Paradise!

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is my favorite getaway destination. The “U.P.” is freedom — freedom from crowds, pollution, traffic, crime, big cities and all their problems. The U.P. is woods, water, pure air, small towns, friendly people, great hunting and fishing, many historic attractions, and an abundance of natural beauty. Whether your passion is outdoor sports like hiking, backpacking, canoeing, skiing, golf, sailing, kayaking, camping, or any combination of these, the U.P. is the place for you.

The images in the Touring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula section of the Modern galleries represent some of my own outdoor passions, as captured through the lens of my camera in all seasons. These images were collected over a span of several decades. Now, come with me to the U.P. and discover the wonders of this fantastic place!

Historic Copper Country Cemeteries

Historic cemeteries in Michigan's Copper Country

Historic cemeteries in Michigan’s Copper Country

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Copper Country spreads the length of Houghton, Keweenaw, and Ontonagon counties. The mines were very dangerous places to work, and many men lost their lives working there during the 1800s. The gravestone photos featured in the Historic Cemeteries galleries give mute testimony to the hazards those men faced.

Medical care in the remote mining areas was often lacking during the early mining boom, as well. Infant and child mortality  was a serious problem. The graves of small children contribute to the poignant statements made by the adult gravestones of the past.

Copper Country Mining Heritage

History abounds in Michigan's Copper Country

History abounds in Michigan’s Copper Country

I spent my college years at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. MTU was established in 1885 as the Michigan College of Mines, for good reason. It’s located in the heart of Michigan’s “Copper Country,” which runs from White Pine to the southwest for over 100 miles to the northern tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Along the way are many small towns still chock full of remnants of the copper mining booms of the past.

Arriving at Tech basically ignorant of the vast storehouse of rich history surrounding me, it wasn’t long before I started to learn about the area’s past. As I began to travel around the Keweenaw, I discovered a new world of photographic possibilities. The galleries in the Copper Country Mining Heritage collection on BlockPhotos.com document some of the remaining historic mining buildings in the Copper Country. Sadly, many have been lost, demolished to reduce the risk of injury to hapless explorers and the lawsuits which would certainly follow.

Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is a four-season photographer’s paradise even without the old copper mining buildings. But, their presence makes this area even more worthy of serious photographic pursuit. Attractions like the rugged Lake Superior coastline, lighthouses, mountaintop vistas, ghost towns, and virgin pine forests await you.

Nature and Scenic

Splendor in the natural world – wildflowers, fall colors, icy artistry, and more

Splendor in the natural world – wildflowers, fall colors, icy artistry, and more

Throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed the outdoors. As a youth, I was introduced to field archery and family camping. In my teenage years, my father taught me to hunt and fish. As an adult, I discovered hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and even golf. To most of these outdoor pursuits, I added photography. As the decades passed, I took advantage of the many photo opportunities provided by the changing seasons and scenic destinations as I traveled. The Nature and Scenic galleries present the results.

Great Lakes Maritime

Lighthouses, fishing villages and boats, ships, and sailing vessels of the Great Lakes

Lighthouses, fishing villages and boats, ships, and sailing vessels of the Great Lakes

For most of my life, I’ve lived near the Great Lakes, either in Michigan where I grew up, or in Wisconsin, where I came to rest following three job relocations. The proximity of the Great Lakes and the many photo opportunities they offer led me to begin photographing lighthouses in the early 1980s. Throughout the ’80s, ’90s, and into the 2000s I visited and photographed over 250 lighthouses.

My first lighthouse image was actually a painting, not a photograph. While a student at Michigan Tech, I sometimes fled to the shores of Lake Superior seeking relief from the stresses of college life. One of those trips took me to Eagle Harbor Lighthouse, on the western shore of the Keweenaw Peninsula, where I painted the watercolor image shown below.

Eagle Harbor, Michigan Lighthouse – Watercolor by Phillip L. Block

Eagle Harbor, Michigan Lighthouse – Watercolor by Phillip L. Block

I started photographing lighthouses in 1982, on a trip up the Minnesota shore of Lake Superior. The trip concluded in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. My fascination with lighthouses grew throughout the 1980s, and I was soon planning travel for the express purpose of photographing lighthouses. I also joined a lighthouse enthusiast group, the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association (GLLKA). As the 1980s unfolded, I found myself on boats cruising to many offshore lighthouses, in addition to photographing beacons on shore.

As my collection of lighthouse photos and experiences grew, fate intervened. In 1989, I was discussing my photographic interests with some friends, and a member of the Sailing Club of the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee asked if I could do a slide show for them. This request came in November of that year, and we agreed upon a date in the following February for the show.

Over the next couple months, I wrote the script for the show, which debuted as scheduled on a beautiful winter night in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s really refreshing to see all the open water in my photos during a frigid Wisconsin winter!

In the 1990s, the internet age dawned, and I decided to publish my photography online. My companion photo site Lightstations.com was launched in 1999, and was recently redesigned, reconstructed, and remains a showcase for my lighthouse photography.

Lightstations.com home page

Lightstations.com Home Page

In Great Lakes Maritime section of the Modern galleries, several of my maritime interests are on display. Besides lighthouses, I also enjoy photographing tall ships whenever I have the opportunity to do so.

Antique Circus Wagons

Antique Circus Wagons at Circus World Museum

Antique Circus Wagons at Circus World Museum

Wisconsin is home to a treasure trove of circus history. Located in Baraboo, Circus World Museum includes several of the buildings used as winter quarters by the Ringling Brothers Circus. The grounds and original buildings in this section of the park, called “Ringlingville,” are a designated a U.S. Registered National Historic Landmark.

The W.W. Deppe Pavilion at Circus World Museum houses a priceless collection of over 50 antique horse-drawn circus wagons. These wagons were pulled into towns with bands and calliopes heralding the exciting news that “The circus is coming!” The arrival of the circus was one of the biggest events of the year in small-town America a hundred years ago and more.

The Antique Circus Wagons galleries showcase the visual splendor of this great American treasure. Come with me to Circus World Museum to see this incredible collection of American circus lore!

Legacy Galleries

BlockPhotos.com started in 2003 with the images in the Legacy galleries.

BlockPhotos.com started in 2003 with the images in the Legacy galleries.

Today I finished building the Legacy galleries on the new BlockPhotos.com.

Things are heading in the right direction. Next I’ll start building the Modern galleries. Still a long way to go!