Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Tag: Belle Isle

7 Reasons Why I Love Detroit

I Love Detroit

Detroit Skyline from Sunset Point on Belle Isle

And You Should Too! Lonely Planet recently named Detroit as the #2 city in the world to visit! It was the only city in the continental U.S. to make the list and after this list came out, I was surprised by all the negative comments from my fellow Michiganganders. Yes, Detroit has been hit hard since the race riots in the 60’s to the more recent corruption scandals and a bankruptcy filing. It seems that Detroit is finally making a comeback, but for some reason the locals can’t see the progress. I am here to tell you to give it a chance!

1. Earlier in the year, Detroit was named an “unexpected food city” by National Geographic and once again, it was the only city listed in North America. The article sites Corktown favorites such as Slow’s Barbeque, and ethnic delights from Greektown (obviously Greek food prevails here), Hamtramack (Polish cuisine), and Dearborn (Middle Eastern eats). Alton Brown also listed Anthology Coffee in Detroit as one of his top 5 cups of coffee ever. I would say that’s high praise for the Detroit food scene and a reason that I should be more adventurous when dining in the D.

One Detroit Center

One Detroit Center

2.   Downtown Detroit is home to one of the greatest collection of pre-war skyscrapers in the world. From the Fisher and Guardian buildings to the more modern Renaissance Center, there is much beauty and history to be explored in the city. I love that Pure Detroit offers tours of several of these buildings from their stores and fill visitors in on the history and significance of these architectural marvels.

3.  If you are looking for a little culture, the Detroit Institute of Arts has a world class collection of art in an absolutely stunning building! Located in Midtown Detroit, it is within walking distance to the Detroit History Museum,  Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, The Detroit Science Center, and The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit as well as Wayne State University, The College of Creative Studies, and the beautiful Detroit Public Library. This is really the cultural hub of the city.

Diego Rivera Mural

The Spirit of Detroit by Diego Rivera at the Detroit Institute of Arts

4.  Speaking of culture, Detroit is also home to many beautiful theaters. Take in a show at The Fisher Theater, Fox Theater, Detroit Opera House, Masonic Temple, The Fillmore, or Orchestra Hall to name a few. The theater tradition in Detroit dates back to the 20’s with The Fox being the first theater to be built with film sound equipment. Part of the music for West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein was composed on the piano in the Fox Theater. Hello, Dolly actually premiered at The Fisher Theater before making its debut on Broadway. Orchestra Hall is home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the 4th oldest U.S. Orchestra. (wiki)

5.  Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, and Pistons, oh my (sorry, no bears) now all reside within the city limits. In the late 90’s, in a plan to begin the revitalization of downtown, Ford Field (Lions) and Comerica Park (Tigers) were built adjacent to each other on Woodward Avenue. As of 2017, both the Pistons and Red Wings now play at the new Little Caesars Arena in Midtown. With the most Stanley Cup Championships of any NHL Team, Detroit is affectionately known as Hockeytown. With all of Detroit’s sports teams downtown, that is one more reason to visit the city during any season.

Scott Fountain

Another Belle Isle Highlight is the Scott Fountain

6.  I remember visiting Belle Isle about 15 years ago and it was rundown and desolate. In 2013, the State Park Service took over management of the park and has begun a beautiful restoration! The beautiful Belle Isle Aquarium which was the oldest continually operating public aquarium in the U.S. until it closed in 2005 is open again and is home to fish from around the world. Next door, The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory is another Albert Kahn masterpiece full of beautiful palms, cacti, and ferns. I recently visited the Dossin Great Lakes Museum for the first time and I was truly impressed (expect an article on that at a later date). In the summer, visitors flock to the beaches to cool off in the Detroit River. Of course, a visit to Belle Isle would not be complete without a spot at Sunset Point to photograph the beautiful Detroit skyline (top).

7.  Of course, if you venture just outside the city there are some additional must-see attractions. Located in Dearborn, The Henry Ford, known as “America’s Greatest History Attraction”, is made up of a collection of historic buildings with costumed reenactors at Greenfield Village, The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, and The Rouge Factory Tour. Of course there is also the Detroit Zoo, which despite its name is actually in Royal Oak. The highlight of the zoo is also the newest attraction, the Polk Penguin Conservation Center where you can get up close and personal with the penguins! Don’t miss the Outback exhibit either: the kangaroos can hop right up to you!

Butterfly on Flower 55/100

Butterfly at the Butterfly House at the Detroit Zoo

Like any major city, Detroit does have crime. Visitors just need to remain vigilant and stay in the tourist areas. Detroit is not a city where you want to go exploring off the beaten path. I have noticed on my recent visits to the city (which tend to be on weekends), there really don’t seem to be a lot of people around. Don’t let the negative press surrounding Detroit, keep you from experiencing this unique, impressive city.

Thanks for stopping by! To plan your trip to Detroit, check out VisitDetroit.com. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Belle Isle Conservatory

Bananas We recently decided to become members of the Belle Isle Conservancy.  This was an interesting choice of membership because with a recreation passport, there is no fee to enter the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle. The reason we decided to join is because the Belle Isle Conservancy is part of the American Horticultural Society’s reciprocal admissions program. What does this mean? It means that we get free admission and free parking at botanical gardens all around the country including Windmill Island Gardens in Holland and Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids. I’m hoping to find a garden to visit on our road trip this summer. Not to mention we are supporting Belle Isle and the restoration projects going on in the park. I strongly suggest photographers check out becoming a member of a local botanical garden to get the reciprocal access to gardens around the country!

This banana photo was taken in the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle. When I walked by the banana plant, I thought the one partially eaten banana was interesting. And, I wondered, what inside the greenhouse would have eaten it?

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr! To see inside my camera bag, check out my newly updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Scott Fountain

Scott Fountain

What to look for in a camera

Photographing the Photographer

Chris photographing the Livingstone Lighthouse on Belle Isle.
I’m sure if you did a search for most commonly used phrases on this blog, the phrase, “you don’t need an expensive camera to take good pictures” would probably come out on top. This is something I mention a lot because I know the price of camera gear can hold photographers back from pursuing their hobby or make them think they can’t make good images on cheap gear and that is just not true. Yes, an interchangeable lens camera system (either DSLR or mirrorless) will make it easier to get quality shots, but the camera does not make the photographer. I figured its time to start a series of photo tips on the blog and I wanted to start at the beginning – choosing a camera. I won’t get into the Nikon vs. Canon debate (although I’m a Nikon shooter, only because it was cheaper that day) or DSLR vs. Mirrorless  (there’s a lot out there on this topic right now) but just simply what specs to look for when purchasing your first serious camera. Let’s get to it!

In my opinion, one of the biggest things you want to look for is that the camera has the capability to shoot in RAW. I didn’t understand what RAW was when I first got my DSLR so  up until recently I did all my shooting in JPEG. When I go back and look at those older images I’m frustrated because I’m unable to do as much to them as I am to RAW files. My friend Steve at Burnsland.com recently posted a great article about the power of RAW files that is a must read for anyone who is scared to switch from JPEG!

Another thing to look for when camera shopping, is manual controls – the ability to control your aperture and shutter speed and do it easily (a lot of cameras have the setting buried in menus and that’s no fun for anyone). To be able to get full control of your images, you’ll want to be able to control your depth of field and the motion in your shot and you just cannot do this in camera that will only shoot in fully programmed mode.

And then there’s the sensor size question but honestly, any camera on the market today has a big enough resolution for most of the things you’ll be doing and, if you ask me, some of these new giant megapixel cameras are kind of a gimmick. Go out on one shoot and your hard drive is full! It is important to note that with smaller image sizes it is harder to do any significant cropping to the image without taking a hit in quality. But, for the average photographer doing basic printing and online sharing, you’ll be fine with most any camera in today’s market.

Interchangable lenses like mirrorless and DSLR camera systems have are obviously a better but more expensive choice than a fixed lens camera. But, if your budget doesn’t allow for that, definitely consider something with a optical zoom (the lens comes out of the camera) over the strictly digital zoom (like an iphone camera). My first digital camera was strictly digital zoom and I hated it because the zoom was basically worthless; it made everything very noisy. But, if that’s all you can afford, you always have the old-fashioned zoom, your feet!

So, to recap, when looking for a camera look for the ability to shoot in RAW, manual controls, and optical zoom. If you’re looking for an entry-level DSLR, I highly recommend the Nikon D3x00 series (I have the D3100 but the D3300 has newer features). You can also get older cameras used for a good deal (although, this is where you’d have to watch out for megapixel count)!

Thanks for stopping by! Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on  Flickr! This month I am taking part of an Instagram Travel Challenge, posting a travel photo a day on Instagram and I’d love for you to follow along!

Wordless Wednesday: Lighthouse Shadow

Lighthouse Shadow

Belle Isle Conservatory

Belle Isle Conservatory

Today I’m continuing my recount of my recent wintery voyage to Belle Isle, Michigan’s 102nd state park. The conservatory may have been the part of the park I was most excited to check out! One thing I was not prepared for was the stark contrast between the cold outside and the humid warmth in the conservatory. The abrupt change wreaked havoc on both my camera and my glasses! It felt like forever before I could see again! So, tip for photographers and glasses-wearers alike, put a cap on your lens or glasses in your pocket before you walk in, especially in colder months.

The Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory opened along with the Belle Isle Aquarium in 1094. The Conservatory, remodeled in 1980, is the oldest, continually operating conservatory in the United States. The building has five different areas, each houses a different climate from cacti to the soaring palms pictured to the left. Fun fact: 50 years after the greenhouse opened Anna Scipps Whitcomb (daughter of James E. Whicomb, founder of the Detroit News) donated her collection of 600 orchids to the conservatory. This gave Detroit the largest municipally owned orchid collection in the country. Many of these plants were saved from Britain during Word War II. (Historic Detroit)

About the Photo:
There’s not much to say about this photo. It was a single exposure with basic edit done in Lightroom. Although, I think I was annoying another photographer who was trying to take engagement photos. I was standing directly in front of the bench she wanted the couple to sit on . Other photographer, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

Camera Gear:
Nikon D3100 with 18.0-55.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens handheld

Date Taken:
January, 2016

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Belle Isle Aquarium

Belle Isle Aquarium

I have wanted to visit Belle Isle in Detroit for some time now, so when we had a warm(ish) winter weekend, I made my way east. I had driven through Belle Isle once before, but it was before the park service took it over and was in a deserted, dilapidated state. It was good to see the historic buildings being restored and people walking around, enjoying the beautiful weather.

While its still being renovated, I fell in love with the Belle Isle Aquarium. Before it closed in 2005, it was the oldest, continually operating aquarium in North America. It reopened in 2012 and now seeks to inform the public about invasive species that are taking over the great lakes. The aquarium first opened in 1904 and was designed by famed architect Albert Kahn. The stone facade atop the doorway depicts two spitting fish and the emblem of Detroit. (Belle Isle Conservancy)

About the Photo:
For this trip, I stuck mostly with my 18-55mm kit lens. It is the widest lens I currently have and it was a sunny day so I wasn’t worrying about speed. This shot was a tough one to get as people were coming and going from the aquarium and I was kind of standing in the way. I decided to shoot up high and get less of the doorway to avoid having people in my shot. This was cropped down a bit and a basic edit from RAW done in Lightroom.

Camera Gear:
Nikon D3100 with 18.0-55.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens handheld

Date Taken:
January, 2016

Thanks for stopping by! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram, and Flickr!

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