Adventures at the Michigan City Lighthouse Round 2: Autistic Journeys

Michigan City Beach

Another trip, another solo photo shoot. This time I returned to the historic Old Lighthouse in Michigan City, the oldest remaining lighthouse in the state of Indiana. It wasn’t the first time I’ve traveled there, but I wanted to have another go at photographing the area to see what I could find this time around.

Was also a little curious on whether I would meet the same elderly gentleman again from my first trip there. As usual, I didn’t have many words to say when we first met since I wasn’t sure how I was going to respond from the get go. I have always been very shy to say the least, but it was mainly due to being born with Asperger’s Syndrome. Still tried to converse back despite this to the best of my abilities and told him how it was my first time in the area. He then proceeded to point out a few spots to take some photos such as the Chicago skyline that could be viewed on the distant horizon. Unfortunately it was very hazy that day and the windy city was barely visible despite my efforts. Didn’t help that I only had a wide angle lens at the time either.

I certainly hoped that I didn’t come off as rude during our brief conversation, as I did appreciate him pointing out some things to help me out. For someone with Asperger’s it can be incredibly difficult to look at anyone in the eyes since, at least from my personal experience, it feels like they’ve become the center of attention and have to turn away from the stare. It’s more of an unconscious decision that can’t always be helped. Even if they try to maintain eye contact they eventually have to turn away at some point. It’s just an Asperger characteristic.

Old Friends by the Michigan City Lighthouse
Fishermen by the Michigan City Lighthouse

I was still listening to every word despite the lack of eye contact and was appreciative of his warning to be careful due to the waves slamming the shore and the lighthouse. All it would take was one abnormally large wave at the wrong place and the wrong time to possibly knock me into Lake Michigan. I kept my distance from the lighthouse that day and saw a few times where a wave looked like it was trying to wash over the barrier along the path.

The man eventually walked away with his cane in hand towards a lone fisherman a little closer to  the lighthouse for a lengthy conversation. I assumed he was a dear old friend of his and one of the reasons he came. I didn’t recall him catching any fish despite having three fishing rods out. Guess it just wasn’t his day. Hopefully he’ll have better luck next time.

While I unfortunately didn’t get to see either of them again during this trip, there were quite a lot of other people this time around, mostly fishermen lining up towards the Old Lighthouse that were hoping to make the big catch that day. The weather was much warmer this time around during daylight hours and the waves weren’t as bad as before. The sky was also finally clear enough to be able to view the windy city with my newly acquired 55-200mm telephoto zoom lens, which just came in the mail before the trip. It was certainly quite the sight seeing Chicago from such a long distance away. I have only been there a few times in my life. Never really explored Chicago as much as everyone else I knew did. Maybe that will change sometime in the future.

Michigan City Lighthouse
Fisherman starting to arrive at Michigan City's Old Lighthouse
Rocky shores of Lake Michigan

While there were plenty of people, I barely spoke to any of them. Just my autistic nature coming into play again, though to be honest it was also because I didn’t want to interrupt their fishing and cause them to lose their fresh catch. I sometimes wonder what our conversations would be if I were just able to start them as easily as any normal person. It can be quite the barrier, but I’m sure it was only a matter of time through one before I freeze up and be unable to respond. Typically feel more comfortable having discussions with people I know very well compared to people I’ve never met before. It always takes time for me to warm up to someone before being more talkative.

The long line of fishermen and fishing poles weren’t the only sights to see though. It also looked to be a popular spot for happy couples to walk up and down the area hand-in-hand, with them stopping every once in awhile to enjoy the view of Lake Michigan. There were also two people by a large dune that were training for something. Sometimes they stayed in one spot doing a variety of exercises, and other times they ran up and down the dune in what looked to be a race. I was resisting loading up and playing the Rocky theme through the speakers of my phone at max volume during the running parts. Or maybe Eye of the Tiger would be an even better song to pick. I wonder what you all would think to be the perfect song for this situation.

Sun glare above the beach
Blazing sun at the beach by Washington Park in Michigan City
People strolling along Lake Michigan shores at sunset
Sun glare over Lake Michigan

Instead of that humorous prospect however, I concentrated my sights on another potential photo subject: seagulls. There were quite a large number of them flying around, most of which were all grouped up in a particular spot while others were a bit more daring and were scavenging the surrounding area alone. Decided this was the perfect opportunity to try and take shots of wildlife with the new telephoto lens.

I crept up to them slowly, inch by inch, and waited as patiently as I could on each and every photo. Sometimes the shots were of a lone seagull just strolling around while others were sticking together in a tiny group. They mainly stayed near the shore, but a few decided to hang around the edge of the parking lot as well while watching people come and go in their vehicles. I decided not to try and get near the gigantic flock that gathered nearby. I didn’t feel like I had enough skill to go up and take some good enough shots before they would fly away in unison.

Lone seagull strolling by Lake Michigan's shore
Seagulls by the Shore
Flock of seagulls by Lake Michigan
Seagull peering back
Seagull calling out in front of the Old Lighthouse

One of the goals I wanted to achieve during this trip was to create some panoramic photos. I didn’t have a camera that specializes in taking these types of views in one take, but I did learn how to stitch together photos to create such prints. It required taking several photos at the correct positions with correct timing though, especially when there are people walking around in the shot. Don’t want them to turn into deformed mutants after editing the photos together after all.

It was around this time that other photographers began to arrive in droves to take photos of the upcoming sunset. A majority of them formed a line in one specific spot and took very similar shots, just as a different group in my previous trip to Michigan City did. Maybe this was the only time out of their busy schedules to go out and take photos. I certainly hoped that they didn’t think that the sunset was the only worthwhile thing to take in the area.

For me, I came a few hours earlier not only to scout out different spots to possibly take the sunset photos I’m aiming for, but to also take some extra shots of subjects I would have missed out on if I didn’t open my mind to other possibilities besides the typical. Sometimes the best photos come from the most unexpected, even if said subjects may not seem interesting or rather mundane at first glance. It’s all about how you position your point of view to make a seemingly boring subject into an awesome photo opportunity.

I tried my best to stay out of their camera's field of view throughout the rest of the evening and created a couple of my own, both single shots and panoramas. The photographers were making casual chats in between some shots, but I stayed quiet since I didn’t want to interrupt them from possibly getting their perfect shot of the sunset in front of us. Wanted to also stay focused on the subject as I peered through the viewfinder and pressed down on the shutter button multiple times. It would have been nice to go further up the beach and closer to the lighthouse for some more specific shots, but then I would be in their way and didn’t want to cause any grief over possibly ruining their own.

Bright Sunset at Lake Michigan Shores
Michigan City Lighthouse at sunset
Colorful sunset at Michigan City's beaches

I eventually went back to the car after staying out as long as possible, due to my hands getting a little numb from the freezing wind blowing inland from Lake Michigan. Maybe next time it’ll be warm in the evening during my next visit. The weather in the Midwest has been going haywire recently, so who knows.

Would I like to return again? Absolutely! The beaches at Michigan City are one of many great spots to visit in the area. When I return to this place again I’ll probably be fighting to find a parking spot though. If a bunch of photographers like to come to this particular beach during off-season, I can’t imagine what it’ll be like during the warmer months. Guess I’ll find out next time.

I’ll be talking about my more recent trip in my next blog post, which was suggested to me by a good friend of mine. Just a little place called Silver Beach at St. Joseph, Michigan. Look forward to it! Until then, try to enjoy this crazy weather we’ve been having lately. Until next time!