Fishermen of Saint Joseph, Michigan: Autistic Journeys

City of Saint Joseph, Michigan

If memory serves correct, this would be the third time in my life that I have ever been to Michigan. This destination was suggested by a good friend, who has traveled here numerous times and mentioned that it would be an awesome place to take photos. Seeing it for myself, I’m inclined to agree with him on this and very happy I took his advice. While I didn’t get that one shot I was hoping for, I was still able to get some great ones regardless. The weather that day showed signs that it was going to be both cooperative and a real pain. Cooperative in terms of having a nice clear day that I was aiming for and yet also a real pain in that it became very cold later on in the evening, especially with the wind coming off of Lake Michigan. Winter was still rearing its ugly head in the Midwest at this point.

Luckily this time I remembered to bring my winter gear for the occasion, but still felt the chill right down to the bone on occasion. Just another thing a landscape photographer has to deal with in order to try and get that perfect capture. Only thing missing at this point is a tripod and camping gear for other potential travels in the near future, with a couple thermal cups full of coffee as an added bonus. I absolutely need my iced coffee like any other human being. How anyone could live without it I will never understand. In fact, I’m drinking a cup as I am typing this blog post.

I had a particular capture in mind for this trip and thought I would be able to settle at the pier while waiting for that special moment. Feeling enthusiastic about finally getting a chance to achieve the “one shot to rule them all”, I went crossing intersections in Saint Joseph and over a large bridge heading to the north side of the St. Joseph River. Where was the destination you may ask? It was Tiscornia Park.

The only way to get there was a one-way street through what looked like a more wealthy neighborhood in the area, with the road using classic red bricks. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen this type of road, but not for such long stretches. All the homes had that old fashion look I would have expected from decades, hell maybe even a century ago with a few. It was almost as if I have traveled back in time a little, until I saw modern cars parked in their respective driveways.

Throughout the ride towards my destination, I hoped I was heading in the right direction and occasionally looked back at Google Maps when I’ve found a place to park and check. Always end up with a nervous tick when traveling to new areas. This is why I typically try to head to any place I have never been to before early, just in case of bad traffic or getting lost along the way. Studied Google Maps on the computer several times beforehand as well in order to try and memorize the turns needed to take. It’s better to be ready than to find yourself in an unfavorable situation due to a lack of preparation. I really need to make a mental note on getting a car with either Car Play or Android Auto for convenience sake. Having a large touchscreen with a map app in the dashboard  sounds quite useful in my opinion.

The sight of the parking lot gave me a little sense of relief, since I would finally be able to stretch my legs from being in the car for a while. I got out and scouted for different spots to possibly take photos among the dunes, while keeping an eye out for the pier entrance. To my dismay, the pier in question was under some sort of construction and saw that I might not be able to get that one special shot I was hoping for. Despite this disappointing setback, I kept looking around to see if I could somehow salvage the trip for a just-as-equally great photo opportunity. It was when I peered across the mouth of the river that I noticed a few people parasailing by the beach. Decided right at that moment that traveling to Silver Beach on the other side was the best course of action.

Fence standing among the silver sands
Silver Beach, St. Joseph, Michigan
The beautiful Silver Beach of St. Joseph, Michigan
Glaring sun behind the beach trees

Thus I went all the way back to the other side by way of the bridge again due to construction elsewhere. The road snaked its way along the riverside and eventually turned to Silver Beach County Park. I was already wishing for much warmer weather at this point due to seeing the nearby fountain and the shuttered carousel on either side of the entrance. Could imagine several potential shots that I could take on a return trip during the summer months in my head. I made mental notes on these photographic prospects as I parked the car and got out.

Found that I was not the only one at the beach. People came and went on paths that rolled around the steep dunes along the Lake Michigan shoreline. They were either having a casual walk or to visit the pier on the south side of the river that extended over the great lake for the view. The two people that were parasailing were using large neon green para-sails and with only the strong winds keeping them above the water. They stopped every now and then to rest on the sands and tinker with their sails.

I was unable to have a chat with them at the time due to having problems with starting conversations with anyone I don’t know very well. In consequence in doing so, was not able to ask about getting some great action shots with the camera with their permission. Maybe next time I will be able to do so by jumping over that disability hurdle called Asperger’s. The two went out one last time for some more parasailing fun before packing up and leaving the area. While I missed my window of opportunity for those particular shots, there was always more to be had. One of which presented itself to me as I walked to what would be in a good chunk of the photos I’ve taken.

Fisherman on the southern pier
Southern pier stretching out to Lake Michigan

The other pier that I saw from before turned out to be packed with a number of fisherman trying to make the catch of the day, along with some curious travelers walking by and taking in the view. A fisherman saw me take a few photos of the distant lighthouse and started up a conversation with me. We had a small discussion on subjects such as how well the fishing was from different areas along the lake and even a few tips and tricks. One such trick, if I remembered correctly, was having a few caught fish already on a hook just resting in the water. It was to attract fish that see the sight and start thinking that there might be plentiful food in the area to feed on, thus would then notice the bait.

I then described the one and only time I have ever tried fishing. It was quite a while back around middle school where I was brought to a small creek of a nearby neighborhood by a kid I knew. There were quite a number of tiny fish swimming in it at the time. Any fish that was caught was let back in immediately. It was only for sport after all. We only had grubs for bait and despite my best efforts of making the bait secured, the fish always stole them off the hook easily and swam off with its free meal to my frustration. The fisherman got a kick from hearing this and said it happens to him as well from time to time. I doubt I’ll ever try fishing again unless it’s for survival purposes.

 

Silver Beach at Saint Joseph, Michigan
Waves along Lake Michigan's shore
Sand patterns at Silver Beach

I let him go back to keeping an eye on the fishing rods that he had out. It was at that moment he caught his fourth white fish of the day. Was starting to get a little hungry just thinking about it and decided to take a break at one of the many places to eat around St. Joseph. A couple of places were suggested to me beforehand, but eventually settled at a bar and grill called Shu’s that was nearby. The place had a great view of Silver Beach and Lake Michigan from where I sat and also had good service. I wouldn’t mind coming back to eat here on another trip that’s for sure! The meatloaf was excellent and would love to try everything else on their menu. The city itself looked like quite a nice place to explore as well. It just had that old fashion look to it, right down to the brick roads in some areas. I didn’t take too long to look around due to one reason that I saw through the restaurant’s windows.

The sun was starting to set at the western horizon as I was making a return to Silver Beach. The sunlight was in a more favorable condition compared to before, as I was able to get quite a number of photos and even a couple of panoramas of the beaches. A particular one that I was happy with had the sun in the right position in the sky to draw long shadows from the pier railings that I thought gave a nice dramatic and moody look.

I started to set myself into place for it, raising and lowering the camera to try and get the right perspective view. Positioning my arms so that the camera would shake very little due to my unsteady hands, I waited for that one magical moment I had in mind. During those seconds that felt like minutes, I instantly knew it was time to proceed in clicking the shutter button. I had my camera set so that it took multiple shots in one click. This way I would hopefully have at least one clean shot and can discard any that came out blurry right on the spot.

Sunset at Lake Michigan pier.
Sunset waves washing ashore
Sunset at Silver Beach
Beautiful Silver Beach sunset
Golden rays on Silver Beach

The fishermen were still trying to get their last minute catch as I walked back on the paved pathway. Ended up finding several benches where I chose one to sit on and just gazed at Lake Michigan while in a state of relaxation. Well, as much as one could with the cold anyway. Temperatures were dropping like a rock at that point.

It was still nice to have a silent moment to reflect on things, such as how far I have come and possible directions to take in the future. Feels like I have only scratched the surface of what I could be capable of, but like with everyone it also grows fears of the unknown. In order to advance though, one has to face the unknown and take risks sometimes instead of making excuses not to move forward. If there is a barrier, figure out a way to either smash through it or take one of many longer paths around it. Just sitting there expecting for the wall to move out of the way for you will just lead you nowhere and be stuck at a dead end, while being left behind by everyone else that decided not to take such a directionless move. Even better if you have friends and family willing to guide you around such problems.

With that in mind, I made the decision not to just spend the remaining time of my trip on a bench and started to scan the area one more time for other potential shots from where I was sitting. The sunset was beginning to show some colors, but had a feeling it wasn’t going to be nearly as vibrant as the one in Michigan City weeks before. Eventually got up with the camera in my frozen  hands and began to try taking some shots for creating panoramas later. I noticed that like the previous beach, photographers were arriving in droves to capture the sunset. The most notable in my eyes was a married couple taking photos with a large stroller.

Was I too shy to try and make conversation with them all? Of course I was. It’s always difficult for me, especially in terms of being the one to start talking. Just another thing I need to work on if I’m going to try and walk around the barriers that surround me. People with Asperger’s Syndrome may actually want to join in on the conversation, but are not able to.

Bright sunset on Lake Michigan
Setting sun on Lake Michigan's horizon

The best analogy I can think of for this is the wall example from before. We may hear the conversation through some holes in the wall, but we are immediately blocked from being able to join in when we feel like trying. Sometimes it takes some assistance to get over or around the wall and sometimes their will can briefly become strong enough to temporarily overcome it. In other words, try including them into the conversation if you noticed they are quiet. Sometimes asking the right questions will be what causes them to open up and join in, in which case there is a possibility in them talking quite a lot on a subject they are fascinated with.

While no further conversations came about, I felt like I had created enough photos and decided to call it a day. I headed my way back to the parking lot while a few other photographers arrived and started exploring the beach. I decided to take a more scenic route and drove on a road that had a great view of Lake Michigan along the way, with the sunset still in full view. If I was able to find a random parking lot, I would have taken it and explored for a short while.

I have enjoyed my time there and already thinking of a general date for when I will return. Maybe a friend or two will join along this trip as well. While I enjoy my solo trips, it doesn’t hurt to have someone else along for the ride on the rare occasion. Could make it more fun. Could also make it annoying with the possibility of them asking over and over “Can we go now?!” while I am in the middle of taking photos, like a bad comedy sketch. Who knows. Will just have to see.

Driving my way back home I passed another place I visited before this trip. This will be my next topic for the blog. Look forward to it and enjoy the warm weather we’re currently having! I certainly am with all the cycling I’ve been doing. Just another small joy of my life besides photography. Until next time!