In Preparation for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

If you have ever visited the upper peninsula (UP) of Michigan during spring, you know the weather can be quite variable…especially in spring. I have been up there in April and there can be three feet of snow still on the ground with a snowstorm pending. I have been there in mid-May where temps have been a “feels like” temperature of 26° F. In early September I have witnessed temperatures of 85° F and individuals swimming in Lake Superior…a rare sight. Much of this volatility has to do with two things. The first one is the fact that the upper peninsula is pretty far north. It shares a border with Canada. The second is that Lake Superior while called a lake acts more like a sea. One day it can be sunny and placid, the next day windy with whitecaps and three-foot swells. I have photographed in all of these conditions while in the upper peninsula. You have to be prepared for anything. So how do I prepare?

I prepare to for two things, ways to keep myself comfortable and dry and the same for my equipment. You are probably thinking, does Matthew’s equipment have feelings? Well no, but volatile equipment is about as stable as a volatile human. Anyway, my preparation includes planning for the weather and the projected conditions. I add a safety margin in there as well. Here is my general plan for keeping myself comfortable and dry:

  • Clothing: Pack for all conditions. This includes hot, cold, snowy, rainy, windy, etc. If any of these is a remote chance I pack accordingly. I always pack a full rainsuit regardless of the forecast. It has to be fully waterproof and breathable.
  • Footwear: I primarily wear hiking boots when out in the remote wilderness; I don’t chince here. They have to be rugged, waterproof, breathable and flexible to take on a variety of terrain and weather. I always bring hiking/and or breathable socks as blisters suck and I have never had one when hiking. I also have a pair of knee-high waders.
  • Accessories: Hiking poles: I always pack them and if I anticipate a treacherous trek I take them. They help you keep your balance and save fatigue on your entire body. When you carry up to 30lbs of gear like I do, every bit of help matters.
  • Sunscreen, bug repellent and mosquito head net: Depending on when you go to the UP, the mosquitoes and black flies can be atrocious. The sun can also burn you when it is “feels like” 26°F

As for photographic gear here is my general plan:

  • Camera backpack: get one with a stowaway rain cover. I have used the cover multiple times.
  • Multiple tripods: If they fail they most likely will in the wilderness. Carry a spare.
  • Camera/lens rain cover. Unless your camera and lenses are completely waterproof, water will find a way in. Always make sure to dry out your gear afterward as soon as possible. Humidity trapped in glass = mold.
  • Lenses: bring the best you own and the ones you think you are going to use (even if one for a short period). The higher quality lenses are more expensive for a reason. They hold up better when tested in the elements.
  • Backup Cameras/flashes: The last thing you want is to be 100’s or 1000’s of miles from home and your gear stops working and you have no recourse to take images.
  • Electronics/glass safe cloth: Especially handy when fogging of lenses occurs due to temperature change. This happen quite often when going from a warm car to a cool environment.
  • Umbrella: provides a safe way to change lenses when it’s pouring

Hopefully the above helps before your next trek with a camera into the wilderness. Let me know about your preparation steps.