Newport State Park, located northeast of Ellison Bay, is Wisconsin’s only formal designated wilderness park with 2,373 acres and 11 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline (at the northern tip of Door County). Photographic opportunities abound in all seasons; it’s one of the few places that is actually very good for images in summer. But winter is my favorite of the year. Winter temps can be above freezing in the 40’s and even occasionally the 50’s, but most of the winter the temperature will be below freezing averaging in the low 20’s for highs. Occasional frigid blasts can give you temps down into the minus teens. Cameras will function at those temps, but can you? Real cold harsh weather will often reward the stoic and prepared photographer with special images in those conditions which when real cold makes photography a difficult endeavor.
As always, the best time of day is dependent on the light. Thick overcast is tough to make good images but bright overcast is great any time of day. Bright blue skies with puffy clouds are a dream come true. If sunrise gives you clear skies or clear skies with some clouds, get to the shoreline with shadowed blue ice and/or snow for great contrast and dynamic color.
The best thing about Newport is the many, many varied environments in the park. For a sunrise, head to the shore at Newport Bay, Europe Bay or Duck Bay. The Newport trail which follows most of the shoreline, just in from the shore and sometimes close to the shore, will give you access to great detail shots and access to many parts of the shore. Lynde Point (between Newport and Europe Bay and almost a mile hike) can be a special place when the water levels are higher. The last ten years Lake Michigan has gotten lower every year with severe drought and global warming affecting the shore greatly. The water’s edge is currently a couple hundred feet out from where it was in the early 1990’s. This low water does give the photographer with good compositional skills new images to make so if you have visited before, especially long before, there are new image concepts to create.
In winter explore the shore ice for interesting close-ups as well as landscape but do take caution when traveling on to the ice. The bays are very shallow but the ice can extend out quite a distance and you may be over water versus rock, test the ice carefully before putting weight on it, and be especially careful at the edge of the ice where it meets water. With decent sized waves, also be aware of how they splash water onto the ice, not only does water add to the slipperiness of the ice, a rogue wave just a half foot higher can provide a cold surprise shower. A foot caving through the ice at Newport in most spots isn’t dangerous as far as dropping you completely in the drink, but even a 2 to 3 hundred yard walk with a soaked boot can be a pain when it’s zero degrees out. Have an extra pair of socks, boots and pants with you, not just at your lodging, but also in the car.
Be open to anything from macro to intimate landscape to the big landscape. Check out the roadsides of the road in the park, the road openings offer access to the forest edge and great snow and forest pattern images.
One of my most memorable winter visits to Newport was just a few years back. I was up in Door with my wife Peg and son Matt for our annual New Year’s Weekend trip. A good friend and fellow photographer, Nita Herreman, was up as well and after a beautiful overnight snowfall we agreed to meet for a winter hike through the fresh snow at Newport. As we met at the trailhead, I looked at Nita, then looked at Peg and Matt and back at Nita and said “you taking your camera? Nita did the same look around and having the same feeling I was having (not wanting to slow the others with image making), we both said, “no, we’ll leave the cameras behind.” Peg and Matt looked relieved! The sights we saw over the next couple hours were breathtaking, images formed in our minds and eyes at every turn in the trail. Yes, we both will admit to some longing to have made some images that morning, but we still remember and talk about that day, the incredible beauty we saw and appreciated all the more as we weren’t encumbered by cameras and tripod. We simply spent a morning experiencing the wonders of nature and enjoying even more than usual. It was a good lesson to re-learn and to tell and remind folks that occasionally we need to look and enjoy versus record.
Photographer Hank Erdmann provided the details and images for the Newport State Park in Winter destination.
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