Upper Michigan Fall Color Field Workshop

With John Gerlach and Dixie Calderone

October 4 - 10, 2020

October 11 - 17, 2020

In Michigan's Beautiful Upper Peninsula

in Pictured Rocks Nat'l Lakeshore and Hiawatha Forest

We are teaching two Fall Color nature photography workshops at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and in the Hiawatha Forest. October is a magical time in the Upper Peninsula. Autumn is valiantly trying to hold on, but by late October, gradually loses out to "Old Man Winter." It is a fabulous time to enjoy the North Woods!


Our fall color nature photography field workshops teach you how to use high-quality outdoor photography techniques to shoot spectacular images. Subjects you will photograph during the week include patterns of colorful leaves hanging from trees, floating in quiet ponds, and carpeting the forest floor. Beautiful backlit individual leaves, golden bracken ferns littered with brilliant red maple leaves, waterfalls encircled by autumn foliage, colorful rocks along Lake Superior, and sunrises/sunsets will keep your camera busy. With a bit of luck, we may have the opportunity to photograph gorgeous frosted autumn leaves. Perhaps a light snowfall may provide the chance to photograph autumn leaves amid the snow. When dawn is calm and clear, our groups are always at a spectacular spot before sunrise to photograph a riot of autumn color and white birch trees perfectly reflected in the still water of small lakes. Over the decades, we have discovered many special places to share with you.

We lived near the 
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for several years, so we know this area thoroughly. In addition, we have conducted more than sixty autumn color photo workshops here over the years. No matter what  weather conditions are present, we know where to lead our clients to make outstanding images.  We lead morning and afternoon field trips Monday through Friday morning. We guide you to places where you'll find exciting subjects to photograph. We carefully show you how to select excellent photo prospects from the chaos of nature. Then we demonstrate how to shoot the best nature and outdoor images with high-quality photo techniques that anyone can learn and master. We spend 100% of our time while in the field helping you capture images with your equipment. We're always with you to suggest appealing photo possibilities and to solve any problems you may have. To ensure that instruction is complete, informative, and helpful; group size is limited to only sixteen participants (1:8 instructor/student ratio).

About 20% of the workshop is spent viewing instructional programs that we have carefully put together to maximize learning.  We have several teaching programs and will definitely present the exposure and the advanced flash programs during the week.  If the weather is unfavorable for shooting in the field, then we look at your images or present other instructional programs.  We will keep you busy no matter what the weather does! The material contained in the programs is suitable for all skill levels. We critique your images during the week, too. On Friday night, we present a spirited showing of each participant's best images shot during the week.

We present a program featuring the images that we have taken during the past year. This popular part of the workshop is a super way to show you the new tactics that we've discovered about nature photography and the new images that we've captured. Lately, we have been doing plenty of focus stacking for unlimited depth of field, butterflies, northern lights, the stars in the night sky, Yellowstone geysers at night, star trails, and hummingbirds using sophisticated setups.

Please bring up to ten digital images or prints from home to share with the group. Although it is optional, viewing your images is a superb way to see where you have been and what you like. If you would like a thoughtful and helpful critique of your images - just ask.  We will be happy to do this for you. At each workshop we eat, breathe, and sleep outdoor photography. But, that doesn't mean it's all work and no play. Since we take our field trips at a leisurely pace, there is time to relax and enjoy the spectacular surroundings. We may even get a little silly at times, but then laughter and humor add to the terrific workshop experience.


Participating in our photography workshop is not only an effective way to improve your outdoor photography and to learn about nature, but it is a wonderful "learning vacation" as well. It's always a pleasure to share experiences and knowledge with other photographers.


Our workshops, however, are not for everyone. If you are looking for a workshop that takes you into the field from 9 to 5 when the weather conditions are less favorable for capturing exquisite images, our workshop is not appropriate for you. We believe in leading our field trips when we are normally out capturing our own images. Therefore, our field trips begin every morning 1/2 hour before sunrise, and we stay out until 10:30 to 11:00 a.m. Getting up for our early morning field trips isn't going to be as tough as it sounds because one half-hour before sunrise is about 7:30 a.m. during autumn. Evening field trips begin about 3.5 hours before sunset. We always stay out for the sunset, if the weather allows.


We will conduct most of our instructional image programs that cover exposure and advanced flash during the middle of the day when the light is unfavorable and the wind is probably blowing. All mornings and evenings are reserved for field trips. On the other hand, if the weather is suitable for photography during the middle of the day, we will shoot images instead and conduct programs at night.  Shooting images in the field always takes priority over everything else.

About the Pictured Rocks Area

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore receives its name from the colorful rock formations along the southern shoreline of Lake Superior between Munising and Grand Marais. This whole region is a photographer's paradise. That's why we lived here for several years. The land features a mixture of beech-maple and conifer forests, clear meandering brooks, quiet beaver ponds, undeveloped Lake Superior shorelines, several spectacular waterfalls, and hundreds of small secluded wild lakes. Since very few people live here, it's a land of unspoiled beauty that abounds with wildlife. Black bear, bald eagles, osprey, coyotes, and white-tailed deer are plentiful.


The Munising  and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore area is especially good for autumn photography for several reasons. First, the forest in northern Michigan is host to a beautiful mixture of beech-maple, conifer, white birch, and aspen woodlands. Since beech, aspen, birch, and several species of maple trees are abundant here, the forest becomes a riot of vibrant red, yellow, and orange hues during the first three weeks of October.  Fall color develops in earnest in late September and always peaks between October 1 - 18. Color development varies every year, so we can't predict precisely when it will peak.  Second, nearby Lake Superior tends to stretch out the peak of fall color by at least a week. Fall color typically peaks away from the shoreline (10 miles inland) of Lake Superior 5-8 days before color peaks next to Lake Superior. Third, some lakes have two color peaks ten days apart.  How can that be?  The red maples create the first early color peak, and then the later turning yellow aspens peak ten days later.  Fourth, the vast majority of land is state and national forests--public land--so we can go anywhere. Access to land and stunning images is terrific!

Field Trips

Field trips are 3-4 hours in duration. We'll visit gorgeous beaches, rocky Lake Superior shorelines, numerous waterfalls, and many secluded lakes full of autumn reflections where subjects abound. We'll car pool on each field trip. Since we know this gorgeous part of the world incredibly well, we'll take you to many beautiful places.

Digital Photography

We use a high quality digital projector for viewing your images. Just give us a copy of your images on a jump drive to let us view them. Bringing a laptop computer is highly encouraged!



We eat many meals as a group, but meal time is highly variable. Our field trips are dictated by the weather.  Meals must be worked in around photography. We'll eat breakfast as a group after the morning field trip. All other meals depend on our schedule. Since we have never predicted the weather with any degree of accuracy, we'll just have to see what happens. Generally, we'll go to the one of the restaurants in Munising after the morning field trip. By the way, the lodge has a full kitchen for cooking, and each of the motel rooms has a microwave oven and refrigerator, letting you do some of your own cooking if you wish.

We normally have a late lunch at the nearby Buckhorn restaurant an hour before leaving for the afternoon field trip.  In all cases, when we go to restaurants, everyone orders off the menu and pays for his/her meal then. Nobody has ever gone hungry, nor lost weight during our workshops. But, we do work our meals in around taking beautiful images, not the other way around!

Farewell Dinner

We will go to a superb restaurant for our early farewell dinner.  Then we return to the lodge to view the best images everyone shot during the week! This is a pleasant way to crown such a busy and productive week. And best of all, John and Dixie are picking up the check!

Non-participating Spouses

If space permits, a few non-participating spouses who don't shoot images will be allowed to attend part of the program for $150. Since the meeting room space is limited, non-participating spouses are not allowed to attend any of the instructional programs conducted by the Gerlach's. However, they are allowed to attend our images of the year program, images group members bring from home, and the Friday night "best images of the week" program. They also can join field trips with their spouse. The $150 fee does include the farewell Friday night dinner and the national park and forest user fees we must pay.

When the Workshop Starts and Ends

The workshop begins Sunday at 7:00 P.M. at the Timber Ridge Lodge. The program ends after breakfast on the following Saturday. 


Tuition for the workshop is $975.  A $200 deposit is required at this time to hold your space in the workshop. The deposit is non-refundable.  Tuition includes all classroom and field instruction, detailed notes, Pictured Rocks and Hiawatha National Forest user fees, and the farewell dinner Friday night. Meals, lodging, and items of a personal nature are not included. 



Our workshops are based at the Timber Ridge Motel and Lodge. These accommodations are nestled among the hills and lakes in the heart of Hiawatha National Forest. Timber Ridge Lodge is right on Hovey Lake, and Timber Ridge Motel overlooks nearby Hovey Lake. These two locales give our participants immediate nature photo opportunities and a perfect place to begin our workshops.


Please note, lodging prices shown are as of this date but could change by the time of the actual workshops by the owners of the facilities.

Timber Ridge Lodge: (4 Bedroom House)

The fee for each person with no roommate is $285 for six nights, plus applicable taxes. The fee for the room if sharing with a roommate is $315 for six nights, plus applicable taxes. The two large bedrooms are reserved for non-smoking participants. In the lodge, there is also a basement where John and Barbara stay.


Rooms are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. The four or five people staying here will share the two bathrooms. This house has a color TV, full kitchen facilities, fireplace, and borders Hovey Lake.

Timber Ridge Motel

This motel has nine units. Each unit has its own private bathroom. The motel is in excellent condition and well maintained. Each room has a color TV, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, and an individual deck overlooking Hovey Lake. This is the best choice for those who wish to room together. The lodge accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover, traveler's checks, and cash.

Single Person: The fee for a single person is $84 per night, plus applicable taxes. 

Two People sharing a room: The fee is $89 per night, plus applicable taxes. 

If you would like additional information regarding the Timber Ridge Motel and Lodge, please contact the owners.

Mary Sue Nolan 
Timber Ridge Motel 
HCR 1, Box 52 
Munising, MI 49862
(906) 387-3790

You also have some camping options, if you prefer.

Otter Lake Campground
The Otter Lake Campground is the best choice for those who wish to camp or stay in their recreational vehicle. Cost is approximately $25/night. It's right on Otter Lake and only a couple miles from the Timber Ridge Lodge. Although the campground is seldom busy, do make advance reservations. Call (906) 553-4921.

Hovey Lake Campground
Hovey Lake Campground is a tiny, nearby campground on Hovey Lake, but has few facilities. It does have pit toilets, great northern pike fishing, and a wonderful view. It isn't much, but the price is right. No charge!

Travel and Equipment Information
After making a reservation, we'll send you pre-departure information describing photographic equipment and clothing that is most suitable for the workshop. We'll send you a detailed map showing you exactly how to find the Timber Ridge Lodge and Motel.

How to Get to the Pictured Rocks Area
Since most of our workshop participants drive to our workshop, we have always relied on car pooling. You may prefer to fly to K.I. Sawyer Airport, which is only about 40 miles from the Timber Ridge Lodge. There are a few car rental companies at the small airport. We recommend renting a car because it's convenient to have your own wheels. If you wish to rely on car pooling, you can get a taxi at the airport. The fee for a taxi ride to the Timber Ridge in 2005 was about $85 one-way. If you would like to share a rented car with another participant, let us know, and we'll connect all interested parties.  Many of our guests do this!

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