Mackinac Bridge

The Straits of Mackinac feel to me–as a historian–defined by relations between Native peoples and Europeans. The fur trade. Battles over control of the fur trade. Missions. Diplomacy. The development of Metis peoples and hybrid cultures. I’ve taught American, Canadian, and Native North American history a lot, and the Great Lakes region and the Straits were an important region in the 1600s and 1700s, an era of turbulent change.

Today the Straits are defined by the bridge–a magnificent one–that connects the Lower and Upper peninsulas of the Michigan. If tourists think about Native peoples such as the Ojibwa, they probably think about casinos. If they’re in St. Ignace, just across the Straits in the U.P., perhaps they visit the Museum of Ojibwe Culture there, like I did. (It’s definitely worth it!) It’s where Father Marquette is buried–a reminder of the complex history of the region.

This post is not about the Straits, the town, or the history of the Ojibwa and other Native peoples from the region. It’s about the bridge. The first one is a pretty sunrise image, one taken from the ground with my iPhone (super-wide lens). The warm light dances on the water and warms the sky.

The next few images are all from the sky, taken with my trusty DJI Mavic 3. The first two are similar, but from opposite sides of the bridge–the first looking east toward the sunrise and the other west with the sunlight bathing the bridge and water.

The Mavic 3 has two lenses/sensors. The better of the two, a Hasselblad built lens, is the one I use 99 percent of the time. It has a wide-angle view. The second lens and sensor combination is not nearly as good, but it has the virtue of being a zoom lens with range in the “normal” to modest “telephoto” range. From the weaker lens, then, here’s a closeup of the bridge. (You can see the quality is lower, in the softer focus and noise.)

The shots of the bridge show of the warm sunrise light, but not the sun itself. Here’s an HDR (combining three shots) image of the sun itself, with the road to the bridge featured. The better of the two Mavic 3 lenses includes an adjustable aperture, which means you can easily create a starburst look. Here you’re looking east towards islands in the Straits, with Lake Huron beckoning in the distance around the corner on the right.

Finally, the business of the bridge. You pay a toll on the northern side. Four dollars. If you are staying in St. Ignace and want to go to dinner in Mackinaw City the round trip is going to add $8 to the meal. (I’m not sure why it’s spelled that way, with a “w,” rather than the “c,” as in the straits, bridge, and island.)

For all of these pictures, I took off and landed in the state park by the bridge. (It’s a bit to the right, east, of the scene in the image.) There are no restrictions flying over the bridge, though best practices with a drone means avoiding lingering over roadways with cars and over people. The area was very quiet at sunrise on a weekend morning. The only thing I had to watch out for was small planes taking off from the tiny St. Ignace airport. I saw only one.

For me, these images are defined by the warm sunlight and the lines of the bridge, shores, and horizon.

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