Detroit Skylines

Being a photographer and living so close to the city of Detroit, you’d think I’d have a nice size collection of Detroit themed photos. Well for someone who enjoys spending most of their time within the quiet realm of nature, I had nothing of Detroit. That has all changed over the last month or so here. As I look through my photography I started to see a repeating pattern. Sunrise over water, lighthouse, sunset over water, night shot of the milky way, sunrise over water, lighthouse, sunset over water, night shot of the milky way, etc, etc. I like to go out and about around my area and shoot. Those in southeast Michigan know there are no real grand vistas, rocky shoreline, massive dunes or beautiful waterfalls. It’s mostly flat, with some nice parks here and there. I needed to change things up. Do something different and pull myself out of my comfort zone. Well why not a city-scape?

After scoping a few locations online I decided to give it a go and head out to Belle Isle for a sunset shot. Well as it turned out, the Detroit Grand Prix was getting setup on the island, so that pushed me off my scoped area and I had to improvise. I couldn’t get along the south shore and found myself right under the bridge to Belle Isle. There wasn’t a thing available as foreground with the exception to these rocks, so I got down as close to the ground as possible to keep the view of the river more compressed and show more of the rock and the city skyline.

Detroit Rocks

Detroit Rocks. 8 Seconds, f/11, ISO100, @20mm, Circular Polarizer


I figured I was standing under the bridge and liked how the archway framed the city so I took a few steps back and raised the tripod up to eye level so it seems as it would if you were standing there looking at it yourself.

Belle Isle Under the Bridge

Belle Isle Under the Bridge – 3 seconds, f/11, ISO100, @28mm, Circular Polarizer


That was it for that day. I figured I’d head back out after the Grand Prix was over and try it again. When I went back, the Grand Prix was in fact over, however, they were taking down the setup and I still wasn’t allowed on the south end of the island. I hopped up onto the first leg of the bridge and waited for the light to do something. Nothing ever really happened but I did snap one shot of the city.

Detroit Skyline at Dusk

Detroit Skyline at Dusk – 3 seconds, f/16, ISO100 @135mm

Still not satisfied with my skyline shot I decided to give it another chance. This time I did things a little different. See, in nature, you go back time after time at sunrise and sunset, waiting and hoping for Mother Nature to shine her light and work her magic. You go back and hope that today is the day. It occurred to me that I didn’t have to wait for Mother Nature to make dramatic lighting for me like I do with my landscapes, Detroit made the light itself. I waited around as long as the officer allowed me to get the scene as dark as possible. I had made a few test shots prior to make sure everything lined up and I had the right exposure. Then when the officer told me for the second time that I had to leave I fired off one last shot.

Detroit at Night

Detroit at Night – 30 seconds, f/13, ISO100, 3 stop ND filter

I will likely go back a few times, somewhat later in the year to ensure a completely dark sky but the experience was very useful to me. I got out and shot something different. Something outside of what I’m use to. I learned something new. As a photographer you have to continually look to grow and evolve your photography. Whether it be a technique, a subject, a time of day or whatever, GET OUT AND SHOOT. It’s the only real way you truly learn photography.

About Michigan Photographer - Daniel Frei

Daniel Frei is a landscape photographer from Southeast Michigan. Daniel has always enjoyed taking photos while camping and hiking in the woods and has taken this joy to the next level. A stay at home dad by day, when he gets out he likes to visit local hiking trails with the occasional trip farther outside of metro Detroit. He enjoys being a home grown Michigan Photographer

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