More than 10,000 voters from across the state weighed in on 101 things they love about Northern Michigan. Their votes determined over 300 Red Hot Best winners and 700 honorable mentions. Here are your picks for most beautiful places in Northern Michigan to take a scenic photo, plus tips from one of our favorite local photographers.

Empire Bluff

Red Hot Best Winner: Empire Bluff, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Northern Michigan is flush with scenic views. But that’s no guarantee your getaway or staycation will yield a camera or phone full of memorable photos. Landscape photographer Heather Higham says there’s a good reason for that: Making landscape shots that aren’t forgettable is one of the more daunting tasks for amateurs.

There are, however, some simple things you can do to up your game. First, wait for “interesting light.” That means passing up shots in the intense midday sun and seeking out light that casts longer shadows, starts shifting to the red spectrum and adds more contrast to your scene (the hours around sunrise and sunset are prime windows). Second, Heather says Northern Michigan has wide horizons, so make sure you have something interesting in your foreground, midground and background to add depth and interest. Third, if you are shooting the horizon, make sure it’s straight; most cameras and phones have levels, and Instagram even has a filter that will fix a crooked horizon. And finally, and most importantly, be certain your shot is actually in focus. “That might mean tapping your phone screen a few times,” Higham says.

And while Empire Bluff—our Red Hot Best winner for most photogenic landscape—is no doubt an A-list spot, it didn’t earn Higham’s vote. She recommends trying out these pro tips at North Bar Lake and the beach at Esch Road.

Second Place: Pierce Stocking Drive Overlook #9/10, Sleeping Bear Dunes

Third Place: Pyramid Point, Sleeping Bear Dunes

The remaining Red Hot Best winners for scenic photo op in alphabetical order:

  • Arcadia Scenic Overlook
  • Arch Rock, Mackinac Island
  • Chateau Chantal, Old Mission Peninsula
  • Fishtown, Leland
  • Mackinac Bridge, Mackinaw City
  • Log Slide Lookout, Pictured Rocks National Park (Currently closed—erosion has caused the viewing platform to break off and slide about 100 feet down the face of the dune.)
  • Dune Climb, Sleeping Bear Dunes

June cover 2017


Get your copy of the June 2017 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine for the complete list of over 300 Red Hot Best winners! Subscribe and get the June issue plus 12 months of Traverse Magazine for year-round travel ideas and food recommendations!


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