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Spending winter on Mackinac Island through the eyes of a Grand Hotel Photographer

Living and working on Mackinac Island has always been an exciting and rewarding experience. Thanks to the non-stop flow of travelers visiting the island, no day on the front porch of the Grand is ever the same. After six years of working as a photographer for Grand Hotel in the spring, summer, and fall months, I decided to take on the challenge of living on the island during the icy winter.


Traveling on the island in the warm months typically takes longer since your only modes of transportation are foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage.  A snowmobile on the other hand, is like getting around on a jet ski – which is actually pretty exciting. What usually takes me a few hours to do in the summer, like a trip to the grocery store, can be done in 15 minutes! Sure, this is normal for mainland folk, but to an islander this type of convenience is never taken for granted.


Working as a photographer in the winter has its challenges. To get the shots you’re looking for, a lot of time is spent scouting out locations. With temperatures as low as the -20’s, being outside for long periods of time can be quite difficult. While shooting, I stuff my gloves and boots with hand warmers, and after I’ve set up my tripod, I try dancing around a bit to keep the blood flowing to my toes. Many layers are needed to keep your digits warm; it usually takes me a good 25 minutes just to get ready to go outside. Luckily the photos are always worth freezing for!


A main attraction here in winter is the Ice Bridge that forms over the lake connecting the island to St. Ignace on the mainland. Dozens of people journey across the 3 mile ice bridge when weather permits on their snowmobiles to enjoy the island. The combination of below zero temperatures and calm winds allows the bridge to form over the moving water below. If you are one of the brave souls to venture over, you can reward yourself by visiting Cawthorne’s Village Inn. Many people gather at the Village Inn to get together, warm up over some drinks or enjoy a nice meal.


Since the island is surrounded by ice, and I’m a chicken who’s not about to cross the Ice Bridge, flying is my only option. The flight is only about 15 minutes long, and depending on the wind, can be a bit choppy. The site of Grand Hotel covered in snow, and the sheets of ice surrounding the Mackinac Bridge are beautiful enough to make up for it. Just another exciting part about living on the island in the winter. It’s cold, but the beauty, and excitement of the adventure always makes it worth it!