A ride on the S.S. Badger; Ludington photography

One of the things I absolutely love about living in the Ludington area is our carferry and railroad heritage.

Riding the Badger is a summer ritual for me. Earlier this week I took a trip across the big lake with my friend and photographer mentor Ron Muszynski. It’s kind of a tradition for us to take a couple days and explore either Wisconsin or northern Michigan sometime during the summer. The trips usually involve lots of picture taking, deep conversation, good food and a little geocaching.

It seems everybody on board the Badger has a story to tell. They are typically on the ship on some sort of an adventure or for work.

One of the most unique adventurers was Nigel Blandford from Manchester, England. Nigel is taking the summer off of work to bicycle the northern United States. His route is from New York City to San Francisco.

He started his trip on May 20 and plans to be done on Sept. 2.

His trek across Michigan was along the Pere Marquette Trail, basically U.S. 10, ending in Ludington. “It was absolutely gorgeous,” he said about his trip so far. “The hospitality of the American people has been just wonderful. If I find myself without a place to stay, people will just put me up for the night.”

He said he found Michigan to be beautiful. “It started out flat on the east side and then the further west I started seeing nice lakes and forests. The people in the United Kingdom could learn a lot about small towns in America. Almost every small town has a library, a post office and a general store. It’s really nice.”

Nigel is employed by Mersey Forest (www.merseyforest.org.uk/) and his employer was generous enough to let him take a sabbatical for the summer, he said.

To follow more of Nigel’s adventures, check him out on at


Besides Nigel, I talked to Dave and Carrie Wood of Custer Township. They, their four children and Carrie’s mother, were on their way to visit family in Minnesota. It was the first time the kids had riden the Badger and they were making the most of it.

Marc and Linda Anderson of Pere Marquette Township were taking the motorcycle across to visit their son in northern Illinois. After that they planned on heading up to northern Wisconsin into the Upper Peninsula and then back down to home.

Aaron Pugh of Hamlin Township was on his way to Appleton, Wis. on business. Aaron installs insulated blinds and has accounts at several motels in the Appleton and Green Bay area. He uses the Badger for transportation because it’s a convenient way to travel across the lake, he said.

Ron and I also talked with Mark and Marsha Wynja of Melvin, Iowa. They and their 14-year-old triplets had been in Ludington for a graduation open house.

Many years ago Marsha and Marie Pleiness of Ludington became friends during a 4-H exchange trip. Because of the S.S. Badger, it’s only an 8 hour drive (and 3.5 hour ferry ride) for Marsha to visit her childhood friend.

Brenda Schuchardt of Hart was traveling with her 10-year-old son Christopher. They were on their way to visit Brenda’s mother-in-law in northwestern Wisconsin.

“We usually take the Badger over a couple times a summer,” Brenda said. “It’s fun and a great way to travel.”

The trip also included several Ford Model A’s and their drivers who were on their way to a show in Oshkosh, Wis.

The Badger is more than just part of the Ludington scenery. It is part of the lifeblood of our community. It is an extension of U.S. 10 and takes travelers to destinations far and wide. It not only carries cars, motorcycles and bicycles, it also carries semi trucks with freight.

When we were returning on the early Wednesday morning departure, I counted eight semi-trucks coming off the ship in Manitowoc. Then, five semis, including three carrying long wind-turbine parts (destined for Canada) were loaded.

The Badger is also responsible for dozens of jobs and millions of dollars in our community. Lake Michigan Carferry, the ship’s parent company, does business locally with printers, food service, contractors and many other services. The passengers stop at our restaurants and in our stores.

In a day and age when everybody wants to get some place faster, it’s nice to sit back on board a historic vessel and relax. It’s nice to know that by riding the ship we are helping the Ludington tradition of carferry service survive.

– Rob


Ludington photography



Mickey Matson movie premiere in Grand Rapids


We had the privilege of being VIP guests of director Harold Cronk and Executive Producer Edgar Struble last Thursday during the premiere of the motion picture “Mickey Matson and the Copperhead Conspiracy.” The red carpet event was held at Celebration Cinema North in Grand Rapids. The movie was almost exclusively filmed in Mason and Manistee counties.

I remember sitting at Redolencia Coffee Shop in Ludington last spring when Cronk approached me and pitched his idea for the film. As an artist, he starts his ideas by drawing them out. He talked about the adventure of Mickey Matson and his friend Sully as they find clues that help them find pieces of a machine that will make silver out of anything. As with all great film, the movie has a nemesis, played by Dr. Rick Plummer, director of West Shore Community College’s cultural and performing arts. Rick is among other local actors who do an amazing job in the film.

The stars of the film are 15-year-old Derek Brandon from Middleville, Michigan and 14-year-old Francesca DeRosa of California. Judging from their outstanding acting in this film, these two kids have great futures ahead of them. The “big” names in the film were Christopher Lloyd and Ernie Hudson. Christopher Lloyd is best known as “Doc” from the “Back to the Future” trilogy. Ernie Hudson, a Benton Harbor native, is best known in his role in the “Ghostbusters” films.

I spent time on the filming locations in both Manistee and Ludington and also photographed the cast and crew when they visited Devos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids last week. This is a first class operation which reflects the values of western Michigan. It is a family friendly movie with great cinematography, a good story and top notch acting.

For more photos, check out Alway Photography’s Facebook page. To read more about the movie, check out www.MasonCountyPress.com and www.MickeyMatson.com.

The movie is now playing at all Celebration Cinema sites in Grand Rapids. Please check it out!

– rob


A Marine’s life

This morning I had the privilege to photograph Lt. Col. Mike Harmon and his wife, Joy. Mike, 42, is a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps who just completed a one year deployment to Afghanistan. Mike and Joy wanted some portraits of themselves so they stopped into Alway Photography. I couldn’t resist interviewing Mike and Joy for MasonCountyPress.com about life in the Marines. Both Mike and Joy are truly American heroes, putting service to their country before everything else.


I’ve known Mike most of my life, pretty much since grade school. We graduated together at Mason County Central and grew up down the road from each other in northern Amber Township. After high school he attended Purdue University on a Reserve Officer Training Corp. (ROTC) scholarship to the Marines. 

For more of Mike’s story, go to www.masoncountypress.com. 

– rob




Down to the wire, our Ireland photography exhibit

We are getting down to the wire, just over a week before the premier of our exhibit, Emerald Expressions. The show will be on display at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts. The opening reception is Saturday, March 3 and the show will continue through April 7. The exhibit is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free!

Emerald Expressions is a result of our 14-day journey in Ireland last May.

I fell in love with Ireland in 2006 when I traveled there with my brother, Tom. We spent 9 days there, not really knowing where we were going. Since that time I was able to do a lot of research and a lot of dreaming.

Becky and I started talking about our trip last winter. Originally we were going to visit Scotland as well, but we decided 14 days wasn’t enough time.

I have been to tropical islands and as far south as Argentina. I absolutely love Michigan and the Great Lakes region but there is nothing like Ireland. When you hear about how green Ireland is, it’s no exaggeration. Though Ireland is located 10 degrees further north than Michigan it is in line with the Gulf Stream from Florida, keeping the temperatures above freezing most of the year.

As we get closer to the show I will talk more about our adventures.

– rob

Irish heritage month at Ludington Center for the Arts

March is quickly approaching. That means the debut of our exhibit, Emerald Expressions, at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts. Our opening reception will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 3. The exhibit will continue through April 7.


The center will observe Irish Cultural Month throughout March with special presentations, including:

  • Thursday, March 8: “Emerald Expressions,” Photographer’s Journal. Rob will discuss the photographic journey he and Becky took last May and how they created the images in the exhibit. 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, March 9: “Secret of the Cave” film screening. Scottville native Harold Cronk, co-owner of 10 West Studios in Manistee, will talk about the movie “Secret of the Cave,” which he served as production designer. The movie was filmed on Achille Island, County Mayo, Ireland, which is also where many of the photographs of “Emerald Expressions” were created. 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, March 16: “Reading the Irish Landscape.” Professor Seàn Henne of West Shore Community College will discuss how the Irish landscape influences poetry, art and photography. Professor Henne majored in Irish Studies at Boston College. He is of Irish decent and has traveled there several times.
  • Saturday, March 17: Emerald Ball. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style as the Ludington Area Center for the Arts holds its annual major fundraiser. The event will feature the General Assembly big band.