2019 has come to a close and wow, what a whirlwind of a year it has been.

Michigan has more than I could ever expect out of a state. Everyday I experience stunning landscapes, dynamic seasons, and challenging, ever changing shooting conditions. Walking out the door, I never know what kind of weather I am going to get out of the day, what wildlife I may encounter, which flowers may suddenly be in bloom, etc. It really is incredible how Northern Michigan is so full of surprises. The spontaneity of this state makes every outdoor activity feel adventurous.

As I’ve built my brand in Northern Michigan, Josh Hartman Photography, I’ve really evolved to find what inspires me most creatively. Almost everyday I was at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes this year, if I wasn’t there to shoot, I was there to enjoy the view. There’s just something about those rolling sandy hills leading up to Lake Michigan that is alluring to me. I’ve taken numerous people to the dunes, some already have a love for them because of childhood vacations, or maybe a recent engagement. Sometimes I have the pleasure of introducing this wonderful place to someone new who hasn’t experienced the vast, sandy dunes, and wide open freshwater coastline yet. There are many little trails and beaches to explore, some iconic and recognizable, there are also other lesser known locations you can only find by discovering them yourself, or hearing about them through word of mouth. Each hill, trail, pathway, or dune is unique in it’s own way, and I love that.

It is the dunes that strengthens the childlike sense of adventure in me. I encourage that during my shoots as well. I’ve had an elopement where we ran around, the bride in heels and her wedding dress leading the way, until we decided on a spot for them to exchange vows with the sun setting over Lake Michigan behind them. I have had many shoots where couples have explored, played, and enjoyed the landscapes around us, ending our shoot with big smiles, and shoes full of sand. It’s the families that I’ve really grown to love more and more though. When the kids pile out ready to play, I welcome their energy and anticipation to explore. The little ones are my boss as I ask them, “where do you want to go,” or let them choose from right or left on our adventure. I love playing games, races are great to get the biggest smiles on their faces. I encourage them to play in the sand, maybe jump off the dunes, and I never have to ask twice if they want to jump into Lake Michigan. The kids have a blast with their parents as they lead the way on their family adventure. It really makes it worth it at the end when the families express their gratitude or even remark on how easy I made the shoot. The largest compliment is when they allow me to watch their family grow by booking me yearly.

It was in 2019 that I knew I wanted to be living on wheels by the end of the year. I researched to find the perfect mobile dwelling, looking everywhere from Northern Michigan to Florida. I was delighted when I found a cute camper, right here in Traverse City, Michigan. This camper was small enough to pull behind my Subaru but at about 75 square feet, and 2000 pounds, it was the perfect amount of space to make my home. I made some minor upgrades to have her road-worthy by getting her outfitted with a rack to carry my unicycles, having a Thule installed up top of the Subaru (thanks to Backcountry Outdoors in Traverse City), then finding decor for the inside at some of my favorite local shops along the Leelanau Peninsula. With that, she was road ready. The Scamp, AKA Lady the Scamp, has already taken me on some pretty incredible adventures. First stop, North Carolina for a wedding and some shoots I had scheduled. It was just a two week excursion and was great to test what my set up was capable of. I returned to Northern Michigan so I could finish up my season, shooting with the autumn colors. When the snow made it’s grand entrance, I headed west to California. Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park have been my “home” these last couple months, with plenty of micro adventures taken from there. I’m just floating around my second favorite state until the snow melts back in Michigan. I’m living in the present here in Cali but I’m also anxiously awaiting the day I’ll return home.

2020 is already a busy year for me. From the time I return to Northern Michigan in May, I already have a schedule filling up with families, couples, engagements, and elopements. I’m almost all booked up each weekend with weddings from spring through fall. I had to schedule myself one weekend off this year. That will be a much needed midsummer break so I’ll feel refreshed and ready for the rest of the season. Don’t feel discouraged reading this if you’re looking to book a shoot though, the time to schedule is now! Get ahold of me for rates and availability, I’d love to connect.

With this year coming to its end, I have to express how lucky I am to be doing what I love. I’m so thankful for everyone who has supported me by booking a shoot, recommended me to others, and I see those of you who have been encouraging me online. It means the world to me to have so many people rooting for my success and I would not have been where I am today without everyone I’ve encountered a long the way. I’m excited for the close of 2019’s chapter and ready to write a new one in 2020.

Josh Hartman – Northern Michigan Photographer

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