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Michigan’s amazing sunsets – why they are better here than the Caribbean

by Staff

The last few days have had stellar, beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Why is Michigan a top spot for stunning sunrise and sunset shots? There are many reasons.

The first reason we get great sunrise and sunset pictures is we have a Great Lake on each side of Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. The greatest sunset shots all have water in them, and Michigan’s geography lets us do just that. Michigan is one of only two states, Florida is the other, with the ability to get a sunrise over the water and a sunset over the water.

But Michigan’s sun dipping below the watery horizon is just a start to a great picture. There are a lot of interesting features in the foreground of a Great Lake’s sunset image. Garret Ellison, MLive’s statewide environment reporter, finds the fantastic combination of sun, sky, water and landmarks all the time here in Michigan.

People crowd the pier to catch sun set over Lake Michigan in South Haven, Mich., on Friday, April 14, 2023. (Garret Ellison | MLive)

So we have blue water and interesting landmarks like lighthouses and sand dunes. We throw in an ever-changing sky with Michigan’s unique clouds. Now we have a picture.

John Robert Williams, a Traverse City photographer with 48 years of professional experience, says, “The clouds are the blank white canvas that the sun and water colors shine on.” Williams brags a Michigan sunset has the contrast of many colors with blue, orange, red and the green of the hills. He also adds a Michigan sunset picture usually has something interesting in the foreground, midground and background.

Ocean pictures tend to just have water and a sky. Where John Robert Williams lives, he gets us many more sunrise pictures than sunset images. He often starts our mornings off on the Michigan Weather Facebook Group with a calm, beautiful Grand Traverse Bay shot.

The blue waters and the shoreline landmarks are obvious in a great picture. The various layers of different clouds are the real secrets, in my mind. That’s where the recent weather comes in. We are obviously running warmer than normal lately. This leads to less cloudiness but still enough clouds to make a great sky photo. We have very low clouds, almost fog-like over the water. At this time of year we can also get a layer of marshmallow mid-level clouds and the wispy high clouds often called mares’ tails.

The sun sets over Lake Michigan in 2020 (Joel Bissell |

MLive multimedia specialist Joel Bissell has shared many great sunsets with us over the years. Bissell says, “Sunsets in Michigan just hit different especially if you are on Lake Michigan where the sun seems to linger as it sets across the time zone and each time you get a unique set of clouds (or no clouds at all).”

Try to find the combination of all of these features, and you can’t do it except in Michigan.

Michigan is a sunset and sunrise paradise.

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