Thursday, March 6, 2014
I just got home from a two-night visit to see my wife Jessica over in Washburn, Wisconsin. She works for the National Park Service and has been over there helping out Apostle Islands National Lakeshore with the high visitor traffic they've been receiving due to the publicity surrounding the sea caves. She had one day off and we spent that day skiing some of the local trails around Washburn. It was a perfect day for skiing and we had a blast! Just before I headed for home yesterday morning, I checked my email and had a message from my friend Paul. He told me I should stop and check out Stoney Point between Duluth and Two Harbors. He was told that there were massive piles of ice that had just formed at Stoney Point. So, I hit the road with eager anticipation of checking out the point on my way home.
There is a road that goes along the length of Stoney Point, accessed from the east and the west. Since I was approaching from the west, that's the entrance I took. As I first drove along the road, I didn't see anything extraordinary in terms of ice. There was surface ice out on the lake as far as the eye could see, but not really any ice piles bigger than the "normal" ones that you see. So, I was a little disappointed... then, as I rounded the corner of the point, I could see these massive piles of blue through the small patch of woods separating the road from the lakeshore. My jaw dropped. I couldn't believe that those were ice piles that I was seeing!
I pulled over and found a spot that didn't look too difficult for walking down to the shore. Even so, I still had to break through more than knee-deep snow to get down to the lake. Once I got there, I stared UP at these huge, intensely blue piles of ice. The largest piles were at least 3 feet or more above my head, and I'm fairly tall at just over 6 feet in height. The plates of ice where thick, too. Some of them were 5 to 6 inches thick, which is a lot more substantial than the more common 2 to 3 inch thick plates that we normally see. I spent the next hour walking along these giant piles of ice, taking picture after picture as I went. These have been the most impressive ice piles I've seen so far this winter. Hopefully there is more of this in store for us in the coming weeks!
Monday, March 3, 2014
This past weekend I was honored to be a presenter at a Lake Superior Photography Symposium put on by John Gregor of Coldsnap Photography and Split Rock Lighthouse. Throughout the afternoon 3 other photographers in addition to myself presented their work to a group gathered in the auditorium at Split Rock Lighthouse. It was a wonderful afternoon of sharing images, stories and techniques. After the presentations we all went down to the shoreline just west of the lighthouse to photograph sunset. Because of the clear and very cold conditions, sunset was rather bland. But, it was still pretty out there. Those extremely cold, crisp days have a stark beauty of their own. The shoreline was packed in with ice so I looked for an interesting shape in the ice to put in the foreground of my photograph. Not long after the sun went down we all made a quick escape to our vehicles due to the cold. I'm not sure what the temp actually got down to for a low that night, but I know it was forecast to reach almost thirty below zero. On the drive home I saw minus 15 on my truck's thermometer, and that was before 10 PM! I can easily believe that it reached minus 30 later that night :-)
Thursday, February 27, 2014
A week ago there was ice extending out into Lake Superior as far as the eye could see. Thanks to the winds we've had in the past week, most of that ice has been pushed out across the lake and we once again have open water along the north shore. That doesn't mean that there aren't some worthwhile ice formations to photograph right on the shore, though! Like this one, which I photographed just after sunrise recently. The ice that you see on the lake in the background is no longer there, but formations like this "Icicle Palace" still remain for exploration!
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Okay, just one more image of the aurora that I'd like to share with you from the early morning hours of February 19th. This one was captured as I was on my way home. I was driving slowly down Old Highway 61 in Grand Portage, every now and then switching my headlights off for a few seconds to peek at the sky and see if it was worth stopping for any more shots. At one point I had to stop because the lights looked like they were picking up again. As I was setting up my tripod I could see this ribbon of color waving its way across the sky above the road. It looked to my eye like there might be a little red in it, but I didn't realize just how much until the first exposure recorded. The camera picks up a lot more color at night than what our eyes can see, as this image proves. It was a great ending to a fantastic night of aurora photography!
Monday, February 24, 2014
I was getting pretty tired around 2:00 AM on the morning of February 19, 2014 and the northern lights that I had been photographing for the past two hours were starting to fade. I figured it was a good time to pack up and head home. I had already made a lot of really nice images in the past two hours. I was driving back out along the logging road when I decided to stop and check once again the first place that I had photographed that night. Something compelled me to stop. I guess I just wanted to see if the lights looked any better than they did earlier. Or, maybe the sky was telling me that it wasn't yet done with me for the night.
At any rate, I stopped, got out of the truck and walked back down the road a few yards and looked up at the first group of trees that I had photographed that night. The lights were barely there, but as I stood and watched they once again began to increase in their intensity. Moments later I was looking at an incredible display that overshadowed everything I had seen in the two previous hours. I quickly grabbed my gear and set up for some more shooting. Once I had everything ready I started taking picture after picture as this fascinating horseshoe-shaped aurora marched across the sky above me. As soon as the shape crossed my camera's field of view, the lights diminished somewhat and the horseshoe shape was gone. The lights continued dancing but at a less intense rate. I don't know what compelled me to stop, but I sure am glad that I did because if I hadn't I wouldn't be able to share this image with you today.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Seeing the northern lights is always a special treat and the anticipation of seeing them is a feeling I never tire of. On the evening of Tuesday, February 18th I was looking at my Facebook news feed before going to bed and noticed that a few people were saying they could see the northern lights. So, I checked the forecast websites and sure enough, they indicated that it might be a good night to see some aurora activity. This always leads me to walking out on our back deck and checking the north sky. As soon as I got out on the deck and looked up, I could see the lights. They were pretty faint, however, and I was pretty tired from an early morning photography outing followed by an afternoon of skiing. Jessica, my lovely and ever-supportive wife, suggested I go to bed for a little while and set my alarm to wake me just after midnight to check the sky again. So, that's what I did. My alarm woke me at midnight, I checked the sky and the lights were really starting to flare up! Next thing you know, I'm packing my gear and dressing for a night out in the winter woods. I really need to thank my wife Jessica. She not only tolerates my penchant for late-night aurora hunting but is also a strong supporter of it and always encourages me to go out and get some good photos.
So, just after midnight, I found myself driving down Highway 61 trying to figure out where to go to photograph the lights when I realized "Oh yeah… I need to go back to that logging road where I went last time when the lights were faint." The last time I went out looking for the lights I drove down a road that is normally NOT plowed in the winter, but it is this year because there is a logging operation down this road. Along the road to the logging area, there are lots of really nice trees for photographing against the night sky. Even the logging cut is a nice place to shoot from, as it provides a broad view of the sky. I ended up spending the next four and a half hours photographing a wonderful aurora display. The lights were ever-changing and even at times had some nice red color accenting the greens and purples that I was seeing. The moon, which was about 3/4 full, waning and low in the sky, provided some nice light to the snow-covered foreground. It also provided for some nice illumination on the trees, making for some detail in what otherwise would just be silhouettes. All in all, it was an amazing night of photography. This is my "first favorite" shot of the night. I thought it would be fun to include my truck in the scene with the lights on, making it look like someone was driving down this road while the lights danced overhead. I'll be sharing a few more images from this night in the days ahead, so be prepared to see some more from this amazing night!