Saturday, August 30, 2014

Front row seat for the aurora show

Here is another image from the northern lights display that I saw over Lake Vermilion in the early morning hours of August 27th.  This was before the clouds had moved out and before the lights were really good.  The aurora color here was actually incredibly faint but shooting a 30 second exposure at ISO 6400 really brought the colors out.  This is a self-portrait of me standing on the fishing pier at Lake Vermilion State Park looking in the direction of the town of Ely.  The orange-colored light is actually the city glow from Ely reflecting off the bottom of the clouds.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Vermilion Aurora

I just returned from two nights spent in Ely, MN and was lucky enough to have a nice aurora display while I was there!  Jessica was working there for the week and had a day off so I went up to spend the day with her.  We played tourist for the day, spending the morning at the International Wolf Center and the afternoon driving around exploring the area.  I knew that there was a good chance of aurora activity for Wednesday night so in the afternoon we drove around checking out various water accesses to find a good spot for photographing the aurora.  The location I liked most was within the newly established Lake Vermilion State Park.  This is Minnesota's newest state park and isn't even "officially" open yet, with no signs at all advertising the park or its location.  They are working on a new entrance road, however, so there is some access available.  We drove to the end of the new road and found a nice picnic area with some trails that are being developed along the lake.  There is a nice new fishing pier that faces to the north which we knew would make a great spot for aurora watching.  So, I decided that this was going to be the place where I would return that night to watch for the lights.  

I returned to the site at about 11 PM and when I arrived the lights were already in full swing, dancing throughout the sky.  Some light cloud cover did obstruct the view of the lights somewhat but after only a few minutes the clouds started to dissipate and made a nice complement to the view of the lights.  Before long the sky was completely clear but the lights had faded to a dull glow.  I decided to wait it out for at least a few hours and see if they would pick back up.  As I waited I was treated to the always glorious sounds of several pairs of loons calling from various areas around the lake.  I know there were at least two pairs, possibly 3 that I was hearing.  The air was unbelievably calm so the calls from the loons echoed for miles around.  Around 1:45 AM it seemed the lights were starting to get brighter so I started making exposures again.  Before long the sky was bright with the slow moving glow that is characteristic of a mild geomagnetic storm.  I watched as a small arc grew in size over the opposite shore of the lake.  The arc got bigger and bigger until it eventually no longer fit within the field of view of my 17mm lens.  Every now and then vertical pillars of light appeared within the arc and shot upwards into the sky, carrying amazing hues of red and purple light. Somewhere between 2:30 and 3:00 AM the lights faded back to a dull glow and I was starting to get pretty tired so I called it a night and headed back to the hotel in Ely.  This new state park sure makes a great location for watching the night sky.  There is hardly any light pollution at all and with the park being on the south shore of the lake, it's a prime location for watching the Aurora Borealis!  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Late Summer Storm over Wauswaugoning Bay

Here is another image from last night's incredible lightning storm.  After shooting the storm from our yard for a while the lightning was still going off frequently but had moved further out over the lake beyond Hat Point.  The rain had let up and was really not much more than a sprinkle.  So, I decided to head down to the spirit tree and try photographing the storm from there.  I got there just in time to capture this image, making just 4 or 5 exposures before capturing this one.  It was the only good shot I came away with.  The best of the lighting was done.  Flashes of light still illuminated the clouds every few seconds or so but the bolts were not coming anymore.  Thankfully I headed down there when I did otherwise I wouldn't have this image!  This was shot with the camera in Bulb mode. Exposure length was 21 seconds at f/8 and ISO 400.

Late Summer Storm

Last night we had one heck of a line of thunderstorms come through Grand Portage.  I was watching the radar as the storms approached and it sure looked like we were in for something special.  The weather hit Grand Portage Bay about 12:30 AM.  It started with a soft breeze and light rain which quickly turned to gusty winds and a downpour.  At first I tried photographing the lightning over the lake from underneath the overhang in front of our house.  That didn't work as the rain was coming sideways and I got pretty wet after just a minute or two.  So, I went back in the house and watched the light show from the living room window.  

After about 10 minutes the rain had pretty much stopped but the lightning was still going off like crazy.  So, I went back outside and quickly noticed that the lightning was actually better behind the house.  I walked down to the road and photographed the flashes of light over the house.  Every now and then an extra bright flash accompanied by a strong bolt would light up the sky.  The photo you see here was the best out of the series of roughly 30 images that I shot.  I was shooting in Bulb mode and this ended up being a 6 second exposure at f/8 and ISO 800.  After a few minutes of shooting from the road, the rain started up again and continued for about the next hour.  When it let up again I checked our rain gauge and it showed almost an inch of new rainfall!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

From the Earth to the Milky Way

The gray sky is persistent this week, that's about all I can say.  I've really been wanting to photograph some sunsets these past few days but it just hasn't been worth going out.  So, I sit at my computer and continue to work on images that I shot earlier this summer.  Here is one such image from the night of July 30th.  I did quite a few shots this night trying different things on different levels of the fire tower.  For this particular shot I was right at the top of the tower and shining both my headlamp and my flashlight up at the Milky Way.  It ended up being one of my favorite shots of the night.  I call this "From the Earth to the Milky Way".  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Supreme calm off Hat Point

I need to get back out on the lake.  I've been looking at some of my shots taken several years ago from my boat and really wishing I could get out on the lake again.  Right now my boat (which is my favorite Lake Superior photography platform) is in need of some work and I'm really not comfortable taking it out until the work is done.  Also, my sea kayak has a big hole in the hull right where the rudder is attached, so using that is out of the question at the moment as well.  Anyway, enough about my equipment troubles!  As I mentioned, I was looking through some images last night that I made in the summer of 2004 and came across this one made with my old Canon Digital Rebel.  I love being out on the lake in the evenings when the water is super calm like this.  On this particular evening I was coming back from the Susie Islands and I decided to just stop the boat, shut off the motor and drift for a while.  I made this image while standing in the bow of the boat.  I just love the look of the water in this photo!  

Friday, August 22, 2014

August Moonlight

Last night was another dreary weather evening with no good photo opportunities, so here's another image from the last full moon.  This was taken at 10 PM on the evening of August 9, 2014.  The moon was directly behind the lower part of the trunk of the tree which made for some dramatic light.  I also really loved the patterns of the clouds in the sky.  30 second exposure at ISO 400 with a Canon EF 17-40mm lens.