Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Late March Sunset at Red Rock Point

Last year when I went to the Southwest (pretty much at the same time as this year) all the ice was gone before I left on my trip. This year, I return home and still find plenty of ice along the shoreline. This was taken last night looking South across Lake Superior just after the sun went down. Amazing how each year can be so different!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Owachomo Bridge

Above: In order to get this effect of light on the bottom of the bridge we were doing some light painting with our flashlights while our cameras recorded the exposures.

As we drove towards Natural Bridges National Monument the afternoon of March 24th it looked as though the sky was not going to cooperate for shooting the stars that night. The clouds were moving in fast and soon covered most of the sky. We stuck it out, though, and are glad we did because as the sky darkened we soon started to see stars showing up through the thinning clouds. After the sun had set the clouds moved out and we ended up having a nice solid couple of hours to make star images before the clouds moved back in. I was really excited because a year ago I had been at this same location three nights in a row trying to shoot the night sky but had three nights of cloudy, uncooperative skies. This year definitely made up for last year. The image below is a 38 minute exposure that was made from 10:00 PM to 10:38 PM. Aperture was f4, ISO 200. I wasn't sure how this would turn out by placing the North Star directly behind the bridge, but in the end I was really happy with the result.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lake Powell Sunset - Alstrom Point

Yesterday we ventured out along the backroads of Southern Utah to watch the sunset over Lake Powell at Alstrom Point. This point is easily one of the most spectacular views of Lake Powell. It is also a very remote area, which means there is very little traffic. In fact, last night we were the only two people out there. We saw a couple of cars along the road on the way out to the point, but once we got to the point we had it to ourselves. The sunset light here is absolutely magical. As the sun begins to set the buttes begin to glow and if there is no wind (like last night) you get some really nice reflections in the water. Not an easy place to get to, but definitely worth the effort.

Below: Here I am earlier in the day taking in the view from Alstrom Point. Photo by Roger Nordstrom.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Antelope Canyon Adventure

Yesterday's Antelope Canyon adventure was AWESOME. We spent a total of 6 hours photographing the canyon, 4 hours in Lower Antelope and 2 hours in Upper Antelope. Both are equally impressive and so magical that they defy description. The two sections of Antelope Canyon are also very different from each other and have completely different characters. Lower is very easy to access via a short trail from the parking area and the canyon is skinny at the bottom and wide at the top. Upper is accessible only via heavy-duty trucks with big tires that have been modified to drive the several miles up the soft sandy wash. Upper is also different from Lower in that it is very narrow at the top and wide at the bottom.

Above: Driving up the wash to Upper Antelope Canyon

Above: The entrance to Upper Antelope Canyon. If you look to the left of the trucks (where you can see people standing), there is a slit in the rock. This is the entrance to the canyon.

Above and below: A magical world awaits you just a few feet inside the entrance of the canyon!

Below: My friend Roger posing in one of the most interesting sections of Lower Antelope Canyon. The way the light washes down the canyon walls here is unreal!

Below: Lower Antelope is also different from Upper in that the floor of the canyon is very uneven and in several places rugged stairs have been installed so people can make their way through the canyon without the use of climbing gear.

Below: Self-portrait in Lower Antelope Canyon

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dancing Cranes

Here are a couple of shots from this morning on the Platte River in Central Nebraska. We saw a LOT of cranes this morning, but the lighting was a bit of a challenge. We never did get any nice sunlight, but we saw a lot of incredible crane activity. When we first arrived at the blind the birds were very quiet. Most of them had their heads tucked under and were asleep. Before too long, though, they started waking up one by one and soon their chattering was quite loud. As they wake up they also start to hop and dance around quite a bit. Some of the dancing is to try and impress their mates or potential mates, and some of it is done to warm up before they take their first flight of the day. It was an unforgettable morning and we are hoping that the birds repeat their patterns and performances again tonight and tomorrow morning.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sandhill Cranes and March Moon

My friend Roger and I are at the beginning of a 10-day trip to the Southwest. We are spending the first part of our trip along the Platte River in Central Nebraska, with the intention of photographing the Sandhill Crane migration. Last evening at sunset the moon was already rising in the East. Lots of cranes were flying in front of the field of view of the moon, so I thought it would be neat to try and capture them as they passed in front of it. It proved to be a bit more difficult than expected. Since it was already starting to get dark it was pretty much impossible to use a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the movement of the birds. So... the moon is sharp and the birds are blurry, but I still really like these shots!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Solar Tsunami - Waves in the Sky

From Thursday night's Aurora event, this photo was made at the moment when the Northern lights transitioned from being "so-so" to SPECTACULAR. The colors and movement started on the left side of the frame, and within seconds a line moved very quickly all the way across to the right, then upwards into the sky. Along the bottom edge of the lights was a line of purple and white color, everything above that was green. The bottom edge of the aurora was waving up and down and back and forth. The whole sky was shimmering with waves of light. It is a memory and image that will live in the forefront of my mind for a long time to come!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dance in the North Sky

Some friends had told me about seeing the Aurora in the early morning hours of March 10th, 2011 but unfortunately I was already asleep and missed the activity. The following evening, however, I noticed the telltale green glow in the Northern sky at 9:30 PM. I called a friend of mine and within 15 minutes we were both headed up into the woods to get away from any man-made lights. Just moments after we arrived in my planned shooting area the Aurora intensified and really started to put on a show. By 11:00 PM the sky was bursting with dancing lights. At one point the lights filled about 50% of the entire sky. I would have needed a fisheye lens (which I unfortunately do not own) in order to capture the entire breadth of the lights. We stood in awe at not only the movements but the colors we were seeing. Dominated by green, we also saw shades of red, purple and white. Rarely is the aurora seen this powerfully in Northern Minnesota. I was almost in a trance staring at this amazing show and I kept having to remind myself to keep taking pictures!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Northern Hawk Owl

For the past couple of weeks a Northern Hawk Owl has been hanging around near the Grand Portage Trading Post. I have seen him several times, but until today he was always perched on the power lines (not the best for photos!). Today I spotted him in the trees and promptly reached for my 100-400mm lens. I watched him (or her? I'm not sure how to tell the difference in owls) for close to half an hour. During that time the owl flew to 4 or 5 different trees, and from each tree was listening for sounds of mice down under the snow. Every now and then he would swoop down towards the ground, but he never did catch anything while I was there. He sure gave me some nice opportunities for photos today though!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Winter's Day on Mt. Rose

Went for a snowshoe hike up Mt. Rose today. Man, it was beautiful out there! What a delight tromping through the woods with a foot of fresh, light and fluffy snow! Today we had beautiful blue skies and a warm 30 degree temp with no wind... TERRIFIC day to be outside!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Aspens and Sea Smoke

This photo was taken on a VERY cold morning in February 2011. I think it was almost 20 below zero the morning I made this image. There was a lot of steam or "sea smoke" as people like to call it, rising off the lake. More common in early winter, it was a treat to see the steam in late February. My friend Roger and I had spent sunrise right along the water's edge taking photos of the rising sun and the ice on Grand Portage Bay.

To give you an idea of just how cold it was, while we were walking through some deep snow drifts to get to the water's edge, I tripped and fell in the snow. My tripod went right down under the snow, and was only in the snow for a few seconds. The tripod had been warm from being inside the car, and as soon as I pulled it up out of the snow it had ice on it. The snow had melted briefly when making contact with the warm tripod and as soon as I lifted the tripod up into the cold air it the melted snow that was on it froze instantly. I had a difficult time the rest of the morning adjusting my tripod legs due to the ice that now covered it.

After about 20 minutes in our first location we headed up to an overlook which looks down onto Lake Superior and Wauswaugoning Bay. From this elevated vantage point it was magical watching the sea smoke as it rose off the lake and drifted out away from shore. Roger has a Vari-ND filter which lets you block several stops of light and I thought this would be a perfect place to use it so I borrowed it for several exposures. The stationary trees and the edge of the ice combined with the moving steam made for a very compelling photo. Exposure time on this shot was 15 seconds, aperture f16, ISO 50. It was taken with my Canon EF 100-400mm lens.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ice Ribbons

Tettegouche State Park, MN. The ice that is decorating the shore near Silver Bay, MN right now really provides for a lot of interesting photographic compositions. While most of the time my tendency is to go for the wide landscape images, I also greatly enjoy zooming in with my 100-400mm telephoto and composing detail shots within those landscapes. This is one such image that I really like. The lighting coming from behind the ice combined with the shapes and textures made for a scene that I couldn't resist photographing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

3 A.M. Northern Lights

Well, the aurora did make a showing last night! While it was nowhere near the best display I've seen, it is always exciting and special to see the Northern lights. As is my ritual when there is an elevated chance of seeing the lights, I was religiously checking the sky every 15 minutes until just before 2:00 A.M. when I noticed the green glow on the horizon. I quickly dressed for the cold (it was below zero last night), warmed up my truck and headed a few miles inland to try and catch a better view of the display. I stayed up in the woods for 2 hours hoping the lights would intensify, but they never did. I only made 6 exposures, this was my favorite of those six. Not a lot of color but still definitely pretty! The glow on the horizon on the right side of the image is from the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Sure wish I could get them to turn all those lights off :-)