Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lily Pond, Magnetic Rock Trail

Following our outing to Cascade River State Park earlier this week we headed up the Gunflint Trail in search of Moose and more wildflowers.  Our destination was the Magnetic Rock Hiking Trail near the end of the Gunflint Trail.  I've hiked this trail this time of year in the past and seen a lot of Wood Lilies, one of my favorite flowers.  We did find a few of them, but not as many as I've seen in the past.  I think with this year's extremely late winter we were a bit early to see the best of the Wood Lilies.  Along the way to the Lilies, however, is this beautiful little pond that I always enjoy seeing but have a difficult time photographing.  I've never gotten a shot that I really like of the pond.  This time was different, though.  The air was completely still during our time along the trail, which made for perfect reflections of the trees on the water.  Even the little puffs of clouds were reflecting nicely.  It is the first time I've made an image that I really like of this little pond.  

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cascade River Waterfalls

Here are a couple of waterfall shots during our outing to Cascade River State Park earlier this week.  We had a perfect day for exploring the river and looking for flowers.  The sky was overcast which makes for ideal photography of waterfalls and flowers.  

Delicate Wonder

On our days off this week one of the places we visited was Cascade River State Park, where each year there are several stemless lady's slippers in bloom.  These flowers are so beautiful and are an iconic subject of the north woods.  We noticed that it is interesting how the "slipper" part of the flower hangs differently from the yellow lady's slipper.  On the yellow slipper, the slipper sticks almost straight out and on the stemless slipper, it hangs almost straight down.  Both flowers are incredibly beautiful and are a joy to find when you are out on the trail.  We spent quite a while observing and taking photos of these flowers.  Most photos I've seen show the flowers from the front but my favorite view of them was this angle from the side.  I also love the blurry yellow clintonia in the background :-)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Bunchberry Field

The other day we spent the afternoon on the Gunflint Trail in search of wildflowers and Moose.  Thanks to my friend Bryan Hansel ( and a recent post of his on Facebook, I knew the general area where to look for a nice big patch of Bunchberry.  They were easy to find since they were very close to the road and it was probably the largest patch of Bunchberry that I've ever seen.  Photographing them proved to be quite a challenge, though, as the bugs were awful.  I felt like I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and little black flies.  It was a pretty cloudy evening so I was thrilled when a break in the clouds presented itself and the sun shone through for a few minutes, allowing me to capture this nice starburst of the sun through the trees.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Islands in the sky

The fog over Lake Superior yesterday was mesmerizing.  One of the best places along the whole Minnesota North Shore is from the Mt. Josephine wayside in Grand Portage, where this photo was taken.  We had a series of intense thunderstorms roll through the area yesterday and in between each storm the fog was incredible.  Sometimes it would roll in and completely hide the Susie Islands from view, other times it was just thin wisps of fog in between the islands.  My favorite views were when the fog was thick in between the islands but not completely covering them.  It looked as though the islands were up in the sky, floating in the clouds. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Miss Moose

Today we went up the Gunflint Trail in search of the cow moose with twin calves that seemingly everyone who has driven up the trail in the past month has seen.  Unfortunately, we did not see them.  I think maybe if the weather had cooperated and it had been nice instead of a torrential downpour we would have been more likely to see them.  Oh well, you take what you can get.  Luckily we did see another cow moose further up the trail and had the pleasure of watching her eating in a small marsh right next to the road.  She hung out in the marsh for a long time and it sure was fun watching her from less than 50 feet away.  Every time she dunked her head under water she would root around for some plants then come up and shake her head off.  It was quite a comical sight I must say :-)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Petunia detail

I had some fun today taking pictures of the flowers Jessica recently planted around the yard.  This is my favorite shot of the bunch that I took today.  I need to buy a macro lens again for my big camera, I haven't had one now for a few years and I miss it.  This was taken with my small point-and-shoot camera, a Canon PowerShot G11.  It does nice macro work! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bunchberry Patch

We went out the other day in the hopes of spending the afternoon kayaking on a local lake but clouds moved in from the west and it looked almost certain like it was going to rain the rest of the day.  So, we altered our plans and ended up doing a little walking in the woods and looking for flowers.  The highlight was finding this very nice patch of Bunchberry plants.  We had fun photographing this beautiful patch of flowers but the mosquitoes did their best to make the experience miserable!  We withstood the bugs and came away with some shots that we really like.  This is my favorite photo of this particular patch of Bunchberry. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Fog, Pete's Island

We have had some pretty interesting fog in the past couple of weeks.  This photo was made from the summit of the Mt. Rose Trail in Grand Portage National Monument.  It was taken during a beautiful, sunny day on land but out over the lake the fog was pretty thick.  Along the edge of Grand Portage Bay, warm air from land clashes with cold air from the lake.  Combined with the frequently shifting breezes the fog comes and goes frequently.  I captured this photo during one of the times when the fog was receding and the island came into view.  It was visible for a short while then the wind switched and blew the fog back in, once again completely blocking the island from view.  I watched it change like this several times in the 30 minutes I sat on the summit. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Superior Galaxy

Here is a shot I have been wanting to capture for some time, the Milky Way Galaxy over Hollow Rock on the shores of Lake Superior.  This was taken at 12:02 AM on June 9, 2013.  The stillness of the night was unbelievable.  Rarely have I seen Lake Superior so calm and never before have I seen the stars reflecting so nicely in the waters of the big lake.  The sight you see here is a vivid memory that will live forever in our minds.  I owe thanks to Jessica for this photo, for it was at her urging that we went out to photograph the Milky Way on this most exquisite of nights!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Galaxy Forest

Last night Jessica and I got out to enjoy the supremely calm conditions that were prevalent across northeast Minnesota.  The conditions were so calm that I have never seen stars reflecting so perfectly in the waters of Lake Superior as they were last night.  We were treated to incredible views of the Milky Way Galaxy, which was our focus for the evening but we were also (as always) hoping to see some northern lights that were possible overnight.  The aurora never happened but the extreme calm of the night air combined with stars that were literally jumping out of the sky at us made for an unforgettable experience.  Tonight is a stark contrast to last night as we are experiencing some rainfall and wind.  Every day is different!  I love it :-)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Waves in the sky

This is one of the first photos I made the other night as the waves of aurora began to wash over the skies of northeast Minnesota.  The aurora forecast and cloud forecast were good so I left home just before 11:30 PM and arrived at McFarland Lake just after midnight.  I've been wanting to catch a good aurora show at McFarland for some time now.  After several attempts over the last year I finally got what I was hoping for.  This lake has a public swimming beach on the south shore and the beach looks almost due north, perfect for viewing the northern lights!  The lake also has very distinctive bluffs lining its shores which makes for a very photogenic horizon.  The aurora was already active when I left home, but the lights were faint at first.  I was hoping to get to McFarland just after midnight as the lights often flare up in their intensity around that time.  Sure enough, as I was driving up the Arrowhead Trail and midnight drew near, the lights started to pick up in their intensity.  When I arrived at the lake there was a full-blown aurora storm waving and dancing throughout the sky.  I scrambled to get my gear set up and as quickly as I could started making images.  For the next 45 minutes I stood in awe as the sky erupted with waves of light and color over and over again.  In this picture you can see a line of aurora that "points" to the left.  This line resembled the wall cloud of a quickly advancing thunderstorm and much like a thunderstorm, the line quickly moved from right to left across the sky then faded away.  And this was just the beginning of what would end up being an awesome geomagnetic storm that would carry on through the rest of the night and well into the morning.

Celestial Storm over Devil Fish Lake

I could not believe my eyes last night as I stood on the shores of Devil Fish Lake and watched this incredible aurora filling the sky overhead and reflecting in the ultra-calm waters of the lake below.  This photo was taken about ten minutes after the "Solar Shock Wave" photo was made.  As I watched this unbelievable light display in the sky, the haunting call of a pair of Loons echoed from across the lake.  I couldn't think of any music more perfect than the call of Loons while watching the Aurora Borealis.  Heaven in the north woods for sure :-)

Solar Shock Wave

There were AWESOME northern lights last night!  It was an unexpected (for me, anyway) occurrence as Earth passed through a region of south-pointing magnetism in the solar wind.  I didn't know there was even a chance of northern lights until I looked at the Aurora Soft Serve News website late in the afternoon and saw that the aurora was "Active".  I kept checking the site throughout the evening and the kp index kept creeping up until eventually it was at "Storm" level!  We had quite a few clouds at sunset which had me discouraged but not long after the sun went down the sky cleared and stayed that way the entire night.  I left the house at 11:00 PM and returned about 4:00 AM.  This photo is my favorite out of the 300+ images that I shot last night.  I was even lucky enough to capture a shooting star in the top left of the photo!  The feeling that you get as these waves of aurora wash through the sky is indescribable.  Let's just say you feel very humbled and fortunate to be able to witness such an awe-inspiring phenomenon!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Middle Falls Trail overlooks

Yesterday I posted a picture of Middle Falls in Grand Portage State Park and mentioned the ridge-top overlooks that are along the trail.  The photo above is taken from the part of the ridge that overlooks Lake Superior.  Out in the lake on the left side of the photo you can see a portion of the Susie Islands archipelago, on the right edge of the photo is Hat Point.  In between lies Wauswaugoning Bay and Francis Island.  It sure is a beautiful view and is certainly worth the hike up the ridge!

After taking in the view of Lake Superior, you can continue to the back side of the ridge for a view of the Pigeon River Valley (above photo).  This view, in my opinion, is just as impressive and enjoyable to take in as the view toward the lake.  Near the middle of the photo you can see the river as it makes its way toward Lake Superior.  High Falls of the Pigeon River is just out of sight on the right edge of this photo.  Remember, the Pigeon River is the border between the U.S. and Canada, so all of the land across the river from this viewpoint is in the province of Ontario, Canada!  You can also see a glimpse of Lake Superior to the right.  FYI - this trail makes for a wonderful fall color hike :-)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Middle Falls of the Pigeon River

Today I hiked to Middle Falls of the Pigeon River in Grand Portage State Park.  The state park is also where I work for my 'day job'.  The Middle Falls Trail is a rugged, almost 5 mile round-trip hike.  It covers a variety of terrain, since the trail goes up and over a tall ridge.  There are fantastic overlooks of Lake Superior and the Pigeon River valley from the top of the ridge, which is roughly halfway along the trail to the falls.  When you arrive at Middle Falls there are several views downstream, upstream and  right at the falls.  This photo was taken while standing right at the top edge of the falls looking upstream.  It is not a very big waterfall, but the river is quite wide here and combined with the rapids that precede the falls it is a very beautiful stretch of river.  The Pigeon River is the border between the U.S. and Canada in this area, so the opposite bank of the river seen in this photo is actually in Canada :-)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Shy Moose

I had a fun encounter with a moose yesterday.  After work I went for a drive in the woods and as I came around a corner on a local dirt road there was this moose standing right in the road.  As soon as it saw the car it walked off into the brush.  I of course got out of the car to try and get a picture, since the moose only walked about 100 feet off into the woods.  It was very difficult to see, however, since the brush was so thick.  It was definitely curious about me, as it stood at a safe distance but kept staring at me through the trees.  I had to manually focus my lens in order to make this shot.  Because of all the brush in the way the camera was unable to autofocus on the moose, instead choosing to attempt focusing on every little branch in the way between us.  After about 10 minutes the moose must have gotten bored because it finally turned and walked off away from me.  This is far from my best shot of this iconic northwoods animal, but still it's a picture of a moose so I figure it's worth sharing :-)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hollow Rock Dreamscape

The final location for the night ended up being Hollow Rock Resort along the shores of Lake Superior.  As I drove back down the Arrowhead Trail the sky was completely socked in with clouds and a thick fog covered the ground.  I thought for sure these conditions would persist all the way home.  As luck would have it, however, when I got back to Highway 61 along the Lake Superior shore the fog had lifted and there were some openings in the clouds.  By the time I was driving by Hollow Rock the clouds were receding quickly and the sky was full of dancing northern lights.  Of course I had to stop at Hollow Rock once I saw these conditions!  This is the first time I have been able to photograph the aurora directly over the rock.  Since the view here is more east/southeast than north you don't get very many opportunities to see the aurora from this angle.  On this night, however, the sky was full of dancing lights and plenty of them were directly above Hollow Rock.  This photo was made about 3:30 in the morning and was the last shot I made before heading home and crawling into bed.  It sure ended up being a fantastic night!

Glowing Clouds over McFarland Lake

After making the "Celestial Fantasy" photo I continued driving up the Arrowhead Trail until I arrived at the swimming beach on McFarland Lake, which is one of the best places in Cook County (in my opinion) to watch the northern lights.  This beach has a great view to the north and the lake is often very calm at night, which means you can get great reflections of the lights in the water.  Unfortunately when I arrived at the lake the sky was still completely covered with clouds.  I hung around here for almost two hours hoping the sky would clear, but it never did.  Several times, however, the cloud cover got thin enough that the glow from the lights could be seen even through the clouds.  This particular photo is from one of those times when the clouds were thinner.  It is my favorite photo made during my time at the lake waiting for the sky to clear.  

Celestial Fantasy

It looked like the sky might be clearing to the northwest so I decided to head that direction in search of openings in the clouds.  The first break in the clouds that I found was along the Arrowhead Trail which meanders through Grand Portage State Forest just out of Hovland, MN.  I found this nice shooting location just past Irish Creek on the Arrowhead Trail.  The clouds were breaking up just enough to let the aurora shine through, and it was magnificent!  Light fog along the ground added an extra bit of mystery to the scene and all around me the spring peeper frogs were singing full blast as the lights danced overhead.  I even heard a couple of Barred Owls talking to each other in the distance.  Similar to seeing the lights back at my house, they were visible only for a few minutes before the clouds closed in again and blocked the view of the sky. 

Aurora Avenue

Last night before going to bed, I looked at the website just in case there were any reports of aurora activity.  As luck would have it, an interplanetary shockwave had just arrived and was sparking aurora activity.  The source of the shockwave was unknown, but researchers say it could have originated in a transition zone between high and low speed solar wind streams.  The shockwave ended up generating nearly 15 hours of geomagnetic storming.  I took this photo directly in front of our house at 11:30 PM.  Just minutes after making this photo the clouds moved in and almost completely obscured the view of the lights.  I spent the next 4 hours searching for openings in the clouds and ended up finding a few here and there.