Sunday, July 28, 2013

Water Abstract - Pigeon River

I haven't been posting many pictures lately.  My apologies to those that might be missing my posts.  I have been busy going through a selection process to determine which photos I want to display in my upcoming "Visual Stories" exhibition in Grand Marais.  Also, I have been without my camera for the past week!  It turns out it got a little too wet during my last outing (remember the lightning photo at the Spirit Tree from a week ago?) and would not let me shoot anymore.  I was getting an "Error 30" message and had to send it in to a Canon Service Center.  I should have it back sometime this week.

In the meantime, here is a photo from this spring.  This was taken at Middle Falls on the Pigeon River in Grand Portage State Park.  The water just above the falls has many areas where the flow is silky smooth, which makes for some very intriguing abstract images when shooting with a telephoto lens.  Another interesting thing is that the water here often nicely reflects the colors of the sky.  On this particular day there was some blue sky along with patchy clouds and you can see both reflected here in the water. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Pigeon River Otters

Jessica and I were kayaking on the Pigeon River the other day when we had an incredibly fun experience with an Otter family!  We were exploring the small islands in the wide part of the river just downstream from the rapids below High Falls.  Jessica was paddling ahead of me and I was looking down a channel between two of the islands when I heard Jessica say in a loud whisper "There's otters right over there!"  I looked and sure enough, not more than 25 feet off the bow of her kayak, a family of otters was swimming around against the bank along the side of the river.  I slowly paddled over to get a closer look.  They didn't seem bothered by us at all, probably because they are used to boats in this section of the river (it is a popular area for local fishermen).  We watched them for a minute or two then realized that there was one otter that was a lot smaller than the others.  The little one was adorable as he/she bobbed up and down in the water, trying to get a better look at us.  We enjoyed their company for about another 10 minutes then they all swam off down one of the channels in between the islands.  We were glowing from the experience as we paddled back to the boat landing :-)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Midsummer Storm at the Spirit Tree

Yesterday throughout the day and all through last night we experienced one incredible thunderstorm after another.  Some particulars from the weather warnings throughout the day: 70 MPH winds, possible golf-ball size hail, heavy rainfall and flood advisories.  To top it off the power was out for most of the night as well.  We ended up with anywhere from 2 to 4 inches of rain, depending on where the measurement was taken.  The Pigeon River in Grand Portage State Park went from a discharge rate of roughly 4,000 gallons per second yesterday morning to about 28,000 gallons per second today.  The storms also produced the best lightning show that we've seen so far this year.

As day turned to night I couldn't resist the light show that was going on all over in the sky.  I ended up spending about two and a half hours standing on the Lake Superior shoreline trying to capture photos of the lightning.  I went down to the Spirit Tree, which is not far from my home.  I've always wanted to capture a "knock your socks off" photo of lightning behind the tree (similar to a shot that my dad captured on slide film years ago), but the photo I dream of still eludes me.  I am getting closer, however.  Last night's storms yielded my best results yet at photographing lightning behind the tree.  The photo you see here is the result of two hours of standing in the rain trying to capture the perfect bolt of lightning while thunder rumbled all around me.  It was definitely one of the most uncomfortable periods of time I've ever spent outside with my camera, but an effort that I consider worthwhile when I view this image. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer Sandhill Crane

Boy did we ever have a nice surprise today!  We headed across the border to Canada this morning to pick our own strawberries at Belluz Farms then we spent the afternoon in Thunder Bay.  We picked up delicious sandwiches from an Italian deli then went to Kam River Park for a river-side lunch, followed by a matinee movie.  About half-way through the drive home Jessica exclaimed "Whoa!  There was a sandhill crane standing in the ditch back there!"  I swung the car around and we went back for a look.  Sure enough, there was a crane just off the road!  It had walked away from the highway through a thin line of brush and was standing out in a swampy area less than 100 feet from the road.  We watched it walk around in the tall grass for a while, all the while taking photos of it.  Eventually we saw a second one a short distance away from the one we had been watching, which leads us to believe they might be nesting in that swampy area.  Very exciting to think there could be a young colt somewhere out there in that tall grass!  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Painted Turtle, North Lake

It's turtle season!  This time of year the turtles are very active as they leave the relative safety of their lakes and rivers in search of a place to lay their eggs.  Just the other day at work we had a huge snapping turtle crawl out of the Pigeon River and walk right up the path behind our visitor center and lay eggs in the soil right next to the building.  And, the last couple of times we've gone for a drive up in the woods, we've seen painted turtles all over the gravel logging road that passes by Turtle, Swede and North Lakes.  The painted turtle shown in this photo was sunning itself on a log along the shoreline of North Lake.  This log has been there for many years and each year I see several turtles sunning themselves on it.  They sure are cute!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Loon on Elbow Lake

Here is a shot of the loon that we saw during our kayak outing on Elbow Lake.  We were paddling very close to shore and almost ran into this loon as it was not moving at all.  All of a sudden I looked ahead (I had been looking directly at the shoreline as I paddled) and there was the loon, floating not more than 50 feet in front of me.  I stopped paddling and pulled out my camera, snapping pictures as I drifted by.  I got to within 20 feet of him/her as my momentum carried me past.  After drifting by the loon we turned around and slowly paddled back.  The loon stayed where it was for a minute or two, then slowly swam down the shore a short distance before swimming out towards the center of the lake. Encounters with loons are always very special.  I treasure the moments when I am able to see these beautiful birds up close!

Ducklings on Elbow Lake

We saw a lot of neat and interesting things on yesterday's kayak adventure on Elbow Lake on the Gunflint Trail.  Probably the most entertaining (and definitely the cutest!) sighting was this group of ducklings that we saw on the opposite end of the lake from the boat landing.  They must have been hiding in the brush along the edge of the lake when we first went by because we didn't see them until we were heading back to the landing.  They sure were cute as they swam along the bank close to shore.  This sighting along with the Loon earlier in the trip really made the day special.  We also saw a bald eagle perched atop a giant pine tree and a goofy gull that was flying around in the distance the whole time we were paddling.  There are always fascinating things to see when you spend time on the water and today was no exception!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Beautiful day on Devilfish Lake

We are heading out kayaking again today!  Right now the conditions are foggy on the Lake Superior shoreline but we are headed to an inland lake so maybe it won't be foggy up there.  Of course, if it is foggy I won't complain because that could make for some interesting pictures!  In the meantime, here is another shot from last week's paddle on Devilfish Lake.  I loved this tree hanging over the water and couldn't resist paddling under it to photograph Jessica out in the lake with the tree in the foreground. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Broad-winged Hawk

As we drove home from kayaking the other day we had the distinct pleasure of an encounter with this beautiful little Broad-winged Hawk.  We were driving slowly down an old logging road when we came around a corner and this hawk, who had been sitting in the road, flew up into a tree.  It's not that uncommon to run across these guys while driving the back roads of northern Minnesota, but usually they fly further into the trees and you can't see them.  This one landed on a branch in a tree right next to the road and sat there for a minute or two before flying away.  I was able to get several nice shots of it.  It was definitely a nice little bonus to our day!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sky Glow over Speckled Trout Lake

After the moose sighting  last night I continued up the road to Speckled Trout Lake where I was hoping to see some aurora activity.  When I arrived at the lake the sky was mostly clear and indeed there were some northern lights visible in the sky!  They weren't spectacular dancing and shimmering lights like the other ones I've seen recently, but still it's always nice to see the aurora.  Basically there was this large band of soft light sort of hovering in the sky.  It actually looked like a cloud, except that it wasn't moving.  The color just sort of hung there for a long time.  This photo was made at about 3:30 in the morning, which means that there was a little bit of daylight starting to creep into the sky.  Unfortunately the bugs were TERRIBLE, but still it was fun to be out in the woods seeing the moose and the aurora and the fireflies, which were EVERYWHERE!   

Bull Moose at 3:00 A.M.

Last night at 2:00 A.M. I woke to check the aurora index and next thing you know I'm spending the remainder of the night and early morning out in the woods!  During the evening the aurora forecast was looking more and more favorable but not strong enough to head out before going to bed.  So, I set my alarm for 2:00 hoping that maybe by then it would be worth going out.  When I checked the forecast after my alarm woke me it indicated that the aurora was at "STORM" level!  Once I saw that, I was on my way outside with my camera in tow.  Unfortunately, it started to rain just moments after I arrived at my first location along the Lake Superior shoreline.  The aurora was active, I could see it plainly in the sky between the rain clouds.  The rain prevented me from getting any shots so I altered my plan and decided to head inland and see if the sky was clear away from the big lake.  

On my way up Old Highway 61 in Grand Portage I drove right by a swamp and there, standing not more than 20 feet off the road, was a big bull moose!  He didn't even move when I drove by, so I slowly backed up to get a better look at him.  He still wasn't moving, so I turned the truck a bit until the headlights were shining right at him.  He just stood there, staring at me as I stared back at him.  This photo was taken through the windshield of my truck.  I think it turned out pretty good considering it was a hand-held shot from behind the wheel of the truck and at ISO 6400!  I took a few more pictures of him before he started to walk away.  As he walked away I shot a couple of video clips of him as well.  It was a great start to my late night photo outing!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Swallowtail and Hawkweed

Wildflowers are blooming like crazy everywhere right now and local insects are loving it!  I captured this Swallowtail butterfly enjoying a patch of hawkweed along Esther Lake Road in Grand Portage State Forest recently.  Both sides of the road were lined with millions of flowers and it was difficult to pick out a particular patch to photograph.  That is, until Jessica noticed a field of hawkweed combined with a large patch of bunchberry!  We stopped to photograph the flowers and that's when this swallowtail flew in and began working the hawkweed.  I got down on my stomach to get at eye level with the butterfly.  There was a constant breeze, so getting a sharp exposure was a challenge as the flowers kept waving back and forth.  Eventually I got a good one :-)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Kayaking Devilfish Lake

Today was our Saturday and it was forecast to be a beautiful day, so we loaded the kayaks on to the car and headed up the Arrowhead Trail to do some paddling.  Our destination was Devilfish Lake.  I have photographed the northern lights several times from the public landing on Devilfish and been intrigued for a while to see what the rest of the lake looked like.  The shoreline of the lake is spectacular, with giant white pine trees lining the banks.  Several of the trees are leaning quite a ways out over the water, like this one that I photographed Jessica paddling under.  As she glided under the tree she raised her arms to feel the pine needles brush against her fingertips. We were hoping to see Loons during our paddle, but sadly we did not.  Still, it was a beautiful day to be out in the kayaks!