Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last Sunrise of 2013

Here's an image of the very last sunrise over Lake Superior for the year 2013.  I wish you all the best in the coming year!

Sea Smoke over Grand Portage Bay at Fifteen Below

Brrrrrr it's a cold one out there today!  I woke before sunrise and headed out to spend the morning shooting the cold weather conditions.  It sure was a beautiful morning for photography!  Extremes in weather definitely make for compelling images.  When I made this image the thermometer on my truck was reading fifteen degrees below zero (Fahrenheit).  There was also a strong wind which probably pushed the wind chill to around 40 below.  The sea smoke over Lake Superior is fascinating.  It not only makes for interesting images but also interesting video.  I shot some video of the sea smoke this morning that I will share with you at a later date after I've had time to edit the clips together.  Right now I'm heading back out to capture more of today's weather!  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Snow Storm and Mountain Ash Berries

Here is a follow-up image to the photo I posted earlier today.  This is a shot of some mountain ash trees that was taken just after the weather switched from calm to not-so-calm.  As I mentioned in my post this morning, the day started off very peaceful but quickly switched to stormy weather as a strong east wind came seemingly out of nowhere and was accompanied by heavy snowfall.  This photo was taken just as the heavy snow was beginning to fall from the sky.  I loved how the snow helped "soften" the background and also helped to make the red berries "pop" and jump out even more from the surrounding trees.  There seems to be an abundance of mountain ash berries this year, and while they are beautiful I find it difficult to capture a really nice photo of them.  I've taken quite a few photos of the berries this year and this is one of the few shots of them that I like. 

Ice Cap Waterfall

From Saturday morning's shoot on the Lake Superior shoreline section of the Superior Hiking Trail north of Grand Marais, MN.  It was a very gray morning with no sight of the sun whatsoever but we still found some nice things to photograph.  I spent most of the morning waiting by this ice-covered rock for waves to wash over on the right hand side.  The lake was pretty calm, so in about 20 minutes of sitting in this spot only 3 or 4 waves were big enough to wash over and make a very short-lived waterfall.  The wait was worth it as I am quite happy with this photo!  About 10 minutes after making this photograph the serene calm that had dominated the first part of our outing was gone.  The wind had kicked up pretty strongly from the east and it was snowing HARD.  The prediction was for 1 to 3 inches of new snow accumulation by the end of the day and Roger summed up both of our feelings on the way back to the car.  He said "I hope it snows all day!" 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ice Mounds

Here is another abstract ice image from yesterday morning along the Lake Superior shoreline.  There really isn't anything "overpowering" about this photo, I just really liked the shapes and texture in the ice and found it worth photographing!

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Harsh World

I went out this morning with high hopes of photographing a nice sunrise, but it was not to be.  The cloud cover was too thick and there basically was no color at all in the sunrise.  Never even saw the sun, in fact.  I did, however, come across some nice discoveries in the ice along the shoreline.  When I came across this scene I really liked the shapes of the ice formations and the one little rose hip still hanging on.  We are supposed to get more snow over the weekend so it doesn't look likely there will be a nice sunrise for maybe a couple more days, but you never know!  I will be trying again tomorrow.  Time will tell. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Liquid Silver

It's that time of year again for photographing intriguing ice formations!  Here is one that I found the other morning when I went out to photograph the sunrise.  The sunrise was pretty much a non-event so I ended up spending more time with my telephoto lens making images of all the interesting ice formations on the rocks.  This one really intrigued me.  I loved the reflections of the ice in the water.  To me the color of the ice reflecting on the water looked like molten silver.  Fascinating!  I also love the thin sheet of ice covering the rock under the hanging icicles.  I don't think I will ever get bored with photographing ice.  There is just too much variety in it to ever lose interest!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Island of Ice

This morning I explored a piece of Lake Superior shoreline that had some really beautiful ice formations.  Even though it was cloudy and snowing, there were a few breaks in the clouds and I was hopeful for an amazing sunrise filled with color.  That didn't happen, but I still enjoyed my time on the shore.  Even though there was not much color, the scene was still extraordinary.  The ice formations were sublime.  I loved the "skirt" of ice that lined the rocks surrounding the island.  The morning was extremely quiet with only the slightest breeze and I swear I could actually hear the snow hitting the ground as it fell.  Peaceful mornings along the Lake Superior shoreline are the best, and this one certainly qualified!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Frozen in Time

Walks along the Lake Superior shoreline always reveal fascinating things, perhaps more so in winter.  Like this patch of rose hips, totally encased in ice along with the trees surrounding them.  Everyone that knows me knows that I love ice and I certainly love finding things like this!  It's a nice surprise to find some vibrant color to accent the otherwise stark nature of an ice-covered landscape. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Shadow Mountains

This is a shadow that really caught my eye.  The first thing I thought was "Hmmmmm.... that sort of looks like a mountain range!"  This shadow is created from the sun hitting the top edge of a plowed snow bank, creating "Shadow Mountains" on the plowed surface of the parking lot.  I originally shot this image as a vertical composition but thought it worked better visually in a horizontal orientation. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 17th Sunset - Grand Marais Lighthouse

Last night I headed to Grand Marais hoping to photograph the sunset over a nice section of shoreline bedrock that I first photographed about this time last year.  However, when I got to town the clouds didn't look like they were going to work out for the location I had planned.  Instead I went out to the parking area on the east side of the harbor (always a good vantage point on the lighthouse) and from that angle the clouds were lining up nicely just above the lighthouse.  I took this photo just as the last bit of pink was fading from the clouds.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The simple beauty of winter

A simplistic photographic find on one of my snowshoe hikes from this winter.  This was taken on a sunny afternoon the day after our first major snowfall of the season.  I love how the snow sparkles when the conditions are just right.  Combined with the long December shadows and the artistic pose of a fallen branch stuck in the snow, it makes for a compelling image!  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mountain Ash Ice

What an amazing winter this is shaping up to be!  Well, actually, it already has been an amazing winter with more snow, cold and wind than I think we had by this time the past few winters!  It is snowing again right now as I type this, with 3 to 5 inches of new snow possible by the end of today.  I went for a short drive this morning and the snow was coming down heavily, with already about 2 inches of new white powder on the ground.  Because it is snowing, the sky is pretty gray so I'm going to share an image from a blue sky day!  The photo shown here was taken along the Lake Superior shoreline and shows the beauty that can follow an intense winter storm on the big lake.  As you already know from previous images I've shared, big waves and cold temperatures mean that everything along the shoreline gets coated in ice.  I've always wanted to find a shot that would allow me to show the beauty of the ice combined with a nice, blue sky and the vivid red color of mountain ash berries.  Finding all three of these elements in a pleasing photographic composition is harder than you might think!  Recently, however, I was provided all 3 in a beautiful scene along the shores of Lake Superior.  I hope you enjoy this cold but beautiful find as much as I did!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ice Eggs

The Lake Superior winter ice eggs have been laid!  Hopefully this means that they will hatch into wonderful, giant and amazingly mind-blowing ice formations later in the winter :-)  Seriously, though, these are rocks on the Lake Superior shoreline that are coated in ice from a combination of waves washing over them and steam settling on them.  They are one of the things I look forward to every winter on the big lake.  Sometimes they don't occur, though.  At least, not as prominently as they are this year.  It all depends on the weather conditions.  Sometimes it's not cold enough, sometimes the waves aren't big enough, sometimes there isn't enough steam (which is usually associated with it not being cold enough).  At any rate, they are here now and they are beautiful!  I captured this particular patch of eggs a couple of nights ago right at sunset, just as the last bit of warm light for the day was washing over these eggs.  I held the camera very close to the ground to get the angle I wanted and to give a nice, shallow depth of field.  Ice comes in an infinite variety of forms and I urge you to get out and explore all the amazing things there are to see along the shoreline right now!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Covered in Ice

What a difference a year can make in the appearance of a subject.  At this time last year I was photographing Hollow Rock (it is one of my favorite things to photograph in December) and there was almost ZERO ice on the rock.  This year, the rock is pretty much completely covered in ice.  This is largely due to a major winter storm that we had just over a week ago.  During the storm the rock was pummeled by large waves rolling in from the east.  When the waves collided with the rock, spray went flying up and over the top of the rock.  The air was cold enough that a lot of the spray froze when it made contact with the rock.  What you see here is the result of big waves and cold air temperatures.  I don't think I've ever seen the rock covered with so much ice so early in the winter.  This is shaping up to be an excellent year for ice photography on the big lake.  I can't wait to see what the rest of the winter will bring!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sea Smoke Sunrise

This photo was taken at Hollow Rock Resort in Grand Portage, MN on the shores of Lake Superior.  The temperature was minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  This little tree is situated on top of Hollow Rock itself and was covered in ice from wave spray and the steam (sea smoke) that is common on the lake this time of year.  I was fascinated by the steam illuminated from the rising sun behind the rock.  As the steam drifted by, the sunlight on the tree made for an eerie shadow which I thought made for an interesting photo.  This shot was a totally unexpected find for the day and I'm glad I saw it.  I spent the remainder of the day looking for photos, but this was the highlight of my day!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December Sunset, Zero Degrees

This evening's sunset was beautiful but COLD.  I wasn't planning on going out to shoot but as Jessica and I were sitting in our office each working on our own projects we noticed a beautiful, warm light coming in through the window.  We looked outside and saw some really nice clouds starting to glow in the pre-sunset light.  I couldn't resist, I had to bundle up and head down to Hollow Rock to photograph the setting sun.  When I arrived at the scene the thermometer on my truck was reading a balmy ZERO degrees.  There was also a stiff wind coming off the lake, which meant the wind chill was going to be brutal.  It's a good thing that the colorful clouds didn't last too long as I was only able to tolerate being outside for about 15 minutes.  The wind and the cold were just too much.  I was out there long enough to get a beautiful shot, though!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A cold but beautiful night

The Northern Lights were out last night!  I must admit, I am a junkie.  On nights when the sky is clear, I can't resist checking the aurora forecast before going to bed.  Last night's check revealed that the chance for aurora activity was good, and others were posting on Facebook that they were already seeing the lights.  One of our bedroom windows looks to the north so Jessica and I took a look and sure enough, there was a green ribbon of light dancing in the sky above Mt. Josephine.  Once I see the lights in the sky it's pretty much impossible for me to stay in the house and I was soon heading out the door to photograph the lights.

My tendency is to head inland away from the village because I like as little light pollution as possible in my night images.  So, I took a drive up Old Highway 61 to check out some of my usual favorite spots for shooting the night sky.  By the time I got there, however, the lights had dwindled and were barely visible.  I took advantage of the lull in activity and drove around looking for a new location to shoot from.  I came across a road that isn't normally plowed in winter, but right now it is plowed because someone is logging down this road.  I figured there was a good chance of finding some nice trees for a strong foreground element to my shots.

Sure enough, near the end of the section of road that was plowed, I found a nice spot.  There was a nice glowing arc of aurora light in the sky, but it was very faint and really wasn't moving at all.  I spent the next two hours watching the arc of light, patiently waiting for the activity to flare back up.  At about 2:00 in the morning the lights got a little brighter and started to move a bit more.  That is when I made this photo.  The temperature outside when I clicked the shutter to make this photo was minus 15 degrees (Fahrenheit).  The lowest temperature I saw while driving around was minus 21.  Needless to say, after four and a half hours watching and waiting for the lights, it sure was nice to get back home and crawl under the warm blankets!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ice Topography

Here is an image that I wasn't too thrilled with when I first made it but the more I look at it, the more I like it.  What you're looking at is a (relatively) flat shelf of ice covering part of the pool at the base of High Falls in Grand Portage State Park.  My rough estimate of the area shown in the photo is maybe 15 feet X 20 feet.  More than anything what this area of ice reminds me of is a topographical map.  The ice was formed by the spray from High Falls as it drifted down to the bottom of the gorge.  The more I stare at it, the more it fascinates me.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blizzard on 61

Here is a shot from Wednesday afternoon, December 4th during the height of the blizzard that we just experienced.  I went for a drive to take some storm photos and during my drive the wind was really blowing the snow around on the road which I thought would make for an interesting picture.  Thankfully, there was almost no traffic so I pulled over to the side of the road and put my hazard lights on.  I checked carefully for any oncoming traffic before quickly walking out into the middle of the road to grab this shot.  We ended up getting anywhere from 12 to just over 20 inches of snow, depending on where you measured (as usual, locations along the Lake Superior shoreline had less accumulation but the worst drifting).  I heard that Two Harbors, MN got the most snow accumulation at just over 40 inches!  As is the norm after a blizzard, we are now experiencing bitter cold temperatures.  Today the temp is barely above zero, but we have sunshine!  The sun hasn't shown its face much in the past month or two, so it is nice to see it again even if it means enduring cold temperatures!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December Fury

In case you haven't heard, we've been in the midst of a major winter storm now for the past two days.  We've received at least a foot of snow already, with possibly another foot of accumulation before the storm is done.  The snowfall is accompanied by some pretty strong winds and Lake Superior's mood is furious, sending huge waves crashing into the shore all day today.  This afternoon I went down to Hollow Rock to photograph the waves.  The waves were coming in at just the right direction to slam powerfully into the east side of the rock.  Spray from the waves is doing a very thorough job of covering everything on the rock in a thick coat of ice.  It's been a long time since we've had a storm of this magnitude so early in the winter and I for one am glad to see it!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Curious Otters

Here is another shot of the otters at Grand Portage State Park, this time from down in the gorge rather than on top of the gorge looking down into it.  I figured out where the otters were most frequently coming out of the water and up onto the ice, then yesterday I sat there for a long time waiting for them to show up.  I was just about to give up, thinking they weren't going to come out (or that perhaps they already had before I got there) when I noticed movement further up in the gorge.  

At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me.  After all, there is a lot of running water and when you're sitting there staring at it for a long time the movement of the water can sometimes make you think you are seeing things that aren't actually there.  But, just moments after catching that flicker of movement, one of the otters popped up onto the ice straight across the river from where I was sitting!  Just moments later, the second one showed up and for the next few minutes they rolled around on the ice, rubbing their backs on the snow and grooming each other.  Then, they jumped back into the water and swam over to my side of the river, then crawled up onto the ice about 150 feet upstream from where I was sitting.  

I was doing my best to minimize my movements, but they still must have sensed I was there because they kept looking towards me, sometimes directly at me.  They never got scared, though, and once again went back to rolling around and grooming each other.  After a few more minutes they jumped back into the water and swam upstream, every now and then popping up onto the ice for a quick run, then sliding back into the water again.  I sure am thankful to be able to witness these playful creatures in such close proximity.  I am thinking they must somehow know that it is my birthday tomorrow and they wanted to give me an early birthday present by letting me get such nice photos and video of them :-)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pigeon River Otters

For the past few days I've been spending a couple of hours each day sitting and waiting to get a glimpse of the otter family that seems to be living in the gorge just below High Falls at Grand Portage State Park.  Two days ago I got some fantastic video of the pair shown in this photo.  They sure are a lot of fun to watch!