Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Monday, December 29, 2014
I don't really have much of a story behind this photo, it's just something that caught my eye the other evening as I was leaving work. I work at a Minnesota State Park and Travel Information Center and Highway 61 runs right by our visitor center. This is the first mile of highway as you enter Minnesota from Canada. It is a four-lane highway along this mile and in the median is a giant Welcome to Minnesota sign that is illuminated at night. The lights illuminating the sign and the silhouetted trees in the background along with the last faint bit of daylight in the sky are what caught my eye.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
I hope everyone had a nice Christmas! I'm back online after being gone for a couple of days spending time with family. What a strange Christmas for northern Minnesota. We've been experiencing some unusually warm weather for this time of year and what little snow we had along the Lake Superior shoreline has long since melted. If you go inland you can find a winter wonderland but here along the shore everything is just brown. The weather was so mild on Christmas day that I didn't even need long sleeves… I was walking around with a short sleeve shirt and a fleece vest. This same time last year we had temperatures well below zero.
Anyway, enough talk about the weather! Here is a recent image of a Northern Hawk Owl that has been hanging around near the Grand Portage Trading Post the past few weeks. I've seen this little owl on several occasions but because of the rainy weather and gray cloudy days that we've had for most of the month I've yet to see this beautiful bird in any kind of decent lighting conditions. Even though this was taken on a less than ideal day, I still like the shot and think it turned out pretty well considering the flat light.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
With the unseasonably warm (and rainy!) weather we've had lately, the ice on High Falls of the Pigeon River has been receding. This photo was made yesterday afternoon and shows the bottom 1/4 of the waterfall. Personally, I really like what the warm weather has done to the falls. It has made for a lot more interesting photography as the appearance of the ice on the waterfall changes daily. Looks like the weather is going to stay warm for a few more days, so come on up and check it out for yourself!
Saturday, December 20, 2014
There is a lot of talk today of the strong possibility of aurora activity this weekend. Unfortunately, here in northeast Minnesota, we are buried under heavy cloud cover for what looks like most of the coming week. Since I probably won't be able to see the northern lights that are likely to occur tonight, I went back and found an unshared image from the aurora storm the night of October 2, 2013. I remember that night as being one of the best nights of aurora that I've ever witnessed.
I made several hundred images that night, mostly in an attempt to create a short time-lapse video of the lights. This photo was chosen from the middle of one sequence of images that I shot. For at least half an hour I was focused on this particular line of trees with this "funnel" of aurora coming up from between the trees and spreading throughout the sky. The lights were showing subtle changes from one exposure to the next, but I chose this particular image because it shows the funnel when it was at is brightest. I sure wish we had clear skies in our forecast for tonight! Hopefully, others out there will have better conditions and there will be photos to enjoy tomorrow from the possible event tonight.
Friday, December 19, 2014
The other night I went out to photograph the sunset, which was looking pretty promising. Only problem was, I didn't really know where I was going to go. I haven't done much sunrise or sunset shooting lately so I was feeling a little out of sorts as far as what I should do. I ended up not far from Reservation River in Grand Portage and found this nice rock to photograph. There was a little bit of snow along the shoreline but really no ice to speak of. Judging from the look of this picture you would never guess it was taken in December. At any rate, the color in the sky was really nice and the waves were just barely big enough to be splashing over the rock. It was a beautiful moment to be standing along the shores of Lake Superior!
Thursday, December 18, 2014
With the above average temperatures we've had over the past week or so, the ice at High Falls in Grand Portage State Park has diminished considerably. The face of the waterfall had been almost entirely frozen due to colder than average temperatures in November, but now there is a prominent open channel of running water right in the middle of the waterfall. It makes for a fascinating view! Last night the temperature got down to around zero degrees so we should maybe see ice forming back up again. I say maybe because the forecast for the coming days is calling for highs in the 30's and lows in the 20's, so the reformation of ice could very well be a slow process.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Here are a couple more photographs of the northern lights that I wanted to share from our recent trip to Alaska. Photographing the aurora was such a different experience than it is from northern Minnesota. The main thing was that the lights just seemed to be so much brighter. Even though this wasn't a "Storm" level aurora, the lights were pretty bright and I was able to photograph them at 10 second exposure times at ISO 800 to 1000 using my f/4 lens.
Here in northern Minnesota, I've rarely been able to photograph them at such settings. Usually I have to shoot at 30 seconds at ISO 1600. Sometimes I'm able to get good exposures at ISO 1600 and 15 seconds, or ISO 800 and 20 to 30 second exposures, but this is the first time I was able to photograph them at ISO 800 and 10 seconds. I can only imagine how awesome the lights must look in Alaska during a full-blown aurora storm. In the first of these two images, I can see the shape of a bear within the lights. I actually didn't notice it at first, but Jessica pointed it out to me. Can you see it?
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Foggy winter days in the forest can yield some of the prettiest views to be found anywhere. Such was the case a couple of days ago here in northeast Minnesota. We've had temperatures quite a bit warmer than usual for December which meant that we had some really thick fog up in the forest away from Lake Superior. I had a lot of fun making photos of the foggy views in the maple forests of Grand Portage. It was hard to actually get anywhere because I kept stopping to take so many photos! Eventually I had to force myself to slow down and really look before making a picture. Once I slowed down I started to notice that my images were coming out much nicer. It always pays to stop and think about what you're doing before you actually make a photograph. You would think that after 20 years of making images that I would remember that, but sometimes I get caught up in the moment and need to be reminded of it :-)
Monday, December 15, 2014
We've had quite a lot of fog over the past few days due to warmer than average temperatures for December. I've been going out for a bit each day to try and capture some photos of the foggy conditions and yesterday yielded the best photos yet! Before I got to this local inland lake I had a vision for this photo. I was glad to see that the fog was super thick out over the lake, as I would need such conditions to achieve my vision. Even though it has been warm in recent days, November was colder than usual so this inland lake already has 14 to 18 inches of ice on it. Some local fishermen had already been driving their vehicles out onto the lake so I decided to incorporate their vehicle tracks into this photograph. This was a fun photograph to make and I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I enjoyed making it!
Sunday, December 14, 2014
We had one heck of a beautiful sunset last night! It lasted a long time, too. The clouds and colors kept changing for quite a while. All I had with me was my little Sony RX100 Mark III, but it did a wonderful job capturing the supreme beauty of the moment!
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Thanks to an extra cold start to the winter, High Falls is almost completely frozen over already! Normally it's not this frozen until the end of December. You would think that the warmer temperatures this past week would have caused some of that ice to melt, but it seems to be holding up well. Also, you need to get there early if you want any kind of decent light on the falls. This photo was taken at 9:30 in the morning and it's the most light that the waterfall sees this time of year. You would think noon would be better but by the time noon rolls around the sun has moved a lot further to the west and the left side of the falls is in shadow. So, if you want the most light on the waterfall, get there no later than 9:30 in the morning!
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
I love the sunsets this time of year! It's much easier to watch the sun go down over Lake Superior this time of year than it is in the summer. For us north shore folks, anyway :-) When I see the sun setting like this it reminds me of ocean sunsets.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Here is an image I captured during the full moon a few nights ago. It's a dead birch tree in Grand Portage State Park that has lost most of its branches and now resembles the shape of a figure with its arms up in the air. My friend Al calls it the "Birch Tree Man". The other night as I was leaving work I couldn't help but notice the moon rising behind the tree. It looked like it had great potential for a photo so I got my camera out and composed this shot.
Monday, December 8, 2014
Sunday, December 7, 2014
I thought it might be fun to share a photo that gives a sense of scale to the ice-covered shoreline that I've shown in the last two images I posted. So, here is my friend Paul Sundberg (www.paulsundbergphotography.com) photographing the ice-covered shoreline just north of Grand Marais, MN on December 6, 2014. You might have to look hard to see him, as his clothing is the same color as the rocks and he is pretty small in comparison to the ice :-)
Saturday, December 6, 2014
I went back to the "Crystal Shores" shoreline this morning (see my post from yesterday) to catch the rising sun over the ice formations. It was a sublime morning. The air was completely still and the sky was a deep blue. I couldn't have asked for a better morning!
It's early winter and we already have some awesome ice on the north shore of Lake Superior! Most of the shoreline is devoid of any kind of cool ice formations but some places, like the area shown here, are completely covered in ice. We've had a bit of wind lately and that combined with the cold temperatures means that the wave spray has been freezing and coating every inch of vegetation along the shore. Of course, this only happens in areas where the waves tend to crash hard into shore and send spray flying into the air. I sure hope this is a sign of great ice conditions to come for the remainder of this winter season!
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
I love mountains. Especially snow-covered mountains :-) Of course, I've never really heard of anyone saying that they DON'T like mountains! The Chilkat Mountains surrounding Haines, Alaska are incredibly beautiful and we looked forward to seeing them each day we left our motel. I know I've always said that I would never want to live anywhere other than Grand Portage, but Alaska... well, Alaska is a place I think I could see myself living. I'm not saying I'm going to move, but if I had to... I know where I'd go :-)
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
As a complement to the other fog picture I was posted today, here is a photo of an eagle in the fog. For a while in the afternoon the fog got really thick and visibility across the river was very limited. It was a challenge photographing the eagles in the fog but very cool to see them in such conditions. I managed to capture this eagle just as he was taking flight from a tree.
Having grown up on the shores of Lake Superior, I'm certainly no stranger to foggy days. Southeast Alaska, however, has fog unlike anything I've ever seen along the shoreline of Lake Superior. We had some unbelievable fog the last two days of our recent trip to Haines. The mountains combined with the many rivers and ocean waters made for some very surreal foggy scenes as we drove up and down the Chilkat River Valley. Everywhere we looked the fog was providing for ever more beautiful and constantly changing views of the mountains and forests. The photo shown here is one of my favorite photos from that incredible day.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Flight shot of an immature bald eagle in the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. I love the lighting in this photograph. The eagle's wings (especially around the edges) just seem to be glowing. Even though there were a lot of immature eagles around, they were far outnumbered by the mature ones. Also, it seemed like they didn't get close enough for good pictures as frequently as the mature ones did. I am very grateful to have had one fly close enough to get this shot!
Sunday, November 30, 2014
The Chilkat River Valley in Haines, Alaska. Otherwise known as the "Valley of the Eagles". Every year in late fall several thousand bald eagles converge on this valley to feed on the late run of chum salmon. We spent a week here and had an absolute blast watching the eagles every day. Lots of other birds were in the area as well (notice the swans swimming up the river in this photo). Alaska is truly a photographer's paradise!
Saturday, November 29, 2014
This is what the eagles do for most of the day: sit in a tree. We saw eagles everywhere in the trees during our trip. Sure, lots of them were on the gravel bars in the river as well, looking for salmon. But, for the most part, they are perched in trees. Sometimes they sit there for a very long time. Most of the time they were facing in the direction of the river, which meant they had their backs to us. Once in a while, though, one would be facing towards us and in some cases, as shown here, one would be facing the sun downstream. I loved it when they were doing that because it made for some pretty cool pictures with the morning light illuminating the eagles while the mountains in the background were still in shadow. The blue backlighting was some of the prettiest light I've ever seen.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Are you getting tired of seeing eagle images yet? If so, let me know! I may have a couple more I want to share, but I promise I'm almost done :-) This photo shows an eagle jumping up out of the water, preparing to fend off an incoming eagle that is just outside of the frame on the right. I love it when the eagles jump like this and throw water everywhere. It's fascinating to watch and a lot of fun to try and capture with the camera!
Thursday, November 27, 2014
As we traveled from Haines back down to Juneau via the Alaska Marine Highway we passed this beautiful lighthouse situated on a large rocky island in the middle of Lynn Canal. I photographed the lighthouse from the deck of our ferry, the M/V Taku. The lighthouse is the Eldred Rock Light, commissioned in 1906. The lighthouse was automated by the United States Coast Guard in 1973 and the original lens was moved to a museum in Haines in 1978. I loved the setting of the lighthouse with the rugged snow-covered mountains in the background. The Alaska scenery sure is awesome!
I wanted to include a bit more of both the water in the foreground and the sky above the mountain, but as I mentioned this was photographed from a moving ferry and I only had a moment to capture the lighthouse with this incredible mountain in the background. I was at 150mm on my Tamron lens, the widest that lens will go. Even though it doesn't have as much sky or water as I would have liked, I still really like this photo :-)
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Today's series of eagle images shows a behavior that we saw several times on our trip to Alaska. I'm sure they do it here in Minnesota too, but this is the first time that I've seen an eagle taking a bath! I've seen gulls do this a lot near where I live, but never been lucky enough to see an eagle do it. We had been watching a group of eagles feeding on a salmon and this eagle was the last one remaining. It got the last bit of edible remains from that salmon.
Almost immediately after it finished eating, the eagle walked out into the water and repeatedly began to duck its head and most of its body under the water, then shake around in the water while partially submerged. The eagle did this many times over the course of 15 minutes. When it apparently decided it had bathed long enough, it walked back up onto the rocky shallows and proceeded to shake its wings off several times before taking flight and leaving the scene. We felt very fortunate to have such an up-close view of this behavior. We were only about 50 feet away from the eagle the entire time. I have video of this as well. Look for my eagle video to be posted sometime in the near future.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
One of the prettiest areas we saw on our trip to Haines, Alaska was Chilkoot Lake and the Chilkoot River. We made several trips to this area during our stay and each time we were greeted with differing but equally beautiful conditions. Near the end of our trip we had some rainy weather and some incredible fog conditions. When we got to the lake on the afternoon of November 19th the shoreline on the far side of the lake was blanketed in fog. The air all around us was unbelievably calm and quiet. Eagles called in the distance. It was another moment of surreal beauty on a trip that was filled endlessly amazing sights!
Monday, November 24, 2014
My first time photographing a glacier! Seeing Mendenhall Glacier was an awesome experience. Even though the glacier has receded a lot in recent years, it is still incredible to see especially if you've never seen one up close before. The colors, patterns and textures in the ice are beautiful. It certainly whets my appetite to see more glaciers! This was the first of several glaciers that we saw on our trip, although this is the only one we were able to get relatively close to. The rest were seen either from the Alaska State Ferry or from across Chilkat Inlet on our hike in Chilkat State Park, Haines.
I've been so focused on eagles with my Alaska posts that I sort of forgot about all these other cool images I have to share with you as well! Such as this photo of Nugget Falls in Juneau. This waterfall is right near Mendenhall Glacier and is AMAZING! It makes for a great shot with a telephoto lens as well as up close and personal with a wide angle lens. I made this photo with my Tamron 150-600mm lens from near the visitor center, about a half mile away from the waterfall. We had seen this mountain biker come around the bend, riding along the shoreline of the lake below the glacier. I waited, hoping he would ride in front of the waterfall and sure enough, he did! It made for a great shot as well giving a good sense of scale to the size of the waterfall. The waterfall is quite tall (according to sources online it drops 377 feet in two tiers of 99 feet and 278 feet); this photograph shows less than half of its total height.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
I've decided to share another action sequence of the eagles with you today! This is what happens when one eagle is snacking on a dead salmon and another eagle comes in and tries to take it. Sometimes the intruding eagle is successful and makes off with what remains of the fish. Other times the intruding eagle goes away empty handed, as seen here. It looks like the eagle is going to get away with the fish in this instance, but for some reason he lets go and flies off without it. Sorry I didn't get the full sequence of him flying away empty handed. My finger must have let up on the shutter because I got this series of 3 images of him flying in to try and take it, and the 4th image shows him flying away already halfway out of the frame. Whether the attempted robberies are successful or not, one thing is for certain: the interactions are always a lot of fun to watch! I love how the eagle in the background is just sort of standing there, innocently watching the interaction between the two eagles in the foreground :-)
Friday, November 21, 2014
Here is another image of an eagle and its surrounding environment taken along the Chilkoot River in Haines, Alaska. This valley was one of the unexpected highlights of our trip. We knew it would be beautiful, but we had no idea just how beautiful it was going to be! We ended up going back to this valley on two more occasions and each time we found things that were were well worth the trip, like this eagle perched in the fog. Alaska has surprises around every corner :-)
As much as I enjoy photographing the action of eagles interacting with each other (and don't worry, there are more of those images to come!), I also enjoy looking for scenes of single eagles within their surrounding environment. The other day we came across one such environmental scene, where this solitary eagle was perched in a spruce tree and the tree was absolutely LOADED with cones! I thought it made for a fascinating image.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
The past week in Alaska has provided for countless opportunities for creative images of bald eagles. This photo was taken yesterday morning as the sun was starting to poke through the thick fog that was dominating the valley. The soft, warm sunlight filtering through the fog made for some nice accent lighting on the eagle. This is one of my favorites eagle images so far from this trip :-)
Here's a little taste of the stunning scenery that we've been enjoying for the past week. Taken on our way to watch the eagles for the day along the Chilkat River just outside of Haines, Alaska. The Haines Highway offers countless stunning views of the river and the mountains as you make your way out to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. On the morning this photo was made we stopped at a location where the mountains were reflecting beautifully in the river. The clouds and colors that morning were superb. It's going to be hard to leave all this beautiful mountain scenery when we head back home!
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
This is such an amazing place! I think I've probably already said that before, but I can't help saying it again! The scenery here in Haines, Alaska is breathtaking with beautiful braided rivers, snow-capped mountains and fjords filled with water that is some of the prettiest blue color I've ever seen. And, this time of year, the gathering of eagles makes a visit to the area extra-special. We've been photographing the eagles and scenery for almost a week now and each day we look forward to going out and seeing all the wonderful sights even more than the day before. This photo was made a couple of days ago in the afternoon within the bald eagle preserve. This mature eagle flew right by us just above eye-level and I loved the way the sunlight was hitting the bird as it flew by. We've been getting so many great photos each day its hard to choose just one or two to share with you at a time :-)
Here is another image from the night of northern lights we experienced early during our stay in Haines, Alaska. This was my first experience photographing the aurora in Alaska and I've got to say it was pretty amazing! The Haines boat harbor made for a nice foreground while shooting the aurora-filled sky. About 3/4 of the way through the event the aurora took on this shape that I thought resembled the silhouette of an eagle with its wings outstretched. I thought it made for an interesting sign, considering that we are here primarily to see and photograph eagles :-)
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The other morning we drove up to Chilkoot Lake outside of Haines just to check it out. We never expected to have another very cool eagle encounter up there! The Chilkoot River runs from Chilkoot Lake down to the Lynn Canal and where the river runs out of the lake there were several eagles on the bank of the river. We saw two immature eagles and a few adults, all of which were eating a fish that had been drug out of the water. The eagle shown in these photos was perched on a frost-covered tree branch which made for a really nice photo. I waited patiently with my lens focused on this eagle, as I knew eventually he would swoop down for his turn at the fish. Eventually he did leave his perch, but instead of going down to the fish he flew across the river and landed in another tree. I caught him just as he was flaring his wings for a landing. It sure was another cool eagle experience, and a great start to another wonderful day in Alaska!
Monday, November 17, 2014
I can't believe the luck we've had so far on our Alaska trip! We've had this trip planned since January and in the last month leading up to the trip I've been checking the forecast every few days for Haines and it showed nothing but RAIN. But, since our arrival in Juneau, the weather has turned and it's been sunny! Even the locals have commented on how nice it's been since we got here. They were getting quite sick of the rain and talking about how awful it's been, rain every day for as long as they can remember. So, we feel pretty blessed to have had clear skies so far on our trip!
As an added bonus, our second night in Haines gave us some beautiful northern lights! The locals were talking about the chance of lights, so I went out just after midnight to have a look. Sure enough, the lights were visible but difficult to see from the parking lot of our motel. We didn't have a rental car yet, but thankfully the harbor and shoreline were not far from our motel. So, I went for a walk and within 10 minutes was on the shoreline of Portage Cove overlooking Lynn Canal and the mountains beyond. The lights put on a very good show for a couple of hours, dancing and waving throughout the sky. The rising quarter moon added another nice element to the scene. What an amazing trip so far, I can't wait to see what surprises the remainder of our time here will bring!
Well, after a few days of travel (with some unexpected flight complications between Chicago/Juneau and an absolutely BEAUTIFUL ferry ride up the Lynn Canal) we arrived safely in Haines, Alaska! We have been in Haines for the past 3 days and we've been seeing plenty of what we came here to see: Bald Eagles! Haines is home to the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, an area of almost 50,000 acres that protects bald eagle habitat along the Chilkat, Klehini and Tsirku rivers.
Each year in the fall several thousand eagles congregate in this area to feed on the late run of Chum Salmon that come up the river to spawn and die. It's one of the best places in the world for viewing and photographing bald eagles. We've had a blast so far watching the birds. Often times, as shown in this photo, the birds will clash over a piece of fish. What we've noticed is that one eagle will be on the shoreline of the river ripping apart a piece of fish when another eagle will fly in and try to knock that eagle away from the fish. These are the most exciting moments to photograph, as often times the eagle that was on the fish will jump up and flip upside down in an attempt to fend off the incoming eagle. We've seen this happen countless times each day, so far this has been my best capture of the clash between two eagles.
I can't believe how lucky we are to be here! It's an amazing place, with incredible wildlife and spectacular scenery! Look for some images of the scenery to be posted soon :-)