Friday, January 31, 2014

Blue Sky Morning at the Sea Caves

Thank goodness our "weekend" falls during the week, as I cannot imagine what it would be like to visit the Apostle Islands mainland sea caves on a busy weekend, where lately an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 people trek to the caves.  On the Wednesday that we visited we figured about 250 to 350 people visited the caves and that seemed like a lot.  It seemed like at least once a minute one or two people would walk past us when we were stopped to take photos.  In this picture you can see several people walking down the shoreline at the base of the cliffs.  It was pretty much impossible to get a photo of this scene WITHOUT any people in it.  In this case I liked having the people in the photo for scale and perspective, but it also would have been nice to get some more shots without people in them.  On the other hand, it was nice to see so many people getting out and enjoying the wonders of winter!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sea Cave Ice - Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Yesterday Jessica and I hiked the Lake Superior shoreline ice to visit the mainland sea caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.  What an experience it was!  This was the first time visiting the caves for both of us.  It's not something you can do every year.  In fact it's been about 5 years since the last time the caves were safely accessible via the lake ice.  Some years the ice doesn't get thick enough or stable enough to make the trek to the caves.  You get there by taking an easy 1 mile hike east along the shoreline from the Meyers Beach access within the park.  Well, it was easy for us since it hasn't snowed in a while and thousands of people have visited the caves over the previous week or two, so the the snow was pretty hard-packed from all the foot traffic.  If you go right after a snow storm the hike would be more difficult.  

After hiking about 1 mile along the shoreline you reach the cliffs and not long after that you start to see the caves.  Both the cliffs and the caves are fascinating.  Water seeps out of the rock face everywhere and creates beautiful hanging icicles.  It was a mind-blowing experience to see all these ice formations.  Very different from the north shore and the types of ice that I am used to seeing.  My favorite thing to do was to go inside the caves and photograph them from inside, looking out towards the lake.  Often I would wait for a person to walk by to add some depth and scale to the scene.  The sea caves and the ice were an incredible experience, you should go and check them out while you can.  Who knows, it might be another 5 years before they are accessible again!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Skiing the Sugar Bush

Yesterday was a cold, blustery day with a high of barely zero degrees and 20 to 25 MPH winds.  Being that it was the only chance we had this week to go together, Jessica and I went skiing!  We skied the Sugar Bush/Section 11 loop of the Grand Portage trail system.  When I was a kid Grand Portage had about 160K of groomed cross-country ski trails.  Most of these trails are still groomed today but are not tracked for skiing.  They are groomed flat for snowmobiling.  They still make for a fun cross-country ski, though!  Grand Portage has some of the prettiest forest trails in all of Minnesota and we were reminded of that yesterday during our 8-mile ski.  The Sugar Bush portion of the trail winds through a beautiful Maple forest and the second half of the Section 11 portion goes through some very nice pine and spruce sections before returning to the Maples.  The wind was brutal yesterday but we were dressed for the conditions and had a great time despite the cold! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lake Superior Snowshoe Trail

Here is a shot from the other morning where I used my snowshoes to access an area of the shoreline that had some pretty deep snow.  I could have walked there without snowshoes, but their use made the outing much easier.  Once I arrived at the shoreline, I put on my ice cleats to make walking on the ice easier.  It was a beautiful morning on the shores of the greatest of all the great lakes!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Icicle Illusions

The hunt for unique and interesting abstract ice formations is, for me, never ending.  Ice is by far my most favorite photographic subject in the winter season.  Here are some interesting formations that I found the other day while out photographing the sunrise.  There was a large boulder along the shoreline, about 20 feet out from shore, that was covered in ice and on one side had a large overhang.  Underneath this overhang were all these fascinating icicles.  The morning light made for some really interesting reflections on the surface of the water.  This has already been a great winter for ice photography, and we still have at least two months of winter still remaining!  I can't wait to see what the rest of the season brings :-)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

January Ice at Coyote Point

Here is one from yesterday's morning on the Lake Superior shoreline in Grand Portage, MN.  I had a hard time deciding where I wanted to go to photograph the sunrise and as a result I almost missed it.  ALMOST, that is!  So, I quickly scouted the shoreline for a pleasing composition and found this curving section of ice that I knew would make a nice anchor for a vertical shot.    

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Paradise Beach Ice Detail

One of my favorite things to do in the winter is wander along the Lake Superior shoreline while staring down at the ground.  The reason for this is the infinite variety of patterns that can be found in the ice formations along the shore.  Case in point, this fascinating patchwork of ice that I found recently while walking along Paradise Beach just south of Judge C.R. Magney State Park.  I just love the lines, circles and bubbles that are visible in this ice.  My mind gets lost in it, fascinated by the intricate detail.  I also love how the red color of the beach rocks shows through the ice.  Do yourself a favor… bundle up, go for a walk and look down… you never know what you'll find!  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Zen Aspen

Here is an interesting tree that I found while out looking for things to photograph earlier this week.  I really liked the shape of this tree against the sky and the first thing I thought of was that it looked somewhat meditative.  I couldn't resist calling it "Zen Aspen".

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Frozen Paradise

Sunset a couple of night's ago on Paradise Beach near Hovland, MN.  I had spent the afternoon driving around looking for interesting things to photograph and this is where I ended up for sunset.  The sunset itself wasn't anything to write home about but it was a peaceful evening on the shoreline which is always appreciated, especially in the winter.  The slabs of ice that were prevalent on the beach on this day were interesting, as rocks from the beach were frozen within the ice thanks to a lot of rough days this winter. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Horseshoe Bay Ice Arch

Another shot from this morning.  This ice arch fascinated me.  I was crawling all around it exploring it from every angle.  My favorite angle ended up being this one, which was taken while laying on my back on the shoreline rocks.  I loved seeing the sky above the arch.  The arch looks very delicate from this angle but in fact it was quite solid.  I tested its integrity before crawling underneath it and only crawled under it long enough to allow me to make this photo.  This was taken as the sun was coming up to my left.  Normally in this kind of light I like to use my tripod but since I was laying on my back and didn't want to linger under the arch, I shot this without the aid of the tripod.  

Ice Cave Sunrise, Horseshoe Bay

It sure felt good this morning to get out and take some sunrise pictures, the first time I've gotten out with the camera since 8 days ago!  I ended up getting pretty sick from spending so much time out in the VERY cold weather during the dog race.  The doctor told me that my lungs might have actually gotten frostbite!  At any rate, I had a really bad wheezing cough for over a week but I'm feeling better now so this morning I had to get out and take some pictures.  I went to Horseshoe Bay in Hovland, one of my favorite locations for Lake Superior sunrise photos.  I found some nice ice caves and arches down there and had a great time photographing them.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Frosty Forest

A few days before the recent sled dog race, Jessica and I took a day to drive up the Gunflint Trail and scout the different road crossings to see which areas would yield the best photos.  Sometime before our scouting trip there must have been fog along the trail, as many of the trees were covered in frost.  It made for quite the winter wonderland on our scouting trip.  This photo was taken near Iron Lake, in an area that was burned by a forest fire not long ago.  The distant landscape really caught my eye and made for a nice "telephoto" shot.  This photo was taken with a 300mm lens in order to "compress" the view of the surrounding hills and the frost-covered, fire-scarred forest. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Frozen Waves of Ice

Winter mornings on Lake Superior are the best!  Even when those mornings are nothing but bitter, below zero cold with a strong wind out of the north.  The cold, harsh climate makes for scenes that I absolutely love photographing.  In this scene you can see where the waves from the lake are throwing rocks up onto the ice and the rocks end up freezing within the continuously forming layers of ice.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Impressionist Sky

Okay, pulling another file from the recent archives here.  This one was taken on December 30, 2013 as I was leaving work.  I was walking out to my truck to head home and this is what the sky looked like over the parking lot.  I had just that day received the lens that I had rented from lens and was eager to take pictures with it, so that is what I used on this photo.  The lens is Canon's EF 300mm f2.8 L IS II lens, and in this case was used in conjunction with Canon's 2x teleconverter, making the effective focal length on my full-frame camera 600mm.  I can honestly say I don't think I've ever taken a full-on telephoto shot of clouds before.  I have shot the sky before using my 100-400 zoom lens, but usually at the wide end of the zoom range.  These clouds were pretty high, though, and the 300mm + 2X teleconverter framed perfectly the portion of the sky that I wanted to photograph.  To me this is a wonderful abstract image.  The more I stare at it the more I am intrigued by it and the more I see within it.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about it as well!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Brittle Icicles at Superior's Edge

I am feeling under the weather this week so I'm not getting any new shots to share.  I do have lots of stuff to review from the past few weeks, though, so I think I'll still find an image or two to post.  Such as this one, captured on a beautiful sunny morning on the Lake Superior shoreline.  As you probably already know, the ice formations have already been really good this year.  Usually we don't get a lot of fascinating ice until later in the winter but this year we've had it in abundance.  This little ice cave was just barely big enough to sit in and take a picture looking out the other side.  It's really more of an ice "arch", but the arch part was almost completely frozen in.  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 Gichigami Express Sled Dog Race

Well, the 2nd running of the Gichigami Express Sled Dog Race is now complete.  The Express is a 3-day stage race, where the mushers and dog teams run a set course each day and then rest until the next day's stage.  Last year I only photographed the start of stage one and I had so much fun doing that I wished I had taken the time to photograph more of the race.  Well, this year I did just that!  I took two days off of work and Jessica and I followed along with the race and photographed it at various points.  Jessica also volunteered with dog handling and time keeping.  

We spent two long days working the race and had a blast doing so, despite the extreme cold temperatures (day one of the race was somewhat mild, but it was minus 24 degrees at the stage two start and minus 32 degrees at the stage three start!).  The cold took it's toll on us, as we have both been quite sick since the race ended, but we both feel it was worth it because we had so much fun and came away with some wonderful pictures of the race!  The photo you see here shows musher Ryan Redington from Knik, Alaska cruising past a beautiful view of Iron Lake along the Gunflint Trail.  This is one of my top 3 favorite images from the weekend and I feel really epitomizes the beauty of a dog race.  

To see the full complement of my photos from the race, click here:

Friday, January 3, 2014

Smoke in the Susies

No, it's not a forest fire.  It's a winter day where the high temperature never got above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit, which means there was a LOT of steam (commonly referred to as "sea smoke") lifting off the surface of the lake.  When the air temperature is that cold it clashes with the warmth emanating from the lake and the result is steam.  It is one of the most fascinating things that occurs on the lake each year and this year I decided to try and portray its magic in video, which I will be sharing later today.  For now, enjoy this image of the Susie Islands that was taken from the Highway 61 overlook on Mt. Josephine in Grand Portage.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

First Sunset of 2014

Jessica and I spent the entire day today scouting shooting locations for the upcoming Gichigami Express Sled Dog Race this weekend.  It was a long day, especially in the bitter cold (we never saw the temp climb above minus 10 degrees), but we did find several really nice locations for photographing the dog teams.  The last stop of the day was to scout the finish line for day two of the race, which will be at Devil Track Lake.  As we neared the lake the sun was setting and there were some beautiful, wispy clouds in the sky.  I had to pull over to the side of the road and capture the scene.  As luck would have it we were driving by some nice birch trees which made for a nice foreground to the sunset. 

Frosted Francis

Happy New Year everybody!  Here is an image to celebrate this VERY cold first day of January 2014!    This photo is of Francis Island, one of the islands of the Susie Islands archipelago in Grand Portage, MN.  It was taken yesterday after the majority of the sea smoke cleared at the height of the day.  Early in the morning you could barely see the island as it was almost completely shrouded in steam.  In this picture you can see the result of that inundation of steam.  Every branch of every tree on the island is covered in frosty ice, creating a wintry wonderland that I decided to call "Frosted Francis".  Enjoy!