Monday, March 31, 2014

Blue Hour Contemplation

I had been out photographing sunset over some ice ridges on Lake Superior the other day and was having so much fun I wasn't paying attention to how dark it was getting.  I figured I should probably start back unless I wanted to be fumbling my way across the snow and ice in the dark!  So, I strapped my snowshoes back on and began the hike back to the truck.  I had only gone a few hundred feet when I came around the corner of Red Rock Point and saw this scene laid out before me.  I loved the way the clouds seemed to "fan out" from the tops of the trees.  I decided this was a perfect spot to try a self-portrait.  So, I set my tripod up again, composed the shot, set the timer and walked out into the scene and posed for the camera.  I ended up with what may just be my favorite shot of the "blue hour" (the hour after the sun goes down) that I've ever made.  This image conveys a sense of cold and the deep, dark heart of winter but believe it or not it was made on March 30th and the temperature was almost 40 degrees!

Ice Mountain

This is what I photographed last night as the sun was going down.  An 8 to 10 foot high "Ice Mountain" that is just off the tip of Red Rock Point in Grand Portage.  After yesterday's warm temperatures the ice had melted a little and no longer had that "fresh" look that it had the day before.  Even though this mountain of ice has been there for several weeks, the daytime highs haven't been warm enough to melt the ice very much.  At least, not until yesterday.  Even though the ice has lost its fresh, sharp look it is still beautiful and worth photographing.  I was hoping for more color in the sky last night but lately it seems every time I venture out to photograph the sunrise or sunset there is hardly any color in the sky.  I end up coming home with lots of "blue" images.  Which is okay, but I sure hope that one of these days I get some more color to spice things up a bit!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunrise - Red Rock Ice Ridge

I wonder how long our ice will last this year?  It certainly seems like it's not in a hurry to go anywhere.  This one was taken yesterday in Grand Portage and is the top of an ice ridge that is roughly 8 feet high.  I was hoping for a better grouping of clouds in the sky, but this was pretty darn nice too.  I waited until the sun was just starting to peek out from behind the cloud bank so I could get a star-burst effect.  Before we know it we'll be paddling and biking again, but for now I sure am enjoying the last of the Lake Superior ice season!

Here's a "bonus" image for today.  After making the "Sunrise - Red Rock Ice Ridge" photo, I turned the camera around and made a self-portrait of myself standing on top of the same ice ridge.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sandhill Squadron

I was able to get a few shots that I really like this year of the Sandhill Cranes in flight. This one is probably my favorite, which I call "Sandhill Squadron" because it reminds me of a squadron of fighter planes :-)

I went snowshoeing on Lake Superior this morning and had some fun making self-portrait images.  I haven't looked through everything that I shot yet, but so far this one is my favorite.  Hard to believe there are only a few days of March left!  You'd never know it by looking at this shot.  It looks more like January or February! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Rowe Sanctuary Sunset over the Platte River

I made this photo from inside one of the overnight photography blinds at the Rowe Sanctuary.  To celebrate the 1st anniversary of our wedding Jessica and I reserved a night in the blind for March 20th.  These blinds are fantastic, they get you right up close to the birds so you can witness firsthand one of nature's greatest spectacles.  The photo was made just as the bird activity was starting to intensify.  The "V" of cranes that you can see in the sky was one of the first groups of birds to fly over.  The show that followed was a mind-blowing experience of sight and sound.  At one point almost every inch of the sky  was filled with circling cranes as they prepared to land on the river.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Landing gear down!

A shot of some Sandhill Cranes dropping from the sky, preparing for a landing in a farm field.  This is one of the goofiest and cutest things to see a Sandhill Crane do.  As they lose altitude preparing for a landing they flare their wings, lift their heads and drop their legs.  The shape their bodies make against the sky as they do this always makes me smile.  It's one of the many reasons why I love Sandhill Cranes :-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Joyful Cranes

Jessica and I just returned from our trip commemorating the one-year anniversary of our wedding!  It was an adventure-filled week and we had loads of fun!  We sought out Sandhill Cranes on the Platte River in Nebraska, Snow Geese in northwest Missouri and Bald Eagles along the Mississippi River in Iowa and Nebraska.  I think the highlight of the trip was spending the night in a photography blind at Rowe Sanctuary watching the Sandhill Cranes.  We witnessed a jaw-dropping sunset over the Platte River that evening and fell asleep to the sounds of the cranes chattering on the river.  The next day we drove around the farm fields in search of more cranes and found them around almost every bend in the road.  There was one particular field where the cranes were doing a lot of dancing and we managed to capture some nice images of the action.  I will be sharing some more images from our trip in the days ahead :-)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Crazy sunset on the Pigeon River

I am sharing one more summer image, then I will be back in the present.  Today, as a thick blanket of white falls from the sky, I am drawn once again to thoughts of summer.  I do love the snow but with the 12+ inches of new accumulation they are talking about by tomorrow night, I really just don't want to deal with it this time.  Mostly because right now my thoughts are consumed by things NOT related to snow.  Primarily, spring bird migrations!  It's almost time for our annual trip to Nebraska to photograph the sandhill cranes and this year we are thinking of adding on some eagle viewing along the Mississippi River, since I've heard that the eagle numbers are very good along the river in Iowa right now.  Who knows, maybe we'll even get extra lucky and get the chance to see a large flock of snow geese as well during our adventure!  For now, though, as I sit and stare at the big flakes of snow falling heavily from the sky, all I can think about is sitting in the seat of my kayak on a warm summer evening enjoying a view similar to the one shown here.  This is easily one of the craziest sunsets I've ever seen from the seat of my kayak!  Enjoy :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Little Brick Island Sunset

This is what I am thinking about today.  Beautiful summer sunsets from a picturesque shoreline in the Susie Islands of Grand Portage, MN.  This photo was made in July 2010 from the north side of Little Brick Island which is about a 5 mile boat ride from my house.  One of the best sunsets from that summer. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Summer Moonlight on High Falls

Okay, I give in and will admit that there is a part of me that is longing for summer.  I've been doing a lot of sorting through older images over the past few weeks and many of them have been from the summer season.  Seeing all of these warm weather images makes a part of me wish all the snow and cold was gone.  Such as this photo, taken in the middle of the night at Grand Portage State Park in July 2010.  Seeing this image brought back a flood of summer memories, not the least of which was remembering what it was like to be out photographing in the middle of the night without freezing!  I like the cold weather but I like the warm weather too.  Hopefully before too long we will once again have nights warm enough to sit out and gaze at the stars for hours on end without having to put more than one layer of clothing on.  So, for now, enjoy the last of what winter has to offer us and view this image as a reminder of warmer days to come! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Locked In

At first glance this might look like a bunch of plate ice floating in the water in the foreground of this photo.  In reality, the plate ice is actually completely frozen in place by the surrounding ice.  I think this ice was probably thick enough to walk on, but I chose to play it safe and photograph it from the more secure shoreline ice that builds up on the beach.  As I photographed this scene the ice out on the lake was groaning and heaving, so it was probably wise to stay where I did!  This was photographed last night at sunset. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tracks on the ice

A lot of "blue" pictures lately!  Our sunsets haven't been particularly colorful lately, which means most of the pictures I've been taking have been dominantly blue.  Blue sky and blue ice makes for a blue photo :-)  Oh well, I still love getting out and photographing the ice, no matter what the sky is like.  Here is a shot from the other night while I was walking along the shoreline checking out the piles of plate ice not far from my home.  There were animal tracks like this running all around along the shoreline.  I'm not really sure what animal made the tracks.  They are too small to be wolf tracks (possibly coyote?) and too big, I think, to be fox tracks.  It could have been a dog, I suppose, since I did see some snowshoe tracks made my someone else that day and maybe they had a dog along with them.  The pattern also has me confused.  You don't normally see tracks like this where each paw print is side by side.  They are usually staggered a bit.  I'm far from being an expert on animal tracks, so maybe someone else can shed a little more light on this mystery :-)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reaching for the sky

Here is a shot from dusk last night on the shores of Lake Superior in Grand Portage.  One of my favorite sections of shoreline to photograph is absolutely loaded with plate ice right now.  Last night I walked along this section of shoreline looking for interesting compositions in the ice.  What you see here is my favorite shot of the evening.  Unlike most of my photos, this was taken without the use of a tripod.  I simply couldn't set up my tripod to get the angle that I wanted.  The tall plate of ice that you see on the left was actually only about two feet high, so I had to get really low and really close to it in order to portray it the way you see here.  I was basically laying on the ground on my stomach to make this photograph.  It's supposed to be 45 degrees tomorrow, our warmest day of the year thus far so I would imagine that will start to melt some of this ice. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Infinite Ice

WOW… this is the scene right now along the Lake Superior shoreline in Grand Portage.  Ice as far as the eye can see!  Most of the ice is pretty smooth and flat but in this particular area ice plates have been pushed up into piles and ridges for quite a distance out from shore.  This is my favorite time of year on Lake Superior.  March typically has the best ice for photography and this year is no exception!  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ice Mountains at Stoney Point

I just got home from a two-night visit to see my wife Jessica over in Washburn, Wisconsin.  She works for the National Park Service and has been over there helping out Apostle Islands National Lakeshore with the high visitor traffic they've been receiving due to the publicity surrounding the sea caves.  She had one day off and we spent that day skiing some of the local trails around Washburn.  It was a perfect day for skiing and we had a blast!  Just before I headed for home yesterday morning, I checked my email and had a message from my friend Paul.  He told me I should stop and check out Stoney Point between Duluth and Two Harbors.  He was told that there were massive piles of ice that had just formed at Stoney Point.  So, I hit the road with eager anticipation of checking out the point on my way home. 

There is a road that goes along the length of Stoney Point, accessed from the east and the west.  Since I was approaching from the west, that's the entrance I took.  As I first drove along the road, I didn't see anything extraordinary in terms of ice.  There was surface ice out on the lake as far as the eye could see, but not really any ice piles bigger than the "normal" ones that you see.  So, I was a little disappointed... then, as I rounded the corner of the point, I could see these massive piles of blue through the small patch of woods separating the road from the lakeshore.  My jaw dropped.  I couldn't believe that those were ice piles that I was seeing!  

I pulled over and found a spot that didn't look too difficult for walking down to the shore.  Even so, I still had to break through more than knee-deep snow to get down to the lake.  Once I got there, I stared UP at these huge, intensely blue piles of ice.  The largest piles were at least 3 feet or more above my head, and I'm fairly tall at just over 6 feet in height.  The plates of ice where thick, too.  Some of them were 5 to 6 inches thick, which is a lot more substantial than the more common 2 to 3 inch thick plates that we normally see.  I spent the next hour walking along these giant piles of ice, taking picture after picture as I went.  These have been the most impressive ice piles I've seen so far this winter.  Hopefully there is more of this in store for us in the coming weeks!

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 1st ice on the Split Rock Lighthouse shoreline

This past weekend I was honored to be a presenter at a Lake Superior Photography Symposium put on by John Gregor of Coldsnap Photography and Split Rock Lighthouse.  Throughout the afternoon 3 other photographers in addition to myself presented their work to a group gathered in the auditorium at Split Rock Lighthouse.  It was a wonderful afternoon of sharing images, stories and techniques.  After the presentations we all went down to the shoreline just west of the lighthouse to photograph sunset.  Because of the clear and very cold conditions, sunset was rather bland.  But, it was still pretty out there.  Those extremely cold, crisp days have a stark beauty of their own.  The shoreline was packed in with ice so I looked for an interesting shape in the ice to put in the foreground of my photograph.  Not long after the sun went down we all made a quick escape to our vehicles due to the cold.  I'm not sure what the temp actually got down to for a low that night, but I know it was forecast to reach almost thirty below zero.  On the drive home I saw minus 15 on my truck's thermometer, and that was before 10 PM!  I can easily believe that it reached minus 30 later that night :-)