Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Illgen Falls, Baptism River

Yesterday I made my first images of Illgen Falls on the Baptism River.  A beautiful waterfall but a difficult one to photograph.  There is an easy, nice path that brings you to the top edge of the falls but no easy route (that I could find) that allows you to photograph the falls from the bottom.  I did find a route down but it was very muddy, slippery and steep.  Also, once at the bottom, it was difficult to compose a shot with my tripod because there are basically only a couple of places to stand and you are right on the edge of the rocks.  One could easily fall into the river here if you're not careful!  Anyway, it's a beautiful waterfall with a nice plunge pool at the bottom and I loved this cedar framing the shot on the right.  

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Power of Partridge Falls

Last night I visited Partridge Falls for the first time this year.  I've often said that Partridge Falls is my favorite of all waterfalls and I would say that still holds true.  There is just something about it that amazes me more than any other waterfall.  For one thing, I love the fact that you can stand right at the base of it and literally get drenched from the spray.  And that is exactly what happened in the making of this shot.  

The mosquitoes are pretty awful right now so before walking down to the falls I coated myself with a liberal dose of bug spray.  This worked great for the hike down to the falls as the mosquitoes barely landed on me.  In order to make this shot I had to stand directly in the path of the mist that was shooting out from the base of the falls.  I only stood in that spot for about half a minute but in that time I got totally soaked which, of course, washed off most of the bug spray!  The walk back to the truck was an ordeal as I felt like I was getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes.  Just one of the many things I put myself through in order to bring you these images :-)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Heron with fish at Crex Meadows

Here is another fun bird shot that I got from my afternoon at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Grantsburg, Wisconsin.  I was actually heading out of the refuge starting on my way home when I rounded a corner and saw this heron standing completely still in the water.  He looked poised and ready to stab a fish so I quickly pulled over and got the camera ready.  He was standing completely motionless, leaning forward and starting down into the water.  He held this position for about a minute, then with lightning-fast reflexes he jabbed his beak into the water and came up with a fish.  He quickly walked over to a nearby piece of dry land and put the fish down on the ground.  He then proceeded to jab it 3 or 4 times with his beak, presumably to kill it.  Once the fish was no longer moving, he picked it up and swallowed it.  Sure was interesting to watch :-)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sandhill Crane colt with parent at Crex Meadows

As much as I enjoyed watching and photographing the various families of swans at Crex Meadows, the highlight of my day was seeing a pair of Sandhill Cranes with a young colt.  I have been traveling to Nebraska every spring for the past 7 years to photograph the cranes which is an amazing spectacle but you don't see the colts there since they aren't nesting yet.  I wasn't sure if I would ever see one in person so I was absolutely thrilled to see this family during my visit to Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Grantsburg, Wisconsin!  At first when I came across these cranes all I could see were the adults.  I had been watching them a few moments when all of a sudden the head of the little colt popped up from the grass!  The young crane was so small that he only showed up every now and then when he got into a patch of grass that was shorter than him.  I only saw the colt for less than a minute but it was long enough to get one good shot.  After that he was back in the tall grass and I never saw him again.  I feel extremely fortunate not only to have seen the colt but also to have walked away with this shot!  

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Video: Swan Families at Crex Meadows

Remember the swan photos that I posted yesterday?  I also shot some video of them and thought I would share that with you today. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Swan Family

Yesterday I had to make a trip to the twin cities to pick up some prints that I've had on display at the DNR offices in St. Paul for the last 3 months.  I really didn't have anything to do for the day other than pick up the prints, so I had some flexibility with my time.  On the way down I noticed the sign for the exit to Grantsburg, Wisconsin and thought to myself "Hmmmmm.... I could make a little side trip to Crex Meadows on the way home!"  Once that thought was in my head, I couldn't resist.  I went to St. Paul, picked up my prints and turned around to head back north.  When I again got to the sign for Grantsburg, I turned east.  

I arrived at Crex Meadows about 1:00 in the afternoon and spent the next 4 hours there.  It ended up being a great way to spend my afternoon as I had several nice wildlife encounters and came away with a lot of good photographs of those encounters.  The first highlight for me was seeing all the families of Swans.  I've been to Crex Meadows a few times before but never when there were baby swans around (or "cygnets" as they are called).  I saw half a dozen family units of Swans with numbers of young ranging from two to eight individuals.  Several of them were right close to the roadways of the refuge so I was able to get some really close shots.  My favorite encounter was the adult pair that had eight young cygnets.  They were 20 feet from the road and the adults were bathing when I came upon them.  They were both half-diving under water and splashing water on themselves, sometimes rolling almost completely over to do so.  There was a beaver lodge nearby and after bathing they walked up onto the side of the lodge and spent the next half-hour drying and preening themselves. During this time the little ones also climbed up onto the lodge and took a little nap.  It was great fun watching these beautiful birds and a delightful surprise to my afternoon!  

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Light Speed to the Milky Way

I can't help it, this photo makes me think of the original Star Wars movies when the Millennium Falcon makes the jump to light speed.  This photo is a 30 second exposure of the Milky Way Galaxy. The streaking star effect was created by zooming the lens during the exposure.  For the first 15 seconds I let the camera record the image at 17mm, then for the next 15 seconds I very slowly and as steadily as I could zoomed the lens from 17 to 40mm.  I think the resulting effect is pretty darn cool!  Punch it Chewie!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Moon and Fog over Devilfish Lake

Last weekend I experienced one heck of an awesome night of photography!  You've already seen my shots of the northern lights over Devilfish Lake and the Milky Way Galaxy over Esther Lake, shared earlier this week. Here is the first shot that I made that evening when I arrived at Devilfish Lake.  The moon and the fog over the lake were beautiful!  I hope to experience another night like this soon.  It was a night that I will never forget!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Happy Honeybees

As some of you may know, Jessica and I became beekeepers last summer.  We only have one small hive but we hope to expand in the future.  As you also may know we just experienced one of the harshest winters on record, with what seemed to be endless amounts of snowfall AND extreme cold.  The temps were below zero for many more days than I care to remember!  Cook County has quite a few beekeepers and as much as 65% of the county's honeybee population was lost due to the harsh winter.  We were extremely lucky in that our one little hive survived!

But now summer is here and with it longer, warmer days.  Our bees have been loving the sunny days lately and really taking advantage of the dandelions that sprout up in the yard this time of year.  I have purposely been putting off mowing a large patch of dandelions so the bees can take advantage of them.  And let me tell you, they sure do love them!  Yesterday our dandelion patch was FILLED with honeybees!  For quite a while I laid on the ground in the middle of the dandelion patch with my telephoto lens, taking pictures of the bees.  It was quite a challenge, since they are quite small and don't seem to stay on any one flower for more than a few seconds.  Still, I came away with a few shots that I really like.  It sure was fun to lay on the ground surrounded by flowers and bees.  They were landing on flowers all around me, and sometimes landing on me too!  They had absolutely no interest in me, however, so I wasn't worried about getting stung.  They were too busy collecting pollen from the dandelions. These sure are fascinating little creatures and I love seeing them so busy right in our own yard.  We are happy to be doing our part to keep the honeybee population going!    

Monday, June 9, 2014

The sight of the stars makes me dream

Certain things always inspire a sense of awe and wonder, and the Milky Way Galaxy is one of them.  While out photographing the northern lights this past weekend I also got some nice shots of the Milky Way.  Around 2:00 AM the northern light activity was subsiding so I turned my lens to the south to photograph the stars.  The view was astounding.  I couldn't help walking out into the frame to make this self-portrait.  I think adding the human element into the scene helps convey that sense of wonder and amazement of the night sky.  If you don't take time to appreciate the night sky and all its wonders, I urge you to do so.  You won't regret it :-)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Moonset and Northern Lights over Esther Lake

2:00 AM last night on Esther Lake in Grand Portage State Forest.  I had been photographing the aurora over Devilfish Lake for the previous hour and figured I'd head over to Esther Lake and see if I could find any good shots there.  I had never been to Esther Lake during aurora activity and wasn't sure if it would work out.  As it turns out, it was quite nice!  I arrived just as the moon was setting which made for a really beautiful scene with the moon on the left and the aurora on the right.  The entire show was going on directly over the small island that is near the campsites.  It sure was a beautiful sight!

June Aurora over Devilfish Lake

The northern lights were out last night for the first time in a while.  It sure was good to see them again as it seems like its been forever since the last good show.  Last night's lights weren't the best I've seen but they were pretty darn good!  This photo was made at 1:30 AM on Devilfish Lake in Cook County, MN.  Devilfish Lake is one of the best spots I've found for photographing the aurora over calm water. It's also one of the best spots for mosquitoes.  I was wearing my rain jacket with the hood cinched tight over my head in an attempt to keep the mosquitoes from harassing me too badly.  I was also wearing gloves, since the temperature was 36 degrees.  Still, every now and then a mosquito would find its way inside my hood and buzz louder than you ever thought possible from such a small insect.  The bugs were a pain in the butt last night, but the amazingly beautiful skies were worth the frustration of the insects.  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

VIDEO: Fog bank rolling over Mt. Josephine

Fog bank rolling over Mt. Josephine

The fog on Lake Superior yesterday was incredible!  It was one of those rare days where there was a ton of fog combined with some fairly strong breezes.  The fog was rolling over the top of Mt. Josephine for several hours during the middle of the day.  Keep in mind that the summit of Mt. Josephine is 700 feet above the surface of Lake Superior and the fog was rolling over it like it was nothing more than a mere speed bump!  It was fascinating to witness.   

Monday, June 2, 2014

Forest View of the Milky Way

I've decided to start off the month of June with another shot of the Milky Way Galaxy.  What can I say, I've been on a Milky Way "kick" lately!  As you probably know, the night sky is one of my favorite photographic subjects so naturally you should expect frequent shots of the night sky from me :-)  This one was captured in the thick forest of Hat Point in Grand Portage, MN.  For years this particular spot was so heavily forested you could barely see the night sky.  In the past few years, however, several of the trees here have been blown down by wind storms.  The blow-down has opened up a very nice view of the night sky!  I really liked the way the trees lined up for this shot.  I made this image before the leaves came out and arguably this shot would not work as well now that the leaves are out.  We have had a lot of clouds and rain over the past couple of days with at least two more days before the weather clears (according to the forecast, anyway).  I'm looking forward to some clear skies again so I can get out and capture more images like this one!