Friday, October 31, 2014

Morning Cranes at Crex Meadows

Good Morning and Happy Halloween!  Here is a nice autumn image to celebrate the day :-)  A group of cranes taking flight in the morning light at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Grantsburg, Wisconsin.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Good Morning from Crex Meadows!

Good morning from the Sandhill Cranes at Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Grantsburg, Wisconsin!

A couple of morning shots I got during our recent trip to Crex Meadows.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Late October Sky

The other morning I went out to try and call in some moose for photographs.  I've only tried moose calling a few times and so far have yet to call one in.  I know I was in an area where moose tend to hang out, so either there were none around when I was calling or I'm really bad at mimicking the calls of a lovesick moose :-)  Even though I didn't see any moose, I still enjoyed a beautiful morning in the forest and on this particular morning the clouds were really nice.  I really liked how the sky looked with these two large trees in the foreground, so this shot is my memory of that morning spent in the woods.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Painted Sky over Crex Meadows

Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Grantsburg, Wisconsin is a special place.  My main reason for loving it is because it provides habitat for sandhill cranes, which not only nest there over the summer but they also gather there on their way south in the fall.  Every autumn several thousand cranes congregate here and can be seen in the marshes and meadows all throughout the wildlife area.  There is also some beautiful scenery to be found.  Like the scene shown in this photo, taken just outside the rest area in the northern part of the wildlife area.  We had stopped at the rest area to use the bathroom after spending the morning watching and photographing the cranes.  When we left the rest area the sky was filled with these fascinating clouds that looked like they had been put there purposefully by a painter's brush.  You know me, I couldn't resist stopping and making a photograph :-)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Autumn in Whalan

Here is an autumn image from our short trip to southeast Minnesota earlier this week.  We rode the Root River State Trail, often referred to as the "Cadillac of trails" in Minnesota.  Indeed, the trail is very nice and passes through several quaint small towns.  Whalan is one of those towns.  The leaf colors were lovely when we passed through.  We stopped for a moment to take in the views of the colors at this small cabin right next to the trail.  I couldn't resist the scene.  The colors, the cabin and the old railroad sign in the front yard all were crying out for a photo to be made :-)

Bur Oak in the Big Woods

Earlier this week we visited Nerstrand Big Woods State Park in southeast Minnesota.  The park contains a beautiful forest and small waterfall (although the waterfall was just a trickle during our visit).  The park gets its name from the Big Woods, a large forested area covering much of central Minnesota prior to the arrival of European settlers.  We walked in to check out the waterfall but as I mentioned there wasn't much water and since we were there mid-day the light was pretty harsh.  So, we continued on the trail which traversed a hillside that was filled with some really impressive trees that still had quite a bit of fall color on them.  We walked past several Bur Oaks and Jessica pointed out how interesting the bark was on these magnificent trees.  Once she pointed out the bark I went up to one of the the trees for a closer look.  Indeed, it was fascinating.  Certainly unlike anything that we have in the extreme northeast tip of Minnesota.  I used the built-in HDR feature of my Sony RX100 camera to capture a better range of detail in this scene. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Autumn Sunset over Dutchman Lake

Yesterday after work I went for a mountain bike ride through one of the local snowmobile routes and I came across this beautiful bright yellow grass on the shoreline of Dutchman Lake.  Today as I was heading home from work the sky was setting up for what looked to be a good sunset so I decided to head back up to this spot.  I got there just in time as the sun was setting and was able to make some nice images of the scene.  The wind was stronger than I would have liked, though, and because of that I was unable to get a fast enough shutter speed to prevent the blowing grass from becoming blurry.  The movement isn't too bad, though.  I still really like this picture :-)

Sandhill Cranes at Sunrise

We just returned from another 4 day trip of adventures, this time to southeast Minnesota.  One of the highlights along the way was a visit to Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Grantsburg, Wisconsin.  For the past few year's we've made a trip to Crex to see the Sandhill Cranes as they stop over on their migration south for the winter.  Like last year, we saw a lot of cranes during our visit.  This time, though, we had a nicer morning with really dramatic light.  I was able to capture some of the cranes as they flew in front of some really colorful clouds.  After making some flight images we found a nice grouping of cranes that was very close to the road.  Among them was a young crane that hadn't yet developed the red on its head.  It also still had quite a few brown feathers which were absolutely beautiful in the warm morning light!  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A chance encounter with a Bald Eagle

While driving home from our recent trip to Itasca State Park and Big Bog State Recreation Area, we had a lucky encounter with a bald eagle.  We were driving along the highway near Togo, MN when we rounded a bend in the highway and saw a bald eagle sitting high in a pine tree on the left side of the road.  We stopped and backed up to get a better look but as often happens when you try to get a better look at an eagle, he took flight and was gone.  We quickly noticed, however, that there was another eagle perched on top of a broken birch tree.  This eagle was perfectly content with our presence, as he sat there preening for a long time as we watched him.  I kept hoping he would take off while we were there, as I was in a prime position to photograph him taking flight.  Sure enough, after what was a VERY long 5 minutes, he perked up, leaned forward then stretched his wings and took off.  I captured a series of images as he took flight and wanted to share those image with you today.  I cherish every encounter I've ever had with an eagle, and this one was no different :-)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Starlight and Moonlight in the October Maple Forest

Here is another recent image celebrating the new forest views that are open to us with the annual falling of the leaves.  This image was captured along an old logging road in Grand Portage, MN and was made on the night of the half-moon about an hour after it had risen.  The subdued moonlight made a really nice accent to the starlight, adding depth to the foreground by illuminating the forest and creating tree shadows.  I sure do love the night sky and I love making images of it, especially when I can combine the elements of earth and sky in a way such as this.  The soft light of a just risen half-moon works really well for adding just the right amount of light to the foreground without overpowering the scene or washing out the stars.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Maple Galaxy

Every year in October something amazing happens... the trees lose their leaves!  Every year this happens, and every year people lament the loss of the leaves.  I too am sad to see them go, but a part of me also looks forward to it.  For one thing, it means that winter will soon be here with all of its wonders, not the least of which is ice, one of my favorite photographic subjects!  It also means that the opportunities for photographing the night sky beneath the tree canopy are now plentiful.  With no leaves to block the view of the stars, the world beneath the trees becomes an incredible environment now bathed in starlight.  I especially love the look of maple trees against the night sky.  Their trunks almost always have an intriguing shape and make for wonderful silhouettes against the backdrop of the Milky Way Galaxy.  So, get out there and enjoy the new views of the night sky!  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Autumn Aspens

Last week as we were driving home from Itasca and Big Bog, we drove home across northern Minnesota via highways that had very little traffic.  Along the way we passed countless beautiful stands of aspen trees.  I kept wanting to stop but for a long time none of the spots looked "just right".  Finally, we rounded a bend in the highway and there was a spot that looked right.  The trees were all young and the forest was thick with them.  Only a handful of their leaves remained, but it was enough to give just the right amount of color to the scene. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Swans in October Morning Fog - Lake Itasca

As promised, here is an image of the swans swimming around in the fog on Lake Itasca the morning of October 9th, 2014.  This photo was made with my Tamron 150-600 lens at 600mm.  It's a good thing I made this image early, before the sun was completely up.  As the sun continued to rise, the fog thickened and before long the swans were no longer visible.  

Frosty Morning on Lake Itasca

It was 27 degrees the morning of October 9th, 2014 when this photo was made.  27 degrees sure feels cold this time of year!  Not like in the middle of winter, when 27 feels like a heat wave :-)  At any rate, this is along the shoreline of Lake Itasca in Itasca State Park, just a few yards away from the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  The cold morning meant that there was fog on the lake and frost on the shoreline.  Combined with the clouds that marched in from the west just as the sun was rising, it all made for a beautiful bit of photography.  To top it off, there were swans swimming around in the fog out in the middle of the lake.  Stay tuned later today for a photo of the swans!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Surreal Sunset over the Big Bog boardwalk

Our evening at Big Bog gave us one of the most incredible, hard-to-believe sunsets we've ever seen.  Just moments after the sun went down the clouds took on these unbelievably intense colors.  As I was making images I kept exclaiming to Jessica "No one is going to believe that these pictures are real!"  Indeed, it was very real, as we were standing there direct witnesses to it.  Still, I look at the pictures from that night and have a hard time believing that is what we saw.  But, the proof is in the pictures!

Big Bog State Recreation Area has constructed a wonderful, innovative boardwalk that extends for a mile across the bog.  It's not really a "boardwalk" in the traditional sense, as there are no actual boards.  The frame structure is made of aluminum, and the decking is made out of a plastic grating, which allows light to pass through so plants underneath the decking can still grow.  Steel pilings were driven into the ground until they hit more solid ground beneath the peat.  We were told that some of the pilings had to be driven down 20 feet before they reached solid ground!  This allows the bog to move without affecting the structural integrity of the boardwalk.  It really is an amazing structure, and it is obviously working as intended.  The boardwalk was installed almost ten years ago and it looks like it was just installed.  There is no evidence of damage or unevenness due to frost heaving or movement from the bog.  Kudos to the State of MN and Big Bog SRA for installing such an amazing piece of hardware so we can visit this unique and interesting area without damaging it!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Golden Tamarack

Here is another image from our evening walk at Big Bog State Recreation Area.  The lighting we had that evening was spectacular.  Everything was golden orange, accented not only by the seasonal color but also by the warm evening light.  This photo was made with my Tamron 150-600 lens at 375mm.  An aperture of f/8 gave me a shallow enough depth of field to give this scene the look I was going for.  Behind the tree was all this tall grass that was swaying in the breeze and the tips of the grasses were catching the evening light.  The narrow aperture turned those point of light into circles, which I thought really made for an eye-catching image.  I shot a video of this scene as well, and it is mesmerizing :-)

Big Bog Tamarack

Last week we visited Big Bog State Recreation Area on the northeast side of Upper Red Lake, MN.  Big Bog is the largest bog in the lower 48; park literature explains that it is roughly 500 square miles in size.  The SRA has constructed a boardwalk that extends for one mile across the bog.  A hike along the boardwalk takes you through a wonderful spruce and tamarack forest.  Near the end of the boardwalk the forest opens up into more of a grassy plain type of area.  All along the way you see a variety of mosses, labrador tea and pitcher plants.  This time of year the Tamarack trees are golden orange and will soon lose their needles for the winter.  The photo you see here was taken about half-way along the length of the boardwalk.  The tree was right next to the boardwalk.  I was laying on my side on the decking to get this low-angle perspective of the tree.  We really enjoyed our visit to Big Bog and can't wait to go back and see what it is like in the spring and/or summer. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Itasca's Big White Pine

I love big trees.  I've visited the Redwoods of California a few times, as well as the large trees along the Olympic coast of Washington.  There's just something fascinating about trees that have lived for a few hundred years or more.  Think of all the history that  has happened in the time that these trees have been alive.  

This image shows the largest white pine found in Itasca State Park.  It is one of the coolest trees I've seen in Minnesota.  It reminded me of the Redwoods out in California.  According to an interpretive sign at the site of the tree, Itasca's "Big White Pine" is 112 feet tall with a circumference of 173 inches and a crown spread of 48.75 feet.  It is 300+ years old.  I hope it lives for many years to come :-)

Dawn at the Mississippi Headwaters

From our long-weekend trip over to northwest Minnesota.  We did Thursday morning's sunrise at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park.  It was a cold morning, 27 degrees when we arrived at the headwaters.  Fog hovered over Lake Itasca in the distance.  I was hoping for some clouds in this shot, but in the end I liked that there weren't any.  I think I prefer the simplicity of this cloudless image.  It does a better job at conveying the chill of the morning.  

From the sign at the headwaters:  

"Here 1,475 feet above the ocean the mighty Mississippi begins to flow on its winding way 2,552 miles to the Gulf of Mexico"

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Autumn at Itasca

Jessica and I just returned from a long weekend of exploring some of the state parks in the northwest region of Minnesota.  We spent the first two nights at Itasca State Park in the Itasca Suites.  These are wonderful facilities that are open year-round and just a short walk away from the visitor center, the bike trail and some of the hiking trails.  We went for a morning hike, then checked out the Jacob Brower visitor center which has a lot of really well-done interpretive displays.  After that we got on our bikes and spent a few hours riding the paved bike trail and wilderness drive road.  After 17 miles of riding we had circumnavigated the park, rolling through a variety of beautifully diverse forest. 

Itasca is known for its pine trees, but it also has a nice mix of oak, birch and aspen.  And, the trails were awesome!  Really a nice mix of hills, and the downhill sections were a blast!  We really had a lot of fun at the park and can't wait to go back!  Here are a couple of shots from our full day of adventure at Itasca.  The first was taken on our morning hike along the shores of Lake Itasca via the Brower Trail.  The second was at sunset, taken from the picnic area near the Itasca Sports shop.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

October Rain Drops

Away from Lake Superior in Grand Portage, most of the leaves have fallen to the ground.  While a lot of people would argue that things are now quickly becoming "ugly", I would argue that there is still plenty of beauty to be found, you just have to look a little harder to see it.  Such as this leaf, found on the forest floor with some rain drops still clinging to it. There are countless treasures such as this to be found on the forest floor.  You just need to get out there and look :-)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Autumn in the Pigeon River Valley

From a hike yesterday along the Middle Falls Trail in Grand Portage State Park.  The Middle Falls Trail is a wonderful hike with a nice variety of terrain, both lowlands and higher elevations along the ridge that you cross to get to the falls.  This photo was made from the high point on the trail, on top of the ridge overlooking the Pigeon River Valley.  You can see a short stretch of the river in this photo, down at the bottom of the valley.  All of the land that you see on the far side of the river is in the province of Ontario, Canada.  The park is so close to Canada that one of the most common questions asked by visitors to the park is "We don't have to cross the border to see the park, do we?" 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

My favorite falls

I know over the years I've probably shared too many pictures of this waterfall, but I can't help it.  It's my favorite!  Part of the reason for that is because of its remoteness.  It's not an easy spot to get to, therefore not very many people visit it.  Also, it's another image with which I can showcase the capabilities of the Sony RX100 Mark III camera.  I promise, I will soon stop talking about the amazing nature of this little "miracle" camera.  For now, though, I simply must rave about it once more.  This is one of the first waterfall images I made with the RX100, and I must say it performed very admirably!  This is a 1 second exposure at f11 and ISO 80 with the in-camera ND (neutral-density) filter turned ON.  The resulting image is incredibly clean.  In fact, it's hard to tell the difference between this and a file from my Canon 5D Mark II.  Anyway, enough about that... I'll just let you enjoy the image :-)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Backlit Treetops

Here is a recent sunrise capture of the forest in Grand Portage, MN.  When the rising sun illuminated these treetops the lighting around the edges of the trees really jumped out.  It sure was a lot of fun photographing these trees in such beautiful light!

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Fallen

What a strange year for fall colors.  The maples seemed to peak overnight then fall just as fast, now the birch and aspen colors along the Lake Superior shoreline seem to be taking their sweet old time changing.  We are seeing more and more color each day along the shoreline but there is still plenty of green as well.  Here is a shot that I made when the maples were already past peak.  We stopped by a local lake and the surface of the lake was peppered with fallen maple leaves.  Some of the leaves were "marching" across the lake, pushed by a gentle breeze from the north.  Others (like this one) were stationary, presumably hung up on an unseen piece of vegetation just below the surface.  I noticed that my wife Jessica was taking close-ups of the leaves with the telephoto range of her camera and she was getting some spectacular shots.  I couldn't resist getting my telephoto lens from the truck and making my own images of the floating leaves.  It helps to have more than one set of eyes around... everybody sees something different when they look at the same scene :-)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Aurora Activity 9-27-2014

In the early morning hours of September 27, 2014 I was helping my friend Bryan Hansel Photography conduct a special night sky session of his fall color photography workshop.  We started off the evening shooting the Milky Way but just after midnight the northern lights started to flare up.  By 1:00 AM (the time this photo was made) the lights were pretty active, waving and dancing throughout the northern sky.  We took the group to the Cascade River where it crosses The Grade since that location is perfect for photographing the lights in the sky as well as their reflection in the river.  While I was busy most of the time making sure the workshop participants were tended to, I did manage to make a few images of the lights for myself.  

At one point a car showed up on the road much to everyone's delight (moans and groans were aplenty as the car sat idling at the intersection of The Grade and Bally Creek Road).   I thought it might make an interesting shot so I clicked my shutter and made an image of the car in the foreground with the aurora in the background.  Every night where the lights are out is a memorable night and this was no exception.  I was glad that the aurora showed up for our night sky session, it was a special treat to an already sublime night!