Wednesday, December 30, 2015
I think this might be a "bad" winter for ice on the Lake Superior shoreline. So far this year it hasn't been cold enough for any significant ice to start forming. I stopped by here yesterday morning and the sky was pretty but if it weren't for the little bit of snow and ice on the island, you'd never know this was a winter shot. There is still a lot of winter left, though, so there might still be some hope for decent ice along the shoreline. Time will tell!
Monday, December 28, 2015
One thing I like about this mild winter is that many of the waterways are not yet frozen. This makes for a nice contrast to a white winter wonderland. Instead of a completely snow-covered scene you can find areas like this where the dark color of the open water contrasts sharply with the blanket of snow on the surrounding landscape. This photograph of the Brule River was made from the bridge on Greenwood Lake Road just off the Gunflint Trail.
Sunday, December 27, 2015
Even though it's a couple of days late since I wasn't on the computer over Christmas, I still would like to wish everyone a happy holiday week! I hope you all are having a nice time over the holidays. Up here along the north shore of Lake Superior we got a nice dusting of snow yesterday. Here is a snowy photo of Hungry Jack Lodge along the Gunflint Trail in northeast Minnesota. Enjoy!
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Here is another photo of Hungry Jack Lake from earlier this week. Also taken from Honeymoon Bluff, this time looking west across the lake (the last photo I posted was looking north). Typically the lake would be completely frozen by now but as you can see there is still a bit of open water. I really liked the little patch of open water for this photo, as well as the patterns in the ice. I would have loved to see this view on a nice blue sky day but it was very beautiful even on such a gray day.
The other day I took a drive up the Gunflint Trail to see how winter was progressing inland from Lake Superior. As you already know from my previous posts, winter along the Superior shoreline has been very slow to arrive this year. Instead of snow we've been getting rain. In fact, it rained again all day yesterday. Inland, however, it has been snowing more than raining thanks to cooler temperatures away from Lake Superior.
We had a big storm a little over a week ago that left quite a bit of snow along the Gunflint Trail. Amazingly, a week after the storm most of the trees were still coated in a thick blanket of snow. Usually our winter storms are trailed by high winds and indeed we did have a lot of wind along the Superior shoreline. Either there wasn't as much wind inland or the snow was so wet that it clung to the trees despite the wind.
At any rate, my drive along the Gunflint two days ago was like driving through a classic winter postcard scene. Everything was white, everywhere you looked! This photo was taken from the Honeymoon Bluff trail overlooking Hungry Jack Lake. I was surprised to see that the lake still had several patches of open water. Usually the lakes would be completely iced over by now. Another testament to the mild winter we're having thus far.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Here are a couple of ice detail photographs of the cliffs at High Falls. The photo I posted earlier today showed a wide-angle view of the entire waterfall. For these two photos I used my Tamron 150-600mm lens to zoom in on the amazing ice detail in between the two main channels of falling water. The ice that develops on this waterfall each year sure is fascinating!
It's Christmas week and while it may not look quite like full winter here along the north shore, it is at least trying to look like winter. High Falls in Grand Portage State Park is especially beautiful. Thanks to warmer than average temperatures the waterfall is not frozen as much as it typically would be. Also, thanks to recent rainfall instead of snow, the river level is higher than normal for late December. Still, it is trying to freeze and there is quite a bit of ice surrounding the falls. The combination of ice and lots of running water sure makes for a beautiful scene. Come on up and check it out for yourself!
Friday, December 18, 2015
Finding time for photography this time of year is difficult for me. The daylight hours are at their shortest and most of that time is spent at my day job, making it hard to get out and make new photographs. I'm not complaining, as we just returned from an awesome trip out west where I did a lot of photography in and around Yellowstone National Park. I'm just letting you know that is why you might see an "old" photo from me now and then.
As I look back on some images from earlier that I never worked on, I may find one now and then that I want to share. Such as this abstract image of Little Lake, made before the onset of winter. It's a type of abstract image that is fun to make. You use a slow shutter speed combined with a panning motion of the camera (in this case, panning upwards). The subject here is the surface of Little Lake in Grand Portage and the reflections of the trees on the water. The combination of the panning motion and the slow shutter speed "stretches out" the reflections of the trees. The results of this technique are always interesting!
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
We haven't had much of a winter yet this year. After getting an early fix of winter during our visit to Yellowstone, we returned to spring-like weather in Minnesota. The temperatures have been in the low to mid 40's and we've been getting rain, not snow. Until today, that is.
Today we are finally getting some snow, even if it is of the wet and sloppy variety. Still, it is snow and things are turning white. Even though it hasn't been very cold, it has been cold enough for a little ice to start forming on High Falls of the Pigeon River. This waterfall is such a fascinating one to photograph. It has so much variety in it from one day to the next.
Today's photo was taken about a week ago and shows just the bottom left portion of the falls. The river level was high enough and the air cold enough that the mist from the falls was freezing on the sides of the gorge. It is one of my favorite times of year to make images of the waterfall, as the mixture of open water and ice makes for some fun photography!
Monday, December 14, 2015
As we began our drive home from Yellowstone, I was looking at our iPhone and trying to figure out where the locations were that were shown in the new "Welcome to Montana" signs. If you haven't seen them, Montana has new signs featuring some beautiful photography that welcome travelers to the state. I was unable to find a listing of locations featured on the signs, so I looked at our atlas to see if there were any parks near where we had seen the welcome sign when we entered Montana a week earlier. Indeed, near Glendive there was a state park called Makoshika State Park. A quick Google search revealed images that led me to believe this state park could have easily been where the photo was taken that was shown on the sign.
We were a couple of hours away from the park, so we decided that we would stop there on our way through Glendive. It would make a good place to stop and stretch our legs in the middle of our long drive. After reading a bit more about the park, I learned that it was Montana's largest state park and featured badlands formations as well as the fossil remains of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops and more! Unfortunately, the visitor center was closed as was most of the road into the park. We were, however, able to take a short hike into one of the badlands areas. That is where I made the photo shown here. I also learned that the name Makoshika is a variant spelling of a Lakota phrase meaning "bad land" or "bad earth". It looks like a cool place to do some further exploration and a convenient place to stop and camp on a future trip traveling to Yellowstone!
Sunday, December 13, 2015
As regular followers of my photography know, I tend to post wide-angle landscapes or telephoto images of wildlife. Every now and then, however, I do like to make abstract images and clouds are one of my favorite subjects for such things. This is a different take on the wide-angle image I posted earlier today. It is the same sunset as the one shown in the "Yellowstone Sunset - Fawn Pass Trailhead" photo, only this time I zoomed my 24-120mm lens all the way in to make an abstract image showing just a portion of the sky. It sure was an interesting sunset to photograph, one that was continuously changing as we watched. I love the little cloud that is right in the center of the photo. It has quite a variety of color and texture in it. To see more of my abstract cloud images, visit the Clouds gallery on my main photography website:
Saturday, December 12, 2015
Liberty Cap, a hot spring cone at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. I'm kind of torn on how I feel about this photograph. The shadow is what drew me in to make this photo but it feels out of balance in a way, with the shadow being so big and prominent and dominating so much of the composition. There isn't much going on in the bottom of the photo other than the shadow, whereas the top of the photo seems busier with more going on (the cone itself, the hill, sun, and rising steam). Still, I do like the photo so I decided to share it and see what others think of it.
Friday, December 11, 2015
Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park is a very fascinating place. Not just for the wide-angle landscape imagery that is possible there, but also for the close-up abstracts that really can draw you in. I find the infinite shapes and colors of the hot spring deposits endlessly intriguing. Add a little layer of frost and it's even more interesting than usual!
Our last stop before leaving Yellowstone was a visit to Mammoth Hot Springs. This is a fascinating area to see at any time of year but especially so in winter. The hot geothermal features clashing with the cold air and snowy landscape make for quite a unique scene.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
One of the most beautiful sights we saw on our trip to Yellowstone, this amazing frost-covered tree was at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in Lamar Valley. There is a small creek that runs through the ranch and that's why the tree is so covered in frost. There was a lot of steam rising from the creek early in the morning and freezing to the trees in the area.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Here is another photo of Frosty Beard Bison, this time up close and personal from the window of our car. The head-on photo that I posted the other day was taken from a safe distance away. I was standing in the middle of the roadway to make that shot. After getting that photograph I got back in the car and we waited for the bison to walk past us. As they did, I made this photo with my little Sony RX 100 III camera.
Friday, December 4, 2015
Here is another favorite bison shot from near the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. As I mentioned before, it was pretty cold when we visited the park. In the morning most of the bison were wearing a full beard of frost thanks to their warm breath clashing with the cold air and condensing on their fur. I was hoping to get a shot like this but with the bison standing in the snow. Unfortunately that did not work out. A lot of the bison that we saw were walking right down the roadway, probably because it's easier than walking in the snow. The ones we saw in the snow were too far away to get a shot like this. Most of the shadows that you see in the roadway immediately behind this one were shadows from other bison that were also walking down the road.
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Another image from our foggy/frosty/frigid morning drive from West Yellowstone to Bozeman, Montana. This one was made with a Nikon 300mm f/4 PF lens. I was trying out this lens for the first time on our Yellowstone trip and I loved it. It was a joy to shoot with! All of the wildlife images I've posted so far from the trip were also made with the Nikon 300 PF.
The air was bitterly cold the morning we left West Yellowstone. As we drove north along Highway 191 the temperature (according to our car, which we've found to be quite accurate) dipped to 26 below zero. A bit colder than we are used to for late November! Once we reached the Gallatin River, though, the cold temperature made for some beautiful scenes along the river. The temperature clash between the cold air and the warmer water made for lots of steam and frost along the river corridor. We stopped at a pullout that features a view of the river with Black Butte in the distance. It sure was a beautiful way to end our fun week in West Yellowstone!
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
A snowy scene from the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. There was a large group of bison in the meadow but this one decided to wander off on its own away from the rest of the group. I liked how it looked with the frosty trees in the background.
Monday, November 30, 2015
Yesterday we spent the entire day in the northeast section of Yellowstone National Park. It was pretty cold when we left the hotel in Gardiner, about 5 degrees below zero. We were hoping for a morning filled with wildlife sightings and right away we got off to a great start. This pair of elk were hanging out right by the park's entrance station. We were driving up to the station when these two buddies came walking up over the hill. They posed nicely for us for several minutes then proceeded to walk towards town. Our day was off to a great start!
Sunday, November 29, 2015
We are now in the northeast section of Yellowstone National Park, the only area of the park with a road that is open all winter. This afternoon we drove in as far as the Lamar Valley hoping to see wildlife. We saw several elk, mule deer, antelope, a coyote and at least a few hundred bison! Our favorite was this big guy which was walking right down the road towards us. A "classic" Yellowstone image!
Saturday, November 28, 2015
On Thanksgiving morning I got up early to drive out to Earthquake Lake outside of West Yellowstone, Montana and (hopefully) catch some nice clouds and colors from the sunrise. Things worked out quite nicely, as you can see! It was a cold morning with the temperature hovering right around zero degrees, but the beautiful view was worth the cold. Earthquake Lake is very unique. It was formed from an earthquake on August 17, 1959 that caused a massive landslide which blocked the flow of the Madison River and created the lake. The earthquake measured 7.3 - 7.5 on the Richter scale.
Fearing that the pressure from the rising water would cause a flood, the Army Corps of Engineers cut a 250 foot wide and 14 foot deep channel into the slide. By September 10th water was flowing through the slide. To prevent more erosion another channel was cut, this one 50 feet wide and was completed on October 29th. It is definitely one of the most unique features in the West Yellowstone area.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
The other day after watching the moon rise over the Madison Range, we continued driving south back towards Highway 20 and West Yellowstone. It had been a very gray afternoon with relatively thick cloud cover. As sunset approached, however, there must have been a break in the clouds to the west. We driving along when Jessica said "Ooooh, the sky is lighting up!" Just moments later the sky was on fire with the reflected light from the sun setting behind the mountains. We looked for the next available spot to pull over and enjoyed this amazing sunset from the side of the highway. The mountains shown include Sawtell Peak, Mt. Jefferson and Nemesis Mountain. The Continental Divide is in between Sawtell Peak in Idaho and Nemesis Mountain in Montana.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Jessica and I are in West Yellowstone for the Yellowstone Ski Festival and some sightseeing. This afternoon after our morning ski we went for a drive around the Madison Range. As we were driving south along the western side of the range we saw a beautiful moon rising over the mountains just before sunset.
Friday, November 20, 2015
High Falls of the Pigeon River sure looks a lot different than it did a week ago! In the past week we've received about 4 inches of rain which in turn has raised the Pigeon River water level about 5 feet. The USGS maintains a monitoring station a couple of miles upstream from High Falls and according to that station the gauge height on the river went from 3 feet to 8 feet! Yesterday morning I hiked up to the falls to see how it looked after the rain. I was treated to an awesome view of the falls with high water levels, dark clouds overhead and just enough sunlight poking through the clouds behind me to produce a nice rainbow!
Below: Here is a graph from the USGS monitoring station that shows the change in the water level.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
High Falls of the Pigeon River in Grand Portage State Park after the first snowfall of the winter. Photo was made on November 13, 2015. Shot with a Nikon D750 camera and Nikon 24-120mm lens. Exposure length was 1 second with an aperture of f/16 at ISO 100. I used a 6-stop ND filter to block enough light to get a slow enough exposure to blur the movement of the water.
Monday, November 16, 2015
I sure do love mornings where there is fresh snow coating all the trees on my drive to work! I already have one of the prettiest commutes in the state of Minnesota, but the snow makes it even prettier. This is Highway 61 just a couple of miles south of the Canadian border in Grand Portage, MN.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Yesterday I shared a photo of this same lake, only it was a zoomed-in view of the right side of the lake. Today I decided to share the full view of the lake. The fresh white snow contrasting against the beautiful blue of the water and the sky sure made for a beautiful sight on my way to work the other day!
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Yesterday morning we woke up to a beautiful world of white! It was the first measurable snowfall of the season near the Lake Superior shoreline in Grand Portage. We had an inch or two of snow fall near the lake, with 3 to 4 inches or so further inland. I stopped a few places on my way to work to make some pictures of the fresh snow, including this Highway 61 road-side stop that gives a view of Teal Lake just a few miles south of the Canadian border. I don't recall ever seeing so much snow blanketing the trees while the lake was still a beautiful blue with no ice yet formed on its surface. Most of this snow has already melted but hopefully we will have more soon!
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Here's a fun shot from the last night that I spent out in search of the northern lights. The lighting was so cool with the moonlight and aurora I wanted to set up a shot that showcased the vehicle that is my reliable partner in all my back roads adventures, our 2012 Ford F-150. This truck is awesome and it takes me just about anywhere I care to go with no complaints. We have an economical car too but the truck is my vehicle of choice when tromping around in the woods after dark. It's high clearance and tough tires mean I don't have to worry about the road conditions when I'm chasing the aurora. And, the V6 EcoBoost engine means I don't have to break the bank in fuel costs either. I love how not only the aurora is reflecting in the bodywork of the truck, but also the stars!
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
A photo I made during last week's fog while Jessica and I were out scouting the deer trails. It was a very calm day without a lick of wind to blow the heavy fog away. Quite the contrast to the way the weather has been since deer opener. Since the season opened on Saturday morning the days have been characterized by mostly clear conditions and a lot of wind. Today is nicer; it's partly sunny and mostly calm with mild temperatures. It should be pretty nice tomorrow as well, but then the forecasters are calling for the weather to switch again, with highs in the upper 30's to low 40's and an 80 to 90% chance of rain mixed with snow. You've got to love November, lots of variety in the weather!
Sunday, November 8, 2015
Last week we had a lot of rainy weather and a lot of fog, which made for some pretty cool photo opportunities! Especially after dark one evening when our neighbor's yard light was shining through the trees and fog. I went out to make some photographs of the rays of light coming through the trees and while I was shooting the scene the fog started to clear out. As the fog was dissipating I could see the stars appearing through the haze. It only took about 5 minutes for the fog to completely burn off, so I had to work quickly in order to capture a good exposure that was as balanced as possible between the bright light on the bottom half of the photo and the dark sky above. Using the graduated ND filter in Lightroom and the adjustment brush I was able to balance the exposure even more between the bottom and top of the photo, and bring out the brightness and detail of the stars a bit more. I really like the end result, it's unlike anything I've ever captured before with a camera. Definitely one of the most unique night sky photos I've captured!
Friday, November 6, 2015
A beautiful star-filled sky complemented by the light of a half-moon while driving the back roads of Superior National Forest in northeast Minnesota. Notice the constellation Orion in the sky in the upper right quarter of the photo.
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Last night as we were driving home after an afternoon in the woods we were treated to a rare sight. The United States Coast Guard Cutter "Alder" was pulling the Hat Point Bell Buoy for the season. Indeed, this happens every year, which doesn't exactly count as "rare", but usually they pull it in the 3rd week or so of October and usually during the day. This time the sun had already set and they were retrieving the buoy during the "blue hour" that occurs after sunset. It was cool to see the ship lit up not only with the navigational lights but also all the work lights as the crew pulled the buoy from the reef between Hat Point and Pete's Island.
The ship was roughly a mile away so in order to make this shot I had to use my Tamron 150-600mm lens set to 600mm, not an easy feat in such low light conditions. I mounted the lens on my tripod, set the camera to an ISO setting of 3200, set the aperture to f/8 in aperture-priority mode, set the timer to release the shutter 5 seconds after pressing the shutter button, then made this shot. The exposure time was 2 seconds, and thankfully the conditions were calm enough that the boat did not move at all during those 2 seconds so I was able to get a nice, sharp image.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
And this is how my night ended in the early morning hours of November 3rd. Clouds moving in from the west that soon covered the entire sky for the remainder of the night. For a little while, though, I enjoyed a period of pristine calm conditions on Kawishiwi Lake in Superior National Forest. The northern lights continued to glow in the northern sky but with a little less intensity and variety in color than what I had witnessed earlier in the night. I enjoyed watching that gray cloud moving in from the left and its perfect reflection as it marched from west to east across the lake. It was a beautiful end to an amazing night of photography and aurora watching!
This is how my night of shooting started out on November 3rd. Taken just minutes after the new day began, this photo was made at 12:10 AM along the Sawbill Trail in Superior National Forest. I had scoped out this location earlier in the summer, recognizing it as a potential good spot for some northern lights photography.
Since the majority of the Sawbill Trail runs straight north, it's a good opportunity to watch the lights dancing in the sky as you're driving, provided they are active. And active they were as I was cruising down the road that night. I had to constantly remind myself to keep my eyes on the road and not get too distracted by the beautiful aurora that were sweeping across the sky directly ahead of me.
When I arrived at this location with the trees, the activity had subsided and the lights were no longer dancing. All I could see was a soft glow right above the horizon. That didn't make the scene any less beautiful though! I had the multi-colored hues of the aurora combined with the magical starlight of the Milky Way over the stand of trees. Add just the right amount of clouds on the left that were illuminated by the rising half-moon behind me and I had a trifecta of night sky goodness!
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
The Aurora Borealis paints an other-worldly palette of color in the northeast Minnesota sky over Plouff Creek in the Superior National Forest. This photo was made at 3:30 this morning. Shot with a Nikon D750 camera and Nikon 14-24mm lens. Exposure length 20 seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 2500.
Last night was a good one for the northern lights! I spent the entire night out photographing the lights in various locations. Visiting multiple areas was kind of necessary due to cloud cover plaguing much of the region. There was also heavy fog at my house when I headed out. I was hopeful that the fog was only along the Lake Superior shoreline and it would clear up if I headed inland. Thankfully, that plan worked! As I drove down the shore the fog dissipated and eventually the cloud cover started breaking up as well. I drove south to Tofte, MN and headed up the Sawbill Trail to try some new (for me) locations for photographing the aurora.
I stopped at 4 different locations near the Sawbill Trail and each time I got lucky and had a clear sky long enough to make a few exposures of the lights. After making a few images at each location the clouds moved back in and totally obscured the view of the sky, so I was off again in search of another spot with a clear view. As I was making my circuit around the arrowhead region I saw a plethora of wildlife. At least 40 to 50 deer (mostly along Highway 61), a dozen or more rabbits, two moose and a skunk. It was a great night in many ways!
As is my tendency, the first image that I'm going to share from last night's adventures is my favorite. I arrived at this location just as the lights were flaring back up after a lull in their activity. There were a lot of reds in the colors of the lights last night, which happens from time to time but is certainly not common. Mostly we see green and purple. Also, the red color is not always immediately apparent to the naked eye. I had no idea that there was this much color in the sky until I made my first photograph and saw how much red there was. I could just barely make out the color when looking at the sky, but the camera really picks up a lot more of it. Look for another photo to be posted later today!