Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Surreal Sky over the Platte River Valley

As I continue working on sorting through images from past trips, I continue to find images I'd like to share with you from those trips.  This photograph is from a trip to the Platte River Valley, Nebraska in March 2011.  That was a year of some incredible photography along the Platte River.  We witnessed several jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets.  We also saw some pretty amazing things during the day, like this unbelievably surreal cloud-filled sky one afternoon while driving around looking for groups of sandhill cranes to photograph.  The cottonwoods along the edge of the river made for a nice foreground to the lines and shapes in the clouds. The clouds that day were unforgettable, a strange sky that I will never forget. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Nebraska Moon

Still going through some old photos!  Last night I was working on a folder from March 2011 which contained images from my spring trip to the southwest.  I found 4 new images that I wanted to add to the Nebraska gallery of my website.  My friend Roger and I had visited Nebraska on our way to Arizona and Utah.  The main reason for visiting Nebraska in March is to see the annual migration of Sandhill Cranes.  In March of 2011 our trip coincided with the full moon, which made for some spectacular photo opportunities.  Each evening we had great fun trying to capture the cranes flying in front of the moon at sunset.  The light layers of clouds also made for some pretty interesting photographs of the moon without any birds.  This image was my favorite that I came across.  I just had to share it!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

September Stars, Spirit Tree

I've been working on sorting through my older images, culling them down to just the best of the best. I'm doing this because I have WAY too many images. So far, I've whittled them down from 80,000 to about 50,000. By the time I'm done I should have about 15,000 to 20,000 photos from 2001 to the present. Still too many, but a lot more manageable than before! 

At any rate, every now and then I come across one that just makes me go "Oooooooh!" Last night I came across one such photo, taken in September 2011. The sky in this photo is unreal. It was taken during that magic time when the stars are really starting to become visible but there is still some lingering light in the sky. A 30 second exposure at ISO 1600 really picks up that last bit of faint daylight.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Milky Way and Aurora Glow

Another flashback to a night of Milky Way photography in August 2014.  I was scoping out some new locations for photographing the northern lights and the stars.  I hit the jackpot with this location that had been logged a few years ago.  The loggers left a really nice selective stand of mature trees that silhouette beautifully against the sky.  On this particular night I was focusing on making images of the stars with the trees, but as you can see in this photo the aurora made a very slight appearance.  There was the softest glow low above the northern horizon.  I couldn't even see it with my own eyes, but the camera was able to record it with a 30 second exposure and a high ISO setting of 6400.  I can't wait to make it back to this location when there is a raging geomagnetic storm!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Skiing to Golden Eagle

Yesterday we spent the afternoon skiing the beautiful trails of the Central Gunflint Ski Trail system.  This is a beautiful, very well-maintained network of trails along the Gunflint Trail outside of Grand Marais, MN.  We ski here a few times each year and it's always a wonderful experience.  Yesterday was no exception, with an air temp around 23 degrees and beautifully groomed trails.  We skied from Bearskin Lodge over to Golden Eagle Lodge and had one of their delicious cups of cocoa while enjoying their warm hospitality before skiing back to Bearskin.  The view shown in this photo is of Flour Lake, seen from the Old Logging Camp Trail.  It was one of my favorite sections of the trail.  Shortly after making this photo we branched off and skied the Deer Mouse Trail... wheeeeeeeee!  Fun hills on that trail :-)  Thank you to the resorts for maintaining such an awesome network of trails!  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Midsummer Night's Dream

Yesterday I was thinking back on some of the nights that I've gone out to photograph the Milky Way last year and realized I still have images from those nights that I want to work on and share.  Here is one of those images, taken on the night of July 29, 2014.  This was the 3rd night in a row I had gone out to photograph the Milky Way.  The first two nights were beautiful, but the conditions were not quite ideal.  There was too much humidity creating a haze in the sky that made the stars look too faint in my images.  The third night was cooler with less humidity and it's amazing how much crisper and brighter the stars looked.  

I made a lot of photographs that night, some of which were shared with you a few days later.  This one, however, never got shared until now.  I don't know why, because I really like it!  It has one of my "character" trees in it.  This particular tree I call "The Conductor", because when viewed from the opposite side, it has branches that curve upwards in a way that makes it look like the conductor of a symphony.  The main reasons I like this photo are because of the clarity of the Milky Way, the "conductor" tree, and the streaks of two early Perseid meteors that I managed to be lucky enough to capture in this frame.  The Perseid meteor shower typically peaks a week or two into August, but they start becoming visible in late July.  I consider myself incredibly lucky to have caught these two streaks so prominently in this photo!  Oh, there is also some "airglow" evident in this photo (the horizontal streaks of light).  When I first captured airglow in a night photo, I wasn't sure if I liked it.  But, I've come to appreciate it more and feel it adds even more impact to photographs of the night sky :-)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Winter's Night at the Spirit Tree

Today it is dreary, windy and snowing but the other night the air was completely calm and not a cloud was in sight.  The stars were so vivid it seemed as though you could reach up and pluck them from the sky.  A cold but supremely beautiful night on the shores of Lake Superior in Grand Portage, MN!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pancakes on Grand Portage Bay

At some point every winter we get what is commonly called "pancake ice" on Grand Portage Bay.  These particular pancakes were on the bay last week.  The ice has come and gone a few times since then, thanks to some cold weather and intermittent winds.  The constantly changing conditions are one of the things I love the most about living where I do.  Every day when I look out our living room picture window, the view is different than the day before. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winter Stars over Hollow Rock

Winter is a wonderful time for stargazing.  The clear, crisp (and cold!) nights mean that there is usually very little haze in the sky to obscure the view of the stars.  As long as you are nowhere near any sources of light pollution you should have an awesome view of the sky.  One of the most amazing things to see when stargazing is the galactic center of the Milky Way.  This is that beautiful band of white that you see arcing through the sky.  Unfortunately, the galactic center is not visible at our latitude this time of year, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't still go out to appreciate the beautiful night sky.  Here is a recent image of Hollow Rock in Grand Portage with the star-filled January sky glimmering above the rock.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Stranded Deer

I was driving home from work the other day and saw something interesting.  The road leading to our house is pretty straight with a wide open view out over the lake.  As I was traveling down the road I could see a lump out on the ice in front of our house.  At first it looked like a black garbage bag.  I thought that was odd, since there really wasn't any wind that day that could have blown a bag of garbage out there.  As I got closer it looked more like an animal.  Due to the dark color at first I thought it was a dog.  But, once I was close enough, the lighting changed and I could tell that it was a deer laying on the ice.  

It was only about 100 feet out from shore, but it looked to be caught in a crack in the ice.  Sure enough, once I pulled over and was looking at the deer through my telephoto lens, I could see that it had indeed fallen through a crack and its back legs looked to be stuck.  It laid there for a moment, then in a frantic flurry of kicking and heaving it tried unsuccessfully to lunge up and out of the crack. After that attempt it laid there for several minutes on the ice, its hind legs dangling in the water between the two sheets of ice.  Eventually it gave another attempt at kicking and heaving and this time it was able to pull itself back up onto the ice.  

Immediately she started running for shore, her feet scrambling for purchase on the slick ice.  She would get up a little head of steam, then slip and fall, sliding several feet before coming to a stop.  She fell 3 times before making it back to shore.  But, she did make it back and I watched her slowly walk back into the woods after setting foot on solid ground again.  She seemed to be walking okay, which was amazing considering her legs were wedged in that crack and the falls she sustained while trying to run back to shore.  Her jaw was bloody, apparently from smacking on the ice when she fell, but other than that she seemed to be fine.  It sure was an interesting thing to witness on my way home from work!

Frosted Ice Sunrise

After a few cold, calm nights we now have a thin layer of ice on Grand Portage Bay!  Yesterday I went out to photograph the sunrise over the ice.  It was an extra-special morning because in addition to the ice, there were all these little frost flowers on the surface of the ice.  If you look closely at the photo you can see all these little bumps on top of the ice.  Those are clumps of frost that formed overnight.  They are a fascinating and beautiful wonder of nature!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Morning Moon over Mt. Josephine

I caught this surprise view of the moon on my way to work this morning.  It was just about to duck behind the trees along the top of Mt. Josephine.  Taken from the shoulder of Highway 61 about 3 miles south of the international border in Grand Portage, MN.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Siskins and Redpolls

During our last snow storm I was driving along Old Highway 61 in Grand Portage when I came across this flock of birds that kept landing on the road.  I noticed them fluttering around the roadway when I rounded a corner so I stopped the truck and approached them on foot.  Half a dozen or so would come out of the trees at a time, then land on the same spot of the road.  After a while the whole group would burst up into the air, then start landing again half a dozen or so at a time. I approached within about 100 feet and planted my tripod in the snow to make this picture.  Most of them were Pine Siskins but I noticed some Redpolls in there as well.  It looked like they were landing on a clump of sandy/salty snow that fell off a passing vehicle. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Elbow Lake Snow Drifts

While driving along the Gunflint Trail earlier this week I noticed that the Elbow Lake access road was plowed.  I don't remember this road being plowed in the past (although my memory could definitely be off!), so I decided to drive down and see what the lake looked like.  I'm glad I did, because the lake really looked interesting.  Thanks to all the high winds recently the lake was peppered with these fascinating snow drifts.  I thought it made for an interesting capture with my telephoto lens.

Five Mile Horizon

Remember that cloud I posted a picture of the other day, over the lighthouse in Grand Marais?  Here is that same cloud, seen near 5 Mile Rock just north of Grand Marais.  You cannot see the rock, however, as it is shrouded in the sea smoke.  I love not only the look of this cloud but also the colors and textures in the water.  Lake Superior is a subject I absolutely never tire of photographing!  The many moods of the lake are a wonder to behold.  

Friday, January 9, 2015

January Moonlight at Hollow Rock

I headed out during the full moon this month and captured various scenes of Lake Superior around Grand Portage.  Here is one of my favorite photos from that night.  The famed "Hollow Rock" bathed in moonlight!  Of course, there is so much ice on the rock right now it's difficult to see the hole from which the rock gets its name.  The temperature was almost 20 degrees below zero on that night so there was also a lot of sea smoke in the background.  It sure was a beautiful night!  I love Hollow Rock any time of the year, but winter is my favorite time :-)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sinister Sea Smoke

Yesterday's sunrise over the lighthouse in Grand Marais, MN.  The sea smoke rising off the lake was unbelievable.  So was the cold.  The temperature was minus 19 degrees when this photo was made and was accompanied by some very strong winds which seemed to be coming from every direction.  I remember hearing that the wind chill was between 50 and 60 below yesterday.  I purposely exposed this image so it would come out dark like this.  I really like the ominous feel that the dark exposure gives the photo. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Frigid afternoon cloud over Grand Marais

I just got home from Grand Marais where I saw one of the more intriguing clouds I've ever seen over the lighthouse.  It held this general shape for at least half an hour, which was interesting considering it was fairly windy.  It looked like a pretty high altitude cloud and I'm guessing the wind was worse along the ground.  The temperature was about 5 degrees below zero so it was pretty frigid outside with the wind!  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Lake Superior Sea Smoke

This is one of the things I live for as a photographer on the shores of Lake Superior.  Winter mornings where the temperature rests well below zero (25 below when this photo was made yesterday morning) and the sea smoke rises hundreds off feet off the surface of the lake.  Even with my travels to some of the most beautiful locations in North America, the sea smoke at sunrise over the Susie Islands remains of the most fascinating phenomena that I've seen.  I look forward to it every winter.  I never tire of watching it or photographing it.  

Moonlight Steam over the Susie Islands

The other night the moonlight and the steam (sea smoke) over Lake Superior was incredible.  I went out for a couple of hours to make some photographs and this is one of the first images I made that night.  It was taken from the pullout along Highway 61 that overlooks the Susie Islands.  On Francis Island in particular (the closest island in the lower right) you can see how all the steam is resulting in some incredible frost and ice buildup on the island.  I sure wish I could access that island this time of year.  I can only imagine how amazing that shoreline would look up close and personal!  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Plowing the Old Highway

A Cook County Highway Department truck plowing Old Highway 61 in Grand Portage, MN on January 3, 2015 during the first snow storm of the year.

Friday, January 2, 2015

First Sunset of 2015

The first sunset of the year 2015 at Hollow Rock in Grand Portage, MN.  It was a subtle sunset with soft pink clouds and the moon rising over the rock.  A one-second exposure time blurred the motion of the waves crashing on the shore. It was a beautiful way to end the first day of the new year!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year from Hollow Rock!

Happy New Year everybody!  And what a glorious New Year's Day it is!  Beautiful sunshine abounds on this first day of 2015.  Lake Superior looks relatively calm today, quite the contrast compared to yesterday.  I went down to Hollow Rock yesterday, the last morning of 2014, to photograph the big waves that were rolling into the shore.  It was an impressive day for wave watching.  It was breezy along our shoreline, but not windy enough to cause such big waves.  There must have been a big wind elsewhere on the lake because the waves rolling into Hollow Rock yesterday were some of the biggest I've seen.  They weren't coming in at the ideal angle to crash over the top of Hollow Rock itself, but even so every now and then a big one would hit just right and make quite a splash.  I loved the look of the splash along with the turbulent water in front of the rock.  It was a great way to photograph the last day of 2014!  Here's to another year of fun photographic adventures :-)