Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reflective Pose on Turtle Lake

Last night I went for a drive after the heavy rain showers subsided.  My hope was too see some wildlife.  I was going to hike in to a lake to see if there were was a loon family on it.  Unfortunately I never made into that lake because of a huge mud hole that I didn't feel like walking through.  Plus, the mosquitos were AWFUL!  So, I went back to the truck and decided to just drive around for a little bit and maybe I'd get lucky and see something else.  Sure enough, as I was driving past Turtle Lake in Grand Portage, I saw a nice whitetail buck standing on the opposite shore of the lake.  He was just standing there motionless, which was a good thing because I didn't have much light to work with.  It was almost 9 PM and what little daylight was left was fading fast.  

I had to shoot this photo at ISO 3200 and f/8, and even then I was still only able to manage a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second with my lens at 600mm.  Generally speaking, with a telephoto lens you want your shutter speed to be at least the same as your focal length in order to get a sharp image.  With built-in image stabilization of lenses becoming more and more effective, though, we can shoot at slower and slower shutter speeds and still get acceptable sharpness.  Such was the case with this image shot with my Tamron 150-600 lens.  I'm amazed at how well this turned out, considering it was shot at 1/200 and ISO 3200 (which can also contribute to image softness).  Camera technology sure has come a long way!

Monday, June 29, 2015

A peaceful night amongst the pines

I sure do love the summer night sky!  The winter night sky is cool too, but I think the summer is better because we can see the ribbon of the Milky Way.  In winter the ribbon is below our horizon here in northern Minnesota and we are unable to see it.  It sure makes stargazing a whole lot more fun when you can see the milky ribbon of our galaxy stretching across the sky!

First Light on The Rock

Hollow Rock is simply beautiful as the first light of a summer day washes over it.  I love the really calm water that is common this time of year.  It makes for wonderful reflections on these calm mornings.  I sure do feel fortunate to be surrounded by so many wonderful things to photograph!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

North Shore Morning

It was a pretty dull morning for shooting sunrise over Lake Superior today, lots of clouds and just a gray sky.  So, here is a sunrise shot from last week to provide a little sunshine and color for your day!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Merganser Family

'Tis the season for baby animals!  I have seen fox kits on a couple of occasions, but never for long enough to get any pictures of them.  Goslings seem to be everywhere, with several of them along the road we live as well as at the state park where I work.  There has also been a family of mergansers residing along the shoreline in front of our house and I did manage to get a shot of them the other day.  They are so cute when they are babies!  They have a tough life at first, though, with many hazards to overcome.  Usually when an animal has so many babies it is because so many of them don't survive to adulthood.  Having more increases the chances that some will survive. Personally, I hope of the best and wish that most if not all of these little mergansers survive to live a long adult life :-)

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Solar Wind

Here is one more image from the night of the big solar storm on June 23, 2015.  After photographing the amazing display of lights over Hollow Rock on Lake Superior, I decided to try composing some photos with trees in the foreground.  So, I walked back up the beach away from the lake and looked for a nice set of trees to photograph against the sky.  It didn't take long to find a composition that I liked!  This was a group of trees in between two of the cabins at Hollow Rock Resort.  It was also a windy night, as you can tell from the movement of the trees in this photo.  Since the northern lights are often caused by the solar wind I thought that might make a nice title for this image. 

The calm before the storm

This is what the night sky looked like the evening before the big geomagnetic storm hit earlier this week.  This was the night of the summer solstice and the aurora borealis was supposed to hit our atmosphere big time but it ended up being delayed until the following night.  Since the aurora forecast was so good, Jessica and I headed out and spent the entire night waiting for the lights.  We had a little showing of them between 2 and 3 AM, but nothing at all like what we ended up witnessing the following night.  Still, it was an unbelievably beautiful night.  The views of the Milky Way were some of the best I've seen.  The night was so dark and the stars were so crisp and clear.  It was a surreal experience to stand and gaze up at such an incredible sky!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Waxwings in our flowering crab tree!

For the past week we've had a lot of company hanging around in our flowering crab tree in the back yard.  A group of about a dozen waxwings have been working the tree over, actually eating the petals off the flowers.  It seemed like such an odd behavior.  It's the first time we've ever seen them doing this.  In all the years living in this location and enjoying the beauty of these trees I've never noticed waxwings on them before.  Maybe it's normal behavior for them?  Has anyone else ever noticed this before?  Whatever the case, they seem to be gone now but we sure did enjoy having them in our yard for the past week!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


This is what the sky looked like directly overhead during the geomagnetic storm in the early morning hours of June 23rd.  The lights were going so strongly straight up in the sky for so long that I was really appreciating the tilting LCD screen of my Nikon D750 camera!  I had my camera pointed straight up for 15 to 20 minutes and during that time the lights were changing constantly as I made one exposure after another.  

In a sequence of over 100 photos pointed at the same spot in the sky, I ended up with over 100 completely unique shots.  The patterns and shapes were different in each image, despite there only being a second or two between each shot.  That's how fast the lights were changing.  

It was a mind-blowing experience to witness such a strong aurora storm.  I believe these types of images really spark the imagination.  For example, when I first viewed this photo I immediately saw a large bird swooping down from the top of the photo.  You might see something completely different.  I'd love to hear how your imagination speaks to you when you view this image!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hollow Rock, the Aurora Borealis and the Milky Way

Here's another image of Hollow Rock from last night's aurora storm.  I still cannot believe how active the aurora was over Lake Superior!  Normally we don't see the northern lights over the lake that much here on the north shore because when we are looking out at the lake we are looking south.  But last night the majority of the activity was out over the lake.  I love that the Milky Way was still showing in this photo even though the aurora lights were so strong.  

Solar Storm Explosion!

This photo was made at 12:30 AM last night at Hollow Rock in Grand Portage, MN.  It was the most intense moment of colors in the aurora that I witnessed last night.  For only a minute or two there was this brief explosion of purples, pinks and reds over Hollow Rock.  The rest of the time the lights were a predominantly green color with some purples here and there.  The reds and pinks in this brief explosion were spectacular and the highlight of an unforgettable night of aurora photography!

Summer Solstice Solar Storm

The summer solstice solar storm arrives!  What an insane night!  For the first few hours of darkness, the sky was filled with some of the most incredible northern lights that I've ever seen in northeast Minnesota.  Space weather forecasts were originally calling for this storm to arrive the previous night and indeed there was a subtle amount of aurora activity but the main impact of the storm was yet to come.  Well, last night it arrived with a vengeance!  I left the house just as it was getting dark and had planned on driving about 20 miles inland to one of my favorite lakes.  However, as I drove down Highway 61 I could see the lights dancing in the southern sky over Lake Superior!  So, I changed my plan and stopped by Horseshoe Bay in Hovland.  There is a small island just off the shoreline in this location and it was the perfect place for my first shooting location of the evening.  

Monday, June 22, 2015

2015 Summer Solstice Night Sky

Last night Jessica and I spent the majority of the night out in search of the northern lights. The aurora was supposed to be really active according to space weather forecasts but unfortunately it was not.  We only saw a little glimpse of the lights around 2:00 AM just before the clouds moved in.  But, that glimpse was beautiful with hints of green and purple.  Also, the views of the stars last night were unreal!  The stars were unbelievably vivid, especially once the clouds first started to move in.  The leading edge of the cloud cover seemed to be this really light haze, which actually made the more prominent stars (such as those in the Big Dipper) really jump out from the sky.  The haze seemed to create a slight halo around those brighter stars, making them appear much larger than normal in my photos.  Even when things don't work out the way you hope they will, a night spent in the north woods is a night to remember!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mt. Maude Tower and the Milky Way

A beautiful June night stargazing at the Milky Way Galaxy with the Mt. Maude fire tower in the foreground.

Grand Portage, MN

P.S. - Happy Father's Day to all the dad's out there!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Daily Return

Earlier this week, Harley Toftey's boat returns to the Grand Marais Harbor and Dockside Fish Market with the day's catch.  I was passing Five Mile Rock on my way to Grand Marais and saw a boat traveling out on the lake.  I took a picture of that boat with my telephoto lens and realized it was Harley's boat.  Knowing that he was likely heading for the harbor, I drove straight to the municipal campground and waited on the shoreline for the boat to show up around the lighthouse.  I only had to wait a few minutes before I saw him coming.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Caribou Falls

On Wednesday of this week I spent a good part of the day exploring with my camera and one of the places I visited was Caribou Falls, a beautiful waterfall that is a half-mile hike from Highway 61 along a very nicely maintained trail.  I have been to Caribou Falls several times before but wasn't really prepared to photograph it well.  In order to get the "best" angle on the falls for photography, you need to walk in the water and cross the river to the opposite side from where the trail puts you.  This is not difficult, as the water is shallow, but I was always reluctant to cross it wearing shoes and pants.  This time I was wearing shorts and sandals so crossing was no problem at all.  

It really is worth it to get your feet wet, as the view from the west side of the river is much nicer than the view from the east.  When viewing from the east side you really don't get the full sense of how the waterfall widens at the bottom.  Since I was there in the middle of the day when the sun is the highest and brightest, I used a 6-stop graduated ND filter to block enough light so that I could make a long enough exposure to blur the movement of the water.  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Early Riser's Delight

Sunrises are difficult to do this time of year, especially for someone who is generally not a morning person!  I had to wake at 4:00 AM in order to be on location in time to make this photograph yesterday morning.  It looked pretty cloudy when I left the house, but I was hopeful because you just never know what will happen!  Sure enough, just as the sun was rising a break developed in the clouds on the horizon right where the sun would be coming up.  Most of the sky remained covered in clouds except for that break on the eastern horizon.  

As the sun began to rise, light poured through that break in the clouds and lit up the bottoms of the clouds that remained.  And, as often happens in the summer, that beautiful light lasted for quite a long time.  When I saw the images on the back of the camera I was glad I made the effort to get out so early.  It's only a few more days until the longest daylight of the year, then the days will be getting shorter again and we won't have to get up quite so early (or stay out quite so late) in order to catch the best light of the day.  For now, though, the beauty of these long, early summer days is unparalleled!  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Aurora Teaser

Just a hint of northern lights last night over the Pigeon River in Grand Portage, MN.  I went out to spend the night photographing the Milky Way but was pleasantly surprised in this photo to see a little bit of aurora action going on.  Some faint purple and green colors low on the northern horizon mixed in with some slight light pollution from the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario which is about 40 miles away.  This photo was made at 11:40 PM with an exposure length of 30 seconds, aperture of f/2.8 and ISO 3200.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Grand Portage Night Sky

When the weather allows (which has been a rarity in recent days), our views of the night sky along the north shore of Lake Superior continue to impress!  Here is a recent image that I captured just 1/4 mile down the road from our house.  The Milky Way over Pete's Island and Hat Point in Grand Portage Bay.  The light that you see on the water between the point and the island is from the bell buoy which marks a reef just outside the bay.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Fog Factory

Boy, we sure have had a lot of fog lately!  Some years it seems we have hardly any fog at all, other years it seems foggy almost every day.  This year is more like the latter.  I captured this photo of Mt. Josephine and Hat Point on my way home from work one day last week.  The fog was steadily rolling over the top of Hat Point and pouring down into Wauswaugoning Bay.  Always a fascinating thing to see!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Glorious Day at High Falls!

High Falls at Grand Portage State Park is looking pretty spectacular today!  Come on up and check it out for yourself!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Why did the beaver cross the road?

Question: Why did the beaver cross the road?

Answer: For a swim (and a snack!) on the other side :-)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Island Universe

Here is an image I've been saving to share with you.  It's from the last new moon a couple of weeks ago.  These clear and calm early summer nights are some of the most beautiful nights of the year!  On a night like this you can't help but feel grateful for all the beauty that surrounds us here on the shores of Lake Superior.