Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mountain Maple Colors

A beautiful Mountain Maple tree in its full autumn glory at Grand Portage State Park, Minnesota.

Fall is (finally) here!

After what seems like quite a delay, the fall colors have finally arrived!  The color seems to be at least a few days behind this year, probably more likely a week or more.  This picture was made along the High Falls Trail at Grand Portage State Park in the very northeast tip of Minnesota.  This is very nice trail that is also handicap accessible.  People of just about any ability are able to explore the beauty along this trail to Minnesota's tallest waterfall.  And right now, the trail is filled with color!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Canyon Flow

I love this section of the Kadunce River.  The way the water flows over the rock is simply beautiful.  The tilting LCD screen of my Nikon D750 came in really handy for this photograph.  I had my tripod set up in the water about as low as I could get it without getting the camera wet.  All I had to do was flip the screen up to see what the camera was seeing and easily compose this shot :-)

A burst of fall color

Fall colors have arrived!  Get out and enjoy them while they last :-)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The first to change

While out looking for fall colors the other day I came across this pair of maple leaves that had changed color before all the other leaves on the tree were even thinking about changing.  I thought it made for an interesting photo to have the little bit of autumn color surrounded by so much green.  It was a rainy afternoon as well which gave some added texture to the leaves.  

Early Autumn over Trout and Swamp Lakes

I made this photograph just before sunset on September 22, 2015.  As you can see, the trees still looked pretty green.  A lot has changed since then, however.  We've had colder weather and some rain which seems to have accelerated the color change.  The colors are still not yet at peak, but they are much closer now than they were two days ago.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Heart of the River

I would imagine that very few people have seen this waterfall from this vantage point.  It is a very difficult spot to access for most people.  It was tricky for me to access, but I managed with the aid of my winter ice cleats strapped over my sandals.  The ice cleats really helped give decent traction on the super-slick wet rock.  I had to climb down the face of this waterfall to get in position to make this photo.  It is deep in the heart of the Kadunce River gorge just north of Grand Marais, MN.  Very little (if any) direct sunlight penetrates into this part of the gorge this time of year. I was at this location at 11:00 in the morning and there was no direct sunlight at all.  I really liked this waterfall and spent almost an hour taking it in and photographing it from various angles before moving further downstream to explore the rest of the gorge.  

Good Morning Grand Portage!

Sunrise over Lake Superior, Hat Point and Pete's Island in Grand Portage.  Isle Royale National Park is also visible on the horizon in between in the point and the island.  What a gorgeous way to start the day!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Admiring the Aurora Borealis

Another photo from last night's aurora borealis (northern lights) storm.  This photograph was made at 4:50 AM in Grand Portage, MN.  It's another "self-portrait" where I set the timer on the camera then walked up onto this rock to silhouette myself against the lights in the sky.  

Fire Tower Light Show

Just when you think a promising aurora forecast isn't going to pan out, it goes and surprises you!  That's exactly what happened last night.  According to space weather forecasters, as sunset approached last night we were entering into a watch period for aurora storms.  I was keeping an eye on the websites that track and predict aurora activity and by 11:30 PM there really wasn't any sign of anything good happening, so I decided to go to bed.  Luckily, I woke up a little after 3 PM to go to the bathroom and decided to check the websites again.  As luck would have it, the aurora activity was picking up so I decided to head out and try to make some photographs.  As I was driving up the hill away from Lake Superior I could see a large ribbon of lights developing in the northern sky.  The ribbon was bright but low in the sky so I decided to head to the top of a hill where there is an old fire tower.  I figured the elevated vantage point would give me a good view of the lights.  Well, it certainly worked!  By the time I got to the location the lights had expanded to fill almost half of the sky.  I spent the next two hours on top of the hill photographing a very good display of the northern lights!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Canyon Fern - Kadunce River Gorge

A beautiful fern that I found and photographed on the canyon walls of the Kadunce River gorge earlier this week.

Mountain Maple Seeds

Mountain Maple seeds along a hiking trail in northeast Minnesota.  These seeds are some of the first bit of color to emerge in the fall season.  I love seeing them each year. They are such a vibrant red and really contrast with the abundant greens of the rest of the forest.  If you are lucky enough to see them fall to the ground you might be able to witness the "helicopter" motion that they can display as they fall.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Kadunce Canyon - Waterfall Paradise

If you like waterfalls and slot canyons (at least, the closest thing the north shore has to a slot canyon), you definitely need to check out the Kadunce River just north of Grand Marais, MN.  There is a well-traveled spur of the Superior Hiking Trail that travels along the east (or north, depending on your point of view) side of the river.  But, to see the waterfalls, you'll need to hike right up the river itself.  For most of the way, this is a relatively easy proposition.  The water is generally very shallow.  

The first waterfall you come to is pretty small but very beautiful.  It is possible to climb around the edge of this one and continue upstream, but not recommended unless you are experienced at scaling very wet, slippery rock.  If you're not used to this, head back downstream to the main trail that follows above the river.  After a short walk along the river via the main trail you can access the river again above the first waterfall.  Another short walk upstream brings you to the second waterfall, shown here.  You won't be able to proceed past this one unless you have climbing gear.  

The canyon walls are very steep here and there is a somewhat deep pool of water at the base of the waterfall.  I was standing in water half-way between my knees and waist to make this photograph.  I wanted to get as close as I could to the waterfall with my 14-24mm lens to make the waterfall appear as large as possible in my image but also still show as much of the surrounding canyon as possible.  This is a fascinating location and one could easily spend a lot of time here just enjoying the view.  It is my favorite location on the Kadunce River.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hiking the Kadunce River

Here's a "self portrait" that I did while hiking the Kadunce River yesterday.  I wanted to put myself in the picture mostly to provide a sense of scale for the size of the gorge.  When you are hiking up this river there are times where the canyon walls feel like they are towering above you.  Without a person in the photo it's hard to get that sense of scale.  I love walking up shallow rivers, especially on a warm September day.  It's definitely one of the best ways to enjoy a day on the north shore of Lake Superior!

Sunrise in the Kadunce River gorge

The first light of the day shines through the trees into the Kadunce River gorge in northeast Minnesota.  Yesterday I woke at 5:00 AM so I would have plenty of time to get ready and drive to the Kadunce River parking lot.  Sunrise was at about 6:30 and I wanted to be there before that so I could walk up the gorge and have plenty of time to photograph before the sun was high enough to start shining into the gorge.  Indeed I had a lot of time to take pictures before the sunlight started to intrude, yet the first photo I want to share from the outing is this one where I noticed the sun starting to show up through the trees.  I stopped my lens down to f/22 to get this nice starburst effect on the sun as it peeked through a gap in the trees.  What a beautiful gorge and a beautiful morning!  A great start to the day.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Alone with the Milky Way

I went out last night with the intention of photographing the Milky Way over a new lakeside location that I haven't tried yet.  I had to alter my plan, however, as the wind was much too strong to get the reflections I was hoping for in the water.  I wasn't sure where to go after that, so I just drove around until I got an idea to try a local gravel pit. I wanted to see if there were any interesting trees along the edge of the pit to compose as a silhouette against the sky.  What I found instead was a very nice gravel pile that lined up perfectly with the Milky Way.  I decided to set my camera to take one exposure after another then walk to the top of the gravel pile to pose in the shot.  What you see here is what I ended up with.  I think it looks like a photo that might have been made in the Badlands or in Utah rather than northern Minnesota.  Kind of fun, I think :-)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Coneflower Monarch

The monarch butterflies have sure been enjoying our coneflowers as they pass through this September!  It's such a treat to have them hanging around in our yard.  Jessica wanted to create a yard that is a haven for bees, birds and butterflies... it seems as though her vision has been realized!  First we had the hummingbirds hanging around on the lilies, now we have monarchs on the coneflowers.  The bees are enjoying all the flowers as well!  It definitely makes for some fun photography right in our own yard :-)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Stellar Sky in the Land of 10,000 Lakes

A star-filled night complemented by a hint of Aurora Borealis (northern lights) in the land of 10,000 lakes.  Taken a few nights ago in Grand Portage State Forest, northeast Minnesota.  I've always wanted to capture an image where there seemed to be just as many stars reflected in the water as there were in the sky, but until now have never had a calm enough night when I've been out.  I've captured star reflections in lakes before, but never so many as on this night.  The air was completely still and the surface of the lake shimmered with reflected starlight.  It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.  Thankfully it's early September and the nights are cooler with virtually no bugs.  If this had been earlier in the summer I would have been eaten alive by mosquitoes on a night such as this! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Aurora Watching at Gooseberry Falls State Park

A nice show of northern lights early last night along the Lake Superior shoreline at Gooseberry Falls State Park.  It was the perfect ending to a fun afternoon of biking the Gichi Gami Trail and a delicious BBQ dinner at Camp 61 in Beaver Bay.  We have since heard that the lights became more active later in the night but after our 26 mile bike ride we didn't feel like staying up too late.  What we saw was plenty beautiful and a great way to spend the last hour and a half of the day before crawling into the tent for the night!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fading Aurora Storm

I was pretty excited yesterday afternoon when I checked the aurora forecast and it said the current aurora activity was at STORM level!  The promising numbers were carrying into the evening but unfortunately cloud cover was moving in as well.  I decided to take a drive inland to see if the cloud cover was thinner away from Lake Superior.  Indeed, I found some nice, reasonably clear skies.  The stars were beautiful and the night was so calm that they were reflecting in the water with hardly any distortion at all.  The aurora activity level had calmed down quite a bit by the time I found some clear sky, but it was still a beautiful glow on the northern horizon.  

Monday, September 7, 2015

September Storm over Pete's Island

My first lightning bolt capture from the round of storms that went through on the night of September 4th.  As I mentioned in the last lightning post, this was really a fun time photographing the storms because for much of the light show there wasn't any rain falling.  Usually I feel extremely lucky if I can get even a few shots in before it starts pouring rain.  Not on this night!  I was able to photograph about 90% of the duration of the lightning before it started raining.  It was great fun :-)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Sea Lion

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park - Ontario, Canada

No trip to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park would be complete without a short hike to the Sea Lion, a rock arch on the Lake Superior shoreline.  The Sea Lion is one of the most famous features of the park.  The arch was the last stop on our 22 kilometer round-trip bike/hike to the Top of the Giant, but if all you want to see is the arch, it is a relatively short hike (just over one kilometer) from the Kabeyun Trail parking lot.  I love this park and I can't wait to explore more of it!

Electric Sky over Mt. Rose

We had quite a nice lightning show last night!  It was one of those rare times when lightning was flashing all around the sky but there wasn't any rain falling (although it did start raining after most of the lightning had passed us by).  It also was not windy at all.  Last but not least, most of the lightning was up in the sky and not making any apparent ground connection.  I made this photograph looking at the summit of Mt. Rose in Grand Portage National Monument.  It was a 12 second exposure at f/5.6 and ISO 400.  

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Ancient Cedar

While hiking at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park earlier this week there was a section of trail that passed by a grassy meadow that was lined with a lot of beautiful cedar trees.  Some of the trees were very big and probably very old.  The one shown here is one of the biggest ones we saw.  I just love cedar trees, especially big old ones like this, which have likely been around for several hundred years.  It's interesting to stand beside these old ones and ponder all that has happened in human history while these ancient trees have been alive.  Kind of humbling, I think :-)

Tee Harbour/Lehtinen's Bay overlook

On the hike back down the mountain we paused once again at the first overlooks we passed on the way up.  This the view looking down on Tee Harbour and Lehtinen's Bay.  Isle Royale National Park can be seen on the horizon.  The Top of the Giant hike in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park definitely has some of the best overlook views to be found anywhere along the shores of Lake Superior.  I cannot wait to do this hike again on a clear, blue sky day as the views will be even more incredible! 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Top of the Giant

Just one of the many awesome views from the Top of the Giant at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in Ontario.  This week Jessica and I had an unforgettable biking and hiking adventure at this gem of a park.  The trailhead parking lot is only about a 2 hour drive from our house, yet we had never been on this hike before.  We woke at 6 AM to have some breakfast and load the car with our bikes and gear we needed for the hike.  We had a couple of errands to run on our way but we still arrived at the trailhead lot by 9:30.  By 9:40 we were headed off down the Kabeyun Trail on our bikes.  You can bike the first portion of the route, which makes this much more practical as a day route.  Otherwise it's almost a 17 mile round trip hike.  Definitely still attainable as a day hike, but makes the trip much longer.  We were able to bike the first 5.5 miles, which brought us to a bike rack at the start of the much more rugged uphill portion of the journey.  

From the bike rack it would be 3 miles of hiking, much of it uphill.  The trail was beautiful and excellently maintained.  We never had any trouble following the trail.  We passed a very lovely grassy meadow along the way which was lined with some amazing old growth cedar trees, some of the largest cedar trees I've seen.  Just after passing the meadow we came to the steepest part of the hike.  The air was incredibly calm and warm and we were praying for a breeze to pick up from Lake Superior to help cool us down, but no such luck.  We were both dripping with sweat by the time the trail brought us out into the open and to the first views of Lake Superior.  The first overlooks gave us an incredible panoramic view of the Lake Superior shoreline with Tee Harbour and Lehtinen's Bay in the foreground.  The full length of Isle Royale National Park, all 45 miles of it, was visible on the horizon.  We could even see Passage Island, which lies a few miles off the eastern tip of Isle Royale.  

We continued on the trail, which now worked its way across the relatively flat top of the giant.  Eventually we came to the west side of the summit, which offered equally amazing views of Thunder Bay and Pie Island.  The trail ended at a large crack in the cliff face, which is where we stopped and ate our lunches.  It was one of the most beautiful places I've ever sat and enjoyed a trail-side lunch.  We were right on the edge of cliffs that dropped straight down almost 1,000 feet to Lake Superior.  This place is definitely not for those who suffer from vertigo!  Even I had a hard time inching my way to the edge and peering over to make this photo.  To my amazement, when peering over the edge, I saw a rock ledge about 10 feet down and there was a small chipmunk on it!  Moments later, the chipmunk appeared at the top of the cliff and ran off into the woods.  A few minutes later he returned and somehow scurried back down to his ledge.  He must have a den within one of the cracks in the rock.  The heights didn't seem to bother him one bit.  We sat and enjoyed the view for a while then headed back down the trail.  We still had a few sights to see on the return, which I will share with you later :-)