Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Enchanted Forest of Chilkat State Park

Thinking back to our November 2014 trip to Alaska today and what a wonderful time we had!  The main reason for the trip was to visit the "Valley of the Eagles" just outside of Haines, but we also did a fair amount of exploring in the surrounding area.  On one rainy afternoon we went for a hike in Chilkat State Park on the "Seduction Point Trail".  This trail brought us down to the ocean waters of Chilkat Inlet which was beautiful of course but the hike there was our favorite part.  It was mesmerizing!  The trail meandered through some of the most enchanting forest that we've ever been in.  It felt like we were walking through the set of a fantasy movie.  It sure was an enjoyable afternoon!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

First cross bike ride of the year!

First cross bike ride of the year.  Still some snow on the ground as you can see.  Sure feels strange riding this bike again after getting so used to the fat bike!  This is at the Mt. Josephine rock cut on Highway 61 in Grand Portage, MN… the highest elevation that Highway 61 reaches between Duluth and the Canadian border, as far as I know anyway :-)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Lake Vermilion Heron

I've been doing some more sorting of older images this week and last night I came across this one that I never put on my website.  I'm not sure why I never did, because I really like it.  At first glance it doesn't really look like anything special but if you look closely at the rock near the center of the photo, you can see a Great Blue Heron standing there.  I didn't even know he was there when I made the photo, it was only later when viewing it on the computer that I saw the heron.  I was a long distance away when I made this photo, I made it with my Tamron 150-600 lens zoomed all the way out to 600mm.  The location was the newly created Lake Vermilion State Park between the towns of Tower-Soudan and Ely in Minnesota. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

April Moonlight, Grand Portage Bay

There was a big, beautiful ring around the moon the other night.  What a surreal sight it was!  This was taken from our front yard overlooking Lake Superior on Grand Portage Bay, MN.  

Monday, April 18, 2016

Raging Waterfall

Grand Portage State Park, MN

As predicted, High Falls opened up big time over the weekend!  The waterfall is now officially fully open!  I walked up to the falls after work yesterday and there was a ton of water pouring over the ledge. At a drop of 120 feet, this is Minnesota's tallest waterfall.   The water was coming down with such force that the spray was shooting up beyond the top of the falls!  It's an amazing sight to see.  Come on up and check it out for yourself. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

High Falls - April 15, 2016

Grand Portage State Park - High Falls update:

High Falls is now running freely!  The majority of the ice on the river has now broken up and with the weekend temperatures forecast to be in the upper 50's it could be a weekend for big changes in water volume.  There is still close to 2 feet of snow cover in the forest along the upper half of the river.  As the snow begins to melt more rapidly with the warmer temperatures we are experiencing it should equate to even more impressive views of the falls!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring Ice Detail

I'm sure people are good and tired of seeing pictures of ice and snow, so I'm going to say that this will (probably) be the last ice picture that I post for the year :-)  I can't help it, I just love ice and literally never get tired of photographing it.  Especially when it contains as much detail as it does here.  This is the hillside opposite from Partridge Falls (on the Pigeon River in Grand Portage, MN).  It is completely coated in ice with freezing spray from the waterfall.  You have to look closely to see just how much detail is in this scene.  If you do look closely, you'll see that the entire surface of the ice is coated with millions of little bumps.  Keep in mind that this photo only shows about 1/20 of the surface of the entire hillside.  Now imagine that entire hillside covered with all these little bumps of ice.  It's quite fascinating!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Pigeon River Ice Factory

How ice is made, at least right now at the base of this waterfall on the Pigeon River in Grand Portage, MN.  This time of year it's still getting cold enough at night that the spray from Partridge Falls is freezing as it hits the bank opposite from the falls.  The ice formations are different every year, and are constantly changing due to the endless barrage of freezing spray.   

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring Ice at Partridge Falls

Here is another view of Partridge Falls from yesterday, this one a little tighter view of the falls and surrounding ice (compared to the wider photo that I posted earlier today).  I love that thin veil of ice at the top left of the photo, and the formations at the bottom of the falls as well.  Ice is just so fascinating!  I never tire of seeing the endless ways that ice can form and the infinite variety of shapes and patterns it can take.  

Spring at Partridge Falls

The Pigeon River is slowly but surely continuing to open up for spring!  It seems like the melting process has been slow this year due to temperatures that have been hovering mainly in the low 30's with overnight lows in some cases reaching well below freezing.  What this means is that some portions of the river are completely open with no ice cover at all, while other portions still have a good thick layer of ice.  

At the waterfalls, it means a beautiful combination of open water and stunning ice formations.  I visited Partridge Falls yesterday and it was unbelievably beautiful.  99% of the actual waterfall itself is free of ice, but there is a giant ice bridge at the foot of the falls.  You can see that bridge in this photo.  The bridge is about 15 feet or so tall, and maybe 20 feet wide at its narrowest point.  Downstream from the ice bridge the majority of the width of the river is open and running freely.  With temperatures forecast to be in the 50's over the coming days, we should see the river opening up quite a bit more!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Island Universe

This photo represents all that I love about spending a night under the stars and enjoying a beautiful dark sky.  I made this photo after spending the previous 4 hours making images of the stars over Hollow Rock in Grand Portage.  Once I wrapped up at Hollow Rock I decided to drive down the shore to the lake walk section of the Superior Hiking Trail just north of Grand Marais.  The lake walk section has this beautiful sometimes island/sometimes tombolo (currently it's an island) that is a wonderful photographic subject.  This time of year the Milky Way lines up perfectly with the island.  

By the time I arrived at this location the faintest bit of daylight was just starting to creep up on the horizon.  I really liked the added feel the early dawn light gave to the photo.  Also, on the right side of the photo some hazy clouds were moving in which really accented the view of the stars on that side of the picture, making them appear much larger than they really were.  After making a series of images here, I went back to Hollow Rock and photographed a beautiful sunrise.  Nights like this are what I live for as a photographer, especially one that enjoys photographing the night sky so much!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Two versions of a sunrise at Hollow Rock

Here are two different versions of the same photographic composition.  I used very different shutter speeds on these two photos to show how much of a difference your choice of shutter speed can make in how a photo appears.  Both photos were taken with the aid of a 6-stop neutral density filter and a 2-stop reverse graduated neutral density filter.  For the photo above, a 15 second exposure was used at f/16 and ISO 200.  For the photo below, a .4 second exposure was used at f/8 and ISO 1600.  I like both versions and can't decide which one I like more, which is why I am posting both.  Plus, it's a good example of how much the choice of shutter speed can affect the look of a photo.  

Friday, April 8, 2016

Spring Morning at Hollow Rock

A beautiful spring morning at Hollow Rock in Grand Portage, MN!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

38 Minutes of the Milky Way

Welcome to the first star trail image that I've made in quite a long time.  I haven't done one of these in at least a year, probably closer to two.  I don't really know why it's been so long, as this type of photograph is a lot of fun to make.  It does take a bit more planning and definitely more of a time commitment, so maybe that's why.  I actually did screw this one up on my first attempt.  I was out of practice, so I guess I have an excuse.  The first exposure I did was for 46 minutes at ISO 200 and an aperture of f/8.  That exposure came out way too dark.  For my second try I did 38 minutes at ISO 200 and f/4.5 which worked a lot better as you can see here.  

There are programs you can buy that will allow you to do a series of shorter exposures and combine them later to make a "composite" star trail image.  My preference, though, is to try and do it with one single exposure.  I used to do this my old Canon 5D Mark II and it worked quite well, but the resulting images were somewhat noisy.  Not unusable, but definitely noisy.  With the Nikon D750 that I'm now shooting with, the resulting images are amazingly clean.  Camera sensor technology sure has come a long way!  

The only thing I don't like about this image is the fact that there are a few faint light trails from airplanes crossing the sky.  I decided to leave those trails in there, as they are part of the "natural" scene.  Plus, they are a mega pain to clean up nicely.  The plane trails are part of the story, so to speak.  The easiest one to see is in the lower left of the photo.  The others are barely there, I didn't even notice them until I was viewing the image at 100% on my 27" iMac screen.  

At any rate, I think the resulting image is wonderfully beautiful.  Star trails photos represent something that we are unable to see with our naked eye, the passage of time recorded onto a single image and the lines that the star light makes when that light is recorded over a period of time.  From the top left to the lower right of the photo you can also see a milky band of light, which is the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Like all the more distinct trails that you see from more prominent stars, the galactic center of the Milky Way moves across our sky and the light gets "spread out" when recorded for a long period of time.  I really had a lot of fun making this image.  That's my favorite part of photography.  It's fun and it gives us a window into the world that lets our imaginations run wild.  Enjoy :-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Galaxy Quest

Monday night I decided to buckle down and finally get outside on a quest to shoot the stars.  It had been a while since I had done this and Monday night's conditions were pretty much perfect.  It was a clear, moonless night and the temperature was nice and cool, in the single digits.  I find cooler nights work best for photographing the Milky Way because the air is crisp and clear; there typically isn't any haze caused by warmth and humidity.  

I left the house at midnight and stayed out all night, starting and ending my shooting at Hollow Rock in Grand Portage.  This was one of the first images I made, a 30 second exposure of the Milky Way.  I sure do love the night sky, and I love photographing it and sharing the resulting images with all of you!  I hope you enjoy viewing these photographs as much as I enjoy making them.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April Sunrise at Hollow Rock

I just got in from an entire night spent photographing the night sky and I've gotta say.... WOW what a night!  It sure was beautiful. Clear skies have been a rare thing this past winter and last night was one of the clearest nights in a long time.  Thankfully the wind was fairly calm as well, since the temperatures were a bit cold for early April.  The coldest I saw was 4 degrees and the warmest was 17 degrees when I arrived back home after sunrise.  

After shooting the night sky for several hours I was driving home and noticed the sky was starting to look nice with some colorful clouds. I decided to stop at Hollow Rock and see how sunrise would pan out.  It turned out to be pretty nice!  

I took the opportunity to play around with my ND filters.  I used a 6-stop ND filter and a 2-stop reverse graduated ND filter.  Stacking the filters and using an ISO of 400 and an aperture of f/11 gave me a 15 second exposure which really smoothed out the movement of the waves along the shoreline.  It was a beautiful beginning to the day, and a perfect ending to an awesome night of photography!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Signs of Autumn, Revealed in Spring

While on a hike through the woods the other day we came across this beautiful maple leaf.  Fallen in autumn but revealed by snow melting away, it was a beautiful sign of the ending of winter and coming of spring!

Friday, April 1, 2016

April 1st at High Falls

High Falls of the Pigeon River at Grand Portage State Park, Minnesota.  Most of the river still has a solid layer of ice over it, but High Falls has opened up quite a bit.  It shouldn't be long now for the entire river to be flowing freely once again!