Category Archives: Photos

Finding Fireflies

I couple of weeks ago I was awakened by a bright flash of lightning. After watching out the window for a few minutes I realized the storms were passed us and then I saw a light flash. Being still partially asleep I wasn’t sure I saw that little flash of light as it was 12:30am and fireflies are typically done lighting up by this time.

Fireflies following the trail home

Becoming a little more awake I continued to look outside only to confirm fireflies were indeed flashing in our back yard. A few minutes later I was out on the deck watching them flash repeatedly. More than we’ve ever had in our backyard. The following night I decided to head out to more wooded areas to see if the fireflies were putting on a show. The first location I tried really wasn’t providing as many fireflies as I wanted so I decided to try another area close by.

Twinkling in the grass

Luckily they were putting on a nice show but then another issue arose with a nearly full moon lighting up the landscape making it difficult to see any fireflies flashing. I was able to find a shaded area and get some nice pictures of the fireflies that night. Over the next couple of weeks I’ve been going to different spot when I can and photographing these interesting beetles as they displayed different flashing sequences and colors. Hopefully you can see their trails in the photos in this post. My next goal is to photograph a single beetle lighting up. We’ll see as that is a difficult task as they don’t like to stay in one place very long.

Dancing by the pond

Chasing Dragonflies

During the past several weeks I’ve been out enjoying the active wildlife and taking hundreds of photographs. Some of the most prevalent subjects have been dragonflies which are fun insects to photograph with all of their different colorations and patterns. People tend to get a little bored with dragonfly photographs as there are a lot of them.

Dragonfly clinging to a blade of grass

In the main photo above I believe that is called a widow skimmer which is also in the second to last photo from the bottom. Directly above is a four spotted skimmer. After photographing a dragonfly it can be a bit of a challenge to identify it but fun to try and fun to learn what each one is.

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These insects are amazing fliers often able to out fly birds to keep from being eaten and also catch insects for their next meal which is a great thing for those that don’t like mosquitos. Their acrobatics can entertain and amaze for hours on a nice summer afternoon.

Damselfly

Above is a blue damselfly hiding amongst the grass. While many people consider it a dragonfly it is actually a different insect in a group known as damselflies. Damselflies have their wings behind them while at rest and are not as skilled at flying as dragonflies. Also they typically are not as big.

Coming in for a landing

During my time attempting to photograph these fun insects, one of my goals was to capture them in flight which proved more difficult than expected. Most of my pictures of dragonflies in the air out of focus or have a portion of their body cut out of the photo or missed them entirely as my reaction time is slower than their takeoff time.

In the face of a dragon

In the picture above rests a 12 spotted skimmer. These didn’t seem to rest much while I was there so there is only a picture or two of them.

Waiting for the next flight

Above is another widow skimmer and below is an ebony jewelwing damselfly. These are probably my favorite damselflies because their coloration changes depending on the light they’re in and because of their black wings which flutter softly from leaf to leaf. There will probably be more dragonfly photos yet this year as I continue to have fun capturing them with a camera.

Ebony Jewelwing Damselfly

Getting Caught in a Small Storm While Taking Pictures

A year ago I was able to wonder around in a nearby forest taking in wildlife. You can read about it here if you would like. There have not been as many opportunities to get out with my camera this spring but recently I did get to spend some time taking in the ever greening forest in search on new life. On this particular outing my goal was to see if a mother coyote had taken up residence in a familiar spot to raise her little ones again and to find out if Eagles had once again laid eggs in their nest from last year.

Up in the tree

While slowly making my way in the woods attempting to make as little noise as possible I heard a low growling sound coming from nearby. Scanning the area I saw a head hanging out of a hole in the tree. Watching for a minute or two I noticed this raccoon ever so gently resting its head in this hole looking exhausted from the day.

A passing deer in the dark forest

Enjoying this raccoon for a short time I heard a noise in leaves up the hill from me but couldn’t see what was making the noise. Shortly after a little deer made its way near me but hadn’t noticed me yet. Fortunately I was standing on a log right next to another tree so there was no shuffling of leaves to slowly turn to watch it. As I began to rotate, the deer spotted my movement causing us both to stop immediately. It was so dark in the woods that taking pictures of moving animals was a challenge and I was in a poor position to steady my camera so all I could manage was a few blurry shots and it was gone. This was ok because I wanted to focus more on the raccoon.

A tired mother raccoon

Once the deer had disappeared I hopped onto another fallen tree nearby trying to keep the noise down as I moved closer to this hollow tree being used for a home. Once on this tree I quietly removed my backpack and took out the tripod in order to steady my camera in hopes of getting sharper photos. While doing this out pops a bunch of tiny heads trying to figure out what I was doing. Now I understand why this larger raccoon appears to be so tired as to be almost lifeless. It was a mother with several little ones to tend to.

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Almost settled in with my backpack and tripod, there was another rustling in the leaves near where the first noise came from but this time it sounded slightly different. I quickly frozen, standing on this log trying to look for movement and then I heard a sound – a turkey. Wow I’ve never had turkeys walk up to me. I always seem to come up on them and scare them away before getting a decent picture. Now what do I do? In order for me to get to cover so they wouldn’t recognize me I would have to move significantly. I decided to concentrate on these baby raccoons but tried to remain steady as to not disrupt the turkeys too much. They did eventually move on away from me so I could once again focus on these little critters right in front of me.

The whole raccoon family

Now I was able to get the camera set up on the tripod and sit comfortably on the log I was just standing on and shoot away as this family would pop in and out of this larger hole in the tree. Enjoying my time watching these little fury creatures I heard another noise off in the distance. It sounded like thunder! I didn’t think there was really any storms in the area so I dismissed it as possibly an airplane overhead or something. Than I heard it again with a much longer rumble. That had to be thunder so I pulled out my phone all while being watched and check the radar. Now what should I do? I can pack up and try and get out of hear or wait it out since it appeared I was on the edge and may only get a little rain. Waiting it out seemed like the better idea as I could see sun near the horizon so this couldn’t last very long. Back to taking pictures of the raccoons.

Approaching storm

While sitting there defying the weather, the thunder got closer and more numerous causing me to question my decisions to stay. Finally when it was almost overhead I decided it was time to pack up and leave. It must have been the right decision as the raccoons had all retreated back into their tree as well. Getting out to the edge of the woods I could see the storm which appeared to have just passed overhead. Now the wind was picking up at my back so the approaching cold front must have just came through. Do I go back to the raccoons or continue on to the eagles nest or keep going towards the car? My answer came in the form what sounded like a strong wind gust. But it wasn’t wind. I new my time was up and my choice now was to seek shelter among a clump of large maple trees just as heavy rains began pounding down. After a short downpour I decided to continue to the car and enjoyed watching the sun set behind this small spring storm. Definitely worth getting wet for.

A beautiful sunset as the storm passes

If Mushrooms Can Adapt…..

While looking through some photos from earlier this year I came across some of this shelf mushroom with a unique shape. As I examined this fungus it looks as though it was growing on this tree while the tree was still standing and once the tree fell to the ground the mushroom adapted and began growing in this new direction. The photo below shows what a typical shelf mushroom looks like. In fact, I’ve never seen one growing differently than this. They grow horizontally on trees, usually dead trees but not always.

What a typical shelf mushroom look like

As I walked around this shelf mushroom admiring its form I began wondering several things. First, how old is this fungus? It has to be several years old to be this big as well as growing in one direction for a couple of yeas and then growing in the opposite direction for at least one year. Why did this mushroom continue growing once the tree fell down while others appear to have stopped on this same tree? In nature, and in life, being able to adapt to ever changing situations often brings longevity. How long did it take for this shelf mushroom to change directions once the tree fell over? Was it the very next season or did it take multiple growing seasons continue growing. I will have to find this fungus again and check in on it every so often just to learn more on how it continues to adapt and how its shape changes. Unfortunately my camera battery died so I couldn’t take more photos on this particular trip. Stay tuned for updates…..

Shelf mushroom adapting to changing conditions

 

The Ducks are Migrating

While out on a hike recently I noticed this small pond full of ducks. Watching for a few minutes I could see a few different types of beautiful ducks but I had to keep going as rain was near and I didn’t really want to get wet. A few days later I got up just before sunrise and headed to this lake to watch these ducks.

A crisp morning with some fog

As the morning went on I was amazed at the diversity of ducks in this little pond on a beautiful crisp day. While walking from my car to the pond there was frost on the grass and some fog in valleys which was burning off quickly under the warming sun. A perfect morning for enjoying the outdoors in my book.

Ringneck Ducks

After settling in next to a tree, the ducks began moving around the lake but seemed to always keep an eye on me. The morning started with me sitting in front of the tree trying to keep still waiting for them to come closer. After awhile I decided to move next to the tree instead of in front of it and ducks began to come closer but still far enough away to prevent close up pictures like the Ringneck ducks in the photo above.

Trumpeter Swan grazing the top of the water

While enjoying the great spring morning I could hear a Trumpeter Swan calling off in the distance. Eventually it flew closer and around the pond. Having watched these birds I was pretty sure it was going to make a pass somewhere on this pond if not land in the pond so I kept an eye on it and had the camera ready. The difficult part about preparing for the swan was trying to also keep on eye on the ducks and their position. Soon this Trumpeter turned and headed for the pond allowing me to shoot away. When looking over the photos this one caught my attention because of how close the wing feathers are to the water and the light reflecting off of the water onto its wings.

Redhead ducks swimming with the Ringneck ducks

As the morning continued a beaver would swim around appearing as if it was chasing these ducks which worked great for me because these ducks would forget about me for a few moments and come closer. Another type of duck called Redhead moved to the area of the pond closer to me and allowed me to watch them for a little while until the beaver left the area they wanted to be. They were interesting to watch as at time they would fly in circles around the lake and fly into a tree for a few minutes before returning to the water. Also at this time wind was increasing taking away the reflective water from earlier.

A pair of woodducks

After awhile I began watching some birds as they fluttered around me and even over the water. As I continued to do this I noticed some ducks coming closer as my attention was elsewhere like these Wood Ducks in the photo above. This was interesting to me as in other locations keeping still and as hidden as possible brought the ducks closer allowing for more detailed photos. As they seemed to get more comfortable with my presence I would slowly move the camera back in their direction and begin photographing them.

Hooded Mergansers

These male and female Hooded Mergansers eventually made there way closer to me providing a little entertainment as there was one male and seven females giving this group a little different dynamic from the traditional pair of ducks. It was fun as they stayed near me for a little while as they dove for food, chased each other around, and preened. Eventually they flew off to another area leaving me relaxed and satisfied with my time watching them.

Green Winged Teal

The first ducks to venture close to me were Green Wing Teals as they scoured the shoreline for food. These ducks have an amazing array of colors which become more iridescent as the light changes while they’re swimming around, however, the best colors show up as their wings are spread showing off a light teal and bright green spot on each wing. During the morning I did hear Loons calling in the distances along with Sandhill Cranes but they did not venture close enough to watch. It was a very surprising morning at this little pond with how much diversity of ducks and birds hanging around making it difficult to leave. Hopefully there will be another opportunity to go back.

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Ice and Snow

After seeing bare ground for several weeks we got a light dusting of snow and cold temperatures re-freezing soft ground so I wanted to get out and enjoy a winter sunrise. After watching the sunrise my goal was to photograph Eagles, which have been courting lately resulting in some spectacular flight displays. Unfortunately I did not see any of these acrobatics on this morning but I did see some interesting natural art.

Time Frozen

There were several stumps with roots protruding from the ground covered in a light coating of snow making for fun and interesting patterns. I liked how the old tree stump contrasted with the snow and frozen creek next to it. It made me think of a landscape lost in time being frozen from an earlier millennium to be recently discovered. This is partially true as the area I was in has been covered in water for many years and recently has been drained exposing it’s true character from before it was damned and flooded. Another frozen tree reminded me of a Mammoth tusk further reinforcing these pre-historic thoughts. While my morning excursion was entertaining it was back to 2017 a few hours later.

A Mammoth's Frozen Tusk?

Creating an Ice Wall

On a cold winter night earlier in the week I was tormenting myself trying to decide if I should go out with the camera and attempt to capture winter images provided by a full moon. I was tired from a full day of work and really just wanted to sit back and watch a movie but images of moon reflecting off of a waterfall almost frozen kept flashing through my mind. All day long I had tried to figure out a beautiful location perfect for photographing under a full moon as this bright light can often provide amazing images especially on a snow covered landscape. It makes everything so bright and casts beautiful shadows across the snow covered ground.

A cold winter night as the full moon showers the ice and snow with abundant light

I was unable to come up with a good spot to go until I ran across a picture taken recently of a local popular waterfall. In that picture there was a lot of ice with water still flowing over the falls possibly giving me the opportunity to catch moonlight reflecting off of the ice and water with a great moonlight hue.  While still at home I kind of decided to forgo the idea of going out with the camera as I was tired and it was only 8 degrees above 0 Fahrenheit reducing any motivation. It was decision time. Do I suck it up and drag out all of my winter gear, load it into the car and drive to this waterfall or call it a night and relax in the warm comfort of my home? Agonizing over this for about 45 minutes and discussing it with my family I kept imaging the beautiful images that could be possible or it may all be for nothing if lighting isn’t what I am looking for.

Water crashing over the edge creating icicles all around it

Finally I dug a little deeper and lugged possible necessary gear into my vehicle and headed for the falls. Would I even be lucky enough to capture a moon bow? This occurs when bright moonlight hits the waterfall and reflects a rainbow. Upon arriving I quickly went to the falls to see about the situation. I was a little disappointed as there is a lot of artificial light illuminating up the entire area. This was somewhat expected as it is a popular place and people could easily get hurt if it was too dark. So now what? I decided since I was already at the waterfall I would at least get out the camera and take a few pictures before returning home. As is fairly common all it took was setting up the camera and time began to fly while I set up different compositions under the full moon light enjoying each part of it with the exception of feeling the cold creep in from time to time.

Impressive icicyle chandaliers hanging near the waterfall

As you can see from these photographs from that excursion, the ice and flowing water mixed with snow and light to create a beautiful landscape providing many options for great images. Unfortunately the moonlight was unable to penetrate through nearby artificial lighting but that didn’t change the fact there were many ice formations with great light to take advantage of. I may have to spend more time at this waterfall this winter looking for more intriguing pictures.

Water continues to flow under a wall of ice

Minnesota’s Forest Coral

I wanted to photograph the frosty plants on a foggy November morning. By the time I got all of my gear and began hiking the temperature warmed enough to melt much of the frost and with it, my goals for this day. Kicking myself for not moving earlier I begrudgingly continued on my desired hiking route just to enjoy the day and see if there was anything interesting along the way.

Great color combinations and textures of some mushrooms

My hope was to hike to a more secluded lake and photograph migrating ducks if nothing else caught my attention before hand. As I moved along the trail I happened to see this mushroom covered log. For some reason I’m drawn to mushrooms on a log. All of these rounded little plates sticking out from a disintegrating portion of wood. Yet through a number of attempts there haven’t been any interesting photos from any of my attempts. Although I’ve not had some of the equipment I brought this time either since my original plan was to photograph frosty crystals as intimately as I could. Maybe that same idea would bring out what attracts me to these mushrooms.

The amazing texture and color of lichens contrast nicely against orange mushrooms

As I neared the log I was amazed at the incredible display being put on by these mushrooms which happed to also be surrounded by lichens putting on their own colorful display on this cool, wet late fall day. The seemingly random textures of the lichens made them very intriguing along with their beautiful variations of colors, from bright greens to light blues made them stand out among the multicolored mushrooms. When I returned home later and looked on the computer they looked just like a coral reef to me.

Stepping along some mushrooms full of great texture

Throw in a little dark green moss and it became a world all it’s own. What else lives among all these vibrant formations? Eating mushrooms or lichens, seeking shelter in the many crevices? A dew covered web confirmed this little world most of us never even know of. I loved all of the fuzzy rings stacked on top of one another creating each mushroom for the spider to climb searching for its’ next meal before succumbing to winter.

Dew covered web connecting mushrooms

As I continued to explore around the fallen branches I came across some vibrant orange mushrooms which contrasted beautifully with the dark lichen covered bark. Patterns within these mushrooms amazed me along with their shapes and waves. Add to that the green, yellow, and blue lichens and this scene is just exploding with color.

An orange mushroom showing bright in late November

Eventually the daylight was getting dimmer making it more challenging to photograph these mushroom filled branches so I packed up and headed back for the car. On my return hike rain began to fall so it was a good time to leave and pack away the camera. A great substitute for missing most of the frost covered landscape. In the picture below you can see the fallen tree that first caught my attention. Very easy to continue on walking as this is a pretty common scene in a forest. Glad I stopped to examine it closer.

Mushrooms covering an old downed tree

 

A November Foggy Morning

Recently in late November I found myself with an unexpected day off from work. Enjoying a more relaxed pace I was taking care of some things on the computer as daylight began to fill a nearby window. Looking outside I noticed a foggy morning which I’ve been wanting to get out and photograph in but work had been busier and required more energy so on this morning the fog filled landscape wasn’t enough to get me out of the house with camera in hand. Returning to the computer I completed a few more tasks and glanced outside again. This time there was a heavy frost to compliment the fog. That was more than I could withstand so I shut down what I was doing, got dressed, and snatched the camera from its resting place on my way to a nearby park.

Dock leading into the fog

While quickly driving I was trying to decide which part of the park I wanted to begin in and what my objective was this mid-morning. My goal was frost covered plants with a foggy background. A quick stop at a nearby dock surrounded by cattails had potential and when I got there a beautiful frost covered plants everywhere. Perfect! So I began taking pictures of the fog filled lake before moving to focus on the frost.

Frosty cattail

After a few photos of the mysterious lake I turned the camera to capture frost covered plants. The nearby cattails where showing great ice crystals. Unfortunately I was in a hurry to get to another area of the park so I didn’t take the time I should have to get better photos of these ice formations. The few I did take are still fun to look at.

Thick, frost covered branches

On my way to the lake some bright ice covered shrubs caught my attention and I knew I wanted to get some pictures of them before leaving the area. It was amazing how thick and beautiful this frost was covering each branch. Add to this the dense fog still hovering close to the ground and you might be able to understand the desire to be there taking it in.

Close up of the frosty branches

In this closer view of the frost you can begin to see all of the individual crystals that form to create the frost covered sticks. Underneath the frost covered cluster red stems show through contrasting with the white frost for a beautiful photograph. Seeing this now really makes me want to go back and take better pictures of that situation while it was available. From there I moved on to another part of the park. At the entrance someone had placed a lost hat on top of a post. I thought it was interesting to see the frost covering portions of this hat and also how the hat sort of makes the post into something living. Unfortunately that was the last of the frost for this day as temperatures rose enough to melt it after this.

Like talking to a post