Category Archives: Photos

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

Taking in the Super Moon

During the recent full moon a couple of beautiful nights beckoned me to get out and photograph the moon rise. This happened to be a super moon which means it was closer to the Earth than usual during a full moon. It has not been this close on a full moon for the last 46 years so what does that mean for most people. Probably the most noticeable piece was the brightness. As long as the sky was mostly clear you could look out across the landscape and see it brightly lit up more than usual.

The moons gravitational pull

I went out on two different nights to enjoy this slightly larger and brighter moon. The first I was joined by one of my cousins also interested in capturing some photos of the moon. It was fun to try a few different ideas. In the picture above I knew of a leaning tree so I positioned myself to photograph it leaning towards the moon as if the gravitational force of the moon was pulling the tree. It turned out well I think.

Reflections

With a brighter and slightly larger full moon the reflection off of the water made for a picturesque image. Calming to look at. It was relatively windy that night so the reflection takes on a different look. The light is more scattered making for a wider reflection.

A moon burst

One of the challenges I continue to work on is creating a moon burst with the camera. You’ve probably seen images that include a sun burst with rays spreading out across the horizon. I’m trying to create a similar picture using the moon. It’s a little more challenging because of the lower light available. The photo above gives you an idea and for the most part I like it. Getting the moon a bit sharper along with sharper rays would make this about perfect I think. Gives me something to work towards.

Full moon rising

On my second night of photographing this full moon I was in place to see it rising above the trees. This is when I could really notice the larger size. At least I think it was noticeable but I haven’t watched the full moon rise in this particular spot before so there really isn’t anything to compare it to. Still it looks quite big across the horizon to me.

Pulling the moon across the sky

One of my attempts was to get geese or ducks flying in front of the moon. I was never prepared in time to get this as I was usually photographing the super moon and surrounding landscape when a flock came flying by and my camera settings weren’t quite right. By the time I changed them to capture these geese they had already made it by but after looking at the image in the computer it looked like these geese were pulling the moon. I thought that looked kind of fun so I decided to share it with you.

 

Watching the Sun Set

It was an unseasonably warm evening on Halloween weekend and I just had to get out and taken in the suns warmth while enjoying the setting sun. There were some wispy clouds floating across the sky setting up for one of those spectacular sunsets that challenges the beauty of the northern lights. But you just never know what kind of sunset you’ll get so your goal of photographing the beautiful, fleeting colors could end up failing as it often does.

The day coming to a close as the sun nears the horizon

Late in the afternoon I headed out to explore a place I haven’t spent much time at but appeared to hold great promise of beautiful photos. Meandering through a grassy field, swamps, and forest and many distractions to take pictures of (such as the snake in my previous post),I eventually arrived at my destination and settled in. There was still some time before the sun would set so I surveyed my surroundings looking for different possible perspectives to include in my pictures. Closer to sunset a warm golden glow began blanketing the landscape bringing a glorious end to my day.

A beautiful golden glow close to sunset

Enjoying the brilliant golden sky reflecting back at me, the moment I have been waiting for had arrived. The sun was near the horizon and I was in a great position to take it all in with clouds in perfect position to make it a spectacular show. Hold on to see if the anticipation was warranted. Even if it became a bust at this point it was still a gift to be able to take in this beautiful afternoon surrounded by nature.

The sun has almost set for the day

And there we have it – Sunset! Right on time according to my watch. This is were people decide to leave and head home. Often this means they miss the most colorful part of a sunset. As the sun passes below the horizon is when I really begin to pay attention to the clouds and watch for sunlight bouncing off of them.

And there we have sunset - Applause! Beautiful!

Soon after there are some reds in the bottom clouds. What a beautiful contrast to all the dark blues surrounding them. Ohh I think this is going to be just what I was hoping for. A quick check to make sure the camera battery has enough power and my memory card has plenty of space for whatever photos I want to take. All things are good as I wouldn’t want to miss a piece of this because of a dying battery or full memory card. On with the show!

And now the color show is about to start

Tonight there is no disappointment in the sky while incredible colors splash above as if being painted right in front of me. This is where the choice becomes extremely difficult. Photograph this or just sit back and enjoy the moment. If you decide to photograph it you’re guaranteed to miss parts of oranges, red, and yellows dancing on clouds floating by but there will be pictures to look back on for as long as you want. To put everything down and take in the sights you’ll be able to watch it all unfold but only with your memory. You can guess my decision.

Wow, now that is spectacular the way the sun is bouncing off of the clouds

Incredible! How else can you describe this sunset? Who else is out here to see this tonight? Are the animals around me pausing for a few minutes to marvel at this beauty? Is this a celestial gift just for me? What have I done to deserve such an amazing moment?

A colorful sunset panoramic

As the sun continues to move further below the horizon and clouds continue to glide across the darkening sky the colors continue to change and begin to recede to the eventual darkness soon to follow. I still continue to photograph even though it is difficult as I’m almost paralyzed from this beautiful night watching the sun set in full glory. Humbled by these huge forces working together in indescribable ways. If only it could last a little longer.

The amazing color combinations beginning to deminish

A few more photos and it’s time to leave in order to pick my way through this unfamiliar forest while there is still a glimpse of light. I always walk away from a sunset like this very humble and full of energy from what I just witnessed. It can be a big spiritual moment reminding me of how fortunate I am and what I’ve been given. Also a bit of sadness enters from the realization that many other people didn’t even realize how amazing this sunset was and so didn’t, or couldn’t, take a few minutes out of their day to see it. Yep, it was the right decision to come here for this moment.

Now it's time for the final applause

From beginning to end I photographed this sunset over a two hour span which may have been the best two hours of that day. Just before arriving at my destination I was photographing the snake and had the opportunity to continue doing so but decided it was time to move on as the sun was getting lower in the sky. Those can be challenging decisions to make but I couldn’t create more images of the snake and catch the sunset. I’m satisfied with how it all turned out. Some fun photos of the snake and images of this wonderful sunset.

 

Winding Through the Leaves

Recently while exploring a local park there was a quick movement rustling fallen leaves right in front of me. It was a bit confusing at first as I couldn’t detect any wind so this leaf movement made not logical sense. After searching for a cause I spotted a snake just a few feet from me. Ahh, the reason for this leaf rustling.

Slowly moving among the fallen leaves

Expecting it to quickly disappear I planned on continuing my hike however as I moved it stayed motionless so I grabbed the camera and began taking pictures of this snake. Moving around it I crept ever closer and it stayed there without so much as a flinch allowing me to practice with the camera in such a situation.

Look through the leaves

This continued for about 30 minutes as I adjusted to take pictures from different angles until I decided I should move on and let the snake move to where ever it needed to as the temperatures where getting colder making it more challenging for the snake to get to a safe place for the night. Near the end it would begin to turn its head towards me and flutter its tongue as if to let me know it was getting more comfortable with my presence and knew I was not a threat to it. An entertaining interaction with it on a pleasant late October afternoon.

Better luck next time

 

Fall Flowers

As the summer gave way to fall late season flowers burst with some great color tempting me to point the camera towards them. There may not be as many plants blooming but those that are stand out reminding us that the cold is still a little ways away.

A late blooming grass

While exploring a nearby prairie area I came across a lone flowers spike arising from some grass which caught my attention because not only is it the only grass in bloom in that area but it had a beautiful purple color which I don’t usually see. It made me wonder if the color was more intense because it was blooming during cooler weather. Typically this would bloom during the summer when things are warmer.

A bee pollinating goldenrod

Fall is a time full of Goldenrod on the prairie or in fields. I wanted to catch a bee climbing around the bright yellow blooms but was surprised at how difficult that turned out to be as there weren’t as many bees flying around as I’m used to seeing. I’ve heard bee populations have been decreasing causing a lot of concern but there was a drastic reduction with all of the Goldenrod flowers providing so much food in the area.

White Asters

Most of the asters I came across this fall were varying shades of purple but occasionally a white one would stand out. Surrounded by the purples and golds of other fall flowers they made a beautiful contrast to the prairie.

Purple Asters beeing pollinated

While looking over some purple asters there would be these flower flies climbing up and over the flowers in search of newly released pollen. They provided some entertainment and challenge to get them in focus as they move quickly away from the lens. While taking pictures of milkweed seeds I found a milkweed bug lacking the vibrant black bands just hanging from seeds. It blended in very well with the white fluff allowing these seeds to fly in the wind.

A milkweed bug hiding out amongst Milkweed seeds

It kind of feels like going full circle capturing images of the early spring blooms and ending with the last flowers of the 2016. I’ve definitely had some fun photographing them this year.

 

Fall Colors

This fall hasn’t been the most spectacular display of color leaves blanketing the entire landscape in Minnesota this year. There are still some pockets of amazingly vibrant leaves to take in on a sunny, autumn afternoon. At least until the rain and wind separate them from their branches and they become a part of the forest floor.

A squirrel enjoying a snack on the forest floor covered with freshly fallen leaves

Everything in the forest is preparing for the winter, including this squirrel taking time to eat before continuing to find food to store. In many areas the leaves didn’t really turn colors much. They just browned up or fell from the trees as there has been a lot of rain during the summer and fall so far with relatively warm temperatures. It’s almost as if the trees decided they’ve grown enough this year and determined it time for winter and shed their leaves.

Sun shining through the red leaves of an oak tree

A vibrant fallen maple leaf ready to join the others laying on the forest floor

Fortunately there were still a few areas where the trees headed into all of their autumn glory provided beautiful red, orange, and yellow colors to enjoy. It may take a little exploring to find these areas but the sights are worth the effort but they only last a few days before wind and rain erase the colors from the trees.

Sun peaking through the leaves rustling in the breeze

The golden glow of a Tamarack among the sparsly covered oaks and maples

These pockets of fall colors on a nice, sunny day help distract from the realization of soon approaching snowflakes. At least for a short time. It won’t be long now so enjoying the suns warmth is a nice treat while viewing sights like this bright gold Tamarack tree.

Colors of the autumn forest floor

Red and yellow leaves showing their full glory before falling away

 Mossed covered log holding a bright red maple leaf

Even the lakes, ponds, and rivers bask in autumn colors as the leaves continue on their fall journey. While out photographing vibrant fall colors I attempted to leave the forest many times but kept getting delayed by another beautiful fall scene requiring a reach for my camera in an attempt to capture these amazing colors.

Leaves covering the waters of this saturated pond hidden in the forest

A single red and orange oak leaf floating away

Red leaves holding on while the rest have fallen

 

Egrets

This summer has provided some great opportunities to observe egrets and take a few pictures along the way. They are challenging to photograph in the blaring sun due to their pure white feathers but I still enjoyed the experience.

Got one!

For most of the time they were looking for food which brought entertainment as they strolled through the shallow water. It was interesting to listen to their calls and see their actions towards other egrets, heron, and ducks. Unfortunately I was unable to get a good picture of most of these interactions. They really didn’t seem to care about the ducks but herons and other egrets seemed to bring more aggression.

Looking for lunch

When not looking for food they would find a stump or branch to rest in and preen for several minutes. They didn’t seem to stay in one place very long requiring me to stay on top of the camera settings if I wanted decent shots along the way.

Taking in the sun

On occasion there would be multiple egrets together but that usually ended in squawking with one or more birds leaving that spot in search of a bit more solitude. The fishing must have been pretty good to bring several together. Did they realize there were multiple birds there or were they distracted by the search for food and then realized they weren’t alone?

Too many birds in one spot

As they day neared the end, egrets continued to hunt for every bit of food they could find before nightfall. Slowly stalking whatever moves under the surface of the calm, warm water. I enjoyed being able to watch as they went about their prowl and snap a few pictures here and there.

Looking for an evening snack

 

Great Blue Herons

Ever since taking the photo below of a relatively close up of a Great Blue Heron I’ve wanted to find an opportunity to do so again once I upgraded cameras to the Sony mirrorless NEX-F3.

Great Blue Heron on Isle Royale

Unfortunately every time I seemed to be getting close for a nice picture of a heron it would get spooked and fly away all the while squawking at me eliminating any hope of capturing an image. This summer I found a couple of opportunities for photographs. While learning how to become a part of the landscape for hunting purposes, these skills were not adequate for pictures of this somewhat elusive bird. Keep in mind I have limited distance with my zoom lenses as the bigger ones require a fair amount of money which I am unwilling to spend as this is just a hobby. However I found a larger lens for relatively low expense by renting it for a couple of days at a time. The image below was taken with a 150-600mm telephoto lens which brings wildlife considerable closer than my little 210mm zoom lens.

Moving through the water

With that in mind, the photograph below was taken using my little 210mm lens. One of the skills I’m working on is hiding amongst my surroundings in order to achieve better results and it seems to be working. Of course finding the right location helps as well. The heron below was taken at a local lake frequented by such birds increasing my chances of getting closer to one. Here it is captured just as it spotted something moving in the water. Moments later it successfully caught something to eat.

What was that?

On the same lake but another location I caught this one sharing the area with a trumpeter swan and some ducks. I would like to have been closer but I still enjoy being able to photograph a heron before if flies away.

Sharing the lake with a swan and ducks

This next group of pictures were taken from a dock where the heron was obviously use to people being around making the potential for pictures easier. The next four photos are a sequence of a heron diving for food. In the photo below it saw something to strike at.

Spotted something

In the next picture the heron is leaping into the water attacking a potential meal where it was almost complete submerged for a time.

Diving in for food

Below is of the heron shaking water from its feathers after being soaked by the water. I couldn’t tell if it actually caught what it was after making its efforts worthwhile.

Drying off

Finally the heron is back standing on the log it began on to begin the search for food all over again.

Searching for food

My last image shows a heron with wings fully expanded as it takes off right in front of me in the evening sun. This particular heron flew away and returned to this same area multiple times over a few hours given the opportunity to practice photographing herons and learning how they act in this situation. I could identify this heron because of the feather or two missing from its left wing. For much of the time I was about 25 feet away from it just to give you an idea how close they have to be for a 210mm zoom lens to fill a frame with a heron. A very enjoyable time at the lake to spite the mosquitoes trying to distract me.

Flying Heron

 

Dragonflies

Early this summer, the opportunity to get some close up photographs of dragonflies presented itself and fortunately I had the camera along. This first one was quite a surprise as I was at the edge of a lake photographing the occasional duck but really wanting to take pictures of a pair of beavers that frequented the area. At one point I was casually looking around when I saw a dragonfly just hanging on a tree motionless. Further inspection showed it had just emerged from it water insect body transformed into a flying insect. If you look closely you can kind of make out the shell which it had previously hosted.

A dragonfly emerging from it previous form

Dragonflies are unable to take flight for some time after emerging from the water as they need time for the wings to expand and dry which is why this particular one was still for awhile. If I had noticed it climbing up the tree initially there may have been some interesting pictures of it’s emergence and change of form. Something to look for in the future.

Drying its wings before the first flight

After some time had passed it unfolding the new wings in an effort to continue drying them in preparation for it’s first flight. Thankfully there wasn’t much else happening so I was able to practice my photography with close ups trying different lenses to see what I like best and which angles seem to be more interesting. The sun was illuminating the dragonfly quite brightly so light was not an issue making it a little easier. I’m sure this insect was wondering at which point I was going to cause it harm believing everything I was doing was in preparation of a meal. Must have been a huge relief when I left as there wasn’t anything the dragonfly could do except walk a little on the tree.

Waiting to fly in the warming sun

A short time later there was another opportunity with a dragonfly clinging to one of the orchids decorating my front door. At first I just admired it waiting for it to take flight on it’s pursuit of dinner. After a few minutes I decided to fetch the camera and once again practice dragonfly photography especially after noticing some of the beautiful colors in the abdomen which are more visible in the large picture at the top. This insect also allowed me several minutes of picture taking and then decided it was time to move on before something undesirable happened. In the upper Midwest it is a very unlikely situation to see a dragonfly enjoying the bloom of a moth orchid (phaleanopsis) which are tropical plants.

Taking in an orchid flower

 

Young Bald Eagles

I’ve been fortunate this year to watch bald eagles as they maintained their nest and are currently raising young eaglets. I don’t visit frequently as I prefer to allow them to continue without being disturbed too frequently risking their departure earlier than they should. I’ve only been close enough to see the nest a couple of times.

Stretching their wings

The first was in March before there were any leaves on the trees making it easier to find. They could also see me easily and were not happy about me being in their territory. It was at that time that I learned exactly what bald eagles sound like and have been able to identify their calls since. There have been several times I’ve been in the area and heard their calls telling me they’re still occupying the nest and raising the young without going near the nest. Being able to recognize their calls have directed me to other nests now that I know what I’m listening and looking for.

Being Spotted

My second visit to their nest was later in the spring after all of the trees grew leaves hiding the nest from most spots on the ground. Fortunately I found an area to observe and photograph the eagles for a short time. During that time the adults fed their eaglets and the young eagles danced around the nest before and after eating.

While photographing I didn’t realize that one of the adults was searching for the sounds my camera was making until it was looking directly at me. Once spotted the eagle began screeching and flew a short distance away while the eaglets hid inside their huge nest built from large sticks.

A little while later the young eagles began peering over the sides at me again and I decided it was time to leave them so they could continue on with life. Soon I expect they will be flying and difficult to find near the nest but it was fun and educational to watch them for a few hours.

Unhappy adult Bald Eagle