Tag Archives: Photography

Signs of Spring

It seems way to early but the signs of spring continue to increase with each warming day. Every day that I’m fortunate to be able to go out into nearby woods I see spring making its way more and more. By the end of February the days have gotten noticably longer and temperatures are increasing. Most of our snow is gone and the ice on lakes and rivers disappears a little each week bringing open water and a place for migrating ducks to land.

Ice is melting away

One day last week I was out hiking when little white specs caught my eye. On closer inspection it was pussy willows beginning to emerge. This is about 2 to 3 weeks earlier than last year. I keep hoping for a late season snowstorm or two but with each passing week that potential gets further and further away. I know many people are happy about the warm days and they do make every day life easier. Still a reminder of living in Minnesota in early March would be nice.

Pussywillows emerging

Tucked away out of sight there is the occasion sign of spring such as Silver Maple trees beginning to bloom without attracting much attention along with brightly colored mushrooms sprouting from a damp log and moss becoming a lush green almost like a soft, thick carpet covering up a decomposing log. Animals are also beginning their spring rituals as they come out of hibernation while others prepare nests or dens for another year of new creatures to enter the world.

Birds are migrating North

In areas where the water is no longer covered by sheets of ice I see ducks, geese, and swans bobbing up and down as they find nourishment under the surface. This is just the beginning and March has a way of teasing spring weather and then reversing with a blast of winter stealing the motivation to venture outside until it all passes sometime in April. For now it’s fun to witness each new change as the landscape emerges from a long winter nap.

Silver Maple beginning to bloom

Ice Formations of a Waterfall

While exploring Tettegouche State Park on New Year’s weekend we hiked up to High Falls and became amazed at the many different ice formations surrounding this water fall. Just looking at this amazing water fall almost completely frozen is beautiful especially set in the winter wonderland of Northern Minnesota however closer examination of the different pieces that make up this scene makes it even more incredible.

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There are different shapes, colors, and sizes of the many different icicles near the falls. It’s interesting to imagine how these were formed such as in the photo above. Water flowing over the falls has a darker color so how were these created clear at first and then coated in snow or frost? Guessing at the answer I would say these were formed during a recent rain event which was followed colder temperatures and then the spray from the water fall coated them.

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This next picture has multiple colors of ice with a chimney allowing light from the sky to illuminate this natural sculpture. The darker ice which is tinted must have been created from water flowing over the falls but it could also be from water seeping through rocks picking up tannins and minerals causing the water to be tinted and freezing with dripping water from the recent rainfall. What was really interesting to me was the chimney. How was this created? Was there ice there originally that fell creating a hole or was the natural opening wide enough that it never had water running through it?

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While exploring further there were these icicles made from water freezing making two different icicles that merged together leaving open space between them for a portion. Also I found the pieces of horizontal ice attached to the vertical icicles quite interesting.

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This next picture is showing a zoomed out version of the vertical and horizontal icicles highlighting the horizontal ice. How do icicles get created horizontally? My best guess is going back in time to imagine these being formed over hours, days, and weeks. Initially the clear icicles were made from rainfall freezing. Next mist from the running water fall was strongly blowing towards these frozen icicles freezing almost on contact. So these could be made as a result of heavy rains mixed with strong winds after the rainfall but before the falls froze creating unique ice formations.

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This is one of my favorite perspectives looking up at numerous icicles appearing as they are going to fall right on top of you. On the day of this photo these were very secure so no concerns which was confirmed as we broke off one and it did not separate from the rock above easily. In this last picture below I found several different ice formations appearing as a stairway up the falls. Even though it looks like stairs I would never climb it without proper equipment knowing this is a water fall and water is still running underneath this ice making it more unpredictable.

Ice Steps going up the waterfall

Spur of the Moment New Years Trip

As I was finishing my day of work on New Years Eve day I began to look to the rest of the holiday weekend and wondered how to best celebrate the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. One of the thoughts that kept running through my mind was a desire to enjoy winter. For the last couple of years I’ve grabbed the camera on New Years Day and went hiking at nearby parks. Unfortunately there wasn’t much in the way of good snow this year so began to explore different options for a winter wonderland to start another year.

The last sunset of 2016

Quickly I arrived at the idea of going to the North Shore of Minnesota. That should be far enough to find a snow covered landscape. While driving home I called the rest of the family and ran the idea past them to see if there was any interest beyond my own. Since it was very spontaneous it took a few moments to explain my ideas. Taking some time to digest this they soon determined it could be fun and phone calls were quickly made to take care of responsibilities at home for the next 24 hours as well as secure a place to stay.  Once I returned home from my last day of work for the year we all packed and gathered winter gear, loaded the car and hit the road for a short 2 hour drive to Duluth taking in the last sunset of 2016 along the way.

Enjoying hundreds of Goldeneye ducks

Our arrival in Duluth was met with slightly icy roads as they had just received some fresh snow that morning and a nighttime view of Lake Superior which remained mostly ice free to spite some very cold temperatures the week before. We quickly dropped off our stuff and headed for a favorite place to eat while in Duluth – Old Chicago. After celebrating the change of years it was off to bed. The next morning I awoke ahead of everyone else so decided I should grab the camera and hope for a beautiful sunrise over Lake Superior. Unfortunately, as you can see from the top photo, there was very little sun but there still was a great view as light increased on the morning. There was about a half dozen people out near the canal trying to do the same thing I was, photograph the first sunrise of 2017!

The upper frozen falls of Gooseberry Falls State Park

While the sun failed to make a bright, fiery appearance, several hundred Common Goldeneye ducks swam in the open waters of the Duluth Canal for anyone willing to be up early to enjoy. I’ve never seen this type of duck before so it was a nice treat to watch them for awhile before heading back to the room to gather up the rest of the family and continue north to Gooseberry Falls State Park. A short time later we pulled into the winter wonderland I was hoping for to bring in the new year. Surprisingly most of the waterfalls and river at this park were frozen over making for some beautiful natural ice sculptures covered in fluffy white snow. Not very many people take the time to explore these frozen falls so it was a nice treat to see them in an an unusual way.

The river is frozen over while Lake Superior remains open in the distance

After a couple of hours playing around in the snow and ice of Gooseberry we wanted to continue further north towards Tettegouche State Park. Fortunately this is not a long drive from where we were giving most of the afternoon at one of my favorite parks on the North Shore. Arriving a little while later we got out of the car, put on our winter gear – boots, hats, gloves, snow pants and began our excursion to the high falls of Tettegouche. Along this 1.5 mile trail we became enthralled with this winter landscape enveloping us all around. So peaceful and very few people around giving most of this quiet winter scene exclusively to us. I kept waiting to hear a wolf howl in the distance confirming our picture book arrival to Northern Minnesota but no such thing happened.

The low sun in the horizon shining through the tall trees

Plowing through the snow we arrived at our destination to find that this river and waterfall were also mostly frozen over allowing very different viewing perspectives than I’ve every witnessed before. Now we could walk almost right up to the falls and feel just how large it actually is while listening to the water run under thick walls of ice making us less certain about standing on what would be water during much of the year. A very serene moment looking over this tall wall of ice surrounded by mostly undisturbed snow.

Exploring the High Falls of Tettegouche State Park

As we examined the great ice wall all of the different formations started to jump out. Different clusters of icicles joined together creating an ice filled curtain concealing fast flowing water behind which was only visible in small iceless windows. Closer examination of the frozen water surrounding these falls showed how unique each one is. There were different colors, some were opaque while others almost crystal clear only interrupted by air bubbles frozen inside combined with various shapes. Many were frost covered while others where topped with snow. In other areas the ice formations looked as though they were creating a stairway to the top of the water falls although I would never climb it without proper equipment for fear of slipping into surrounding stone ledges.

Looking at some of the cool ice formations created from the water falls

As daylight began to soften we decided to take in the last bit of sunlight to return to the parking lot to avoid being stranded on icy staircases in the darkness. As the sun dipped lower into the horizon we could feel the cold seeping into our heavy layers of winter protection. Fortunately we had enough hand warmers to accommodate until we made it back to the warmth of the visitors center and our car for the journey back home.

Only a tiny portion of the river is still running free in Northern Minnesota

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

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.