Tag Archives: Photos

November Brings Beautiful Sunsets to the North

Temperatures begin to plummet and all that is living becomes brown and lifeless to the north in November. There begins to be less motivation to go out and enjoy the great outdoors in the cold without much to see at this time of year in Minnesota, however, there is one sight worth dressing up for the cold to see and that is sunrises and sunsets. We’ve had some spectacular days of both of these as November comes to a close. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to photograph many of these due to extra time at work but I’ve at least been able to spare a moment or two watching silently as the incredible colors begin to move across the sky. These photos may seem touched up but they are anything but. They are straight out of the camera so are as the camera interpreted them at that time. Sunsets and sunrises are just that colorful and vibrant at times in the fall months of the year.

Sunset reflecting in the ice.

 

At this time of year, with the sun so low in the sky, the show doesn’t end with this yellow source of light going below the horizon. In fact often it is just beginning! I did a post about this a year ago if you want to see how our fall sunsets progress. For sunrises the progression is reversed with the amazing rainbow of colors splashing across the sky ending with the sun rising above the horizon. In November it can begin about 45 minutes before the sunrise or end about 45 minutes after it sets in the afternoon. Yes, here it is still afternoon when the sun sets around 4:30 pm. One of the reasons for these colorful sky paintings has to do with having at least some clouds much of the time which reflect some of the suns light as it fades into night along with the low position of the sun in the sky. This happens quite quickly when we’re fortunate to have the right conditions so once the show begins it doesn’t last long.

Another stunning November sunset

The Flowers of Fall

As fall has taken a strong hold of the Upper Midwest there are still some plants blooming away providing much needed food for bees and migrating butterflies. Mums are probably the most well known of these and are springing to life with their cool weather colors on a beautiful sunny day.

Sedum

Another of fall’s splendors are cold hardy sedums producing small individual blooms massed together to form striking clusters of flowers able to attract pollinators from longer distances away.Their pointed petals and long anthers blend together giving a much softer appearance to those viewing from a distance.

Purple Asters

Showing off their beautiful pinks and purples are asters coming to life this time of year bringing smiles to those searching for the few remaining blooms of the growing season. These seem to withstand the coldest of temperatures before succumbing to winters dominance arriving soon after. While the trees seem to be confused with ample rain and warmer than average temperatures combined with decreasing sunlight, the fall flowers are certain it is their time to bloom.

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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

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

 

Enjoying the Fall Eclipses

The Lunar Eclipse    The Solar Eclipse

For Several Areas in the Northern Hemisphere there have been some great astronomical events to watch in the form of eclipses. Late in September we had a lunar eclipse which was also called a blood moon due to the red colorations at the peak of the eclipse. A month later there was a partial solar eclipse. Solar eclipses are a bit more difficult to watch since you shouldn’t look directly at the sun without a heavy filter such as welders masks or you risk hurting your eyes.

There are some people who travel great distances in order to witness these astronomical events. For others, they just wait until one of these events happens and they are in the viewing area which can take many years to occur. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be in the viewing area of a pair of eclipses this year. Even more fortunate than that, they’ve occurred at times which I could take time to go out and watch them without missing important obligations. The first that took place was the blood moon which is when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon blocking all direct light on the moon creating a reddish appearance across the moon.

The Lunar Eclipse Underway as I was Leaving the House

The night before I decided to go out and witness this lunar eclipse first hand and see if I could get some nice pictures of it in the process. After a little research it was discovered that the full eclipse would happen just before sunrise and just above the horizon. Before this eclipse would end the moon would dip below the horizon eliminating the view of the last part of this eclipse. I set the alarm and went to sleep for a short night. With the noise in my ear I quickly shut off the alarm and questioned if I really wanted to get up at 4 am just to see this eclipse. After laying there for a few minutes I eventually got up, knowing that I could come back to bed after the eclipse, and put the camera and some food in the car for my 10 minute journey to my viewing location. But before I left, the eclipse was already under way so I snapped a picture and took off a little more awake especially after hitting that cold night air.

Blood Moon In the Night Sky

Arriving at the viewing location, it was quiet and peaceful. Just me and the moon. I set up the camera and started photographing the eclipse and adjusting settings to find which ones worked for the pictures I wanted to achieve and switching lenses on my Sony Nex camera to see which shots each would produce during the rest of the morning. Soon another car drove in and a camera was set up. Hmm… I’m not the only fool to give up the early morning hours of sleep for this. A little re-assuring in this choice. I continued taking pictures throughout the rest of the visible lunar eclipse with a little conversation mixed in between photographers.

The Final View of the Eclipse

The second eclipse of the fall was a solar eclipse where the moon goes between the Earth and the sun blocking the sun. Fortunately this one happened just before sunset again allowing me the opportunity to watch it without missing other important obligations. During the afternoon I was texting back and forth with my wife, after finding out about this eclipse from another co-worker that morning, to see if she wanted to join me on this nice fall day to witness a solar eclipse. I agonized for several hours on where to watch this and take pictures. After finally accepting the options I had, I arrived home and met my wife and daughters to head out to watch this astronomical event.

The Beginning of the Solar Eclipse

Viewing a solar eclipse is far more challenging than a lunar eclipse due to the brightness of the sun and the damage you can do to your eyes by looking at the sun.  Fortunately I had a dark enough filter for the camera that allowed us to view the eclipsing sun through the camera without looking directly at the sun. Even though you couldn’t see the eclipse directly, the amount of sunlight shining on the surrounds was noticeably decreasing. It’s like wearing sunglasses but you can’t remove them and make your surroundings brighter. And since this was happening with the setting sun, there was a yellow tone over everything more than usual. It reminding me of the sun rays gleaming over the horizon just before it dips below the surface only this time the sun was higher in the sky.

Solar Eclipse Being Reflected in the Water

It was nice to be able to get out and enjoy both of these fall eclipses if for no other reason than allowing some time to relax and slow down for a few hours. By the way, I did not end up going back to sleep after the lunar eclipse. It was in the plan and was a great way to motivate me to get up originally but never happened.

Eclipsing Sun Setting

To see more Lunar Eclipse Photos go here….

To see more Solar Eclipse Photos go here….

31+ Days to Better Photography

Monopoly-Board-31-Days

For 2013 one of my goals is to complete this Monopoly© 2012 Hasbro board to better photography. This idea came from the posts on the Carey Adventures website on ways to improve your photography. Each location on this board refers to one of Peter Carey’s posts. My goal is to take at least 100 photos for each topic and identify what I’ve learned and how it improves my photography. The cost is mostly just time and the results are almost instantaneous to do this as we don’t have to develop film any longer. In some cases I expect that 100 photos will not be enough and in others it may be a challenge to take that many pictures on the journey to completing this board.

I’m not trying nor do I expect to become a professional photographer by completing this. My goal is only to improve the shots I take so I can share them here for others to enjoy and share in the experiences of traveling to different national parks. Thanks to Peter for sharing these tips with others. In this day and age as taking pictures gets more and more affordable and easier to do, the quality can be so much better than even a decade ago. Unfortunately not all of the topics on this board have been written about on Peter’s website. If those topics are not added to during 2013 I will have to either research these topics from other places or choose different topics to work on. During 2012 I have played with some of these settings but look forward to taking more time to experiment and learn in greater detail in 2013.

To check on my progress throughout the year click here to go to the Photography Experiment page.