A couple of months ago, I met up with Jeff Prose and Bill Kuhn. They’re a pair of photography buffs that I met on Instagram. We had no designated places to aim our cameras and ended up wandering around Saint Paul for half the day. We met up in lower town, walked and snapped pictures a little bit. Then opted visit a few different spots, in search of pretty pictures..
Chasing Waterfalls in the Rain
My brother and I spent a Sunday driving around south-central and south-eastern Minnesota, hunting down waterfalls. We made our way to three of them. Though the first, Minnemishinona falls, was barely a trickle. It probably would have taken 5 minutes to fill a glass of water. Which is too bad, because it was a nice drop of 40 feet or so. It had carved a really awesome looking, narrow valley that we did not venture down in to, due to the slippery, wet, muddy, nearly vertical slopes. I didn’t even take a picture of it, just the walking bridge spanning the top of the gorge.
Making a swift departure, we headed to another waterfall near by in Minneopa State Park. Upon arrival, we made note of the depressing signs that stated the water was unsafe to enter, the D.N.R. had found “dangerous levels of fecal parasites” in the river. After a short walk through the picnic area, the first drop of this two-step falls was before us. What a pretty little area! I set up My tripod, with My camera wrapped in plastic and popped off a dozen long exposures of the flowing water. Constantly looking over My shoulder at the drop off, a few feet behind Me, I tried not to rush. The rain got a bit lighter and satisfied that I had captured some gems, I headed across the foot bridge, wandering along the path where I found My brother gawking at the view. The second part of the falls, gushing down in to the valley below was quite awesome! I took a couple more pictures and started looking for a way down to the base of the it. Strolling off the the trail, down the muddy hill, we found a nice place to view the area and paused to take it all in.
After that, we departed the Mankato area and started wandering to the east. We picked a random dirt road to head down and found ourselves wishing we didn’t live in the city. The rocky out crops gave way to the rolling hills of southern Minnesota’s farm land. Every time I find Myself in such areas, I feel compelled to migrate out of the Twin Cities. The country calls, beckoning one to come and take in the natural state of things, or to plant all of the flowers, fruit and veggies that one loves. We didn’t really explore much, as the rain had picked up again. But I can’t go anywhere without taking a picture, or two…
Proceeding ever eastward, we found ourselves back on Interstate 35. The gateway home. Then turned off of it, just south of Elko. I had heard of a waterfall at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park and couldn’t help but to investigate. We parked in the lot, I wrapped the camera in plastic once more and we strolled through half a mile of the lushest greens I’ve ever witnessed in a forest. It was seriously gorgeous! The little waterfall at the end of our walk was also quite pretty. Hidden Falls, as they call it, is about an eight foot drop, it’s extremely straight and squared off. If someone told You it was man made, it wouldn’t be a suprise. It isn’t though, the stream just happened to carve the rock away in straight lines. The incredible layers of green growth everywhere just added to the majesty of this place. My brother immediately walked out to in to the stream and stood above the falls. I told him to hold perfectly still for 5 seconds, which made for a pretty nice picture. We spent about an hour walking circles around it before My batteries ran dry. So we hiked back to the car and rode the concrete river back to the city. Already missing the rural views that we had been taking in all day… I want to go back soon!
A 15 Hour Vacation
Twenty days ago, My brother, his wife and I, headed up to Lake Superior. Making a day of wandering along the northern coast. I had never been up there in the winter months and was quite curious about what much of it would look like. We started by chasing waterfalls. Figuring we would go to the most northerly destination first and make our way south from there. We arrived at stop number one and proceeded to be very underwhelmed, the falls were a mass of ice without any detail, or interesting ice formations at all. Ok, that’s fine, let’s hit My favorite waterfall next! A ten minute drive and a short hike later, we arrived! But, it was also a bit of a let down… The ice was not very photogenic. Realizing that the best Ice shots were probably to be had early in the winter, as opposed to our venture near winter’s end, we wandered back towards the car. Instead of taking the trail, we walked on the river. Which turned out to be very memorable! All was well for the first half of the stroll, but then we started encountering some pretty thin sounding ice. My sister in law being pregnant and carrying five thousand dollars in camera gear myself, we departed from the river walk and scrambled back up the hill to the trail. It was pretty rad walking on water though, even if it led to much anxiousness and a bit of fear..
After that, we made our way back towards the south. Pausing for a quick view of this rock beach that I had visited with a friend last year. It is actually private property, but I was a bit suprised to see that there was no sign of humans there. Clearly, this place was actually owned by deer. Who had left plenty of tracks in the snow… There were some pretty cool frozen rock walls, held together by ice. Some spots had a four or five foot overhang. It was pretty neat, especially because of the icey build up on the southern point in this miniature bay.
Then, we stopped at Tettegouche State Park. The crown jewel of the state parks system here in Minnesota. Opting not to bother with the hike inland to the falls, we stayed along the coast and were dazzled by the ice built up around the shore line. Many pictures were taken, much time passed by and just like My previous visits to this park, I did not want to leave…
We did leave this wintery wonderland though. The pregnant one among us was getting pretty tired. So we stopped at Palisade Head, where I took a lonely walk up to the the high ground. Pausing to take a shot of the communication tower piercing through the bold sun dog above, I made it to the overlook. What a view! You can see the southern quarter of the rolling hills to the north and the endless glitter of Lake Superior to the south. It was by far the easiest hike of the day and yielded one of the most spectacular perspectives on the north shore…
Continuing south towards Duluth, we made one more stop. So I could take some pictures of the light house at Split Rock. Unlike anywhere to the north, the bay was mostly iced over. Having walked down a river of ice a few hours earlier, I started My way out to the edge of the bay, walking on the lake… There is an island a couple hundred yards out. I noticed some people were on the island and also made note of the many lines of foot prints in the thin snow all around the bay. The ice was pretty thick, so I was quite confident as I wandered towards the spot where one can take a picture with the island and light house together. About a third of the way there however, there was a cracking sound and the ice shifted under My feet. Not by much, maybe an inch and a half, but I watched a crack form, a foot or so to the side of Me that stretched all the way out to open water. Heartbeat increasing to a rapid pace, I hopped over the crack. Which was inbetween Me and solid ground and hurried off the ice.. I then snapped a couple shots of the light house and neglected to make it out to the planned location of shooting. Adrenaline flowing, I walked the path back to where My brother and his wife were waiting and we departed.
We made a pit stop in Duluth to fill our bellies. Then decided there was still time for another stop. My brother and I were both curious to see Jay Cooke state park. We had camped there a few years ago, but wanted to see what it looked like now. The reason for this curiousity is that two years ago, a damm just up stream from the park broke. Sending a gnarly torrent of flooding southward in to the park. It washed away the bridge that is the only real access to the camp sites and many miles of hiking trails. The water was super low compared to our previous visit and there was a spiffy new bridge over the river. If there were any other real differences, they were hiding under ice and snow..
With the sun sinking in the sky and home being over two hundred miles away, we hopped back in the car and made our way south toward the Twin Cities. Quite the successful day trip! We even got to enjoy a pretty lovely sunset as we cruised down the interstate, on our way home…
Behind the Scene
We are fortunate to have a picturesque waterfall, within the urban sprawl of the Twin Cities. Minnehaha falls, a very popular spectacle. I’ve taken pictures of it before, but had not investigated what is possibly it’s most awesome feature in a long time. Over the years, the falls have eroded a sizable amount of rock out from behind it. Making it possible to wander behind the beautiful waterfall. The ice laden cavern was about three times wider than My last visit, some 10+ years ago. Allowing for some pretty rad pictures. Sediment captured in the ice gave a pretty cool rainbow effect in some sections. Awesome stuff!
Stacking the Stars
In the past, I would take long exposure shots of the night sky. 30 minutes for a single photo was a normal affair. Last summer however, I started shooting time lapse sequences. Setting up My camera to automatically take a picture at what ever interval is desired, changed things up a lot. I found Myself going camping and letting My camera run, aimed toward the heavens while I slept. At first I was taking the resulting photos and making videos. Which is quite cool, watching the stars fly by at high speed. Not very long ago I found a free program called StarStax and have added another dimention to the time lapses I’ve been shooting. There is a video in the works, but it won’t be ready for a while. So, here are the stacked still images of a few of the night sky time lapses I captured this year.
Starting with this gem, which was a 5 and a half hour long series of 1,000 images. Nearly a quarter of earth’s rotation, viewed in one still shot. For those who are curious, The moon was on the other side of the earth and My Canon 6D with 24mm lens were set up as follows: Manual mode, f/1.4(focused on the stars), ISO 640, white balance 5400K, shutter speed of 13 seconds, taking a picture every 15 seconds. There is no edit involved, except running the images through StarStax. The second shot is the same image set, with “comet mode” selected in StarStax, no other edits…
I’m particularly proud of that time lapse! The rest of these were taken with Similar settings, at different locations over the last 6 months. Sadly, the moon was in the sky for all of them but the last one, so there are less stars visible compared to the above shots. Even so, They look pretty cool. If I say so Myself… It’s been cloudy here for weeks, but as soon as I get a chance, there will be more coming.
Eleven years in the making. ClubFR has hosted their 50th Drift Day Midwest event. It was a kind of odd event. The roster was long and there were a lot of new faces out this time around. Possibly due to the popularity of Final Bout last month, also hosted at this track, by ClubFR. Whatever the reason, the number of drivers made for a pretty constant flow of drifting through out the day. I however stayed up the night before and did some photo shooting on the track. I have some more time lapses to put together and these could benefit from some editing, but here is a hasty slap job of what I was capturing that night. Apologies for the low quality of Vimeo’s free accounts, it looks a little better if You watch it on their site instead of mine, but not much..
These guys even had the great idea of printing up shirts, with a list of all 50 events. Well, DD43 is not there and they kind of failed, by not putting check boxes for people to mark the events they attended. Even so, it’s a great t-shirt, that I will enjoy having for years to come. I think these two will enjoy theirs as well.
On sunday morning, there was a quick drivers meeting and things got rolling. It was sunny and bright and I had forgotten to pack a polarizer, or neutral density filter. I tried My best to shoot things dark and spent a fair amount of time working My way around the track, to be on the sunny side of the action. It worked out, sometimes..
The day went along pretty well. There were a few people that got beached off track and somebody did spill a fair amount of oil on the advanced coarse, but that didn’t hold things up very much. After a couple hours of running, there was a short break and the traditional skateboard race was held. The winners actually got prizes too!
To add to the charm of this event, there were two big give-aways and a raffle. All three awarded the same prize, a season pass for the ClubFR 2015 drift season. Award number one, was fittingly given to Ben, a true ‘OG’ in the midwest drift scene. Considering he was at the first one of their events, as well as the majority of all subsequent events, it’s only fitting that free driver’s admission for a season goes his way. The second season pass handed out was the raffle. Every driver at the event that day, had their names written on paper and thrown in a hat. The winner? Jake! Who’s car is pictured at the very top of this post, among other places here. The last season pass, was not given to Billy Lemke, but instead to his wife, for putting up with all of the drifting antics and also as a wedding gift…
After those short festivities, the track went hot again and stayed that way all afternoon. There were a lot of people that were clearly very new to drifting, but there were some good drivers too. It has been a while since a drift day has drawn out such variety of skill levels. Recent years have had a sharp contrast of good/decent drivers and ameteur/beginner drivers. There was a distinct middle group that was kind of fun to watch at DD50. The bright sun eventually gave way to some clouds, I was struggling a bit to keep up with the constantly changing light all day. I did wander around and snap bunches of pictures until it was time to head back to Minnesota though.
Focus on the Little Things
I bought a set of screw on macro filters to play with. I was buying an intervalometer to enter in to time lapse photography and adding the filters to the order made it qualify for free shipping, for cheaper than the shipping cost. At twelve dollars, this four piece set made by AGFA is a steal! They simply screw on a lens like a UV, or polarizing filter and allow You to get physically closer to what You are trying to shoot. Not without a hitch though. This 77mm set has been mated to my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 OS to reduce the minimum focus distance from three and a half feet, down to eight to twelve inches with the +4. The extreme curve of the +4 and +10 filters, dramatically reduces the amount of light intake. So You are pretty much required to shoot in full sun light. On My first try, I used a portable L.E.D. to augment the fading evening light. It worked okay, not great though.
Over the weekend, I was musing pretty hard on My friends garden, so I popped on the +4 filter and had a go in full sun light. The filter reduced the depth of field to nearly nothing. I had to run very tight apertures to get a range of one inch into focus. Using shutter speeds of 125ths, to 400ths of a second, with apertures from 16-22 and My ISO at 400 and 800 in broad daylight was very odd. It did yield some rewards, at a better ratio than the first time, but still only 1 in every 15 shots was acceptable. Half of those were still not quite sharp, but I think I am getting the hang of using these things. Who would have thought that a $12 set of filters could turn a telephoto lens into decent macro shooting optics. It is not as good as buying a 200mm macro lens, but at one, or two percent of the price, WOW. None of the images in this post have been cropped…