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!
Chasing Waterfalls on the Willow River, Again…
After the failed attempt to shoot hot air balloons on Saturday, we headed 15 minutes north. Neither of the guys I was with had been to the waterfall on the Willow River and since we were already three quarters of the way there, it seemed silly not to go. There was a lot more ice than the last time, but the falls were still flowing steadily. Here is a quick time lapse of it and a few pictures. Such a gorgeous place!
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.
30 Hour Vacation
I bought a Canon 6D and their 24mm f/1.4 L series lens to go with it. Anxious to make use of these new toys, I started asking around to see if any of My friends wanted to go camping. An old friend that I rarely talk to opted in, along with Her husband and three dogs. The morning of departure, I shot them a text to see if they were running on schedule. The reply was, “We have to cancel.” Her family rents out a few houses around the neighborhood, one of which was to get new tennants after the weekend. The person who had lived there decided to leave the place packed full of crap, clutter and furniture. It looked like a pack rat was living there. Hell bent on getting out of the city, I met up with them and we had the place mostly empty in under three hours. Happily, we then proceeded to get in the van and drive north. It was already after noon on saturday, but in My book, any time outside of city life is time well spent. It was a lovely drive, just south of Lake Superior’s western-most point, we encountered a thick fog. These pictures do not do it justice, one could barely see a hundred yards for a good twenty miles.
Just south of the lovely town of Duluth, the fog lifted and my friends, who had never been to this part of Minnesota, could see why I love this little city, perched on a hill. The place has an unusually elaborate system of bridges. Partially due to the fact that this is a busy port town, but that still does not explain why the highway has so many bridges, crossing, rising and bending in every which way. Duluth has so many great angles and lines built in to it’s infrastructure. Some time soon I think I shall head up there, just to photograph the genius of those who designed and built the city. Passing through, I snapped a couple of shots through the dirty windows on the car.
For those of us from the Twin Cities, Duluth is the gateway to the north shore. Once You have passed through town, You find Yourself on the red road. The red tarmac doesn’t last long, but is a much welcomed sign that You have left the urban environment behind. From that point, heading north-east along Lake Superior’s coast, is a long, long stretch of rolling hills, rocky shores, winding rivers and endless forest. My favorite place to be! We headed up the coastal road passing through the many State Parks and National Forests. Eventually finding ourselves at Cascade State Park, which is a little more than an hour from the Canadian border. It was already pretty late in the day, but we rapidly set up camp and got a fire going. After filling our bellies, we walked the couple hundred yards over to the lake and spent about two hours just sitting, taking in the vast darkness. It was a foggy night, visibility was quite low, but the sound of the waves rolling onto the rocky shore was just what I needed.
Once back at our campsite, we all went to bed pretty quickly. In the morning, we took a walk up the Cascade River, pausing for Me to take the following pictures and proceeded to head south, Hoping to make a couple of stops along the way back home.
My friend has a bad back, which chose to throw Him into a state of agony on this trip. I felt bad that He was in so much pain, so we took it easy on the return trip. In the end, we passed by all but one of the sights that the North Coast has to offer. I simply would not come up here without a stop at that which has become My favorite waterfall. Which I took a bunch more pictures of.. The overcast sky made taking pictures a lot nicer than the bright, sunny day the last time I was there. I took My time, stopping every couple hundred yards, pondering the angles I desired and taking more pictures, long exposures, all the way up the valley. The place was nice and quiet, we only saw two other groups of people the whole time we were there. What a wonderful place.
After basking in the cool water for a while, we climbed back into their van and headed towards home. Driving back down the coast, leaving behind the natural beauty of this post-glacial landscape and entering the land of human civilaization. The farther south You go, the impact of man kind becomes more and more evident. The lone road gets wider, sparcely placed houses give way to towns, tunnels bring You under towering rocky hills and eventually, You find Yourself looking at the ports and populated hills of Duluth. We paused there to stretch our legs and take a final look at the vast expanse of water, before climbing back into the van and continuing south towards Saint Paul. We managed to ride the leading edge of a storm for a couple hundred miles, all the way home. Arriving back in city life, just in time to see a very bold and beautifully colored sun set. Sorry, I did not get a picture of that, there were buildings in the way…
Wandering the North Shore
My friend Ryan and I headed up to lake Superior for the weekend, on yet another one night camping excursion. Before checking in to our camp site at Tettegouche State Park, we headed farther north to check out some water falls. First we stopped at Temperance State Park and hiked the rocky trails along the river. The park is laden with age worn steps, some carved into the rock, others stacked from loose stones. The abundance of trees shed plenty of shade over the various paths and trails. The shallow depth of the soil leaves the roots of many trees visible, snaking around the rocky surface, giving a majestic feel to the already sublime surroundings. With it’s long series of short falls, carving deeper into the bedrock, the Temperance river is a beautiful place to go and spend some time. Clear skies and the bright sun did not make for great photographic conditions though.
After a couple of hours wandering the river side, we departed and stopped at a place Ryan’s friend had told him to go. Driving by it on the main road, You would never guess what was lingering just inland from the shore. Nor would You think that You would find anything particularly special once You parked in the small ten car lot. It was another small river, trickling over the rocks in a nearly deserted valley. Such is the way of this part of Minnesota. Every couple of miles is yet another river, stream, or creek, feeding into the vast lake to the south. This particular one however, is a gem among the parks up here. Somehow, it was also the least travelled of the places we went. All of the other parks and falls had tons of people buzzing around the crowded parking lots and river sides. We saw eight people on our hike up this stream. One was panning for gold in the lower part of the river, He told us it was wise to keep going up the path nearby, “so long as we didn’t mind the 158 stairs.” Unsure about what was to come, we hiked up the trail. It went up above the river pretty quickly, after only ten minutes or so, we were at least 75 feet above the valley floor. Then, after a little more hiking, we rounded a bend. The sound was unmistakable. Waterfall. Shortly after hearing it in the distance, the path split, one way went up, the other down. We chose the downward option, discovering a long meandering set of stairs. “This must be what that guy told us about.” Was the thought that passed through My head. At the end of the steps, flowed a gorgeous falls. Pouring into a calm pool, surrounded by a rocky beach and towering cliffs. We stayed for quite a while. Ryan went for a swim while I soaked My feet in the cool water and snapped a ton of pictures. This was My favorite part of the trip… We couldn’t even see the whole falls, because it made a bend or two as it went down. Nor did we hike up to the top, because we lingered so long at it’s base, we had to rush farther south to check in to our camp for the night.
Our camp site was at Tettegouche State Park. Having not planned this trip, I simply booked the lone site available on the entire north shore. I could see right away why it was the only site available on the hundreds of miles of coast. This site was ten feet from the trail down to the shore and sadly, most of the people who came up from the shore, walked right through our site, instead of the trail. So it was a high traffic home! My goals for the weekend were to shoot the full moon rising over the lake, shoot some time lapse of the stars at night and some time lapse of something, anything during the day. After mostly clear skies all day, the moon managed to hide behind clouds when it came up. Once Luna was up in the sky, the clouds moved out, but the moon was so bright, it blotted out the stars. It was no darker than an ordinary overcast day, except it was night time. I did manage to shoot a time lapsable sequence during the day, but it was spoiled by people walking by, a lot. So I managed to succeed in none of My goals for the wekend. It was a great time though!! In the end, I just want to move farther north. I’ve been saying this for half of My life time, maybe I should just act on it soon? Clear water, endless forest, massive rock formations, cliffs and rolling hills, waterfalls and an abundance of wild life. The north shore is marvellous. I will be back there as soon as possible.
Aiming at the Sky
Four hours of lightning, rain and swirling winds. Both of My cameras snapping away the whole time and this is the only bolt they captured. Maybe next time there will be more success.
Shooting the Stars
Last night, My Brother and I wandered out of the city to find a nice view in the country. It was said there would be a meteor shower, or possibly even a ‘meteor storm.’ We headed east of town, trying to get ahead of the approaching clouds. The shooting stars that we were seeking should have been mostly in the northern sky. We roamed the rural roads north of Hudson, WI for a while, finding a lack of northerly views that weren’t spoiled by peoples lights. Then, there was an openning to the south which revealed an awesome array of stars. We parked in someone’s driveway and proceeded to shoot from there for 2 or more hours. In some of the pictures, You can almost make out the edge of the milky-way. I was however aiming directly at I94, Hudson and the Twin Cities, with all the light pollution they emit. So after a few shots I turned to aim up and above the horizon. Which gave Me the awesome star trails, layered up around the Earth’s northern rotational axis. We only saw a couple of shooting stars, but it was still a great time.
The slightly ghost-like picture at the end was aquired with a 10 second exposure, ISO-800 at an aperture of f/1.4. All pictures taken with a Sigma 30mm 1.4 Ex on My Canon t4i.
This beautiful hawk was clearly not happy about the amount of people stopping and walking toward it. I was more than happy to disturb it’s meal, considering it was on the side of a road. It was an intersection too, most of the people who drove by, turned around and came back. We spotted it and stopped immediately. Hastefully removing the wide angle lens from My camera and applying the hefty Sigma 70-200 2.8, since I did not think the bird would let us go near it. This large bird, which I believe is a ‘red tailed’ hawk, let Me within 15 feet or so before jumping up and perching in a nearby tree for a moment. I could feel a strong swirl of wind from the roughly 5 foot wing span as it took flight. Staying nearby as We humans went on our way, I assume it was going to swoop right back down on it’s kill. I admit the Mallard duck that it slayed looked quite delicious to Me as well, enjoy that fat meal bird. I hope no one hits it while it is feasting.. I see two or three of these birds of prey daily, never so close up though. They are much larger than one might think from seeing them perched atop a light pole on the side of the highway. What a magnificent semi-urban predator.