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..
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…
My First 6 Months of Time Lapsing
Yep, I made a video! There’s a first time for everything… The first three quarters took Me about 2 hours to patch together, from clips made after each time I shot a sequence. The song took a couple days of semi-inspired attention. The last segment of the video however, took 3 weeks to edit. Mostly because I used StarStax to make 5 versions of the sequences. Then, I had to pluck the right spots from those in small chunks, reverse the numbering order on half of them, make videos of each of those sections, then finally patch them all together and time them to the music. The result? Dancing stars! Watch through the end and see what I am on about..
As with all the vids on this blog, it is hosted for free by Vimeo. So it is of low image quality, watching it on their site does look slightly better than watching it here… So sad, because it looks awesome in 4K! Vimeo also neglected to keep the music synced with the video! :( No wonder I refuse to pay them a penny!
Another One Night Stand
That’s right, I went on yet another one night camping excursion. This time, My brother, our friend Ryan and I headed to Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. The site that I booked was nicely secluded, located on a beaver laden pond, it made for a very pleasant night. Hiking the trail out to our weekend home, it was clear that we were in a part of the park that most people rarely visit. This was certainly one of the most picturesque places that I have been lately. With any luck, I shall camp at this spot again once winter is in full swing. I didn’t take a ton of pictures during the day, instead opting to focus on capturing the stars in the night’s sky. For the first time, I had good luck too. There were no clouds that night and the moon was on the other side of the planet. One couldn’t ask for better conditions to capture the vast expanse of stars.
Most of the day time was spent being lazy as hell. I did set up My cameras to catch a couple of time lapses, but did not take the time to set up My shots very well. Even so, I made a quick video of what I did manage to catch. At this rate, I am going to have to pay Vimeo, so You can all see what I’ve been doing in a reasonable resolution. :( Go ahead, have a look, there’s some nice stuff mixed in to the medeocre day time lapses. I do suggest hitting the misleading “HD” button, which brings You away from here and on to Vimeo’s site to watch it. The quality is slightly more appreciable.
Just after pausing by a map, to see where we were and staopping to take a quick shadow selfie, the path led us to the remains of a tree, about 7 feet tall and completely hollowed out by woodpeckers. Happily, they made a hole near the base, the perfect size to squeeze a camera into.
We did not see any bears, but definately spotted their droppings. There were a few little garter snakes slithering around and plenty of odd varieties of fungus growing all about. I really do love the wilderness! Why did I have to be born in to the city life? Hopefully one day I will be able to afford to move out of the urban environment, I would be a much happy’er person.
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.