Monday, December 30, 2013

Name That Gait

The recent melt has given snow a great crust which will allow tracking when a fresh snowfall arrives.  Until now the snow has been too deep and soft so only post holes were visible making reading tracks almost impossible. The stories told in snow are fascinating and a good reason to get outside.

Answer: trot

Friday, December 27, 2013

Autumn Feast

What are they? Beats me. I could have spent some time identifying each species but this quote from Mary Oliver comes to mind.

"Still, What I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled---to cast aside the weight of facts and maybe even to float a little above this difficult world."


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Lights in Nature

Not all Christmas lights are LED bulbs. These out of focus ice drops were recorded a few years ago. The ice prisms caused a rainbow of color that was captured using a telephoto lens and placing the drops out of focus to accentuate the color spectrum.

Monday, December 23, 2013

It's Cold

 I was reading in front of the fire yesterday afternoon and got a text "Is that a sundog?" Minutes later I was outside with my daughter shooting sunset in the -15 degree windchill. Suddenly the day had become brighter.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Winter Robins

A flock of about a dozen robins have been active in this seep fed stream for the last several days. Robins are not supposed to be here during December. While recording video I had time to consider their plight. I took this shot, recorded the scene, but what is the big story here?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Take a Break From the Big Picture

In photography we tend to concentrate on the big picture, the grand landscape, and charismatic megafauna. In life at this time of year we are focused on the number and size of presents. Take 30 seconds to watch one of God's little creatures. Say thank you to the harried clerk, look for the twinkle in the eye of a child, and remember how this all started.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bucks Sparring

I love recording animal behavior and a Bushnell Trail Cam is a perfect tool to get scenes of animals acting normally.  The camera trap is set up at a location with high potential of activity and left in place at least a week before checking the card.  Occasionally I'll use an attractant but it is more fun reading the signs and setting up a camera. Material will be eventually used to give a presentation called "Meet the Neighbors" to show the variety of wildlife in the park.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Alone with the Wolves

I was the only one in the Lamar Valley a few weeks ago and saw these wolves returning after chasing a coyote off their recent kill. It is not often the Lamar is empty of visitors and this was a rare treat. The pack had been there earlier with about a dozen spectators but the wind, freezing rain, and finally snow drove them indoors. I returned at late afternoon after the morning weather became unbearable.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December Creativity

I went back to 2010 for this image taken at Crex Meadows. The subzero temperatures have inhibited my outdoor creativity. On the other hand it may be the month, there are no images in my files from last December. I guess I'll just have to use my creativity making a Christmas wish list.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Be Careful

This young deer had its first experience with ice a few days ago. Another deer also slipped in front of camera trap the but was too close to get a good recording.

This pair of deer got out a little further out on the ice and had to be rescued. I noticed one is a buck. My wife and I frequently talk about my creative route finding. I wonder if this discussion took place between them. Deer Rescue

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Milky Way over Tree

Another image from the winter tree series. How small we are in the universe.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Tree

I saw this tree a couple weeks ago and it just had to be photographed. At the time the ground was bare and brown, the sky was dull and gray. The tree just would not leave my mind, I was fixated on it. Finally the solution hit me, shoot it at night.

Technical: What is the best best white balance at night? In this image I decided to keep the sky black and let the cloud color fall where into place. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Long Story, Short Video

This short video that started with a bald eagle in a tree. The couple who first saw the eagle also noticed a couple sheep high on the ridge and pointed them out to me. The smaller one was on the move slowly picking its way down the hill. I had two challenges: finding its crossing spot and a setting up at a safe location along the road. I overshot the crossing on the my first attempt to find a pullout and missed action at the top. Quickly turning around to  another pullout I pulled the long lens out but it was too big and I couldn't find the sheep as it made its way down the mountainside. I had to quickly change to the 100-400 but there wasn't time to exchange lenses on the C100! Finally I rested the shorter lens and 7D on the tripod platform and started shooting. Only the first clip is with the longer lens.

Technical: Footage was slowed to half normal speed during the jump and shake. To see some incredible slow motion of animals shaking water off watch this: Slow Motion Shake

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The value of shooting locally

I went to Yellowstone to get some head butting rams and this is the best I got, not very exciting. If you want to see some real action check out made by a local photographer:  Peter Murray  I look at his fantastic images and think, "One week later and they could have been mine."The trip was a great break and I'll try again next year. In the meantime there is a lot of video to edit and now that snow is on the ground winter is calling me outdoors.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gardiner River

The Gardiner River water is warm, fed by a hot springs a couple miles upstream. It's one of the few warm water areas that don't smell of sulfur. Technical: Converted to B&W, I didn't like any of the WB settings that I tried. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gardiner Canyon

Millions of tourists enter Yellowstone through Gardiner drive along the Gardiner River to Mammoth. There are pullouts every couple hundred yards and the river roars below. After a few days of driving in I decided to stop one morning. Access down the steep embankments is tricky but gives unique views of the river.

Technical: White balance selection was a challenge. Auto WB was at 7500K, shade preset, and this seemed best. The area is dark and the blue sky really creates a cool light. B & W is another possibility in this light, maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Undine Falls

What's in a name? This falls was apparently named for German water spirits who would hide near waterfalls in hopes of luring men to marry them so they could gain souls. A brief Google search gave similar myths in different cultures throughout history. The allure of waterfalls has been with us a long time.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Lamar Canyon

To me Yellowstone is wildlife, water, and a sulfurous aroma (perhaps odor to others). The river canyons are usually dark with black water making it a challenge to get an image that does not have the water as a black hole pulling your eye into it. The dawn light reflecting on the Lamar River brightened the water making this an opportunity too good to pass up. I can photograph wildlife and water. How to photograph the sulfurous aroma will take some more thought.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksiving

I  thought this was a good time to share this video taken a couple months ago in Flandrau State Park. I upgraded to the new OS Mavericks yesterday and put this together on iMovie 10+. Upgrading appears to have been a mistake. Footage from the C100 is not visible with quick look but the 7D footage is visible. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wolf Music

This is a short recording of wolves howling one morning. Blogger makes it difficult to add mp3 files so going to this link may not work but give it a try. When I tested it the file was downloaded and played automatically. I'm looking for an embedded media player for future recordings. 
Wolf Chorus

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ram in the snow

I took a couple variations of this ram thanks to the 100-400 mm lens.  The steep hills of Gardiner Canyon fit with the myth that sheep live in a remote, rugged wilderness. However, this was photographed from a pull out along the road.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Soaking up the sun

While the adults were busy eating, chasing, and being chased this lamb decided to enjoy the warm morning sun.  I'm back in Montana when I see this image. Lots more sheep to come over the next couple weeks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Love is in the air

The big horn sheep rut is in full swing with rams competing for ewes. This shot seems more tasteful than the up close sniffing from behind that happens regularly. 

Friday, November 22, 2013


When the grizzly carried a piece of carcass off to eat it met with a pair of determined wolves. So ends the saga of the wolves and grizzly. A full version will be put together after I return home. Technical: processed with iMovie

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The other half of the fight

This female wolf had her hands full with the grizzly who stole the elk cow she took down with the help of her mate. To make matters worse a pack of coyotes came in to eat when the grizzly left. She chased the coyotes who ran toward the crowd giving us some very fast paced shooting for a few seconds. Where to you point: coyotes at 30 feet, the wolf at 30 yards, or do you run to the car? The choices a photographer has to make in Yellowstone.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I'm continuing to relive yesterday morning with another shot of the grizzly guarding the cow elk carcass it stole from the wolves. The ravens are doing what they can to get a bite but the bear has furry competitors on its mind. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Yellowstone Nirvana

I'm looking for big horns butting heads but this opportunity unfolded over 3 hours this morning. The chess match between this grizzly bear and the wolves was amazing. Marauding coyotes, annoying magpies, and stealthy ravens were added for good measure. Recorded with 500 mm and 1.4 tele-extender on a Canon 7D, ISO about 1250, remote cable release. Image cropped about 2/3 of original.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Chase

I'm headed to Yellowstone for another attempt at recording big horn rams fighting for dominance. I went during the first week of December last year and the dominant ram had been selected so this rut behavior was the recorded. Hoping for better timing this week.

Friday, November 15, 2013

On Two Legs

This was captured off the video shown on yesterday's blog. With my wandering mind I associated the precarious balance of this guy with the polar bear's threatened status. Don't even try to guess how I find similarities between polar bears and whitetail deer. Perhaps its because I have been watching the antics of polar bears at Churchill in the morning on recently and deer in the park during the afternoon. 

Technical: Captured from Canon C100 footage @1/60 second. Yes, the hooves are clipped.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


This is the last thing a wildlife videographer wants to record when filming deer behavior.  The buck's body language is fun to watch but hard to put into a story about the deer rut. The lens is white, manual focus is required, and tracking him through the woods are all movements that he may have keyed in on. I am covered in a bag blind so the only movement is the camera and my gloved left hand. In my experience deer with little hunting pressure are very curious. Archery hunting from fixed tree stands is allowed in the park with a 3 deer per hunter limit so there is some hunting pressure but also lots of deer. This area of the park doesn't have hunting so I am free to hunt with the camera.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Preparing for Winter

Winter is here. It was 9 degrees in southern MN yesterday morning. This chipmunk getting ready for the upcoming season was recorded a few weeks ago. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cottonwood River Sunset

After a dark, gray day there was a rim of brightness on the horizon just before sunset; an excellent opportunity to do time lapse! 

Technical: manual exposure 1/60, f 8.0, ISO 1250, 3 second interval using Magic Lantern, JPEG files, images connected with Quicktime 7.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Simple Pleasure

Sometimes we overlook the simple acts in nature. This clip is presented in real time, unedited except for the addition of background music. I invite you to sit back and enjoy one of life's simple pleasures.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thinking Christmas

Red and green must mean Christmas is coming, right? These guys were a welcome sight on a recent walk through the woods. I came across a stump covered with them and after an hour of shooting realized the best shot was from below with the background blurred. A little slow on creativity on that day.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

November Lines

To the mycologist this is an image of fungi. To the logger it is the memory of harvest. To the mushroom it's home. To the photographer it could be about contrasting textures. To me it's about contrasting lines in the wood and the mushrooms. Lines in the mushroom stem are reaching to the almost horizontal lines of the edges of the caps. Then there are the diagonal lines hovering on top of the mushrooms to complete the frame around the mushrooms.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Autumn Drama

I am always looking for a story to tell with video. Predator/prey relationships make a good story even in the insect world. Bill Wallauer who filmed the movie Chimpanzee for the Disney gives some insights into the world of wildlife filmmaking at Google + Photographers

Technical: Filmed with a Canon 7D and 70-200 mm lens

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Sky is Full

My wife has been telling me about the number of birds in the fields she sees on the way to work. This weekend I had a chance to see them and take a couple shots. I am amazed at the organization of flocks.  Who leads? Who gives the fly and land signals? 

Technical: 200 mm focal length on Canon 7D, cloudy white balance. Image chosen from several because corners of frame were filled more than other choices.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


I have been watching turkeys lately and am gaining an appreciation for them. When not concerned about a photographer they have some very interesting behavior. I watched two of them chasing each other around a tree a couple days ago, fun to watch but not enough time to set up the camera.

Technical: Maneuvering of the mobile (Toyota) blind and slight cropping needed to eliminate the children's slide on the left.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Would you like to dance?

We have all heard about the polka, waltz, tango, and rumba. How many know the turkey trot? 

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Journey

With the new month I'm making the transition from graphic design to storytelling. November is one of the hardest months for me to find landscape images, March is the second hardest. With that being said, Wildlife photography takes over as my obsession. Last year I discovered gray squirrels, animals that are everywhere but difficult to record while going about their normal lives. The next few weeks will find me watching them every chance I can, perhaps even taking a shot or two.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

In the Fog

It went from dark, gray, and wet to a beautiful fog yesterday. I spent the entire day wandering. A great way to end an incredible month! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bouncing Eyes

I find myself bouncing between the bright leaves at the bottom and the swirling water at the top. Back and forth I go, not sure where to stop. Finally I look around the image and notice the other leaves. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Out Front

I often wonder why certain plants are so different from their counterparts in the same habitat. It may be that they have been stressed due to their location or some other factor known only to them. I'll just enjoy another of life's mysteries and not ponder it for too long.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cottonwood Color

I walked along the Cottonwood River one morning last week and its namesake trees produced this brilliant reflection on the river.  With most color past peak it was good to see some color remaining.

Technical: 70-200 lens, strong contrast curve used in Lightroom

Sunday, October 27, 2013


I am frequently asked what I like to shoot and the stock answer is nature, stills if it holds still and video if it moves. However the real answer is I like to shoot relationships. This  is an example of how a photograph can have more than one meaning. Is this David and Goliath, parent/child, small/big, or green/yellow? Let your mind wander, what is it to you?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Kestrel in the Storm

This guy was waiting out the snow while still looking for lunch. I was impressed by its delicate nature and small size. The gray sky and the kestrel's subtle color made this a perfect shot to convert to black and white.

Technical: converted to b & w in Lightroom

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Stretching in the Snow

I recently watched a great talk by Andy Biggs whose photography in black and white is phenomenal in its simplicity of design. His subjects are the iconic megafauna of Africa but done in a unique way. If I were to go to Africa I would signup with him. His work can be seen at: Andy Biggs Photography  There are other great photographers at: Talks at Google Photographers. A couple of my favorites are Art Wolfe whose personality clearly comes through and Moose Peterson who I gained new respect for after watching.

Technical: I didn't go all the way to B&W with this image, only removing the saturation from the tree. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Autumn Story

Most of us view autumn as the end of growth and the beginning of winter when plants hold there breath until spring. That's the main event but fungi are coming out of fallen logs and stumps, experiencing a growth spurt in the waning warm months of the year. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

First Snow

Fall was temporarily interrupted Sunday by the season's first snowfall. A perfect afternoon!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fading Color

I was a little late getting to Lion's Park in St. Croix Falls for peak color and had to look for isolated pockets of color. This leaf covered rock caught my attention yesterday afternoon. My eye starts at the bottom, jumps the log, and ends at the diagonal tree in the upper right. 

Technical: 1.3 second exposure, f 16, 14 mm on Canon 7D. Lightroom used for ND filter in upper right. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Exploring Potential

This cold, wet morning is a good time to edit and look for potential in this month's shots before hitting the delete key. This was taken near Hinckley when exploring the flood plan along the Kettle River. The backwaters had ducks, geese, and a family of trumpeters which were a surprise.

Technical: iPhone image, converted to B & W in Lightroom. Duckweed was unsharpened with brush tool and darkened using ND filter. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Road to History

Another state, another road but just as interesting. This is a closed road at Flandrau State Park leading to a group camp that formerly housed WWII POW's from Germany. How did they feel about being imprisoned in  southern Minnesota? Were they scheming to escape or happy to be out of battle? One can only imagine their life in captivity. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Autumn Creek

I changed the location of a trail camera yesterday and took the iPhone instead of carrying the heavy photo gear.  Fall color was too good to pass up so I took this shot looking upstream before placing the camera. 

Technical: Pro Camera app on iPhone. exposure set on trees, focus on rocks. Lightroom used to warm the white balance and 1 stop graduated filter used to bring brightness of the trees in closer to the foreground brightness

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Country Road

There is something special about a winding country road in the fall.  Is it the mystery of what is around the bend, either literally and metaphorically? Does it remind us of winter, of life, or something else?

Technical: 70-200 lens on a tripod in the rain, 1/5 second shutter speed, f 16.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Color Under Foot

The fall color can be overwhelming overhead and subtle underfoot. These fungi (I have no idea what they are) were on a log as we were headed to the car after a great day of photography. The question is, "Did you put the leaf on the mushroom?" My response is "Why would I put such an ugly leaf there?" If that sounds too much like a politician  the answer is no. However, I do frequently turn leaves or remove bright ones in the field. Enough confession for one day.

Technical: wide angle lens, standing to block the sun, cloudy WB

Monday, October 14, 2013

Palisade Head

I was at Palisade Head for sunrise last week hoping to get the warm light on the cliff face. The color was not as dramatic as expected but the rock texture in contrast to the lake caught my eye. 

Technical: captured using an iPhone. Conversion to B & W with a new app called ProCamera which, in my opinion, is the ultimate iPhone camera app. I have tried 5-6 different camera apps and each has had significant limitations. ProCamera clearly separates focus from exposure and has adjustable white balance. In addition in has image enhancements that are more realistic than most apps.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lady Slipper Lodge

Gooseberry Falls State Park is noted for its waterfalls but there is more to the park than what the typical visitor sees. This lodge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps when the nation was struggling to get out of the Great Depression. Their stonework survives and is a treat to photograph, even for a dedicated nature photographer. Technical: focal length 12 mm, f 22, lens distortion corrected in Lightroom

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Minnesota Icon

Wolf Creek Falls in Banning State Park has been recorded by countless photographers and I'm sure a search of images in  Capture Minnesota would find some incredible images.  So, why photograph an icon? To me this is not a photograph of the waterfall but a story of a unique time and location.  Shooting this icon is like shooting a maple tree in autumn.  The challenge is shooting it how you see it, not as how you have seen it. Good shooting!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Leaves in Motion

 I spent a couple hours at this pool in Wolf Creek at Banning State Park trying to get a good composition and working the shutter speed to get a swirl I liked. Technical: 2 second shutter speed, tone curve adjusted in Lightroom.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

North Shore Color

I spent the morning looking for color along the North Shore with Gary Leeper (who is the author of an excellent North Shore guide book) and for the most part did not find any along Highway 61 to Tettegouche State Park. After sunrise at Palisades Point we headed back toward Two Harbors. Near there we climbed a short hill to find the best color of the morning which also highlights the green shoreline. Good color seems to be in pockets surrounded by brown or green.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Local Treasure

We explored the local county parks on Saturday and made it out to Mound Creek Park which is at the western edge of Brown County. We always seem to be there when the sky is overcast. Its unique feature is a 20 foot waterfall flowing over exposed red rock in the spring. Despite the recent heavy rains there was no water, a sign of the prolonged drought. 

Technical: This shot can be exposed in several ways. It would be a good HDR image to bring the sky in line with the foreground exposure.  A graduated neutral density filter would have been the choice with film.  Lately I have been exposing to get everything within  the histogram and using the graduated filter in Lightroom to show sky detail. Lots of different ways to achieve the same result.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Autumn Transition

Autumn photography is an exercise in composition using lines to break up color. The warm color is coming from light filtering through the yellow leaves. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

First Color

I finally broke free from office work and got out for my first fall color shooting yesterday. The overcast sky and light drizzle made the floor pop and diffuse light through the leaves was just right for the fallen leaves. Technical: 10 mm lens on Canon 7D, f22, ISO 640, cropped to HD format.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


I have not had a chance to get out for several days. Teaching has made me aware of lines, even when having afternoon coffee. How does this relate to nature?  When photographing fall color, especially leaves in the trees, I like to consider the color the background and the tree trunks lines on the background.  Fall color is one of my hardest subjects to record because I'm overwhelmed by color and forget to create a good composition.