Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Night 2014

Last night was a great night to look up to the stars and reflect on memories of 2014. It was a good year. Bundle up, get outside, and look at the stars tonight. May you have a marvelous new year enjoying the beauty of nature!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Prairie Trail

Winter is a great time to see animal signs on the prairie. It may a longstanding deer trail or you may find a story in the snow showing recent wildlife activity. Unfortunately the only thing warm about the prairie in the winter is its color. The wind can be brutal!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Winter Blue

It is a joy to see blue sky again! This was shot about half an hour after sunset as the bitter cold was setting in. Daylight WB used with minimal increase in saturation. Foreground lightened with Lightroom shadow slider.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Winter Light

I was back in snow for the first time in several weeks and loved it. After my eyes stopped watering from the wind I settled down to record a few images. The clear sky and afternoon light provided some welcome color to the prairie. This image pushes the boundary of the concept of positive and negative space. I think it works because of the bright area on the left of the image.

Friday, December 26, 2014


I set a trail camera up in front of a culvert last week suspecting there were raccoons sleeping in it and hoping to get a behavior pattern to film them as they were coming and going. 800 images later I have a pattern. I should say 798 shots later, two shots were of a squirrel. There was daylight activity once in the week and the rest was well after dark. Maybe I'll check their pattern again in the spring.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

It seems fitting that my 500th post be a Christmas wish.  Have a very merry Christmas and may you follow the light in the east as the wise men did so long ago.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Raccoon and Mouse

I have had a camera trap set up at the end of a upturned tree for the last week and am getting hundreds of mouse shots. Occasionally  a raccoon or feral cat that comes to check the mice. During the day squirrels search for acorns deep in the recess of the stump. Not the most photogenic set up but very active. To see some incredible camera trap images check: BBC Wildlife Camera Trap Photo of the Year-2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

December Thaw

I went to one of my favorite county parks last week. With no snow or color I recorded the slow moving water under the ice. The mood of the creek seems somber while it awaits a blanket of snow.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Big Horn Sheep Die

The area along the old Yellowstone Road north of Gardiner, MT, is a great place to photograph big horn sheep during the November rut. Over this Thanksgiving weekend there were over 100 sheep along the road in the farm fields. Photographers lined the road to watch the spectacle. During the last couple weeks there has been a serious problem with the sheep falling victim to pneumonia, ten have died within the last two weeks. for more information check this link: Big Horn Sheep Deaths

Thursday, December 18, 2014

December Textures

It's another tough month to find shots, a real test of creativity. With the recent thaw and refreeze there are some interesting ice patterns on puddles and along creeks. White balance of 5500k was used to enhance the mood of the ice.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Rhythm of Nature

I like to add background music to enhance the rhythms of nature but the the rhythm of these snow geese speaks for itself and needs no improvement. I was mesmerized by their motion and rhythm as thousands of birds flew in unison. The flight took place in near darkness one morning at Squaw Creek NWR. ISO sensitivity ranged from 8000-16000, yes 16,000! Recorded with a Canon C100 using a 100-400 lens. White balance at 6000k.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


I was going to talk about patterns and lines but the message in a  couple videos I recently watched really hit home. Each talks about transformation in a different, yet similar way. Each gives hope for the future, both for our youth and the planet. Each, in its own way, shows the power of photography. 

In a New Light

Cory Richards: Pushing the Boundaries

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Bald Eagle Dinner

I spent the the entire afternoon watching a flock of ducks and several bald eagles with no action. Suddenly about 15 minutes before sunset an eagle swooped down and grabbed a mallard. I missed the grab but hit the record button a second later to get this footage. This might be amazing to me but the background sound reminds me that is a normal day in the lives of ducks and eagles.

Technical: slight cropping of birds on ice

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Morning Blastoff

I see several possible titles for this image. "Waiting for my turn." and "Waiting for breakfast." along with a couple others. About 200 eagles were at the refuge and dining well on injured ducks and geese. I like the layers showing the different stages of flight in the morning blastoff. Shutter speed: 1/20 second at f22.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Leader of the Flock

I often wonder who goes first and why. The decision seems to be made a few seconds before lift off when there is near silence followed by an organized explosion of thousands of birds taking to the air. After lift off there seems to be confusion as the birds circle repeatedly looking for a place to land.

Technical: 1/15 second, ISO 1250. WB@5500

Monday, December 8, 2014

Snow Geese Landing

Only 8,000 snow geese were listed in the weekly count but warmer weather held promise for more birds. About a hundred thousand arrived on my first morning giving spectacular opportunities. This year flight shots were taken at a slow shutter speed, less than 1/100 second, in an attempt to convey the atomsphere of thousands of geese in the air. It was also a contrarian statement since geese are usually photographed frozen in space by a high shutter speed.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Change of Plans

I arrived at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge, Mound City, MO, well before sunrise intent on being in place for flocks of snow geese flying in front of the rising sun. On the way in this cloud drama caught my attention and the geese were forgotten about until their voices became overpowering.  Of course by then the best light had passed for my original plan. So much to photograph and such fleeting light, the bane of photography.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Slough Creek Crossing

A dead laptop battery and traveling caused a gap in my almost regular blog posting. I'm back online and at home so December is finally getting started. November was the first month in memory where not one still image was recorded. A time lapse was done the first weekend but that doesn't really count as a still image. I'm getting more hooked on video all the time and this is one of the less dramatic videos from my last trip to Yellowstone.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Are you a professional photographer?

How many times have you been engrossed in your hobby and someone has asked you this question? It's common if you are using a tripod and almost guaranteed if you are using an arm length lens.  While it is flattering my stock answer is "I'm a happy amateur with a hobby that has gone wild." Giving it more thought I would say I prefer being a happy amateur without the stress of everything that goes with being a professional. Think about the difference between working for a living and being on vacation. When are you having the most fun?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

This is my favorite Thanksgiving image.  It is hard to not anthropomorphize when photographing animals. There are similar behaviors but clearly they have different motivations than humans. This squirrel was pausing in the middle of finding a walnut.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Waiting at Soda Butte

With 3 million visitors to the Yellowstone National Park each year, most taking pictures, a photographer has a challenge producing something no one else has recorded. A quote by Arthur Schopnhauer in this month's Outdoor Photographer magazine sums up the challenge.

“Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has

 seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that

 which everybody sees.”

Sunday, November 23, 2014

October in Yellowstone

The clouds were changing almost hourly making it an excellent time to collect time-lapse footage. The weather went form 70 degrees to 40 degrees one afternoon! Reviewing the bison footage surprised me because each appears to move in synchrony with the others when feeding.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Death in Yellowstone

Poor Joseph. This tiny boot caught my attention when I was wandering through the Fort Yellowstone Army Cemetery. Joseph died in Yellowstone when he was 5 years old.  I had to find out more about him. Many other children are buried there, most have no dates, a few are only named "Infant".  I had to find out the mystery of Joseph and the rest of the children. The book "Death in Yellowstone", by Lee H. Whittlesey, provided the answer to this question and the other deaths in Yellowstone since it first became a park. How did Joseph die? A true tragedy, he was murdered by his mother! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

An Hour at Norris Geyser Basin

I arrived late in the afternoon to photograph the basin with warm light and found this composition. I wandered around taking in the atmosphere, inhaling the vapors, and getting some shots until I saw the same composition in different light. The time between the images is 1 hour, 10 minutes. Both shots developed to maximum potential in Lightroom

Monday, November 17, 2014

Artist's Paint Pots

I have not been below the northern tier in Yellowstone for several years but made a short trip to Norris Geyser Basin area one afternoon in October. Short should be quantified becasuse of the 30 minute delay due to road construction. The Artist Paint Pots have subtle colors but what I saw when I approached them was the heat, light, and steam. Note the distant fence to get a sense of scale.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bison Sparring

Most of the time I get bored watching bison since they eat so much of the time.  During late autumn there is more excitement  when young bulls test each other by sparring with each other. Usually there is just head scratching but it can get quite violent. 

Technical: All filming was done from the roadside using a 100-400 mm lens on a Canon C100.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

LED Light Flicker

I was photographing snow in during very early one morning using a LED flashlight to illuminate the snow. When I reviewed the images several had this pattern. The exposure was 30 seconds and the only explanation I can think of is the light source. Canon advertises that there new 7D will have pulse detection to trigger the shutter during  the brightest light.   It probably won't be effective with a 30 second exposure but at least I know the problem they are trying to correct.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cloud over Lamar River

With the early arrival of winter it's a perfect time to review images from Yellowstone last month. A bright rim of light on the western horizon one evening encouraged us to stay in the valley after sunset. My daughter and I worked the edge of the river as the color was changing. Shadows were brightened in Lightroom.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Stormy Skies

Not everyday is a blue sky day in Yellowstone, in fact, it would be interesting to know just how few there are. The character of the sky adds to the mystery and excitement of the Park and I prefer the cloudy days which usually bring a little wind with them. Recorded at the top of the S curves.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Clouds over Mammoth Terrace

I am having a hard time moving beyond Mammoth with my images taken while visiting Yellowstone last week. There is so much to see and explore without leaving "civilization". The terraces have an even more mystical quality in low light with the subtle colors of the sky changing their colors.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mammoth Terrace Sunrise

On some days you get to see the sun once. There were two cloud levels and we actually saw each layer light up so you could say we saw two sunrises on this day which was mostly overcast after this brief burst of color. What a treat!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Late Start

We slept in and almost missed sunrise. The original plan was capturing sunrise over Mammoth Terrace but the sun waits for no one so we stopped on the way up the hill to get this scene. One of the challenges photographing in Yellowstone is getting a unique shot of something that millions of people see each year. I'm sure others have photographed this but we were the only lucky ones at the gate this morning.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Moose in the Dark

Getting dueling moose bulls in Yellowstone was on my shot list last week. When I talked to the ranger I was told there were very few moose in the Park and my best chance was in the Tetons. I had seen moose several times but never during the late fall and made the assumption I would see them in the same locations. Lesson learned: Do your homework.   On the last evening this cow, with her calf, was eating along the road.

Technical: 500 mm lens, uncropped. ISO 2500, 1/60 sec @f 7.1. Several "rules" were broken getting this image with a very high ISO and high aperture. It is sharp because of the rock solid 12 pound tripod I lug around for video work.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Casper the Yellowstone Ghost

I took this shot a couple mornings ago and thought of the ancient TV show. Dawn to dusk in the mountain air is exhausting but also very refreshing. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Almost Gone

There's not much color left so its time to think about winter. I will be heading to Yellowstone tomorrow to get a jump on winter and hopefully get  some moose rutting behaviors, more excited about the latter than the former. You might say why head to Montana when there are opportunities for great moose photography here in MN. Check out these images: Paul Sundberg Photography

This image was taken on 10/30/13.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hidden Gems

Most county parks are developed and maintained for recreation but every now and then I find one with wild space that has been preserved. Caron County Park near Big Woods State Park is one such example.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Minneopa Waterfalls

It should be called a water trickle. Autumn is great for dramatic color but definitely not for dramatic water shots. Soon ice will bring water back into the spotlight as great subject material. Technical: A 2 stop ND filter was used to keep the sky within dynamic range.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Another Perspective

The crawl space under the waterfall was just big enough to get to the edge of the water without getting wet.  A completely different image of the same waterfall as yesterday using the same lens. Lightroom was used to coax the maximum dynamic range from the file.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hidden Falls

Big Woods State Park is a traditional autumn and spring photo location because of its unique maple hardwood forest and variety of spring ephemerals. One of the highlights is this waterfall at the bottom of the big hill. The low water allowed trying multiple points of view. Can you see where I'm going for the next shot?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Autumn Creek

I  recorded as much fall color as I can last week. It has been a refreshing return to landscapes I have ignored for the last several years. Seven Mile Creek Park in Nicollet County is one of those areas that has both great scenery and is an excellent songbird location because of the normally flowing creek.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Peaceful Morning

A calm, peaceful morning is energized with the rising sun hitting the autumn leaves. It was also cool and gloves were needed for the first time this year. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Plain Sight

I was walking in the woods yesterday and ducked under a low hanging branch. The branch caught on my neck and then it started moving. I put my hand up to brush it off and found a stick bug attached to the branch that had broken off, talk about a coincidence. I put the bug on a tree where it rested for a couple minutes before slowly made its way up the side of the tree. The image shows the power of the diagonal line and contrast.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Looking Up

This could be taken both literally and figuratively with the strong line and bright green leaves.  The warm greens were maples just starting to turn yellow last week, a much different woodland than today. Tree trunk lightened with the shadow tool in Lightroom

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Autumn Ferns

I rarely use the technique of framing in composition but I couldn't resist putting these ferns on the lower edges to frame this October scene. The lines seem to form a diamond in the woods. This was taken along a country road in the Minnesota River Valley which is an often overlooked autumn location for color.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Migration Motion

I've shown frozen flight, resting birds, and now the real thing. The constant motion of birds was impressive to watch and record. Changing the focal length to mix up the point of view was fun. The bright sky and neutral foreground made exposure a challenge but exposure was balanced out in iMovie.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Taking a Break

Even migrating birds need to rest every now and then.  The challenge in this shot was creating a composition making the most of the lines in the trees using the 70-200 lens.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Migration in B & W

During a walk yesterday we were under a million blackbirds, not necessarily an exaggeration, and took some time to photograph and film them. Sometimes you just can't fight the light. The stark trees and blackbirds with an overcast sky are a case in point so I converted to black and white. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014


I like the sweeping diagonal lines of the clouds and the road leading into the horizon. Upward and onward is the message I see in this image.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Confined & Editing

I had cataract surgery Tuesday and have been confined indoors this week. I had a huge number of image multiples and have spent time deleting them as well as catching up on key wording. Key wording is boring but necessary if looking for a specific image. I found this image from last October that reflects my longing  to get out and do some shooting, only a couple more days to stay out of the wind.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fish Lake Sunset

This was shot near the cabin after I raced out for sunset but in trying to find a good foreground missed the hot orange clouds that I originally saw. In rapidly fading light I managed to get a few images using a ND filter.

Monday, September 29, 2014


My last post was grumbling about teaching a class on photographing fall color in the absence of color. I changed my mindset from photographer to teacher and my outlook improved dramatically. The students loved the colorful ash trees, asters, and sumac making my day a success. So much of photography is about seeing possibilities.

Technical: recorded with Canon Elph, contrast enhanced in Lightroom

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Prairie Color

I'm teaching a fall color class tomorrow in a park without woodland color. Instead the prairie will be the star of the show. This brings home the difference between a hobby and a job. The hobbyist, which is me most of the time, could change location to find maple color. Tomorrow I do not have this luxury. Permits were obtained months ago, students are signed up, and liability issues prevent us from jumping in a van to search for color. I almost forgot, I am supposed to photograph the students having fun photographing the color. What a difference between working and playing!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lines and Color

One of the biggest challenges in capturing the landscape is finding or creating order in apparent chaos without over simplifying and creating a boring image. My eye starts in the lower left and bounces around this image but eventually gets to the white sky. The fallen log blocks my eye from following out the bottom of the image. What do you think: chaos or complexity?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cottonwood River

Returning to my roots of landscape photography has been fun. My dusty ND filters are getting a workout and when used in conjunction with digital techniques really make images pop. This was created with a 3 stop graduated ND filter and basic Lightroom adjustments. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

St. Croix River

The river has been running high all year and it still is much higher than normal for September. The numerous boat landings have interconnecting hiking trails to that make exploring the valley easy. This was taken at Norway Point which has a cedar bog boardwalk.

Technical:  In this case the polarizing filter almost darkens the water too much.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September Storm

I was driving home yesterday afternoon and noticed these clouds about the same time a weather alert was announced. I took the first available country road to avoid power lines in the image and shot until the rain started. Incredibly powerful winds soon followed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Exploring Water & Rock

Same waterfall, same day. I could (and have) spend an hour at a waterfall. Moving back, moving in, changing lenses, changing point of view, the list of possibilities goes on and on. Conversion to B &W to eliminate the browns in the rock and water.