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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Checkpoint Minnesota - Frozen in time, a little fire by nature and a nice rack




Well, we did it. We completed the Checkpoint Minnesota scavenger hunt. After driving what was the equivalency of several spokes on a wheel from our home in central Minnesota, the final leg was a relatively short run to Minneopa State Park near Mankato, MN. Be sure to see more about this winter event sponsored by Explore Minnesota Tourism at www.checkpointmn.com or #onlyinmn

Although this was the final piece for us, the draw was the awesome frozen fall on Minneopa Creek.


Far from being the tallest falls in the state (these are 39 feet), the ice they create in the winter with the slow water flow is pretty cool.


3 shot vertical pano looking up the massive sandstone cliffs from the edge of the creek.

After a short walk down a trail on the north side of the creek, down a pretty fair number of steps (use the hand rails for sure in the winter), and a short hike back up the frozen creek, you can access the base of the falls. A few words of caution: this is river ice and can be pretty unpredictable so be smart about you go about it. The day we were there you could definitely hear the hollow spots where the water had dropped leaving a space. Also be aware of the shape of the creek and the outside bends, submerged rocks, and logs which cause the water to flow faster and makes for weaker ice.



Anyhow, we had a fun time although I wish I had brought some cramp ons to climb up a little higher so I could get a better angle on shots looking out from behind. We had bad light also with a dreary overcast. I think morning would be a fun shoot with a little more direct light on the ice.


I was able to make it up to the hole close enough to shoot behind the falls with a superwide 11mm lens. If I had the cramp ons with it would have been a lot easier. The ice is really porous also so need to be a little concerned with it supporting any weight.


Kind of a perspective shot. My daughter is 5-2.


Melinda, Cailyn, and Chloe on the way out after our mini Saturday adventure.

The plan on Sunday was to kind of lay around the house and get some maintenance projects done.


The sunrise had other ideas so I got motivated to drive around the block looking for critter. Unfortunately the block is a 30 mile loop in world. I bribed Cailyn to with on the promise bacon would be involved when I we got home.


Cailyn spotted a doe laying in some cedar / pines. Some motion behind the doe caught my eye and spotted this buck keeping close tabs on us. It was about 5 above zero and I couldn't convince Cailyn to walk with me in hopes of getting a better shot so I had to make do looking out the window on her side. The heat ripples caused a lot of distortion so this was best image out of 8 frames. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, the heat inside your vehicle causes the air to distort as it escapes through an open window when it is super cold out, much like in the summer when you can see heat "rising" off a hot asphalt road. When the camera looks through the ripples, it causes the image to look soft and sometimes very distorted.

This weekend did nothing but get me fired up to head into the northern forests as soon as I can. So it looks like next weekend we will head up along the north shore of Lake Superior to some of the real waterfalls. Can't wait!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy New Year...trying to get caught up, again. Wolf pen and a HUGE 10 point whitetail buck!

Seems to be the story of my recreational shooting...get the photos, never do anything timely with them. So, here we go.

December 17th.


Burned up a little PTO from the day job before the end of the year. With the super short daylight hours right now, just had time to take a drive around home. The animal weren't very active but a local eagle took a moment to scowl at me for pointing a camera at it and the prize for the day was a fun sun pillar at sunset.

December 21st.

Melinda and I have been working on this scavenger hunt thingy sponsored by Tourism Minnesota for a few weeks now. Once we are done. I'll post some shots as it has been a lot of fun and has taken us around a lot of Minnesota. Some of the locations we are very familiar with (since we never stay home it seems) and we have also discovered some new really fun spots. This particular day we traversed north central Minnesota. After spending the night at my mom's house in Fergus Falls, we headed north then east.


A cell phone selfie of us with the mighty Mississippi River. Or it will be mighty later at least.


An eagle in Hubbard county Minnesota. It was feeding on a road kill deer but the carcass was far enough off the road I didn't feel the eagle was in an danger so we quickly left leaving the deer remains where they were.


As we headed east, the weather quickly deteriorated. Fog, drizzle and even moderate snow. This eagle was sitting off highway 200 about 3 miles east of Jacobsen, MN. Looks it has not had any problems finding food either.

December 26th.

We headed up to Melinda's sister's house near Deer River, MN for that side of the family's Christmas celebration. We arrived early enough in the day allowing my son and I to head north into southern Koochiching county in search of wolves. We stopped at a remote county park on the Bigfork River as I have always had good luck finding something interesting at this spot. Although we didn't see anything alive, we did find a fresh wolf kill on the ice...or at least what was left of it.


I have no idea what the animal was aa it was quite large (like a medium sized dog) and didn't have hair like a deer. Looks more like fur.


We went to the other side of river and drove a forest service road in about 5 miles where we picked up the tracks of the pack. Looked like 4 wolves. Although we never saw them, they probably saw us. They are called the ghosts of the forest for a reason.

December 27th.

Up early and on the road working on the scavenger hunt again. This time my co-pilot and navigator was my daughter.


Had to make a stop in Biwabik, MN to get a picture with the cool moose.

Sine we ended up in Ely, MN, we made a stop at the International Wolf Center. We have been there many times before but I like to check it out. Had a nice chat with one of their biologists, showed him the pics of the wolf kill, took a few pics of the wolves in the pen and took off south for Grand Rapids and Swenson Christmas.


If you are thinking about heading up to the wolf center, always go in the late fall, winter, or early spring as they are much easier to see. Also, they will be introducing 2 pups to their pack in 2016.

2015...finally. January 3rd.

Melinda, my good friend and photog buddy David Drufke, and myself had this great idea to head down to Alma, WI for some eagle watching and work some more on the scavenger hunt. Well, the eagles had other ideas as there were NONE in Alma. That has never happened before. Also, there were NONE at Reads Landing. Guess that November cold snap of arctic air did send them south earlier than usual.


No eagles, so here are a bunch of pigeons in Wisconsin. We also drove through the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge near Winona, MN but also saw a couple of photo shy hawks.

After only seeing an eagle here and there, we admitted defeat and headed back north on highway 61 and eventually drop David off at his car. We did stop in Redwing for a peek at the city park just in case.


There were a pair of eagles across the marina. Had to get a shot just to say I did.


David getting some shots of the ducks in the marina.


As we heading towards Hampton where David left his car, I noticed a bunch of eagles a long way out in a field behind a farm feeding on something. We stopped to watch for a few minutes but since they were so far out, getting good shots was not a possibility. Melinda did get a few of the melee which would break out every now and then as they would fight over whatever was out there. This was just east of New Trier, MN.

After dropping David off, Melinda and I made the turn northwest towards home. There was a little light left so I suggested we swing through one of the state parks and see if anything was around. We saw some deer and a barred owl, but on the way out I spotted this huge 10 point buck bedded down just inside the treeline where some other deer were feeding.


These deer are really acclimated to people so they let you get reasonably close.


The fun thing is they still behave like wild deer, but just accept humans as part of the natural surroundings. It's a great learning experience for kids or hunter who want to better understand why and how deer do what they do.


After observing for about 15 minutes and not wanting to stress the buck at all, I made my way back to the car and we called it a day. Totally worth getting out as this is the largest buck I have seen in two or three years.


Glad we did get out as with the passage of this cold front last night, the arctic air is back meaning high temps below zero and wind chills around negative 40 at times. Looking forward to spending some time reading and hanging out with Melinda and the kids...but the cold air will also mean the animals will get more active looking for food so by next weekend should be out and about.




Sunday, December 14, 2014

Shots from the weekend: 40 degree temps in December? & Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge


Well, I mentioned on last Sunday's entry it looked like we were going to lose our snowpack and we did. Now we have A LOT of water on the ice, mud, and hardly any snow. The only snow left is where it drifted in the trees or into deep ditches. Back to square one.


With the crappy conditions I wasn't very motivated to look for critters. The snow makes it much easier to see the animals or at least find tracks to know where to start looking. 0-2 with the brown ground now.


Foggy, dark, and dreary for sure but the swans didn't seem to mind. Sometimes in conditions like this, black and white photography works, so...



I got antsy to at least get out of the house. There was no real fall migration to speak of in western Minnesota and I totally missed the spring flight so I figured it was a good time to run over to the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge near Odessa and see what was going on.


The correct answer here would be "not much". I saw one red tail hawk and a tundra swan destined to be coyote food as it didn't appear to be able to fly and was a long ways out on the ice. There were a lot of muddy furbearer tracks though. With the fog getting worse by the minute, I didn't hang around too long. I was hoping to stay until dark when the critter would be out but it just wasn't in the cards. The highlight of the day was seeing golfers out on a course near Winsted in the morning.


Ever wonder what the Yellow Bank River looks like in B&W? Here you go.

Looks like some freezing rain changing over to maybe 3" of new snow tomorrow. At least it will cover up the brown a little. I really want to start heading north into my more traditional areas but I need some help from mother nature as the snowpack (or lack of) is just a dismal at the time.