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Monthly Archives: January 2012

My wife and I drove down to Devil’s Punchbowl over the weekend. I was an exciting trip because the roads were still icy from Friday’s snow and ice storm. When we arrived there was already a truck in the parking lot. The walk down was “fun” because there is quite a bit of ice on the steps. When we reached the bowl we found an ice climber on the ice wall. I’ve been at the bowl over fifty times and this is the first time I’ve seen anyone ice climbing at Devil’s Punchbowl. We chatted about climbing for quite a while. I used to climb quite a bit in my younger days. He said he likes to climb at the bowl because it is easy to get his rope tied off at the top of the wall. His wife usually comes along to belay him but she broke her wrist so with his belayer injured he was working at the bottom of the wall. I took a few photos of the climber and a few close-ups of the ice formations.

Ice ClimberIce Formation

Ice Climber

Ice Formation

Ice Formation

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Not something we have see a lot of this winter. Last Friday afternoon we were scheduled to get an inch or so. I was excited because I like to photograph birds during snow storms. Off and on during the day we received some of the largest snowflakes I’ve seen around here. Unfortunately, the birds didn’t cooperate and they were nowhere to be found. I ended up taking pictures of the snowfall and a perch where they would normally land. I did manage one lone picture of an American Goldfinch but only after the large flakes had dissipated.

Snowfall

Bird Perch

American Goldfinch

I’m not sure what it is about Sumac but I seem to have a lot of photos of birds perched on Sumac. I know that bluebirds and robins love sumac but apparently lots of birds like to perch on it as well. It does make for a colorful perch for birds.

American Goldfinches

American Robin

Black-capped Chickadee

Bluebird and Cardinal

Eastern Bluebird

Blue Jay

Common Redpoll

Downy Woodpecker

Eastern PhoebeIndigo Bunting

Northern CardinalRed-breasted Nuthatch

This past weekend we had a small ice storm followed by a little snow. As noted in my previous blog we were out of town but when we returned late on Monday some of the trees and vegetation was still covered with ice. Tuesday morning I took a walk around the farm looking for things to shoot. Enjoy!

Snow in the Woods

Foxtail Millet

Leaf

 

Last weekend my wife and I headed up to the U.P. of Michigan for another extended weekend of skiing. Our main destination was the Swedetown Ski Trails in Calumet, Michigan. Normally it is a six hour trip but on Friday it was even longer. Northern Wisconsin and the UP were just digging out from a snowstorm and the temperature hovered around one degree so the roads for the last four hours of the trip were snow packed and slippery.

Union Bay

We made a stop at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park to purchase a 2012 park pass. While in the area I took a photo of Union Bay with a lake effect snow clouds out over the lake.

We had a free night at a Houghton hotel so we stayed in Houghton on Friday night. We arrived late in the day a made a quick stop to check in before heading over to the Michigan Tech ski trails for some late afternoon and evening skiing. The sunset was spectacular but unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera. Skiing under the lights is great fun but it was cold, about five degrees, and there were not many folks out skiing.

Swedetown Ski Trails

The next morning we debated whether to ski the Maasto Hiihto trails or to go over to Swedetown. Since we couldn’t find out any reviews of Maasto Hiihto we decided to go over to Swedetown. Later in the day we encountered another skier who lives about five blocks from Maasto Hiihto and he indicated that it is a rough course with some rock issues so they need lots of snow before it is in good condition. So it was good that we saved it for a later ski trip.

Swedetown Ski Trails

Just as we arrived the groomer was finishing up grooming the trails after Thursdays storm. The trails were all in excellent shape. They do an outstanding job of grooming at Swedetown. We headed out on the Valley Trail and planned to hook up with the Back Country. We found where the Back Country trail head used to be but it had not been groomed and the sign was gone so we continued on and skied several other trails. Later we found a single track trail Back Country Trailthrough the woods and headed off on it. After a short distance we found a sign indicating it was the Back Country Trail. We continued on an skied it for a over an hour before entering a portion of it that we had not skied before. When we reached the trailhead we found ourselves back in the parking lot. It seems that they changed the trailhead for the Back Country trail. It is now located at the main trailhead by the parking lot just to the right of the large map showing the Swedetown Trails.

Swedetown Ski Trails

After a morning of skiing we drove into town and stopped at the local ski shop. I noticed a snow bike in the window. Earlier in the season there was some chatter on the Keweenaw ski trails list about snow bikes but I didn’t have any idea what they were. We went into the store and I was looking at the bike when someone came to take it out of the window. It turns out that he was the groomer for the Swedetown Trails. I asked him about the ski bike. Apparently he was taking it out because a TV station was going to do a piece on snow biking. It’s a new and fast growing sport. This model was a fat tire model with two large tires. Others have a ski in front rather than a tire. They can go on ski trails, snowshoe trails and snowmobile trails just about any place where the snow has been packed down. This year they will have a snow bike race the day after the Great Bear Chase cross country ski race. Swedetown is thinking of adding some multiuse trails in the next couple of years to provide an opportunity for snow bikers and Skijorers to enjoy Swedetown.

Little Tigers

We went back out to Swedetown and skied the rest of the afternoon. We encountered a couple of people with stuffed tigers attached to their back and were a bit puzzled. Later we discovered that it was Copper Country Ski Tigers. It’s a chance for young skiers to get some instruction and have a day of fun with the family.

Swedetown Ski Trails

On Sunday we were thinking about heading up to Copper Harbor to ski the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge but no one was sure if they were being groomed this year. The weather report was for rain later in the day so we decided to spend a second day at Swedetown. We headed out to the Back Country Trail again, did I mention we love to ski it, and skied it for the second day in a row. This time we actually found the trail head. Apparently Swedetown is thinking of doubling the length of the Back Country Trail in the next couple of years. That would be great because it does give one the feel of skiing the back country. The trail is occasionally groomed with a snowmobile and a single center track laid. We like to ski it after a big snowfall because the trees are covered with snow and it really gives the feel of being in the back country.

Swedetown Ski Trails

On Sunday it was free skiing and snowshoeing at Swedetown. We actually saw quite a few a few folks out snowshoeing and decided to bring our snowshoes along the next time.

Swedetown Ski Trails

Fortunately the freezing rain never materialized and on Monday we were faced with heavy snow for the trip back home. We thought of staying another day but decided not to. Wouldn’t you know they had 18 inches of new snow. Bummer for us great for Swedetown.

More photos from Swedetown can be found on my website.

I woke up this morning and found that it was -15 outside. I’ve been waiting for this type of weather so I could head out to Bjornson to try and photograph some frost. There are a number of springs that flow from the hills and when the relatively warm water exits from the hills it creates opportunities to photograph frost. It was cold and I was in the stream trying to photograph some frost and spend a little too much time photographing. When I started to leave both boots were stuck in the muck. I had a heck of a time trying to get out. Fortunately I did without taking my boots off. Here are a few shots from this morning.

Frost

Frost Covered Watercress

Pine Cone

We’ve had a couple of days of cold weather so I thought I would head over to Devil’s Punchbowl to check on ice conditions. As you can see from the first photo the ice is nowhere near where it should be this time of year. We probably need a couple of weeks of good cold weather before it starts to look good.

Devil's Punchbowl

I spend most of my time at the base photographing small segments of the ice wall. I was a little surprised and worried by the amount of ice falling from the wall. Is was about 9 degrees but there was still quite a bit of water flowing down the rock face. There was also a bit of frost but it should be colder in the next couple of days so there should be more frost.

Ice Patterns

Leaf

Like lots of other skiers and snowmobilers we headed up to the U.P. over the three day weekend. The U.P. is one of the few places with good snow cover this year. Even though their snow totals are down they have enough snow to groom the trails. Midweek they were dumped with another foot of snow.

Miljes Ski Trails

On Sunday we drove up to the Ironwood area. Neither my wife or I have done any skiing this year because of a lack of snow. In addition, I caught a bad cold at Christmas time have haven’t been able to get out much. This was my first outing in a couple of weeks. We decided that we would drive over to the Miljes Ski Trails just outside Wakefield, Michigan. We skied them last year and since they are not particularly difficult or long we felt it would give us a chance to ski for a couple of hours and get out ski legs back. It would also allow us to get back to the motel to watch the disaster at Lambeau Field. We were also interested in seeing if they had made any changes since last year’s visit.

Snow Fort

Last year we had problems finding the place. The clerk at the local gas station never heard of it and we finally asked at the local state patrol office. This year there was a big sign posted at the intersection of highway 2 and 28 indicating the direction and mileage.

Old Warming Hut

New Warming Hut

The trails have a new warming hut.  There are rooms to change and several couches and comfortable chairs in the hut. It includes a table and chairs as well as a kitchen. There is a stove with firewood which you can use. This is a shot of the old and new warming. Big improvement.

Last year there were some discrepancies between the description, distance and costs on Skinny Ski and what we actually found. This year the information was correct and Skinny Ski had an accurate map posted. Unfortunately we didn’t make a copy of it and there weren’t any spares in the warming hut.

The trails are gentle classic through a mix of hardwood forests and cedar swamps. This is a family run ski area and apparently the family has a Serbian and Finnish heritage. The fact that is a classic only ski area makes it a good place to go if you don’t want to encounter lots of skaters flying by. It also makes it a good place to take the kids if they are just learning to ski. It is gently rolling terrain and there is only one hill that would be considered challenging and local skiers have made a track around the hill.

Facilities

It looked like the trails had been freshly groomed and it was a beautiful sunny day with the temperature a little warm for my taste but since it was our first outing and we were just out to enjoy ourselves it worked out well. There were quite a few other skiers out on the trail. Many of them were locals that use the trail for their daily exercise. We kept meeting the same folks on the trail. One fellow said he skis about 12 miles every day on the trail and frequently sees fox and bobcats. A couple of times were weren’t sure where the trail went he pointed us in the right direction. It’s not that there are all that many trails but in a couple of places 4 or 5 trails intersect and without a map we were not sure where to go. This is the one criticism from last year that hasn’t been fixed. They do need to put a small map up at the major intersections for those folks that are visiting for the first time.

We had a nice time and met some great people on our visit.

More photos from Miljes can be found on my website.

Earlier in the week I complained about the sparse photography opportunities this winter. One of the things I like to photograph are birds at my bird feeder. Up until Thursday there were few birds at the feeder. Mostly American Goldfinches that apparently prefer black sunflower seeds to feed in the wild and a few Downey Woodpeckers that like suet.

On Thursday things changed, at least for an hour. We were getting some light snow along with strong winds. The weather had dropped from 55 degrees to into the teens. I thought for sure this would bring out the birds but it wasn’t until mid morning that I started noticing a few more birds at the feeder. about 10:30 all of a sudden there was a flurry of activity at the feeder. I saw more birds in the next hour than I have at anytime this winter. Unfortunately I had to leave for a noon meeting and when I returned in the afternoon the bird population was back to normal.

I have seen very few Northern Cardinals around the feeder this year. During my brief shoot this morning there were six males and the first female that I’ve seen this winter.

Northern Cardinal - male

American Goldfinches have been the most prolific and constant birds at the feeder this winter.

American Goldfinch

Dark-eyed Juncos  seem to come around when it snows but with the warm temperatures this winter they have been an infrequent visitor. This morning during the snowfall they were out in large numbers.

Dark-eyed Junco male

Downy Woodpeckers  have been around most of the winter feeding on suet. This morning there were also some Hairy Woodpeckers around but I wasn’t able to get a shot.

Downy Woodpecker male

Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been sparse this year. This was the first one to visit the feeder in several weeks.

Red-bellied Woodpecker male

I’ve seen a female House Finch around the feeder several times this year but this was the first male I’ve seen.

House Finch male

The Black-capped Chickadee is normally a frequent visitor to the feeder but this year I have seen very few of them. A couple were around today but I wasn’t able to get a photo.

Moonrise Crex Meadows

One of the things I like to do is try and plan my photography trips so that the sunset and moonrise are in close proximity. This allows me to get great shots of the sunset and turnaround and get a shot of the moonrise. The first time this happened was an accident. I had been photographing the sunset at Crex Meadows and was packing up to leave when I turned around and notice a full moon over Phantom Lake. After this experience I started checking the sunset/moonrise tables to plan my trips.

 

Moonrise over Crex Meadows

On a later trip to Crex Meadows I had planned to photograph the sunset and moonrise and had picked a great day to capture both. I picked a new location to photograph the sunset. Unfortunately I picked a bad location and didn’t get any sunset photos and almost missed the moonrise because I was in the wrong location. That was when I started to use The Photographers Ephemeris to plan my trips. This program not only shows the times for the sunset and moonrise but also shows the direction of the sunset and moonrise from any location. This program allows me to determine the best location to get the shots I want.  I reviewed this program in an earlier post and highly recommend it to anyone doing landscape photography.

Moonrise Two Harbors

Moonset Two Harbors

Sometimes I just get lucky. Earlier this fall I was photographing at Two Harbors, Minnesota and had planned to photograph the moonrise. I got engrossed in photographing a piece of ice and almost forgot about the moonrise until my wife mentioned it and when I looked up it was already fairly high in the sky. The next morning we went down to photograph the sunrise and I noticed that the moon was setting over the ore docks in the harbor.

Moonrise Duluth Harbor

If you plan a bit you can also get some interesting shots. This was taken in Duluth Harbor and shows the moon rising out of the chimney of the Outer South Lighthouse. I knew the moon would be coming up over the harbor so I waited around for it to get to right location. Fortunately the breakwater allowed me to position myself to get the photo.

Union Bay Moonset

Other times planning doesn’t enter into things. Last fall I was planning to photograph the sunrise at Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Wilderness State Park. As I left the motel I noticed there was considerable cloud cover in the east so it didn’t look good for a  sunrise shot. However, as we were driving into the park I noticed the moon setting over Union Bay and quickly decided that the moonset was going to provide a better opportunity on this particular morning.

More photos of moonrise/moonset photo can be found on my website. Just click on search and enter moonrise or moonset.