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Monthly Archives: December 2012

I made a trip down to Devil’s Punchbowl on a cold frosty morning to check on ice conditions. With the cold weather we have had during the past week the ice wall is progressing nicely. While I was there I had a chance to photograph a few things lying or embedded embedded in the ice.

More photos of Devil’s Punchbowl can be found on my website.

Pine Needles and Frost

Pine Needles and Frost

Pine Needles

Pine Needles

Embedded Leaf

Embedded Leaf

Pine Needles and Frost

Pine Needles and Frost

Apostle Islands Ice Caves

Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-09-19--139At the top of my list is the Apostle Islands Ice Caves located near Cornucopia, Wisconsin.  The possibility of photographing the Apostle Islands Ice caves takes on added excitement each winter because they are frequently are not accessible from the lake. The last year that they were accessible from the lake was 2009. Unfortunately global warming has made this unique adventure something that is frequently just beyond reach. The ice caves are one of the wonders of the Upper Midwest and something not to be missed.

Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-09-18--269I usually start thinking about the ice caves in early summer and the excitement builds from there. In order to get close up to photograph the ice caves you need to walk out on the frozen ice of Lake Superior. Because ice conditions are uncertain the National Park Service has an Ice Hotline that you can call to check on accessibility to the ice caves. I usually start calling at the end of January.

Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-11-2-_2783If the ice is not safe there is a trail from Myers Beach that goes out along the cliffs above the ice caves that allows some nice views of the ice. If you are going to take this trail I would suggest wearing ice cleats and using hiking poles because the trail is steep in places and it can be slippery when well traveled. My website contains photos from several visits to the ice caves. One year we combined a trip to see the Apostle Sled Dog Race with a hike along the trail above the caves.

Sled Dog Racing

Off and Racing

Off and Racing

Several years ago my wife and I took in our first sled dog race. We are really cat people so it was a stretch for us to go to an event featuring dogs. We were really surprised that we enjoyed it so much. The excitement generated by the dogs as they prepare for the race is infectious. They are so happy to be heading out on the trail racing that they can’t stop jumping and barking.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-11-2-_2518There are always a variety of interesting people at the sled dog races. If you really like dogs and want to become involved sled dog races are always looking for volunteers. It takes a lot of people to put on a sled dog race.

CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-12-3-_0226The Upper Midwest features a large number of sled dog races with the first starting in early January. Check out Sled Dog Central for a listing and status updates of races in the Upper Midwest. Given the mild winter it is best to check to make sure the race will be run as scheduled. The current issue of Lake Superior Magazine has an excellent article on the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon with some hints on photographing sled dog races. There are more shots of the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race and the CopperDog 150 Sled Dog Race on my website.

Skiing the U.P.

Swedetown-Ski-Trails-08-208--050There is no place in the Midwest that can compete with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in terms of snow. My wife and I love to cross country ski and the 20+ feet of powder that the U.P. normally receives can’t be beat. When we first started skiing in the U.P. we couldn’t believe that warm weather and powder could coexist but the lake effect snow is some of the most beautiful powder to be found. It’s so good that the U.P. is one of the best places in the country to photograph snowflakes. The current issue of Lake Superior Magazine also has an article on “Winter in the Keweenaw” Swedetown-Ski-Area-10-1-_0840showing some of the snow activities and scenery of this beautiful area. Our favorite spot is the Sweedtown Ski Trails in Calumet, Michigan. The skiing is great but more importantly they have the most beautiful snow conditions we have encountered. The trees are literally blanketed with snow,

Bond Falls

Bond-Falls-09-31--092In my opinion Bond Falls in the U.P. is the premier waterfall in the Upper Midwest for winter photography. It is located just below a dam on the Middle Branch of the Ontonagon River. While most waterfalls freeze solid during the winter Bond Falls is free flowing during the winter. Large ice sculptures combined with free flowing water make for some great photography.

Bond Falls

Bond Falls

Bond Falls is easily accessible although you will probably want to wear ice cleats because you may be walking on ice as the trail is close to the river and portions of it are frequently ice covered. Photos from several winter visits can be found on my website although you will need to page through some great fall pictures to find them.

                                       Photographing birds

American-Goldfinch-12-12-_0228Photographing birds during a snowfall is one of my major winter activities. A nice snowfall brings birds into the feeder in large numbers and they appear to be more tolerant of a person being around. We have already had two heavy snowfalls this year and I’m looking forward to more of them. On a bitter day when it’s difficult to be out and about nothing is more fun than sitting in front of a fire and watching the birds at the feeder. You can see more photographs of birds during snowstorms on my website. You will need to scan through the spring, winter and fall to see all of them.

After a recent snowfall my wife and I headed down to the Red Cedar State Trail for some hiking. Since the snowfall was on a weekend we knew the trail wouldn’t be closed to hiking so we didn’t take our skis. The next day was Monday so we took our skis along and skied a section of the trail that had not been groomed yet. Both days I only took my Droid Phone along and thought I would try some photography with it. I really should spend a little more time learning to use it because I always have it with me and at some point I may have to take a photo with it. Here are a few shots from our two days on the Trail. Most of them have been converted to black and white

As usual additional photos from the trips can be found on my website.

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Red-Cedar-Trail-12-12-_0982

Bench-Red-Cedar-Trail-12-12-_1009

Red-Cedar-Trail-12-12-_1162

I was photographing some birds during a recent blizzard. The winds were really strong and the birds were having a time of it even sitting on their perch. I usually discard the photos with the feathers blowing around but these two shots taken of a female Northern Cardinal struck me as interesting.

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Northern-Cardinal-female-12-12-_1265

I’ve received word that one of my photos was selected as a runner up in the landmarks category. This photo was taken several years ago on a neighboring farm. This was one of my first sunset photos. I’ve tried a number of times to capture this same windmill but without much success. This past year I noticed that, for some reason, the windmill has a decided lean to it so there probably will not be any more photos.

Windmills

When I was out walking a few weeks ago I started to think about winter and what signals the start of winter for me. We all know that the official start of winter is December 21st but in reality winter rarely starts on that date

The most obvious signal of winter is the first significant snowfall. This varies widely. One year we had three feet of snow on Halloween and it stayed on the ground until April. I have to admit this one caught everyone off guard. I came home from work and noticed it was snowing a little bit but didn’t think anything of it. When my wife came home she had heard on the news that we were going to get a major blizzard. By that time I had to wade through knee deep snow to get to my tractor, which was at the neighbors house.  The lawnmower was still on the tractor so it had to be removed and the snow blower installed. I managed to get the snow blower installed but had to blow a path to get it back home. On the other hand last winter we really didn’t have a significant snow storm so It didn’t really feel like winter.

Country Road

Country Road

Another signal that winter is just around the corner is birth of the ice wall at Devil’s Punchbowl and along the Red Cedar State Trail. As soon as we get some good cold weather the water dripping down the sandstone cliffs starts to freeze on the moss, rocks, leaves and twigs at the bottom of the wall. If I catch it just right I can get some photographs before the ice becomes a solid wall.

Ice Covered Moss

Ice Covered Moss

The other thing that signals that winter is near is the return of the winter birds. Most of the birds I have around the farm in the winter stay year around. The lone exception is the Dark-eyed Junco. The Dark-eyed Junco leaves in the spring and spends the summer and early fall in far northern Wisconsin. When the Juncos return you know winter can’t be far behind.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

I really know winter is here when the Copper’s Hawks start showing up around my feeders. They are here year around but I never see them around the farm until we get lots of snow and cold weather which brings large numbers of birds to my feeding station. Since they feed on fellow birds they start showing up looking for lunch.

Coopers Hawk

Coopers Hawk

 

I first became of the Sandstone Ice Festival several years ago when an Adventure Club at the local University had it on their schedule of events. I looked it up and decided it would be worth a trip over to see what was going on. I had been heavily involved in snow and ice climbing in a previous life and wanted to see how much things had changed.

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As it turned out the weekend of the Festival was a major storm and we were snowed in for several days. I put it on the schedule for the next year but as it turned out the weather was really warm and I figured they wouldn’t have much ice for climbing since most of the ice around here had melted.

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This year was to be my third attempt. The weather was warm but I noticed on their website that they were using man made ice so it was more likely they would have ice. The Festival is held in Robinson Park along the Kettle River and next to Banning State Park.

Ice-Climbing-Sandstone-Ice-Festival-12-12-_1120

I’m not sure why but we seem to have problems finding our way around in Sandstone. After driving through town and not seeing any signs to Riverside Park or the Ice Festival we stopped and asked a few people, all locals. None of them knew about the Ice Festival. We resumed our search and I finally recognized a landmark from a previous visit and headed off to the park.

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We visited on the first day of the Festival figuring it would be less crowed and would give us a chance to look around. On this particular day they were conducting beginning ice climbing lessons on the beginners wall. We watched them for a while and then found out that more climbing was taking place further into the park along the walls formed by the old Banning Sandstone Quarry.

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We watched for a couple of hours as the climbers made their way up the various ice walls. A couple of things that stuck me were the number of women that were climbing. Of course the equipment has changed a lot. The crampons and ice axes had all changed. The harnesses are now all webbing. In my day we made our harnesses out of rope.

Ice-Climbing-Sandstone-Ice-Festival-12-12-_1073

Since the Festival is held in the Ice Park that is used throughout the ice climbing season we plan on stopping if we are in the area on a weekend because there will likely be someone climbing.

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More photos from the Sandstone Ice Festival can be found on my website.

Around the first of November I was watching a large number of American Goldfinches at my feeders. One of them looked a little strange so I started photographing it. When I first noticed it had just gotten out of the bird bath. Upon closer inspection it clearly wasn’t a goldfinch. I finally thought I had identified it as a Ruby-crowned Kinglet in an earlier post. However, an alert reader correctly identified it as a Pine Warbler.  It was the first one that I’ve ever seen at my bird feeder.  Apparently it was migrating through. It stayed around for several weeks feeding on suet. It was still around for the first snowfall but the next day it was gone.

Pine-Warbler--12-11-_0048

Pine-Warbler-12-11-_0043

Pine Warbler 12-11-_1116

A couple of weeks ago I drove down to Paradise Valley to check out the ice conditions. You can park along the road and walk down to a small stream and then follow the stream up to its source which is a spring back in the valley. There was a little ice along the stream and at the waterfall about three quarters of the way up the valley. There was also quite a bit of ice along the ice wall. I didn’t have my ice cleats along so it was slow going over portions of the trail. I managed a few shots. Later in the week it turned warm and all of the ice was gone.

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One of my favorite winter activities in trying to photograph birds in a snowstorm. It can be a challenge because I’m usually dealing with really low light conditions which makes it difficult to get a crisp shot. The other problem is trying to maintain focus with blowing snow and trees blowing around. Never-the-less it is fun to try because a good storm usually brings a variety of birds to the feeding station. Here are a few shots from last weekends storm.

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch