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Monthly Archives: February 2015

This past weekend we headed over to Fond du Lac for the WISSA Championship Races. We arrived about noon, checked into our motel and then started looking for the races.

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We found what looked like the race area out on the ice but my wife was reluctant to drive onto the ice. I pointed out that the ice was safe and it was a long walk if she didn’t drive out onto the ice. We noticed a shuttle bus driving by so we followed it out onto the ice.

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When we arrived there wasn’t much going on. It was cool out. the air temperature was around 21 but there was a strong wind blowing down the lake. If you had any exposed skin you got cold quickly.

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I finally stopped and asked someone what events were going to take place. As it turned out he spoke very little English but I finally figured out that they would be doing a slalom race although it wasn’t clear when it would start. There were participants from about a dozen countries participating in the event. This was quite the coup for Fond du Lac. Last year the races were held in Russia. There were a few folks out on the ice practicing.

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Soon more racers started coming out to gear-up. There was a wide variety of gear. Some racers were wearing skates, some of the skates were a foot high. The skaters just held the boards and maneuvered them with their hands. Others were using boards with a sail mounted on the board.

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They seemed to have a block of ice to help at the start so they didn’t blow around. A the drop of a flag they were off.

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I watched them race for a while and then noticed the kite surfers were starting to gear-up so I watched them while they started to get their gear ready.They had an area right by the parking lot that they used to inflate their kits and hook them up. It was windy so it took a couple of people to get the kite up and running.

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It turned out they were doing speed trials. The racers gathered out on the ice and then one of them would take off for the finish line. It looked like they were using a timing gun to check their speed at the finish line.

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I watched them for a while but they were too far out onto the ice to get any close-up photos.

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After the races my wife and I drove back to the motel and inquired about good places for Friday night fish fries. It turned out that Wendt’s on the Lake was highly recommended. This was also the location for one of the weigh in stations for the Sturgeon fishing that would take place the following day. On the drive to Wendt’s we could see hundreds of ice fishing shacks out on Lake Winnebago.

Wendt’s was packed but we only had a short wait because most of the fisherman were at the bar getting fueled up for the start of Sturgeon fishing early the next morning.

When we returned to our hotel we decided to cancel our reservations for the following night. The weather report for the following day was zero degrees and 35 mph winds coming from the north We didn’t think we would stand being out on the ice all day.

More photos from the day can be found on my website.

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About a month ago we started hearing a strange sound several times a week. It was a thumping sound and I told my wife it was the neighbor chopping wood. I opened the window and listened and once went outside to see what was going on. I still thought it was the neighbor chopping wood.

This morning it started up again. I told my wife that it was the neighbor chopping wood again but had my doubts because the day before I noticed the neighbor now had a gas powered wood splitter out by his wood pile.

I felt the window frame and could feel a slight vibration with each bang.  I thought it might be a Palliated Woodpecker banging on the roof but I hadn’t see one around this winter. Whatever was making the sound was making a lot of noise. I decided to go outside and look around.

As I walked past the basement door I heard a sound coming from the basement. I was totally puzzled now. I walked down into the basement and found a Pheasant banging on the basement window. That was the last thing I expected to see.

Now I was concerned that he could break the window. He moved to a second window and started banging on it. I finally walked over and chased him away.Pheasant-15-2-_1312

About 10 minutes later my wife said she heard it again. I went down to the basement and found he had moved around the house to another window. I went back and grabbed my camera to get a picture of him banging on the window before chasing him away.

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It has definitely been a bummer of a winter so far. We had a nice early snowfall in November but nothing since. Northern Wisconsin and the North Shore of Minnesota haven’t seen much snow either. We have not been able to cross country ski around home or in the Duluth Area because of the lack of snow. I suppose the positive is we have been able to do some hiking along the North Shore and there hasn’t been a mosquito in sight.

High Falls Tettegouche State Park

High Falls Tettegouche State Park

My favorite winter photography subject is the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like they will open this year. We stopped at Meyers Beach last week when we were up for the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. We expected to see some ice but we found open water. A friend said they were close to opening a few weeks ago ice pack was just about frozen solid and the National Park Service was counting down to open them but a strong wind came up and the ice pack broke up and was pushed out into the lake.

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As I mentioned in my previous blog we drove over to Bayfield, Wisconsin to watch the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races. When we left the race it was raining but by the time we reached Superior, Wisconsin the sun was peeking out.

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

We stopped at the Kwik Trip in Superior to get gas I noticed the light was shining on one of the abandon Iron ore docks. There were folks fishing out along the dock so I figured it was a good chance to walk out and get some photos. I had been wanting to photograph the docs but didn’t have a way to get close to them until the ice formed.

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

Apparently the docks are in the process of being removed. There was a crane working alongside the docks.

GN-BN Allouez Ore Docks

GN-BN Allouez Ore Docks

One of the fishermen I talked to said they were going to make a marina out of the area. There were a number of boats stored on shore and under the docks. At one point I noticed a car driving along inside the docks so they must be massive.

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

Northern Pacific Ore Dock-No. 1

My main interest is photographing birds while it’s snowing out but I do shoot at other times. These are a few birds seen at my feeders in the last few weeks.

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Last weekend we took a roundabout road trip to the 2015 Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races. Our first stop was at ABR in Ironwood, Michigan for a half day of skiing. The next morning we were up early so we could make it to the races before the 10am start. As usual we were early and had plenty of time to wander around and look at the prerace activities. We were fortunate that we were early because we had to make a couple of trips back to the car for extra cloths. While the air temperature was around twenty degrees there was a strong wind that made it a bit cool.

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We had a chance to check the dogs out before they became excited about getting hooked up to the sleds. Many of them had eaten and seemed to be relaxing before the race.

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Many of the mushers already had their sleds out and were getting ready to hook the dogs up to the sleds.

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As with just about every place in Wisconsin there was a lack of snow. This was the first time that I’ve been at the race where they had to haul snow to the parking lot so the sleds could make it to the starting line without running on gravel.

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As with any sled dog race it requires many volunteers to get the teams to the starting line. This group reminded me of the typical group of tourists following the leader holding a flag. They were heading out to the teams to assist the mushers to the starting line. It takes five or six people to get the eight dog teams to the starting line.

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This was one of the first teams to head out onto the course. The dogs were overly excited and became all tangled up just before they were given the signal to go. One of the handlers was trying to get the dogs straightened out when the team took off and the handler ended up on the ground. The dogs were still tangled up but the musher was able to get the lead dog headed in the right direction using voice commands.

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Unfortunately this team did not make it through the race. They had a problem on the first turn and the musher was injured. They had to send a snowmobile out to pick him up and someone had to bring the team back to the starting point.

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After photographing from near the starting gate I walked down the course a ways to photograph from a different position. I have to say this is the first time I’ve seen a musher smoking a cigarette either before or during a race. My wife was at the starting gate when he started. She said he was trying to light the cigarette in the wind when the team started.

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After photographing out on the course for a while I wandered back toward the starting gate to photograph some more mushers starting the race.

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I then moved up to the starting line to watch the teams being brought into the starting gate. I believe this girl was 8 years old and had a team of two dogs. The announcer said that she got an early start to racing because her mother was racing when she was six months pregnant with the little girl. The musher listed her day job as a student.

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The final musher of the day has raced in this race a number of times and his entire team consists of dogs rescued from shelters.

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After the race we met up with some friends that had moved from Menomonie to Cornucopia, Wisconsin. We talked for a while and planned on having lunch but it started to rain just after the race finished. We decided to head to Duluth before the roads turned bad. As it turned out the rain stopped after about a half an hour and the sun came out.

Many more photos from the first day of the race can be found on my website.

We had, what has turned out to be, a rare snowfall earlier in the week. Unfortunately I was out getting a Measles shot because of some nut cases refuse to get their kids vaccinated. As a result I missed most of what was a beautiful snowfall consisting of large flakes drifting out of the sky. This brought the birds out in full force.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

House Sparrows

House Sparrows

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

 

Overnight we had a fresh snowfall. The next morning it was clear, bright and very cold but the wind was not blowing. The snowflakes were hanging on all of the summer flowers so I walked around the prairie and took some shots just before the wind started blowing.

Gall

Gall

Daisy Fleabane

Daisy Fleabane

Canada Goldenrod

Canada Goldenrod

With the reduced number of photo opportunities in the winter I occasionally turn to creating abstract photos using various techniques. Here is a brief sampling of my efforts.

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A year ago my wife purchased some Poinsettia plants for the holidays. After they were done for the season she looked on the internet to find out how she could keep them for another year. I gather she trimmed them back and put them in the basement until last fall.

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She then started rotating them between sunlight and night. At one point we were on vacation so she took them to a friend’s place. The actually turned out quite well for someone who does not have a green thumb.

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There were nearing the end of the season and I don’t have a lot of color to photograph in the winter so I took some photographs of them last week.