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Monthly Archives: February 2018

I have been under the weather for a few days and haven’t been able to get out to photograph some great frost we had earlier in the week. So late in the afternoon I decided to take a short walk to start building up my energy. My wife decided to come along and suggested we get the snowshoes out but I concluded that the snow wasn’t deep enough. I was wrong.

There wasn’t a lot to photograph and we hadn’t gotten very far when it started to sleet. I managed a few photos of items in the snow.

Seed Pods

 

Winter Grass

 

Winter Grass

At the bottom Tripp Falls Ravine is a small spring fed stream that flows into the Red Cedar River. It is located about 1.5 miles outside Menomonie, Wisconsin.  Access to the area is via a short steep trail which leads into the ravine. In the winter it can be treacherous because the stream and the ravine floor may be solid ice. You can hike up the gully for about a half a mile although the most interesting sections are found within the first 400 yards. There are a variety of winter photographic opportunities which include the stream, frost, ice patterns,a large ice wall and several small waterfalls. Conditions vary a great deal in the winter. If it has been warm the stream will be open. If it has been cold the stream and the floor of the valley may be solid ice. If it has been really cold there may be a lot of frost shots. A short distance up the valley you will encounter a large ice wall and a 10 foot waterfall. It is possible but difficult to climb up the side of the waterfall. The climb over the waterfall can be a challenge on the snow and ice. There is a second small three foot waterfall about twenty yards above the larger waterfall. A sort walk above the smaller waterfall will lead you to the springs that feed the stream. I typically wear ice traction devices on my feet, during the winter, to prevent falls on the ice.  Because the ravine is vary narrow photographing on a sunny day is difficult. The best light is usually on a cloudy or overcast day.

As you walk down into the ravine you will encounter the small spring fed stream. The stream itself is not large but offers a variety of shots. During transition seasons and during periods of warming and cooling the stream offers shots of the ice formations along the edge of the stream. When the stream is completely frozen and the temperatures are below zero you have the chance to shoot patterns in the ice and frost that forms on the ice.

 

If you time your visit just right you can photograph ice covered leaves, twigs and ice formations that remind you of diamonds. This opportunity may occur for only a few days during the transition periods when the ice is first forming or is melting.

As you walk up the stream you will encounter large ice walls along the sides of the ravine. Throughout the year water seeps from the cliffs and during the winter producing these large ice walls.  After a short walk up the stream you will also encounter the first of two waterfalls.

This shot shows the waterfall and ice formations at the end of the ravine.

This is the largest at about 10 feet and is not so much a waterfall as water tumbling down over a sandstone slope. At times the water is open and at other times it is frozen completely over. Normally there are opportunities for shooting ice patterns along the waterfall.

To continue up the ravine you must climb along one side the waterfall. This can be a bit treacherous since it is usually solid ice. Once on the top you can walk up the stream a short distance to the second waterfall. This one is only about 3 feet but is a free falling waterfall. There are usually some ice formations around the waterfall but nothing spectacular.

At this point I usually stop but if you can get up over the waterfall you can continue to walk up the gully for quite a ways. The springs provide the water for the stream are found about 100 yards above the waterfall. There used to be a nice ladder to help get over the waterfall but it was destroyed by vandals.

You can find additional photos and driving directions to Tripp Falls on my website.

It snowed overnight so once we were done blowing snow we headed down to the Red Cedar State Trail for some Cross Country Skiing. It was a beautiful day but as usual this winter no one else was around. The trail had not been groomed after the overnight snowfall. There were a lot of deer tracks on the trail and we finally noticed a couple of them watching us ski.

The winter Sumac was beautiful against the blue sky.

 

The ice was is still in good winter condition. We were disappointed that there did not appear to be any eagles in the two nests across from the ice wall.

One of my favorite waterfall for winter photography is Willow falls located in Willow River State Park near Hudson, Wisconsin. What I like about Willow falls is the fact that during most of the winter the falls is not entirely frozen so you have the opportunity to photograph ice formations in combination with running water.

I spend most of my time shooting individual ice formations.

If we have a real cold snap and there is a lot of open water you can encounter considerable frost buildup on the trees and ground cover surrounding the falls. I spend most of my time shooting individual ice formations usually in combination with open water.

Willow River Frost

This is the site of my greatest photographic disaster. It was my first winter photographing at willow falls and I became so excited at seeing the great ice formations that I accidentally turned the wrong knob on my tripod head and loosened the camera from the tripod. When I picked up the tripod to move it the camera fell into the water. The camera seemed to fall in slow motion as I watched. Fortunately Nikon was able to salvage the camera which I still use on occasion.

Access to the falls is somewhat limited in the winter because most of the trails are groomed for cross country skiing. If you drive to the park on county road A and drive past the park entrance you will see a parking lot on your left. Note that a fee is required for parking. You can walk on the ski trail down to the falls from this parking lot.  Since this is also a cross country ski trail don’t walk on the ski tracks. The walk down into the river valley is steep and can be treacherous if it is icy. I always wear  traction devices on the bottom of my boots. These are also helpful in walking around the falls.

Additional photos of Willow Falls can be found on my Website.

Those who follow my blog have see lots of photos of birds at my feeders but they aren’t the only things that I find at my feeders.

The ones I would just as soon not see are the bears that come around every few years. They usually turn up in the spring just after emerging from hibernation. Unfortunately I don’t have any bear shots but I have watched one sit out under the bird feeder and tip up the feeder and drain the seeds into his mouth.

My bird feeders are probably fifty yards from the nearest trees so I don’t have squirrels very often but they do show up occasionally. I watched this one for several hours trying to figure out how to get to my feeder. He eventually succeeded so I had to remove some pine branches I had placed at the base of the feeder for shelter for the birds. Once I did that he didn’t come around again.

Grey Squirrel

On one occasion, late in the day, I noticed movement by the feeder and looked out to find Red the fox under the feeder. It had been very cold for a few days and he looked the worse for wear even though he looks good on this shot. He was probably looking for rabbits who is a frequent visitor to the feeder. Rabbits usually turn up in the evening after dark but this shot was taken one day whenit spent the day under a porch near the feeder.

Red Fox

 

Rabbit

As spring approaches  I’m likely to see Opossums under the feeder.

Opossum

Just a reminder that the CopperDog  sled dog race will be taking place the first weekend in March. If you like sled dog racing it is worth visiting Calumet, Michigan.

 

 

Some of the other birds at my feeder during the recent snowstorm.

Dark-eyed Junco

House Sparrow

White-breasted Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Black-capped Chickadee

 

 

 

I was able to capture a few woodpeckers during yesterdays snowstorm.

Yesterdays snowstorm really brought out the Northern Cardinals. At one point the wind was really blowing as you can see in the second photo.

 

 

Another destination on my bucket list was the Eben Ice Caves. So, while we were in Munising for the Michigan Ice Fest, we decided to drive over to visit the Ice Caves. When we arrived there were about 10 cars in the parking lot so I was worried that it might be a little crowded in the caves. From reports I concluded that they were not very big so it wouldn’t take many people to make it difficult to photograph in the caves. We also found a few snowmobiles parked along the trail which made me more apprehensive.

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

When we reached the caves there were a few people in the caves so I started taking photos outside. The first few photos give a bit of perspective as to how large the caves are.

It was a bit tricky to get into the caves. This photo shows my wife climbing into what was the largest accessible entry. The only problem was you landed in about 4-6 inches of slush which you had to walk through to access caves from behind. The second photo shows a small opening but it was difficult to make it through it.

These are a few shots from inside the caves. I was lucky because I was the only one in the caves at the time.

This is a shot from inside looking out through the largest opening. Because it was so icy it wasn’t possible to access the caves from this opening.

Access to the caves is on private land. the first quarter mile is across an open field next to a snowmobile trail. The hike into the caves follows the snowmobile trail for a short distance. It was really sad as we walked by some snowmobilers who were concerned that they couldn’t drive right up to the caves and the kid whining that he didn’t want to go if he couldn’t ride the snowmobile. In fact, kids would have a blast walking to the caves and climbing around the caves.

The next section of the hike is relatively flat and winds through some beautiful woods. As you can see it is a well worn trail.

However, working you way down over the cliffs poses some problems, particularly if it is icy. I would strongly urge that you take hiking sticks and wear ice cleats. We met a couple who had made it to the caves without them but they really had problems and it wasn’t even icy on the trail.

The trail winds along a beautiful stream in the valley.

As you walk along the stream you can see the tops of the Ice Caves. It was a challenge getting to them because of the ice. In total it is a bout three quarters of a mile to the caves.