The last flower to bloom in the fall is the New England Asters. It is often possible to find bees clinging to the asters on a cold fall morning.
There are fewer and fewer flowers blooming so the bees are concentrated on the flowers that are blooming.
After hiking to the Crazy Horse Memorial we drove back to Custer for lunch before driving out to Wind Cave National Park. I had hike the East Bison Flats Trail several times in the past and found it an easy trail with buffalo bones along the trail.
The trail starts on a road east of the Wind Cave Visitors Center before heading into the grasslands.
It looked like the area had recently been burned and the grass was short and very green. There a large number of wildflowers out and the bees were on almost every flower.
The Scarlet Globe Mallow seemed to be a favorite of the Prairie dogs.
We were having a great time on the hike but as we looked back we could hear lightning and see rain clouds so we reluctantly turned around. My wife is standing by one of the new trail markers. It the past they used a flimsy trail marker that was frequently missing. Now they have posts in the ground that should stand up and are easy to see. From the looks of it the Buffalo use it as a scratching post.
As I mentioned it looked like a fire had gone through the area not too long ago. A lot of the trees had turned brown. When we returned to the visitors center we found out that the Park Service had a controlled burn in the west flats but the fire had jumped the road and also burned the east flats. They were able to control it to the park. After the burn the wildflowers and grass came back quickly. The buffalo were having a great time feeding on the new grass.
I’ve been photographing some of the insects that have been making use of a large patch of Black-eyed Susans that are growing in the front yard.
I was taking a last look at my 2011 photos before sending them off to storage and decided to write a brief review of the years photographic experiences.
Things started off with a bang with an early winter blizzard. Not only did January bring lots of snow locally but it created some fantastic ski conditions in the upper Midwest. We made a number of ski trips to the U.P. of Michigan. Our favorite ski location was Swedetown. This is a shot taken on the Backcountry Trail. Unfortunately the log was removed because the groomer could no longer get the groomer under it with all of the snow.
February was highlighted by a trip to the Apostle Islands Dog Sled Races in Bayfield, Wisconsin. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a bunch of excited dogs as I did in the morning before the race started. The whole parking area was a scene of bedlam. Things were much different in the afternoon when they returned from a day of racing. There wasn’t a sound to be heard from the dogs. Their tongues were hanging out and all they wanted to do was eat and lay down. It’s a trip will worth taking for the family because you can get so close to the dogs.
In late March we were planning one last trip to Lake Superior. Unfortunately nature had one last blizzard in store for us and were snowed in for a couple of days before the township was able to get all of the roads plowed. This was a massive storm that was supposed to hit the Duluth area with lots of snow. The weather pattern changed at the last minute and the snow dropped down into our area. When we did make the trip north we found almost no snow in the Duluth area. We had hoped to find some ice along Lake Superior but there was almost none to be found. When we stopped at Tettegouche State Park we asked the ranger if there was any ice around. That started a surreal day of hiking through great fields of ice formations. The saga was documented in an earlier postfrom that day. The storm that brought us snow brought a strong Northeaster to the North Shore and created fantastic ice sculptures.
April brought another trip to the Minnesota North Shore. Amazingly most of the ice was gone and the spring snow melt was under way. This is a shot of the Cascades in Cascade Falls State Park.
The highlight of May was a visit to my bird feeder of a pair of Scarlet Tanagers. I have rarely seen Tanagers and had never gotten photos of them. The male showed up one day and as soon as I saw what it was I raced for a camera. I photographed the male and then the next day the female turned up at the feeder. They were both feeding on suet. By the third day they were gone.
In June I made another trip to the Minnesota North Shore. Driving south from Grand Marais I noticed the fog moving in and out around Bluefin Bay. I stopped at a gas station for some coffee and then drove back to watch the fog in the early morning light.
I July I spend most of my time photographing insects and flowers. I happened to catch this Honey Bee on a Milkweed plant that was just starting to bloom.
August brought an invasion of Clearwing Hummingbird Moths. I had seen them along the Red Cedar River several years ago but had never seen them on my farm or at Hoffman Hills. This year they were everywhere so I spend a considerable effort to try and photograph them. I suspect I will never see as many again.
In early September my wife and I made a trip through the U.P. of Michigan. We had planned on spending an night in Seney so we could photograph the sunset at Seney Wildlife Area. Through a stroke of luck I managed to capture my favorite photo of the year. We had not seen clouds during the day but as evening approached clouds formed in the western sky. We were late in arriving at Seney and sunset was already well underway. In addition, there were some contrails in the sky. I wasn’t happy to see them but continued to photograph the sunset. As the evening progressed th clouds and contrails combined to create an image of an eagle in sky making for a memorable photo.
One of the benefits of living in the upper Midwest is the fall color displays. I had to work hard to capture them this year because just as the fall color season was starting strong winds also started blowing. They continued throughout the fall and took the leaves down almost as soon as they peaked. This photo was taken in Rusk County in northern Wisconsin.
In November I usually make my way to Crex Meadows near Grantsburg, Wisconsin to photograph the fall Sandhill Crane migration. In November there can be as many as 14,000 Sandhill Cranes residing in Crex. On this particular day I had intended to drive out to where the cranes were roosting and not bother to stop for sunrise shots at Phantom Lake. As I drove past Phantom Lake I realized that there was going to be a spectacular sunrise. This was my favorite fall shot taken shortly after the sun came up.
December was one of the slowest photography months I’ve had. We had virtually no snow until a 6 inch wet snowfall the first week in December. My wife and I quickly drove down to the Red Cedar Trail to take advantage of the fresh snow. Fortunately we did because it quickly melted and Christmas looked more like Thanksgiving with brown grass and no snow. This is the bridge over the Red Cedar River.
The one of the few late summer flowers in my prairie is the Canada Goldenrod. It is reaching its full bloom now. Because it is one of the few flowers blooming at this time of year it is the food source for a large number of critters. Yesterday I walked through the prairie and noticed over fifteen different types of bees, bugs and butterflies. It seems to be the primary food source for the Monarch Butterflies as they get ready to leave for Mexico. I’m a little concerned that the Monarchs are a little late in hatching this year and the Goldenrod is already in full bloom. Here are some of the critters I found in my goldenrod patch this week.
I was thinking the other day about the influence of place on my approach to photography. In my early years I spent most of my time in Colorado, Washington State, and traveling the world. At that time I concentrated on landscape photography. More recently I made many trips to the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota as well as a number of trips to the Canyonlands of Colorado, Utah and Arizona. I continued to photograph mainly landscapes.
After I retired I started to spend more time photographing around my 80 acre farm. There were no grand landscapes to photograph. In fact, I live amongst a pine and hardwood forest so I’m lucky if I can see the sunrise and sunset. This has definitely had an impact on the way I see things to photograph. I’ve become much more engaged in looking for and photographing what I call intimate nature.
I started out documenting what I saw as a walked around the farm. The more I spent walking the farm the more interested I became in photographing small objects. This lead to the purchase of a Macro lens so I could better photograph insects, small flowers, leaves and other small objects. This interest has carried beyond the farm. As I travel I find myself spending more time in intimate nature photography. Rather than photographing entire waterfalls I spend just as much or time photographing small sections of the waterfall to capture water running over a rock or the sunlight reflecting off a small portion of the falls.
I also spent more time watching birds. The more I watched them the more I became interested in photographing them. I purchased a 200-500mm lens so that I could get more intimate photographs of them in their natural environment. This led to a greater interest in avian photography in general and I started adding wildlife areas to my travel destinations.
After a year of photographing around the farm I realized that what I was doing was documenting nature throughout the seasons in one small place on the planet. This also influenced the my approach to photography as I visited other sites. I started visiting the same sites at different times of the year so I could capture the site as it changed throughout the seasons.
The farm has also influenced the way I organize my entire website. Generally photographers organize their website by topics such as waterfalls, fall colors etc. I’ve arranged my website by location and as I continue to visit many of the same sites at different times of the year I’ve also started to document them by seasons. I would like to feel that viewers of my website can use it for planning trips during various times of the year and be able to see what they might find when they visit the location at a particular time of the year.
You can see more of my photography at Philip Schwarz Photography.