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Category Archives: Hot Air Balloons

This is a big winter weekend with two of my favorite events taking place. Just down the road in Hudson, Wisconsin is the Hudson Hot Air Affair. They typically have a large number of hot air balloons at the event. More photos of the Hudson events can be found on my website.



While in Hudson you can also visit the Trumpeter Swans on the Saint Croix River.



Another option is to drive over to Willow River State Park and cross country ski or walk down to Willow Falls.



Up north is the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. This is always a fun family event. In my opinion it is one of the better sled dog races for spectators because all of the races are out and back so you can watch the entire event from one location. We usually watch the start of the race then head off for some lunch and then return to watch the racers return. More photos from the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race can be found on my website.



Off and Racing


In the afternoon we drive down the Meyers Beach and walk out to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. It doesn’t look like you will be able to walk out to the caves on the ice this year but there is a hiking trail above the ice caves that provides some nice views. More photos from the Ice Caves can be found on my website.



Apostle Islands Ice Caves

As I walked down to Bayfront Park in Duluth, Minnesota I noticed that some of the roads had been blocked off. I wasn’t sure why but I soon found out. There were growing crowds at the Le Festival des Montgolfières in Bayfront Park. They weren’t there for the balloon festival they were there for the Color Run.


There was a lot of excitement in the air. There was a group on the stage leading exercises and the music was really pounding.


Apparently this was a fun run because many of the participants were dressed in strange costumes.


the-color-run-duluth-minnesota-16-9-1677At the start of the race a bunch of kids were out in front and they were still out in front at the end of the race.

the-color-run-duluth-minnesota-16-9-1711At various locations throughout Canal Park folks were throwing colored powder at the participants. Very strange!


the-color-run-duluth-minnesota-16-9-1811I had problems getting back to the condo because there were so many “runners” on the Lakewalk.


Le Festival des Montgolfières is Duluths version of a balloon festival. It started three years ago. At the time I thought the first year would be the last year because Duluth is not situated in a good location. The winds have to be just right so the balloons don’t sail out into Lake Superior. I don’t think they have ever had an ascension although it is on their schedule. They do have tethered balloon rides but that is a poor substitute . Nevertheless they are still having the event. This year was combined with a kids kite flying event and a Color Run. It looked like most of the people were at Bayfront Park for the Color Run and very few people were paying any attention the the balloons.





After the balloons were deflated the Kiwanis held their Family Kite Fly. Lots of fun watching the kids flying kites.




As winter arrived I started thinking of places and events that I wanted to photograph this winter. The events and bird photography require a little more planning than the Landscape Photography locations.

Apostle Islands Ice Caves

Without a doubt the top of my list is the Apostle Islands Ice caves. I discovered them in 2007 and have photographed them every year they have been open. When I first started photographing them I was frequently the only person on the ice that day. What a difference social media makes. This past winter well over a hundred thousand people visited the caves in-spite of the bitterly cold winter. Given the temperatures we have been seeing so far this winter I would expect the ice caves will open again in February. If you haven’t been you should make the trip.



The Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race

The Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race will be taking place on February 7th and 8th. This is really a fun family event and one of the better sled dog races from a viewers point of view. It is possible to get up close to the dogs at the start of the races. Since it is an out and back race you can also stick around and watch the mushers return. They also have different levels of races from professionals to kids.

Off and Racing

Off and Racing


If you are really lucky, like we were last year, the Apostle Island Ice Caves will be open that weekend. You also may also be able to drive out to Madeline Island on the ice road while you are in the area.

Bond Falls

Although Bond falls is best known as a fall destination for photographers it provides some exceptional photography in the winter. There are not many waterfalls that are all that interesting to photograph in the winter. Bond Falls in the U.P. of Michigan is an exception. Most waterfalls in the Upper-Midwest are frozen in the winter. If there has been fresh snow they look like all of the other scenery. Bond falls is just below a dam it has water flowing all winter regardless of how cold it is. The flowing water combined with some interesting ice formations makes this one of my favorite winter photography locations.

Bond Falls

Bond Falls

Ice Bond Falls

Ice Bond Falls

Mississippi River

During the winter we make a number of trips over to the Mississippi River looking for eagles. Our first stop is usually Alma, Wisconsin where eagles hang out around the lock and dam. The National Eagle Center provides a weekly report of eagles seen along this section of the Mississippi River. They also provide eagle watching tours.

We then drive north to Reads Landing, Minnesota. We commonly see 30+ eagles in front of the Reads Landing Brewing Company. You can stop in the Brewery and watch the eagles in comfort while having lunch.

Our last stop is usually  in Colvill Park  Redwing, Minnesota where the eagles hang out near the open water below the power plant. The catch to watching eagles in the winter is the best time to find them gathered in large numbers is when there is a bitterly cold stretch of weather. This causes the Mississippi to freeze up and reduces access to open water.


Canadian Hill Farm

I can usually find something to photograph on the farm during the winter but most of my time is spent photographing birds during snow storms. There is nothing like hunkering down in the house with a roaring fire in the fireplace while sitting in my rocking chair and photographing birds.

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Hudson, Wisconsin

Hudson is a great place to watch Trumpeter Swans during the winter. With the successful reintroduction of Trumpeter Swans into the Midwest watching and photographing them has become a year around event. Trumpeter Swans don’t migrate in the winter they just move to the nearest open water. There is a small patch of open water in Hudson where they congregate in large numbers during the winter months. It is easy to get up close and photograph them.



Hudson is also where the Hudson Hot Air Affair is held every February. This is one of the few hot air balloon rallies in the area. It is well worth the trip to watch the inflation and flight of the balloons.

Hudson Hot Air Affair 14-2-_0710



Amnicon Falls

Amnicon Falls State Park is a favorite stopping point during the winter. Although in very cold weather the Amnicon River usually freezes there are times when I can find open water. The tannin tainted water car result in some colorful photos.

Amnicon Falls

Amnicon Falls

Horton Covered Bridge

Horton Covered Bridge

Red Cedar State Trail

In the winter most of the Red Cedar State Trail is a cross country ski trail so in order to photograph it you have to be willing to cross country ski. There are some beautiful ice walls along the trail at the 1.5 mile mark. These are the result of water seepage through limestone rock.


On cold days the trees along the trail can be covered in heavy frost.



The southern portion of the trail is a walking trail in the winter and on a sunny day I like to photograph the Dunnville Stone in the late afternoon light.

Dunnville Sandstone

Dunnville Sandstone

Grand Marais, Minnesota

I like to make the trip to Grand Marais at least once every winter. I’m never quite sure what I’ll find. On one trip there were high waves washing over the breakwater and lighthouses.

West Breakwater Light

West Breakwater Light

At other times I love to take intimate shots of the ice formations that are formed when the water washes over the breakwater and then freezes into beautiful patterns.


Devil’s Punchbowl

I like to photograph at Devil’s Punchbowl near Menomonie, Wisconsin in the winter. Water seeping through limestone rocks creates a massive ice wall in the bowl. There are also opportunities to photograph objects frozen in the ice.

Devil's Punchbowl

Devil’s Punchbowl


I’ve finally finished going through my photos of the Hudson Hot Air Affair. This was the most hot air balloons I’ve seen in one location.Hudson-Hot-Air-Affair-14-2-_0733







Hudson Hot Air Affair 14-2-_0846


I was trying to remember the last time we were at the Hudson, Wisconsin Hot Air Affair. Turns out it was a couple of years ago. We drove over to the event only to find that the weather was too  warm and the balloonists could not drive on to the launch area and it was even too muddy to inflate the balloons. Ballooning is a fickle  event that is heavily dependent up the weather. We thought we would give it another try.Hudson-Hot-Air-Affair-14-2-_0851

The Hudson Hot Air Affair in is one of the larger Hot Air Balloon Festivals in the area. The festival is normally a week earlier but it was great that it was moved because it conflicted with several other events we like to take in.Hudson-Hot-Air-Affair-14-2-_0914

The mass ascension flight was scheduled for 7:30am on Saturday. Late the evening before we decided not to try and take it in because of the predicted snow, winds and cold. On Saturday morning we found that the morning balloon launch did not take place because of high winds.Hudson-Hot-Air-Affair-14-2-_0765

We decided to drive over to the festival and hoped the mass ascension would take place in the afternoon. We lucked out. Shortly after we arrived it was announced that the mass ascension would take place and the balloons started arriving at the launch site.Hudson-Hot-Air-Affair-14-2-_0960

I’ve been to a number of balloon festivals and this was the largest number of balloons I’ve see. The web site said there would be 40 balloons and it appeared there were close to that number.Hudson-Hot-Air-Affair-14-2-_0892

There was very little wind so we were able to get some photos with lots of balloons in the air.Hudson-Hot-Air-Affair-14-2-_0868

It was a cold overcast day with a little snow in the air but it was great fun watching all of the balloon take off. Lots of photographers around to get pictures of the event.Hudson-Hot-Air-Affair-14-2-_0874

More photos from the Hudson Hot Air Affair can be found on my website.

Yesterday I attended the Big Bull Falls Barbeque Ribfest and the Balloon Rally and Glow in Wausau, Wisconsin. This was my first time at the balloon rally in Wausau. There were about a dozen balloons scheduled to be at the event. It is being held at the downtown airport in Wausau just off of business highway 51. The event will be going on through Saturday. In addition balloon rally, there will be a sidewalk art festival on Saturday. The International Canoe Federation’s 2012 Junior Canoe Slalom World Championship is being held this weekend at the Wausau Whitewater Park. Young paddlers from over thirty countries are participating in the event. A really big weekend for Wausau.

I arrived early so I could take in some of the other events being held at the same time. They were giving rides in an old biplane. A father and his young daughter were the first to take a ride. The daughter was all dress out in her aviator goggles and seemed to be excited to get a ride the other daughter seemed a little disappointed.

Biplane Passengers

Taking place at the same time as the balloon rally is The Big Bull Falls Barbeque Ribfest. There were about a half dozen places serving ribs during the evening. There were also rides for kids and a petting zoo.

Chicago BBQ

The main event and the reason I made the visit to Wausau was to attend the  Balloon Rally. I was a little concerned that the wind might be blowing a little too strongly but about 7:30 pm they started getting the balloons ready for launch. Some of the balloons had a large crew to help get the balloon ready while others just had a few. It took about a half an hour to get the balloons laid out and inflated. Here are a few shots from the evening.

Preparing Sea Fantasy

Inflating the Balloons

Balloon Inflation

Last Minute Passenger

Balloon Patterns

Sea Fantasy


Happy Face

More event photos can be found on my website.