I’m one of those kooky northlanders who hates to see winter succumb to spring. So I was very excited about the blizzard that was predicted to blow in with 35 to 50 mph winds and hurl 6 to 10 inches of snow sideways across the Duluth area. But, as is so often the case, the snowfall didn’t live up to the hype. We in “County Carlton” only got about 3 inches of snow which was mostly piled up into drifts driven by the gale force winds. Duluth got zero. As I’ve said before, winter weather forecasting is entertainment for the masses, no real accuracy.
But I did know that winds like this would make for some spectacular waves on, to quote Gordon Lightfoot, the “Big Lake They Call Gitchee Gummee.” So I headed up to Tettegouche to see the waves careen off Shovel Point, Palisade Head and whatever other rock face got in their way. And I was not disappointed.

The sound of tons of water slamming into bedrock cliffs was pure power, a deep boom that resonated in your chest. Combined with the epic howl of the wind, the whole scene was more reminiscent of a storm in the North Sea than an inland lake in the middle of Middle America.

I saw something today that I’ve never witnessed before…RAINBOW WAVES! I’ve photographed rainbows in the spray of waterfalls before (Yosemite, Iceland) but never in the spray of a wave. I guess it should be called a SPRAYBOW. I snapped a few quick photos with the 400mm on the tripod before trying to reposition myself and get the 70-200mm lens out. And I’m glad I made that first image because it is the only one that really shows the spray rainbow. I guess when I moved and the sun moved the light refraction changed and I was no longer in the sweetspot. I wish I’d shot it wider with the 70-200 first but I still like this image. The color is fantastic. Not too much of a subject I guess…Needed a deer or ice climber on the rock!

The still images of the waves don’t really do the scene justice…Nothing for scale, no sound for the feeling of power, no movement to show the spectacular spray. But these two were my favorites. One I converted to black-and-white and tweeked the contrast and the other I left as is. Which do you like better?

Below is a video that gives you a better feel for the power of the storm. Sometimes video trumps still photography.

Waves of Lake Superior from Sparky Stensaas on Vimeo.

Next post I will show the living ice sculptures that resulted from the storm.