Posts from the ‘landscape’ Category

Monochrome Swans

I drive over the bridge that spans the St. Louis River at Fond du Lac nearly every day…And the scene is rarely the same. And this day was no exception. With temps in the 60s and even 70s recently, the snow has melted and the river is opening up. And when the river opens up, the migrant birds appear instantly. Often my first spring Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, Northern Flicker, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, and Trumpeter Swans are seen/heard from the bridge. On this day, dense fogs created a dreamscape of gray and white. The silhouetted trees and islands really make the shot. I like the shape of the sweeping horizontal limbs on the right. It took many shots to get both Trumpeter Swans with their heads up since they feed almost constantly, heads submerged. I also like the 3 Canada Geese just loafing on the “iceberg.” I tweaked the color balance to the blue side to add a bit of a feeling of winter turning to spring. Moody!

[Note: This image looks better the larger it is, so click on it once to see a larger image, then click again to see it at its max size.]

Canon 7D, Canon 70-200mm f4 lens, tripod

Iceland Summer 3—Rekjavik in HDR


Part 3 of a look back at our Scandinavian honeymoon from 2006:

I think the Insight Guide to Iceland put it quite well, “Visitors are often unsure whether Reykjavik is a scaled-down city or a scaled-up village.” At 112,000 residents it is about the size of Duluth-Superior…And most of its growth has been since WWII. It was only a town of 5,000 folks in 1901. Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital at 64 degrees North. Strolling through the old city centre is a charming look at Icelandic culture. One thing I noticed right away is that many of the brightly-colored houses were sided with corrugated metal! One amazing fact is that the entire city is heated with geothermal heat…No fossil fuels used to heat a northern city!

We know the explorer pictured above as Leif Erickson, but in Iceland he is known as Leifur Eriksson, and he is a national hero. Son of the Viking Erik the Red (who discovered Greenland), Leifur also became an explorer and (as all Scandinavians know) “discovered” America centuries before Columbus. This reminds me of my favorite bumper sticker…“Proud to Live in America…A Norwegian Colony since 1004 AD.”

[Photo Note:] All photos in this post are “HDR” images. High Dynamic Range images are created in software programs (I use Photomatix), usually from 3 or more images exposed for different parts of the scene. This technique is especially useful in scenes where it is impossible for the camera to capture the entire range of exposure. Examples would be a shadowed landscape with a bright sky. The software averages out the exposures in the highlights and shadows so all areas are middle range. It is a unique look and not everyone likes it. I must admit that I do like the surreal effect.

Jon Gunnar Arnason’s striking sculpture Solfar (Sun-Craft, 1986) sits along the oceanfront in Reykjavik.

Sheep, sheep, everywhere. I’m sure it’s true that, like New Zealand, there are more sheep inhabiting this island than humans. And crazy cool sheep. They say that every single sheep on Iceland is descended from Viking stock. And there are no fences! …hence this road sign not far from Reykjavík.
Every autumn, farmers go on horseback with their Icelandic sheep dogs to round up their flocks. The flocks are driven into huge wheel-shaped corrals with the “spokes of the wheel” defining the pens. Every farm has its own mark cut into their sheep’s ears and this is how they sort them into the correct pens. Icelandic wool is still big business in Iceland.

Iceland Summer 2—Vik i Myrdal


North Shore of Minnesota or South Coast of Iceland? Basalt is basalt, right?

Dutch birders scan the sea from perfect perches of 5-sided columnar-jointed rock, a feature of slow-cooling lava flows.

Black sand meets white surf at Vik i Myrdal. This rare formation was likely created when lava flows poured directly into the cold ocean, fragmenting into tiny pieces. This beach was voted one of the World’s Top Ten Beaches by Island magazine…the only non-tropical beach to make the list.

Vik’s red-steepled church.

I almost lost my wife of 5-days at Vik i Myrdal. We were knocking around on the stunning black lava sand beach (photo above) when we saw a couple birders perched on the rocks looking seaward (photo above). I went to talk with them while Bridget decided to explore a narrow strip of beach hemmed in by cliff on one side and the North Atlantic on the other. I chatted with the hard-to-understand Dutch couple about birds, but it was obvious they were trying to tell me something else. I finally figured out that they were pointing to the sea where Bridget had gone, pantomiming to me—the idiot American—that every so often a big wave would break. I ran down the beach, only to see Bridget nearly swept out to sea by one of these “rogue waves.” The wave surge went all the way to the cliff and engulfed Bridget up to her waist. Thankfully she stayed on her feet and was not sucked out into the cold ocean. It was one of those moments that, after it’s over, you get a whole body shudder at the thought of what might have been.

Other than that frightening moment, Vik i Myrdal was a stunning place to visit (population 400 or so). We stayed at a guesthouse (most lodging choices in Iceland are guesthouses…hotels/motels are few and far between) above the town, with a view to the red-spired church (photo above). Hiking up to the top of the nearby Head wall is a huffing-puffing affair but a worthwhile effort—the scenery is spectacular. Also a great place to be eye-to-eye with flying Northern Fulmars and possibly even an Atlantic Puffin.

Most photos taken with Canon 10D and either Sigma 10-20mm or Canon 70-200mm f4

Lake Superior Icescape

Since I’m daddy-daycare on weekday mornings, I don’t get out for sunrise shooting as much as I used to. So when I get a chance, I like to take it. Though we had a cold winter, not much ice formed on Lake Superior this year. This has more to do with the water temp going into winter and the wind over the Lake in winter, than just cold temps. But with recent northeast winds, some ice had blown in to the “Head of the Lake” which is Duluth.

Huge frozen “drifts” of solid ice formed about 100 yards off Park Point. These form where open water splashes and crashes into shore ice. Some may be ten to twelve feet high. Most are crescent-shaped. On this particular morning, the chunks of ice had rounded off from jostling each other in the swells. Not quite “pancake ice,” which are perfectly rounded ice chunks.

Fortunately there were clouds in the sky when I arrived well before sunrise. This may seem counterintuitive, but landscape photographers live for scattered clouds. If completely cloudy, no sun will peak through and there will be no color in the sky. Completely clear and there will also be no color in the sky…just a brief moment at sunrise when there is a chance for atmospheric color. Today the sun rose above Superior and lit up the clouds with hints of blue, purple and orange. I used a 2-stop Neutral Density filter to hold back the sky which was several stops brighter than the ice.

When I got home, I discovered that I had several nice images of the sky, and several with a better composition with the foreground ice, but no single image that really popped. I decided to combine my favorite sky with my best foreground. I did this with Layers in Photoshop. Easy to do in this case with a relatively level horizon. The Eraser Tool, Levels, Curves and Saturation completed the work. Technically, this image is a photo-illustration since it is two photos combined into one. It can not be entered into competitions unless there is a category for such manipulated images. But I don’t care, as this one is just for me…and I like it!

Canon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm lens at 10mm, f16 at 1/25 second, ISO 320, tripod, 2-stop Galen Rowell Graduated ND filter

Encased in Ice


In the previous post I talked about the blizzard-without-snow that attacked northern Minnesota with 50mph winds out of the northeast yesterday (March 22nd-23rd). I knew I had to get to Tettegouche where the waves would be awesome. In the parking lot, a fellow photographer turned me on to a fairyland of ice sculptures created by the coating of every needle, branch, shrub and tree …Continue Reading—>

Ice Art on Stoney Point


My photographic mind has not been thinking about landscape images lately…It has been focused on film making and bird photography…and mainly up in the Sax-Zim Bog.

But an email tip from Paul Sundberg about the ice-covered trees up the North Shore at Tettegouche State Park got me thinking about landscapes again. It was the “best ice in 10 years,” Paul said. But, alas, Continue Reading

Teddy Roosevelt N.P.—Hoodoos AFTER Sunset

Part 5 of 6 from a mid October trip to North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The fun doesn’t stop after the sun goes down! In reality, often the last thing you want to do on an exhausting photo trip is go back into the field after dark. You’re tired, and you know the alarm will go off WAY before sunrise but you do it. And it is always a blast!…The kind of fun that was hard to imagine in the film days.

Today’s digital SLRs are capable of amazing low-light images. In the “film days” we were limited to ISO 400 film…and that was often unacceptably grainy. Now I can shoot at ISO 12,800! (that’s not a typo) and there are other cameras that can go beyond that. The image above was taken at night with only a flashlight illuminating the hoodoos. I was able to make a relatively short exposure (30seconds) due to the High ISO capability of the Canon 7D (though not nearly as good as the Nikon D3 series). Of course, you always want to shoot the lowest ISO for the least amount of noise. In this case I used ISO 1600. A short exposure also limits the movement of the stars in the final image. Click on the image to get a better look at the stars.

How big do you think the hoodoos are in the image below? It is really a miniature landscape as each hoodoo is only 12-24 inches tall. Did you think they were many feet tall? The image was taken with the Sigma 10-20mm lens from a very low angle as I wanted the hoodoos to appear large and silhouetted against the sunset. I kept the camera moving in a circular motion while clicking the shutter and popping the flash. The flash froze the hoodoos but the slow shutter speed and motion blurred the sky colors.

The bottom image is an HDR created in Photomatix Pro. I like these surreal artsy images known as High Dynamic Range. Some people hate them. The program takes several of your images of a scene with a great range of contrast and combines them into one image with a medium exposure. In this case I combined only two exposures—one for the foreground and one for the sky. You can then tweak the look from natural to bizarre. Fun stuff. Note that it is the same hoodoos as the previous image and taken only minutes apart!

Stars & Hoodoos: Canon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm at 10mm, f4 at 30seconds, ISO 1600, flashlight, tripod
Hoodoos Sunset: Canon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm at 10mm, f16 at 1/20 second, ISO 200, flash at -2EV, handheld
HDR Hoodoos: Canon 7D, Sigma 10-20mm at 10mm, f16 at 2 exposures, ISO 200, tripod