Posts from the ‘Trail camera’ Category

Sparky’s Top Ten 2011

I really enjoy the exercise of picking my Top Ten from the previous year. As I peruse the “4-star” files, it gives me a chance to reflect on the adventures and misadventures, the misses and successes from the previous year. While the duties of being the father of a 3-year old and 1 1/2 year old has kept me close to home, I’m still fairly satisfied with the results. My point? You don’t really need to travel to Africa, Antarctica or Alaska to make stunning images. Start in your own backyard! The sunflower/raindrop shot was taken 20 feet from the front door!
Nine of the Ten were taken within 85 miles of home (Wrenshall, MN)
Six of the Ten were taken within 35 miles of home
Three of the Ten were taken on our land or in nearby Wrenshall

Here they are in reverse order (Hey, you’ve got to build excitement!)


This is the only photo of the bunch that was taken further than 85 miles from home; This perturbed Canada Goose was defending territory on my mother-in-law’s pond in Galesburg, Illinois. The light was perfect, it is tack sharp, and there is behavior. The goose’s open beak makes the shot. It also shows that common and familiar birds can still make great subjects.


Okay, I didn’t actually click the shutter of the camera for this shot…It was taken by my Bushnell Trophy Cam trail camera. And it’s not that great of a shot…BUT, I included it because 2011 was the Year of the Trail Camera for me…And this Bobcat was only 100 feet from the house. I’ve never seen a Bobcat on our 5 acres but the trail camera has recorded them on more than a dozen nights/days. It just goes to show how many subjects may be near by but never seen.


Another oddball choice, but I really like this picture. It is a HDR (High Dynamic Range) image created from 3 separate photos taken at different exposures. I’ve always loved vernacular architecture—old buildings, gas stations, city halls, school houses, barns—so this abandoned farm caught my eye as I was taking a “long cut” home through Pine and Carlton Counties.


I got very wet taking this images of a Le Conte’s Sparrow in the Sax-Zim Bog 40 miles NW of Duluth. It was just after dawn and this guy was singing away, intent on attracting a female even though it was late in the breeding season. Dew covered every blade of grass and I got drenched as I made my way closer and closer to the songster in the old hay-field. Le Conte’s Sparrows are not common so I was thrilled that he let me get within 20 feet. In fact, he was still singing when I backed off and returned to my truck.


A surreal landscape (icescape?) of bushes encased in a thick layer of ice on Stoney Point between Duluth and Two Harbors on Lake Superior. Taken at sunset but looking east…I much prefer the pink and blue of the eastern vista at sunset to the gaudy 🙂 oranges and reds of the west.


I love the position of the wings in this shot of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. Yes, I wish it was an adult, red tail and all, but I’ll take it. Hawk Ridge; Duluth, MN


Pine Grosbeaks only visit the “tropical south” of northern Minnesota in winter. They nest in Canada. Their pinkish red feathers are stunning in the snowy woods. But this was actually taken in our local city park only five miles from home!


It is possible to have flying birds and the moon in focus without resorting to Photoshop! Taken in late October at Crex Meadows, Wisconsin…a major stopover in their migration south.


A very rare phenomenon…the “wavebow” was captured along the North Shore of Lake Superior in March. I just happened to be driving by and saw this scene. I pulled over and scrambled down the embankment to fire off a few shots before it disappeared. It is in the latest issue of Lake Superior Magazine as a two-page spread.

Drumroll please….NUMBER 1

Probably the photo that took the most time to get…I shot hundreds of images over a two week period to get this shot…And I finally got it right outside our front door! The time between a raindrop/dewdrop building up to critical mass and falling from the petal is milliseconds. The editors at the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer also liked it and it ran in the Nov-Dec 2011 issue.

If I get motivated I may do more “Top Tens” of landscape, birds, mammals etc. But I do hope this motivates you to do your own Top Ten images.

My fat Bobcat (video and stills) Bushnell Trophy Cam

My bobcat buddy is still around. These images and video were taken with my remote Bushnell Trophy Cam trail camera in November and mid December. ALL WERE TAKEN WITHIN 100 YARDS OF OUR HOUSE! Of course we live on the north edge of Minnesota’s Nemadji River Valley with many square miles of roadless bog and wooded wilderness to the south.

What a fat and beautiful animal! If the still images taken in mid December are the same Bobcat as in the video (taken in mid November), why does this one seem so much “fatter?” It could be that it has acquired more of its denser winter coat and so appears fluffier (i.e. fatter). Or it cold be a different individual.

My dream is to someday photograph this gorgeous animal with a “real” camera from a blind. But how many frigid hours would I have to sit before getting a glimpse? And one click of the shutter might send it scampering.

Cats are cats
Note in the video how many familiar cat-like traits/behaviors this Bobcat has…the way it stretches on the log, its body posture when it eats, how it shakes its head, sharpens its claws and wags its short tail…all very feline.

What camera?
I also love how the Bobcat (and most wildlife) is unfazed by the camera and its red lights. This makes sense though since many mammals cannot see light in this spectrum. Cats and wild cats (Bobcat, Lynx, Mountain Lion, etc.) see in color, but they have difficulty distinguishing reds. “Reds appear as differing shades of gray to a cat. It is believed both dogs and cats see mainly in grays, yellows, and blues” (from

I hope she sticks around…and maybe more chicken, grouse and deer carcasses will help convince her that Skogstjarna is a good place to spend a cold winter.

My best Trail Camera Black Bear yet

As photographers, we don’t always relish heavy overcast days for shooting. But with a trail camera, that is exactly what you want. Since the trail cameras are not of the highest quality, and are fixed at certain exposures, you get what you get. They do best in these evenly-lit, middle-toned scenes. And fortunately, that was just the setting when this Black Bear decided to saunter through my woods (the camera time stamp was 11:47am). Because of the cloudy conditions, the bear and the foliage is mostly exposed properly, though some detail in the bear’s black fur is blocked up. Unfortunately, trail camera images are jpegs and so there is little I can do to salvage the clipped blacks. I also like the composition…bear in lower left looking into the frame…though I did clip the bottom of his foot.

This image is also unique in that it is a ground-level, wide-angle portrait of a wild Black Bear. Since trail cameras have a wide angle lens, I strapped the camera only about two feet off the ground so the photo would be a more intimate wildlife portrait. Shots taken looking down on an animal are very “human-centric” and don’t convey the intimacy of an eyelevel portrait. I also knew that it would not be a good height if a deer came through as I’d probably cut off the deer’s head, but it would be perfect for another Bobcat, bear, fox, or Coyote.

This trail—only 50 yards from the house—has yielded White-tailed Deer, Porcupine, Bobcat (see recent post) and Black Bear. I never could have gotten this shot by sitting in a blind…Black Bears are just too alert to sounds and aware of smells to not detect a human in a blind this close to their trail.

Bobcat in the “Backyard”

I know, I know, it’s a horrible picture. But an exciting find nonetheless. I’d left my trail camera set up in our woods along a deer trail between our house and cabin for the last month. It’s always a bit like Christmas every time we hook the camera up to the TV after a long stint in the woods. This time, I’d left it in place for a month. With Bridget and the boys gathered around the 42-inch LG, this is how the conversation went, “Deer, deer, deer, porcupine, deer, deer butt, deer butt, …wait!..What is that?…Is that a Bobcat?…Look at the white spots on the ears…IT IS A BOBCAT!” It is the first documented Bobcat on our little five acres (I thought I heard one years ago).

The time stamp said “September 15, 2011…8:57am” In broad daylight too! We do have many Cottontails around so maybe it was hunting them…Or just a young cat wandering in search of new territory. The camera does not do well in dappled sunlit woods…underexposes images terribly…like this one. The image quality would have been much better if it had been heavy overcast or even in the middle of the night!

Here is my “bestest and mostest favorite” Bobcat image. It was taken down in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas in April of 2006. The wind was blowing so hard and rustling the dried and dead palm fronds, that it never even heard me. In fact, it came down the same path I was on and when it was within about ten feet of me, I flinched and it fled into the jungle! Very cool animals.

Trail Camera Fun

You know what’s the best thing about a trail camera? It’s the “Christmas Morning” effect. You go out in the woods and retrieve the camera after a week or so; Then you see that it has taken a bunch of images. Hooking it up to the TV you get that anticipation that you used to feel on Christmas morning (or for us Norwegians, Christmas Eve after the dishes from dinner were washed!). What have you captured? Gather friends and family around because it is  a fun experience to share. It’s kind of like the feeling us “old timers” remember in the days of slides…Anticipation, excitement. Did I get the shot?

For Father’s Day Bridget bought me a Bushnell BoneCollector Trail Camera. It shoots video and 8mp stills, and uses a 32-LED flash for night shots that doesn’t spook game like a regular flash. Last week I set it up along a well used trail on my land just south of the cabin. My woods is a mix of huge White and Red Pines, Red Maple, Quaking Aspen, Black Ash and at least one of every other northern Minnesota species. Today I went and got it. 54 new images had been taken! As we started flipping through the images the excitement was building. We knew it would be mainly White-tailed Deer and it was…We did get one half grown fawn, still sporting white spots, quite a few daytime shots of an adult doe and some night time shots of deer too. Only three shots left…More deer? The group let out a whoop as we flipped to the next image…A Black Bear in the daytime! Not a great image but a great prize.

The neatest part was that the image was taken only two hours before I retrieved the camera…And my cousin’s wife was sitting on the deck of the cabin reading at the time…Only 50 yards away! She didn’t hear a thing and she had wanted to see a bear on this trip too.

I got to go…Have to set up that trail camera in a new spot!