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Minus 30! And loving it!

Well ‘Oscar Outlook,’ our little home weather station couldn’t handle this morning’s bitter cold (Friday). Like the dash thermometers in minivans and SUVs, it bottomed out at minus 22 or so and then just started flashing dashed lines. Larry Weber, my neighbor (a ‘country neighbor’ about 5 miles away) recorded minus 28 but that was well before dawn…and other nearby cities like Moose Lake hit minus 33, so it is a safe bet that we were minus 30 too. I love it! I’ll take minus 30 and sun over 40 above in winter.

What were the real world effects of such temperatures? In the photo and video above, I demonstrate the instant vaporization of heated water that occurs at temps below minus 20. The water explodes into vapor with an audible hiss.

If you happened to step outside in the predawn darkness, like I did, you’d also hear ‘trees popping.’ Yes, trees do pop—sometimes like gunshots—but more often like firecrackers. This sound is created by the fact that interior sap is freezing and expanding as the wood is contracting until something gives. Every few seconds I hear another pop. Maple trees are especially susceptible to this as they are near the northern edge of their range anyway. When folks talk about ‘frost cracks’ in maples, this is what has caused them.

I did go out and shoot a bit. A cooperative flock of Pine Grosbeaks in the Wrenshall City Park let me approach quite close (an upcoming post). I shot them until I couldn’t feel my middle two fingers (which have been frostbit/nipped many times).

How cold was it? The ‘winner’ was International Falls with minus 46 degrees—a new record cold for this date and fifth coldest ever recorded there. Minnesota’s official all-time record low is minus 60 at Tower on February 2nd, 1996…Unofficially it was minus 64 at Embarrass on the same day.

THE FOLLOWING ARE OBSERVED LOW TEMPERATURES THROUGH 900 AM FRIDAY JANUARY 21, 2011. TEMPERATURES ARE IN DEGREES FAHRENHEIT.

TEMP LOCATION
—- —————
-46 INTERNATIONAL FALLS
-46 BABBITT
-43 EMBARRASS
-43 BIGFORK
-43 ASH LAKE
-43 EFFIE
-40 LITTLEFORK
-40 BIRCHDALE
-39 ORR
-38 MINONG
-38 CASS LAKE
-38 SQUAW LAKE
-38 CUTFOOT
-38 BOVEY
-38 KABETOGAMA
-38 CRANE LAKE
-37 MARGIE
-37 HILL CITY
-37 ELY
-37 RICE LAKE
-36 LONG LAKE
-36 JACOBSON
-36 BARNES
-36 COTTON
-36 MAKINEN
-36 LONGVILLE
-36 PINE RIVER
-36 SEAGULL LAKE
-36 WRIGHT
-35 LAKE VERMILION
-35 KABETOGAMA
-34 MCGRATH
-34 ASH RIVER
-34 GUNFLINT LAKE
-34 HAYWARD
-34 LIND
-34 MOOSE LAKE
-33 GRAND RAPIDS
-33 SAGINAW
-33 COHASSET
-33 MCGREGOR
-33 AITKIN
-33 HIBBING
-33 JENKINS
-33 EMILY
-33 BRAINERD
-33 MOOSE LAKE
-33 SOUTH RANGE
-32 GRANTSBURG
-31 SILVER BAY
-31 TWO HARBORS
-31 LEADER
-31 DEER RIVER
-31 SIREN
-31 GRANTSBURG
-31 HINCKLEY
-30 BREEZY POINT
-30 TUCKER LAKE
-30 GLIDDEN
-30 GORDON

And just for fun…

Minnesota Temperature Conversion Chart

50 Fahrenheit (10 C)
New Yorkers try to turn on the heat.
Minnesotans plant gardens.

40 Fahrenheit (4.4 C)
Californians shiver uncontrollably
Minnesotans sunbathe.

35 Fahrenheit (1.6 C)
Italian Cars won’t start
Minnesotans drive with the windows down.

32 Fahrenheit (0 C)
Distilled water freezes
Minnesotans water gets thicker.

0 Fahrenheit (-17.9 C)
New York City landlords finally turn on the heat.
Minnesotans have the last cookout of the season.

-40 Fahrenheit (-40 C)
Hollywood disintegrates.
Minnesotans rent some videos.

-60 Fahrenheit (-51 C)
Mt. St. Helen’s freezes.
Minnesota Girl Scouts sell cookies door-to-door.

-100 Fahrenheit (-73 C)
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole
Minnesotans pull down their earflaps.

-173 Fahrenheit (-114 C)
Ethyl alcohol freezes.
Minnesotans get frustrated when they can’t thaw the keg.

-459.4 Fahrenheit (-273 C)
Absolute zero; all atomic motion stops.
Minnesotans start asking, “cold enough for ya?”

-500 Fahrenheit (-295 C)
Hell freezes over.
The Vikings win the Super Bowl

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Teddy Roosevelt N.P.—Animals in the Landscape


The animal doesn’t always have to fill the frame! Is that news to you? More and more, I’m placing the animal smaller in the frame to show its environment and habitat. This gives a sense of place to the image. British wildlife photographer Andy Rouse just came out with a book called The Living Landscape and in it he talks about his evolution in wildlife photography to showing more habitat. Tom Mangelsen is another world-renowned photographer that also adeptly creates stunning images where the critter is small in the frame. He even does it within film-based panorama images!
Next time you’re out and had enough of frame-filling images, put away the long lens and grab your 70-200 (or wider!) and have some fun.

Looking Down on Flying Hawks

It’s rare to have a vantage point where one can shoot down at a flying bird. The typical hawk-in-flight shot is a belly-view shot of a bird passing overhead. But when strong west or northwest winds pummel the ridges above Lake Superior’s North Shore, many hawks fly low and fast. This was one of those days.

Hawk Ridge averages 94,000-plus hawks, falcons, eagles, kites, harriers and vultures tallied each autumn. But many pass high overhead. The biggest flight days are in mid-September when Broadwings pass over in huge kettles—soaring swarms spiraling on invisible thermals, pepper specks in the sky. But today was different, and I knew I had to get to Summit Ledges to enjoy the show. Cresting the ridge I spotted several low Sharpies hunting songbirds in the woods (Sharp-shinned Hawks…Another silly name bestowed upon a very cool bird by early ornithologists…And no, you can’t see their shins in flight!) and just as I reached “the Ledge,” a Sharpy careened by at eye level. For a while it was like a shooting range, Sharpies coming in low and hard, zipping by with wind-aided speed. One came right for my head and I actually had to duck! This is the first time that has happened to me in 30 years of hawk watching.

But autofocus was useless. Neither single-point autofocus nor zoned autofocus could latch on to the tiny targets. A newer lens may have been up to the task, but the old 400 f5.6 is tired. So I had to try to manually focus. In all, I shot over 300 images, of which maybe 30 percent were acceptably sharp. Of this batch, I maybe kept 30. All were shot on Manual at f8 1/1500 (to freeze motion) and ISO 400.

My two favorites are the Broad-winged Hawk above (3-foot wingspan) and the Sharp-shinned Hawk below (2-foot wingspan).

Canon 7D, Canon 400mm f5.6, f8 at 1/1500, ISO 400, handheld and manually focused