Posts from the ‘weather’ Category

Poof! There it Goes—Instant Water Vaporization at Minus 20

With air temperatures this morning well below zero in northern Minnesota (minus 29 in Cook, minus 42 windchill in International Falls, and minus 22 at our house), I thought this would be a good time to post this video I made of Instant Water Vaporization a few years ago at my house on a minus 20 morning. “Poof, There it Goes,” (sung to Tag Team’s Whoomp—There it is) would be an appropriate anthem for this weather/water phenomenon.

HOW TO DO IT YOURSELF
1. Wait until the ambient air temperature is Minus 20 F or colder.
2. Boil water on the stove and pour it in an insulated coffee mug. (Put in a thermos if you need to travel to a site)
3. Run outside and pour some into a smaller cup (1/2 cup or 1 cup measuring cup works great)
4. Launch the water into the air (up, but not over your head!…There will still be some droplets coming down)
5. Watch in awe.

Sparky vaporizing water Minus 20 Duluth MN Stensaas IMG_006405Water Vaporization at minus 25F, Park Point on a steaming Lake Superior, Duluth, Minnesota

EXPLANATION OF THE PHENOMENON (from http://www.waterencyclopedia.com)
“A cup of boiling hot water thrown into very cold air (for example, at −37°C, or −35°F, as shown in the photograph) will almost instantly freeze in midair and create a shower of tiny ice crystals. There are several reasons behind this phenomenon. First, the near-boiling water is already close to becoming steam when it is thrown into the air, which means that the water molecules are much closer to evaporating into the vapor state than they would be if the water were cold.

Second, the act of throwing the water into the air causes it to break up into tiny droplets. The water that was contained in the cup (which originally had a relatively small surface exposed to the air) now experiences a tremendous increase in the total surface area exposed to the air. This situation helps to speed up the evaporation process (evaporation is the process of turning from a liquid to a vapor).

Finally, very cold air typically has a low humidity level (that is, a low amount of water vapor present). This is yet another factor aiding the transition from liquid water, to water vapor, to ice crystals. At sufficiently low temperatures, this process seems to occur almost instantaneously.”
Learn more fun water facts here

Read more: http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/En-Ge/Fresh-Water-Physics-and-Chemistry-of.html#b#ixzz2oMD43Lw4

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Jupiter & Venus: Traveling Partners

Jupiter and Venus have been traveling partners in the night sky recently. The bright duo have been visible low in the western sky from dusk to early in the morning.

Here’s an excerpt from MSNBC.com
“Venus-Jupiter conjunctions are fairly special events, occurring roughly every 13 months. This year’s was especially stunning, experts say, because the two planets were visible for so long in the sky and appeared so bright.
Though Jupiter is about 11 times wider than the roughly Earth-size Venus, Venus appears about eight times more luminous these days. That’s because Venus is so much closer to us than Jupiter is.
So while the two planets appear close together in the night sky, in reality they’re nowhere near each other. The orbits of Venus and Jupiter are separated by Earth, Mars and the main asteroid belt.”

So while doing a late night owl survey up in the Sax-Zim Bog tonight (March 13), I decided to try to capture the pair of planets. The moon was not yet up and so the stars were brilliant. I put the camera on the tripod with my 10-20mm Sigma, set the self timer to 2-seconds (to prevent any camera shake from tripping the shutter) and let it go for 25 seconds at ISO 6400. I left the Tamarack low in the frame to highlight the stars and planets. You can see Jupiter and Venus low on the horizon just to the right of the big Tamarack.

TIP FOR NIGHT SKY STAR SHOTS: I like a blue-purple night sky (versus black-orange) so I set my camera to Tungsten white balance. You can also shoot at Auto White Balance and change the color in Aperture/Lightroom if shooting Raw. It is strictly personal preference.

Canon 7D with Sigma 10-20mm lens at 11mm, f5.0 at 25 seconds, ISO 6400, Tungsten white balance, tripod, two-second self timer to minimize camera shake.

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!)

NUMBER 10

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.

NUMBER 9

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.

NUMBER 8

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.

NUMBER 7

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.

NUMBER 6

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.

NUMBER 5

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

NUMBER 4

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!

NUMBER 3

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.

NUMBER 2

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.

Top Ten Winter Photo Tips

Okay, so much of the U.S. is snowless, but it won’t last. We will get snow and cold soon enough (fingers crossed). Here are some ideas to jump start your winter photography and get you out of the brown-gray-white-season blahs.

I will look at each tip in more depth in coming blog posts. Here they are in no particular order (paraphrased from David Letterman).

1. PATTERNS
Winter is a very graphic season. Elements of the landscape are softened and simplified. Isolate patterns for a winning image. [frost feathers on my Subaru’s door window against the sunrise; “pinkened” in Aperture]

2. COLORS
Winter is NOT just black and white (or brown). Seek out color to enliven winter shots. [Willows in late winter turn bright red and yellow]

3. BLACK & WHITE
Okay, I just told you to seek color. But monochrome winter shots can also make stunning black & whites [Jay Cooke State Park, Minnesota]

4. TAME NORTHERN BIRDS
Maybe tolerant is a better word. Many of the northern/boreal birds that move south from Canada and winter in the northern U.S. are quite tolerant of humans. [Northern Hawk Owl]

5. HDR WINTERSCAPES
High Dynamic Range images are ideal for winter images where the contrast is too great to record in a single image. In this image of Lake Superior’s Split Rock Lighthouse, I took three images of different exposures and combined them in a program called Photomatix to get this interesting image.

6. SHADOWS
The sun stays low all day long so use it to your advantage with dramatic shadow images.

7. ICE IS NICE
Ice comes in many forms…icicles, lake ice, coatings on trees and bushes, icebergs…to name a few. Though usually clear or blue, try shooting ice at sunrise or sunset to add a bit of dramatic red/orange to the ice.

8. WEATHER PHENOMENON
Some interesting weather phenomenon occur in winter…like the “sun dog” pictured here…or sun pillars, steam from unfrozen lakes in cold temps, ice fog, etc. [sun dog over Canal Park lighthouse, Duluth, Minnesota]

9. BACKYARD BOUNTY
Winter is when most of us feed birds in our backyard (we start in early November when the local bears go night-night). Try setting up a blind to make natural looking bird images within feet of your house. [Brown Creeper on its way up to my suet cage]

10. NIGHT SKY
Night comes early in winter. Use it to your advantage. Star trails, full moon shots, aurora borealis, comets and more. [aurora borealis, Jay Cooke State Park, Carlton County, Minnesota]

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—>

Spraybows & Epic Waves

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 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