Sparky’s Top 10 “Wildlife in the Landscape” Photos 2018

More and more I enjoy wildlife photos that show the critter in its landscape. Portrait photos can be stunning but they often don’t tell you anything about the environment that the animal lives in…or even what the animal is doing.

Bison in steam of geyser basin Fountain Paint Pots Yellowstone National Park WYIMG_0902

Bison and “bobby sock trees” (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) April 2018

I like the low saturation and placement of the Bison in relation to the “bobby sock” trees (white “socks” from exposure to the mineral rich waters in the geyser basin).

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens; 1/4000 second at f.8; ISO 160; hand-held]

Great Gray Owl sunrise CR2 near Two Harbors MNIMG_5801

Great Gray Owl sunrise (near Two Harbors, Minnesota) March 2018

It is sometimes hard to remember to “think wider” when taking wildlife photos. Our inclination is to put on our longest telephoto lens and get a tightly-cropped portrait. But sometimes wider is better. Great Gray Owls are often scanning the skies for any sign of enemies. They seem not to care for Ravens and Bald Eagles in particular. Not sure if this one actually saw something up in the sky.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f5.6 L USM lens at 70mm; 1/1250 second at f.8; -1.33 ev; ISO 100; tripod]

Great Blue Heron along Stone Lake Road Sax-Zim Bog MNIMG_1783

Early-returning Great Blue Heron (Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota) April 16, 2018

The snowpack lasted a VERY long time last winter. My kids had to wear snowpants to school for a complete SIX MONTHS! (October 26 to April 24 or so). So this Great Blue Heron returned at its normal time, but was greeted with lots of snow and little open water. But it only takes a little patch of running water and some fish to make a living for this hardy heron. I have video of this guy catching fish from this open patch.

[Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 167mm; 1/320 second at f.7.1; ISO 100; +0.66 ev; hand-held]

meadowhawk Saffron-winged Meadowhawk Sympetrum costiferum Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge NWR Polk County MNIMG_1873

Meadowhawk and Big Bluestem (Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota) August 2018

I like the pinks, purples and reds in this photo. I also like the placement of the Meadowhawk in the top right part of the frame…atop a gracefully curving stem of Big Bluestem grass.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f5.6 L USM lens at 200mm; 1/640 second at f4; ISO 100; hand-held]

Red-tailed Hawk CR7 Sax-Zim Bog MNIMG_0915

Red-tailed Hawk in snowfall (Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota) April 2018

This was totally just a “grab-and-go” photo during a spring snow squall in the Sax-Zim Bog last April. It is not razor sharp but I think it works as a very “painterly” abstract photo. I like the blurred purple-red colors of the out-of-focus willows.

[Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 450mm; 1/160 second at f.6.3; ISO 800; +1 ev; hand-held]

Sandhill Crane with colt in flowers Pine County MNIMG_1063

Sandhill Crane in wildflower meadow (Pine County, Minnesota) June 2018

Pretty bird in pretty flowers…’nuf said?

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/3200 second at f.5.6; ISO 640; hand-held from car]

Snowy Owl Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge Polk County MNIMG_0254

Snowy Owl on fence line (Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota) March 2018

Yes, there is an owl in this photo…Way out on the fence line. I think this photo would look really cool printed very large. A true “animal in the landscape” photo.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/800 second at f.9; ISO 100; tripod]

Snowy Owl mature male on haybale CR229-29 Dart Road Sax-Zim Bog MNIMG_3986

Snowy Owl on hay bale (Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota) December 2018

Interesting juxtaposition…an arctic bird in a rural farm landscape. But this is where they are at home in the winter. These large farm hayfields hold large number of voles…and they mimic their summer tundra home. The haybale becomes just another hummock on the tundra.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 91mm; 1/320 second at f.7.1; ISO 1250; hand-held]

Trumpeter Swan pair Yellowstone National Park WYIMG_0558

Trumpeter Swans and tree reflections (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) April 2018

It certainly is a strange photo. Normally I would never really love a photo where I am looking down on my subject, but I like the reflection of the dead pines in the water and that both swans are looking back towards the center of the frame.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens; 1/2500 second at f.8; ISO 200; hand-held]

American Bittern Things that Go Buzz, Croak, Hoot & Bump in the Night FOSZB field trip Sax-Zim Bog MNIMG_1460

Can you see me? Bittern (Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota) May 2018

American Bitterns are masters of camouflage…when they are in a brown landscape with vertical cattails, as in the photo above. They stretch out their neck allowing their vertical breast stripes to blend in with the cattails. But this camouflage doesn’t work so well when they are in the middle of a dirt road…but they stick with their technique despite the absurdity of it.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/200 second at f.5.6; ISO 400; hand-held]

Tundra Swan flock staging fall migration Mississippi River Brownsville Houston County MNIMG_3283

Tundra Swan congregation (Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, Brownsville, Minnesota) November 2018

xx

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/160 second at f.8; ISO 100; tripod]

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Sparky’s Top 10 Mammal Photos of 2018

Bighorn Battle (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) April 2018

Yes, I know that it is not a razor sharp image, but it is probably my favorite mammal photo of the whole year. Battling male Bighorns has been on my “Most Wanted” list for a long time, and Ryan and I stumbled on a bachelor herd that was doing some spring sparring. We only had a second to jump out and grab some shots. We followed them into the foothills but lost track of them and never saw more interactions. The actual rut won’t happen until late fall.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 200mm f2.0 L IS USM lens and Canon 2x tele-extender; 1/250 second at f8; ISO 100; hand-held]

Grizzly (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) April 2018

Maybe not an exciting photo, but it is my first really good portrait of a Grizzly. Ryan and I waited at a carcass for a long time in order to see a Grizzly. This big boy finally arrived, swam/waded the river (that nearly swept him downstream) and started in on the carcass. He then wandered towards the gathered tourists and photographer. I really wanted him to step on this downed log, and he performed flawlessly.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 200mm f2.0 L IS USM lens and Canon 2x tele-extender; 1/400 second at f4; ISO 1250; tripod]

Mountain Goat (Glacier National Park, Montana) July 2018

The only Mountain Goats I’ve ever seen were distant white specks in the Black Hills of South Dakota (Harney Peak) and in the northeast corner of Yellowstone, so it was very gratifying to see a small band up close on the outskirts of Glacier National Park. This one is searching for soil that is mineral/sodium rich. I like the pink/purple tone to the rocks and the half-shed winter coat.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6; 1/200 second at f7.1; ISO 400; hand-held]

Coyote in clover field (near Askov, Minnesota) September 1, 2018

Just before 8am this Coyote was still hunting this clover-filled meadow. He paused long enough for about 3 frames before heading for the woods. The early morning light and purple clover flowers helped slip this photo into the Top 10.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6; 1/500 second at f5.6; ISO 320; hand-held]

Ermine in my woodpile (Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota)

My first thoughts when this Ermine ran out of my garage and into the wood pile was, Oh no! …the chickens! But the chickens had spotted him first and were making it known that this was their turf. They weren’t going to back down. The Ermine stuck around for a couple days, probably feeding on voles or mice, and then disappeared. The Ermine is actually a Short-tailed Weasel. In winter they turn from brown to white and folks call them Ermine.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6; 1/200 second at f5.6; ISO 2000; pop-up flash; hand-held]

Snowshoe Hares (Warren Nelson Memorial Bog, Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota) March 26, 2018

Yes, I know I’m lame for including THREE Snowshoe Hare photos in my Top 10. But they are honestly some of my favorites from 2018…especially since I’d always wanted to get good images of them, and only had a few. Interestingly, this was in late March and one was still mostly white and the other well on its way to turning brown. The photo showing one jumping over the other was probably part of their courtship as they were chasing each other all over the bog. It looked like play.

TOP: [Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 500mm; 1/320 second at f6.3; ISO 640; hand-held]

MIDDLE: [Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 244mm; 1/500 second at f6.3; ISO 640; hand-held]

BOTTOM: [Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 138mm; 1/250 second at f6.3; ISO 640; +1 ev; hand-held]

Black Bear sow and 3 cubs (Skogstjarna, our home, Carlton County, Minnesota) May 2018

We had visits from 6 different bears this spring/early summer at our home. This sow came with her 3 tiny cubs to check out our feeders (which were empty). Twins are more common than triplets in Black Bears. This is just an iPhone photo taken through our living room window. Fortunately, Bridget and the boys were able to enjoy the show.

Coyote working the fence line  (Galesburg, Illinois) March 2018

One of a pair of Coyotes working a rural fenceline in Illinois. It really blends in. I like this image because of the camouflage of the Coyote and the splash of color in the monochrome early spring landscape from the red barn.

[Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 332mm; 1/800 second at f6.3; ISO 320; +0.66 ev; hand-held]

 

Uinta Ground Squirrel (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) April 28, 2018

A nice portrait of a Uinta Ground Squirrel. The blue background is not sky, but rather the cool shade of distant mountains. I also like the colorful foreground rock lichens.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 200mm f2.0 L IS USM lens and Canon 2x tele-extender; 1/800 second at f4; ISO 200; hand-held]

 

 

Sparky’s Top 10 Creative Wildlife Photos of 2018

I am bored of “bird on stick” photos…but I still take them. Every year I strive to get more creative with my wildlife photography. It’s often not easy to do….or at least not easy to remember to do something different. Get the portrait, but then think about how else you can shoot the subject…silhouette? slow shutter? animal-in-landscape? Of course, you can also get creative in “post” and do some interesting crops, or possibly convert an image to black and white. Have fun and play around!

Kingbird sunset silhouette (Felton Prairie, Clay County, Minnesota) August 16, 2018

Smoke from Canadian forest fires made much of the day a hazy mess…making photography difficult. But as the sun set it turned into a fiery ball in the west. Now if I could find a subject to silhouette! Fortunately an Eastern Kingbird landed in a roadside bush. Not the most interesting pose to silhouette, but I love the contrast between the deep blue twilight sky and orange fireball sun.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/5000 at f7.1; ISO 640; -2.0ev; hand-held]

Wild Horse (feral) in Teddy Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota) April 30, 2018

A creative crop of a very curious wild horse (feral horse). I love their wild, human-like hair and big expressive eyes.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 200mm f2 L IS USM lens; 1/320 at f2; ISO 250; hand-held]

Trumpeter Swans (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) April 30, 2018

A black-and-white conversion that works well with these white subjects. Trumpeters are very curious and will sometimes swim towards you…A very nice behavior for photographers!

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 200mm f2 L IS USM lens; 1/1250 at f2; ISO 200; hand-held]

Red-winged Blackbird sunrise (Tobin-Kimmes Wetlands, Douglas County, Wisconsin) May 12, 2018

I was looking for a different photo on this spring morning, but you always have to be open to other opportunities. The catkin-laced branches of this willow add to the image, as does the singing and displaying male Red-winged Blackbird.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/800 second at f11; ISO 100; hand-held]

Sandhill Cranes and full moon (Crex Meadows Wildlife Refuge, Grantsburg, Wisconsin) October 22, 2018

Sandhill Cranes were streaming in to their nighttime watery roost at Crex Meadows as the nearly-full moon was rising. Many photographers had come to try and get crane-moon photos. This was my favorite as the cranes are very sharp and the sky had a tinge of purple.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/400 at f5.6; ISO 400; -1.0ev; tripod]

Tundra Swans (Upper Mississippi NWR, Brownsville, Minnesota) November 17, 2018

I wanted to see what would happen with a very long exposure (13 seconds on a tripod) as some Tundra Swans were still and some were still swimming around. I got this interesting photo of sharp sleeping swans and long white streaks showing the 13-second path of the swimming swans.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 13 seconds at f20; ISO 100; +1.66 ev; tripod]

Three displaying  Wild Turkey toms (Carlton County, Minnesota) May 29, 2018

It was a blah morning with gray skies when I ran across three tom Turkeys displaying on a dirt road. I positioned myself so I could silhouette their whole bodies against the sky. I then pushed the white balance slider all the way to the right in Lightroom (warmer=more yellow/orange)…Voila! Instant sunrise sky.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/5000 at f7.1; ISO 640; -2.0ev; hand-held]

Bison fur detail (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) April 28, 2018

Love the texture of Bison hair.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 200mm f2 L IS USM lens with Canon 2x teleconverter; 1/640 at f4; ISO 400; hand-held]

High key Sandhill Cranes in frosty field (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming) April 27, 2018

Some photos you don’t think much about when you take them. But when you see them on your computer at home, some really strike your fancy. I liked both the position of the feeding cranes and the frosty grass. To make it a “high key” photo, I adjusted the white levels in Lightroom until the background became totally clipped (blown out…absolute white).

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 200mm f2 L IS USM lens with Canon 2x teleconverter; 1/500 at f4; ISO 200; hand-held]

Eastern Bluebird at Nana’s farm (Galesburg, Illinois) March 30, 2018

Just a quirky photo of an Eastern Bluebird and its silhouette on a barn wall.

[Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 373mm; 1/1000 second at f6.3; ISO 1000; -0.66 ev; hand-held]

Mayflies at Midnight (St. Louis River, Fond du Lac Bridge, Duluth, Minnesota) July 12, 2018

Hexagenia Mayflies emerge en masse from large rivers in mid summer. Some years are bigger than others, and 2018 was a big year along the St. Louis River near Duluth. This is a long exposure of thousands of mayflies flying about a street light on the bridge. Their floppy flight makes interesting light patterns during the 1/4 second exposure.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/4 second at f5.6; ISO 400; -1.0ev; hand-held, braced on car door frame]

Wild Turkey feathers up close (Skogstjarna, Carlton County, Minnesota)

Taken out my living room window! Love the iridescence on these stunning creatures.

 

Sparky’s Top-Ten Bird Photos of 2018

 

Okay, I’m cheating a bit on my Top 10 and have selected an extra two photos, so here is my 12 favorite bird images from 2018.

Eastern Kingbird feeding young (Felton Prairie, Clay County, Minnesota) August 16, 2018

I love Felton Prairie. It is a dry gravel prairie on the “Glacial Ridge” of western Minnesota. It is (was?) known as the only nesting site of Chestnut-collared Longspurs in the state. I spent about an hour with this late-nesting Eastern Kingbird family (this was mid August).

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 USM lens 1/1600 second at f5.6; ISO 400; hand-held from inside car.]

Barred Owl on Owl Avenue (Sax-Zim Bog, St. Louis County, Minnesota) April 2, 2018

This photo was taken near dusk on a lonely bog-bordered road in the Sax-Zim Bog. I like the monotone feel of the photo. I also like that the owl is NOT looking at me, but watching (listening?) intently on something out of frame.

[Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 203mm; f6.3 at 1/320 second; ISO 3200]

Mature male Snowy Owl on hay bale (Sax-Zim Bog, St. Louis County, Minnesota) December 17, 2018

The very small size and very white plumage of this Snowy Owl indicates that this is an older male bird. It has been hunting the same fields in the Sax-Zim Bog for about a month. He often perches on hay bales, scanning the countryside for voles. I like the stark contrast between the white owl and the pink sky.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 USM lens 1/1600 second at f5.6; ISO 400; hand-held from inside car.]

Bohemian Waxwing in Mountain-Ash (Two Harbors, Minnesota) November 12, 2018

I’ve photographed many Bohemian Waxwings over the years, but usually in crabapple trees, so I wanted to get photos and video of one in a Mountain-Ash (a native species). I found a small flock in a huge Mountain-Ash (that I’ve looked in many times before) in the town of Two Harbors, Minnesota.

I only shot video, but was able to pull this still-image out of a 4K video clip.

[Panasonic GH5 with Sigma 50-500mm lens

Great Gray Owl (Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota) February 27, 2018

Great Grays are amazing photo subjects…even if they are just staring into the snow. I had spend over an hour just watching this one sit in an aspen…waiting for it do something…anything! Then when I wasn’t ready (of course!), it launched into the air and plunged face first into the deep ditch snow only 20 yards from me. But it didn’t catch the vole on the plunge but it could still hear it under the deep snow. I slowly crawled over to the ditch and laid flat on the snow to get this eye-level shot. The Great Gray in this photo is not really looking into the snow, but rather listening by facing its huge facial disks towards the sound. Ear holes that are a slightly different size and shape can triangulate sound in order to pinpoint prey.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 USM lens 1/250 second at f5.6; ISO 200; pop-up flash; hand-held while laying flat on the snow.]

Sanderling in near-breeding plumage (Park Point, Duluth, Minnesota) May 22, 2018

Shorebirds along the sandy beaches of Lake Superior are one of my favorite subjects. Most are heading to breeding grounds on the tundra of the Far North. This makes them seem more exotic and interesting. Sanderlings are one of the most common shorebirds on the beaches of Duluth’s Park Point and Superior, Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Point.

This one is in near breeding plumage with reddish head and breast. We usually see them in their white plumage as small flocks scoot ahead of us as we walk down the beach. I crawled through the sand to get in front of the Sanderlings and then would remain still as they worked their way towards me. I like this unique head-on angle.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 USM lens 1/640 second at f5.6; ISO 320; hand-held while laying flat on the sand.]

Great Gray Owl in heavy snow (Duluth, Minnesota) January 30, 2018

There was a mini-irruption of Great Gray Owls just north of Duluth last winter. In fact this guy was hunting right in the city limits of Duluth along Old Superior Street. I got to film him (her?) making several plunges into the deep but crusty snow. It was able to break through the crust to get at voles below.

[Sony A6500 with Sigma 50-500mm f4.5-6.2 lens at 500mm; 1/250 second at f6.3; ISO 1250; hand-held]

Male Bufflehead (St. Louis River at Fond du Lac in Duluth, Minnesota) April 23, 2018

Every year when the ice goes out on the St. Louis River I try and get some eye-level (ice-level?) shots of waterfowl in their spring splendor. The ice went out quite late this year as this photo was taken in late April. Buffleheads are really difficult to photograph because they dive frequently. And it is very hard to capture the iridescence of their head feathers. They usually look all black and white. But the sun angle was just right for this photo to reveal the rainbow iridescence.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 USM lens 1/2500 second at f5.6; ISO 500; hand-held while laying on the shoreline ice]

Eastern Kingbird catching grasshopper in mid-air (Felton Prairie, Clay County, Minnesota) August 16, 2018

I honestly just got lucky with this shot. I love images of grassland birds on old fence posts or rusty barbed wire fences (both of which are disappearing from the rural landscape) so I took some photos of this Eastern Kingbird. But I decided to wait patiently

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 USM lens 1/2000 second at f5.6; ISO 400; hand-held from inside car.]

Three immature Bald Eagles (Douglas County, Wisconsin) April 9, 2018

A perfectly-arranged trio of subadult Bald Eagles in northwest Wisconsin. It takes 3-5 years for a Bald Eagle to attain its pristine white head and tail feathers. The bottom bird is probably a 2nd year bird, and the tip bird may be a 3rd year bird due to its Osprey-like face mask. The middle bird is also probably a 3rd year bird. I’m sure there was a road-killed deer somewhere nearby.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 USM lens 1/2000 second at f7.1; ISO 320; hand-held from car window]

White-faced Ibis (Yellowstone National Park) April 30, 2018

I rarely get to see these birds but they migrate through Yellowstone National Park in the spring. This one was feeding on a newly-thawed pond. The sad part of this story is that I dropped a rented 2x teleconverter out of the car while trying to get out and photograph this bird. The fall put a scratch in the lens. I then had to buy the 2x from lensrentals.com. But I guess I’m glad to own this high-end teleconverter.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 200mm f2 IS USM lens with 1.4x teleconverter;  1/250 second at f2.8; ISO 400; hand-held]

Snowy Owl (South Superior, Wisconsin) January 5, 2018

If I’d shot this photo with a wide-angle lens, you would have seen a gravel pit, railroad tracks and car repair place in the frame. This Snowy Owl was hunting in a semi-industrial area of Superior, Wisconsin. I waded through the deep snow to reach the spruce and began filming. The owl completely ignored me, but after about 10 minutes some distant movement caught its eye and off it went. I like the wing position as it lifts off.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 USM lens 1/2500 second at f5.6; ISO 320; -0.66ev; hand-held]

 

Golden Eagles & Northern Goshawks in flight videos: Hawk Ridge, Duluth, Minnesota

Every October a fair number of Golden Eagles drift down our way from breeding grounds in the Canadian tundra and the shores of Hudson Bay. Hawk Ridge in Duluth, Minnesota is a great place to see them on strong northwest wind days following a cold front in October and November. And some even winter in the bluff country of southeast Minnesota/southwest Wisconsin. Here is some slow motion video taken on October 20, 21 at 180 frames per second with a Panasonic GH5 and Sigma 50-500mm lens; handheld; manual focusing.

NORTHERN GOSHAWKS in super slow motion flight. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth: October 16, 19, and 20, 2018. Adults and juveniles. Love seeing these strong solid accipiters in flight. Note bulging crops on a couple of these birds. The bigger females prey on Snowshoe Hares and Ruffed Grouse. The smaller males stick mostly to Ruffed Grouse and probably Red Squirrels and woodpeckers. Click on the gear icon if you want to view at a higher resolution. [Panasonic GH5 and Sigma 50-500mm lens; shooting at 180 frames per second]

Sandhill Cranes under a full Moon: Crex Meadows, Wisconsin

Copy 1 IMG_2106

October 22, 2018 (Monday)

**ALL OF THE BELOW PHOTOS ARE SINGLE FRAMES AS TAKEN…I DID NOT “ADD THE MOON IN PHOTOSHOP”

I ran into several photographer friends down in Wisconsin’s Crex Meadows Wildlife Area yesterday. I guess we were all thinking the same thing…Two days before the full moon is a perfect time to try and photograph Sandhill Cranes in front of a massive moon.

Lauren the naturalist gave me three locations to try for the dusk fly-in of the Sandhill Cranes. One was my “usual spot” along the Main Dike Road. I didn’t want to risk a new spot today so I stuck with my normal spot.

I ran into fellow photographer Mike Dec and we decided to shoot from the same spot. The wind was blowing strong out of the northwest, but the temp was in the low 50s. Cold fingers and shaking tripod!

Sandhills by the thousands roost in the wildlife reserve over night. The shallow-water marshes are basically inaccessible to most predators, and there is also safety in numbers. During the day the cranes feed in harvested corn fields outside the refuge and then fly in a bit before sunset. THOUSANDS roost here in the late autumn.

I was shooting slow-motion 180 fps video with the Panasonic GH5 on a tripod while trying to shoot stills with my Canon 7D and Canon 400mm f5.6 lens hand held. Every time a flock was approaching the moon at what seemed the proper trajectory to pass right in front, Mike and I alerted each other.

But focusing on the cranes was a challenge and I missed some shots because of my camera/lenses inability to lock on to a bird.

A memorable evening! Plan on being at Wisconsin’s Crex Meadows next late October.

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_1886

The moon rose large behind a stand of oaks but there was little contrast between the sky and the moon. But over the next half hour the moon began to pop as the sky turned from blue to twilight purple. This flock of cranes were lit by the last orange rays of the setting sun.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/1250 second at f5.6; ISO 640; -1.0 ev; hand-held; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

 

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_1835Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_1846

Before the moon rose at 5:47pm, I took some flight shots with slow shutter speeds. I have so many sharp flight shots that I really don’t need more. Time to get a bit creative! So I slowed the shutter way down to 1/10 of a second at f20; ISO 100. The results are “very artistic” and impressionistic. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/10 second at f20; ISO 100; hand-held; processed in Lightroom CC 2015] (top photo at 1/30 second)

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_1931

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/1600 second at f5.6; ISO 640; -1.0 ev; hand-held; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_1956

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/1600 second at f5.6; ISO 640; -1.0 ev; hand-held; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI P1044348

This is a single frame extracted from a HD slow motion video. Not the sharpest shot, but still very pleasing in a painterly way.

[Panasonic GH5 with Sigma 50-500mm f4/5-6.1 lens; 1/320 second; tripod; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_2046

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4L USM lens at 118mm; 1/100 second at f9; ISO 1000; -1.0 ev; hand-held; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_1822Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI P1044352Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI P1044354

A couple “selective focus” shots. Basically impossible to get both the cranes and moon in sharp focus in the same shot (unless the cranes were about 2 miles away) so I tried some photos where I focused on the moon instead of the cranes.

These are single frames extracted from a HD slow motion video.

[Panasonic GH5 with Sigma 50-500mm f4/5-6.1 lens; 1/320 second; tripod; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_2119

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/320 second at f5.6; ISO 400;-1.0 ev; hand-held; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_2313Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_2251Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_2297

The above three photos of the roosting Sandhill Cranes were taken well AFTER SUNSET. Long exposures on a tripod. As usual, I was the last car at the spot. You never know what image might present itself after the “main show” is over.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/400 second at f5.6; ISO400;-1.0 ev; hand-held; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_2106Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_2106-2

The above two photos are probably my favorites from the entire shoot. The top is the uncrossed version, and the bottom is cropped to just 4 cranes. I like that they are very SHARP for being hand-held (way to go “steady Sparky”!). I also really like the even spread of cranes and the position of the legs and wings of the crane silhouetted by the moon. And of course, the purple sky color is a bonus.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/400 second at f5.6; ISO400;-1.0 ev; hand-held; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_2204

As the moon continued to rise after sunset, the color was washed from the sky. The only option was to catch a flock as they passed right in front of the moon.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/250 second at f7.1; ISO1600;-1.0 ev; hand-held; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

Crex Meadows Grantsburg WI IMG_2399

On my way out of Crex Meadows I saw this sight; three Trumpeter Swans silhouetted by the nearly-full moon’s reflection on a marsh. I took a bunch of handheld shots at ISO 12,800(!!), but should have set up a tripod since most are unusable.

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4L USM lens at 200mm; 1/60 second at f5.6; ISO 12,800; -1.0 ev; hand-held; processed in Lightroom CC 2015]

Mega-Waves from Lake Superior Storm: Tettegouche State Park, North Shore, Minnesota – October 10, 2018 (photos & video)

October 10, 2018

After unsuccessfully chasing a rare Sabine’s Gull on Duluth, Minnesota’s Park Point, I realized how big the waves on Lake Superior were. I knew that the wind had been blowing hard all night, but I hadn’t put 2 and 2 together…Until I saw the flooding in Canal Park. The parking lot by Duluth’s canal and Marine Museum was already flooded and closed off. I parked as close as I could and skirted the floodwaters behind a hotel. Sheltering in a cluster of pine trees some 100 feet from the shoreline, I started snapping photos. Every few minutes, a series of bigger waves would roll in and explode around the East Pier Breakwall Lighthouse (photo below). I had to frequently turn my back on the lake and shelter my camera from the spray. I had rubber knee-high boots on and a rain coat, but it did little to protect me when a massive wave broke out of my peripheral vision and soaked me up to my waist. This wave must have been significantly bigger than the rest since up to this point only a couple times had the water even reached me. Time to go!

I headed up the North Shore for Tettegouche State Park. The huge rhyolite cliffs there are at a perfect angle for taking on the giant waves of a nor’easter storm. I called my photographer friend Paul Sundberg who intimately knows the photo opportunities on the North Shore (See his website here). It was no surprise that when he answered his cell phone I could hear the wailing wind in the background. He was already shooting the super-waves. He pointed me towards Crystal Bay on Lake Superior near Illgen City. He said the fall colors made for a unique shot since most big storms happen in late spring (no leaves yet) or during the “Gales of November” (leaves all gone). Paul is very generous with his info and I thanked him as we crossed paths at the spot. He’d already been shooting for a couple hours and was headed to find lunch. I took his spot.

The highest cliffs in these photos are about 80 feet tall I believe. That puts some amazing perspective to these monster waves. I took photos with my Canon 7D and Canon 70-200mm f4 lens, while simultaneously shooting video with my Panasonic GH5 on a tripod next to me. I didn’t record good audio just because I didn’t think about it. Wish I would have.Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4803

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4797

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/1600 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4759

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4779

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 180mm; 1/500 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4734

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 100mm; 1/640 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4752

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 70mm; 1/800 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Waves Lake Superior cliffs storm Tettegouche State Park Lake County MN Stensaas IMG_4676

Crystal Bay, Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 154mm; 1/640 second at f8; ISO 800; handheld; processed in Lightroom; processed in Lightroom]

Lighthouses Canal Park wave storm Lake Superior Duluth MN Stensaas IMG_4580

East pier lighthouse; Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 140mm; 1/500 second at f8; handheld; processed in Lightroom]Lighthouses Canal Park wave storm Lake Superior Duluth MN Stensaas IMG_4623

East pier lighthouse; Canal Park, Duluth, Minnesota, Lake Superior (October 10, 2018)

[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 USM lens at 140mm; 1/500 second at f8; handheld; processed in Lightroom]

Video shot with Panasonic GH5 with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 50-200mm (depending on shot) on Benro tripod;  frame rates varying from 30fps to 180fps (super slow motion). Created in iMovie.