Posts tagged ‘Lake Superior’

Palisade Head Peregrines (and grebes & mergansers): Shooting with Sparky

Palisade Head Peregrine Falcon Watch May 1: Wildlife Photography

A spring day at Northeast Minnesota’s Palisade Head on Lake Superior. Sparky is hoping to photograph Peregrine Falcons today, but he has more luck with Common Mergansers, Least Chipmunks, Song Sparrows and a flyby Peregrine. Wildlife Photography, Bird Photography

Top Ten Birds-in-the-Landscape Photos 2019

More and more I like photos that show the bird and its habitat. One of my favorite artists, Robert Bateman, often placed the birds quite tiny in the surrounding landscape…so tiny sometimes that you really had to search!

These photos tell more of a story than close up bird portraits, they often have to be viewed in a larger format to fully appreciate them. So go ahead and click on each image to see them larger.

Snowy Owl on haybale in the Sax-Zim Bog (St. Louis County, Minnesota)

This very white mature male Snowy Owl hung around the Sax-Zim Bog all winter, and he spent most of his time in just two fields. This field had hay bales which made a convenient perch in which to scan and listen for voles.

Red-tailed Hawk (Carlton County, Minnesota)

I do love old fencelines with weathered and lichen-covered posts, and I scan for subjects perched on them. Fortunately this day I ran across a hunting Red-tailed Hawk that actually allowed me time to get my camera out the car window and snap a few shots. I think the falling snow adds a lot to this image, as does the red tail feathers which add a spot of color.

Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus WMA, Polk County, Minnesota)
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 70-200mm f4 L USM lens at 100mm; 1/800 second at f4; +0.33ev; ISO 250; tripod]

Dawn in the aspen parkland of northwest Minnesota and a Greater Prairie Chicken booms on its lek. This spring courtship display is the essence of prairies on the Great Plains. About 18 other prairie chickens are just out of frame. I spent about 5 hours in a blind watching and filming their antics. No better way to spend a spring morning!

See the expanded blog post with many photos here

See the link to the Shooting with Sparky Greater Prairie Chickens video here

Mountain Bluebirds in snowstorm (Teddy Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota)
[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/1250 second at f5.6; ISO 400; tripod]

Half way through our epic journey home from Yellowstone in a massive stalled out blizzard, Ryan and I stopped at Theodore Roosevelt National Park for a night. The early October storm caught many birds off guard and this flock of Mountain Bluebirds were feeding on the only snow-free spot available, the recently plowed road shoulder. But they would perch on this nearby barbed wire fence.

Greater White-fronted Geese in April (Western Minnesota)

I had never seen anything like the congregation of geese in western Minnesota this past April.  It was like stepping back in to an old-timer’s memory when they reminisce about “the skies filled with flock after flock of geese.” And there were literally flock after flock of geese filling the skies. (Where have I heard that before?). These Greater White-fronted Geese filled the frozen marsh.

Northern Saw-whet Owl in nest cavity (Superior National Forest, St. Louis County, Minnesota)

Abandoned Pileated Woodpecker cavities provide homes for many critters in the North Woods including Flying Squirrels, Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, Pine Marten, and owls such as this Northern Saw-whet Owl. I have scratched on 100s of trees with Pileated cavities over the years, but never found a Saw-whet, but this spring I got lucky. I wish I could have checked on the cavity more times, but other commitments got in the way. I hope she raised a brood of little Saw-whets.

Early-returning Trumpeter Swans on Stone Lake (Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota)

A classic northern Minnesota scene that we would not have seen 30 years ago. Thanks to the efforts of the Minnesota DNR, Carrol Henderson and many others, we now have a “bumper crop” of Trumpeter Swans each spring. They arrive at first ice-out to claim the best nesting territories.

Snow Geese on the Minnesota prairie in April (Western Minnesota)
[Canon 7D with Sigma 50-500mm lens at 113mm; 1/640 second at f5.6; ISO 1250; hand-held]

Like a Les Kouba painting from the 1970s, this scene includes a flock of geese and a weathered windmill in the farm country of western Minnesota.

Long-tailed Ducks on Lake Superior (Two Harbors, Minnesota)

I guess the icy landscape of Minnesota’s North Shore dominates the birds in this photo. But it is how you often see Long-tailed Ducks on Lake Superior; bobbing and diving in the icy waters of Lake Superior.

American Robin, Eastern Bluebird and Mountain Bluebirds (Teddy Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota)
[[Canon 7D with Canon EF 400mm f5.6 L USM lens; 1/5000 second at f5.6; ISO 1000; tripod]

Three species of thrushes wait out an early October snowstorm in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota: Eastern Bluebird, American Robain and Mountain Bluebirds.

Gambel’s Quail (Portal, Arizona)

A week in southeastern Arizona allowed me to finally thaw out from the long winter. And I got to see many desert and mountain specialty birds that I hadn’t seen in 20-plus years. This Gambel’s Quail is singing from about the best perch available in the Chihuahuan Desert…a huge stalk of a Yucca.

Snow Geese (Western Minnesota)
Trumpeter Swans (Sax-Zim Bog, Minnesota)
[DJI Phantom 4 Pro]

Winter was finally loosening its grip in mid April in northern Minnesota. Lakes were starting to open up and any patch of blue was occupied by early-returning Trumpeter Swans in order to claim the best nesting territories. A drone allowed me to get this shot. The swans never even looked up at the strange “whirring bird” over their heads.

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.

Superior Shorebirds & Friends at Wisconsin Point

Dunlin Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1030 [Dunlin resting above the wave line]
Shorebirds are some of our latest migrants in the northern reaches of Minnesota. Though flocks may begin appearing in late April, the mass movement doesn’t peak until late May. And so I took several opportunities to scope out the migration along one of Lake Superior’s most beautiful beaches…Wisconsin Point. Along with its “sister spit,” Park Point in Duluth, Minnesota, they create the world’s longest freshwater sand spit…nearly 10 miles long! Shorebirds moving north to their Arctic breeding grounds find the wide sand beaches and immense body of water familiar sights, and are likely reminded of their coastal wintering grounds in the southern U.S., Central and South America.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f7.1 at 1/1250 sec. ISO 200, handheld but braced on log]

Dunlin Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1464 My technique in photographing shorebirds (shown in my video, Get Close & Get the Shot) is to move slowly in plain sight of the waders, crawling along the beach, then laying down in the sand as they get near. I try to get as close to eye level as possible (without grinding sand into my camera equipment!) as this gives a more intimate portrait. The success ration is not high as they often turn and start feeding in the opposite direction or scurry past so fast that getting a shot is almost impossible.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f6.3 at 1/800 sec. ISO 250, handheld but braced on log]

Dunlin Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1291 [Dunlin]

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f6.3 at 1/2500 sec. ISO 200, handheld while laying on sand]

Dunlin Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1032[Dunlin sleeping]
Considering that this Dunlin may have already flown a thousand miles from wintering beaches in the southeastern U.S. or Atlantic Coast, it’s no wonder she’s tuckered out. And she’s got a couple thousand more miles to go to get to breeding grounds in northern Canada and the North Slope of Alaska.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f7.1 at 1/1250 sec. ISO 200, handheld while laying on sand]

Dunlin Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1292
Dunlin are easy to identify. They are the ones that look like their bellies have been dipped in black ink. Also note their longer drooping bill.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f6.3 at 1/2000 sec. ISO 200, handheld while laying on sand]

Sanderling breeding plumage Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1312 We normally see Sanderlings in their “winter whites,” their pale non-breeding plumage. But this bird is already acquiring its reddish breeding plumage.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f6.3 at 1/2000 sec. ISO 200, handheld while laying on sand]

Shorebirds mixed flock Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1341This mixed flock of shorebirds contains Sanderlings, Dunlin and a rather rare visitor to Lake Superior…the Red Knot (the largest bird). I usually only see one or two of these each spring, and some years I miss them completely, so this was a real treat.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f6.3 at 1/1600 sec. ISO 200, handheld]

Red Knot Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1263[Red Knot]

Common Tern Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1482[Common Tern]
Terns seemingly float on buoyant wingbeats as they patrol shorelines for fish. Their head is angled down scanning the water for a likely meal and once a fish is spotted, they instantly tuck their wings in and go into a plummeting vertical dive into the water.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/3200 sec. ISO 250, handheld]

Common Tern Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1519
As part of their courtship the male Common Tern flies around with a small fish which he offers to the female. Strangely, these terns LOVE to nest on dredge material…sand and dirt dug up from the Duluth-Superior bay and piled on to land. Due to this preference, Common Terns formerly nested right in the Port Terminal of Duluth, which was essentially built entirely on dredge. But an effort to move them out of this busy industrial area had little success until Interstate Island (a tiny 8 acre island in the St. Louis Estuary just upstream of the Blatnik Bridge which is divided by the Minnesota-Wisconsin state lines) was bulldozed and became an ideal sanctuary off limits to humans. Unfortunately, Ring-billed Gulls rule the island with 13,000 nest in a recent census. Common Tern nests numbered about 200. This is only one of two nesting locations in the Lake Superior region. Commons are listed as Endangered in Wisconsin and Threatened in Minnesota.

Caspian Tern Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1513 I LOVE Caspian Terns! Maybe it’s that I only see them passing through in late May, or maybe their exotic name (they also range across parts of Europe and Russia including the Caspian Sea) These mega-terns are giant versions of the diminutive Commons that perched nearby. Their pterodactyl-like croak signals their presence with authority! Like the Common Terns, Caspians live almost entirely on fish.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/3200 sec. ISO 250, handheld]

Redhead pair Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1581 [Redhead pair on the bayside of Wisconsin Point]
Redheads are attractive ducks of our western and midwestern pothole prairies. While not rare, they are certainly not common either, and always a treat to see. This flock of four was even tolerant of my semi-stealthy approach along the bank of the bay.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f7.1 at 1/2000 sec. ISO 250, handheld]

American Redstart warbler Wisconsin Point Superior WI IMG_1203 [American Redstart
Hiking back to the car on the inland side of the wind-whipped point we found a very cooperative warbler, the American Redstart, proudly and emphatically defending his territory in song.

[Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f7.1 at 1/2500 sec. ISO 1600, handheld]

Roseanne Cash & Sparky: Together again?

Did the title of this post catch your attention? Well the title could very well have been: “PUT YOUR BEST PHOTOS AND VIDEO EVERYWHERE! BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHO MIGHT SEE IT AND CALL YOU AND WANT TO BUY IT” Maybe a little wordy, but the point is that as photographers, we should be sharing our stuff, first and foremost just to share our passion with the world, but also it doesn’t hurt if every now and then someone wants to buy something of yours!

In this case, I received a call a few weeks ago from a production company in Los Angeles. They had found my short video clip of monster waves hitting the icy shore of Tettegouche State Park on Lake Superior during a March gale last year. The editors liked it and included it in the “rough cut” for their client—DiscoverAmerica, an organization promoting tourism TO the U.S. in Europe, Asia and around the World. Well, the 1-second clip survived the cuts and even made it into two TV commercials (shown below).

When I opened the link to the finished product yesterday, I was thrilled with the videos…I had no idea that the whole campaign was built around a music video and original song by ROSEANNE CASH, country-pop-folk-blues-rock star and eldest daughter of Johnny Cash. Fun surprise! …and a great video. It is a 12.3 million dollar project and the “first ever global ad campaign for the United States.” The TV commercials will run in the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Brazil, South Korea and other countries. And the website is very fun too…see it here.


Look for my clip at 1:10 in full length video

Look for my clip at 0:06 in the “See it” short video


No clip of mine in this short, but the outdoor adventure sport clips are fantastic!

Here is the full clip shot at Tettegouche State Park on Lake Superior on March 23, 2011.

So I guess the point is, that sometimes you get lucky! And to get lucky, people have to be able to find and see your stuff…and today that means the internet. To help your odds of being “discovered,” keyword your photos and give your titles/file names common sense searchable names “Waves on Lake Superior” for example (This is how they found my video on vimeo). Also use photo/video sites like photoshelter, smugmug, flickr, google plus, vimeo and youtube to place your galleries and videos. And blogs consistently rank high in searches because they are updated frequently (or should be!).

My video shot with the Canon 7D and Canon 70-200 f4 lens on tripod.