Urban Wildlife in Minneapolis

As an outdoor photographer, I am fortunate to live in a large metropolitan area such as the Twin Cities. While most of my favorite spots for capturing wildlife occur in National Forests further north, we have plenty of urban wildlife in Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs!

Urban Owl

Urban Owl

Wildlife in Minneapolis

Much of the wildlife in Minneapolis lives within city limits year ’round. We’ve got the Mississippi River running between Minneapolis and St. Paul, with dozens of Bald Eagle nests. Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, a variety of Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinals, White Breasted Nuthatches, and Black Capped Chickadees are just a few of the other bird species that call the Twin Cities home. You can also spot the occasional Red Fox prowling the neighborhoods in the pre-dawn mornings. A little further out into the suburbs are White Tailed Deer, Wild Turkeys, Coyotes, Canada Geese and a variety of Duck species.

Spring and Fall Migration

Birding is fun any time of year, but the spring and fall migrations are especially interesting! Many species follow the Mississippi River flyway between their summer homes in the southern USA or South America and pass through briefly on their way further north to breed and raise their young. We’ve even had Sandhill Cranes build a nest within a mile of the Mall of America last summer! A Loon family also stayed on Lake Harriet all last year.

Lake Harriet Spring Morning

American Coots on Lake Harriet during Spring Migration.

Great Blue Heron Rookery

There is even a Great Blue Heron Rookery on two small islands in the middle of the Mississippi River just upstream of the Lowry Avenue Bridge. The easiest time to see them is before the leaves bud on the trees in the spring. Sometimes the National Park Service offers guided canoe trips that explain more about the herons and their habitat. Did you know that the Mississippi River area in the Twin Cities is actually part of the National Park system?

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

The Mississippi River isn’t the only game in town! The Minnesota River runs through Bloomington and south Minneapolis and is part of a National Wildlife Refuge! Check out the different sections that run from near the MSP airport all the way to Chaska for great birding, hiking, wildlife viewing, and even some old ruins.

MN River Valley Rapids Lake ruins

So, if you don’t have time to get out of town to a “wilder” place, check out some of the spots we’ve got right in our own back yard! You might be surprised to see how much of our space that we share with the urban wildlife in Minneapolis 🙂

Favorite Photos of 2017

Favorite Photos of 2017

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed! This year had me sticking closer to home in Minnesota, though I did manage to sneak away to the northeastern part of the state several times. Part of what makes a photo special to me is the experience and adventure I had while making it. Here are just a few of my favorite photos of 2017. You’ll find these and more in the online galleries ready to hand on your wall!

Here are the top five in no particular order:

Gooseberry in Winter

Winter Snowy Sunrise

Snowy Beach Sunrise – Gooseberry Falls

Gooseberry Falls State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior can be crowded with tourists during the warmer months of the year, but I had the place all to myself on this winter day. There was a light snow falling while the sun rose. No footprints in the fresh snow. The only sound was from the waves of Lake Superior lapping at the beach and water going over the frozen falls. Pure magic.

Black Bears Everywhere

Black Bear Mother and Cub

Black Bear Mother and Cubs

There are wild Black Bears everywhere when you visit the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary near Orr, Minnesota. I could sit and watch them for hours (and I did)!

Gunflint Trail & BWCA

Boundary Waters Bear

Boundary Waters Bear

My visit to the BWCA in late June happened during the beginning of a monsoon. Five inches of rain in a week. I didn’t get to take as many photos as I would have liked, but I managed to get a few keepers.

Dahlia Trial Garden

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly

I discovered the Dahlia Trial Garden at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum this summer and it’s awesome! I was lucky enough to be there on a day when one of the judges was doing his thing, and it turns out that he liked to talk. He explained the whole process of what the trail gardens are for and how they judge the new varieties of flowers that may or may not make it to market one day. Butterflies like the dahlias, too!

Osprey Fishing

Osprey with a fish

Osprey with a fish.

This Osprey caught a fish at Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, MN and flew less than 10 feet over my head with it. Wow! I’ve never seen an Osprey that close before!

 

St. Paul Art Crawl – Fall 2017

It’s that time of year again – football, fall colors, and the autumn edition of the St. Paul Art Crawl – Fall 2017!

Junco Lake Sunrise Panorama

Junco Lake Sunrise Panorama

Once again, I will be showing at Dow Art Gallery and Picture Framing for all 3 days of the event. I will be offering a “Buy 3 – Get 1 Free” special for all of the gift sized mounted and matted 5×7 and 8×10 prints so you can do some early holiday shopping.

I also have a new 20 x 60 inch panorama of Junco Lake on gallery wrapped canvas which isn’t available in the online galleries – a perfect way to bring some North Woods wild into your home or office!

As always, all of my products are professionally printed using conservation grade archival inks and materials and will last longer than you with proper care. Come on down to the Dow Art Gallery during St. Paul Art Crawl to check it out, score some deals, and support a local artist!

St. Paul Art Crawl – Fall 2017

What: North Woods Photos (and 30+ other artists) at Dow Art Gallery

Where: Dow Art Gallery, 2242 University Avenue West in St. Paul (right on the green line – Raymond Station)

When: October 13-15, 2017

Friday 6-10 pm, Saturday noon – 8 pm, Sunday noon – 5 pm.

Free rides to the St. Paul Art Crawl on the Green Line on Saturday and Sunday

Free admission to the gallery, which will also have free musical entertainment and snacks.

Come early for the best selection!

 

American Black Bears in Minnesota

One of my favorite Minnesota “locals” are American Black Bears!


Black Bear

There are many misconceptions about Black Bears. People who don’t know any better fear them, thinking that they are out stalking unsuspecting hikers or campers for an ambush attack. In reality, they are pretty timid creatures who go out of their way to avoid encounters with people. I’ve been fortunate enough to volunteer with an expert Black Bear researcher in the past and even got to go into a den (with mama bear still in it – she was tranquilized for the duration). I’ll never forget holding cubs that only weighed 3 pounds and didn’t have their eyes open yet. Let’s get to know them a little better 🙂

Black Bear Cub

Black Bear Facts

For a much more comprehensive list of facts about Black Bears, check out the North American Bear Center site.

  • Black Bears in Minnesota hibernate for 5-6 months out of the year. They typically call it a year by late October and emerge from their dens some time in April.
  • During hibernation, their heart rates go down to approximately 8 beats per minute and their breathing is almost imperceptible.
  • They will lose about a third of their body weight during hibernation – mostly fat. Lactating mothers will lose a bit more, while males and non-lactating females a bit less.
  • They do not eat, urinate or defecate during hibernation. Any other mammal would die of kidney failure, but they are somehow able to break down metabolic waste products with no ill effects.
  • Their total cholesterol will climb to over 400 mg/dl during hibernation, while their blood lipid profiles are similar to a healthy human during the summer. No evidence of heart disease.
  • They give birth to their cubs in January. The cubs are born hairless and weigh less that a pound at birth. Dr. Lynn Rogers installed a camera within a wild Black Bear den several years ago and captured a live birth on video, dispelling the myth that cubs are born while the mother bear sleeps…. lol. You can view it here.
  • Once cubs emerge from their dens, one of the first things their mother teaches them is how to climb trees.
  • You will not out run or out climb a Black Bear!
Black Bear Cub Climbing a Tree

Black Bear cub doing what Black Bear cubs do best: climbing a tree 🙂

Where to see Black Bears

Black Bears are common residents of the North Woods and like the forest. I’ve seen them crossing roads in the Superior National Forest on several occasions, walking next to the highway in St. Louis county, running away from me on hiking trails, and had one that stood up on it’s hind legs to get a better look / sniff at me before it calmly turned around and walked away.

Black Bear Cub Sleeping in a Tree

There are few things in this world cuter than a Black Bear cub sleeping in a tree.

If you want a guaranteed sighting of wild bears, the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary near Orr allows visitors to view bears from an observation deck in the woods. Volunteers at the sanctuary put out natural foods for the bears to eat, luring many wild bears to the grounds. The bears are free to come and go as they please and are not captive in any way. You can learn about how and why this all started by checking out the history. Whether it’s a good idea to continue the practice of feeding the bears is a separate argument.

Black Bear Mother and Cub

Mother and cub checking out some food being offered at Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary.

If you really want to learn from the bear experts, check out the North American Bear Center near Ely. They have several captive bears on site, but the founder did much research with local Black Bears for many years and has first hand knowledge of original studies that had never been done by anyone else. They also have a very educational website!

Black Bear Photos

All of these photos as well as several more are now available for purchase in the Wildlife Gallery! All products are printed using archival inks and materials. Choose from prints, gallery wrapped canvases, or metals.

Bring some North Woods wild into your home or office today!

Minnesota’s Gunflint Trail and Superior National Forest

Have you ever traveled any or all of the Gunflint Trail in northeastern Minnesota?

Iron Lake Panorama

Iron Lake Panorama

Here are just a few things you’ll find along the way:

Gunflint Trail

Cook County Hwy 12, aka the Gunflint Trail, starts in the town of Grand Marais right on the north shore of Lake Superior. Most people who make it this far continue further up the shore on Hwy 61 towards Grand Portage and the Canadian border, which is well worth the trip in its own right. But if you hang a left at Hwy 12 and head up the hill, the Gunflint goes inland into Superior National Forest for 57 miles on a two lane paved road until it terminates at Trail’s End campground.

Grand Marais lighthouse

Grand Marais Lighthouse 

You’ll be “off the grid” soon after leaving town, meaning no cell phone service. You’ll have access points to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, which is the largest wilderness in the Lower 48. There are more lakes than you can count; some of which allow motor boats and others within the BWCA that do not. This will probably be one of your best chances of seeing a moose in Minnesota, as well as other birds and wildlife that you won’t see other places in the state.

Minnesota Moose

Moose with Junco Lake double exposure

There are well maintained dirt roads (most are seasonal) that lead to several public boat landings and hiking trails if you choose to venture further off the Gunflint Trail. You can enjoy spectacular scenery without getting too far from your car, such as from this boat landing at Aspen Lake:

Aspen Lake Sunrise

Aspen Lake Sunrise

or this one at Iron Lake:

Iron Lake Panorama

Iron Lake Panorama

If you really want to experience the landscape, you’ll need a canoe or a good pair of hiking shoes. You’ll also want topographical maps, a compass, and the skill to use both. The area has amazing hiking trails, some of which require route finding ability because they are not used frequently and can become overgrown in spots. But most people explore the area by canoe. Either way, you’ll need a permit to enter the BWCA if you’re doing anything longer than a day trip.

Canoeing in the BWCA

Canoeing in the BWCA

Most of the hiking trails in this area have lots of rocks and roots, making them slippery when wet. Even short hikes can be a challenge when they involve steep climbs, which many of them do. But if you’re willing to get out on the trails, the rewards are well worth the effort.

Honeymoon Bluff

View from Honeymoon Bluff

There are several campgrounds in Superior National Forest as well as lodges and outfitters all along the Gunflint Trail. I’ve stayed at several different campgrounds in the forest; and the further up the trail you go, the fewer people you generally encounter. You’ll most likely wake up to the sounds of loons calling no matter where you hang your hat for the night.

Common Loon

Here was a sunrise from my campsite at East Bearskin Lake just a couple weeks ago during a rainy stretch:

East Bearskin Lake at Sunrise

East Bearskin Lake at Sunrise

… and a sunset at Flour Lake the night before:

Flour Lake

Fog rising on Flour Lake

A little further up the trail, you’ll cross the Laurentian Divide, where the rivers now flow north towards Hudson Bay in Canada rather than east to Lake Superior. You’ll see the scarred trees from the Ham Lake wildfire 10 years ago as well as the new forest growing.

Ham Lake Fire

The landscape still shows scars 10 years after the Ham Lake fire along the Gunflint Trail.

If you want to learn more about the history of the Gunflint Trail and the people who settled the area, I highly recommend a visit to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center near the trail’s end on Saganaga Lake! They’ve got lots of activities for all ages and are continuing to expand the museum itself.

Take it easy with a luxurious week at a nice lodge or cabin with all the amenities, or rough it in the woods (please know about bear safety).

Loon Lake

Loon Lake

Happy trails on the Gunflint! I can’t wait to go back!

 

Topaz Studio Free Photo Editing Program

Do you need a professional photo editing program that can handle RAW files, but don’t want to spend the cash on Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom? You may want to consider a brand new program just introduced by Topaz Labs called Topaz Studio.

Topaz Studio

Topaz Studio

Topaz Studio is a FREE download for either Windows or Mac users and works as a stand alone program or as a plug-in with Photoshop or Lightroom. It comes with the following 10 adjustments, tools, and effects included:

There are also currently 14 different “Pro” adjustments that can be purchased as add-ons. You can buy only the ones that you want, or get the entire Pro collection on sale for only $99.99 until June 30, 2017 (regularly $274.86).

straight out of camera

Straight out of camera

 

Topaz Studio Radiance and Smudge

Edit with Topaz Studio Radiance and Smudge

The Pro adjustments include:

As with all Topaz Labs products, you can try before you buy with a 30 day grace period. If you choose to take advantage of the hugely discounted introductory price, use code “STUDIO” by June 30, 2017 to get all 24 assets, tools, and pro adjustments for only $99.99.

Nature Photography Day 2017

Nature Photography Day is June 15, 2017! So, what the heck is Nature Photography Day?

Painted Turtle Portrait

Nature Photography Day

“In 2006, NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) celebrated the first Nature Photography Day and placed it in McGraw-Hill’s reference work, Chases’s Calendar of Events. Many media and websites took notice. Since then, people throughout the North American continent as well as overseas have discovered numerous ways to observe and enjoy the day.” – NANPA

Thursday, June 15 2017 marks 12 years of Nature Photography Day! Not only is this a day for photographers to capture the beauty of our natural world, it’s a day to promote the enjoyment of nature photography and celebrate how images have helped advance conservation efforts to preserve landscapes, plants and animal species around the world.

“Consider that the pursuit of nature photography has helped to save species of animals and plants, plus their habitat. Preservation is a legacy. In fact, the world’s first-ever national park—Yellowstone, in 1872—came about thanks to the images of William Henry Jackson.” – NANPA

Echinacea

The North American Nature Photography Association encourages people everywhere to enjoy the day by using a camera to explore the natural world. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – your smartphone camera will be just fine. A backyard, park, or local lake close by can work. Walking, hiking, or riding a bike to take photos are activities that don’t lead to a carbon footprint and it’s appropriate for all ages and abilities. There are LOTS of parks and trails right in the Twin Cities where you can unplug, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. And just being out in nature can ease stress and improve mood!

How and where will you celebrate Nature Photography Day?

North Woods Photos at St. Paul Art Crawl 2017

North Woods Photos will be participating in the St. Paul Art Crawl 2017 at Dow Art Gallery and Picture Framing again this year!

Minnesota Moose

Minnesota Moose double exposure

St. Paul Art Crawl 2017

When: April 28 – 30, 2017. Friday 6-10 pm, Saturday noon – 8 pm, Sunday noon – 5 pm.

Where: Dow Art Gallery, 2242 University Avenue West, St. Paul, MN 55114

What: There are 30+ artists currently showing in Dow Art Gallery alone, including myself. Painters, sculptures, fiber arts, 3D, and photography. I will have many matted and mounted prints available for purchase that aren’t typically available at the gallery. Special sales too! A perfect opportunity to pick up gifts for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays or holidays for friends and family while supporting a local artist!

Who: You! It’s a family friendly event, so bring the kids too! There will be snacks and entertainment as well as amazing art 🙂

Blue Mounds Bison Double Exposure

Blue Mounds Bison Double Exposure

Metro Transit will also be offering FREE rides to St. Paul Art Crawl 2017 on Saturday & Sunday. Click on the link to download your free pass!

Hope to see you at “the Dow” for St. Paul Art Crawl 2017!

Topaz Labs Spring Sale

Save 40% – Topaz Labs Spring Sale!

Topaz Spring Sale

Take advantage of the best pricing this year on the complete lineup of Topaz products, with 40% off the entire TopazLabs.com store until 4/16/17. Whether you want amazing photo effects or technically perfect images, Topaz helps you create the looks you love faster than ever.

What is the Collection?
With the recent addition of Topaz Texture Effects 2, Impression 2, and Glow 2, the Complete Collection includes all 17 plugin products, which individually would cost over $1000. We normally offer the Complete Collection at 50% off the price of buying the plugins individually. However, until the end of this sale you can take an additional 40% off the Collection and Collection upgrades.

Gooseberry Lower Falls HDR

Before

Gooseberry Lower Falls Winter Restyle

After using Topaz Restyle

What is a Collection upgrade?
If you’ve already purchased an individual product (or several products) from Topaz in the past, our system already discounts the collection upgrade price. As long as you’re signed into your account, you can get an additional 40% off your custom collection upgrade pricing through the end of the Spring sale. Whether you’re just starting or looking to expand your collection, there is never a better time to buy!

Ready to Purchase?

Use coupon code SPRING40 to take advantage of the Topaz Labs Spring Sale and save 40% on the Complete Collection or any individual program. Offer expires April 16, 2017.

How to Photograph Waterfalls

Have you ever wondered how to photograph waterfalls so that you get that silky smooth water effect? It’s not as hard as you think! Here are a few simple tips:

Gooseberry Winter Lower Falls

Gooseberry Falls State Park, North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota

Gear Needed to Photograph Waterfalls

If you want to get that silky smooth water flowing effect, you’re going to need some gear:

  • Sturdy Tripod
  • Neutral Density Filters
  • Possibly a Polarizing Filter depending on your focal length and the scene you’re shooting.
  • Camera that can accept filters and can be set to manual to do long exposures.
  • Backpack or other means of getting your gear to the location.
  • Possibly ice cleats for your boots/shoes if you’re shooting in winter, like this particular shot.

Ideal Conditions to Photograph Waterfalls

The best weather conditions for shooting waterfalls is a calm overcast day. The rocks and surrounding areas are typically much darker than the whitewater that flows through the river channel, so sunny days can really blow out your whites and highlights. You also want calm winds since you’ll be doing long exposures and you don’t want the camera getting buffeted by the breeze. And of course, you want to shoot during a time of year when there is adequate water flowing, otherwise you’ll be left with a trickle (if anything) coming over the drop. Typically spring snow melt or after a rainfall are good times.

Gooseberry Upper Falls

How to Photograph Waterfalls

Once you’ve scouted a location and managed to get there, choose your composition and set up your tripod. Determine what aperture you want and keep it constant. Since you’re on a tripod, make sure your image stabilization is turned off. If you’re going after the silky smooth water look, you’ll want a relatively slow shutter speed, at least a few seconds long. Use a remote control to trip the shutter, or set a self timer so that you don’t move the camera when you press the shutter. I typically bracket my shots 2 stops of light apart until I’ve covered the dynamic range in the scene by keeping the aperture constant and changing ISO or shutter speed. You’ll be underexposing some shots to get details in the whitewater while overexposing others to get details in the surrounding rocks.

Post Processing

This particular shot was actually four different exposures that were then blended together using HDR (High Dynamic Range) software in Adobe Lightroom. There are other HDR programs out there, but Lightroom or Photoshop are the ones that I use. Once you’ve got your HDR, process to taste as usual.

Gooseberry Falls hdr

Four shots blended to create a HDR image.

This is what my image looked like after blending the four exposures together, but I wanted to add some color to give it a little more pizzazz. There are lots of ways to do that, but the fastest and easiest for me is to use Topaz Restyle plug-in. That program has more presets than I’ve counted, and you also have complete control to customize those presets and even change blending modes. It’s also non-destructive, so play around with as many different edits as you like. The options are endless! For this image, I used “Blue Gray Shade” and adjusted opacity as well as a few other tweaks to get my final result:

Gooseberry Winter Lower Falls

Final Result after adjusting color palette in Topaz Restyle

I hope you learned a few helpful tips – now go out and give it a try yourself!