Landscape Minnesota Nature Wildlife

Blue Mounds Minnesota

Most of the time when I shoot in my home state, it’s within an hour of the Twin Cities or up along the North Shore of Lake Superior. But Minnesota is a large and diverse state, with everything from farmland to deciduous forests to conifer forests, loaded with lakes in most places (but not all), and rolling prairies filled with wildflowers and grasses that get taller than most people. This past weekend, I finally made a trip to the extreme southwestern corner near Luverne, MN to Blue Mounds State Park and the prairies of Minnesota!

Prairie Wall area of Blue Mounds State Park
Prairie Wall area of Blue Mounds State Park

Blue Mounds

Blue Mounds is one of Minnesota’s hot rock climbing spots, so it’s surprising that I’d never made it out here during my climbing days. The Sioux quartzite cliffs stretch about a mile and a half and reach a height of 90 feet. The rock is a beautiful mix of pink, purple, red, orange, and yellow hues that seem to change color with the time of day and direction of the sun. The abundant rock outcrops and shallow soil prevented this small patch of land from being plowed as agriculture moved into the area, but heavy grazing has diminished many of the native grasses and wildflowers that make up the prairie.

Pre-dawn Prairie Sky

The area is rich with Native American history and I highly recommend visiting the Jeffers Petroglyphs and Pipestone National Monument if you ever venture to this area. I may do separate posts about those two locations at some point 🙂

Antique Tepee

I started my day by getting up and out on the trail at 4 am to catch the sunrise. It was a doozy! Hot, humid, hazy, and windy.

Prairie Sunrise

Prairie Sunrise

Blue Mounds Wildlife

While watching the sun rise, there was a herd of wild bison off to my left grazing peacefully and a chorus of morning bird-songs filled the air. Pure bliss. Several of the birds are not regulars in the Twin Cities, so it was fun to see and hear things like Bobolinks, Common Nighthawks, Dickcissels, and Rock Pigeons just to name a few.

Rock Pigeon Shadow
Rock Pigeon pair casting a shadow

Another major Blue Mounds attraction is the aforementioned small herd of genetically pure wild bison that roam the prairie in this park. By genetically pure, I mean that they don’t have beef DNA that most of today’s bison have since many were crossbred (naturally as well as intentionally) with cattle over the years. They can be tricky to spot in the rolling landscape and tall grass, but I did manage to find them. They were too busy grazing with their heads down in the tall grass to get good photos, but still magnificent to watch.

Blue Mounds Prairie Plants

The prairies are beautiful and change by the week with different wildflowers and grasses blowing in the breeze.

Prairie Wildflowers

And yes, there are native cactus in Minnesota! Patches of prickly pear grow in the shallow soil atop the Sioux quartzite outcrops. A few of them were in bloom, sporting beautiful yellow flowers.

Prickly Pear Cactus
Prickly Pear Cactus

Equally spectacular as the sunrises are the sunsets. The mostly Big Bluestem grasses seen in this photo can grow up to seven feet tall!

Prairie Sunset
Prairie Sunset

To See More or Purchase

If you’d like to see more photos from southwestern Minnesota’s prairies, check out the galleries 🙂



Minnesota Nature Wildlife

Waterfowl Migration 2016

There have been LOTS of ducks, geese, swans, grebes, mergansers, teals, and other birds passing through the Twin Cities the last few weeks. This year’s waterfowl migration has come earlier than usual with the mild winter and early ice out. It’s always fun to see birds return in the spring as it’s a sign that winter is about over, but it’s especially fun to see the species that are just passing through on their way further north. We have the luxury of seeing Mallard Ducks, Canada Geese and Trumpeter Swans all summer, but some of the others are just around for a week or two.

Here are a few sightings so far for spring waterfowl migration 2016:

Or if you prefer to look at stills:

Spring Waterfowl Migration

As seen on Lake Harriet, right in the city of Minneapolis:

American Coots
American Coots – their feet remind me of aquatic plants!


Gadwall Ducks
Gadwall Ducks


Red Breasted Mergansers
Red Breasted Mergansers


Horned Grebe
Horned Grebe

Also on Lake Harriet so far this spring, Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, and a Common Loon that has been eluding my camera lens.

As seen at Hyland Lake in the southern suburb of Bloomington:

Hooded Merganser Pair
Hooded Merganser Pair


Ring-Necked Ducks
Ring Necked Ducks


Trumpeter Swan Fairytale
Trumpeter Swan

Purgatory Creek in the southwest suburb of Eden Prairie still has LOTS of migrating waterfowl including Ring Necked Ducks and Ring Billed Gulls, but most are so far out in the lake I can’t identify them. Here are a few others:

Northern Shoveler Drake
Northern Shoveler Drake


Redhead Ducks
Redhead Ducks


Canada Goose in Flight
Canada Goose

Everything is on the move right now, so what you see on the lake one day can be completely different the next. In a couple of months, we’ll be seeing lots of summer babies, so stay tuned!

If you’d like to see more waterfowl or other wildlife photography, please visit my online wildlife gallery 🙂


Minnesota Nature Wildlife

Spring Migration

Winter this year was a bust here in the North Woods, but now it’s mid-March and we’ve gotten off to an early start with spring migration!

Trumpeter Swan Fairytale

Many Trumpeter Swans are back, along with Mallard Ducks and Canada Geese. But one of the best parts of spring for an Outdoor Photographer is getting to see birds that migrate through this area on the way to their summer nesting grounds. They don’t stick around these parts, so catching a glimpse of the various species that are just “passing through” is a thrill! Flocks of hundreds of Tundra Swans have been flying overhead, along with Ring Billed Gulls, Sandhill Cranes, and several species of waterfowl.

I’ve seen a few Hooded Mergansers on the local ponds

Hooded Merganser Pair

as well as some Ring-Necked Ducks.

Ring-Necked Ducks

I’ve only spotted one American Coot so far and am still waiting to see (and hear) Common Loons, Northern Shovelers, Teals, Osprey, and a bunch more that I’m forgetting at the moment. The local lakes have already iced-out here in the Twin Cities, so the spring migration is happening faster and earlier than usual this year.

Some of my favorite spots for watching are near the rivers: Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix. The Three Rivers Parks are also great for seeing wildlife in the metro area. We’ve got some amazing wildlife refuge areas, including the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge right in the Twin Cities. The Bass Ponds area is a local hot-spot for spring migration and we even get lots of visitors on the Chain of Lakes right in Minneapolis.

eBird is a great site for finding hot-spots in your area 🙂

What migrating birds have you seen in your neck of the woods so far this year?


Landscape Minnesota

Sunrise at Artists Point

It’s amazing how different the same place can look just minutes apart during a sunrise or sunset. Here’s an example from Artists Point in Grand Marais, MN on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Sunrise at Artists Point

I had pulled an all-nighter shooting the Milky Way at nearby Two Island Lake in the Superior National Forest before heading down the hill to the Big Lake at 0:dark thirty. Getting out to the east end of Artists Point meant scrambling over unstable rocks along the Lake Superior shoreline in the pitch dark. Luckily, neither I nor any of my camera gear fell in the water. The things we photographers do to get the shots!

Blue Hour

The blue hour is the period of twilight during dawn each morning and dusk each evening when the sun is a significant distance below the horizon and the residual, indirect sunlight takes on a predominantly blue hue. In general, it starts about an hour before sunrise and lasts 30 minutes or so. Same at the other end, it starts about half an hour after sunset and lasts approximately 30 minutes.

Artists Point Blue Hour
Blue Hour

Dawn Breaking

About 15 minutes before sunrise, the sky begins to change from blue to pink or orange.

Artists Point Dawn Breaking
Dawn Breaking

Golden Hour

In photography, the golden hour is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the Sun is higher in the sky. This is a magical time of day for dramatic landscape photographs. This is from the same location, just a slightly different composition.

Artist Point Sunrise
Artist Point Sunrise

Here’s another from the same spot (different composition) just a few minutes later:

Artist Point Sunrise
Artist Point Sunrise

I had the place all to myself, just listening to the waves rolling up against the rocky shoreline. All of these photos are up in the online Landscape Gallery if you’d like to take a closer look.

Which do you like best?

Creative Tips Landscape Minnesota Photo Editing Topaz Labs

Tettagouche Sunrise

I was recently going through some old photos that I hadn’t gotten around to processing and found a batch from the North Shore of Lake Superior that I took last September when I was up shooting the Superior Fall Trail Races. After pulling an all nighter shooting the 100 milers running under the Aurora Borealis, I headed to Finland to catch the pre-dawn start of the 50 mile race. No time to nap – I headed down the hill to Tettagouche State Park to capture the sunrise. Tettagouche is a spectacular place (as are all of the North Shore state parks), but the lakeside cliffs in this area are big enough to boast some awesome rock climbing and are stunning to look at. Here are a few different edits of the same shot:

Tettagouche Sunrise

First up was the edit I did in black and white, but I just couldn’t get it to pop the way I wanted. I took it into Topaz Labs BW Effects 2 and went with one of the Quad Tone Redscale filters to get this effect.

Tettagouche Sunrise, Quad Tone Redscale
Tettagouche Sunrise Quad Tone Redscale

Next I tried the same original image in Topaz Restyle. This is a fun program that focuses on using different color palettes and some of the presets are things that I’d never think of. It’s a great tool for experimenting with different colors and providing inspiration. This was my favorite of all the edits I tried in Restyle:

Tettagouche Sunrise Pink Plums
Tettagouche Sunrise Topaz Restyle Pink Plums

Another edit using Topaz Texture Effects. This is a new product that just came out at the end of last year and it’s one of my all time favorites! Can be used as a plug-in with Lightroom or Photoshop, or even as a stand alone program. I originally wrote about it here and again here. This was my favorite edit in Texture Effects:

Tettagouche Sunrise Texture
Tettagouche Sunrise Texture Effects Dirty Sunset

A fourth edit using Nik Color Efex Pro 4. I like their split filters, especially the warm / cool sets, but this time I went with one of the violet / pink options:

Tettagouche Sunrise Violet Pink
Tettagouche Sunrise Nik Violet Pink

I like all of them for different reasons and really can’t decide which I like best. Which edit is your favorite?

For larger views or to purchase, check them out in the Landscape Gallery.

Minnesota Nature Wildlife

North Woods Winter Birds: Northern Cardinal

My favorite song bird in Minnesota is a year long resident! The Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) does not migrate and stays within a few kilometers of it’s birthplace for life. Even during sub-zero winter months, these guys and gals can be found hanging around bird feeders (they especially like sunflower seeds), thick bushes, or woodland edges.

Male Northern Cardinal
Male Northern Cardinal

The bright red males are striking at any time of year, but even more so during the winter when the entire North Woods landscape is essentially black and white (with some drab browns thrown in for good measure). Males are bright red overall with a black mask and throat, a red crest, and a large thick red bill.

Females are mostly brown with dull red wings and tail and a reddish crest. They have a black mask and throat and large thick red bill similar to the males. Both genders measure 8.5-9 inches long and have a 10-12 inch wingspan.

Female Northern Cardinal
Female Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinals are one of the few species of North American songbirds where the females sing, even while she’s sitting on the nest! It is thought that this may give her mate information about when to bring food to the nest. Mated pairs share song phrases with the female song being slightly longer and more complex. Check out some calls and songs here.

Speaking of the nest, the female Northern Cardinal builds an open cup-like nest 3-10 feet off the ground well hidden in dense shrubs or vines. The nest is built with twigs, bark strips, weeds or grass, leaves, and pine needles. It measures about 4 inches across (inner diameter of 3 inches, and 2-3 inches tall. The nest can take anywhere from a few days to more than a week to build. They typically lay 3-4 eggs which are incubated by the female for about two weeks. Both parents feed the nestlings – usually insects. The young will leave the nest approximately 9-11 days after hatching. The mated pair may then have another brood or two during the warm summer season.

The Northern Cardinal diet consists mostly of seeds, berries, and insects. They seem to be particularly fond of sunflower seeds when visiting feeders, but will eat other seeds as well.

Male Northern Cardinal Portrait
Male Northern Cardinal at a bird feeder

Northern Cardinals are typically seen in pairs during the warmer breeding season, but will form larger flocks during the winter. Mated pairs may stay together through the winter, but some pairs will split up before the next breeding season. Their populations are stable and they seem to be thriving in their current range 🙂

What is your favorite song bird? Does it stay in your area all year, or does it migrate?

If you’d like to see more images of Northern Cardinals, check out the Wildlife Gallery to view or purchase.


Abstract Black & White Landscape Minnesota Nature Special Offer Wildlife Wisconsin

Blowout Holiday Sale on Gallery Wrapped Canvas Art

Just in time for last minute holiday shoppers, I’m having a blowout sale on gallery wrapped canvas pieces that have already been printed and are ready for you to pick up and take home – today! Wildlife, landscapes, nature, outdoor abstracts – there’s something for everyone who enjoys the outdoors! All of my pieces have all been printed by a professional lab using archival inks and materials and are ready to hang. All they need is your wall to hang on and be admired from 😉

Save Up to 50% on Select Pieces

These pieces are currently on display at Dow Art Gallery and Picture Framing on University Ave in St. Paul. Stop in during business hours to purchase.

North Woods Photos Wall at Dow Art Gallery
North Woods Photos Wall at Dow Art Gallery

Each of the four 12 x 18 pieces shown on the top of the gallery wall: Water Lily Reflection, Pattison Sunset, Lena, and Canada Lynx Kitten retail for $155 + tax. Sale price is only $79 + tax!

The Yellow Flower Abstract & Frosty Maple (not shown here) measure 11 x 14 inches and 1.5 inches thick and retail for $135 + tax. Sale price is only $69 + tax!

The Morning Glory Butterfly measures 11 x 11 inches and retails for $97. Sale price is only $59 + tax!

These pieces are not currently on display but are available for purchase:

Gallery Wall 1

The two Bald Eagle pieces at the top are photographs that have been digitized to make them look like watercolor paintings. They both measure 16 x 20 inches and retail for $185 + tax. Sale price is only $99 + tax!

The Trumpeter Swan Reflection at the bottom is a black and white photograph on canvas, measures 12 x 24 inches and retails for $175 + tax. Sale price is only $99 + tax!

Trumpeter Swan Reflection

I also have a single wood print available. Crex Meadows Crane Sunset measures 8 x 12 inches on 1/2 inch maple board and has keyholes drilled in the back so it’s ready to hang. The grain of the wood shows through on lighter portions of the photo (like the sky). Printed by a professional lab using archival inks. Since every board is unique, this piece is truly one of a kind! Retails for $149 + tax. Sale price is only $75 + tax!

Crex Meadows Sunset on Maple

All of these pieces come ready to hang and don’t need any other framing or hardware. Local buyers may arrange to purchase and pick-up locally to save shipping costs (and avoid any potential damage caused by shipping).

Shipping is available anywhere in the continental US and will vary depending on the piece and my cost to ship to your location. These pieces are available on a first come, first served basis. Additional gallery wrapped canvases can still be ordered through the online gallery at the regular price.

If you have any questions about a particular piece or would like to see a better photo, shoot me a message! We can also meet at Dow Art Gallery if you’d like to see anything in person before purchasing. There won’t be another sale on gallery wrapped canvas art any better than this, so get it while you can!


Michigan Minnesota Nature Special Event Special Offer Wildlife Wisconsin

St. Paul Art Crawl This Weekend

Fall is in the air up here in the North Woods and I’ll be participating in the St. Paul Art Crawl this weekend, October 9 – 11 at Dow Art Gallery and Picture Framing!The art crawl will feature hundreds of artists in several different locations throughout St. Paul.

North Woods Photos Wall at Dow Art Gallery
North Woods Photos Wall at Dow Art Gallery

To see or purchase my work in person, stop by the Dow building and enter through the main entrance on the front of the building, located at 2242 University Ave W in St. Paul. Very close to I-94 and Hwy 280, with free street parking. You can also get free transportation on the green line (get a free ticket at our gallery) or metro transit right to the front door!

I’ll have LOTS of matted and mounted prints with all conservation grade archival papers, inks, and materials on hand – 5×7 prints that fit in an 8×10 frame and 8×10 prints that fit in an 11×14 frame. Many are not available for purchase online and I’ve only printed one copy of most of the photos, so stop by early for the best selection! If you buy 4 prints, you get another print of equal or lesser value FREE! I also have some gallery wrapped canvases and a wood print available for purchase so you can get your holiday shopping done early this year 🙂

Just at Dow Art Gallery and Picture Framing alone, you’ll get to see art by more than 40 artists (photography, paintings, fiber art, sculptures, pottery, and more). There will also be:

  • Make and Take Away Art for Children of all ages,
  • MN Urban Art Contest – vote for your favorite art piece and have a chance to win a $100 Framing Gift Certificate,
  • Featuring Live Music by “The Wall Street Orchestra” performing 7pm to 10pm Friday, 5pm to 8pm Saturday, and 12pm to 3pm Sunday
  • Beer Tasting by Tin Whiskers on Saturday 3pm to 8pm

Hours I plan to be there:

  • Friday Oct 9 from 6-9 pm
  • Saturday Oct 10 from noon – 8 pm
  • Sunday Oct 11 from noon – 5 pm

Hope to see you there!


Landscape Minnesota Special Event Special Offer Trails

Superior Fall Trail Races

I was one of the race photographers for the Superior Fall Trail Races again this year. With distances of marathon, 50 miles and 100 miles – all on the rugged Superior Hiking Trail in northeastern Minnesota – it means I’m usually pulling an all-nighter to shoot the races. This year, we were blessed with perfect weather, clear skies, and an appearance by the Aurora Borealis dancing over the 100 mile runner’s heads.

Ultramarathon Trail Runner, Superior 100, Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis, starry sky

Running under the Northern Lights

I managed to sneak away from the race for a bit and caught the Big Dipper reflecting in a perfectly calm lake – even caught a shooting star going right through the Big Dipper!

Big Dipper, Aurora Borealis, Shooting Star

Aurora Borealis with Shooting Star thru Big Dipper

After the 50 mile race started the next morning in pre-dawn dark, I snuck away to Tettegouche State Park to watch the sunrise over Lake Superior while I had breakfast on the beach.

Tettagouche Sunrise

Tettagouche Sunrise

Then it was back to the races again for the rest of the day! Lugged two cameras, a tripod and a backpack up the Caribou River gorge to get the 50 mile runners as they passed right next to a small waterfall. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the flash for the camera and the light was tricky, so I apologize for the quality of that set of photos 🙁

50 Milers running alongside the Caribou River

After Caribou, I hiked from the Sawbill aid station in to the bottom of the very steep and rocky Carlton Peak, where the marathoners had already gone through but the 50 and 100 milers were still navigating their way to the finish less than 20 miles away. All of my race photos have been posted on the North Woods Photos Facebook page if you’re interested in looking at them. There are a few bonus photos for my Facebook fans as well 😉

I’ve had a couple of inquiries from runners of both this race and the Afton Trail Races if they could purchase copies of photos I took of them running, or the Milky Way photo from last year as well as the Aurora shot from this year. The answer is Yes! Just let me know which ones so I can upload them to the online gallery. I won’t be keeping the individual runner photos for more than a few months after the event, so get them NOW if you want them! I just don’t have the space on my hard drive to keep photos that most people aren’t interested in purchasing after the race has come and gone. You are welcome to download and use the low resolution photos that have been uploaded to Facebook for your personal use for free – just be sure to give me photo credit (a link to this website would be greatly appreciated, too). 🙂

In addition, I’m offering 20% off anything you buy until October 31, 2015 with promo code SUPERIOR2015, so this would be a great time to treat yourself to a photo of your race, or even do a little holiday gift shopping and check out all of the other galleries 😉

Happy Trails!

Landscape Michigan Minnesota Nature Special Offer Wildlife Wisconsin

North Woods Photos Labor Day Sale!

North Woods Photos is having a Labor Day Sale now through Monday, September 7!

Buy Now and get 20% off your entire order with coupon code LABORDAY15 when you order through the online gallery.

Your choice of photographic prints on a variety of paper finishes including the standard luster as well as matte, metallic and pearl, gallery wrapped canvases, metal prints and more!

Wildlife photos including Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, a variety of waterfowl, black bears, and more North Woods locals.

Grizzly Toes

Nature photos including butterflies and flowers.

Monarch Butterfly

Beautiful North Woods landscapes from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan that make you wish you were there right now!

Artist Point Sunrise

Abstract nature photos for something a little different.


Shrub Rose Lena

As always, all products are produced in professional labs with conservation quality archival inks, papers, and materials. With proper care, they will last longer than you!

Buy Now and bring some North Woods wild to the walls of your home or office at a great price! Makes a great gift, too!

Labor Day Sale offer ends at 11:59 pm Monday, September 7, 2015.