I finally got around to doing some editing of photos that were taken last month – mostly at Blue Mounds State Park, but also some older ones from the North Shore of Lake Superior as well. That means a whole batch of new June photos from Minnesota have been uploaded to the gallery where they are available for viewing and purchase!
Here are just a few of the shots I took last month.
The sunrises and sunsets were epic! And with open prairie, you can see for miles! At a high point in Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne, MN, you can see as far as Iowa and South Dakota.
As a slow trail runner I seem to attract a lot of buzzards, but this one actually looked me right in the eye…. lol. No shortage of turkey vultures circling overhead, especially near the cliff walls. Waiting for the rock climbers, I guess 😉
Beautiful flowers that change by the month here in the northland summer.
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!
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.
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 🙂
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.
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 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.
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.
Equally spectacular as the sunrises are the sunsets. The mostly Big Bluestem grasses seen in this photo can grow up to seven feet tall!
To See More or Purchase
If you’d like to see more photos from southwestern Minnesota’s prairies, check out the galleries 🙂
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:
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:
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:
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 🙂
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!
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
as well as some 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
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:
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!
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!
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!
Want to learn a fast easy way to turn “blah” forest photos into something surreal? I’m going to show you a way to get two different options out of the same “ho-hum” forest photo in just a few easy steps using Lightroom with either Photoshop for the blur option or Topaz Labs plug-ins for a super fast impressionist painterly effect.
Original Forest Photo
I took this during the middle of a sunny day at St. Croix State Park when the light was a bit harsh. I really liked the way the forest looked in real life, but the image straight out of the camera was, well…. lackluster to say the least.
Original Edits in Lightroom
For this one, I only did some very basic edits in Lightroom: brought the temp slider down to emphasize the blues and turned the hue slider on the aqua channel way up. You may have to make different tweaks depending on the image you’re starting with.
Option One – Linear Blur
From this point, I did two different edits starting with the basic Lightroom adjustments. For the first, I then took the photo in to Photoshop CS6 -> duplicate layer -> Filter -> Blur -> Motion Blur and adjust to taste. For this one I had the angle at 90 and distance at 500 pixels. I used the normal blending mode at opacity of about 76. Save and fin:
Option Two – Impressionist Painting
The second option was to take the basic Lightroom adjusted photo in to Topaz Clean to de-clutter some of the details. I wasn’t really satisfied at this point as it wasn’t the end result I was looking for, so I then tried Topaz Simplify and chose the Impressions Natural preset in the Painting category. In this case, I probably didn’t need Topaz Clean to get the result I ended up with. Since the Topaz Labs plug-ins work with either Photoshop or Lightroom, you can use them with either. I didn’t really tweak it beyond that except to add a vignette when I brought it back to Lightroom. Fin.
I got two completely different abstract forest photos that you’d never know came from the original – all in about 10 minutes. And I was lolly gagging. I’m not sure which edit I like better – I like them both for different reasons. I hope you like them, too! If so, do you have a favorite?
One of the cool things about the Great Lakes is that each one has it’s own personality. I was born and raised in Michigan and my Grandfather was a freighter captain on the Great Lakes, so I’ve had a chance to get to know them a bit. While Lake Superior with her rugged shoreline is the big lake that I visit the most these days, I just had an opportunity to stroll on one of the many long sandy beaches of Lake Michigan that line the western coast of the lower peninsula. These dunes reach more than 250 feet high – and the locals use snow plows to get the sand off the roads after a windy day. Here are a few snaps from a brief visit to Warren Dunes State Park last week near peak fall color season!
Warren Dunes State Park
Peak color season in the third week of October and I almost had the park to myself. During the summer this beach would be packed with swimmers and the hang gliders would be taking off from the 260 foot high dunes.
A nice stroll on a Lake Michigan beach in southwestern Lower Michigan.
Maple Leaf on the beach.
There were more sea gulls than people here today.
I love the color of the water!
While the beach is relaxing with the rhythmic sound of the waves coming ashore, nearby Warren Woods has short picturesque trails through the woods.
Warren Woods at peak fall color.
The Galien River flows right through Warren Woods.
Another fun thing about living near one of the Great Lakes is that the weather can be completely different – and change very rapidly – compared to what it’s doing just a few miles away! By the end of this week, these trees will all be bare and will soon be covered by snow. Much more snow than they’ll get just a few miles inland. Good ‘ole lake effect.
What’s your favorite Great Lake?
What’s your favorite trail to hike in the North Woods in autumn?
What’s your favorite play spot in Michigan? If you haven’t been yet, get on it! 😉
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