Landscape Minnesota Nature Wildlife

New June Photos From Minnesota

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!

Tallgrass Prairie Sunrise
Tallgrass Prairie Sunrise

June Photos

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.

Prairie Sunset
Prairie Sunset

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 😉


Turkey Vulture in Flight
Turkey Vulture in Flight

Beautiful flowers that change by the month here in the northland summer.


Prairie Wildflowers
Hoary Vervain

I’ve still got lots more to go through from Pipestone National Monument, Blue Mounds State Park, and Jeffers Petroglyphs. I highly recommend visiting these spots yourself some time soon!

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.

Creative Tips Lightroom Photo Editing Photoshop Topaz Labs tutorial

Add Stars To Your Photos In A Few Easy Steps

In this tutorial, I will show you how to add stars to your photos in a few easy steps using Topaz Labs Star Effects.

Split Rock Lighthouse Star

Split Rock Lighthouse

Image Preparation

First, you will need to do any basic edits in your regular photo editing software. Topaz Star Effects works as a plug-in to Photoshop or Lightroom and is not a stand alone product.

Edit Your Image In Topaz Star Effects

When you first bring your prepped image in to Topaz Star Effects, you will notice three main areas of the screen. The left column shows the presets and the smaller image at the top of the stack gives you a preview of each preset as you hover over it. The large middle screen is what’s happening with your image as you apply the actions that you choose. For this particular image, I chose the preset “Lamp Post One” and at this point it looks like a hot mess.

Topaz Labs Star Effects

Now go over to the panel on the far right side of the screen. Under “Star Settings” you can choose different star types. For this image I went with traditional.

Topaz Labs Star Effects

Further down on the right side are the “Main Adjustments” – take the threshold slider all the way to the right. I think of the threshold as being similar to an opacity slider for a layer mask. Bringing it all the way to the right will hide all of the star effects.

Topaz Labs Star Effects

Go back up to “Star Settings” and you’ll notice there are show / hide stars buttons. Choose “show.” This will act similar to a brush on a mask in Photoshop – your mouse will look like a small button with crosshairs and anywhere you click on the image will allow the star effect to show through. In this image, I clicked on the reflector inside the lighthouse window so that only the one star shows in the image.

Topaz Labs Star Effects

You can fine tune your star effect further by going back down to the main adjustments and playing with luminance, how many points you want your star to have, size, spread, angle, etc. Further down on the right side there are even more adjustments for color, temperature settings, and additional adjustments for glow or ring flare. For this image, I only adjusted the number of points from twelve to six and I was done in minutes!

I find all of the Topaz products fun and easy to use – and I can do many things in a fraction of the time it would take in Photoshop. So, if you want to add stars to your photos in a few easy steps, give Topaz Star Effects a try! They have FREE 30 day trials on all of their software, and updates for each product are free for life 🙂

If you’d like to purchase a print of this image of Split Rock Lighthouse for your home or office decor, it’s now available in the Landscape gallery both with and without the star effect!

Creative Tips Photo Editing Photoshop Topaz Labs

Same Photo, Different Looks With Photo Editing

There’s more to making a “pretty picture” than just composing the shot and getting your aperture, shutter speed, exposure and focus just right. Photo editing in post processing is a completely different and important skill in and of itself. It can be time consuming, turn a “meh” shot into a “wow!” shot and can be a ton of fun. And since I shoot in RAW, post processing is a necessity. Here’s just one recent example of how changing the color scheme of a shot from the North Shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota gives it a whole new look and feel:

Straight Out of the Camera

This is what it looked like straight out of the camera with no editing at all. I took this shot just before 9 am in mid-September, so the light wasn’t horrible but was starting to get a little harsh. It was a 13 second exposure using a polarizer and a 9 stop ND filter.

Sugarloaf Cove Straight out of the camera
Sugarloaf Cove Straight out of the camera

A Variety of Photo Edits


Just basic edits to bump up the shadows and add a touch of clarity & vibrance, then a bit of split toning to warm up the rocks and brighten the blues in the sky and water.

Sugarloaf Cove Split Toning
Edited in Lightroom using split toning.

Topaz ReStyle

Topaz Labs has some of my favorite plug-ins to stimulate new ideas and ReStyle has some pretty crazy options to choose from! I like the way you can create different moods just by changing the color, tone, or contrast of the image, which can make it look like you were there at a different time of day or night. Some look realistic and some are way out there. Here are just two examples:

Sugarloaf Cove

Sugarloaf Cove
Edits with Topaz Restyle

Nik Collection Color Efex Pro 4

Nik has some interesting plug-ins as well. For landscapes, I like the cool / warm grad filters in Color Efex Pro. I think this is my favorite edit of the bunch for this particular image!

Edit with Nik Color Efex Pro using a cool / warm filter.
Edit with Nik Color Efex Pro 4

Nik Collection Silver Efex Pro 2

If I’m in a hurry and want to convert a shot to black and white, Silver Efex Pro is my starting point! You’d be surprised at how many different options there are just in black and white! Otherwise, there’s always curves and channels in Photoshop where I can dial it in EXACTLY the way I want it – if I take the time.

Sugarloaf Cove Black & White
Edit with Nik Silver Efex Pro 2

As you can see, the exact same image can take on a completely different mood just by doing basic edits. Some of the third party filter plug-ins can make it very easy to experiment, which sometimes gives me ideas that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of otherwise. In addition to color scheme changes, there are endless other options as well, such as adding textures (OnOne has some good textures that can be used in Perfect Effects), painterly effects (Topaz Impression is awesome), double exposures, or more extreme edits in Photoshop. Although I don’t usually rely on plug-ins (I like to treat each image as a stand alone subject), it’s fun to try new things!

How do you do your photo editing? Which of these edits do you like best?


Landscape Minnesota Nature

New Photos From Northeastern Minnesota!

I went off the grid for a few days last week (as in largest wilderness area in the lower 48 and no cell phone service) and came back with some new photos from northeastern Minnesota that are now available for viewing and purchase from the online gallery! Didn’t see much wildlife this trip, but I saw some amazingly breathtaking scenery that I’d like to share with you.

Set up camp at Two Island Lake in Superior National Forest about 15 miles inland from Grand Marais, MN just in time to capture the sunset:

Two Island Lake Sunset, Superior National Forest

Then pulled an all-nighter (so you wouldn’t have to) shooting the Milky Way and watching the Perseid meteors:

Two Island Lake Milky Way & Meteor
Two Island Lake Milky Way & Meteor

Then went scrambling over jagged rocks with my camera gear in the pitch dark along the Lake Superior shoreline at 4 am (so you wouldn’t have to) to get the sunrise from the east end of Artist Point in Grand Marais:

Artist Point Sunrise

Then went further up the North Shore to Hollow Rock Bay:

Hollow Rock Bay Sunrise, Lake Superior

And even further up the Shore to Grand Portage before turning around at the Canadian border, but not before stopping to admire Mt. Josephine:

Mt. Josephine Panorama
Mt. Josephine Panorama

Went back to Grand Marais to hang out near the shoreline since it was about 20 degrees cooler than the low-90’s temps inland. Had some lunch, played fetch with a local black lab who brought his favorite rock to retrieve out of Lake Superior, and relaxed by the water for a bit:

Grand Marais Lighthouse, Minnesota
Grand Marais Lighthouse

Then up the Gunflint Trail to several beautiful lakes along the Minnesota / Ontario border. Did I mention it was in the 90’s? Even the loons were hot on Gunflint Lake:

Common Loon, Gunflint Lake

Took a short, steep hike up to Honeymoon Bluff near Flour Lake campground, which overlooks Hungry Jack Lake and Bearskin Lake:

Honeymoon Bluff Sunset

Still made it back to Two Island Lake in time to get the tail end of another sunset:

Two Island Lake Sunset, Superior National Forest

Before finally crashing after being up for 36 hours straight. It’s a darn shame I was so tired (and had no cell phone service being off the grid), so I didn’t know the Northern Lights were putting on a brief show later that night.

Next day I broke camp and headed down to Cascade Beach on Lake Superior for some seascapes:

Cascade Beach Fog, Lake Superior
Cascade Beach Fog, Lake Superior

And long exposure photography along the shoreline:

Cascade Beach Lake Superior
Cascade Beach, North Shore of Lake Superior

Before heading back inland up the Sawbill Trail near Tofte to one of my favorite spots that I hadn’t been to in about 25 years – Crescent Lake:

Crescent Lake, Superior National Forest, Minnesota
Crescent Lake, Superior National Forest

Stopped by Temperance River State Park along the lake shore on the way back towards the Twin Cities, but there were waaaay too many tourists and the rivers were all running a little low, so I headed home. I hope you enjoyed reading and looking – hopefully it made you want to be there yourself!

For such a short trip and getting skunked on wildlife sightings, I still managed to get plenty of nice new photos from northeastern Minnesota this trip! Most are already up in the gallery and I have several panoramas that I’ll save for special purchases. Still processing more photos, too! I’m at my 100 image limit in the gallery, so I’ll be removing some older stuff to put new photos up. In other words – it there’s something you like, buy it now while you can 🙂