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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 🙂

 

 

Categories
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?

Categories
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.