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- Animals/Birds of the Badlands, Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks 2016
- National Parks Landscapes 2016
- Animals of Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands 2014
- Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands Landscapes 2014
- Animals of Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands 2012
- Yellowstone/Tetons/Badlands Landscapes 2012
- Animals of Yellowstone 2011
- Birds of Yellowstone 2011
- Yellowstone/Tetons Landscapes 2011
- Yellowstone Textures
- Custer State Park, SD
- Great Smoky Mountains NP
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Utah National Parks
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We spent three days in Death Valley National Park last week (January, 2019). While many of the areas were closed due to the shutdown of the federal government (grrrr), we did see some of the notable features including the salt flats of Badwater Basin 282 feet below sea level - the lowest place in the western hemisphere, sand dunes, mountains and valleys, desert, a 200 year-old volcano crater, and very little wildlife (see previous post about the coyote). It is a pretty hot dry place most of the year, but it was cool, cloudy and rainy for most of our visit with one good day of sunshine.
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We have driven by this tree many times in previous years but never taken the time to stop and enjoy it. The tree, a few miles south of Faribault, MN, has been decorated for several years by Jerry Lageson and has something like 45,000+ lights on it. Most people go whizzing by at 70+ MPH on Interstate 35 and get a fleeting glimpse. There is not an easy exit to get to the side road and requires a few miles south on I-35, then a few more miles back north on county roads, across the interstate, them back south again to get to the tree. This was a perfect early December night right after a new fallen snow. Here is a news feature (after the commercial) from KARE 11 TV.
I missed the full Moon rising last night (I should put these things on my calendar), so I got up early to see it setting this morning. The moon set at 6:03 AM, so I needed to be out to the spot where I wanted to take a photo of it setting behind a local windmill about an hour earlier. When I went out in the dim twilight there was a clear, cloudless sky, bright moon and I could see clearly where I need to be, but the moon was still too high in the sky to get the photo that I wanted. Then it happened. Out of nowhere a thick fog rolled in across the fields and I could no longer see the windmill, and the moon was hazy. Ugh! Well, I waited around to see what would happen and as the sun came up, the fog did dissipate a little. I got a few photos, but the moon was rapidly fading away as it sank in the the fog. Not the sharp, clear picture of the moon behind the windmill that I had hoped for.
The morning was not a total disappointment. In the road ditch where I was standing to take pictures of the moon there were many wild prairie flowers blooming, Monarch butterflies flitting from flower to flower, and I got a photo of a Dickcissel singing on a fence post. Click the photos below to see larger.
On our recent road trip to Utah national parks I was able to get out and photograph the Milky Way in a very dark sky in the Mojave Desert in Southern Utah. Only a few wispy clouds, no moon and almost no light pollution. Incredibly bright stars. I've never seen the Milky Way this bright and clear in Iowa because we have too much light pollution, humidity and haze in the air.
One more Milky Way photo, taken at Balanced Rock in Arches National Park, Utah. This was just after the moon set and just before sunrise one night last week. There is a bit of light on the horizon from the city of Moab, but otherwise a very dark and clear sky.
Some years the North Shore of Lake Superior is frozen over or has huge ice flows by now, but despite several days of below zero weather the lake was still open when I was there last weekend. I like how the water washing up on the shore freezes on the rocks, creating an icy shore-line environment. Watch your step.
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Lightning over Lake Superior at Grand Marais, MN on a June moonlit night. Multiple 8-second exposures blended in Photoshop. After taking some sunset photos of the lighthouse (below) and waiting for the northern lights which never appeared, I was heading south to find a place to sleep before taking some sunrise photos. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a couple of lightning flashes and turned around back to a lake view of the storm. Setting up the camera on the tripod with an intervalometer set to take continuous 8 second exposures, I took photos of the storm moving across the lake for about 45 minutes.
The sailboat and lighthouse photos below were taken earlier in the evening at Grand Marais with a rain shower on the horizon. [Click the photos below to see larger.]
I couldn't resist a few fireworks photos on such a beautiful night at Clear Lake, Iowa. I love how the fireworks paint their abstract colors across the water. ISO 400, f/16, shutter on the 'B' setting for continuous exposure for an undetermined time. I would open the shutter and watch the fireworks as they blossomed and cover up the lens with my hat when they had reached the peak. Some of these are multiple exposures as I would uncover the lens and add another burst, then close the shutter when I thought I had enough on that frame. Confused? Well, I have to take a lot of pictures to get a few good ones because I never know what they will look like. Happy Independence Day!
I took a walk around the yard and gardens between rain showers yesterday and took a few photos of the raindrops on the leaves and flowers. (Click on the images to see larger.)
As our Earth races around the Sun there are a few months, from November to February, when the Milky Way is not visible because it is blocked by the Sun. From March to October the galactic center (the brightest part of the Milky Way) is visible in the Northern Hemisphere and best photographed on a clear night with a new moon. I use an app called Photo Pills to determine what time the galactic center will rise above the horizon and the location - southeast sky in the spring, south in the Summer and southwest in the fall. On this night in April it would be visible from 2:03 AM til 5:07 AM and then the sky would start to get light from the rising Sun. Because there was haze on the horizon I couldn't really see the brightest part until about 3:30 AM and later. These photos with the lonely tree and the windmill were taken between 4:30 and 5:00 AM, ISO 1600, f/3.2, 25 second exposure with a 20mm lens and a sturdy tripod. They are single images. I could get brighter stars by using a higher ISO, but would get more noise (grain) in the sky, or use a technique of image stacking by combining multiple exposures in to one. Something to try next time. (Click the images to see larger.)
We recently took a drive over to the Mississippi River near McGregor, IA to look for Fall colors in the trees. The colors weren't as intense as we had hoped, perhaps because of the dry weather, but we did find some pretty trees. The image above and the first three below were at Pikes Peak State Park. Left to right below - wild ginger and trees, a dry gulch, Bridal Veil Falls (not much water flowing), and last - colorful trees at Effigy Mounds National Monument north of Marquette, IA. (Click the images to see larger)
Lightning tonight. According to my weather app the storm was about 50 miles away. I take lots of long exposures with the hope that I will get a lightning strike in one or two of the frames. The camera is on the tripod, and I use a remote timer (intervalometer) set in this case to take 20 second exposures repeatedly. I never know if I will get a bolt of lightning during that exposure or if it will be in the frame, but sometimes I get lucky. I would never do this when the lightning is close or if I can hear thunder. 112mm, f4.5, ISO 250, 20 second exposure and cropped.
Below is a second image taken earlier with a wide angle lens while there was still a bit of light in the sky from the setting sun. I got a triple! The three lightning bolts didn't happen at exactly the same time, but they happened within the eight-second exposure. The length of time the shutter is open has little to do with the exposure because the lightning strike is so fast, but does allow a wider window of opportunity to capture one. The exposure is controlled by the f/stop and ISO (and perhaps a bit of post-processing in Lightroom and Photoshop). 35mm, f/5, ISO 100, 8 second exposure and cropped.
Last evening I tried out the new digital remote trigger (intervalometer) that I have for my camera. I had it set to take one exposure every 15 seconds for about an hour and a half as the clouds came rolling in ahead of a storm. I stopped taking pictures when it started raining. Then I opened the 300+ still images in Adobe Premiere Elements and made them in to a time-lapse movie. (This is part-1. I'm working on a longer version over several days.)
Just a few notes about my photos. See more on Facebook.