Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Heron and the Osprey

A few weeks ago on the way home from the Grabnds I stopped at a heron rookery outside of Duluth.  My friend Travis and I were shooting Auroras and since it's summertime it doesn't really get dark until around 10:30-11:00pm.  To make the most of the time we shot straight until 3:30am when the sky started to brighten again marking the end of a very short night.  It was 4:00am when I hit the sack for what would be about 2 hrs of sleep.

I'd visited this rookery a few weeks before in the late afternoon on my way to Grand Portage.  The sky was overcast and the light really crappy so I didn't walk away with anything worthwhile.  I was determined, however, to shoot there in the morning and this morning turned out to be the one.  To catch the morning sun I need to drive the 2 hrs before it got to late so had to rise at 6:00am and hit the road.

It was rather quiet at the rookery.  I was hoping to get adults flying in to feed the young but it just wasn't happening.  I waited and waited, good thing I'm patient, when all of a sudden there was some activity to my left.  Among the herons was an osprey nest and for some reason one of the adult osprey took some interest in the closest heron nest.  It stated dive bombing the two herons, an adult and a youngster.  It must have dive bombed the nest a half dozen times and I was lucky to witness it and photograph it.  Following are image sequences of a couple of the ospreys passes.

the adult is actively watching the osprey

never taking its eye off the predator

 protecting its young the adult makes itself look bigger

then decides it's going to scare it away with its ferocious call

 and at the last minute ducks low

its safe now to come back up as the osprey flies off

not taking it's eye off the osprey,

its preparing for another attach

the osprey approaches again

again the adult puffs up in size

looking tall and ominous

both adult and young try to look fearsome

and again duck at the last minute

Is the osprey done yet?

not taking their eyes off the bird

it comes in again with talons outstretched

the youngster is getting a little braver and doesn't duck as far down as the parent.

The osprey wasn't done but you get the point.  Eventually the osprey returned to its nest to be with it's young.  The other adult heron showed up and soon after the first adult took off.  It didn't take long before the second adult also took off leaving the youngster by itself.  i wondered what the osprey was going to do now that the youngster was by itself.  Well the adults must have known something because the osprey left the young heron alone, well for as long as I was there.

It was a beautiful morning to sit by this pond and watch the wildlife.  It reminded me of the day last year when we spent the entire day watching Loons nesting.  It was during the drive home that the short night caught up with me.  A half hour power nap get me home safely.


Monday, June 18, 2012

A Night of Northern Lights

Last Thursday June 14 my iPhone chirped with the sounds of an incoming email. As I normally do I looked down and saw a message from Space Weather about an incoming CME, the kind of blast from the sun that create an aurora. It not only talked about a CME but said there were 2 CMEs heading toward earth due to arrive Saturday June 16. As luck would have it I was planning to make a trip back up to the Grand’s, Portage and Marais, this weekend and it looked like I was going to have my first Northern Lights show from the North Shore.

Anticipation was riding high as I made my way north on Friday afternoon. I travel north quite often although this was just the 4th time so far this year. Over the last year or so aurora activity has been particularly high but I've missed the big one that can extend overhead. I've lucked out and made some aurora images but the aurora was typically hugging the northern horizon.  Hopefully this would change this weekend.


10:46pm - McFarland Lake

I got up to by friends in Grand Portage Friday night and we began talking of the following night and plans for aurora shooting. And then he mentioned the weather forecast. In my excitement I had not checked the forecast assuming clear skies. Well the forecast for Saturday and Saturday night was cloudy with 70% rain. Oh great, I’m finally up north, have an excellent prediction of auroral activity and it’s going to be cloudy. In Minnesota one doesn’t totally give up on things because of the weather because weather predictions are frequently wrong.

12:12am - First view of Aurora off the Arrowhead Trail

Saturday came and we had really nice weather during the day. Blue sky, sun and nice clouds with very comfortable temperatures was in stark contrast to a day filled with rain, so maybe the forecast for tonight would be wrong as well. I lazed around the trailer in Grand Marias much of the day before traveling back up to Grand Portage. Not long after I arrived the sky started clouding up and, well, it was looking like the storm was finally making its way toward us. The radar weather map was looking really bad with a long line of thunderstorms bearing down on us. The only good thing was the storms were moving quickly and the hope was they would come and go before sunset.

12:19am - Doesn't take long for the clouds to move in

Optimistically, we headed out around 7:00 to our sunset location at Esther Lake. Expecting to get hit by some huge storm on the way out it just barely sprinkled, although enough to clear off the windshield a couple of times. Once at the lake it began raining. First a little then a lot, lightning, thunder and rain beat down on the windshield as we sat patiently hoping the storm would pass so we could get a nice sunset. As 9:00pm approached it was obvious the skies were not going to part and since sunset was a 9:00pm as well we decided to head over to our aurora site at Lake McFarland. Again it was raining, although not so heavy, and we found ourselves sitting, waiting. It’s a good thing Travis and I are real patient, we were certainly spending a lot more time sitting and waiting in the car than shooting.

2:00am - Cascade River from The Grade

A couple hours passed and the sky lightened a bit enough for some definition in the clouds so we got out to shoot the clouds. Then on the horizon a bright peek of light began showing thru. It slowly grew and spread and we thought we were in luck. But wouldn’t you know it another bank of clouds were moving in to take ownership of the sky. Crap!! It had stopped raining but the clouds remained. They were thin clouds, you could catch stars thru then, but not thin enough to see the aurora.

2:08am - Cascade River from The Grade

I was staying in my trailer in Grand Marais about 20 mile south and west of where we were. Thinking the clouds might have already cleared down there we headed to "town". But first we stopped at a north facing overlook on the Arrowhead Trail. Travis got out to check. The sky was relatively clear towards the north and sure enough the aurora was shining bright in the sky. You’ve never seen guys move so fast getting camera and tripods out and starting to shoot. It was glorious watching the ebb and flow of the clouds of solar wind. It’s didn’t take long before those darn clouds made a reappearance and the prospect was not looking good. Having seen some beautiful lights we took off toward Grand Marais. Travis knew of a good place on The Grade with water in the foreground.

2:40am - Turn around and the Milky Way beacons attention

 It’s about 1:00am by now and we are high tailing it down Hwy 61 toward Grand Marais getting there as fast as we could. There weren’t many cars on the road just a few. We passed one car and Travis immediately slowed down to the speed limit, we were using the speed limit as merely a suggestion up to this point. I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a pair of headlight doing a U-turn and slowly gaining on us. Whoa-boy looks like we’re going to meet the local sheriff. He pulls up behind me and it didn’t take long for his red light to start flashing behind me so I immediately pulled over to the side of the road and sat there watching Travis drive off, lucky guy. The sheriff was nice and to make a long story short ticketed me for not having my proof of insurance but gave me a warning for going 67 in a 55 mile zone. Whew. I’m a wounded vet from the View Nam era and have Combat Wounded Vet license plates on my vehicles. Wonder if that had anything to do with him giving me a warning or not.

2:41am - Aurora meets the Milky Way right overhead

I found Travis waiting for me at the gas station. I told him briefly about my experience before heading up to The Grade. The drive is mostly thru a corridor of trees and it’s very hard to see the horizon so it was a big question for me if we were in luck. Finally Travis slowed down at the river crossing and lo and behold the sky was clear of clouds and the aurora filled half the sky. For the next two hours we shot the aurora on one side of the road and the milky way on the other side of the road.

3:09am - Dawn is approaching, lighting up the horizon

As the hour hand moved past 3:00am the morning light started illuminating the sky. Within a few minutes most of the aurora had disappeared and we decided to call it a night. It was 4:00am when I got back to the trailer. What a thrilling night, one I will remember forever. I knew my camera had some exciting images inside that I was looking forward to seeing when I got home. Back at the trailer I set my alarm for 6:00am so I could get up and head down to Duluth to shoot some Herons in the morning light.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

The way I see Taos Pueblo

As I wrote in my last blog post, December Trip West - Day 22 - Taos Pueblo, Taos Pueblo was one of the hilites of my recent trip.  I always felt a Black and White image of Taos Pueblo was more fitting of the way I feel about this place.  I have spent some time converting images From Taos Pueblo to Black and White and I've uploaded them to my website.

Clicking on any of he images will take you to my Taos Pueblo gallery where you can see those that I have uploaded so far.

Pueblo Taos Pueblo Taos, New Mexico (5II2-11266)

Grave Yard Taos Pueblo Taos, New Mexico (5II2-11629)

Two Ovens Taos Pueblo Taos, New Mexico (5II2-11494)

I intend to upload more and will eventually make this into a folio

Roger (-:)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

December Trip West - Day 22 - Taos Pueblo

Ever since I'd decided to head to Santa Fe and Taos I'd been looking forward to visiting Taos Pueblo. Having gotten a glimpse of Nambe Pueblo yesterday made the anticipation of Taos Pueblo even greater. Since today is also the start of the trip home I had a limited amount of time there.

So I awoke early in time to have the free french toast breakfast and arrived just as they were opening the Pueblo at 8am. Being the first to arrive I found the Pueblo vacant of other tourists and natives. There were dogs though, about a half dozen roaming around. The first structure you see after entering is the San Geronimo Chapel. The chapel was completed in 1850 and is one of the youngest structures in the Pueblo. It was built to replace the original church which was destroyed in the War with Mexico by the U.S. Army in 1847. That church, the ruins still evident on the west side of the village, was first built in 1619. It was then destroyed in the Spanish Revolt of 1680 but soon rebuilt on the same site.

Past the church is a large open common area. I'm sure this area is used for the many religious ceremonies conducted in the Pueblo. On the left side of the common area is the large 4 story structure so identified with Taos Pueblo, it was an instant magnet for me. The trip to Taos Pueblo took on two meanings for me. Of course I was there to photograph it but there was the historical aspect that permeated by entire visit.

I was just so awe struck by the history of the Pueblo. The Spanish conquered, enslaved and forced the natives into Christianity in the early 1600s, to ‘civilize’ them. In 1680 the natives organized a revolt and forced out the Spanish in the Spanish Revolt of 1680. 14 years later the Spanish raided Taos Pueblo in a successful military conquest that completed the recolonization of the area. It wasn’t until 1970 that President Nixon returned the Pueblo’s 48,000 acres of mountain land to the Northern Tiwa tribe.

Another aspect of the Pueblo’s history I find interesting is the preservation of the buildings. Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico is a wonderful example of an ancient Pueblonian community. Long ago vacated by its inhabitants, the site has deteriorated into ruins. Chaco Canyon dates back to the 850-1250AD timeframe overlapping with the Taos Pueblo construction years of 1000-1450AD. While the wall construction methods are different, Chaco building walls are constructed with stone with mud and Taos Pueblo walls are adobe, the appearance of the structures are quite similar. It is easy to visualize the Chaco Canyon community looking similar to Taos Pueblo if it had been maintained thru the years.

After spending a lot of time photographing and feeling the history of the large 4 story structure it was time to slowly venture around other areas of the Pueblo where visitors are allowed. Smoke was rising from homes in the early morning chill. It’s said that about 150 people still live in the Pueblo full time. I did see a few people entering and leaving their homes but not many. It was very quiet.

As the morning wore on more visitors arrived and some of the homes started opening as arts and crafts store fronts. I entered a silversmiths place. Inside the adobe walls were covered with a white plaster. It was very clean and comfortable. A small fireplace was burning cedar and provided the heat for the rooms. I also entered another place that sold fresh baked bread. It was very similar in appearance to the previous place. As I was eating some fry bread, with powdered sugar, I learned that with the exception of propane that has been added to some of the homes of the Pueblo for lighting and I assume heat the homes are as they have been for hundreds of years. It’s pretty amazing that in these modern times people will continue their traditional ways. The homes within the Pueblo are ‘owned’ by the families that reside in them and are handed down to younger generations.

I ended up spending about 4 hours in Taos Pueblo. It is a place of interesting history of a people I respect. It is also a place that I wish to visit again.

It was noon when I left the Pueblo and started my drive home. My destination for tonight is North Platte, Nebraska some 600+ miles from Taos. I put North Platte into my iPhone Navigation app and off we went. To my surprise, as I was heading east on NM160 there is the sign to Great Sand Dunes national Park. I had originally planned to stop at the park but my disappointment with the other three sand dunes I stopped at made me bypass this park. Now I was within 16 miles of it so I decided to turn around and check it out.

I’m glad I did. There are some really cool perspectives from a distance of the dunes against the mountains in the background. I was there a few hours before sunset so there were some nice shadows on the dunes. I did drive all the way to the parking area but didn’t have time to stop. The side trip added about an hour to my drive and it was an hour well spent.

Tomorrow is a travel day ending when I get home. This is going to be my last blog article of this trip. It was fun sharing my adventure with you. I hope you enjoyed the journey thru my eyes and experiences.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

December Trip West - Day 21 - High Road to Taos

Today I took the 'High Road to Taos'  If you took the low road you no doubt beat me since it took the whole day, which was the plan.  I'm going to start off with a horse I met.  I was driving around Nambe, New Mexico when I came upon this old adobe structure I wanted to photograph.  I got out of the car, walked up the embankment and as soon as I did this horse came walking over.  Turned out to be a real sweet horse.  She let me scratch her head, cheeks and neck.  I'm getting braver with horses now that Carolyn is in my life.

Speaking of Nambe I drove over to the Old Nambe Pueblo.  The pueblo was supposed to have a nice plaza and church. As I turned off the paved road onto the dirt road leading to the pueblo I passed a truck, driving slowly scoping me out.  I waved and he cautiously waved back and I kept going.  Just as I was about to enter the pueblo I saw a sign 'No Photos Please'.  Seeing as though that's what I was after and wishing to respect the residence wishes I was about to turn around when a truck pulls up next to me.  The lady driver rolled down her passenger window and ask if she could help.  I said I came to take photos, saw the sign and was leaving.  Correct answer.  She smiled and drove away.  The part of the pueblo I saw was exactly what I was hoping to photograph but it was not to be.

Chimayó to visit Santuario

The next stop was Chimayó to visit Santuario de Chimayó.  Santuario de Chimayó was built in 1816 and is considered the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States receiving 300,000 visitors per year.  Some of those 300,000 visitors were there today witnessed by the people in the images.

Chimayó to visit Santuario

Apparently the church is known for it's cures and the holy dirt pilgrims take home in hopes of a miraculous cure for themselves or someone who could not make the trip.  I went into the church and wish I could have photographed it but that's not allowed.  A small chapel adjoining the church contained the holy dirt as well as mementos of those 'cured', shoes, crutches, pictures and other items.

San Jose de Gracia
San Jose de Gracia

Next it was on to Las Trampas and the San Jose de Gracia church.  Erected between 1760 and 1776, this is one of the best-preserved and most representative examples of the Spanish Colonial churches in New Mexico.  The church was locked so I couldn't get inside.  I was particularly looking to make images with interesting aspects of the churches not necessarily including the entire church.

San Lorenzo
From Las Trampas I stopped at Picuris Pueblo to photograph the church there, San Lorenzo church.  After the experience with Nambe Pueblo I was a little hesitant entering Picuris until I noticed a Visitors Welcome sign that directed visitors to the Museum to purchase a permit.  I went over to the Museum but it was obvious it had closed some time ago and I was directed by a sign on the door to the admin building across the street.  Of course no one was there being Jan 1st so there was no one to get a permit from.  Since the church was right there I decided it was ok to make some images.  

San Lorenzo
San Lorenzo
The church is a few hundred years old and has recently undergone 8 years of restoration by the residents.  This was my favorite church to photograph.  Since Christmas has just passed there are alot of Christmas ornaments adorning the churches.  I bet the churches really look nice at night all lit up but the ornaments are a bit distracting in photographs.  San Lorenzo didn't have any such ornamentation.

San Francisco de Asis

Last stop was at San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos.  Construction on the church began around 1772 and was completed in 1815.  It's a few miles south of Taos Pueblo and has inspi
red some of the greatest artists of recent time, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and Georgia O'Keeffe.

San Francisco de Asis

The day ended in Taos New Mexico.  Tomorrow morning I'll visit Taos Pueblo.  I'm quite excited.