Best Of 2020: Photography

Here are my favorite photographs from 2020. I got a late start with my first photo of the year taken on March 31st. Before that I was under the weather and didn’t have enough energy to get out.

Click on a photo to see a slideshow.

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More Waterfalls In Winter

These waterfalls are in Amnicon State Park in far northwestern Wisconsin. It’s not far from Pattison State Park that also has waterfalls as shown in a previous post.

The falls in both parks are along the Douglas Fault line that runs from Ashland, Wisconsin to Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The fault, last active 500 million years ago, passes through both Pattison and Amnicon State Parks. There were many earthquakes around the fault. “Over thousands of years the force of the earthquakes created the ridge that runs through Amnicon Falls State Park and Pattison State Park.” *

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* Who knew? Fault line connects Pattison and Amnicon state parks, Superior Telegram, March 13, 2009

Waterfalls In Winter

Over the past week, I’ve visited Big Manitou Falls and Little Manitou Falls on the Black River in Pattison State Park in northern Wisconsin. It’s been freezing at night long enough for ice to accumulate around the waterfalls. The ice takes on strange, bulbous shapes. The orange/brown color in the ice and water is from tannin. “Streams that flow through watersheds dominated by conifers have a characteristic brown tea color that is the result of tannins leaching out of decomposing conifer needles.” *

It’s a fine time for hiking – no people, no bugs, no foliage blocking sight lines for photography. It hasn’t snowed much; not enough to prevent hiking.

Little Manitou Falls, Pattison State Park
Big Manitou Falls
Black River Rocks and Ice (1)
Black River Rocks and Ice (2)
Black River Downstream From Big Manitou Falls

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* U.S. Forest Service Web Site (https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/ethnobotany/tannins.shtml)

Crepuscular Rays

A crepuscular ray is “a streak of light that seems to radiate from the sun shortly before or after sunset when sunlight shines through a break in the clouds or a notch in the horizon line and illuminates atmospheric haze or dust particles.” *

I’ve been fortunate recently to be out with my camera when I saw such rays. Here are my photos:

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* Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Best Of 2020: First Half

I used to post “best of” photo/videos once a month. I haven’t done so in a year. I’m now photographing again, having recovered enough from a stubborn illness. So here are my best photos from March, April, May, and June.

https://vimeo.com/435883396

Storm Chasing Again

I chased a storm the other day but never caught it.  I started the chase a half-hour too late.  By the time I reached my destination, the storm was well off to the northeast.

So I turned back for home without having taken a single photo.  Luck, however, was with me.  Just as the sun was setting, I came upon a tractor that had been left out in the field.  I had just enough time for one photo.

Tractor At Sunset
Tractor At Sunset

 

Bells, Bells, Bells . . .

Here is my best photography from May and June.  It is accompanied by songs about bells.  The first is “I Want To Ring Bells” by Joe Venuti and His Orchestra, released in 1934.  The second is “Whispering Bells” recorded in 1957 by the Del-Vikings.

Best Of May and June

 

No Irony

 

Spoken without irony by Nigel Danson:

Photography is so much fun.  It’s minus two with a wind chill of about minus thirteen.

The quote above is from one of Nigel’s YouTube videos from Iceland.  It’s just as cold in Wisconsin, actually colder and a lot more snow, but photography can still be fun!

On Burnett County Road O
On Burnett County Road O

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Shed and Bare Tree

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On Grettum Dike Road

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As if!

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Winter On the Chippewa River

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Animal Tracks On the Frozen River

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Open Water On the Frozen River

 

Stuck Again

February 3rd, 2018:  Stuck in the snow in Cornell, Wisconsin.  It was a Saturday, and I had to call 911 to get a tow truck to come and pull me out.

February 16th, 2019:  Yesterday, a year later, and I was stuck again, in the ditch of a dirt road in Pierce County, Wisconsin.  Again I had to call 911.  Lots of help eventually showed up at the same time; a sheriff’s deputy, a farmer from the top of the hill, and a truck from Larry’s Towing.  The farmer pulled me out before the tow truck arrived.  The towing company didn’t charge me a cent even though they drove many miles to where I was stuck.  I greatly appreciated all the help.

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Stuck Again!

Cady Creek
Cady Creek

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Pierce County Quarry

 

Three Winter Days

Day One:  January 30th.  -20° F, wind chill -39° F, clear and bright

Day Two:  February 3rd.  +36° F, no wind chill, dense fog throughout the day

Day Three:  February 7th.  +19° F, wind chill 7° F, heavy snow, wind, getting colder

January 30

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February 03

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February 07

 

To Go Or Not To Go

I wrote what follows yesterday at noon.  The weather remains frigid.  I’ll stay inside today.


Cold Road
Cold Road

I’m trying to decide if I should leave my apartment today.  It’s blisteringly cold outside – minus 20° F, wind chill minus 39° F.  I do not want to go out there.  On the other hand, I’m bored with the food I have on hand in my apartment.  Should I venture out in search of food?

At some time today, whether I go out or not, I’ll use a great app I recently discovered, A Soft Murmur.   A Soft Murmur does an excellent job of playing “Ambient sounds to wash away distractions” including rain, waves, wind, birds, crickets, fire.  One can adjust the individual sounds and mix them.

I’ve found that if I lay on my sofa listening to my mix of waves, wind, birds, and crickets and feeling a soft breeze (my ceiling fan on low), I can close my eyes and feel that I’m relaxing on a warm June day.  I find it somewhat uncanny.  All that’s missing is some scents of summer.  It’s free and easy to use.  You can find it at asoftmurmur.com.  (I’m not getting a penny for this plug.)

It Is Cold Out There
It Is Cold Out There


I did go out and even took a few photos.  In doing so, I was only out of my car for two minutes.  Then my lungs started complaining about being subjected to the icy air.  Here are a couple shots that I don’t think actually convey how cold it was.

 

 

Best Photography From 2018

My best shots from 2018.  I shot the landscapes in Western Wisconsin, between the Chippewa River and the St. Croix River.  Most of the others I took in my kitchen-table studio.

 

Wandering In January

 

Alone and Abandoned
Alone and abandoned in farm country west of Prairie Farm, Wisconsin

It’s been like April around these parts, but it’s January, the coldest part of the year.  Last Friday the temperature was thirty degrees above normal.  It was sunny; there was no wind.  I had to get out and enjoy the weather in spite of being a bit ill.  I spent most of that day out in my car or walking along the side of the Chippewa River south of Durand, Wisconsin.  I’ll mention one rural, back road I was on just because I like the sound of the names:  I drove Swede Rambler Road, which crosses Little Plum Creek, to its end at a farm gate.  Along the way, I checked out a parking lot at the head of a trail into The Tiffany Bottoms State Natural Area which contains the largest floodplain forest in the United States.

I ended the day in Pepin, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Pepin.  The sunset, two ice fishermen, and I all arrived at the perfect time for a photograph.

The Light Fades On Two Ice Fishermen On Lake Pepin
The Light Fades On Two Ice Fishermen On Lake Pepin

The Chippewa River Taken From Mosbach's Landing
The Chippewa River Taken From Mosbach’s Landing

The Rear Of a Pole Building In Ella, Wisconsin
The Rear Of a Pole Building In Ella, Wisconsin

The Chippewa River in Ella, Wisconsin
The Chippewa River in Ella, Wisconsin

Abandoned Barn On Swede Rambler Lane
Abandoned Barn On Swede Rambler Lane

The Ice Of Lake Pepin
The Ice Of Lake Pepin

Broken Ice, Broken Leaf
Broken Ice, Broken Leaf

 

Morning Thoughts

 

Morning thoughts, yesterday:

  • It’s gray and gloomy outside.  Bummer.  The prediction was for sunny skies.
  • A lousy day for photography.  Why bother to go out?
  • And it’s cold!
  • I’m tired, run down.  I’d just as soon lie on the couch all day.
  • The morning blues.

Afternoon thoughts, yesterday:

  • It feels so good to be outside in the fresh, clean air.
  • It doesn’t seem as cold as I thought it would be.
  • I’m finding good shots in spite of the flat, gray sky
  • I can forget about the fatigue when I’m out exploring and shooting
  • A great day to be alive

I ended up shooting interesting signs or incongruous signs or signs that said something about the nature of the area I was exploring.  My day’s work was part of my long-running project to photograph the cuesta in Wisconsin west of the Chippewa and Red Cedar rivers.

I felt like a real, true artic explorer.  At one point I reached the top of an unplowed twisting road [photo below] and decided that going down the other side would be putting my life at risk even though I was driving an SUV.  This was in civilized, pastoral Wisconsin.  Unexpected.

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Hillside In November

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Wendy’s On the Hill

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Cheesehead Territory

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I’m didn’t risk driving down

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Barn At the End Of the Road

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Landfill On a Hillside

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The Road Down

 

 

Late November

November is almost over.  The autumn color is gone;  the trees are bare;  there’s no snow.  The forest floor is damp and littered with fallen leaves.  There is a bit of color – the emerald green of moss.  A single leaf still in its autumn color.  Small plants on the forest floor that never seem to suffer from the snow and cold – they’re always green.  A few bare trees with silver branches that stand out against a somber hillside.

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Silver Branches

Root, Trunk, and Moss
Root, Trunk, and Moss

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Last Fallen Leaf

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On the Forest Floor

 

Rustic Road 51

I spent a few hours Sunday afternoon driving and walking Wisconsin Rustic Road 51 in Pierce County.  This is the most rustic of the rustic roads I’ve driven.  It was not much more than two wheel tracks, in many spots suitable for only a single vehicle.  It starts at the top of a small ravine.  The road and ravine plunge downhill with a cliff rising up on one side of the road and the ravine on the other side of the road.  There was little water in the ravine, only a few small pools.  In the spring after snowmelt or perhaps after heavy rain, there would probably be water rushing down the ravine and over least one waterfall.  Eventually, the ravine levels out into a narrow, flat-bottomed valley run through by Pine Creek, a small, meandering stream.  In four places the creek crosses the road in gravel washes –  no bridges or culverts.

I spent a couple hours photographing the road and didn’t encounter a vehicle or a person.  The weather was not good.  I had to use an umbrella to keep the rain off my camera lenses.  Not the best light or weather for photography.  I did get a few decent shots, not just on Rustic Road 51, but on other back roads in southern Pierce County.  I think I did OK considering the conditions.  And – I had fun.

Abandoned Log Cabin
Abandoned Log Cabin in Pierce County, Wisconsin

Gnarly, Bent Trees
Gnarly, Bent Trees

Highway 72 Snakes Up a Hill
Highway 72 Snakes Up a Hill

Tributary Of Plum Creek
A tributary of Plum Creek meanders through a pasture

Wisconsin Rustic Road 51
The top of Wisconsin Rustic Road 51 before it plunges down to the valley floor

Curve In Wisconsin Rustic Road 51
A curve in Wisconsin Rustic Road 51 as it snakes down to the valley floor

Pine Creek on Wisconsin Rustic Road 51
Pine Creek crossing Wisconsin Rustic Road 51

Pine Creek
Pine Creek just before it crosses Wisconsin Rustic Road 51

The Side Of Pine Creek Valley
The hillside that forms the side of Pine Creek Valley

Past Prime Color

The fall color season is past its prime in our neck of the woods.  Colors are waning and strong winds over the last few days blew down lots of leaves.  Many days of peak color were gray, damp, and gloomy.  At one time, I feared that the season would pass with no sunny weather, but it’s ending with a few good days.

Here are my best shots of this year’s color.

 

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On the Shores Of Gitche Gumee * . . .

. . . actually, Lake Superior; the western shore of the Chequamegon Peninsula in Bayfield County, Wisconsin between Port Wing and Cornucopia.  This stretch of shoreline has crescent-shaped, sandy beaches separated by rocky headlands and occasional sloughs where streams enter Lake Superior.

It’s one of my favorite places.  I hope these photos give an idea of why I like the area so much.  Yesterday, the water was tan and cloudy.  I think it was because of suspended sand blown to this side of the lake by northwesterly winds.

Lake Superior Shoreline
Lake Superior Shoreline

Driftwood
Driftwood

Twin Sisters:  Retired Fishing Boat
Twin Sisters: Retired Fishing Boat

Eagle:  Retired Fishing Boat
Eagle: Retired Fishing Boat

Dahlia and Old Boat
Dahlia and Old Boat

Dock In Bark Bay Slough
Dock In Bark Bay Slough

Abandoned Fish House
Abandoned Fish House

Mushroom In the Moss
Mushroom In the Moss

Moss and Roots
Moss and Roots

Sunset At Cornucopia, WI
Sunset At Cornucopia, WI

 


* The first line of The Song Of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Week

These are the best shots from my last week of shooting.

Fields In Dunn County, Wisconsin
Fields In Dunn County, Wisconsin

Gate Frames a Hill In Dunn County
Gate Frames a Hill In Dunn County

Tree In Bean Field
Tree In Bean Field

Lift-Bridge Under Repair
Lift-Bridge Under Repair

Wildflowers In the Evening Sun
Wildflowers In the Evening Sun

Web-encased Plant Backlit By the Evening Sun
Web-encased Plant Backlit By the Evening Sun

Osceola Loop Of the Ridgeview Trail
Osceola Loop Of the Ridgeview Trail

Mushroom Siblings
Mushroom Siblings

Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin
Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin

Sundown On the Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin
Sundown On the Red Cedar River Near Invington, Wisconsin

 

Two Rivers and a Creek

Last week I photographed the Lake Wissota Dam on the Chippewa River as part of my project to photograph the river from source to end.  All the dam’s spillways were closed.  It rained heavily on Tuesday so I thought perhaps the spillways would be open to handle the runoff.  I went back yesterday and found only one spillway open, the one farthest away.  Here are shots before and after the rain.

Before

Lake Wissota Dam
Lake Wissota Dam

After

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Lake Wissota Dam After Tuesday’s Rain

 

 

Other shots from yesterday, including another river, the Red Cedar, and a creek, Popple Creek, a tributary of the Red Cedar.

Red Cedar River
Red Cedar River

Sunset East Of Colfax, Wisconsin
Sunset East Of Colfax, Wisconsin

Gull On Spillway
Gull On Spillway

Popple Creek
Popple Creek, a Tributary of the Red Cedar River

Best Of August 2018

I used to post slideshows of my best photos each month until February of this year.  I then stopped due to illness; bronchitis, insomnia, and, lately, pollution from Canadian wildfires.  The air quality has now improved as have both my insomnia and bronchitis.  I’ve been able to get out again with my camera and post a Best Of August slideshow.

 

 

Frozen

Portrait Of the Artist As a Frozen Man

Sorry, this isn’t about the Disney movie, it’s about my day out in the cold working on my project to photograph the Chippewa River from source to end.  It was cold: 2° F with a wind chill of -10°.  I was not uncomfortable because I dressed for the weather.  (I recently purchased what I suspect was the last pair of XXL long johns in Stillwater.  I admit my outfit was not very fashionable, but it worked.)  The only problem was my hands.  I had to take off my choppers to take photos.  In areas exposed to the wind, I could only manage two or three shots until my hands became too numb to operate the camera.

When I stood still, all I could hear was the wind hissing through the dry grass and the river ice occasionally booming and popping.   When I walked, I heard the fresh snow squeaking beneath my boots and the old, frozen boards of the bridge deck creaking and snapping under my weight.  I didn’t see another soul all afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Left Hand Turns

A few years ago I took a photo of two, left-hand-turn signs in a field of fresh snow against a cloudless blue sky.  It’s one of my favorite photos.  In the intervening years, left-hand-turn signs have continued to grab my attention until now I have a small gallery of such photos.

No Left Turn

 

 

A Dark Wood

The day before yesterday I finished “In a Dark, Dark Wood”, the scary thriller by Ruth Ware*.  Yesterday I unexpectedly found myself in a dark wood.

My hike took longer than expected, and I forgot that daylight savings time ended recently.  It gets dark very early these days.

So I’m trudging through a dark wood.  There is absolutely no wind, and no creatures are stirring, not even a mouse.  They have all gone south or into hibernation for the winter or have bedded down for the evening.  I can hear a jet far up in the sky but nothing else.  It’s actually a beautiful evening.  More than once I stop to enjoy the quiet and the beauty of the color left behind by the setting sun, color that shows brightly in the crisp, clear evening air.

I was in the Dunnville Bottoms in the floodplain of the Chippewa River in Western Wisconsin.  Here are some scenes from the dark, dark woods in the bottoms, mostly oak forests with many old, gnarly, spooky oaks.

 

 


I thought the book was neither scary nor thrilling, just an average, somewhat entertaining who-done-it.

 

 

A Week’s Worth

I made two day trips this week, one to explore the East Fork Of the Chippewa River in Wisconsin, the other a drive through the rolling hills southeast of Independence in Trempealeau County, Wisconsin.

Trempealeau County

East Fork Of the Chippewa River and Things Found Along the Way

One Shot From a Stillwater Parking Lot

Transmission Towers

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