I’m working on a project to photograph wildflowers in Willow River State Park, but the first wildflower I’ve seen this year was on the North Country National Scenic Trail, three hours north of Willow River. It’s a round-lobed hepatica. The flower is about 1/2 inch and is two inches above the forest floor. The resulting photo is below along with a few other shots from on the trail.
I wanted to shoot some photos on Wednesday, but it had been raining all day and was not likely to stop. What the heck, I decided to go anyway.
I wore waterproof hiking shoes to keep my feet dry and an umbrella plus a lens cap or handkerchief to keep my lenses dry. All those things worked well. What I didn’t plan for was slipping in the mud, falling on my back, and ending up with wet and muddy clothes. Oh well, I did get some decent photos.
I reached the source of the St. Croix River in northwest Wisconsin. Last year I tried twice to reach the source. The first time I got to the start of the Brule Portage section of the North Country trail after I was already tired out so I didn’t hike very far. The second time I could find no way to get to the source. There was a clearly marked side trail to the head of the Bois Brule River but nothing to the St. Croix. After the second try, I decided that I would come back for another attempt when the snow had melted but there was not yet any foliage in the woods. I also studied Google Maps and my Delorme Wisconsin Atlas and Gazetteer (page 25 I think.) I decided that if I parked on the side of Rifle Range Road, a dirt road northeast of Solon Springs, I would be only a few hundred yards from the source of the St. Croix.
I drove, I parked, and I walked in on a trail which shortly ended at the North Country Trail from where I could easily see a small pond. I knew I was in the right spot because I had seen the pond on Google Maps. I had been in the same spot last year but had no idea that the pond and St. Croix Creek were only a couple hundred feet away. The mid-summer foliage completely hid the pond.
I walked to the pond and could see that a small stream choked by fallen logs entered the head of the pond. The stream was the headwaters of the St. Croix. I confess that I didn’t get to the literal source. Walking was like bushwhacking through a jungle. I didn’t have the energy to go the extra 100, at most, yards that would have put me at the source (water bubbling out of a spring perhaps.) I can claim that I saw and photographed the headwaters, if not the actual source, of the St. Croix so I consider the expedition a success.
Pond On St. Croix Creek
Near St. Croix Creek; Like a Jungle
St. Croix Creek, Headwaters Of the St. Croix River
I recently wrote about Jay Maisel’s book Light,Gesture, & Color in which he writes
All year long I walk around shooting as minimally as I can. One camera, a zoom lens, and that’s it.
I’m now reading On Being a Photographer. David Hurn advises photographers to
. . . take on a project that is containable, and can be completed in a reasonable period of time. . . . just wandering around looking for pictures, hoping that something will pop up and announce itself, does not work.
I think both approaches can work and have worked for me. It’s true that having some sort of focus, whether it’s a project or a weekly challenge published on the internet, will improve one’s photography. I have fun just rambling about with camera ready. Sometimes things do pop up. I went on a road trip yesterday to work on my project to photograph the St. Croix River from source to mouth. I also kept my eyes open for pop-up opportunities. Of the three best photos from yesterday, one was of the St. Croix, the other two were things I spotted while driving on back roads in Wisconsin. Here are the three:
So what’s your muse — what subject do you turn to frequently, more inspired each time?
My first thought was of the old, lift bridge over the St. Croix River in Stillwater, Minnesota. I live only a five-minute walk from the bridge and have photographed it in all seasons and under many different conditions. Then I thought of my photo drive; a route over the back roads of Washington County in Minnesota and St. Croix County in Wisconsin that I drive regularly with all my camera gear. Above is my favorite photo from one of these drives – a lone tree in the backwaters of the St. Croix. Below are some other favorites from the drive plus some shots of the lift bridge.
I took a long hike along the St. Croix River in Stillwater, Minnesota. For the first time I walked as far as I could south from the town up to where they are building a new bridge. The construction site was fenced off so I couldn’t go any farther. I took photos to record my hike. They show the surroundings from downtown Stillwater into the trees and brush south of the town. It was a sunny, warm day with only a few wisps of cloud and a soft, pleasant breeze. Here are scenes from my River Walk.