A couple of weeks back, I posted my favorite wildlife moments of the past year. I took a lot of wildlife pictures, but when the critters aren’t cooperating or active, there is always something worth taking a look at, especially during the magical morning and evening light hours. I made a number of landscape photos I was quite happy with. We had a few incredible nights of northern lights this year that kept me out for hours in the National Forest. Minnesota has some of the darkest skies in the nation and Mother Nature and the night sky did not disappoint. I’ve included a few images from various nights. Lake Superior gave me a few favorite moments as well, as it always does, so there are quite a few of those included in this post. Last spring I took a road trip to another one of my favorite places, southern Utah. It’s really a paradise for photography. I’ve grown to enjoy the desert, mesa and canyon country of Utah almost as much as northeastern Minnesota. Almost 😉 There are a handful of photos from this year’s trip, which includes my personal favorite photo of the year! So from snowy scenes to sunshine, from forested landscapes to desert scenes, from the northern lights on northern nights, to southern sights on southern nights, the rivers and lakes and woods and hills, these are my favorite scenery shots from the past year in no particular order. Thanks to all for subscribing and following along and supporting me through print sales and calendars.
It was a fun, fulfilling year of picture taking for me. I hope you enjoyed the little recap of my landscape and night sky photos. If you missed it, take a look back at my favorite wildlife moments of the past year in a previous post. Have a Happy New Year and thanks for following along. See you in 2023. ❄️🌲
It’s been a fun start to the winter season. I guess the official start of winter hasn’t arrived yet, but we have been living it for weeks in the Northland. It’s here. I’ll share some recent photos of some lynx, grouse and even a moose and a snowshoe hare. You may still have a little time to order up a calendar for a Holiday Christmas gift, so I’ll include the link here. Thank you for all the orders this year.
The Canada lynx has been cooperative for pictures already this season. I really only see these cats with any regularity in months with snow on the ground. They favor the snowshoe hare, and I have found them hunting for their hare on roadways quite often. I think the long view and room to maneuver make roadways a favorable hunting terrain for the lynx. I was fortunate to encounter a lynx recently. It was fun to watch it stalk red squirrels and rest along the forest edge. It was quite curious and afforded me a few fun photos.
Thank you all for taking a look! You can order prints and browse more photos on my site at this link. Have a great Christmas and Holiday Season and we’ll chat again soon! Tom
It’s been a spectacular fall this 2022 season. We had a brief, early start in September, with nice weather leading into a peak color season that lingered well into October. The shore was especially vibrant, it seemed, this fall. There seemed to be a proper “peak” that encompassed the whole forest for a week or more. Often times, the reds and higher country will have come and gone before the areas near Lake Superior have peaked, but things seemed to synch up for a spell. I’ll include a few photos I haven’t posted yet. I’ve also had a lot of moose encounters so far this fall. The mating season, or “rut, has come and gone for the most part and moose can often be found grouped up, just hanging around together for a few weeks after mating. I’ve captured a few moose photos this fall that I really like. A couple even made it into the 2023 calendar! We’ve also had a few signs of the coming winter, which could begin any day in the northland! Some areas of the North Shore woods have already seen some snow and definitely a few good frosts. It’s made for some nice photo opportunities, extending the fall color photo season even longer 🙂 Add in a few northern lights displays earlier this fall, and it’s been hard to beat. I’ve added a few photos from those displays in this post too. We even picked up a rare SAR arc in the night sky which I’ll include a picture or two of.
Here is a little preview of my 2023 calendar I have for sale. You’ll see northern lights over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, massive Minnesota moose in Superior National Forest, a few of Lake Superior’s seasonal moods and a few other surprises and landscapes. I don’t like to spam you all too much or too often, but a few times a year I have an offering like the calendars that I’ll promote through the holidays 🙂 I always appreciate the print and calendar purchases. They allow me to continue bringing you some of the images you enjoy here and on social media. Thanks for taking a look at this link for this years Minnesota’s North Shore – Woods Waters and Wilds – A 2023 Calendar
Fall color season has come and gone although some of my Favorite, the golden tamarack are now the main feature in the North Shore woods. Here are a few photos from the past few weeks.
Fall is such a great time to photograph moose in and around the Superior National Forest and Boundary Waters Canoe Area. The moose become a little more active in September and October. The moose mating season begins in September and is done by early October, for the most part. It can be an exciting time to see moose. The bulls have shed their velvet coating from their antlers revealing a shiny, new rack on their heads, hoping to attract a mate. You can often encounter males with females and males together often trying to attract the same females. It keeps the moose active, and a little more distracted and less worried about us picture takers and gawkers 🙂 I saw a very large bull as well as a few others so far this fall.
The northern lights have been adding a little fall color of their own. September provided a couple of wonderful evenings under the dark, northern skies. As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, our chances increase for seeing these wonders in our skies. With darkness coming on so early in fall and winter, we can often see the northern lights well before bedtime 😃 Here are a handful of recent aurora images.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this little fall recap. It’s always a favorite time of year for many, including myself. The fast, constant change is pretty fascinating to witness. Winter will soon bring another major change to the landscape, so I’ll enjoy these fleeting fall days while I can now. Thanks again for taking a look at and ordering calendars, too. I appreciate it!
A little collection of feathered visitors during spring bird migration on the North Shore of Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota.
After a long, cold, snowy winter, we have finally turned the corner along the North Shore of Lake Superior and in the woods of Superior National Forest in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota. The lakes have only recently opened up from their frozen, icy, winter covering. The rivers raged with historic, record breaking levels along the North Shore as the snow-pack and spring melt moved downstream. You can still find some snow in the shadows of the woods, but for the most part, signs point to spring. The cow moose are currently giving birth to this years calves and the bull moose are just starting to sprout their velvet covered antlers. Bears are awake and on the hunt for this years crop of nuts and berries and the deer seem to be moving into the woods, away from the shore. All good signs. All welcome signs. For me, one of the most reliable signs that spring may truly be here is the arrival of the variety of spring birds to the area. Weather it’s at the feeders in my yard, along the shores of Lake Superior, deep in the woods of Superior National Forest or just along Highway 61, there are always signs of the arrival of a new season if you are watching closely. You can almost predict who is going to show up and when.
Here’s a collection of feathered spring arrivals to the North Shore woods, along Lake Superior and in my yard the past few weeks. Keep your binoculars and bird books handy on your next spring visit. You never know what you’ll see flitting around in the trees this time of year.
Warblers are a nice arrival in late April and May in our area. The yellow-rumped is one of the earliest. It’s always nice to see those little flashes of yellow that give them away. Here are just a few that I have seen so far this spring. I’ll include a few of the strikingly beautiful, black-throated blue warbler that graced me with it’s presence in my own yard. Prints available of these and many others at this link. Thanks for your support! https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/2022/
You can’t imagine the thrill… I was on my deck photographing a red-headed woodpecker that has been hanging around. I had ok light and it was eating worms in my yard, so I was standing still on my deck waiting with my camera in hand and ready. From the corner of my eye, a small bird landed. In a flash, I went through the ID process in my mind. Chickadee? No. Nuthatch? No. Warbler?!?! Yes. It stood on my deck for a second, flew to a branch for a second, landed on my railing for a second and landed on a planter for a second. It was a great yard bird to have visit and I’m glad I was ready! You can click on these to open the gallery.
Here are a few more interesting and notable visitors to the area including a new one for me here, a yellow-headed blackbird.
Another surprise, entertaining visitor this spring has been a red-headed woodpecker. I can’t recall having one in my yard, and this one seems to have all it needs here. I mostly observe it eating worms off the lawn. It eats, then rests for 20 minutes, then eats another worm. Not a bad day, really. It’s been a welcome addition to the array of feathered friends in the yard. https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/2022/
Lastly, I had a fantastic close encounter with a scarlet tanager deep in the woods of Superior National Forest. I usually see one of these birds at home near a feeder during migration, but I hadn’t had one yet. On a drive looking for moose and other critters, I spotted an orange/red dot along a gravel road. Upon inspection I was shocked to see a scarlet tanager just hopping and flittering along the road. I thought it was injured, but it was hunting some kind of bugs and having great success! It may have been off course, but is was getting all it needed, it appears.
Thank you for reading along and taking a look at some spring birding photos. Please take a look at my online catalogs and consider a print purchase if you see anything you like. Stay tuned and subscribe to this newsletter. I’ll do a recap of photos from my early spring trip to Utah and the southwest in my next post. Happy Spring everyone! Tom https://thomasjspenceimages.smugmug.com/
A collection of winter photos from Superior National Forest and Lake Superior in northeastern Minnesota – 2022
It’s the last official day of winter. Spring begins tomorrow, and a lot of us are probably ready for it! Here’s a collection of photos from the past few winter months. There are some dog sledding photos, a lot of grouse, some lynx, a moose and some other random, scenic winter wonders. I hope you enjoy.
This winter, we got some ice. It never really stayed long enough up here in our neck of the lake, but we did have some great ice piles and ice sheets breaking up and moving.
Grouse are probably the most abundant wildlife species I find in the winter months. The moose tend to move a lot less, and therefore, I rarely spot one. The grouse seem to be plentiful, especially the spruce grouse. Here’s a fun collection from this winter.
The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is always a winter highlight along the North Shore. The race takes dog teams from Duluth, MN through the forests along the Lake Superior Shoreline inland, almost to the Canadian Border and to the finish in Grand Portage, MN. Here is a small collection from the race at the end of January.
The backroads are always a treat in the winter months. We really had a LOT of snow piled up by the end of February. It was a TRUE Minnesota winter.
Happy Spring, everyone! As much as i like the beauty and variety our winters bring, this has been a long one and I’m ready for the greens of spring and summer. Thank you for taking a look at this winter collection. Tom
I’ve got a ton of fall photos to share. It seemed like a long, vivid and memorable fall color season. Early September was showing nice reds and oranges in areas already, giving way to 3 weeks of bright yellow, orange and red autumn change along the Sawtooth Mountains and surrounding woods. October started just as colorful with the yellows along the shore filling in and the blazing yellow tamarack following back in the forest. The October 12-13 snowfall added to the mix and really capped of a great color season. Now, with the leaves all gone and the tamarack starting to fade, we move into the next phase of fall. Another season of change and beauty all it’s own. Below I will share a lot of fall photos I haven’t really posted anywhere. Thanks for taking a look.
I also have 2020 Calendars available for purchase now. I made two different calendars, all with different images. The Up North – Superior Country Calendar is all landscapes of Lake Superior, the surrounding woods and the BWCA. The Superior Wildlife Calendar is all wildlife from the woods of the Arrowhead region. You can take a look at a preview and order at the links or this link below. I appreciate your support. They would make great gifts. Print within 5 days of order and shipping info will be shown when you order. Plenty of time for holiday deliveries. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/ThomasSpence
And now some more fall color photos from the past month or so…
From Crazy to Calm – Lake Superior April weather really covered all the bases this year. We had snow, cold, warm, rain, wind and gorgeous. The big April Gale on the 14th and 15th was a highlight for sure. The northeast winds brought massive waves crashing along the shore. some of the best places to watch a northeast gale are in the Split Rock and Tettegouche areas. The cliffs in the area can make for dramatic scenes from the waves crashing and rebounding off the cliff faces. Even a smaller gale can be impressive against these walls. This particular gale wasn’t accompanied by much precipitation which made for a fun day of photographing the waves. Often times, these gales come with heavy rain or snow which can hinder photographing them a bit.
The calm clear views from Tettegouche State Park and Split Rock Lighthouse State Park one week after the gales…
Earth Day was a picture perfect day to be outside in our State Parks. I made it a point to hit three in my travels that day. The calm, clear day was a huge contrast to the chaos of the previous week. Keep a circular polarizing filter in your camera bag. They are great for days like these. They can help you see into the water even more by removing some glare. They will also help create more contrast between blue sky and white clouds. A valuable tool to use in many photography conditions.
April Northern Lights – An All Nighter
The night and morning hours on April 19th and 20th produced a rather remarkable northern lights display. What started out as a faint glow for almost two hours, erupted into shimmering sheets and dancing waves of aurora which lasted until morning light. I put in a 4 1/2 hour shift of sky watching and photographing the lights. The slideshow shows you the progression, in a way, from around 10:00 PM CST on April 19th until around 1:00AM on April 20th. When the lights are strong, I have a pretty good view of the dark, northern skies from home. I spent another hour or two watching from the deck and even out the windows.
While there is no way to truely predict a good aurora display, you can do a few things to help alert you. Space Weather dot com is a great resource which can alert you via email when solar activity may cause aurora. They have a great photo gallery and information on all things space and sky related. Another resource are regional aurora “hunter” groups. These groups are full of entusiasts who will report in real time when the aurora are visible in your area. Great Lakes Aurora Hunters is a good one for my area. As far as viewing in Cook County, one needs to know that viewing with the naked eye and photographing the aurora can be two entirely different experiences. I won’t go into detail in this post, but our cameras see in the dark much, much better than we do, to make it short. So for viewing, you’ll want to get over the hills and into the darkest areas, away from towns, resorts, cabin lights. The overlook just past the Britton Peak parking area on the Sawbill Trail, just a few miles off highway 61 is a fantastic place to watch from a car or lawn chair. It has the best, widest northern view you can drive to that I know of. If you aren’t in Tofte, go up one of the “trails”, Gunflint, Caribou, Arrowhead, Cramer Road, and find a north facing lake, boat landing or hillside. Our dark skies won’t disappoint during a northern lights storm. For photography, I like to find a river, lake, or other point of interest for foreground attention and a sense of place or location. The scene becomes more important to convey the feeling, maybe, moreso than seeing the entire sky and display. If you have never seen the northern lights, and are not interested in taking photos, you’ll want to just stay put once you find a big, wide northern view. Hope this helps you see the aurora someday on the North Shore!
It was a good month in the woods for wildlife. From grouse to lynx to moose and loons!
Spruce grouse could be found most mornings pecking for roadside gravel. I have heard some drumming this spring, but not much. Moose sightings were few. I did manage to snap a few recent photos though. Two very healthy looking moose together at the end of the month.
Last year at this time we had already been on the lakes for almost two weeks. Now, we are still waiting for the thaw. The lakes still have a foot or more of ice on them in some areas. Recent warmer weather is helping to speed things along and I think we will see open lakes in the coming days. Fishing opener is near and I hope you’ll tune in again for all things May in my next post. Please subscribe so you’ll be notified when I post again.
Here is a collection of photos and notes on February in the woods and along the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. As some of you know, things began a bit exciting for me this month with a rare encounter with 5 Canada lynx. In the weeks following, I was fortunate enough to spend well over 2 hours with these cats during multiple encounters. It’s my opinion/observation that the family has moved on to a different area. I haven’t seen signs in a while. The mother has likely moved on to mate and left the kittens to fend for themselves. After watching them hunt on a few occasions, I think they will do fine. I’ll talk a little more about that in this post. There is also a fun video of the lynx family if you find the link at the end of this post. I’ll try to keep you posted on the conditions and activity in our neck of the woods each month and A few winter or seasonal photography tips will be added as well. Please subscribe so you get a notification when I update! Otherwise you’ll miss out on most of my photos each month. February was full of Ice, moose, lynx, wolves, pine marten, snowshoe hare, snow, cold and a few unforgettable experiences.
Winter can be tough on you and your camera gear. There are a few precautions you can take and some tips that can help you on your February, winter excursions. Most modern DSLR gear can take fairly extreme conditions and still function, but there are things you can do to prolong and enhance your experience. Here are three big ones which will help you get into, and out of the cold… Acclimate Your Gear – From your house to your vehicle, vehicle to your location, back into your vehicle, and back into your house, your camera gear can experience a lot of extreme temperature differences. Quickly going from one to the other extreme can cause unwanted condensation in and on your camera. The key is to acclimate slowly which can take hours. . You’ll also very likely want to look at those images on your SD card right away! Your camera body and lens are cold after a day of February shooting. Very cold. Bringing it into your 70 degree house or cabin has to be done slowly. Before you put your camera away, remove your SD card while outside so you can review your photos sooner, if that suits you. Then, seal your camera either in a plastic, zip-lock style bag, or in your camera bag if it seals up decent enough. Leave it alone to acclimate for a few hours before opening your bag. I also keep some silica packets in the camera bag to help with any condensation issues. When you can, bag your gear and try to keep it from going through those extremes. It can be a challenge in winter, but it’s worth paying attention to. Batteries, Batteries, Batteries – You really can’t have enough fully charged camera batteries in winter. The cold can drain batteries in a hurry and you have to be prepared. I usually have 3 or 4 on hand. Try to keep them in a pocket in an inner layer, closer to your body to keep them warm. This can also prolong your battery life. Nothing can end a photo session faster than dead batteries, and winter is notorious for causing quick drainage. You can use the cheaper, off brand batteries, but I have had the best luck with my camera’s brand name Canon batteries. Gloves/Keeping Your Hands Warm – This can be a tricky one as everyone is different in the way they handle winter temperatures, especially when it comes to fingers and hands. My best advice, and what works for me, is layers. I have a two/three layer system, depending on the conditions. You’ll need something you can control your camera settings with, so a glove is essential for a base layer. I often use a cheap, knit work glove that is comfortable to me. My other glove is a Fjallraven Forest Glove which is warm and comfortable on most days. When it gets very, very cold, I use a lorge, gauntlet style mitt over the gloves. I use a 20+ year old pair of Granite Gear Lutsen Mountain Mitts. I don’t think they are made anymore, but they have truly stood the test of time, and use. A lorge, gauntlet or chopper style mitt which can fit over a glove will do.
Those are just a few of the many survival tips you’ll need in winter months to explore the snowy, icy, frigid, rocky, unforgiving landscape and conditions along the North Shore.
More photo fun from February…
Sunbursts can be fun with a dslr camera and I really like them in certain winter scenes. Here are a few tips on how to make the sun burst out in rays…
Sunbursts are fun and rather easy to do. You need to use a small aperture on a dslr. Anything around f/11 and up will work but the smaller the aperture the sharper the rays. I usually use f/18, f/20 or f/22. You want to partially block part of the sun with something, in this case, some of the branches of the tree. You can use a building, tree, person, the horizon, clouds etc. The number of rays coming off the sun is due to the number of diaphragm blades in my camera lens. The lens I am using has 9 blades and produces 2x as many rays, so there are 18 rays. I believe if the lens has an even number of blades, say 6, you get that many rays, 6. Odd number of blades it doubles. It can be a fun thing to experiment with in different situations.
And now for some more February, winter wildlife…
February was full with many different sightings in all areas of our forest and shore. Owls, lynx, marten, moose, snowshoe hare, and even two very brief fisher sightings. I have yet to photograph a fisher. They are much larger and much more elusive than our pine marten. I saw a lot of marten and caught one hunting a snowshoe hare one morning. Fun photos below… The resident red fox made a few appearances as did the occasional roughed and spruce grouse. I’ll let the photo captions do the talking about the many reasons to enjoy February in the North Shore Woods.
Winter is in full swing and the thermometer has really shown it in recent weeks. Sounds like we are in for a reprieve from the sub-zero and windy conditions for a spell, though! The recent cold has been fantastic for winter photography along the lake and in the woods. Here are a few favorites that you may or may not have seen from recent hikes, drives and trips to The Lake.
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This year I will keep you updated on the changing seasons and the changing light with frequent posts, so stay tuned! 🙂