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Last night, on September 27, 2015, the super moon and lunar eclipse combined to create a rare celestial event that will not be repeated until 2033. This type of lunar eclipse has only happened 5 times since 1900, so consider yourself lucky if you were among the thousands of people staring up into the sky to watch this beautiful rusty orange orb float through the inky darkness.

What makes this such a special eclipse is the size and color of the moon. The moon appears larger than normal (8-14% depending on your source!) because it’s closest to earth in its orbit. In a lunar eclipse the sun, earth and moon are aligned in a straight line. The earth’s shadow covers the entire moon and blocks direct light from the sun.  Consequently, the moon dims dramatically, and takes on reddish hues due to a phenomenon known as “Rayleigh scattering.” Shorter wavelengths (like violet) get scattered in the atmosphere but longer wavelengths like orange and red pass through the atmosphere and get refracted back to the surface of the moon and give us this incredible color…a “blood moon.”

Blood moon during lunar total eclipse in September 2015 over Evansville, IN, USA

Blood moon during lunar total eclipse in September 2015 over Indiana, USA


A full moon is normally 25,000 times brighter than the brightest star, making it impossible to capture both the moon and stars in a single digital exposure. Even a crescent moon makes night photography challenging as it is 5 times brighter than the stars. But during a lunar eclipse, when the moon is fully immersed in earth’s umbral shadow, it becomes so dim that capturing both is possible, as you can see in the image above. The visible stars behind the super moon are part of the Pisces constellation. My camera settings were f5.6 for 2 seconds, at 800 ISO.

Clouds obliterated the view at times, over the hour and a half I stood in the front yard of our home watching the lunar eclipse with my family, making the visible times that much more magical.  Wow, what a beautiful sight on a warm pleasant night!


We just returned from a family vacation that included a stop in Sequim in Washington’s Pacific Northwest. My daughter and I wandered out on Dungeness Spit, a long curved sand spit that extends out to a lighthouse in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We didn’t hike all the way to the end–11 miles round trip–but we saw plenty of beached logs and contorted driftwood scattered along the coast. I remember being there 20 years ago attempting to hike the entire spit with my mother…climbing over so many logs, branches, sticks and rocks littering the coast was exhausting and demanded our full attention…suddenly we noticed that the tide had changed and high tide waves were rolling in…pure panic set in as we realized we were the only ones waaay out there and we had no idea if the encroaching waters would completely swallow up the spit. And us on it.

Maybe that’s why I decided to process this bright sunny afternoon shot in a rather dark brooding way.


Dungeness Spit, Sequim, WA, USA

                                                                                   24mm, f/8, 1/125 SS, 200 ISO


Today is the worldwide celebration of photography…


Monk performing the Black Hat dance at a religious festival in Bhutan

What incredible advances have been made since the film days…Remember bringing in those rolls of film to get developed, paying money, opening the packages and getting bummed when pics came out under or over exposed? Did you ever process your own film in the dark room? I remember shooting slides for magazines when I first started out. Now they sit in little boxes in the closet. Digital changed our world overnight. Now we get immediate feedback. And cameras keep getting better. Who thought ISOs could climb so high?

I love how photography allow us to ~~~

record adventures…


like skiing to an ice cave in Norway with Dave and my father

the WAVEhiking the WAVE with Dave and friends in Arizona,

blog_penguinhidingplaying tag with penguins in South Africa,

or boating to a remote island in Kuna Yala, Panama


create magic…


dragging the shutter– to capture water flowing back to sea while iceberg fragments remain on a volcanic beach in Iceland,

Northern Lights

or capturing northern lights in Abisko, Sweden

preserve memories…

Father and daughter walking along Caribbean beach, Providenciales, Caicos, Turks & Caicos Islands

savoring family time in the Turks & Caicos


or kayaking in northern Minnesota

document cultures…

Lama BlessingCeremony

Lama performing a blessing ceremony in Bhutan


an Embera Indian woman applying a jagua tattoo on her son in the jungle


a rice farmer scorpion hunting in Issan, Thailand

and capture beauty

Ancient camelthorn trees on pan with dried footprints, Deadvlei, Namibia

Ancient camelthorn trees on pan with dried footprints, Deadvlei, Namibia

Wouldn’t life be dull without the ability to capture snapshots of life–whether on your iphone or expensive lenses–and share them with the rest of the world?

northernlightsbigdipperThis shot of the Big Dipper was taken at 2 am a week ago in Hackensack, when I was visiting my family on Ten Mile Lake in northern Minnesota. Earlier that night there was a storm happening 65 miles away near Brainerd, and we watched it light up the southern skies with a beautiful show of brilliant colored clouds and lightning that lasted about an hour around midnight.

stormyskies(ISO 3200, f/3.5, 6 sec exposure)

Our front row seats on the dock were spectacular!


After parting ways and walking back to my cabin a little further down the lake, I wandered along the shore for a last look at the starry sky. Skies simply aren’t dark enough to see stars like this back home.  The Milky Way was fantastic. And the skies were alive with shooting stars…


(ISO 8000, f2/8, 20 sec exposure)

But what caught my eye was a reflection of the Big Dipper in the water. I crept out on the dock, swinging the beam of my flashlight to illuminate the way. Have to admit I was a little freaked out when a large splash suddenly sounded a few feet away. And then the eerie call of loons echoed around me. A haunting cry sounded louder as a pair emerged from the shadowy reeds directly in front of me and swam past the dock, drifting into the blackness.

I quickly set up my tripod. Didn’t have the right lens for astrophotography–my 14mm Rokinon was at home–so I used what I had, which was my Sony Zeiss 24-70mm, f.28. I dialed it to f/3.5 and kept it open 10 seconds at 8000 ISO. The biggest challenge was simply aiming the lens in the correct line to capture the entire Big Dipper formation, as the scene through the viewfinder was completely black. It took me four tries. And then my battery died.

This was my final image of the night (and trip). Imagine my surprise when I downloaded the image on my computer to see northern lights–cuz they weren’t visible to my naked eye!


I’ve since learned that northern lights often appear after a summer storm around midnight in northern Minnesota skies. Something I shall remember for next time!  😉


ice floes appeared overnight along the coast in Grand Marais, MN

Ice floes off the coast of Lake Superior near Cascade River State Park, MN

In late February this winter, I traveled along Highway 61, following the scenic coast of Lake Superior heading north from Duluth 100 miles to Grand Marais, Minnesota. Incredible ice formations lined the shore.  But what surprised me most was the sheer variety of ice that existed. The winter scenery changed from one spot to the next just a few miles away–including the lake itself, changing from frozen conditions to moving water with floating ice chunks. The powerful wind was responsible for completely transforming these locations, and creating truly amazing sights.

My travel companions were my Mom and two sisters who all live in southern Minnesota. All of us had traveled and explored the numerous state parks along this route in the summer and fall (excellent lodge to lodge hiking on the Superior Trail). But none of us had ever ventured Up North in the winter.  It was late when we arrived in Duluth, but one sister braved the cold with me for a midnight walk from our hotel at Canal Park Inn to the Aerial Bridge for our first peek at frozen Lake Superior.Aerial bridge on Lake Superior in winter, Duluth, Minnesota, USA

There under the bridge, the frozen ice had strange snow patterns on the otherwise smooth surface. Once back home I tried to research what these were–best I could find was a description of “snow ice patches” that are created from “blowing snow which collects in wet zones surrounding thaw holes and cracks in the beginning stage in the formation of snow-ice mounds.” Can anyone out there verify?

By the next morning, those beautiful patterns were gone, having disappeared under a thin layer of fresh snow. Glad I saw it when I did, because I never saw another sight like it for the remainder of our trip along Lake Superior. Heading north about 40 miles, we traveled to a lodge north of Two Harbors so we could have close access to Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse for the next couple of days. Here, my Mom is standing on the shore outside our lake home rental at Grand Superior Lodge. Note the growing shore ice forming on the exposed coastline from prevailing wind and wave action.


And notice that Lake Superior was not frozen at all! (I was highly disappointed to see moving water because that meant that the Lake Superior ice caves on the Wisconsin side–directly across the bay from Two Harbors, would NOT be accessible this year after all. So our plan to visit the ice caves was probably not going to happen at the end of our 10 day trip. Last year was the first year since 2009 that Lake Superior ice had froze thick enough for people to walk to the ice caves.) But even though the lake was not frozen, the shore line was pretty interesting to explore.min9900blog

Gooseberry Falls State Park was just 2 miles from the lodge where we stayed. The short paved path and stairs leading to the main falls from the Visitor Center were covered in ice, and ironically the most difficult part of the park to navigate. (Snow pants make sliding down the stairs the quickest, safest way down.) Regular winter boots made exploring the rest of the park easy in the snow. The Lower Falls, which eventually empties out to Lake Superior, was more rewarding to see than the main falls. The frozen cascading water was tinged in a soft blue green.

Gooseberry Falls in winter, Two Harbors, MN, USA

Close up of the Lower Falls at Gooseberry

Close up of the Lower Falls at Gooseberry

Gooseberry Falls in winter, Two Harbors, MN, USAView from the backside of the frozen waterfall looking out at the park with my sisters walking on ahead. The next shot is simply looking up at a tree at the top of the falls.

Gooseberry Falls in winter, Two Harbors, MN, USAThe next day we took our complimentary snow shoes from the lodge to Split Rock Lighthouse park and hiked along the shore. What a difference! This was just 10 miles north of our lodge where the lake had zero ice.min9552blogAnd here, it appeared that Lake Superior was covered in a thick blanket of snow, as are the rocks on shore. A bit further we reached the little island bird sanctuary and noticed the lake had more variation and ice chunks in the distance. And nice reflective surfaces for that pink sunset!min9650blogAnd just steps left from where my sisters were sitting, the ice was noticeably different yet again. Note the cool patterns!

Split Rock lighthouse

Split Rock lighthouse on Lake Superior

Powerful wind mixed with water turbulence cause ragged tear lines and form cracked patches in the ice sheets.

A bit further north the shoreline ice was growing on Lake Superior, and angular sheets of thin ice were jumbled along the shore. It was a little scary walking out on this surface, but I was careful to follow indents of other boot tracks and stay a safe distance from the edge. No idea what the lake temp was, but I didn’t want to fall in!

Lake Superios in winter, Cascades region on the North Shore, Minnesota, USA

About halfway up the drive between Duluth and Grand Maraias, we stopped along the highway near Tettegouche Park. Here the shore line of Lake Superior really impressed!

min4299blogA frozen fantasy forest materialized before our very eyes…Apparently an icy 15 foot wave crashed up the cliff and instantly froze all the vegetation in its reach. Every surface was covered in white. The ice was so thick– yet the weight didn’t seem to crush the tree branches underneath, or break off when accidentally stepped on.min1079blogWas Frozen filmed here?min1010 blogCouldn’t resist taking a “selfie” via tripod in this magical icy forest.


Grand Marais, just 40 miles shy of the Canadian border, was our final destination on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Our corner suite at East Bay Hotel had walls of windows overlooking the mighty lake, allowing easy views of the ever changing shoreline (and easy access to shops and restaurants down the street–including the fantastic Trading Post (rent snowshoes for $10 a day), ligonberry crepes at Blue Water Cafe, and pizza at Sven and Ole’s). A short drive away, to the campground by the town entrance, brought us to Artist Point where bluish plate ice was piled high.

This plate ice was created from pressure ridges as the wind pushed the ice toward shore and shifted it back and forth, causing it to break up and collapse under its own weight. It can pile up 8-10 feet tall along shorelines.

Lake Superior in winter, Grand Marais, MN, USA

Lake Superior in winter, Grand Marais, MN, USABut ice that blows in one day– can be gone the next! The day before, my sister had been standing on solid ice where the ice chunks were now swimming in the sea (see pic above). The ice had shifted yet again. Being there in person and witnessing how fast the ice conditions truly do change gave credibility to the stories we heard from locals about how every year they have to rescue ice fishermen by helicopter as they float out to sea…

min0814blogWe woke up one morning and noticed giant ice floes outside our hotel window. So of course we had to go out and investigate! My youngest sister couldn’t resist the urge to jump on one of the floating ice chunks. Yes, it was shallow there, but still…how fast do they float away?

Lake Superior in winter, Grand Marais, MN, USA

Eleven miles further north on Highway 61, at Milemarker 121, there was plate ice galore. Ice was stacked up 20 ft tall in some places. Some kids were ascending the peaks as if mountain climbing.

min0282But even the tiny ice formations were amazing. Who would’ve thought an icicle could support rocks piled with pebbles?min4213

A couple of Canadian guys down from Thunder Bay for the day were playing on the ice. Here they’re curling. Note the height of these piles–no snow truck pushed this ice aside!min4180Here, they’re skeet shooting. Look at the size of these chunks!

min4110blogWent back later that night for the sunset, mesmerized by that ice and captured a giant ice block reflecting the pink of the setting sun.


Our final day in Grand Marais we learned that ice conditions were now frozen across the bay in Wisconsin and that the ice caves at Apostle Islands were now open to the public.  Perfect timing! So we headed there the next day, finishing our trip by seeing our final ice formations of Lake Superior with a flourish!

Visiting the ice caves at Apostle Islands, Cornucopia, Wisconsin, USA

We were so lucky to visit in the nine days they were open in 2015! (To see my separate blog entry about our ice cave visit go here.)

The variety of ice formations that we saw on Lake Superior was astounding in the short time we were there. I can only imagine the changing seascapes and shorelines over the course of an entire winter and soon as it begins to thaw in spring…