Hello to all and welcome!
I can't really say what you should expect to see here as I've never before tried blogging or anything similar. It'll have to be a work in progress. I'll probably talk about photography in general (and mine in specific) as well as point out different things that are going on that I find interesting or worth commenting on. If anyone (assuming anyone actually ends up reading this) has questions or suggestions on topics, feel free to let me know.
I'm here you're with me, here at the beginning of all things.
p.s. Comments and feedback are very welcome.
I wrote about the challenge here: https://www.pavellephoto.com/blog/2022/2/january-29-2022-the-challenge
In it I noted that I had taken more photos at Minnehaha Falls than would work in the narrative I was telling. What I left out were mostly close-ups or images that in some way were duplicated by other images. Also, if it wasn't clear, I don't know who any of the people in any of the photos are. They were just out there enjoying themselves the same way I was.
So, without further comment, here is the complete set of Falls pictures (excluding the one of the statue).
NOTE: THIS IS LONG AND FULL OF PICTURES. IT IS WORTH VIEWING, BUT DO SO KNOWINGLY.
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America, North America, Earth, Sol System, Milky Way Galaxy
The Task: Document photographically what life is like where you live
The Challenge: All photos must be taken on the same day
The Overview: My friend Cynthia issued the above challenge to friends of hers from around the world (I believe people from 4 continents accepted). So that left me thinking about how I wanted to respond to the challenge.
The first question was whether I wanted to do so, considering what Minnesota is like in winter - COLD. For instance, while it was a seasonably mild 24 degrees Fahrenheit when I actually shot all the photos you will see, it was 7 the weekend before (with a -20 windchill).
The next question was where to shoot, but that was fairly easy to decide since there is so much to see in the area. My thought was to start at the Falls, hit several lakes, and end up downtown.
Finally, what to shoot when I got to a location in order to really show Minneapolis. This is both easy and hard because Minnesotans are crazy. Really. Since winter can last 4-6 months, Minnesotans have adopted the attitude that whatever doesn't freeze you makes outsiders shake their head in wonder, shock, and confusion. They embrace the season in ways that are truly odd to those who are not from here (like me).
The photos and commentary:
Minnehaha Falls is almost at the end of 9 Mile Creek, just before it flows into the Mississippi River. The name, as well as those of other locations, was later used by H.W. Longfellow in his poem "The Song of Hiawatha". Longfellow never actually visited Minnesota, but the poem was of such popularity that a statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha was placed in the park just above the falls.
The Falls themselves are a popular photography site since they are the only large waterfall in Minnesota. While you can capture some decent views from the top, lower is better. To get to the bottom of the Falls, you walk down a long stairway that is theoretically closed in winter since the park board doesn't clear the steps and it can therefore be slippery. When I was there, the fences blocking the stairway had long been knocked over and the gratings removed or trampled.
I have seen photos that other people have made from behind the Falls, but being a sane person, I figured I would never think about putting myself in a position to make my own. However, as that last photo shows, on this day it was possible to get REALLY close to the opening while still being on snow. So, being a crazy photographer (and having lived here long enough to occasional see things as a local), I decided to make the attempt. All it took was maybe 5 steps up, bracing myself using some of the icicles on the side. It was SO worth the effort!
What looks like water at the bottom is actually slushy ice. The texture in it is from footprints.
Of course, once you are back there, it is natural to look out and see where you've come from.
[Please note that I am planning on posting a more complete set of photos of this experience in the near future, but including too many here would interfere with the narrative]
Anyway, once you are back there, the question becomes how do you get back down. Some people I observed sat down and slid, but as I was preparing to do so I put my gloved hand in a pool of slush and instantly decided that there was no way I was going to sit. Instead, I reversed how I got up there, with people kindly waiting for me to get out of the way before taking my place above.
Obviously, this person slid. Note also that she took her dog up there with her (how, I don't know). Minnesotans are crazy that way.
My next stop was at the Lake Harriet Peace Garden. This is one of five Japanese Gardens in Minnesota (and yes, I have been to them all).
My thought shooting there was twofold. First, I wanted to show the effect snow cover has on a landscape (the last image above is because I like the way shadows show form). Second, I wanted to visit Lake Harriet because there was an art exhibit on the lake. Yes, ON the lake. Here's a shot of a mooring buoy (for sailboats) to illustrate.
The art exhibit was a series of "Art Shanty" installations of various sorts and themes.
The third and fourth ones above show a series of very large kaleidoscopes and a shot of what you could see inside one.
Ice Fishing is a long standing tradition in the state. Or, as many have said (including the fisherpeople in these images), it is an excuse to go outside and drink beer. Normally they would be in a fish-house like the red one above, but it was warm enough that they only using it as a warming shed.
The hole is augured through the ice until you hit water. In this case, maybe 20 inches. You only need around 15" to safely drive a truck on the ice.
And, as always, when you are out making photos, be sure to look around. You may spot something interesting like the way the wind has sculpted the snow on the lake.
Next stop was at Lake of the Isles, where a section of the lake has been cleared and turned into an outdoor ice rink (with plenty of snow around it for cross country skiers to enjoy themselves). One of the area nicknames you hear is that Minnesota is "The State of Hockey." Seeing how many people were out playing, practicing, or teaching in the late afternoon, as well as how young they start, makes it easy to understand where that one comes from. And again, note that dogs are full participants.
The last stop is downtown Minneapolis. More specifically, photos taken from the Stone Arch Bridge, a former railroad bridge that crosses the Mississippi river. The river was integral in the growth and development of the city as they provided a way to ship all types of goods all the way down to New Orleans and out to the rest of the world. St. Anthony Falls (seen in second the image below) was equally important because it provided power for the grinding of flour. In fact, one of the nicknames of Minneapolis was Mill City, and two of the biggest companies to find their birth here were General Mills and Pillsbury.
I should mention that I was hoping, but not expecting, to be able to shoot some wildlife as there are lots of varieties in the city, especially raptors. What I never expected was someone on the bridge to point and say "Hey look, there's a beaver over there." This is the first time I have ever seen a wild beaver, let alone had a chance to photograph one. It made for a great end to a day's shooting.
The last requirement for the photo challenge was to include a self-portrait, so everyone could see who was taking the photos. This one was in one of the art installations on Lake Harriet.
This has been one of those years that will be celebrated more by its ending than for anything that happened during the year. Photographically, several of my favorite places were in bad shape due to weather or weather caused problems. Others just had a sameness to them that didn't provide enough inspiration to share.
That said, I did manage to get some photos out of the year that I'm quite pleased with.
I was able to add some interesting insects to my collection
There was a young bald eagle:
And then there was the series of photos I made the dock at Lone Lake under water, which worked well in both color and black and white:
So, not much to show for a full year, but definitely some keepers.
I don't know if this counts as a post-script, I noticed there was one photos that I like that I hadn't uploaded for some reason. Here it is:
2019 has been one of the wettest years on record in Minnesota. I know I've seen flooding in places that I never have before. For instance, I have never seen this dock flooded before:
This photo was taken on May 5. It has only gotten worse as the year has gone on. For instance, here's a shot taken August 22.
To better compare, note that the waterline in the first photo is just past the second set of dock posts. In the second, the water is past the shoreline, and only 8 sets of posts are visible compared to 12 in the first one.
However, the flooding is only incidental to the image I want to discuss here. What really intrigues me about this scene is the way the dock disappears into nothingness, with the posts sinking and converging to a vanishing point on the shoreline. So, how to capture that feeling.
The first option was, obviously, shoot the dock. Based on the top image, I knew this wasn't something that I could capture with a telephoto lens; the trees are distracting and I couldn't get an angle that was satisfactory. So, something wide-angle seemed the best bet. As you can see in the below image, the converging lines of the dock posts do show up nicely. However, there are several aspects to this image that are unappealing. First, the sunlight on the dock is too reflective (meaning it stands out too much against the water). Also, I don't like the piles of dead leaves and such in the middle. Finally, I'm not fond of the way the bottom of the image works. To better give the feeling of receding lines, I think the dock needs to fill the bottom of the frame.
My next set of attempts happened on an overcast/drizzly day. The lack of glare is much better, but the dock itself is still too different from the underwater parts to get the proper feeling. Also, the tree branches on the right are distracting. However, I do like the bit of sky showing at the top, so that is definitely something to work with.
This one was a significant step closer to what I was after. I thought at the time that having a bit of the dry dock visible would help anchor the image and make it clear that the dock is under water, but instead I find it really distracting. At the same time, the posts at the base are prominent but don't add anything, so future images don't want them. I also realized that I'd need to clean up the waterline to get rid of random floating stuff. On the plus size, I really liked the way the clouds look reflected over the dock. They add some framing to the dock slats that I really like. [FYI, while going through images to put together this article, I found an image that, with a little cropping, fixed all those problems. It is included below.]
This next one has some different issues. First, I wanted to see whether eliminating the trees would enhance the perspective, but there's too much relatively empty space. Second, the sky was too overcast. Compare the color in the below image to the one above and you can see what I mean. Nothing stands out.
The final issue that needed to be resolved was orientation. All the ones above were portrait, but I thought landscape might also work. Comparing these next two images I find that the dock doesn't stand out enough in the landscape photo, even though I do like the way the clouds frame it.
So, I knew I needed a partly cloudy day with enough blue sky to set off the dock, but with enough clouds to provide texture and interest on the dock. Here are my two favorites. This first one is the cropped image I mentioned above. The clouds are nicely place while still allowing the dock to be visible in all the darker areas.
Here's the second one, and my personal favorite. Enough of the dock is visible under the water to know what you are looking at, while the clouds give really nice texture to all the different parts of the lake (and the actual sky, for that matter). Plus, being later in the summer, the assorted lilypads provide a nice frame to the dock, letting the empty space stand out.
Maybe sometime in the fall the water will recede enough to try making some new images. Plus, fall colors might add extra interest. Until then, though, there's not much to shoot unless I try wading out on the dock, which doesn't seem very safe, and I'm not sure if the ripples from standing there would work in the photo.
Addendum #1 - On a couple of occasions there were waterfowl that could be caught in the shot. In both cases, I found that they really didn't add all that much. This first one is a Canadian Goose that was swimming past. I timed this shot so it would be in the middle of the vanishing point formed by the dock posts.
This one is a mallard that was swimming around the lake, up and down the dock area. It stopped to dry off its wings and I got some shots. Again, it is fun, but kind of distracts from the image.
Addendum #2 - After looking them over, I though there might be enough contrast and shapes to make an interesting black and white photo.
This first one looks decent, but you can't tell that the dock is underwater until the water starts rippling about a third of the way from the bottom.
This one works better, but it doesn't flow together nicely. There's the trees and reflection at the top, empty dock, and clouds over the dock, but for some reason they don't feel tied together.
Here's my favorite one. The textures work well. The clouds and lillypads tie the image together. I'm just not sure if there is enough of the dock clearly visible to make it work in the same way as the color versions.
It's time again for my annual review of my favorite photos of the past year. And this year it is really kinda hard to put this together since, for the most part, I didn't get a huge number of new subjects. Rather, I've added to assorted collections and ongoing projects.
For a long time, I've had a weird fascination with dead trees. I've found the way they decay can be beautiful, and the way new life can flourish on top of them can be inspiring. So, I'll start things off with some of the tree stumps/dead limbs that I added this year.
While I generally don't try (or appreciate) black and white photography, I did come across a couple subjects that seemed like they would work well.
I was also able to add a couple new and interesting dragonfly photos to my collection
For the most part, though, I think this was a year for the birds. While the only new one I captured was a trumpeter swan, I did get some shots of familiar birds in ways I never thought I would.
So, those are some of the highlights from this year. Hope you enjoyed them. And here's wishing you a new year of joyful surprises and unexpected beauty.