The Challenge: January 29, 2022

February 04, 2022  •  Leave a Comment


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!

Behind the FallsBehind the Falls

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.

Above is a choir (or quintet) that was performing, masked due to COVID.  Below are a couple of painters that were also creating images of the event.

Of course, art wasn't the only reason people were out of the lake.  Some were exercising their dogs.  Some were exercising themselves (crazy Minnesotan, biking on a frozen lake), and some were fishing.

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.

Looking over the bridge railing, I found the patterns made by the ice to be oddly interesting.  So many angles and patterns.

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.



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