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Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve – Day 3

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

Morning Dew

My third day at Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve took an entirely different path than the first two days. On this day, I stayed away from the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan, and the wildlife bog inside the park. Instead, I took a forest path through the park leading to a set of stairs that descended down to the beach.

Along the way, the morning light illuminated the wildflowers and highlighted the morning dew still present on the leaves and the berries. This photo clearly shows the dew on the leaves – but in addition you can see the strands of spider webs still undisturbed. I used my telephoto fully extended (300 mm) to get a closeup on the dew – but there was plenty of light (ISO 400, f/6.3) to maintain a fast shutter speed (1/250 sec.) eliminating any camera shake.

Fallen Tree

Arriving at the beach, I found a small inlet with fallen trees. Since the inlet is protected from the waves tumbling in from Lake Michigan, the water acts as a mirror providing a reflective surface to add interest to the photo. In fact, the log and the water seem to merge and even finding the water line along the tree trunk is difficult.

For this photo, I was without my flash – which would have allowed me to highlight the tree trunk without overexposing the background. Without the flash, however, the background is overexposed in order to draw out the detail in the tree trunk. This photo was taken for 1/400 sec. at f/5 (ISO 400) with a focal length of 77 mm.

Lake Michigan

Finally, I turned to the beach. The lake and the beach were still covered in a rolling morning fog which was rapidly burning off. This was high tide, so not much of the beach was exposed, and the waves were subdued, giving a very peaceful feel to the scene.

The beach is at the very north end of Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve – this scene is on the beach looking north to Port Washington, Wisconsin. If you make the journey here, make sure to enjoy the sights and the sounds of the forest as you make your way to the beach.

To see more photos from day 3, click here.

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Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve – Day 2

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Lion's Den Gorge Nature Preserve

Day 2 at Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve actually started on the bluff, trying to capture the sunrise over Lake Michigan (as seen in the picture below and to the right).

Sunrise over Lake Michigan

Since the park doesn’t open until 6:00 AM, and sunrise in Wisconsin in July is earlier than that, I couldn’t get the sunrise picture I wanted. However, there were nice clouds in the sky, and the clouds obscured the sun to where the photo could be taken without blowing out the surrounding landscape.

This photo was taken for 1/800 second at f/8 (ISO 50) using a 28 mm focal length.  The fast shutter speed and low ISO were necessary to decrease the exposure below what the camera would have wanted to do on its auto setting – ensuring that the sun is an element in the photo, not the only element distinguishable.

Wildlife Bog

Where I spent most of my time that morning, however, was at the wildlife bog inside the park. As you can see in the photo to the left (and in the panorama above), the bog is covered with green moss, speckled with white flowers from the waterfowl, with trees, branches, and other vegetation poking out of the bog.

The early morning sunlight (taken within an hour of sunrise) provides some warmth to what are otherwise cold colors. The shadows are longer and add more texture to the screen as well.

To see more photos from day 2, click here.

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Forest Park Balloon Race

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Hot Air Balloon in Forest Park, St. Louis

The title for this post is a bit of a misnomer, since I didn’t stay for the balloon race. I was there, however, to see all of the balloons inflated and on Central Field in Forest Park – an exhilarating scene, all the same.

This is one of my favorite photos, showing one of the hot air balloons, fully inflated.  You can see a large apartment/condominium complex in the background, with the trees of Forest Park in between. This photo ties all three components together, establishing scale and location.  The red, white, and blue of the balloon provides great color against the green foliage and the pastel building.

Girls at a Hot Air Balloon Festival

Another of my favorites is this picture of two young girls, examining one of the transport trailers that has been brightly painted with a hot air balloon scene.

Again, the colors are bright and draw the viewer into the scene. It is not at all immediately obvious that this is the side of a trailer. As you look at photo more closely, you start to notice the tail light of the trailer, and the wheel well between the girls.

The Forest Park Balloon Race is an annual event, with 70 balloons competing in a race against an Energizer Bunny hot air balloon.  The bunny takes off first, and the chase balloons are challenged to drop a bean bag closest to where the bunny lands.

To see more balloons, including some photos capturing the propane flames that provide the inflation for the balloons, click here.

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Forest Park

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Butterfly on Lilac

Yesterday I went with a friend to Forest Park in St. Louis to meet a couple of friends who had driven down from Milwaukee to take in a couple of St. Louis Cardinal games. The reason to go to Forest Park was to see the annual Forest Park Balloon Race.

Unfortunately, my timing was a bit off, and we were there well before any of the balloon festivities began. So this provided an opportunity to explore a bit of Forest Park, and to look for photo opportunities in the park. Forest Park was established in 1874, located 2 miles west of the city of St. Louis, which required a 40-minute carriage ride for residents located in the city center.

The park was over 1,300 acres in size, mostly comprised of virgin forest land (hence the name of Forest Park). And the park retains much of its natural setting, as seen in this picture of a lilac flower to the right.

The World’s Fair in 1904 contributed a number of new facilities located within the park, including the World’s Fair Pavilion overlooking one of the numerous man-made lakes in the park.

Outside the Muny

In 1919, the city founded an municipal opera house in the park, establishing what is now known as the Muny. This man-made pond sits across from the main building, along a circular drive – providing some of the beauty and majesty that is everywhere within the park.

With plenty of time before the balloon festivities began, we took a leisurely walk around the park. Click here to see more pictures of Forest Park.

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A Calatrava Sunrise

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Sunrise at the Milwaukee Art Museum

Sunrise pictures can be striking, with the layering of colors in the sky as the sun peeks over the horizon. Even more striking is including an architectural beauty – in this case the Santiago Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum.

The Burke Brise Soleil (seen in the picture to the right) is usually photographed when the wings are expanded, but I also enjoy it closed, with Lake Michigan as its backdrop, looking like the bow of a ship rising from the lake.

This photo uses a technique called HDR (High Dynamic Range) in order to show clear definition of the building in a difficult lighting situation. Even the barely-risen sun produces a great deal of light, making it difficult to show the detail in the darkened building.

Milwaukee Art Museum at Dawn

Here’s another example of a photo using HDR. This photo is taken before sunrise, in the early dawn – which still produces a lot of light in the sky. A jet stream can be seen in the sky behind the Art Museum, adding an interesting dimension to the photo.

With HDR, I take 3 photos, bracketing the exposure to get one that captures highlights, one that captures shadows, and a third for mid-tones. I’ll describe this technique more fully in a future post, but by combining the 3 photos, I can produce a photo that has much more tonal range than a single photo is capable of producing.

Milwaukee Skyline

A final and very different view of the Milwaukee Art Museum, this one taken shortly after sunrise. The museum is in the center of the photo, across the breakwater, with the US Bank building just to its right and the Discovery World Museum all the way to the left. Although difficult to see in this light, the moon can be seen high in the sky above the Discovery World Museum.

This last photo is not HDR – the lighting conditions are more even across the scene so the camera is able to capture all of the available tones in the picture.

For more photos from this early morning visit to the lake front, click here.

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