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searching for fall color part two: the winchell trail

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

“fall colors are funny. they’re so bright and intense and beautiful. it’s like nature is trying to fill you up with color, to saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter turns everything muted and dreary.”

― siobhan vivian

“oh man….” it was just before blue hour early in the morning per one of my apps for photography or close to 6:53 am which was the start of blue hour. “nature” was calling.

normally that is not a big deal when i’m out in the woods or some remote rural area where i’m pretty certain i will not be visited by someone during the “process” (always kind of interesting keeping things above reproach when writing about certain topics for an audience beyond the not easily offended family and friends 😂). but i was not out in the woods or some remote rural area. i was on a regularly traveled road that ran along the mississippi river in minneapolis. unlike the quartet of friends in the movie “wild hogs” that just did their business right off the highway, i prefer to be sequestered away from any potential visitors. and i don’t mean just the human kind. from bears down to the praying mantis, i don’t need to feel like i’m being watched.

the good news was that there was a portable potty off the road just ahead. the bad news was there was only a portable potty off the road just ahead. the good news is my business didn’t require the squatting kind while not touching the toilet lid. the bad news was it was still just a portable potty off the road. sure enough, when i entered…well, i’ll spare you the details in the interest of wanting to keep my readership 😉. just know my breathing was shallow and i didn’t touch anything while i was in there.

once that thankfully rare scenario was over, i drove a little further before pulling over to the side of the road. i had just passed the university of minnesota pedestrian bridge, also known as the washington avenue bridge, that spans the mississippi river. between where people walk on the top level of the bridge, the metro rail also passes over that great and mighty river. underneath where the trusses are, vehicles traverse the bridge as well to cross from west river parkway to east river parkway.

by this time, golden hour had set in and the sun was starting to crest the horizon. the light was quite gorgeous! sun rays were starting to bathe bruininks hall and the weisman art museum on either side of the bridge along with other buildings lining east river parkway. the trees at the edge of the bluff across the river were also on the receiving end of the sun’s masterful strokes. i often will stop to just take in a scene before setting up to create an image. but not that day. time was of essence and i could see that something beautiful was unfolding before my eyes as the sun continued its ascent.

i quickly set up my tripod and camera. i made a quick decision to create using a panorama approach to the whole scene happening across the river. because of the wide range of light and shadow, i also bracketed exposures (in this case, two images of each panned scene at two different exposures). this allowed me later, on the computer, to merge each of the two images made at different exposures to capture more of the light and shadow. my camera is pretty decent at capturing a wide range of light and darkness in one image for being introduced almost 6 years ago. but by creating two images of the same scene at two different exposures, it just gave me that much more assurance of capturing the range that i saw with my eyes. an additional bonus was that i also captured a two person rowing crew on the river that added a great interest and color pop in the darker area of the river. the university of minnesota does offer collegiate rowing as a sport so it is not uncommon to see rowing crews during the warmer months on the mississippi river.

i worked quickly to get all the images in succession right at where i felt was the height of the low morning sun working its magic. once the images were downloaded off my sd card from my camera onto my computer, i combined 14 vertically composed images together into one panorama. while i really liked the panorama, i felt it made for a bigger impact to focus on what i saw as the main focal point. i ended up cropping the image quite a bit to include the rowers, bruininks hall, weisman art museum and the bluff trees next to the bridge. i personally love the early morning look of this urban setting! i hope you do too! you can click on any image to open up in a new window for an undistracted view. landscape oriented images will also be bigger.

i packed up and continued driving on west river parkway looking for some fall colors to create images of. for the most part, all along the road, the colors were still in the early stages on the residential side of the road. the woods on the river side looked like it was a bit better. at one point, i drove past an entrance that looked like it took you down a step of stairs. both minneapolis and st. paul have quite a few of these entrances off the roads running parallel to the river. i have recently discovered that there are walking trails that look like they go for miles on both sides of the river. locals, i’m sure, have known about them for years. as such, it might just be a familiar spot to walk their dogs and/or with family and friends. but for someone like myself whose residence is in the suburbs, this find while perusing google maps brought out the kid in me!

i pulled off the river parkway and parked on one of the residential streets. i grabbed my gear and walked my way back to the entrance that i saw. a sign said that this was the winchell trail which i had never heard of. this was before the aforementioned statement in the previous paragraph that i saw what looked to be miles of walking trails. i wasn’t going to have a lot of time to check it out due to other commitments later that same day. but i at least wanted to see what was down those steps. wow! it was well worth the stop to check out!

while the colors were not at peak, they were definitely making an appearance that was not subtle either. there was a kaleidoscope of colors down in the woods! yellows, oranges, reds, browns, greens…they all were represented. trees bordered the leaf covered path on both sides. the dark bark rose up from the ground and colors burst forth like fireworks where the branches started protruding from the trunk of the trees! i was in awe as i walked the path; sometimes i would pause and do a slow 360 degree spin to take it in all around me.

that particular day, i was most enamored of the leaves that seemed to glow. the sun was a bit higher in the sky at around this time but the thick canopy of trees and leaves had the sunlight filtering in and out of the woods. these two images to come were my favorite of the images i had created.

the first was early in my walk. these leaves were higher up about 20 feet or so. i just love the contrast between the glow of the leaves against the mostly darker background. my eye was drawn to it also because there is a subtle transition from a bright center to a dimmer exterior around the peripheral of the glow. i mentioned fireworks earlier; in my mind, i can image the brighter center being the initial explosion followed by the diminishing residual glow toward the extremities.

toward the end of my walk, i came upon this scene of glowing leaves. i love the lighting of some of the branches that sweep across the image where the top is lit and the bottom is in shadow. the glow in this image is just amazing to me! quite a few of the leaves are captured in transition from color to color due to the backlighting of the sun. around the right side of the image and going left to the bottom, the light is heavily filtered and creates what i think is a spectacular effect of lit leaves popping out of the shadows! i framed this against the background of the short line bridge, a train bridge that i believe is still in operation by the minnesota commercial railway. that railway services grain elevators in the city. averaging only about 1 train a day now from researching whether it was in use or not, it was originally built in 1880 and rebuilt and strengthened in 1902.

it was time to head back as i had other prior commitments. but i knew i would be back again soon. i’ll be sharing more from my second hike on the winchell trail but before that will be another exploration in this search for fall color series!

i hope you enjoyed the second blog in this series and the images! i’d love to hear what some of your favorite places are for fall color. i’d even love to see some images that you might be willing to share. you can do that in the comments section below. who knows…maybe next year i might even check them out for fall colors!

these images are for sale if any of them resonate with you. they would also make great gifts for the holiday season that is upon us. i’m still working on trying to get up to date with my online store but you can send a message using the contact form with the print you are interested in. we can then get the ball rolling with getting the exact final photo art piece you want to bring years of viewing pleasure! here are some sample images to give you some ideas of how they might look hanging on the walls.

20x30 metal print "rowers in the city"

24x36 matte and frame print "the glow of fall 1"

25x37 matte and frame print "the glow of fall 2"

i want to express my continued gratitude for your support of my photography endeavors through my blogs and images! another way to show your support is to come to my last art show of the year at art at hidden river in st. paul. that show will be one day only on saturday december 2. i'll be showcasing some new images that day as well. i’ll include a digital postcard here that you can read for more information. i hope to see many of you at the show. this will be a great opportunity to buy cherished photo art pieces for family and friends for holiday gift giving as well as for yourself!

one more way you can show your support is by sharing this blog with others you know would love reading it. just share by copying the url address, if you are reading this on the website, and pasting via email or social media. you also have the option to share via social media by clicking on the various icon buttons at the bottom of the blog on the website. if you are reading this on my fb page, click the share button and share on your feed/timeline. i’d love to see new readers join up with the rest of you in enjoying my blogs and images!

that’s all for now and i will see you soon with more “images from my quiet world”!

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The glow of fall is amazing. Love the play of light and shadow you capture and the luxurious splash of colors from the leaves. Stunning.

Replying to

Thanks Penelope. Glad to hear you loved it’

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